Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ghostbusters (1984, 1989): 30th Anniversary Retrospective

There have been quite a few film franchises that have become iconic parts of pop culture history like ‘Star Wars’, ‘Batman’, and ‘Harry Potter’. And easily one of the most famous franchises of all time has to be ‘Ghostbusters’, which got its start in 1984 with the film of the same name. Directed by Ivan Reitman and written by Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd, who both starred in the film along with Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver, and Ernie Hudson, the film, centered on a trio of parapsychologists who set up a ghost-catching business after being dismissed from their university, became a major critical and commercial success when it was released. It has since spawned a huge multimedia franchise that includes a 1989 sequel, two animated series (1986’s ‘The Real Ghostbusters’ and 1997’s ‘Extreme Ghostbusters’, the latter of which was a spin-off of the first show), and much more. A third film has been in and out of development for the past few years now but with the recent passing of Harold Ramis along with reports that Bill Murray isn’t that interested in returning, it doesn’t really look like we’ll ever get an ‘official sequel’. So because of that, recent reports say that director Paul Feig (‘Bridesmaids’, ‘The Heat’) will instead be helming a ‘reboot’ of the series with a female-led cast. It’ll be interesting to see how that turns out if it does get made but for now, in honor of the first film’s 30th anniversary, it’s time to look back upon the two ‘Ghostbusters’ films and for the record, just those two films. This post will not include reviews of the two animated series, simply because I didn’t watch either of them as a kid. So now with that out of the way, here are my reviews of ‘Ghostbusters’ and ‘Ghostbusters 2’.


Really, what more can be said about the first ‘Ghostbusters’ film? It’s an undeniable comedic classic; a film that blends its comedy with a wide array of zany visuals and it is done to great results. It’s highly quotable with great lines like ‘Dogs and Cats living together, Mass Hysteria!’ or ‘That’s a Big Twinkie’ and of course there’s much more. This is one of those comedies that isn’t afraid to get a little ‘mature’ at times when it comes to its humor. Case in point, Bill Murray. While Aykroyd and Ramis’ dialogue mostly consists of them spewing science jargon and, as Star Trek fans like to put it, ‘techno-babble’, a lot of Murray’s dialogue is more than likely going to fly over the heads of young viewers. But when you’re older, you’re going to understand it a lot more. This film came out a month before the PG-13 rating was introduced by the MPAA, and while it isn’t as ‘violent’ or ‘disturbing’ as something like ‘Temple of Doom’ or ‘Poltergeist’, this film is still a prime example of how back then filmmakers could get away with a lot more stuff in PG films than they do nowadays. I mean when you really think about it, this is a very bizarre premise but this film joyfully goes with it resulting in a highly entertaining film with a great cast, excellent writing, and fun visuals. Simply put, when there’s something strange in your neighborhood, you know who to call.

Rating: 5/5!


Like with pretty much almost every sequel that has ever come out, ‘Ghostbusters 2’ is generally considered by many to be ‘inferior’ to the first film and while I do agree that it isn’t as good as the first film, keep in mind how great of a film this one is supposed to follow up on; talk about an incredibly tough act to follow. So with that said, why is this one not as good as its predecessor? According to the Rotten Tomatoes consensus, it is because it ‘lacks the charm, wit, and energy’ that the first film had. However, I don’t entirely agree with that statement. Because while I can sort of see what they’re getting at, I don’t think that the film is entirely devoid of those aforementioned qualities… far from it, in fact. The cast still has phenomenal camaraderie, there are still plenty of lines that are highly quotable (‘Sometimes, s*** happens, someone has to deal with it, and who you gonna call?’), and there are still some pretty fun visuals, like during the finale when the Ghostbusters travel through the city of New York while piloting the Statue of Liberty. It’s true that maybe the film doesn’t have the exact same amount of charm, wit, and energy as its predecessor had but still, it’s not like it’s not there. It still very much feels like a ‘Ghostbusters’ film through and through.

Really, the main problem with the film is something that occurs with a lot of sequels; it rehashes a lot of the same beats from the first film in terms of its plot like how the Ghostbusters at one point have to visit the mayor when they get into trouble with the law or how they start off having to work to become popular again with the citizens in New York as this film takes place five years after the events of the first film as their popularity has started to dwindle. I do kind of like the idea of the Ghostbusters having to get back into the swing of things having been out of the business for a while but overall there’s not much in this film that is different from the first film save for it having different plot-points, like the River of Slime, the main villain Vigo, and for introducing Dana Barrett’s baby as a plot-point. Regardless of this, I still think that ‘Ghostbusters II’ is actually a pretty underrated sequel. Sure, it’s still not as good as the original, mainly because it copies a lot from that film. Still, I disagree with the notion that it is completely devoid of the ‘charm, wit, and energy’ that made the first film so great because it’s still here, just maybe not as much as in the first film. However, I do feel that this film deserves a second chance because it still a very entertaining film even if it doesn’t fully live up to the status of its predecessor.

Rating: 3.5/5

Before I end this post, if you ever have the chance, I recommend you check out the location tour video, ‘Follow that Marshmallow: A Ghostbusters Tour’ produced by James Rolfe AKA The Angry Video Game Nerd. It’s a really nice location video showcasing a lot of the locations in New York that were featured in both movies and it’s pretty cool to see that the filmmakers made a real effort to be as geographically correct as possible. What I mean is that a lot of the locations in the film aren’t too far apart from one another meaning that the routes that the characters take in the film are accurate to the real-life layout of New York. I’ll provide the link to the video below for your viewing pleasure.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Favorite Films of Summer 2014- As Voted by the Fans

A little over a week ago, I set up a poll on Surveymonkey.com and asked you guys to vote on what your favorite movie from Summer 2014 was and I’m really pleased with the amount of responses the poll got. In the end, 43 people submitted their votes so with that said I would like to thank all of those who voted. So now that the voting process is closed, it’s time for the fun part of all of this. Now you guys get to see which films earned your votes as your favorite films from these past four months of the year. Now despite what I said in my ‘End of Summer Announcement’ post, I’m ultimately not going to do a ‘Top 10’ list. The main reason for this is because ultimately 19 films earned votes from you all and a lot of them had similar amounts of votes (some had 2 votes each, some 3 each, etc…) so it’s actually rather impossible to do an official ‘Top 10’ list. So instead of doing that, I will be listing all of the films that got votes, going from those that earned the lowest amount of votes to the ones that got the highest. So without further ado, here are your favorite films from the Summer 2014 movie season.



If this film hadn’t gotten a mixed reaction from both critics and audiences, I’d be more comfortable in saying that this was the best year for comic book movies yet. For the record, I do think this has been the best year so far for comic book movies mostly because of the other three superhero films that came out this year which all earned glowing reviews from both critics and audiences. But Spidey wasn’t as lucky as ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ pretty much became the ‘Man of Steel’ of the year as both critics and audiences were mixed on it though overall I’ve heard QUITE a lot more negative reviews than I have positive ones. I may be in the minority here, but I really loved this film. I may have been hesitant at first about these ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ movies due to their status of being a very rushed reboot (just five years after the Sam Raimi trilogy had ended) but after seeing these films, I actually find myself preferring these two to the Raimi trilogy because I like the characters in this series more, specifically Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy, respectively.

The common complaint towards this film was that it was too overcrowded in both ideas and characters and while I do see where people are coming from with this, I didn’t really think it was that ‘bloated’. It’s clear that with this film the writers did not realize the major problem of ‘Spider-Man 3’ in that it had too many villains. Both films have three villains each but overall I feel that ‘Spider-Man 3’ is still the bigger mess in terms of its characters and plotlines. But even with that said, I don’t think that film is as bad as the entire internet is putting it out to be… and the same can be said for ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ as well. Despite the multiple villains, the film does clarify who the ‘main villain’ is, I found the story to be pretty self-contained, and while I’m not trying to compare the quality of the following films, the direction by Marc Webb is much more confident here than it was in the first film, similar to Christopher Nolan when he went from ‘Batman Begins’ to ‘The Dark Knight’. It’s clear that Sony wants to do a ‘Sinister Six’ movie and that is something that I do want to see. But if I did have any complaints about ‘Amazing Spider-Man 2’, it is that the lead-in for ‘Sinister Six’ is just a minor tease during the ending. Sony, if you want to make ‘Sinister Six’ happen, actually start making it happen!


In between all of the summer blockbusters that came out this year was this charming little indie film from Jon Favreau about a chef who quits his job at a major restaurant when he feels that he is unable to express his culinary creativity. He also becomes infamous on social media when he berates a food critic both online and in person for criticizing his food (which was because he had to stick to the ‘classics’ and was forbidden from trying new things). It’s fairly clear that this film’s story mirrors Favreau’s own frustrations with the Hollywood system. After directing many big-budget summer blockbusters like ‘Cowboys and Aliens’ and the first two ‘Iron Man’ films, he returns to the more low-budgeted films where he got his start as a director. ‘Chef’ is an incredibly charming film, with an excellent message that stresses the importance of freedom of expression. I especially loved the sequence in this film when Favreau’s character, his son (Emjay Anthony), and his best friend (John Leguizamo) go on a road trip across the country in their new food truck. Now I can’t say that it’s the ‘best film’ of the year because I didn’t really find it as funny as a lot of people were saying it was but at the same time I still appreciated the charm of this film and its strong message. All in all, ‘Chef’ was a very pleasant change of pace from all of the summer blockbusters.


This film, released during the weekend that ‘Godzilla’ came out, is based on a true story about a sports agent who, looking to find new talent for the Major Leagues, establishes a new contest in India in order to find new talent. His first two contenders, Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel) became the first two Indian men to sign U.S. pro sports contracts. Now I didn’t see the film but from what I’ve seen online, it looks like the film got pretty decent reviews from critics. To paraphrase the RT consensus, it’s a pleasant film that benefitted heavily from having Jon Hamm in the lead role while not really adding much to the ‘inspirational sports story’ formula that we’ve seen a lot of times. But really… I don’t really mind that at all. Being a sports fan myself, I grew watching films like ‘Rookie of the Year’, ‘Angels in the Outfield’, and ‘Remember the Titans’ and while I know they all share similar plot points, I still find a lot of them to be very entertaining. In fact, the same can be said about another sports film that came out this year, ‘Draft Day’, which I did see and I was rather surprised to find that I really liked it. I didn’t end up seeing ‘Million Dollar Arm’ in theaters, but I’ll probably watch it sometime soon.


‘Edge of Tomorrow’ unfortunately ends up being one of the most criminally underrated films of this summer season. Now I’m not saying it’s ‘underrated’ from a critical perspective because it actually got really, really good reviews from critics (something that I did not expect to happen at all). I’m referring to how the film performed at the domestic box office where it fared pretty poorly commercially. It only grossed about $100 million here in the U.S., at least $78 million under its budget. Thankfully the international box office helped it at least make its money back but still it’s sad to see that this film didn’t fare so well here in the U.S. It seems like the biggest reason for the film’s poor performance was due to lackluster marketing which might have had some people thinking that it was just a rehash of star Tom Cruise’s most recent film ‘Oblivion’. However, ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ is far from that; it’s an incredibly well-made sci-fi action blockbuster with phenomenal performances from both Cruise and Emily Blunt. The first half of the film sees Cruise go against type as a general who isn’t trained in combat but forced into serving on the front lines while Blunt more than proves that she can be a Grade-A female action star. Hopefully this film’s poor performance at the U.S. box office won’t affect this film’s reputation too hard because it really was an excellent entry in the sci-fi genre.


Speaking of excellent sci-fi films, now we come to ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’, the sequel to 2011’s surprise hit ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’. ‘Dawn’ is one of the rare sequels that actually manages to improve over its predecessor. Like ‘Rise’, it gives us characters that we really do care about but it also does a great job at immersing us in this ‘post-virus’ world where genetically-modified apes are living away from the human race, who is trying to survive after a virus wiped out millions of people. Andy Serkis is once again phenomenal as the lead ape Caesar but credit is also due for Toby Kebbell as the ape Koba. While he is the ‘villain’ of the film, at times you actually do sympathize with him because of how he was treated before the virus spread. The human cast is really great as well, including the fairly underrated Jason Clarke in the lead human role (the scenes between him and Serkis are phenomenal) and Gary Oldman in a role that, going in, might have had you thinking he’s the bad guy but instead they actually gave him a really good amount of depth. So all in all, director Matt Reeves delivered what could arguably be the best ‘Planet of the Apes’ movie to date; a film that is not only entertaining, but one that also quite a lot of emotional depth as well.


As the title suggests, this film centers on a couple (played by Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel) who film a sex tape in order to spice up their love life. However, instead of deleting the video when they are done, it ends up getting uploaded to ‘the cloud’ which is linked to a bunch of iPads that they gave to their friends, resulting in them trying to get them all back before anyone ever sees their video or, worse, it gets leaked to the internet. Now I didn’t see this film in theaters because of one main reason… it got TERRIBLE reviews from critics and considering that it got a C+ on CinemaScore, I’m guessing it didn’t fare too well with audiences either. My friend Matt saw it and he told me that it was ‘all right’ with the major highlight being a cameo by Jack Black as the owner of the website YouPorn. But despite that, I really have no interest in this film right now and am probably not going to bother with it.


2013’s ‘The Purge’ was one of those movies where, despite the fact that it didn’t fare well with critics (and from what I’ve seen online, even most audiences), it was still very successful from financial standpoint because it was filmed on a very small budget. So because of this, we got a sequel, ‘The Purge: Anarchy’. Now I didn’t see ‘The Purge’ so I didn’t see ‘Anarchy’ when it was in theaters. The general consensus seemed to be that while it still really wasn’t that good, it was at least an improvement over its predecessor. The main reason for this was because unlike the first film, this film took place in a city during the event known as ‘The Purge’, when all crime is made legal for 12 hours and all emergency services are shut down. The first film mainly took place within the home of the main characters which I’m guessing disappointed a lot of people who wanted to see a lot more of this ‘Purge’ thing but instead had to be stuck watching this family try to survive when they come into conflict with a group of Purgers. However at the same time, it seems like this film still had its fair share of stupid characters (I’m aware that most of what happened in the first film happened because of one incredibly stupid action committed by the main character’s son) and was really nothing more than a series of violent imagery trying to act like it’s smarter than it really is. But again, I haven’t seen either of these films so I don’t know how I would actually feel about these films.


I didn’t see ‘Let’s Be Cops’ for one main reason and it actually wasn’t because of the reviews which were pretty bad regardless. Believe it or not the main reason why I didn’t really have my interest in the film was because of what happened in one of my film classes. My professor had recently been to Los Angeles where he got to take a peek at some of 21st Century Fox’s upcoming films, including ‘X-Men’ and this film. He responded favorably to ‘X-Men’ but not so much for ‘Let’s Be Cops’. So you can chalk this up as another comedy this summer that I didn’t see.


Anyone who either is a film critic or wants to become one absolutely needs to see this film, a biopic on the life of famed movie critic Roger Ebert who, even more than a year since his tragic death in April 2013, is arguably still the most famous movie critic of all time. This film gives us a poignant look back on his life. It offers some facts that you might not have known, like how Ebert’s co-host on his show ‘Siskel and Ebert’, Gene Siskel, was once a part of Hugh Hefner’s posse or that Ebert actually wrote the screenplay for a film, ‘Beyond the Valley of the Dolls’. But in the end one thing is clear; as the title suggests, Ebert loved life and I’ll always admire how he continued to do his job and continue to write movie reviews even after losing his voice around 2006. Like many other film critics, both current and aspiring, Ebert had a major influence on my development as a film critic because I read his reviews and while I didn’t grow up with ‘Siskel and Ebert’, I have watched some of their old videos. One major thing I learned from watching him on ‘Siskel and Ebert’ and reading his written reviews is to always stand up for your opinion even if someone else disagrees with you and that is a philosophy that I still follow to this day.

R.I.P. Roger Ebert.



Talk about a franchise that has successfully redeemed itself after some very mediocre entries. After ‘X-Men’ and ‘X2’ director Bryan Singer left the franchise to go direct ‘Superman Returns’, the series really started to go downhill with the highly disappointing ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ and the god-awful ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’. The series managed to get back on track with ‘X-Men: First Class’ (which Singer produced) and Wolverine even got a much better solo outing with ‘The Wolverine’. And finally, Singer returned to the director’s chair with ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’, which I feel is the best X-Men film to date. The film of course is based off of the iconic X-Men storyline ‘Days of Future Past’ from the comics though from what I hear, the film doesn’t stay true to the original story that much but regardless of that, it is still a well-written film with the best ensemble cast of any X-Men film to date. Even though the film does focus on a select few of the cast, everyone does their job in this and I really have to highlight James McAvoy who is just phenomenal in this movie. Whereas Michael Fassbender stole the show in ‘First Class’, this movie belongs to McAvoy. I really like how they’ve been handing the character of young Professor X as he starts to mature more into the Professor X that we knew from the original film trilogy. But most importantly this film is pretty much the filmmakers’ apology to the fans for letting the series go the way it did with ‘Last Stand’ and ‘Origins’ as this film pretty much eradicates those films from the series’ timeline. Now we know that this series is back in the right hands now that Bryan Singer has returned to the franchise that he started back in 2000. I can’t wait for 2016’s ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’.


This was another summer comedy that I didn’t see in theaters. I wasn’t really interested in it before it came out and once I heard it got rather mediocre reviews, I just went to go see ‘Jersey Boys’ again during 4th of July weekend. As for ‘Tammy’, this is Melissa McCarthy’s newest film. She of course has been on a roll ever since she got nominated for an Oscar for ‘Bridesmaids’. In this, she stars as the titular Tammy, a woman who has a really bad day (she gets fired from her job, she finds out her husband is cheating on her, etc…) so she takes a road trip along with her grandmother (played by Susan Sarandon who, despite playing her grandmother in this, is actually not that much older than McCarthy). Anyway, so the reviews weren’t all that good for it but another reason why I didn’t see the film was because I hadn’t really seen a lot of McCarthy’s work. I’m sure she’s a very funny lady but for the most part, I haven’t really seen a lot of her recent big hits like ‘Bridesmaids’ and ‘The Heat’ so I didn’t really have much interest in ‘Tammy’.


It’s kind of sad that the newest entry in ‘The Expendables’ franchise performed pretty badly at the box office during its opening weekend. Franchise fatigue might have been the main factor in this along with the filmmakers’ failed attempt at marketing this film towards a younger audience by having the film rated PG-13 (more on that in a second) but clearly a major factor for this poor performance was because of an incident where a Digital Copy of the film was leaked online weeks before the film was set to come out. I know that if the film wasn’t leaked early, it still was at risk at doing poorly at the box office but still it’s pretty sad because this film wasn’t that bad. I’ll admit to being a fan of ‘The Expendables’ films, especially the second one which I feel was a major improvement over the first film by not taking things as seriously and for having better action sequences. So now we come to this third film and it’s rated PG-13 following the first two which were both R-rated and well-deserving of that rating. This change in rating, though, isn’t entirely a bad thing. Yes, a lot of the action sequences are heavily edited but at the same time it eliminated the use of those digital blood squibs that I know a lot of people really hate so it’s not all bad. Plus, even under a PG-13 rating, this film is still pretty damn violent. Like the two that came before it, ‘The Expendables 3’ is cheesy and pretty stupid but I still found it to be pretty entertaining.



In terms of the comedies that came out these past few months, the summer movie season got off to a pretty nice start with ‘Neighbors’, in which Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne star as a couple who end up getting into a ‘turf war’ with a local fraternity when they move in next door. The main reason why I feel this movie worked as well as it did is because while this is about a prank war between the two main ‘parties’ of the film (family vs. frat), this film doesn’t have a ‘villain’. Sure, the film is primarily from the view of the couple and they are a likable couple (Rogen and Byrne do have really nice chemistry) but at the same time it doesn’t portray the members of the frat as ‘a-holes’. They have an admirable goal; become legends of their frat and their leader, Teddy, is doubtful about his future, which is a nice bit of contrast with Rogen and Byrne’s characters who want some more excitement in their lives. So in the end, the frat members aren’t portrayed as being the villains; if they were portrayed as such I feel that this movie could’ve ended up giving fraternities a bad name but it didn’t. Two of my fellow panelists on ‘The Feature Presentation’, Matt and Alex, are in a fraternity and they agree that this film did a really good job when it came to portraying fraternities so overall, this is a fun little comedy that may not be my pick for the funniest film of the year (that honor goes to a film that’s coming up in a few moments) but it is still an incredibly entertaining comedy that has its fair share of laugh-out-loud moments.


Disney’s latest live-action fantasy film, ‘Maleficent’, is a re-telling of  their classic animated film ‘Sleeping Beauty’ but told from the perspective of its villain, Maleficent, who is arguably the best animated Disney villain of all time. Fans of the character might be a little disappointed, however, that Maleficent is not the main villain here. Instead, she’s the protagonist but it still works because unlike the original film, this film actually does give her a motive for her revenge against the King whereas in the original her motivation for revenge was that she was uninvited to Princess Aurora’s christening. In this movie, she befriended a young boy when she was younger but years later when the boy has the chance to become king, he takes it and betrays Maleficent by cutting off her wings. We do sympathize with her character, even when she acts like the ‘bad guy’, and of course Angelina Jolie is phenomenal in the role. But probably my favorite part of this whole movie is the relationship between Maleficent and Aurora. There’s sort of this ‘mother-daughter’ relationship that develops between them and this really is the heart of the film. Of course the visuals are excellent and at just 97 minutes, the film never overstays its welcome. In terms of the recent big-budget live-action fantasy films that Disney has made in recent years, I still prefer last year’s ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ but I will say that I did end up liking ‘Maleficent’ more than I did Tim Burton’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’. So far I’d say that Disney is doing a pretty good job in regards to these kinds of movies and I’m interested in seeing more of these kinds of films; live-action versions of their classic animated films.


Despite the fact that director Michael Bay’s newest film, ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’, received some of the worst reviews of the year, it still became the highest grossing film of the year worldwide as it’s currently the only film this year that has grossed over $1 billion. Bay’s other major film this year, ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’, has faced similar scrutiny with critics. Heck, the film was controversial ever since it was first announced and not just because Bay was producing it; there was the alleged change of the origin story, the casting of Megan Fox as April O’Neil, and much more controversial developments that caused many people to predict that this was going to be a disaster. Well, considering what the reviews have been like, I’m guessing many people feel like they were right… however I disagree with that. In fact, while I do understand the criticisms towards the ‘Transformers’ films, I really don’t get the hate towards this film. Now let me be clear; I don’t think that this movie is ‘great’. In fact, compared to the other movies that we got this summer, there’s really nothing about it that ‘stands out’. But regardless of that, I still managed to have a lot of fun with it. When the Turtles are on screen that is where the movie really shines; they had great camaraderie and while I know I’m in the minority on this, I didn’t mind their CGI design.

But I want to address a complaint that I’ve heard that’s being thrown around when talking about this movie and that is that some people feel like this film ruined the TMNT franchise the same way Bay’s ‘Transformers’ films ‘ruined the Transformers franchise’. Again, I get why people would say that about the ‘Transformers’ films but I call major B.S. on the idea that this new TMNT film ruined the franchise. The main reason why is because all of those supposed controversial changes that were allegedly going to happen (e.g. the ‘alien’ origins, William Fichtner being the Shredder, etc…) are not present in any way in this film. This does feel like a Ninja Turtles movie that stayed true to what made this franchise so famous in the first place, more so than Bay’s ‘Transformers’ films ever did. In fact, despite the fact that this is produced by Michael Bay and directed by a Michael Bay wannabe (Jonathan Liebesman), this doesn’t feel too much like a Bay film. For one thing, there aren’t millions of explosions happening every minutes. Plus, even with a PG-13 rating, this film is generally harmless for younger audiences. So in short, I strongly feel that the new ‘Turtles’ film isn’t as bad as the entire internet is putting it out to be. I’ve said the same thing about the ‘Transformers’ movies but this time, I stand by that belief.



The most popular film of the write-in section, ‘Boyhood’ is the highest rated movie of the summer according to Rotten Tomatoes with a 99% Tomatometer score (Given how much a lot of people are loving this film, I’d really hate to be the two critics who gave it negative reviews right now). For those who haven’t heard about this film, here’s the basic rundown about it; the film was shot over a span of 11 years so that director Richard Linklater could properly tell a ‘coming of age’ story with the same kid actor (Ellar Coltrane) as he grew from childhood to adulthood. Just a quick disclaimer; I haven’t seen this film yet so I know a lot of people are going say that ‘I must see it’ so with that in mind I assure you that I will try and see it soon. But for now, it’s safe to say that ‘Boyhood’ is one of the most popular films from this summer as proven by the fact that it was the fourth most popular film on this poll.



Here’s a funny little story about this film. My co-panelists on the ‘Feature Presentation’, Matt and Alex, were going to see ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ but when they went into the theater they ended up coming in during the last few minutes of this movie making them wonder if they went to the wrong theater… thankfully, they didn’t. But anyway, back to ‘Fault in our Stars’, this being an adaptation of a popular novel of the same name by John Green about a young cancer patient (Shailene Woodley) who falls in love with an amputee (Ansel Elgort) when they meet at a cancer support group. I didn’t see the film but from what I’ve heard online, it’s actually pretty good. As embarrassing as it is to admit this, I wasn’t really that interested in this film because I thought it looked like another ‘chick flick’ but thankfully it looks like I was very much wrong about that. So with that said, I probably will see this movie sometime soon; I can’t make any promises but given the fact that I’ve heard a lot of good things about it, it’s more than likely I will end up seeing it in the near future.


I’m just going to come out and say it… ‘22 Jump Street’ is the best comedy sequel of all time. Now to some that may not be saying much given that most comedy sequels aren’t really that good but this is one of the rare exceptions of a film that is not only as good as the film that came before it (21 Jump Street, a film that I’m pretty sure none of us were expecting would be as good/hilarious as it was) but also better. This film is filled to the brim with meta humor that heavily plays up the fact that this film is pretty much note for note rehashing the exact same plot of the first film, a mistake that a lot of comedy sequels make. However, in this case it works because they continuously poke fun at this and like the last film, the writing is superb and the camaraderie between leads Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum is terrific. Admittedly there are some jokes in the film that come off as being incredibly awkward, such as when Hill’s character keeps getting called ‘Maya Angelou’, who had just died a few weeks before the film came out as well as a scene where Tatum’s character criticizes the fact that some people are still using the ‘other F-word’ in 2014, which comes off being really awkward considering Hill’s recent incident in which he used that exact same word on paparazzi. However, the film more than makes up for that with multiple gut-busting laugh-out-loud moments, including one of the best end credits sequences ever in which they do numerous fake sequels to the film. Simply put, ‘22 Jump Street’ is easily the funniest comedy of 2014 (so far), and directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller strike gold once again. At this point, having made 4 films that all seemed to be risky ventures at first but ended up being terrific, they really can do no wrong.


It’s clear that we all got ‘hooked on a feeling’ with Marvel Studios’ latest, and strangest, film, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. Remember when everyone was saying that this would be a major risk for the studio given that odds are that most people were unfamiliar with these characters (myself included when the film was first announced)? Well, this ‘major risk’ ended up being the highest grossing film of the summer (stateside) and is currently the highest grossing domestic release of the year. Rightfully so, as it truly is a fantastic comic book film. The film feels self-aware about how this is a much more obscure franchise compared to something like ‘Iron Man’ or ‘Captain America’, resulting in an incredibly entertaining space film a la ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Serenity’. It’s also one of the funniest out of all the MCU films but at the same time it isn’t a straight-up comedy; it takes itself seriously when it needs to be but at the same time isn’t all gloomy and depressing (looking at you, DC, and your alleged ‘no jokes’ mandate). It has the best non-Avengers ensemble cast of the entire MCU with a great cast of leads and some pretty awesome villains.

But most importantly, this film really benefits from having a lot of emotional resonance because you really come to care about the ‘Guardians’. While they are criminals and, to quote a line in the film, ‘a bunch of a-holes’, they’re really just misfits trying to find their place in the universe. You really have to give Marvel a hell of a lot of credit for making us feel for a talking raccoon and a tree creature. It is because of this emotional resonance and the fact that I feel that ‘Guardians’ is actually the funniest MCU film to date (because it’s more consistent with its humor) that I feel that ‘Guardians’ is actually better than ‘The Avengers’. Now I know that’s an incredibly bold thing to say. Also, please don’t misinterpret me because ‘Avengers’ is still phenomenal but after just two viewings of ‘Guardians’, it’s now my new personal favorite MCU film because I feel it does a few things better than ‘Avengers’ (e.g. humor, emotional resonance, etc…). It’s clear that a lot of you share that same sentiment because as this poll shows, ‘Guardians’ was one of your top three favorite films of the summer.

So those are your picks for your favorite films from these past four months of this year. I’m not going to do a ‘Worst of Summer 2014’ poll, mostly because I can already tell which film(s) is/are going to win that argument. So once again, I’d like to thank all of those who voted on this poll and as the end result shows, there truly were a large number of great films that came out this summer based on the various responses you gave me.

I leave you with this... dancing Groot!


Monday, September 1, 2014

2014 Preview: September

The Summer movie season has officially come to an end and now we’re closing in on the last third of 2014. We’re not quite into the ‘Oscar season’ yet and, to be honest, there’s not that much to talk about in regards to this month but of course there are still some noteworthy releases that will be hitting theaters in the next few weeks. Welcome back to Rhode Island Movie Corner’s year-long preview of the films set to come out in 2014. This is Part 8 of 11 (previously 12) and today we’ll be looking at the films that will be hitting theaters this September.


Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a first for me in regards to this monthly preview. There are no notable new films hitting theaters this weekend. The only thing worth mentioning is a special one-week limited engagement of the 1994 Oscar-winning film ‘Forrest Gump’ in IMAX Theaters.

SEPTEMBER 12- Now we’re getting back on track as two new films will come out this weekend.

*2011’s ‘Dolphin Tale’ fared pretty well with critics and audiences when it was released that year. This month sees the release of its sequel ‘Dolphin Tale 2’. Like the first film, it is also based on a true story regarding the dolphin Winter who had lost her tail when she ended up getting caught in a fish trap. In this film, the members of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, who helped save Winter by giving her a prosthetic tail, are faced with a new challenge as they must find a new companion for Winter after her surrogate mother dies in order for her to stay at the Aquarium. The main cast of the first film (including Henry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, and Morgan Freeman) all return for this film.

*In ‘No Good Deed’, Taraji P. Henson stars as a former District Attorney who assists a stranger (played by Idris Elba) when he gets into an accident but it turns out this man isn’t as friendly as he seems.

SEPTEMBER 19- The busiest week of the month sees four new releases, including the newest young adult novel adaptation (in fact, three of these films are adaptations of novels) and a horror film from director Kevin Smith.

*The latest adaptation of a popular young adult novel, ‘The Maze Runner’, based on the book of the same name by James Dashner, centers on a boy named Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) who ends up being put into a mysterious place known as the ‘Glade’ that is surrounded by a giant maze that is guarded by creatures known as Grievers. With no memory of his past or the outside world, Thomas tries to figure out a way to escape.

*In ‘This is Where I Leave You’, based on the book of the same name by Jonathan Tropper, Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Corey Stoll, and Adam Driver star as a group of siblings who reunite with their mother (Jane Fonda) following the death of their father. The film, directed by Shawn Levy, also stars Rose Byrne, Timothy Olyphant, and Dax Shepard.

*The final major ‘adapted’ film of the week is ‘A Walk Among the Tombstones’, based off of the book of the same name by Lawrence Block. Liam Neeson stars as an ex New York cop who is hired by a drug dealer to find his missing wife.

*Closing out the week’s new releases is ‘Tusk’, a horror film from director Kevin Smith. In it, Justin Long stars as a podcaster who ends up getting kidnapped when he goes to interview a sailor. It is set to be followed by a spin-off film in 2015, ‘Yoga Hosers’, which also stars the same cast from ‘Tusk’ but is set from the perspective of two convenience store clerks (Harley Quinn Smith, Kevin Smith’s daughter, and Lily-Rose Depp, daughter of Johnny Depp, who stars in these movies as an ex-cop).

SEPTEMBER 26- Closing out the month is a pair of new releases; one a stop-motion animated film and the other an adaptation of an old TV series.

*Laika, the studio behind ‘Coraline’ and ‘Paranorman’, debut their new film, ‘The Boxtrolls’, based off of the novel ‘Here Be Monsters!’ by Alan Snow. It centers on a boy named Eggs (Isaac Hempstead-Wright (‘Bran Stark’ from ‘Game of Thrones’)) who is raised by a group of underground-living trolls known as the ‘Boxtrolls’. The film’s voice cast also includes Ben Kingsley, Elle Fanning, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost.

*To close out the month, we have ‘The Equalizer’, based off of the TV series of the same name that ran from 1985 to 1989. Directed by Antoine Fuqua (‘Training Day’), Denzel Washington stars as an ex-special ops agent who faces the Russian mob after protecting a young girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) from them.

And those are the films that are set to come out in September. Check back next month for Part 9 in which we look at the October lineup.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

End of Summer Announcement

Overall, the 2014 Summer Movie Season was pretty solid. Sure there were certainly some stinkers that came out, as it has been every year, but overall I’d say that this year the good managed to outweigh the bad. Now I’m not doing a recap of all of the films that came out this summer because I already sort of did that back in July in my ‘2014 Midyear Recap’ minus the films that I would see in the next two months. So instead ladies and gentlemen, I’m letting you create a Top 10 list for your favorite films that came out this summer. The link below is for a survey where you can vote for what was your number one favorite film from this summer season. I’ve basically listed almost all of the films that I covered in my monthly ‘preview’ posts but if you feel that I’ve forgotten a film, feel free to include that film in the write-in section. The final results will be tallied and a Top 10 list consisting of the films that received the most amounts of votes from those who took part in the survey will be posted a few days after the voting period is over (which will probably be in about a week or so… I’ll keep you notified via Twitter). I’m very eager to see what films you all will pick as your favorite film of the 2014 Summer Movie Season.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Expendables 3 (2014) review

I will admit that I’m a fan of ‘The Expendables’ films and I am also aware that I’m kind of in the minority on that. I mean sure when you really look at these films, they’re generally nothing more than dumb cheesy action films that are very much in line with the action films from the 80’s. Still, even with that in mind I still find both ‘Expendables’ films to be very entertaining. The first film, despite some occasionally clunky editing and for also being a bit too serious at times, managed to still have some awesome action sequences that I feel managed to make up for a good chunk of the film’s shortcomings. But ultimately I prefer the sequel, ‘The Expendables 2’, more than I do the first one. It didn’t take things as seriously as the first film did and it had much better action sequences and a far more memorable villain compared to the generic warlord and CIA agent from the first film. So now we come to the third ‘Expendables’ film, this one helmed by Patrick Hughes, who has recently been hired to helm an American remake of ‘The Raid’. As for this film, it’s faced quite a bit of controversy recently for a few major reasons. The first, and clearly the most infamous, was when a Digital Copy of the film was leaked online by piracy sites a few weeks before it was set to be released in theaters. Seeing how it is estimated that the leaked copy of the film was viewed more than 2 million times, it certainly is playing a key factor in the film’s poor performance at the box office. But then you also take into account that this is the first film in the series to be rated PG-13 after the far more violent/bloody R-rated first two films. Some may feel that this means that the new film will be ‘watered down’ compared to its predecessors. However, ‘The Expendables 3’ still manages to be a fun and corny action film that actually isn’t affected by the PG-13 rating that much.

After rescuing one of their old teammates, ex-medic Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes) from prison, the mercenary group ‘The Expendables’, led by Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), are then tasked with intercepting a shipment of weapons that are set to be handed over to a Somalian warlord. However, once there, they soon find out that the arms trader providing the bombs is none other than Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), who co-founded the group with Barney many years ago. He was believed to be dead after being ‘killed’ by Barney when he found out that he had gone rogue but it turns out that he’s still alive. When one of the members of the groups is severely injured in the operation by Stonebanks, Barney ends up disbanding the team so that none of the others would end up the same way. He then proceeds to enlist a new younger group of mercenaries (played by Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell, and Victor Ortiz) in order to capture Stonebanks and take him into custody. However, the operation soon goes haywire and Stonebanks ends up taking the new recruits hostage, leaving Barney with no choice but to reassemble the old gang in order to take down their former ‘ally’.

Like the two films that came before it, ‘The Expendables 3’ is an incredibly cheesy action film that very much feels like it came from the 80’s with its constant one-liners and its fair share of story clichés. However that’s part of what makes these films fun to watch in the first place. They harken back to the classics like ‘Die Hard’ and ‘Rambo’ and while I may not have been an ‘80’s kid’, I can certainly see the impact that those films have made on the action genre. I also have to give these last two films a lot of credit because after the first film tried to be more serious than it needed to be, the sequels have thankfully not made the same mistake. They opt for a much more light-hearted tone which is much more suited for films of this nature. There has been quite a lot of speculation regarding this film being ‘toned down’ to a PG-13 rating after the previous two films were rated ‘R’. However I can assure you that this is not that big of a problem. Sure, that does mean that there are some really noticeable instances where the violence is heavily edited so that we don’t see anything too violent or bloody. But at the same time, this film does get rid of something that I’m well-aware has been a major problem for a lot of people and that is the use of CGI blood squibs whenever someone is killed so the downgrade to PG-13 isn’t all that bad. Heck, even under a PG-13 rating this film is still pretty damn violent, especially during the insane finale.

It’s clear that because this film is rated PG-13, the filmmakers are trying to market the film towards younger audiences than they used to. That fact is most noticeable in regards to how this film spends more time on the new young members of the Expendables than the older ones. So with that said, if you’re going into this film expecting to see a lot of the main members of the Expendables, you’re more than likely going to be disappointed (I can safely say that fans of Terry Crews will be especially disappointed in regards to the amount of screen-time he has in this film though from what I hear, this was due to scheduling conflicts) because aside from Stallone, most of them disappear for a good chunk of the film. Despite this, the film still has its fair share of stand-outs within its very large cast. The biggest standout would easily be Antonio Banderas as Galgo, a sharpshooter who is initially turned down by Ross to join the team but ends up getting hired eventually. Banderas steals every scene he is in, mostly because he gets a lot of the best lines in the film and that’s because he’s always talking, which ends up annoying most of the other Expendables because of his motor mouth. As for Mel Gibson as the main villain, his presence in the role more than makes up for the fact that he actually doesn’t do jack for most of the movie. Overall, every member of the cast does their job even though some don’t have as much screen-time as others.

These ‘Expendables’ films aren’t for everyone, so if you’re not already a fan of these movies, ‘The Expendables 3’ isn’t really going to change much for you. It’s just like the last two that came before it; it’s cheesy, it has a fairly standard plot and little to no character development. It’s more about the action and how many action stars can fit into one cast, so much so that some don’t get the proper screen-time they deserve. Yes, these films haven’t fully delivered on the action spectacle that the first one promised back in 2010 and there are quite a few things that could have been done to improve them but I still managed to enjoy this new one just as I did the other two. This film may not be as violent as the two that came before it as evident by its PG-13 rating but aside from a few occasionally heavily-edited action sequences and a greater focus on the newer additions to the Expendables, the film isn’t affected too much by the lower rating. It’s sad that this film had to become a victim to piracy because it’s clear that the whole ‘leak incident’ played a key part in the film’s incredibly poor opening weekend. Now considering the general critical reception towards these films, franchise fatigue might have been another factor as well. However, I hope that this film’s bad luck may change soon because it’s a really entertaining film just like the other two that came before it.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) review

As we all know, there have been plenty of controversial films over the years, including ‘Passion of the Christ’, ‘A Clockwork Orange’, and ‘The Da Vinci Code’ just to name a few, each controversial for their own unique reasons. But the newest ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ film easily takes the cake as one of the most controversial films in recent memory. That’s because pretty much every major bit of news surrounding the film since the day it was first announced got heavily scrutinized by fans of the franchise. For those who weren’t aware of all this, here’s a general recap. First of all, the project was to be produced by Michael Bay and given his track record with audiences,  mostly in regards to his work on another extremely popular 80’s franchise, ‘Transformers’, it’s no surprise that a lot of TMNT fans got worried, even though Bay wasn’t even going to direct the film. But then it was none other than Bay himself who dropped a bombshell in March 2012 at a Nickelodeon press conference where he said that there was going to be a change to the turtles’ origin; now they are from an ‘alien race’. This really got the fans pissed off and it also didn’t help when a supposed early script utilizing that alien origin story-line was leaked online. In it, the focus was more on the character of Casey Jones than the Turtles themselves, which was similar to a problem that many people have had in regards to Bay’s ‘Transformers’; not enough focus on those who should be the ‘main’ characters. However, Bay later stated that this script was written before his company joined the project and that ultimately nothing was going to change regarding the Turtles (including their origins).

But that wasn’t the end of the ‘TMNT’ reboot controversy; it was then announced that Megan Fox, who apparently repaired her relationship with Bay after the whole incident where she compared him to Hitler, which resulted in her being booted off ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’, was cast in the major role of the Turtles’ main human ally, reporter April O’Neil… and really folks, I can go on and on in regards to the controversies that have surrounded this film because there are plenty. Pretty much everyone has been predicting that this was going to be an epic disaster. Well after seeing the film I can safely say this… this is ultimately not the disaster everyone was expecting it to be. Now let me be perfectly clear about this; I’m not saying that this is a masterpiece. In fact, compared to some of the other movies we’ve seen this summer, this one is kind of, shall I say, ‘light’ by today’s standards. But really… it’s frigging Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for crying out loud! You should seriously know what to expect from a movie like this just from that title alone. In the end, this is just a fun little action movie that at least manages to entertain with some fairly good action sequences and visuals. Also when compared to Bay’s other 80’s franchise, this at least feels like they’re staying true to what made TMNT as popular as it was in the first place.

The city of New York has been facing an increase in crime recently due to the rise of the criminal organization known as the Foot Clan, led by the mysterious Shredder. Hoping to investigate further into the matter, as well as trying to get away from doing nothing but puff pieces, Channel 6 reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) discovers that there is apparently a vigilante in the city that is fighting off the Foot Clan. She soon discovers, however, that this ‘vigilante’ isn’t alone; instead there are four ‘vigilantes’, more specifically four genetically-mutated talking turtles; Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael (portrayed via motion capture by Pete Ploszek, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, and Alan Ritchson, respectively (Leonardo is voiced by Johnny Knoxville)). These ‘Mutant Ninja Turtle Teenagers’, who used to be experiments in a lab where April's father used to work, live underground in the sewers with their master/‘father’ Splinter (portrayed via motion capture by Danny Woodburn and voiced by Tony Shalhoub), who trains them in the art of ninjutsu. April ends up befriending them as they look to stop the Shredder before he ends up taking over the city of New York.

Like I said, you really can’t take a film centered on a group of walking, talking, pizza-loving Ninja Turtles that seriously. The plot is pretty stupid and it even copies the ‘bad guy releasing a toxin into the city’ plot-line from ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’. Heck, this film even tries to attempt to connect April O’Neil to the Turtles more than ever before by having them be experiments in the laboratory April’s father worked at (in other words, they were once her ‘pets’) and having her be the one who saves them when a fire destroys the lab and releasing them into the sewers. But really I went into this knowing that it was going to be stupid and ultimately I thought it was pretty fun. The best parts in this movie are when the Turtles are on-screen because it really feels like this is staying true to the essence of the franchise; they’re wisecracking heroes in a half-shell and they do maintain the proper character traits that define each of them. However, that does mean that any of the scenes where they are not on screen are fairly weak by comparison. That does include the opening which kind of goes on a bit too long. Now for those who are really worried about Michael Bay’s involvement with this film, this actually doesn’t feel too much like a Bay film; if anything, it’s not like there are hundreds of explosions going off every minute. Plus, compared to Bay’s ‘Transformers’ films, I’d say that this film is actually fairly harmless towards kids even with a PG-13 rating because it’s less intense than those films.

I know I’m going to be in the minority on this, but I really don’t mind the new CGI designs of the Turtles. I mean I will admit that it did take me a little bit to get used to them but overall the CGI is actually pretty good, especially during the action sequences. I also have to give credit to the four guys who portrayed them through motion capture (and that also includes having Johnny Knoxville be the voice of Leonardo) as they did have really good camaraderie together. The biggest standout amongst them is easily Noel Fisher as Michelangelo as he gets the funniest lines in the movie. But what about Megan Fox as April O’Neil, the casting choice that has faced nothing but scrutiny ever since she was cast? Look… the role of April O’Neil hasn't always been the most ‘well-written’ in the world. The April from the 80's was known more as a 'damsel in distress' who always got kidnapped by Shredder and had to be saved all of the time by the Turtles and for the most part that was sort of the same scenario with the previous 3 live-action movies. With this film, I do have to give the writers a lot credit for having her be more involved in the action, more so than any of the live-action TMNT movies from the 90's. As for Fox herself... yes there clearly were much better choices to play the part but at the end of the day, she’s not THAT terrible. You can’t fault her for at least trying. As for some of the other members of the cast, Will Arnett gets a few funny lines here and there as April’s camera-man Vern and William Fichtner does a pretty solid job as well in the role of Eric Sacks, a scientist who used to work with April’s dad years ago. And for the record, he’s not playing the Shredder as it was reportedly supposed to be during pre-production; he’s actually Shredder’s ‘protégé’.

I’m not saying that the new ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ is a masterpiece… in fact, it doesn’t really stand out compared to some of the other films we’ve gotten this summer. But if anything, it’s still a fun little action movie. Yes, it’s stupid and silly but really that has always been the case with this franchise from the very beginning. I would be incredibly surprised if someone actually went into this film and tried to take it seriously because you really can’t. How can you with a franchise with a title like ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’? Still, the action sequences in this movie are pretty good as are the visuals (e.g. the Turtles themselves). The best scenes in the film are when the Turtles themselves are on screen. In the end, this film, compared to Michael Bay’s ‘Transformers’ films, actually does feel like a TMNT movie and is also less intense so it’s more family-friendly even with a PG-13 rating. Some people will say that this is a ‘severe mishandling’ of the franchise; in fact, I’m pretty sure some people already thought that before they even saw the damn film. Well, I can assure you folks that it really isn’t. It does stay true to what makes this franchise so memorable in the first place. Again, I’m not saying that’s a great film, but I at least managed to have fun with it.

Rating: 3.5/5

In Memory of Robin Williams (1951-2014)

Sad news came yesterday when it was announced that actor/comedian Robin Williams had died by suicide. Like everyone else, I’m at a severe loss for words; any death is tragic and this one is no exception, especially when considering the impact that Williams has had on many of us, myself included. Now for the record, I’m not a comedian or an actor, but I did grow up watching a lot of Williams’ films. When I was young, he was my favorite actor and even as I got older, he was still one of my favorites. I know that some are critical about how a lot of the comedies he did had the same inspirational message in them but as for me, Williams’ charm and comedic ability managed to overcome that. Now I haven’t actually seen any of his major dramatic roles in films like ‘Good Will Hunting’ or ‘The Fisher King’ but I can tell, even without seeing them (and I assure you that I will see them soon), that Williams’ performances in films like those were always top-notch. What’s my favorite film of his? That easily has to be ‘Aladdin’, in which he played my personal favorite Disney character; the Genie. Williams may have asked that his name and image wouldn’t be used in the marketing, along with not having the Genie dominate the advertising (two conditions that Disney did not abide by, by they way), but in the end his performance was the highlight of the film.

But on another note, I hope that this will result in us all contributing more to the cause of helping people deal with depression. No one wants to go through it and unfortunately a lot of people have, and many tragic turn of events similar to what happened with Williams have happened before and unless we do something about it, it will continue to happen.

What else more can I say but… we’ll miss you, Robin. Thanks for the laughter.

R.I.P. Robin Williams: 1951-2014