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.

JACKASS PRESENTS: BAD GRANDPA Review

Anytime you approach a film with the word "jackass" in the title you can't so much look at it as an actual movie, but more as one big joke. That would obviously be the intent anyway, right? Why would you put such a degrading word in the title of your movie if not to be completely stupid and outlandish in the execution of what makes up the contents of said title? Naturally, as we are on our fourth installment in the Jackass movie franchise we have come to expect little more than stupidity out of these products with the bright side being they usually come with a lot of laughs. Originally premiering as a half hour MTV show in the Spring of 2000 Jackass introduced the world to the likes of Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Bam Margera, and the late Ryan Dunn whom this current film is dedicated to. What these guys did was take the gags played over and over again on family-friendly shows like America's Funniest Home Videos and take them to extremes. They were able to set up ridiculous stunts and scenarios that would no doubt induce a fair amount of pain for them, but equal amounts of laughter for the audience. The pain was no doubt worth it despite the show only running for two years as it was able to spawn the aforementioned movie series beginning in 2002 and adding another installment every four years since. With each of these films having a marginal budget compared to what they usually pull in opening weekend it is no surprise we keep getting and will continue getting either direct sequels or spin offs such as this latest incarnation. Knoxville brings back his Irving Zisman character who he has used countless times before and stretches the sketch to feature length. Not to doubt the trickery of these guys, this installment doesn't trade-in the traditional pranks and gags that include the players and unsuspecting victims for narrative and emotional impact, but it does attempt to include both of these elements which is both a bit of a surprise and one of the detractors of the film. It is hard enough for us to take the material seriously, but for Knoxville and his crew not to let the audience in on the joke seems an odd choice. This is slightly redeemed, but it's almost too little too late.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: October 29, 2013

First Trailer for X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST


Bryan Singer kicked off the super hero film wave way back in 2000 and even as the super hero genre has become its own and still thrives, arguably better than it ever has, Singer's X-Men crew have been through several ups and downs together, but have not re-grouped entirely since 2006's The Last Stand where director Brett Ratner took over and things only went downhill from there. In 2011 though director Matthew Vaughn re-invigorated the mutant franchise with his take on the origin story of the two distinct leaders of the mutant revolution: Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Erik Lensherr aka Magneto (Ian McKellan). The film was both critically and financially successful which of course means a sequel, but this isn't like any other sequel. Singer has now returned to the world he began and has combined both his cast and the First Class recruits to tell a time altering story that has Hugh Jackman's Wolverine sending his consciousness back to 1973 so that he might help a younger Charles (James McAvoy) and Erik (Michael Fassbender). The suspected villain in all of this is Boliver Trask (Peter Dinklage) who may or may not be constructing large robots that look eerily similar to sentinels. The trailer delivers more than I expected, but with a quieter, darker tone than I've seen in any of the previous X-Men films. I absolutely loved the first X-Men and X2 is still arguably one of the best super hero films ever made which only garners more excitement to see what Singer has done with a cast and scale as large as this one. X-Men: Days of Future Past also stars Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore, Omar Sy, Halle Berry and opens in 3D May 23, 2014.

THE COUNSELOR Review

Everything in director Ridley Scott's latest is so perfectly put together one would think it difficult to find any fault in it's composition as a complete package. Instead, these exceptional pieces of casting, beautiful photography, and impeccable costume designs add up to little more than a meditation on the decisions and eventual repercussions and how those actions affect the  people around us through the extreme example of a man accustomed to leisure that must become a player in the business of illegal narcotics in order to keep up appearances. Little more than this has been highlighted in the unexpectedly low-key marketing campaign for a film that seemingly has all the right individual parts to make up a grand film except for the one element that makes all movies worth watching: an intriguing story, a reason to exist in the first place. Whether it be the legendary director, the fact this script comes from Pulitzer Prize winning author Cormac McCarthy in his first gig as a screenwriter, or the well-pedigreed cast that has both credible "movie stars" in Brad Pitt and Cameron Diaz while also featuring the likes of critical darlings Javier Bardem, the typically underrated Penelope Cruz, and the man of the moment, Michael Fassbender this film somehow fails to ever take off and falls completely flat while remaining nothing if not forgettable a mere few hours after leaving the theater. I won't lie in saying I held out high hopes for the film. While there are elements that stand out, performances that deserve recognition and aspects of the script that are interesting in individual scenes they, for one reason or another, are unable to build upon one another or contribute constructively to the larger narrative McCarthy is trying to accomplish. We understand the overlapping relationships and how the storylines tie in to one another, but none of it adds tension to the proceedings or even a small hint of interest into how these short vignettes will ultimately pay off for the characters taking part in them. The Counselor is an interesting case of a movie as I would never refer to it as a necessarily "good" movie or one worth watching for its entertainment value, but it is oddly intriguing for its dedication to style and subtlety of theme that at least keeps us curious as to what exactly this beautiful disaster was trying to say.

First Trailer for CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER


Captain America: The First Avenger was surprisingly pleasant and satisfying. I have been unexpectedly excited to see what the follow-up has to offer as Marvel, in its ever revolving door of directors, hired Joe and Anthony Russo (Community, Happy Endings) and allowed them their take on the next chapter in the Captain's saga of adjusting to the modern world. Chris Evans continues to be in fine form and while this somewhat looks to be a higher-level, more expensive episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. it is nice to see the inclusion of Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow and Sam Jackson's Nick Fury still playing a prominent role in the development of our titular character. That the world continues to be consistent is one of the biggest pleasures this Marvel cinematic universe delivers. What I enjoyed most about this first trailer though is the fact it doesn't divulge every beat the eventual film will hit. We get a lot of fast paced, quick cut action montages and a glimpse into the main conflict that will be presented to Steve Rogers in the form of a moral dilemma with his employer. It is an interesting take as the makers could have just as easily pitted him against his nemesis, "The Winter Soldier" aka Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) who apparently didn't die in the first film and left it at that. There is a lot more going on here though as Stan gets limited screen time in the teaser and hardly any close-ups until that final tease which is just enough to keep us interested. After seeing the trailer I'm certainly still excited to see what the film holds and hope the tone of a 70's thriller as the directors have referenced is indeed intact. Captain America: Winter Soldier also stars Cobie Smulders, Georges St-Pierre, Frank Grillo, Hayley Atwell, Toby Jones, Emily VanCamp, Maximiliano Hernández, Anthony Mackie, Robert Redford and opens on April 4, 2014.

THE FIFTH ESTATE Review

We go to the movies to be entertained and not necessarily for history lessons. That hasn't stopped writers and filmmakers from making countless films that chronicle historical events since the beginning of the mediums inception. Even D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation which is credited as one of the first motion pictures and innovating several techniques that shaped modern filmmaking is a story revolving around the Civil War and reconstruction-era America. The majority of the time though there seems reason to bring these stories and settings to the big screen by way of there being an inspirational, harrowing, unbelievable, or simply engaging story that deserves to be told and expressed to the largest audience possible. That something engaging about the story would likely be the key element were you to talk to any writer or filmmaker and it is easy to see how writer Josh Singer who has written for several credible TV shows such as The West Wing and Law & Order, and Lie to Me and director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Kinsey and yes, the last two Twilight films) saw the inherent drama and, to use that word again, engaging elements of the story of Julian Assange, the Australian activist who began the website WikiLeaks which publishes secret information that has been submitted to his website as he claims to protect his sources who would otherwise be too afraid to come forward with said information. There is naturally a human element to this story as Assange is an intriguing public figure that has received plenty of press coverage over the past few years as his name and image might very well be more popular or recognizable than the reasons why this is so, but there is also a cultural aspect of Assange's story that addresses the changing of the tide on how the world receives information and this aspect, while I didn't see it coming as a part of the narrative, has a very interesting idea to it that could have been taken advantage of and conveyed in a much more interesting way while the human element is simply left to the performers trying to make the drama function while having nothing solid to work with. They are left to trying to make staring intently at a monitor and typing ferociously as intense as possible rather than backing up and dealing with the actual emotions that come with the weight of what they're typing on their laptops. It isn't so much engaging as it is facts being stated with nothing for us to be moved, shocked, or entertained by.

ON DVD & Blu-Ray: October 22, 2013

ESCAPE PLAN Review

In the early months of 2013 audiences everywhere were overwhelmed with the amount of testosterone-filled action flicks that typically didn't see the light of day until the prime to late summer months, but this was different as each of these were more a solo effort from a band of well-tested performers that did well enough together, but couldn't pass up the temptation of breaking out on their own. Whether it be Arnold Schwarzenegger's fun and entertaining comeback flick The Last Stand, Sylvester Stallone's bleak and dreary Bullet to the Head or even Jason Statham's five-hundredth attempt at playing a hit man in Parker or Bruce Willis taking up the ole McClain name again for another Die Hard go around, the fact of the matter is that none of these performed all too well and left most of us simply yearning for a time when they all re-unite and turn out another Expendables movie (except for you Bruce Willis, you greedy bastard!). Needless to say, this didn't bode well for the other flick Stallone and Schwarzenegger teamed up to make this year; originally titled The Tomb and later changed to Escape Plan. But hey, at least they were pairing up for this one which had to mean some level of excitement would follow, right? While this could most definitely be debated and likely go either way with plenty of support on either side I was personally pretty excited to see what kind of over-the-top antics these guys could get into and put up on screen at their age. And while they may not be the marquee names or box office draws that they used to be on their own, Escape Plan is a more than competent action flick with such an outlandishly intriguing plot and strong sense of pacing that we never get bored, are never taken out of the plot turns and are right in the thick of the conflict with Stallone's Ray Breslin and Schwarzenegger's Emil Rottmayer that we don't care to step back and examine its shortcomings or bother to comment on the acting. Reality is checked at the door and despite the fact this will be one of those films that will play countless times on HBO and eventually FX where it will no doubt be easier to take it for what it is I can't say I didn't enjoy myself to the fullest as I experienced what is the pure definition of unabashed, unadulterated B-movie brilliance.  

CARRIE Review

I've only seen Brian DePalma's 1976 Carrie once before, last Halloween for that matter, and I had the same reaction to it I do to many "classics" that I've seen removed so far from when they were originally released that an honest reaction is hard to have and to speak negatively about a film deemed with that title, whether it has "horror" in front of it or not is typically taken as heresy. The film was fine enough for what it was and more than anything I enjoyed actually seeing those iconic moments put into context as well as featuring early performances from Sissy Spacek and John Travolta. Still, I wondered what we might get from an updated version of the story as the source material has always been an exaggerated twist on the effects of bullying and with that being a hot topic as of late not only would a re-telling of Stephen King's novel be timely and introduce the material to a new generation but it might be able to instill some faith in these younger audiences of today that grew up on countless Japanese horror remakes and found footage flicks that there is more to the genre than these kinds of films and that scary movies don't have to be about the gimmick, but can actually relate to the issues of the real world. That being said, since 2003's re-make of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre there have been a slew of re-makes giving fresh eyes to the horror classics of yesteryear (or more the studios trying to make money off familiar brand names) and though the majority of them have been plagued by generally bad reception this new incarnation of Carrie is playing in a different arena because it at least seemed to have a few things going for it the others didn't. To say this is to refer to director Kimberly Pierce (Boys Don't Cry) and her claim that her version of the film would be more of a strict adaptation of King's novel rather than pulling from the DePalma film. The added value of having such a prestigious cast that includes Chloë Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore didn't hurt much either. And with that all being said, this new imagining never comes off as bad or disrespectful, but in fact is fairly horrifying and effective if not for the fact it's overly familiar and ultimately a little pointless.

First Trailer for THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL


I have always been a fan of Wes Anderson's work if not for the fact that he has a great story of how he and Owen Wilson met and made it into Hollywood, but for the fact he has kept his singular voice throughout his now illustrious career and continues to do so. Coming off what was likely his most mainstream success as well as being one of his better films last year in Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson has turned his sights on a script that for the first time he has written solely on his own. The Grand Budapest Hotel tells the story of a legendary concierge in 20th-century Hungary who takes a young employee (Tony Revolori) on as his protégé. Naturally the film looks to be much more complex than this as there is murder, scandal, and comedy thrown in for good measure all of which can be gauged in this excessively charming first trailer. The cast is ridiculous as the concierge is played by Ralph Fiennes in a rare comedic role that he looks to absolutely kill as well as the roles of Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody and Tilda Swinton getting nice moments here. The set design looks to be on a massive Anderson scale and the camera work is as stoic as ever with complex shots and framing done to the hilt (Anderson also shot this in three different aspect ratios; one for each of the time periods in which the film takes palce). If it is unclear I am beyond excited for this film and only hope that it lives up to the expectations I've always held for Anderson's work. The rest of the cast includes the likes of F. Murray Abraham, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jason Schwartzman, Jude Law, Harvey Keitel, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Murray and Owen Wilson. The Grand Budapest Hotel opens March 7, 2014.

SHORT TERM 12 Review

Short Term 12 is a slice of life dramedy that will suck you in immediately and have you engulfed in the world of its timid characters that are doing nothing more than trying to do their part to make a difference in the world with an approach that truly means something to them. This film is one of those rare cases where I walked in knowing little to nothing about what I was going to experience, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a well balanced tone of what mirrors real life the closest. None of us live completely within the bounds of these genres that Hollywood has so conveniently put together so as to garner massive audiences for each one that cater to the dominant attitude one might carry. Despite the fact humans generally tend to gravitate towards specific personality traits or uncontrollable factors that determine how they are perceived the majority of us live a life filled with moments of equal highs and lows. Granted, this range of emotions is usually reserved to be explored in the smaller, less expensive films that tackle more singular subjects and therefor may have a more narrow audience looking for it, when they are done well they can likely appeal to whoever stumbles upon them and it seems Short Term 12 has the potential to have that appeal. Writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton has expanded his 2008 short film of the same name into feature length form and in doing so has given himself room to explore the devastating effects of what mental, physical and sexual abuse have on children and not just in the immediate aftermath but years and years on when you would hope the victim might have been able to look past and move on. It is as much an enlightening and inspirational film as it is a heart wrenching and extremely personal documentation of the individuals who have experienced such disgusting encounters and have had to grow and learn to adapt in a world that often times expects them to get over it without ever being able to accept the fact they might live what most of us would call a "normal life". With a strong script and some purely exceptional performances Short Term 12 turns out to be one of the more affecting films of the year that has probably been seen the least.  

First Trailer for THAT AWKWARD MOMENT


With three films scheduled for 2014 Zac Efron is poised to brand himself a whole new kind of actor. The former Disney star has been trying to do this as of late with roles in more serious films like The Paperboy (wait, that wasn't a comedy?) and Parkland, but most of these efforts have proved inconsequential. For at least two out of his three films in 2014 Efron will attempt to convince the world he is a legitimate comic actor and to his credit he has picked some pretty great company to back him up on this claim. Though his second effort will likely be more high profile as he joins the likes of Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne and Dave Franco his January flick, That Awkward Moment, doesn't look half bad and in fact it looks like it has the potential to be pretty great. Writer/director Tom Gormican, in his feature debut, has rounded up a great "in the moment" trio as Efron is joined by Miles Teller (The Spectacular Now) and Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station) to play a group of friends that vow not to start any relationships after one of them is dealt a devastating blow in the form of a break-up. This Red Band trailer highlights the authenticity of the relationships between the lead trio as well as the chemistry they seem to possess while giving us a nice hint of the comedic tone and the direction this romantic comedy from the male perspective might take. With a stellar cast and a director full of wide-eyed enthusiasm I'm officially excited to see what this has to offer. That Awkward Moment also stars Imogen Poots, Mackenzie Davis, Jessica Lucas and opens on January 31, 2014.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: October 15, 2013

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS Review

There are some films you simply take as solid ventures, so well crafted and acted that it is hard to deny the inherent quality of what you are witnessing on screen. Though there may not be anything strictly exceptional about the project overall you understand that it is an impressive accomplishment and a film to be admired if not completely adored. Thus is the case I run into with Captain Phillips, the latest from director Paul Greengrass (United 93, The Bourne SupremancyUltimatum) that serves up a take on a true story that was well publicized in national news a few years ago and has Tom Hanks at the center of it. This combination of elements, including the director, are very well set-up to deliver something prestigious and well made. It is that perfect storm of concept and movie star with the added value of a legitimate director behind the wheel to steer it in the right direction that allows Captain Phillips to not necessarily strike you immediately as an impressive film, yet allows it to absolutely live up to the expectations those kinds of factors demand. While I wasn't overly familiar with the true life story of Richard Phillips I'd certainly heard of it and though the trailers didn't look as intriguing as I'd expected (again, due to the reasoning of all the components involved I expected a little something more), but I was game as you can't go wrong with the formula and director Greengrass has the uncommon ability of making a thrilling film from real-life events where we already know how the story will end. He did this with United 93 by tapping into the human element involved and does very much the same here while allowing his lessons learned on the Bourne films to inform his restrained, but tension-inducing action sequences. What happens in this film could be broken down to a few very basic scenarios, but Greengrass is able to convey the heightened sense of alert, of fear, and that fear of the unknown into a real character as Hanks' Phillips goes through the tasks required of him from the Somali pirates that have hijacked his ship. Building the engagement of the audience through these set pieces and developing the characters at the same time is an achievement not to be glossed over and Captain Phillips executes this nearly every chance it gets.

MACHETE KILLS Review

Remember six years ago when Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino decided to team-up and create an epic production that once and for all would pay obvious tribute to their love of exploitation films? It was awesome, right? Both Planet Terror and Death Proof had their own style and story while effectively re-creating the tone and look of those seedy, unrestrained 1970's flicks that weren't mainstream enough for big studios. While the combination of the two features were released under the banner, Grindhouse, the mainstream still didn't seem to take as much of a liking to the project as it ultimately wasn't the box office hit the directors had become accustomed to. Still, no one lost any credibility on the project as it catered exactly to the kind of high concept work the two directors were known for innovating. One of the many highlights of Grindhouse though turned out to be the fake movie trailers that played before and inbetween the features and thus the world was introduced to Machete. I went back and re-watched that original trailer that played before Planet Terror as well as watching a good portion of that Rodriguez film which only came to re-enforce the overly-negative opinion I have concerning the follow-up to the 2010 full length version of Machete, Machete Kills. One of the bigger issues of the first Machete was the fact it frequently became exactly the thing it was parodying while the sequel does so in even bigger strides while no longer even looking like or seeming to attempt to actually become a part of the genre Rodriguez was originally so intent on paying tribute to. There is a fine line though between showing affection and making fun of, and while both Planet Terror and Death Proof were able to play up the elements of these exploitation flicks to modern audiences in the form of laughs they at least had the craft and quality down pat. Machete Kills is little more than a parody, a rushed job with a nonsensical script and stunt casting that is clearly intended to fulfill the entertainment quota. The base purpose of these homages is to have fun watching the ridiculousness unfold while laughing at the countless references and cinematic commentary, but unfortunately there is no such fun to be had here.

ENOUGH SAID Review

There were several factors that seemed to weigh in on the idea that Enough Said might not be more than a film anyone would ever care to talk about, but would serve as a pleasant diversion only to end up somewhere down the road all but forgotten with its simple poster and intentionally low-key indie status. Both stars of the film, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini, are well-respected names with extremely strong credentials as far as television work goes, but neither of them had ever become more than recognizable supporting characters in most of their big screen roles, though for some reason I always believed Gandolfini would grow into more of that unconventional leading man that attracted a built-in audience. All of this to say that the film took on much more weight with the passing of Gandolfini this past summer. Suddenly, this was not only one of his last movies, but his very last starring role. Upon first seeing the trailer I didn't think much as it looked to be little more than an adult romantic comedy that explored love lives after divorce and while likely intelligently written it also possessed a plot device that seemed rather hokey and something that might serve as the basis for a half-hour sitcom rather than an entire movie. What comes to be surprisingly effective about Enough Said though is that it isn't at all what you expect it to be. It doesn't play into the conventions of that otherwise despised genre that makes love look like an accessory rather than a necessity in life, but it takes on the emotion and all the baggage that comes with it in the varying relationships one has as they're passing through the middle section of their lives. This is as much about being a parent as it is a developing relationship, this is just as much about friendship and the different dynamics of every relationship as it is about a crazy coincidence that brings several different people together who share a common friend, and in some cases more than that. This is a film that subtly and comfortably approaches getting old while embracing the younger generations around it and while maybe not learning something from them, at least gaining a new experience that gives them a new perspective on life. Again, all of this to say that Enough Said is cute, often very funny, and one of the more purely enjoyable experiences I've had at the movies this year.

GRAVITY Review

The moment the title card came up at the end of Gravity I was ready to see it again. It has that type of effect on you where despite the fact what you've been a part of over the last ninety minutes was completely terrifying, completely out of your comfort zone, completely eye-opening and maybe to certain things you wouldn't want to admit; it was still so exhilarating that you want to experience it again and immediately. That is the kind of reaction I expect most people will have as they leave the theater and begin to reflect on what they've just witnessed for not only is it a visual delight, a technological wonder that defies all convention and expectation, but it never forgets story and character, the two driving forces behind anything worth telling. If there isn't an engaging story, a narrative to pull us in and recognizable characters, people with whom we live vicariously through or sympathize with in their moments of need and desperation then there is no connection to the film other than that of a superficial one. Director Alfonso Cuarón, who made the well-received but little seen Children of Men and my personal favorite Harry Potter film (The Prisoner of Azkaban), has crafted what could easily become one of those defining moments in cinematic history where the mythology that will no doubt come to surround Gravity will be as great as the content of the film itself. This is a game-changer in ways only those who hope to create something bigger than themselves, something that pushes the boundaries, but does so for the right reasons could only hope to achieve. It is a film that as far as I can tell best captures the feeling of being in space without actually having to go there. The vastness of it, the colossal weight of what it means, the beauty of it all, yet the film also comes to carry much more weight than simply functioning as a National Geographic tutorial on space travel while teaching a lesson about the consequences of space junk; it is a story about existence, about human nature, about the will to live and everything that comes along with these giant themes that are as extensive as the universe itself.

RUNNER RUNNER Review

Runner Runner is a film that would seemingly be posed as a well-received thriller-infused drama about the high stakes world of online gaming, the billions of dollars in revenue it provides and the dirty schemes the people who run these sites use to cheat schmoes sitting in their living rooms and betting their life savings. It would seem that way, it certainly has all of the components. Both of its leading actors, Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck, have careers as hot as they've ever been at the moment and director Brad Furman's previous film was The Lincoln Lawyer, a gritty legal drama with a slick persona at the center that didn't necessarily break any barriers, but played to its strengths and began the career renaissance Matthew McConaughey is now experiencing. So why, with all this potential, all these favorable facets coming into play as well as the added bonus of having a script penned by Brian Koppelman and David Levien, they guys that also wrote Rounders and Ocean's Thirteen, end up being little more than a slog of tedious and boring beats we've seen a million times before with little more to offer than pretty scenery via Costa Rica? While that script is certainly one of the major culprits it seems as much as there are good things working for this film there are just as many if not more negative aspects working against it. I hate to rag on a film that clearly is trying for a certain style and has a clear intent of what it would like to be and the kind of quota it is trying to fill as far as entertainment value goes because Runner Runner clearly knows what it is and how far it can go, but even within these limitations it fails to meet the most basic rules of being a movie and that is first and foremost being entertaining. There is nothing to keep us invested, no characters to sympathize with or plot twists to intrigue us further. From the moment we are introduced to Timberlake's character and presented with his dilemma and then subsequently presented with Affleck's position in the whole thing we can see where things are heading and thus, they do.

First Trailer for I, FRANKENSTEIN


How movies like I, Frankenstein continue to get made is something that baffles me. They all have this cheap fantasy element to them and none of it comes off as particularly original, but rather and mixed bag of references to better, more established material and archetypes taken from other genres of film and applied to these age old stories and myths that hopefully turn out to be something truly original, yet the majority of the time are nothing more than half-baked ideas set into typical action film beats where our hero must save the world from some unknown threat he helped create or unleashed from his realm, world, galaxy, story...you get the picture. A movie like this is below Aaron Eckhart who, after The Dark Knight, I believed would have a prolific career that would produce several good films and performances, but his mix of direct-to-video movies combined with big action fare that has been more or less forgettable has made him that exact thing. This kind of role and film seems destined for the $5 bin at Wal-Mart and along the lines of every Underworld, Resident Evil, or Priest and Legion that studios decide to release in the doldrums of September or the early months of the year (in this case, January). I'm slightly engaged by the trailer only because the visual element at least seems to be going for something and as this is director Stuart Beattie's first major film there might be some real inventiveness and energy here that the whole vibe I'm getting from the film is covering up. We'll just have to wait and see as I, Frankenstein opens January 24, 2014 and also stars Bill Nighy, Yvonne Strahovski, Miranda Otto and Jai Courtney.

First Trailer for JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT


Though I've never read a Tom Clancy novel nor have I seen any of the previous incarnations of this character on screen whether it was by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, or even Ben Affleck in The Sum of All Fears I'm always game for an espionage thriller and this looks to fill that quota this year quite nicely. While last year I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed the gritty, back to basics approach of Jack Reacher and while Ryan seems to have taken a more flashy, Daniel Craig-ish Bond approach to the globe trotting the cast is more than appealing and Kenneth Branagh is at the helm which lends this project more credibility than I would have granted it otherwise. Branagh stepped into large-scale, blockbuster filmmaking with his last effort, Thor, and was able to turn what is arguably the most outlandish of the Marvel superheroes into a certifiable hit and a film that is almost universally liked. I appreciate the fact Paramount took Branagh on his good will from that film and gave him a shot at directing what could have easily been a throwaway chance to capitalize on a recognizable name as nothing more than a cash grab. As for the actual trailer, as I said it looks slightly new-age Bond mixed with some Jason Bourne-like stylings, but what doesn't these days? Chris Pine looks to be his typically charismatic self if not a little more humble and reserved than his Kirk interpretation while his supporting cast featuring Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley and the director himself as the baddie make this a teaser that delivers on its purpose. As of right now Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is scheduled to open in theaters on Christmas Day, but could change to early 2014.

UNSTOPPABLE Review

Many times I don't like to accept being labeled as a "Christian" simply because of all the stipulations that surround the word and the assumptions people make about me, my character and my stance on certain issues. That being said, I was raised Catholic though I assume many Protestants might find it hard to believe Catholics consider themselves Christians and not simply as Catholics, but believe it or not this is true for most Catholics. I continue to practice that faith though I won't go without saying it hasn't been tough. I have so many questions that come up consistently and lead to other questions. I find it interesting to learn as much as I can about the basis of the Christian church so that I have a good pool of knowledge to pull from when discussions concerning faith and the existence of God come up. Unstoppable was not going to be a discussion or a debate on whether there was a God or not, but instead was attempting to answer a question that makes perfect sense to ask when you've been bombarded with "Jesus Loves You" your entire life and that is: Why does God let bad things happen to good people? The simple answer for a casual believer in God may be something along the lines of, "how can we grieve when God is in control of every situation?" For me, in that regard though, it would almost seem that anyone who considered themselves devout in the faith would have to feel somewhat celebratory at the death of a person who they knew also believed in God for despite the fact they wouldn't see them anymore they knew they were now joining God in heaven. To be completely up front I've heard that sentiment a thousand times from regular church-goers, but as a way of comforting those who'd just lost someone close. Still, it never seemed to truly help and more than anything I felt it would genuinely cause people to react more negatively to God and begin asking the same question Kirk Cameron poses as the basis of his new film.

BLUE CAPRICE Review

There is a haunting tone, an eerie atmosphere that surrounds every action that takes place in director Alexandre Moors debut feature, Blue Caprice. Walking into this film I was unsure of what exactly I was getting myself into, only that I'd heard good word of mouth surrounding it and that the poster offered an intriguing yet mysterious look into the story behind the Washington DC sniper tragedy that occurred over a decade ago now in which ten people senselessly lost their lives. Naturally, I remember these events and was a little hesitant when approaching a film that told the killers side of the story when it only seemed to be bringing more attention to individuals who don't deserve that type of recognition, but where I would have rather seen a movie telling the story about the life or lives of those who had theirs stolen a la another Sundance hit, Fruitvale Station, which caused waves earlier this year. While I still went into the film with little to no knowledge of what it was going to actually depict or what the backstory behind the two men who were found guilty of these crimes were, I wasn't ready to appreciate the film because I didn't think it was necessary that it be made. I held prejudice against it simply on the basis that it seemed to exist because the events it would be presenting were well-known and the people behind the cameras and script knew they would likely be able to garner a good amount of attention with this kind of material. While there are surely plenty of other routes Moors and his team could have taken to achieve the level of recognition they are now getting for this film, the film itself and not the motives behind it or the politics of its existence are what's under examination here and in that regard Moors has crafted an extremely intimate character study that gives voice to a young man who never felt he had much of a choice in the world. This isn't an exploitative venture, but a film looking to bring some sense of reason, of justification to actions where no apology or logic can ever make up for the pain they caused. This is understood and not excused, but at least attempts to bring some kind of understanding, if not answers, to the all-encompassing question of "why" that no doubt still plagues relatives of the victims to this day.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: October 1, 2013