In Theaters this Week (April 26 – May 2)

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Expectation: 50/100

Pain & Gain. Hmmm… one of my least favorite directors directing a movie starring a mediocre action star and one of my favorite actors. Michael Bay is a joke of director. He relies too heavily on special effects and not heavily enough on a script or even a developed storyline. Dwayne Johnson is an actor that will keep getting strong and stronger, but his acting will stay equally as disappointing. Now Mark Wahlberg is a different story. I had always had respect for this man, but after seeing The Fighter, my appreciation for his work went through the roof. When I met him in person last year, I realized that I was meeting one of my favorite actors. Now I might be able to get over my hatred for Michael Bay if he actually decides to direct a quality script. While I am interested in the story behind Pain & Gain, I just can’t see any quality material behind this one.

Expectation: 10/100

Expectation: 10/100

The Big Wedding. I could have told you what a disaster this one was going to be before it received an 8% on Rotten Tomatoes. I don’t know what it is with these ensemble comedies, but they really seem to be a disaster as of late. Just take a few examples from the last couple years: New Year’s Eve, Movie 43, Valentine’s Day. These are all movies that have caused viewers to feel like they have just wasted an hour and a half of their life. Expect The Big Wedding to be soon forgotten, and I don’t think that will be a bad thing. Oh, and I thought De Niro was done with this shit after Silver Linings Playbook.. I guess I was wrong.

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Expectation: 90/100

Mud. There were three movies that I was really excited for the first 1/3 of the year. Two of them were Side Effects (met expectations) and The Place Beyond the Pines (a disappointment), and the last one was Mud. Mud has been towards the top of my watch list since I heard about it when I was reading up on Cannes last year. After getting a glimpse of the trailer, my “great movie” light went off. Matthew McConaughey has recently become one of my favorite actors. While I’m not a huge Reese Witherspoon fan, I’ve heard she only has five minutes worth the screen time. I’m expecting a lot out of Mud, so anything short of fantastic will be a disappointment. Mud is getting a limited release on April 26 in 353 theaters nation wide.

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Jackie Brown (1997)

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Written and Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, and Robert De Niro

Nominated for 1 Academy Award (Supporting Actor)

The unquestionably strange follow-up to one of the greatest films of all time, Pulp Fiction, is Jackie Brown. A heist thriller that features 6 people all competing for a $500,000 sum. The rightful owner of the cash is Ordell (Samuel L. Jackson), an illegal arms dealer that has his money kept in a deposit box in Mexico. Brining money back from Mexico is difficult for a criminal, which is where a flight attendant at a Mexican airline, Jackie Brown (Pam Grier), comes in. After she is stopped by a noble police officer (Michael Keaton), she agrees to help the police catch Ordell in return for keeping her job as a flight attendant. After her release from prison, she meets a bail bondsman on the verge of retirement (Robert Forster), who immediately falls into the arms of Jackie’s plan. A secretly intelligent beach bunny that lives with Ordell in Harmossa Beach (Bridget Fonda) makes her attempts at the cash. The most ambiguous character in the film, is Louis, a fresh-out-the-joint bank robber, who agrees to help Ordell get his cash back.

Maybe it was the reviews that called the film “slow paced” and “a disappointment”, or maybe I was afraid of this film changing my view on Quentin Tarantino as one of my favorite directors of all time. Whatever the reason was, Jackie Brown was one of the two Tarantino movies that I had not seen (the other being Death Proof). My expectations were still relatively high, but I was not expecting it to be up to the standards that I have grown to expect when I see a Quentin Tarantino film.

While Jackie Brown does have its issues, its slow-paced nature is not one of them. If its slow-paced nature showed viewers anything, it was that Quentin Tarantino has the potential to craft a sophisticated film. Instead of Tarantino pounding every scene with more action, he crafts every scene, which leads to a thrilling conclusion. There are signs of sophistication in all of Quentin’s films that took place before and after the release of Jackie Brown, but his ability to craft the story of Jackie Brown makes his film making intelligence shine.

The biggest flaw that I found with Jackie Brown was its lack of ambition. Tarantino runs on ambition.. Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill Vol. 1/2, Inglourious Basterds, and Django Unchained are some of the most ambitious films of the modern era. I don’t know what happend with Jackie Brown, but the film struggles to mean anything. It’s hard to get into a film when it doesn’t have the audacity to believe the story that was written for it. It’s difficult to put a finger on who to blame for this flaw. Naturally, viewers would like to blame the writer/director for a less ambitious film; however, this is not always the case. A lack of ambition falls upon the shoulders of every person involved.

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Pam Grier as Jackie Brown

The performances in Jackie Brown are decent at best. Pam Grier is passionate and convincing in the lead role as Jackie Brown. Despite being one of the greatest actors of all time, Robert De Niro’s character is oddly acted, which makes the viewer question the purpose of his character until the very end. Yeah he’s an asshole and by far one of the most unlikable actors in the business, but Samuel L. Jackson’s acting abilities are nothing short of fantastic. With that being said, Ordell (Jackson’s character) is poorly written making it difficult to see Jackson’s strong performance. Mark Dargus (Michael Keaton’s character) is awfully written, and poorly acted. The scenes that feature Officer Dargus are by far the weakest in the film. “Bridget Fonda, your entire job is to get high and look hot,” said Quentin Tarantino, “Oh, and do you have a problem going doggy style in the kitchen with Robert De Niro?”

“As long as this will give me a career for the next 15 years,” replied Bridget. We all know that never happened. Melanie (Fonda’s character) lacks interest and development. Her character is meant to be unpredictable, but she only ends up being uninteresting. As a reviewer, I chose to save the best for last.. hats off to Robert Forster. He does wonders for this film that struggles in the acting performance. Unlike the awful scenes with Keaton, the scenes with Forrester are the highlights of the film.

Overall, Jackie Brown is one of the worst efforts that Quentin Tarantino has ever brought forth, but it’s still pretty damn good. It’s a fun crime thriller, but I think viewers expect more from Quentin Tarantino than just, “fun”.

IMDb: 7.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 86/100

Metacritic: 64/100

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 79/100

In Theaters this Week (April 19-25)

 

Expectation 60/100

Expectation 60/100

Oblivion has been a back and forth battle in my head as to what I expect out of the film. When I first read the premise, I was expecting something around the same quality level as Cruises 2011 action flick Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol. Then, I heard that one of my favorite actors, Morgan Freeman, was on board for the project, which vastly increased my expectations. After seeing the trailer, I was  more confused about where the film was going than when I had just read the prologue. The story for Oblivion seems to be all over the place, and one can only hope that the film does not share this characteristic. Expect it to be visually stunning in IMAX, but I’m not convinced that it will be worth the $17 IMAX admission price. It’s making itself out to be the start of summer blockbusters, but we all know that honor goes to Iron Man 3. I don’t expect much out of Oblivion, and I can only hope that it proves me wrong.

It has been a quarter of a century since the release of Rain Man, and still no one wants to compete with Tom Cruise at the box office. Oblivion is the only major release this week.

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

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Directed and Written By: Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Eli Roth, Melanie Laurent, Diane Kruger

Nominated for 8 Academy Awards (Best Picture, Original Screenplay, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Film Editing, Directing, Cinematography, and Supporting Actor)

Won 1 Academy Award (Supporting Actor)

In Nazi occupied France, a group of American Jewish soldiers are sent to France to do “one thing and one thing only.. kill Nazi’s.” Is there honestly a better idea for a film than that? Who wouldn’t want to see a revenge thriller that’s about Jews getting revenge on the Nazi’s? Add the Tarantino flare, and Inglourious Basterds is one of the most gut-wrenching and intriguing films of all time.

Writer/Director Quentin Tarantino

Writer/Director Quentin Tarantino

I clicked play on my remote, not knowing that I was about to start the fastest 2 hours and 33 minutes of my life. There is no writer/director like Quentin Tarantino, and I’m beginning to wonder if there ever will be. He has such a driving vision behind each and every one of his films. To appreciate Tarantino’s films, the viewer has to get him. For example, in the beginning scene, the colors in the house are dark and deep to symbolize that something tragic is about to occur. A realist would say that the sun was shining bright outside; therefore, the house should be radiant with sunlight. Well, it’s a good thing that Mr. Tarantino is not a realist because his way of setting the mood is just one of the things that make his films spectacular. Quentin’s audacity to create a film like this mixed with the intelligence to make his vision come to life is what makes the film so fantastic.

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Oscar winner Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds.

The acting in Inglourious Basterds is nothing short of amazing. Brad Pitt’s character is not one that will earn any awards, but Pitt does  what the role calls for. Although the women, Melanie Laurent and Diane Kruger, never actually meet each other, their energy somehow manages to feed off of one another. From scene to scene you are inspired by these women’s performances. The only dull performance is Eli Roth. Sure, he looks tough, but it seems that is the only thing he was put in the movie to do. His lack of dialogue makes “the bear Jew” (Roth’s character) awkward and out of place. Limited dialogue has worked in some films (ex: The Driver in Drive), but “the bear jew” is not one of those characters. I made sure that I saved the best performance for last, now everyone please bow down to Mr. Christoph Waltz. While he is yet to prove that he can be a successful actor outside of Tarantino projects (Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained), he sure is good when he’s with Quentin. His performance  in Inglourious Basterds is capturing, and nothing short of amazing. His performance in this film as well as his performance in Django Unchained are both worthy of the Oscars that they received.

Overall, Quentin Tarantino managed to exceed expectations (even for him) with this timeless, instant classic. The viewer will find  scenes that play over and over again in their head. Inglourious Basterds is a film that all Tarantino fans must see or anyone that just wants to see Nazi’s get their asses kicked. I’m tempted to say that Tarantino has done it again, but I don’t think anyone has ever done or ever will do anything like Inglourious Basterds. A film this audacious will never win best picture, but Inglourious Basterds is more deserving than any other film released in 2009.

IMDb: 8.3/100 (#108 on the top 250)

Rotten Tomatoes: 88/100

Metacritic: 69/100

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 92/100

In Theaters this Week (April 12-18)

78/100

77/100

The most highly anticipated release this week, 42, has already been reviewed by Best Picture Movie Reviews. To see that review click here.

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Expectation: 10/100

I hate nothing more than bad movie parodies making fun of movies that are already bad movies. The Scary Movie has died out (if it was ever living), and hopefully its lack of box office success will teach the studio to stop with these films. It’s washed out, and it was never funny in the first place. Not to mention that the main writer left to go work on ‘A Haunted House’, which did surprisingly well in the January box office.

Next week we get a major blockbuster starring one of the worlds biggest stars.

42 (2013)

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Written and Directed by: Brian Helgeland

Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, and Nicole Beharie

I got the privilege of going to an advanced screening of 42, and boy was it a blast. There is nothing greater than a room full of American cinema lovers watching a film about an American hero. I have been to quite a few screenings, and if you ever get the opportunity to go to one, I would highly recommend it. The people you are with and the environment that surrounds you make the entire viewing experience more enjoyable.

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Writer/Director Brian Helgeland working with actor Chadwick Boseman

There is not much need for a prologue as this film is simply the story of Jackie Robinson. The good news is that the film does not vary away from it being “the Jackie Robinson story”. With movies that are based upon well-known true stories, filmmakers often choose to write a substory of the main event instead of just showing the main event itself. Fortunately, the filmmakers chose not to do so, and 42 gives the viewer what it promises.

Writer/Director Brian Helgeland is a veteran in the writing world with some of his credits including Mystic River, Man on Fire, Green Zone, Robin Hood, and L.A. Confidential for which he won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. As for his directing, he is relatively unknown. The only two semi-major directing titles that he has had are Payback (1999) and A Knight’s Tale (2001). With those films being 14 and 12 years ago,he felt that it was his time to go back to sitting in the director’s chair. With his experience in writing and lack of experience in directing viewers would assume that the writing would outweigh the directing.. they would be wrong. His directing is solid and at times beautiful, but his writing is often has a great lack of depth. It’s a movie you could watch while on Facebook or texting your girlfriend due to there being no complexity behind the script. The writing is at times very black and white (no pun intended) and lacks the thought that great films have.

Jackie Robinson with his wife (Chadwick Boseman and Nicole Beharie)

Jackie and Rachel Robinson (Chadwick Boseman and Nicole Beharie)

The performances by the immediate cast are brilliant. I do not always think Harrison Ford’s acting is worthy of all the hype that it gets; however, his performance in 42 is breathtaking. The filmmakers took a bold risk choosing to cast Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson, and it did pay off. The casting director clearly chose the person that was best fitted for the job instead of going for a more well-known actor, and kudos to them for that. Nicole Beharie was the greatest surprise of this film. She was emotionally moving as well as lighthearted when necessary. The three leading roles that are previously mentioned are all beautiful performances; however, the same cannot be said for the rest of the cast. The supporting cast (excluding Andre Holland) are all weak, and are even hard to watch at times. It is clear that these supporting actors are “pretending” to be characters instead of actually becoming characters.

It’s always great to get a reminder of the hell that African Americans went through only 60 years ago, and 42 does a great job of displaying that reminder. They stuck to the basics, and did not allow things to get too complicated. The key flaw with 42, was the cheesiness. It falls victim too a few too many sports movie stereotypes. The kid with the dream, the villainous naysayer, and just about every other sports cliche is visible in the film. As usual the acting begins to suck when the script turns into a cliche. There are scenes that are supposed to be heart-warming, but they end up being hard to watch.

42 can be put on the same level as films with similar stories (Coach Carter, Remember the Titans, The Express, etc.). This is not awful news, but viewers were hoping for more. Take 42 with the cheese that comes on it, don’t expect to think a lot, and appreciate it’s ability to tell a classic story.

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 72/100

In Theaters this Week (April 5-11)

I am not an expert on the horror genre nor do I want to be. I will very rarely review a horror movie; therefore, there will be no expectation of Evil Dead, which gets released on April 5th.

Expectation: 75/100

Expectation: 75/100

Danny Boyle is a great director.. Trainspotting, 127 Hours, and Slumdog Millionaire are all tremendous films; however, I don’t expect Trance to be on the same level as the three films previously mentioned. My opinion constantly changes on Rosario Dawson. There are times where I really like her, and there are times where I think she’s an atrocious actress. I like James McAvoy as an action hero, but as a dramatic actor, I am not convinced. We’ll see what they can bring as a team. The story looks new and fresh. Trance looks like it has some strong potential, but don’t expect it to be on the same level as some of Danny Boyle’s other films. Trance will be released on April 5th. Expectation: 75/100

Expectation: 75/100

Expectation: 75/100

Similar to what The Place Beyond the Pines has done.. The Company you Keep will also start in just 5 theaters, then get open in about 20 more, and then finally get a wide release. I have trouble understanding this marketing strategy, but this is what they are doing nonetheless. Robert Redford might be a legendary actor, but his directing is mediocre at best. With that being said, The Company you Keep does look like his most promising film to date. The cast is strong and the premise makes it look like an exciting thriller. Shia LaBeouf is disliked by many, but I tend to enjoy his work especially when he goes on the more dramatic route. The cast is extremely strong and The Company you keeps looks to be a promising thriller. To see when The Company you Keep opens near you click here Expectation: 75/100

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The Place Beyond the Pines opens in roughly 25 more theaters before finally getting a wide release on April 12th. To see if it is in a theater near you click hereI have already written a review for The Place Beyond the Pines. If you have not read it, click here