Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

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Directed By: Justin Lin 

Written By: Chris Morgan and Gary Scott Thompson

Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Luke Evans, and other various supporting actors

Well that was realistic…

They’re back and they’re the good guys. That’s right. Leave it to Hobbs (Johnson), a special forces cop, to get Toretto (Johnson) and his crew back to work. They are working to capture Shaw (Evans), a military-trained criminal, that is out to steal a chip that is capable of shutting down an entire country for 24 hours. This chip would be capable of essentially destroying that respective country. The stakes are high, the muscles are big, and the cars go fast.. What could go wrong, right?

To answer the previous question, a lot more than viewers would think. I’m struggling to tell the difference between action movies anymore. Just about everyone has begun to feel the same. Fast & Furious 6 is no exemption. The storyline is washed out and utterly disappointing. The attempt to differentiate itself by switching the setting (again) backfires on them (again). While I like watching big guys kick each others asses as much as everyone else, I can simply not get over the redundancy of the series.

The first Fast & Furious is a good-watch and one of the better action movies of 2001. The second, third, and fourth installments were very disappointing (especially three). I take my hat off to them for their perseverance for sticking with a series that had three consecutive disappointing efforts. Fast Five brought back viewers interest in the series. The Rio setting was appealing and people were  again drawn in by the badass thieves.

Unfortunately, the only aspect of the fast & furious series that was even somewhat original was removed in Fast & Furious 6. They are now the good guys. It’s human nature to want to be a badass, so when the protagonist(s) are bad guys, the movie instantly becomes more exhilarating. Take that aspect away, and it might as well be  Mission Impossible 5: Fast Cars.

The action scenes make no effort to be the slightest bit realistic. In fact, it is just the opposite: It is almost as if the writers made an effort to be unrealistic. I mean, didn’t we already see the ending of this movie in Toy Story? And Argo? In what would be taken by many as the most climatic scene, my theater began to laugh uncontrollably. The writing of the story is embarrassing and the directing could not save it. Just Lin’s direction is perfectly good. He does the best he could with what he had, but he didn’t have much.

The acting is typical action crap. Don’t Worry! Dwayne Johnson is just as awful at acting as he is at hiding his steroid use (nothing new). Paul Walker continues to do his best with a series that seems especially exhausted. Jordana Brewster is still a babe, but we don’t see her much in her relatively minor role. The acting is simply nothing to speak of.

Overall, Fast & Furious 6 can not successfully follow in Fast Five’s foot steps. Bad decisions with the characters mixed with general poor writing made the film just another mediocre summer action flick.

IMDb: 76/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 70/100

Metacritic: 61/100

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 63/100

Series Roundup: With every new addition, I like to rank every film in the series from Best to Worst:

1. Fast Five (2011)

2. The Fast and the Furious (2001)

3. Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

4. 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

5. Fast & Furious (2009)

6. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

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In Theaters this Week (May 10-16)

Expectation: 75/100

Expectation: 75/100

Wide Release: No amount of bad reviews can change how I feel about Gatsby. It’s one of the greatest American stories, and I can only hope that it will translate well to the big screen. If the reviews are correct, this will be the 2nd unsuccessful adaptation of this wonderful novel. The main complaint that I find in reviews of The Great Gatsby is that it tries too hard to be modern, and ‘Gatsby’ is simply not a story that needs to be modernized. This is one of the best casts we’ve seen this year, which gives any film fan hope. I’m not letting the poor reviews get me down, and I’m hoping for the best with The Great Gatsby. RT: 48%

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Expectation: 15/100

Wide Release: I’ve grown to accept that movies like this are made. Real film fans ignore them, and casual movie goers fall for the same scheme over and over again. It’s not entertaining. It’s not funny. It’s simply not good. Peeples will be the same as movies of the similar kind (i.e. Tyler Perry movies, The Big Wedding, Couple’s Retreat). Reviews for Peeples just further confirm what we already knew. Stay far, far away. RT: 38%

aftershock

Expectation: 40/100

The only good thing to have Eli Roth’s name attached to it is Inglourious Basterds. I expect that streak to continue with Aftershock. I can’t remember the last time (if ever) that I saw a movie set in Chile, so they get some originality points for that. The setting also indicates that the filmmakers did not target the USA audience, but instead have tried to make it an international hit. Risky move, but it might prove to be very clever. The movie that I could not stop thinking about when I watched the trailer was The Darkest Hour (4/10). That movie was underwhelming and Aftershock looks far too similar for it to be any different. Aftershock will receive a limited release on May 1oth.

In Theaters this Week (May 3- 9)

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Expectation: 75/100

And let the summer begin… Iron Man 3 comes out this week.

With Robert Downey Jr. confirming that $50 million of the films budget went to him.. viewers begin to wonder: Is it worth it? Yeah, Iron Man was pretty sick and falls in my top 5 superhero movies. With that being said, we have to face the fact that Iron Man 2 was incredibly mediocre. Bring in a new director for Iron Man 3.. and viewers are immediately sucked back in. I like Marvel’s efforts, and Iron Man 3 will not be the first movie of theirs that I don’t see. No matter how good (or bad) viewers think it will be, I guarantee just about all of us will go see it. Marvel’s movies are not always good (The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2), but most of them are.. don’t expect Iron Man 3 to be the best of Marvel, but it will entertain us for all 130 minutes. Oh, and don’t expect anything new.. it will be the same thing that we’ve seen, and honestly, I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing.

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Expectation: 70/100

Nobody was going to challenge Iron Man 3 with a wide release this weekend.The Iceman is receiving a limited release (4 theaters) on May 3rd. It stars five quality actors: Ray Liotta, Chris Evans (Captain America), Winona Ryder, Michael Shannon, and James Franco. Oh, and David Scwimmer makes an appearance. The storyline looks exciting and it comes from an amazing true story. It is made by a young, relatively unknown director, which is surprising for the amount of big names in the cast. The Iceman shows more promise than most releases so far this year, but mixed reviews plus an unknown director is definitely something worth raising the red flag about. The strong cast will carry it threw what otherwise would have been a very questionable $10 million budget. Living in Los Angeles, I do have access to the limited release if I decide that The Iceman is worth getting off my ass for.

There are two other notable limited releases this week: Scatter my Ashes at Bergdorf’s, and Love is all you Need. Click on each movie to see their trailers.

Mud (2013)

Mud Banner Poster

Directed and Written By: Jeff Nichols

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Reese Witherspoon

Well that was a hell of a lot more than just a coming of age story…

Taking place just off the Mississippi river in Arkansas, Mud is a story told through the eyes of two 14-year-old boys (Sheridan and Lofland). One day when they are exploring an island that is conveniently only inhabited by one man that is oddly known by everybody as Mud (McConaughey). Even the man that raised him (Shepard) only knows him as Mud.. strange. Well then again one of the main characters is named Neckbone, so I guess that’s just what they do in Arkansas. Mud is a wanted murderer that is being hunted by both the police and a group of bounty hunters. Mud follows his plans of pursuing his love, Juniper (Witherspoon), and sends the boys to deliver messages for him. I’ll stop myself there to prevent from giving away too much of the film, but Mud is one hell of an Indie.

Coming from the director of Take Shelter, I was anticipating quite a lot out of Mud. The story sounded great, it was accepted into Cannes, and it starred one of todays’ biggest actors: Mud had everything going for it. Jeff Nichols wrote a powerful script. From what I’ve heard, there was hardly any modifications from the rough draft to the script used during filming. This shows a director with a vision, which is something that viewers should always appreciate. A writer/director with his confidence is a beautiful thing. While there are plot holes that can be found inside Mud, the writing is fantastic for it being only his 3rd directoral effort. We saw it with Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild last year, and we are seeing with Jeff Nichols’ Mud this year. Sundance has gotten two of the best young filmmakers the last two years, and if this is things are going then we have a bright future for cinema. Nichols’ writing/directing shows confidence, but whether or not it pays off is a matter of opinion. Personally I loved the way he went with Mud.

The Brains Behind 'Mud' in order from left to right: Jacob Lofland, Jeff Nichols, Reese Witherspoon, Matthew McConaughey, and Tye Sheridan

The Brains Behind ‘Mud’ in order from left to right: Jacob Lofland, Jeff Nichols, Reese Witherspoon, Matthew McConaughey, and Tye Sheridan

I’m not ashamed to admit that I have jumped on the McConaughey bandwagon. His acting is great, and I appreciate that he now takes roles that speak to him instead of roles that will make him money. He has identified that his Rom-Com days are over, and he will now do the dramatic acting that he always wanted to do. After all, he’s pretty damn good at it. His performance in Mud makes me appreciate him even more. After seeing the film, I would not want anyone else to play Mud.

Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland are both performances worthy of sharing screen time with McConaughey. Similar to Nichols and Zeilin in directing: Quvenzhane Wallis and these two boys show tremendous potential in front of the camera.

When I got word of Reese Witherspoon’s involvement, I was skeptical to say the least. I don’t like her as a person after reading about her arrest last month, and I think her acting is mediocre at best. She does not have enough screen time to have much effect on the movie, but for her minor role she gives an above average performance. It’s also a flaw in the script that such a major part of the story receives not attention at all. The viewer struggles to care about Juniper, and the girl that is being fought for just comes across as a hot mess.

The writing had a few too many loose ends for my taste, and the ending felt rushed and ultimately underwhelming. I commend Jeff Nichols for his ambition, but his writing could have been a bit better. The script is incredible for almost all of the film, but the ending does get scrappy. The good thing is that the movie fails to give you the Hollywood treatment, and leaves the viewer with a satisfying, but believable conclusion.

Overall, Mud is the best 2013 release so far, and it will not waste viewers time. Mud is a beautifully crafted film, and it is the first movie this year that sparks any Oscar hopes. While an April release is unlikely to receive recognition, I would not be surprised to see something for McConaughey and maybe, just maybe, a Best Picture nod. It’s a long shot, but expect to hear Mud’s name thrown around come January 2014. It’s a coming of age film that goes far beyond what the genre suggests. Mud has something for everyone, and should be seen by everyone.

IMDb: 7.9/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 98/100 😀

Metactic: 76/100

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 82/100

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.

mud

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.

The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)

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Directed By: Derek Cianfrance 

Written By: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, and Darius Marder

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ryan Gosling, Emory Cohen, Dane DeHaan, and Ray Liotta

My hopes were very high when I went to see The Place Beyond the Pines. In fact, I was so excited about this film that I went to a matinee showing just hours after returning to Los Angeles from vacation. Let’s just say that I was disappointed…

Do not be fooled by the trailer.. it is very misleading. The film is divided into 3 acts. The trailer gives the viewer the premise for the first act and part of the second act; however, there is no hint of the third act seen in the trailer. There is no problem with a trailer not wanting to give away too much of the plot, but there needs to be some evidence of what you will get when you watch the whole movie (not just the first half). The movies starts out just as the trailer suggests with Luke (Ryan Gosling) as a motorcycle stunt driver that finds out he has a son with a woman that he previously had a fling with (Eva Mendes). In order to provide for his newly discovered son, Luke begins robbing banks, which ultimately leads him to a rookie police officer named Avery (Bradley Cooper). That’s the prologue for the first two acts.  The third and final act takes place fifteen years later. This act is basically about Luke and Avery’s sons when they go to high school, and how their paths intertwine.

The first problem I encountered with The Place Beyond the Pines was the lack of character development. There is no climax in the film because every character is seen in their climax, but characters are not shown at any other time. While this can be entertaining, it also leaves you sitting there watching the action without caring about any of the characters.  This happens with the first character, Luke, and continues as a pattern throughout the whole film.

The key issue that arises is the amount of content.. there is way too much. The story is actually very strong, but with this amount of quality content, filmmakers should not try to cram it into a 2 hour and 30 minute film. It would have been much better suited as a 6-8 episode miniseries. This would have allowed for character development as well as more detail and better dialogue in each scene. Instead the film feels rushed and overly rich with content. The story is so all over the place that by the time you get to the third act, you begin to check your watch to see when the madness will end.

Don’t take the negativity too harshly as ‘Pines’ definitely has its strengths. The performances are strong by everyone with Ryan Gosling being especially strong just as he was in Drive. Ray Liotta is convincingly intimidating in his role as a corrupt high-powered police official. Bradley Cooper is not at his strongest, but still manages to prove that he is a legitimate actor both dramatically and comedically. Eva Mendes is surprisingly convincing in her role, and does a great job as the only leading female. Dane DeHaan is full of talent, and expect to start seeing him more and more.

Overall, the story is highly entertaining and starts out very strong, but ultimately ends up way too off track for its own good. Don’t allow the deceptive trailer to fool you. For those of us that thought we were getting a Best Picture caliber film at the beginning of April were wrong, but if you rent this on a Wednesday night, I’m sure that you won’t be disappointed. It’s not a disaster, but it’s not the masterpiece that it was expected to be.

IMDb: 7.8/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 75/100

Metacritic: 64/100

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 75/100 (expectation 90/100)

Have Movies Gotten Longer?

As I was telling my father about the fantastic Django Unchained  he immediately asked me how long it was. 2 hours and 45 minutes was my response, and he said, “oh of course, movies just keep getting longer.” That comment was my inspiration behind jumping on my computer, and researching the length of movies. This bring me to the question: 

Have Movies Gotten Longer?

I figured that the best way to jude would be to base this off of best picture nominees at the Oscars, as those are typically the most memorable films of the year. I averaged the 10 best picture nominees from each decade until the age that my Dad would have started watching movies (around 1980). Once I got to 1980, I averaged 10 films from every 5 years. Lastly, I took the average of the three most recent years (2010, 2011, 2012). These were the average lengths of the films in each of the given years…

  • 1929-1932: 104
  • 1940: 116
  • 1950-1951: 119
  • 1960-1961: 144
  • 1970-1971: 134
  • 1980-1981: 134
  • 1985-1986: 126
  • 1990-1991: 140
  • 1995-1996: 129
  • 2000-2001: 138
  • 2005-2006: 126
  • 2010: 112
  • 2011: 125
  • 2012: 135

Screen shot 2013-03-30 at 10.06.43 PM

Are Movies Getting Longer? No.

If we went back to our Algebra 1 days… this graph would be deemed as no correlationIt looks like this was an appropriate saying if you lived in the 50’s, but in modern cinema, no. Just because you see a few lengthy movies in a row, that does not mean that they are getting longer.