Movie Review

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Movie Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Published August 21, 2014 by mrsrag

Starring: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Pete Ploszek/Johnny Knoxville, Jeremy Howard, Danny Woodburn/Tony Shalhoub,  Tohoru Masamune, and Whoopi Goldberg.

Rated: PG-13; Action/Adventure/Comedy; 101 minutes

 

I was a child of the ’90’s.  So, of course, I absolutely loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  And I still do.  I had the Gray Box Nintendo game, I went to see all of their movies and I owned plenty of TMNT themed toys.  I knew it was just a matter of time before Hollywood took another crack at bringing the oversized reptiles to the big screen.  Especially because our technology continues to improve and reach new milestones.  Are these the best looking ninja turtles I’ve ever seen?  Not necessarily.  I actually prefer the old cartoon-style crew.  But this film managed to capture the essence of each member while maintaining their naturally cheesy air.  The storyline even had a new plot twist explaining how the Ninja Turtles became mutated and why they ended up in the sewers.  Ninja Turtles were first spawned as an American comic created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.  In, none other than MRSRAG’s favorite year, 1984.  The history behind the creation of this series is actually an incredible story of two friends who were just brainstorming and goofing around.  Look it up on Wikipedia – it’s impressive.  I was pleasantly surprised by the new movie and would endorse it with their signature catch phrase: Cowabunga!

It seems like every time I’m lukewarm about seeing a movie, I end up loving  it.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is no exception.  Maria explained her reasons for wanting to go, and Ethan has become interested in them through their reincarnation on Nick.  Me?  I remember the 1990 version with Elias Koteas playing Casey Jones, as being pretty decent, but wasn’t sure how they were going to reinvent the wheel twenty four years later.  Well Casey Jones doesn’t even make an appearance here, and Maria mentioned the change in backstory, so this TMNT has a fresh coat of paint and shines bright in the 21st century.  Megan Fox as April O’Neil is, believe it or not, fantastic!  I know, right?  She was dreadful as Shia Labeouf’s eye candy love interest in the Transformer movies.  And failed horribly when given her own starring vehicle in the unwatchable Jennifer’s Body.  But I thought she turned a corner in This is 40, a movie I hated, but she stole the show with a small part that poked a bit of fun at her persona, and was easily the best part of that Apatow dud.  And she nails the Turtle’s pal April here in TMNT.  With her sidekick cameraman Vernon Fenwick (the always amazing Arnett), she is what drives the movie forward.  The Turtles themselves are buffed and badass, and their personalities haven’t changed much over the years.  The writing is crisp and the chemistry between the main players is natural and easy.  One negative: the casting of William Fichtner as seemingly good guy Eric Sacks was a horrible mistake.  The guy always plays an asshole, and we all knew instantly he was going to turn out to be a bad guy.  Dumb move.   

I was hoping they were going to pull a double switcheroo – and have him seem bad and then turn out good.  But they just stuck with his usual evil shenanigans.  I was really impressed with how they outfitted Shredder, donning head to toe shiny silver with retractable knives, the leader of the dreaded foot clan looks more dangerous and fearsome than ever.  Growing up I was a hardcore Leonardo fan, but in time I learned to love Michaelangelo.  He’s pure entertainment and provides a lot of the laughs here while swooning over Fox.  TMNT has always had the same formula – Raf acts like a jerk, Splinter almost dies and then one brother has to save the other three.  Ninja Turtles has never taken itself too seriously.  And that’s what is most important to keep in mind.  It’s fun.  And sometimes you just have to allow yourself to revert back to 8.  I felt like a kid again.  Oh, and there’s some rapping.

Michaelangelo, definitely my favorite, and I’m not even a stoner.  The bottom line here is this is one non-stop, funny, entertaining movie.  The Turtles kickass, the bad guys are super bad, and the special effects create scenes that are mesmerizing and jaw-dropping.  Raphael can still be a douchebag, but he comes around, and near the end when they thought they might die, he laid it all bare and had me on the verge of tears.  Seriously.  There’s no way you won’t have a good time at TMNT, unless you’re humorless with no imagination or sense of adventure, in which case you wouldn’t have gone in the first place.  So, bring your kids, have fun and then take them out for a “99 cheese pizza” after the show.  Wait, that’s physically impossible, isn’t it??

Maria’s Rating: 3.5 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Ross’ Rating: 3.75 Gummies.

 

 

 

 

     

Movie Review: Earth to Echo

Published July 11, 2014 by mrsrag

Starring:  Teo Halm, Brian “Astro” Bradley, Reese Hartwig, Ella Wahlestedt.

Rated: PG.  Adventure/Family/Sci-Fi.  Running Time: 1 hour and 29 minutes.

 

Prior to seeing this flick I had mixed feelings.  Ross had described it to me as a ‘modern day E.T.’ and then at boot camp someone told me this was one of those “shaky handheld camcorder” films.  Needless to say the latter news was not well received, as I have to admit I am not a big fan of this type of cinematography.  And I don’t readily back remakes either.  But we were giving Earth to Echo a chance either way, as it was one of the only movies we could view with Ethan that we hadn’t yet seen.  ETE is reminiscent of The Goonies and of course the similarly named, aforementioned, big screen alien created by Mr. Spielberg.  But it also has some genuine charm and likeability all its own.  The story centers around three young boys who are as tight as can be, but they’re facing tough realities and are fast approaching the time when they’ll have to move far from their cherished homes and best friends.  They begin taping in hopes to halt construction of a freeway that will literally trample their neighborhood.  Tuck (Astro) films everything and posts their cause all over YouTube in protest.  Eventually you get the feeling that they have accepted the move, but that they plan on making their last night in the old stomping grounds count.  Their plan for the night starts to take shape as the boys begin investigating what they refer to as “phone barf”.  Munch (Hartwig) realizes that the “phone barf” is actually a map and the adventure ensues.

E.T meets The Goonies meets Stand By Me, shot in the annoying style made famous by The Blair Witch Project and starring a cast of unknowns; Earth To Echo had every right to suck horribly or at the least be a worn out retread.  It didn’t, and it wasn’t.  The chemistry between the three boys on their quest to help Echo is what makes the film work.  Halm, Astro (seriously though, come on man!) and Hartwig “feel” like true friends, complete with the camaraderie, insults, lies, hard truths and always having each others’ backs, that come with the real thing.  The same ingredient that all of the classics listed above had as well.  I’m not saying that ETE belongs in the same category with those movies, but it does have it’s own charm and some cutting edge special effects that had me “wowing” from my seat!

The effects are certainly worth a mention.  And I agree that it won’t be stowed away with all of the friendship classics we’ve covered.  But I had low expectations going in and it kind of surprised me; which I suppose is always better than that feeling of expecting great things and being horribly disappointed.  ETE had some heart behind it and concisely wrapped up its story with a touching lesson about long distance friendships.  Something I’ve come to know very well since the best friends I’ve accumulated over many years are spread throughout the entire country…or World.  And the important message they are trying to share is that “distance is a state of mind”, as Alex so clearly states in the final scene.  And I can vouch for that…it really is.

Echo is not of this Earth, but unlike his predecessor, he doesn’t phone home he phones the boys.  I’ve lauded their chemistry but forgot to mention Ella Wahlestedt, she arrives late to the party but injects a much needed dose of teen estrogen and moxie, right when it was needed.  The friendship and shared adventure of the four kids is certainly the heart of ETE, but the technology age and tech savvy-ness of all involved, is clearly second billing.  It’s no secret we’re living in an exciting new world, but the ease in which these kids wield power and knowledge through their phones, cameras and computers is impressive.  Honestly most parents out there, yours truly included, get a glimpse into that world everyday.  It really makes you wonder, “what’s next?”   One can only imagine.  Earth To Echo is polished and glimmering, perfect for 2014. 

Maria’s Rating:  3 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Ross’ Rating:  3.5 Gummies. 

 

 

 

 

 

Recent DVD Release: Lone Survivior

Published July 4, 2014 by mrsrag

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Yousuf Aaami, Eric Bana, Alexander Ludwig, Ali Suliman, Jerry Ferrara. Rated: R.  Action/Drama/Biography.  Running Time: 2 hours 1 minute.

 

Based on the real life mission, Operation Red Wings from 2005, Lone Survivor is the story of four elite Navy SEALS dropped into Afghanistan to apprehend and kill Taliban leader Ahmad Shah.  Shah (Azami) is an earlobeless, heartless murderer who you will instantly hate, and our men, Marcus Luttrell (Wahlberg), Michael Murphy (Kitsch), Matt Axelson (Foster) and Danny Dietz (Hirsch) you will quickly realize have been sent to one of the most hostile environments imaginable.  While set up in an observational position high above the enemy compound, the guys are discovered by a goat herder and his two young sons.  Rules of Engagement dictate that they must let them go, so they do and scrub the mission.  This is the first part of the movie that angered me.  Okay let them go, but tie them to a tree then make your escape, don’t just let them walk/run away!  They went straight to Shah and soon the whole fucking compound was raining fire down on them.  This is certainly a story of bravery the likes of which I can’t even imagine conjuring myself.  These SEALS are the best there are, but therein lies another problem in my opinion.  They are so good they perceive themselves invincible, and against insurmountable and obvious unwinnable odds, this seemed to cloud their judgment as pertaining to their escape.  I don’t want to diminish at all what these men went through or downplay the valiant way they fought, it’s easy to give opinions sitting on the couch watching events unfold.  That is what we’re here to do though, so I’ll leave my two cents out there for you to evaluate.  

I agree that there were moments as the story developed on screen where I just didn’t comprehend the decision making.  It was mostly infuriating because I was still finding myself hoping they’d all make it out alive.  Something the viewer already knows is not possible going in; as it’s so blatantly advertised by the title.  And although this film is based on true events – it would be impossible to completely simulate the actual incident.  So, I resign myself to the belief that they did everything they could have to try and survive.  And when it came down to it, they had to make the ultimate sacrifices for their brothers.  We picked a very fitting movie for the week of the 4th.  And as we celebrate our independence today, the men and women who fight to protect our freedom are at the forefront of my thoughts.  I have always been quite mindful of them, but after the conclusion of Lone Survivor I found myself feeling the depth of thankfulness they truly deserve.  Soldiers forfeit time with wives, children, family and friends to defend our country.  And dead soldiers leave all of these people behind.  To be the type of soldier that is on the frontlines of battle takes a certain degree of selflessness, the likes of which is rare.  The greatest tragedy is that we have to lose people of that caliber.  Those are the type of people that I want around.  The people we need more of in this World.

Well written Maria.  The title, Lone Survivor, does take away some of the “edge of your seat” suspense of the movie, especially near the end.  It’s a Mark Wahlberg film, who do you think is going to be left standing (so to speak)?  There are some seriously shitty people in this world, and LS portrays that in spades.  I found myself despising these bad guys.  This wasn’t a comic book, this was real life and I wanted them all dead.  That being said, there is still decency to be found, and as illustrated here, sometimes you can find it in the most unlikely of places.  So on this Fourth of July, I would suggest you have fun, be safe and show patience and kindness to your fellow man.  Regardless of whatever political or theological differences we all have, this is still, easily, the greatest country in the world.  And that we have the rights to believe what we want is not to be taken for granted.  Thousands of brave men and women have given their lives so that we can cookout, light off fireworks, go boating, take our kids to a parade or just sit on the couch and watch a movie.  So celebrate being an American today, and maybe raise a glass to the people that have helped keep this country safe and free. 

I think that is a wonderful message for the 4th.  Lone Survivor is definitely one of those movies that gives its audience perspective and leaves them thinking long after.  I’ve been thinking about it and discussing it with people for days.  And that’s what is truly important about this film.  It spotlights the real heroes and the real people that deserve recognition.  Not the Bieber’s and the Miley’s and the Kanye’s that are splattered all over magazine covers in the market.  These soldiers should be the ones cashing 7 figure checks.  Because the service they provide is priceless.  I don’t even like “war movies”, as I so often refer to this genre.  But I enjoyed Lone Survivor and I believe it’s an important piece of cinema.  Happy 4th everyone!  America, fuck yeah.

Ross’ Rating: 3.75 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating: 4 Gummies.

 

 

Movie Review: How To Train Your Dragon 2

Published June 19, 2014 by mrsrag

Starring the voices of: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Cate Blanchett, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig, Kit Harrington, Djimon Hounsou.

Rated: PG. Animated.  Running Time: 1 hour 42 minutes.

 

Well, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks…my girlfriends and I went down to Key West for my bachelorette party, I then turned 30 and I’ve been entertaining a serious amount of guests.  I hope you enjoyed reading the wonderfully enlightening (and darn good) writing of our guest reviewer, Ethan.  The boys had a great time at Maleficent and they had a ton of fun writing the review together.  The Keys were awesome – per usual.  We danced up a storm, relished a libation or two and had an all round blast.  Ross and I are getting back into the swing of our routine and we took Ethan to see the sequel to one of our family favorites: How to Train Your Dragon.  We saw the first one all together and absolutely fell in love with the witty humor, heartfelt story and superb animation.  All of us were so looking forward to the second installment, but I don’t think any of us expected what we got.  It was just as good as the first one – maybe even better.

All of our favorites are back for How To Train Your Dragon 2.  Hiccup (Baruchel), his dragon pal Toothless; Stoick (Butler) Hiccup’s hard Viking father, Gobber (Ferguson), Astrid (Ferrera), Snotlout (Hill), Ruffnut (Wiig), and the wide variety of dragons.  As Maria mentioned, we all loved the first installment, and I was wondering how they planned to freshen up the encore.  Hiccup and Toothless learned to fly together, won over the village and saved the day in the original, and they do more of the same in 2, but the cast of newcomers make the sequel anything but stale.  Valka (Blanchett), Eret (Harrington) and Drago  (Hounsou) are wonderful additions to the franchise.  Maria and I were playing our favorite game of, figure out who the voice is, and she made one of the GREAT snipes of all time by guessing bad guy extraordinaire Drago was the always amazing Djimon Hounsou.  Valka was easy, but neither one of us could come up with Kit Harrington as Eret, which was a major disappointment because we love him as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones.  These three are HUGE parts of HTTYD2, and there are several  plot twists that you just don’t see coming.  There are also some seriously badass new dragons!

I hate spoilers…so there’s no way I’m going to give you details about this plot that could possibly ruin it for you.  I’ll just say that HTTYD2 was way more emotional IMO.  I was cleaning up some serious tears during a few parts.  And I think that’s why I enjoyed the movie so much.  It was very clever to age our main character Hiccup and the story aged with him.  It was a heavier plot with some very serious and thought provoking occurrences.  It had us talking on the way home, which is always a good sign.  If we get in the car and no one’s interested in recapping the jokes or storylines, then it’s usually a flop.  This was not the case with our favorite Dragon riders.  The sequel examines the dynamics of familial relationships, the obstacles of friendship and the acceptance of great responsibility.  It always pleases me when they can comingle such important principles with just plain fun.  The dragons are up to their usual tricks and we meet some really cool, new breeds.  But Toothless & Hiccup will always have a special place in our hearts, as the leading duo who started a dragon riding revolution.

Everyone has their own style and ours is, to hopefully, give you a review that informs without ruining the plot.  What’s the reason we read reviews in the first place?  There are certain movies that we, as individuals, will go see no matter what anyone writes.  Maybe you’re a fan of Star Trek, or X-Men or Brad Pitt movies.  You may hope the movie is well received, but it’s not that important.  It’s the movie you’re on the fence about, or the kid’s movie you’re not sure you want to spend the money taking the whole fam to, that you want to hear about.  And hear a solid opinion without learning that Bruce Willis is really a ghost, Charlton Heston never left Earth or that Kevin Spacey is Keyser Soze.  What you need to know is, should I go see this movie?  Wait for On Demand or the Redbox?  Or just wait until it gets to HBO.  Here’s your answer for How to Train Your Dragon 2: a resounding “absolutely yes!”  At the very least, it’s as good as the original, and the emotional journey is deeper than most of the animated fare.  One last bit of advice, a common refrain if you read MRSRAG on the regs, save the money on the 3D.  It’s already a giant, Hi-Def screen, everything looks awesome!  Spend the cash on M&M’s or Skittles or Nachos.  Even that fake, yellow plastic, melted cheese product they slather over the chips will give you more value, and you don’t need to wear glasses to eat it. 

Maria’s Rating: 4 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Ross’ Rating: 4.25 Gummies.

Movie Review: Maleficent

Published June 2, 2014 by mrsrag

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Sam Riley, Brenton Thwaites, Isobelle Molloy, Michael Higgins.

Rated: PG.   Action/Adventure/Fantasy.  Running Time: 1 hour 37 minutes.

Maria and I are getting married in two months.  As a result, her two sisters and three of her closest friends have come to Florida this weekend to have her bachelorette party.  They’ve driven to the Keys and are having/have had a fantastic time.  With her gone, Ethan and I went to see Maleficent today without her, and he is going to be a guest reviewer on MRSRAG today, a first!  Let me begin by saying Maleficent, the story formerly known as Sleeping Beauty, is going to make you rethink everything you know about that fairy tale. Two kingdoms, one full of fantastical beings, the other of man; adjoin each other.  Their cohabitation is not copasetic, though we’re not sure why or how bad it is.  The story begins with Maleficent as a child (Molloy) and future King Stefan as a boy (Higgins). meeting and getting along quite well.  We follow the relationship through the years between the human and the fairy through montage, and everything appears like they will have a bright future.  What fun would that be though?  Soon there is a horrible betrayal, which sets events in motion, and the movie begins in earnest. 

I know that my dad and Maria talk about me all the time.  We certainly missed Maria today at the movie, but I’m excited to tell you what I thought about Maleficent.  In the beginning I thought this movie was going to be a love story, but I was quickly proven wrong.  Dad said we shouldn’t tell you too many spoilers, but I don’t think it’ll ruin anything if I tell you that Stefan (Copley) is a big fat butt nugget.  This movie is not only a remake of the classic story of Sleeping Beauty, but it also tells the origin of Maleficent (Jolie).  It truly shows how Maleficent feels as you see the world through her eyes.  Her character is made by the things good and bad that she has happen to her.  Maleficent may seem like a hollow shell but there’s more under that black cloak than you think.

Pretty good for a ten year old on his first try, don’t you think?  I love the recent trend of changing up our age old fairy tales, with some new and inventive plots.  Think Snow White and the Huntsman, Jack the Giant Slayer to name a couple.  Maleficent is the best of the bunch IMO.  Angelina Jolie is very good as the conflicted title character and Dakota Fanning’s little sister Elle, is perfectly cast as the wide-eyed, wonderfully pure Aurora, AKA Miss Beauty.  Another highlight for me were the three small winged creatures (fairies? pixies?) that were charged with raising Aurora.  Played by Manville, Temple and Staunton, their interactions provide all of the film’s comic relief.  They’re noteworthy for one more reason; as Imelda Staunton is best known for her portrayal of  the vile Delores Umbridge from the Harry Potter movies, probably my favorite (least favorite?) villain of all time.  I HATED her.  She plays the opposite here, very sweet and caring, and like Ethan said to me, “Maybe this will make me feel better about Delores Umbridge.  No, probably not.”  Probably not indeed.  I give Maleficent, a better than average thumbs up.  It has many attributes that are “all Ross”, but in the spirit of not being a spoiler, I’ll keep those tidbits to myself.  So take your kids, but a word of advice, just see it in regular form, the 3D is a waste of time and money.

Maleficent gave me many chills and thrills.  It was interesting to see how Maleficent became how she was.  The movie was very good and I recommend it highly.  I would mention one thing about the PG rating though, the blood curdling screams, the fairly severe injuries maybe too much for kids ages 6 and under.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t take them, just wouldn’t recommend it.  It’s been fun sharing my thoughts on this movie with you, hope you have a Maleficent (magnificent) day!

Ross’ Rating: 3.75 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Ethan’s Rating: 4 Gummies.

 

 

Movie Review: Neighbors

Published May 21, 2014 by mrsrag

Starring:  Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Ike Barinholtz, Carla Gallo, Lisa Kudrow.

Rated: R.  Comedy.  Running Time: 1 hour 36 minutes.

 

Having watched This Is The End over and over in recent months, it’s on HBO like everyday, I was pretty psyched to see Neighbors.  This scenario quite often doesn’t work out for me too well, high expectations, and unfortunately that was the case this time too.  Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Byrne) are a young suburban couple with a new baby, and it’s pretty apparent early, that they are not the greatest parents.  When a fraternity moves in next door led by Teddy (Efron) and Pete (Franco), they get worried about what may transpire, i.e. partying and noise.  The problem is, they are clearly frustrated by their lives being stifled by being parents and they LOVE to party.  They go over to “welcome” the guys with the ulterior motive of asking them to keep the noise down, and end up staying all night doing drugs and shots, leaving their infant next door at home.  They did have a baby monitor, but I’m pretty sure social services wouldn’t be crazy with this practice.   The next night it’s more of the same at the frat, but now they need them to be quiet, so they call the cops.  The rest of the movie the two sides are at “war”, and there are some chuckles, but the best ones were already shown in the trailers.  I believe the more they show you in commercials, the weaker the movie is, and that should have been a tipoff.  The air bags absolutely should not have been revealed, still funny, but would’ve been off the charts without prior knowledge.  These Neighbors have a lot of problems, and the movie does too.  

I expect too much.  Just because someone strikes gold once does not mean that everything they do is going to be superb.  That being said…I can’t help being disappointed.  Just as I was disappointed with Anchorman 2.  And The Internship.  And The Hangover 3.  I am guilty of assuming that because a certain person or group of people that I find hilarious have chosen to participate in a project that it will knock my socks off.  But you put Byrne, who flawlessly executed super sweet bitch Helen in Bridesmaids and Seth Rogen, a man that makes me laugh when he plays himself – which is pretty much every role, and well, I am going to have high expectations.  As Ross said, they showed way too much in the trailers.  And somewhere along the line, they just missed the mark.  The humor was extremely crude, which I usually love.  But the majority of these jokes lacked the cleverness that balance out the perverse nature.  There were several laughs that make this one worth watching, but the best advice I can provide is to rent it out of the RedBox.  Or wait until it’s On Demand.

There was a cool cameo from our boys from Workaholics (now there’s a show! catch it on Comedy Central), Blake, Adam and Ders; much too brief though.  Andy Samberg’s mug shows up for a second or two as well.  I have to be honest, director Nicholas Stoller and I just aren’t on the same page.  This is his fourth movie, I’ve seen them all, and I have nearly the same opinion of every one: not bad, not good, some laughs but not enough, wait for video.  Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him To The Greek, The Five Year Engagement, Neighbors; all ordinary and forgettable.  One final note on the human race, what looked to be a grandmother escorted two boys ages around twelve into the movie then left them there.  Are you kidding me?!  The first scene Rogen and Byrne are screwing and it doesn’t get much milder from there.  Just not sure what people are thinking.  We took Ethan to Universal on Friday and the shit the girls were wearing at 12 and younger is fucking unbelievable!  Common sense seems to have left parenting for the most part.  Trust me, I’m the furthest thing from a prude that there is, but children are no longer being allowed to have a childhood.  Don’t let them dress like tramps; let them play Sonic and Mario and NOT Call of Duty.  And don’t dump them at R rated movies!  Sorry about that, but I have a 10 year old son, and it infuriates me when I see this kind of stuff.  Neighbors is okay.  If you have to see it, go.  If you’re on the fence, pass and don’t give it another thought.    

I agree with Ross’ assessment of the human race.  However, when it comes to Mr. Stoller’s resume, our opinions differ.  I loved Get Him To The Greek.  And I was a fan of Forgetting Sarah Marshall as well.  So, it seemed only natural that I would take to Neighbors.  But I didn’t.  It had its moments.  But in its entirety – it was quite disappointing.  Back to that human race assessment…I am still in disbelief that someone would be naïve enough to drop two kids of that age at this movie.  Another primo example of the lack of social awareness on this planet.  Not only is it a shameful act, but it kind of impeded our enjoyment.  Every time something perverse graced the screen, Ross and I were concerned about those two kids.  Parenting has reached a new low.

Ross’ Rating: 2.75 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating:  2.5 Gummies.

 

 

Movie Review: Rio 2

Published April 23, 2014 by mrsrag

Starring the voices of: Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Andy Garcia, George Lopez, Jamie Foxx, Leslie Mann, Miguel Ferrer, Kristen Chenoweth, Rita Moreno, Tracy Morgan, Will i Am, Bruno Mars, Jemaine Clement.

Rated: G.  Animated.  Running Time: 1 hour 41 minutes.

 

This is going to be a difficult review for me to write.  First off, I didn’t see the first Rio.  I’ve seen bits and pieces of it, but never viewed it in its entirety.   And secondly, we’ve seen so many fantastic kids movies recently that I have become a super tough judge.  The plot of this second installment lacked ingenuity and although it’s a heartwarming story of protecting your family and your home – it still has an air of formulaic storytelling.  Rio 2 lacked something else that I believe to be the most important aspect of a kids flick; clever and abundant humor.  I giggled a few times, but no memorable jokes come to mind as I’m writing this.  I like when Ross, Ethan and I can sit around and recall the funniest moments or jokes that we find hysterical.  One thing I did enjoy about Rio 2 was the music.  Bruno Mars joins the cast in this sequel as the lady killing crooner, Roberto.  His voice is unmistakable as were introduced to him moments before the rainforest erupts into head bopping song.  I also enjoyed Chenoweth’s Gabi, who’s unrequited love for Nigel (Clement) is literally toxic.  She’s a poisonous frog and he’s a bird.  The musical number she performs was the highlight for me.  None of the kids movies are bad, but Rio 2 was pretty forgettable.

It’s really too bad Maria didn’t get to see Rio because it was far superior to this generic sequel.  In the original, Blu (Eisenberg) lives a nice cozy, domestic life with his owner Linda (Mann).  A Brazilian scientist shows up claiming to have a female (Jewel voiced by Hathaway) of the same species as Blu, and as they’re believed to be the last of their kind, Blu and Linda head for Rio.  They run into smugglers and an assortment of creatures, friendly and not so friendly.  The romp through the jungle and eventually Carnivale, coupled with Blu learning to fly while falling in love with the reluctant Jewel, added up to a very enjoyable film.  Rio 2 finds Blu and Jewel with a family of their own heading into the jungle when it appears that more blue macaws have been located.  What transpires from there is quite predictable.  City birds in the country, long lost relatives, bad guys trying to destroy their habitat, Blu screwing up then saving the day.  Like Maria said, “forgettable”, not horrible, just incredibly mediocre.  The music was absolutely the best part of Rio 2, they let newcomer Bruno Mars strut his stuff plenty and thank goodness for that.  After seeing Frozen, Despicable Me 2 and The Lego Movie within the last six months or so, the bar has been set so high, it’s impossible not to leave the theater disappointed when you view something that doesn’t quite hit the mark. 

Ethan enjoyed it and I guess that’s really all that matters.  But it’s just so much more fun when we all do.  There have been so many awesome kids movies, some of which Ross just listed and it’s tough to compete with those instant classics.  Especially when they have such original and clever storylines.  Ross and I watch quite a number of shows and that market is saturated also.  I found Rio 2 reminiscent of my usual sentiments towards DaVinci’s Demons on Starz.  It’s just not as good as all of the other stuff (i.e. Game of Thrones, Orphan Black, and Deadwood – which HBO has resurrected).

A formulaic plot and not enough laughs did a disservice to a great voice cast.  Rio 2 felt thrown together for a quick 3-D money grab.  Again, not the worst movie ever made, but if your kids aren’t dying to see it, skip this one and don’t give it a second thought.  It’ll be in the Redbox before you know it anyway.

Maria’s Rating: 2.25 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Ross’ Rating: 2.5 Gummies.

 

 

 

 

 

Recent DVD Release: Gravity

Published April 9, 2014 by mrsrag

Starring:  Sandra Bullock, George Clooney.

Rated: PG-13.  Drama/Sci-Fi/Thriller.  Running Time: 1 hour 31 minutes.

There are a few voice actors we could’ve listed in the cast, including a cleverly placed Ed Harris as the voice from mission control (think Apollo 13), but be clear this is a two person movie.  As a matter of fact, George is only here to do a, ‘Danny Ocean in space’ turn, as astronaut-lite comic relief.  This movie IS Sandra Bullock, and I would submit, her best work ever.  I’m sure you must know the plot of this one, catastrophic space accident leads to desperate attempts at survival.  I found myself thinking, “this is like All is Lost, but in space.”  We recently reviewed that Robert Redford one man show, about a mysterious older man alone on a yacht in the middle of the Indian Ocean.  He too has an accident and must pull out all the stops to survive.  Redford’s performance was fantastic, but that script fell far short of Gravity’s, and subsequently only received a 3 Gummy Bear rating from yours truly.  Bullock’s Ryan Stone has much more to work with in Gravity and she really delivers.   

It blows my mind that she didn’t win the Oscar.  Instead Cate Blanchett’s neurotic Jasmine took home the tiny statuette.  But I’m honestly biased because I didn’t care much for Woody Allen’s ‘Blue Jasmine’ and Gravity literally rocked my World.  I saw Gravity in the theatre on a whim and only by circumstance.  Ross and I were hosting our good friend Labs, as we call him, and in an attempt to spare Labs our usual PG, 3-D kids flick, I accompanied him to Gravity whilst Ross and Ethan caught Free Birds.  And Gravity in the theatre was breathtaking.  From the opening visual masterpiece of Earth from space to the reality shattering cinematography – this flick has balls.  There’s no lollygagging – it opens right up into action and ends without ever coming up for air.  As Ross has said, it’s very similar to the Redford survival tale and seemingly identical in the way it makes the sympathetic viewer say, “Give ’em a break.”

I’ll go a step further, I HATED Blue Jasmine, it blew chunks.  Cate Blanchett was appropriately vile in her role, but there is simply no comparison to Sandra Bullock’s performance.  I know why she lost though; the special effects were so mind blowing, the voters must’ve been blinded into thinking that they, not Sandra, was the reason Gravity so mesmerized them.  I wish I had seen it on the big screen, that truly had to be something!  What Gravity had that All is Lost lacked, was a backstory on our heroine.  We know who she is.  We know she held the impossible misery of losing a child.  We know she had withdrawn into her work because of it, and we know that inevitably led her to space.  We also know that through it all, she still had an indefatigable will to live.  Make no mistake, the special effects are out of this world and won well-deserved Oscars, but Sandra Bullock is the reason to see Gravity

Gravity won 7 Oscars total, including Best Director for Alfonso Cuarón.  Cuarón also directed Ross’ favorite Harry Potter flick, Prisoner of Azkaban as well as the sci-fi thriller, Children of Men, which he always enjoys watching.  Even though he’s seen it dozens of times.  It’s no stretch that he enjoys the man’s style of directing as much as the rest of the World, including myself.   I had to mention my man crush George Clooney.  And I love when he plays his usual charming smart ass, which he does here as Matt Kowalski.  Half the time he’s either telling some cheeky story or hitting on Bullock’s Ryan Stone.  He’s a welcome distraction from the harrowing struggle…even though it’s fleeting.  There are many reasons to see Gravity.  The performances, the effects and the execution.  It’s hard to pull off a movie of this magnitude and they accomplish it with flying colors.  I can tell you one thing for sure…I never want to go up in space.

Ross’ Rating: 4.25 out of 5 Gummy Bears. 

Maria’s Rating: 4 Gummies.

 

 

Recent DVD Release: American Hustle

Published April 4, 2014 by mrsrag

Starring: Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K., Jack Huston, Michael Pena, Shea Whigham, Paul Herman, Anthony Zerbe, Robert De Niro.

Rated: R.  Crime/Drama/A Little History.  Running Time: 2 hours 18 minutes.

 

The hair.  This movie is worth a watch for the sole purpose of seeing Christian Bale’s incomparable comb over.  Or peeping Bradley Cooper’s remarkable perm.  And the clothes.  Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence sport some deep v’s that rival that of awards season fashion.  And the guys are looking sharp in big collared shirts with flashy bell bottomed pants.  This amiable ensemble is the glue for David O’Russell’s sophomore directorial picture.  The film opens with the intriguing bit “A lot of this happened”…which leaves the audience to deduce that some of did not.  Artistic liberty, I would guess.  American Hustle is the story of con artist Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) and his sultry sidekick, Sydney Prosser (Adams).  The pair are busted by the FBI during one of their loan scams and an overzealous agent forces the two to participate in a larger bust.  That bust being the FBI ABSCAM operation of the 1970’s; an elaborate sting targeting corrupt politicians.  The eager agent, Richie DiMaso (Cooper), is young, dumb and full of…bad ideas.  He gets the trio entangled in schemes involving the mafia and the entrapment of some very high up officials.  Including Mayor Carmine Polito (Renner), a family man of sorts who is widely known and loved by his constituents.  Polito and Rosenfeld form a friendship, which serves in leading the operation to its limited success.  And also leads to Rosenfeld developing a much needed conscience.

I was around during ABSCAM (Maria had not yet graced the Earth with her arrival), but I must admit, I don’t remember too much about it.  A fake sheik, the FBI and some money hungry politicians.  It did seem like the crimes were concocted by the feds and dangled in front of the poor saps.  I suppose they could have said “no” to the cash, but as the deals were all fabricated, it’s somewhat like a wife sending horny, naked babes to her husband’s office and having them stick their hands down his pants; and then divorcing him if he cheats on her.  Maria mentioned the hair and the clothes, which are indeed worth watching American Hustle on their own, but the acting?!  Oh my goodness, the four leads here throw out performances for the ages.  To me the subject matter was secondary; watching the interaction of these crazy, quirky, complicated characters brought to life by Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and most of all Jennifer Lawrence, is better than any reality show on TV.  Bale has been a standout since he burst on the scene in Empire of the Sun, and I always expect greatness from him.  Jennifer Lawrence at 23 is already at the very top of Hollywood’s A list, as is her Silver Linings Playbook co-star Bradley Cooper.  And Amy Adams hasn’t been nominated for five Academy Awards by accident, the girl can act!  I mean honestly, how many more movies do you think will be made where Jeremy Renner is an afterthought?      

Very true.  Renner is always superb and it’s shocking that he’s so easy to overlook in this role.  Lawrence absolutely steals the show as Rosenfeld’s manipulative and conniving old lady.  She commands every ounce of attention every time she’s on screen.  The casting of this movie is both interesting and impressive.  I would never have imagined Bale or Cooper in either of the roles they portray here, but somehow it works.  The heart of the story didn’t quite pique my interest as much as I had hoped.  However, the conclusion did add some much needed spice.  As Ross had stated, the fabulous performances are what drive this piece.  Unfortunately, this was one of those cliché experiences when a movie gets way over hyped before you get a chance to see it.  Too much awards season buzz mixed with friendly entertainment gossip.  It isn’t going to make me forget about Silver Linings Playbook anytime soon, but I liked it.

I liked American Hustle too, I didn’t love it.  I do love the stars of the film and can’t wait to see all of them in their future projects.  The last Hunger Games with J-Law and hopefully a third collaboration with Bradley Cooper sooner rather than later.  How about another in the Bourne series with Jeremy Renner?  Maybe even bring back Matt Damon?  What a kick ass duo they would make!!   Who knows what Christian Bale will pick next, he loves to mix it up, maybe he won’t have to lose or gain weight for it (AH-fat. The Fighter and Rescue Dawn-emaciated).  Certainly will be exciting to see what the future brings.  While we wait check out American Hustle.  ABSCAM as a  backdrop, goofy hairdos, bad clothes and fantastic performances equals an entertaining couple of hours that won’t leave you disappointed. 

Maria’s Rating:  3.75 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Ross’ Rating: 3.5 Gummies. 

 

 

 

 

    

Recent DVD Release: Dallas Buyers Club

Published March 20, 2014 by mrsrag

Starring:  Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Steve Zahn, Denis O’Hare, Michael O’Neill, Griffin Dunne.

Rated: R.  Biography/Drama/History.  Running Time: 1 hour 57 minutes.

Wow, Matthew McConaughey is on fire!  After viewing the abysmal movie duo of Killer Joe and The Paperboy within the last couple of years, I thought this guy was heading for career suicide.  He got me to consider jumping back on his bandwagon with Mud, then reeled me in hook, line and sinker with his turn in the amazing HBO series, True Detective (see TV Talk at MRSRAG.com), and apparently everyone else has hitched to his star after his Oscar winning performance in Dallas Buyers Club.  The true story of a bull riding, con artist/hustler, electrician, bigot, drug using, and all around asshole named Ron Woodroof; who contracts AIDS in Dallas in 1985.  He’s so far gone by the time he goes to the doctor that they give him a measly thirty days to live.  McConaughey lost more than forty pounds for the role, and he looked so bad it was hard to watch on several occasions.  ’85 was close to the beginning of society’s understanding of the disease, and treatment was non-existent or VERY hard to come by.  You could say many things about Woodroof, but a quitter he was not, and he goes literally to the ends of the Earth to stay alive.  Along the way he meets, and forms an unlikely partnership with, Rayon (an almost unrecognizable Jared Leto), a homosexual cross dresser.  Together they hustle to get the drugs that people with AIDS need but can’t get through regular and legal channels.  It’s no mission of mercy to start with for sure, they make tons of money and they need the drugs themselves, but eventually the whole story morphs into something deeper. 

The sheer magnitude of the transformation these two actors have gone through for the authenticity of their roles is just impressive.  There’s no other way to put it.  I pointed Jared Leto out to Ross and he hadn’t even realized it was him on the screen.  And McConaughey is seriously hard to watch in the first half hour of this film.  His usually muscled and healthy looking physique is a sheer shell of what it normally looks like.  The appearance is capped off by some non-stop hard drinking, drug use and altogether hard to watch activities…including stomach turning coughing fits.  This film is not my favorite type of fare, although I do enjoy a true story every once in a while.  But DBC did more than depress the shit out of me.  It also showcased the unbelievable transformation of a total douchebag, highlighted a majorly disturbing road block our government set in the path of some seriously ill citizens and seamlessly told a story of overwhelming struggle and the amazing human spirit.  There is no doubt in my mind that these men deserved their Academy Awards.  They earned them with these unforgettable and powerful performances.

They absolutely deserved their trophies, no question, but Hollywood loves an actor who will change their body for a part.  Think Robert De Niro in Raging Bull and Tom Hanks in Philadelphia and Cast Away (Golden Globe).  I read that the script for Dallas Buyers Club had been floating around out there for a while, and that the people with the money were having a hard time envisioning it having commercial success.  I can understand it, as Maria mentioned, the movie is a series of unsettling scenes.  I would submit that there are at least a couple of enduring lessons to be learned from DBC.  One is to appreciate life and what you have and try not to sweat the small shit.  And also, try to understand your fellow man and the trials and tribulations they may be encountering.  Ron Woodroof is a bad man.  He is a bigot and a homophobe and it’s not until he has to walk in the shoes of some of the people he reviles that he begins to transform.  It’s a shame and an indictment  on the human condition, that oftentimes it takes a tragedy or loss in our lives to truly appreciate what we have or to take a really good look in the mirror.   Hopefully, watching Dallas Buyers Club can turn on the light bulb for some of us, yours truly included.

It’s so true.  You can’t help but feel blessed to have your health after watching this.  We’re all guilty of taking the small things for granted and it’s nice to have something to remind us how lucky we truly are.  I enjoyed the movie a great deal more than I expected, which is always a nice surprise when it comes to film.  I remember the first time I saw McConaughey in one of my all time favorite crime/thrillers, A Time to Kill.  He was so young and handsome – and he just oozed stardom.  I can never forget the scene when he lets out that genuine and lovable laugh when he views his ‘on-the-curb’ drunken parking job.  A laugh as recognizable as his dimpled face these days.  It seems he has found his niche in Hollywood.  Let’s hope he keeps on this newly found path.

Ross’ Rating: 3.5 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating: 4 Gummies.