Movie Reviews

Time Lapse
Time Lapse (Unrated)
If the Polaroid company ever tried to make a time machine, perhaps this would have been the first proof of concept prototype.

Three friends, Finn (Matt O’Leary), Jasper (George Finn), and Callie (Danielle Panabaker) find out about a machine in the apartment across the street that takes photos (of their living room) every day. The Poloroid pictures it spits out (sorry Kodak, you can’t seem to catch a break!) show a snapshot 24 hours into the future. That offers a sort of time-space-continuum opportunity that the group decides to exploit.

That’s all you need (and want) to know about the plot before watching the film.

Of the long list of quibbles (not the least of which is whether the method used to gain money is even sound) is that these kids have never heard of curtains! But there’s no need to pick this film apart. There’s a time machine of sorts at the film’s core. If that’s believable then little else is really out of place. It’s best to just go along with it and “people watch” as these three souls wrangle with the inevitable roadblocks as they appear.

I’m sure greed has made a lot of folks go off the rails a bit, but there’s a line for 99% of humanity and I think these folks cross it multiple times. But the film will certainly keep you on the edge of your seat for the full running time and keep you guessing until the final frame. Afterward you will try to dissect the events you’ve seen in an attempt to figure out if any of their methods used would be even remotely possible.
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Ex Machina
Ex Machina (R)
If you want to be sure not to have the movie spoiled for you, going to the theater right away might be the biggest reason to pay full price to see it instead of waiting for DVD. It will make a great rental.

The story involves a young software coder working for the largest internet company in the world who wins a competition to spend a week at their CEOs hidden camp to witness breakthrough artificial intelligence technology. What he finds there is certainly incredible and far more than he bargained for. He finds the CEO to be both brash and tough to be around. Brash like other legendary CEOs we have all read and heard about throughout our lives. But it’s the A.I. behind the glass that drives the young coder (and the viewer) to anticipate the next day.

Ex Machina is one of those movies where it’s best if you are as much in the dark as the young coder who arrives by helicopter to the secluded research facility. It’s a story that will keep you guessing until the last frame. And you’ll likely continue to think about the film afterward.
- See it on the Big Screen
FF7
Fast & Furious 7 (PG-13)
Paul Walker takes his last ride with his crew in the postponed release of Fast & Furious 7.

The team is reassembled and ready to ignore all the laws of physics for the full 2 hr. 20 min. running time. If you’re looking for an action film to pass the time this film certainly delivers. Films over two hours better deliver some action - and this keeps it coming. And they spent the money. The scenes in Dubai are something only mountains of Hollywood cash and hundreds of computer effect masters could pull off.

The cast is all back and although Tyrese Gibson offers little more than silly banter, like a worthless stooge (he wants to be Chris Tucker when he grows up) the rest of the actors show up to do their part.

We are used to seeing fight scenes where solid blows to the head are shaken off in a way that would make Muhammad Ali roll his eyes, but once cars start backing out of a cargo plane at altitude, laws of nature and any common sense get tossed aside and everyone on screen becomes a totally indestructible superhero. The occasional scratch, sure. But so much as a fracture? Hollywood writers have never heard of a fracture. The Marvel Comics lawyers should be asking for royalty payments of some kind. There is little difference between the Avengers movies and this latest F&F team - except for the Marvel colorful spandex uniforms.

So what is this film about? Exactly the same plot as the Avengers movie - the assembled team of superheroes has to save the world.

Really.

It’s somehow odd to watch Paul Walker (who died before the film was completed) smiling on the screen, unaware of his impending fiery death - in a speeding race car no less. As with Brandon Lee, who died on the set of The Crow and Heath Ledger who died right after he finished his scenes for The Dark Knight Batman film, it adds a strange twist when viewing these films. We end up watching the last work of a deceased actor in the prime of their careers with the omniscient knowledge that they will die soon after they complete one of their scenes.

Hollywood did a tasteful job of acknowledging Walker’s importance to the franchise at the end of the film. If you were a fan of the previous F&F films, you’ll enjoy this ride as well.
- See it on the Big Screen
Blackhat
Blackhat (R)
Director Michael Mann is once again behind the camera in this terrorist computer hacker thriller Blackhat. Mann was executive producer of the original Miami Vice TV series from 1984-1990. As a director he developed a slower pace, visually colorful style with such films as Thief (1981), Manhunter (1986), Heat (1995), Collateral (2004) and Miami Vice (2006). Each of these films has the same distinct Mann feel to them.

The feel is certainly there with this film as well, and had it been released a decade ago perhaps the slow pacing would not be a factor. But in today’s world of fast paced, cleverly edited, get to the point TV and film it’s hard for us to jump back to a time where movies touted as thrillers simply meandered along to their climax.

We spend most of the film in China, where our group of good hackers are searching for bad hackers who have wrecked havoc on a Chinese nuclear plant. Of course the FBI and NSA are involved in the hunt and in a fine movie twist, it is imperative that an infamous evil hacker named Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) is released from a U.S. federal prison to join the good hacker team - as it was his original raw code that enabled the bad hackers to take down that nuclear site. Thus, he’s the only person who could possibly crack the case. I’m sure that scene made 1,300 of the top FBI and NSA coders (along with 1,300 or so top Chinese code experts) shake their heads in disbelief.

A Chinese computer savvy brother and sister team (who have done no prison time) work with GPS ankle bracelet tracked Hathaway to locate the sinister hacker foes. If Chris Hemsworth is the heartthrob draw for the women in the audience, Chinese actress Tang Wei is the eye candy for the guys. Though as the photo above shows, she’s mostly disheveled throughout the film.

As with most Michael Mann films, the gunplay is loud and realistic. Automatic rounds rip through empty ship containers with ease and when shots hit their mark it knocks the deceased souls on their asses. These scenes are well done but there are long stretches of technical chitchat with too many CGI animations of molecular level travel of keystroke data over Internet lines between those scenes.

The scenery is colorful and the actors are competent but if you are expecting a white water rafting trip, this plot is a lazy river with too few exciting rapids to keep you interested. Blackhat will make for a fine $1 rental.
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Interstellar
Interstellar (PG-13)
Matthew McConaughey, Michael Kane, Anne Hathaway (and other surprise actors) try to save planet earth in the latest space thriller called Interstellar.

McConaughey and his team set out to save our rapidly dying planet with a Plan A and a Plan B to choose from. It takes these astronauts years to make the journey to their hypothetical destination and for the viewers, the film has a lengthly running time of nearly 3 hours. It’s a tale that might have played better on TV as a three part miniseries.

Not that it’s a boring movie. The film features the best (exhilarating!) water landing in movie history, even if it is followed by head-shaking ridiculous actions immediately afterword. C’mon man!! The distant destinations do keep you interested but there is a lot of SPACE between them. Alas, the film also features the silliest ambulatory design of all time for futuristic robots. Makes the rickety tripod alien pods in Tom Cruise’s War of the Worlds film look downright sturdy by comparison. There’s a good reason why no animal has three legs. What was the director thinking? Did his 10-year-old son come up with the robot design and he felt obligated to use it? The robot in the 60’s TV show Lost in Space had a more believable design. And that’s not good.

The ending is “out of this world” too, so keep your expectations low. It was said you need to see this movie in IMAX to get the full effect. After seeing it in IMAX, I disagree.
- Wait for Rental
John Wick
John Wick (R)
Keanu Reeves stars as John Wick, a retired hit-man with a reputation for being worse than the boogyman - he’s the guy you hire when you want to KILL the boogyman. So it’s good that he’s retired.

But that all changes when some Russian Mob thugs mistakenly take him for an ordinary citizen and subsequently beat him down and steal his vintage car. There is more to that storyline but it is better left unsaid for this review. The Russian mafia boss quickly finds out that John Wick had been accidentally targeted by his rambunctious son and he immediately realizes that a very focused sleeping giant has been awakened. Knowing there is no stopping John Wick, he prepares those around him to expect the worst.

John Wick is definitely a no-nonsense bad-ass and the movie rips along at a loud aggressive pace that goes by quickly with a lot of physical action and more kill shots to the head than one could count. It was an interesting choice to cast Keanu Reeves as the lead. Perhaps Matt Damon, Tom Cruise, Jason Statham and The Rock were unavailable as they would have been obvious first choices for this role. But Keanu pulls it off fine and his cardboard personality plays into his focused march of mayhem.

With costars John Leguizamo, Willem Dafoe and Dean Winters (the guy that actually plays “Mayhem” in the Allstate commercials) each star can hold their own so the acting is solid. It’s certainly not a date movie, but if dark action-revenge movies excite you, this one is a must see.
- See it on the Big Screen
Gone Girl 7
Gone Girl (R)
Just as summer comes to a close Hollywood releases the blockbuster movie version of the hit novel Girl Gone starring Ben Affleck as the husband who comes home to find his beautiful wife missing (gone) with circumstances that leads him to believe she was taken with a struggle. Rosamund Pike plays the “famous writer” wife that disappears. We get to know more about her story and their relationship in flashbacks.

The more the cops investigate the more the suspicion points to the husband as the killer. As the cops, neighbors and rest of the country rally against the husband’s obvious guilt, you’ll spend most of the movie deciding whether this heavily flawed husband is really innocent or guilty as charged. It’s certainly not a new idea for a story but it’s well done here. There are plenty of plot twists in this 2 hr. 25 min. movie and it supposedly follows the long novel very closely. Any more info would simply spoil the film. Whether or not the story would hold water in real life (doubtful) the actors do a tremendous job with their characters.

If you don’t see this one in the theater you’ll likely overhear the final guilt/innocent outcome on the street long before it hits rental status. Since that’s the whole crux of the movie - that would be a shame.
- See it on the Big Screen
Lucy
Lucy (R)
Morgan Freeman stars in his 10,000th film of 2014. He’s a great actor who has basically played himself in virtually every movie he’s made. He’s not a particularly versatile actor, but a fine one. He nails his role here (yet again as he always does) this time as a professor who knows more than he could ever imagine when he meets Lucy (played by Scarlett Johansson). The Korean mafia surgically implants a bag of a newly synthesized drug into her belly for her to mule into the US. After she takes an unfortunate beating (most unfortunate for the mafia thug doing the beating) the drug pouch ruptures inside her and as the drug races into her bloodstream it causes a roomful of Hollywood writers to go nuts with their imaginations.

The movie set-up just prior to this drug rupture is first-rate. Everything is believable and the movie is solid as a rock. Once the bag ruptures you need to imagine every Arnold Schwarzenegger movie you have ever seen and prepare yourself for a ride like that. Total Recall would be a good reference. If Schwarzenegger was starring in the film instead of Scarlett Johansson people would be less likely to question the ridiculous antics that ensue. If you just sit back and enjoy it, it’s a great action movie that you could watch several times.

In the selected photo above, Lucy has just made her hair turn black in one second while walking through the airport - just by wishing it to turn black. In Total Recall shape shifters tried to get through security with head/face changes in a matter of seconds. Either you question it or you enjoy the ride. Up to you.
LucyB
In this photo she shows her no-nonsense Schwarzenegger flair for getting things done but with better hair and make-up. It works surprisingly well.

The director spends the last 15 minutes taking us on a journey through space and time, doing things and going into areas that we simple humans can’t possibly understand or comprehend, but we’re not supposed to comprehend it. Hard to say how silly it might be 80 years from now, but it seems silly today. And as pointed out early in the film, that’s the point.

If you told someone back in 1915 that in their lifetime they would be able to watch a baseball game taking place live in NY while sitting in their own living room, in Kansas, for free, in their underwear, they would have laughed at you. That whole idea would be inconceivable to their 1915 era brain. Perhaps what happens here is not so impossible, but you’ll still laugh - with your 2014 era brain. The ending of the film reminded me of a mix of two movies that coincidentally both came out in 1983. Brainstorm and Videodrome. If you saw those movies you’ll know where this film is headed toward the end.

It’s wacky. But so are most Schwarzenegger films. Scarlett Johansson pulls off “wacky” for this film.
- See it on the Big Screen
Gravity
Gravity (PG-13)
Sandra Bullock keeps looking at her big wristwatch in the latest space film, Gravity. Unfortunately, you’ll be glancing at your watch too! This Sandra Bullock/George Clooney space movie has been an instant hit at the box office. That doesn’t mean it’s a great movie, but it’s certainly a box office hit.

As with any movie that was shot with 3-D in mind (from the start as opposed to a post-production, low quality afterthought) there are far too many “things” coming toward the screen in inordinate proportions. And it’s really those exaggerated effects coupled with a few preposterous scenes that really take away from this film.

The movie opens with astronauts spacewalking to repair the Hubble telescope. The scene is surreal and it really does give you the full effect of being in space with them. The banter between astronauts and Mission Control is surely more Hollywood than your typical professional NASA quips but it’s enjoyable enough. Then suddenly things take a worrisome turn when an ailing Russian satellite is blown up by the Russians which creates a fast-moving debris field (space junk - kind of like this movie itself) that’s suddenly circling the earth. When you are spacewalking in a thin manmade spacesuit, the family-friendly word that comes to mind when fast moving particles of any kind are headed your way is, “Yikes!”

For some reason NASA is unable to accurately track this debris field and with NASA’s shockingly frequent shortcomings over the past decade, that might not be the far-fetched part of this movie. Either way, NASA finally calculates the debris cloud accurately and discovers that our cast of characters are right in the path of the oncoming debris field! Keep in mind that space junk like this travels at thousands of miles an hour as it circles the Earth.

When the entire crew hears the sudden code red alert from mission control, the mission leader (played by George Clooney) tells everyone to immediately get into the shuttle for cover. But Sandra Bullock seems to dilly-dally as if she wants to see the last play of the football game before coming to dinner. If you were to chat with any first-year astronaut trainee they would tell you that oncoming space junk would probably be the number one fear when space walking.

Without going into too much plot detail I’ll simply point out two absurdities (of many) that really brings the film to its knees - and then I’ll tell you the really bad news.

The space junk orbits the earth every 90 minutes which gives Hollywood the ticking time bomb plot device they thrive on to keep movies interesting. When certain astronauts are able to survive the incredibly fast shotgun blast of space junk as it demolishes, shreds, pulverizes and disintegrates all of the satellites and NASA aircraft in the area (as the astronauts are holding onto said structures) some space-suited people are left virtually unscathed with nary a deadly pinhole in their suit! This repeats itself every 90 minutes so surviving each episode over and over would be odds on the order of thirteen-gazillion to one . . . give or take. It would work in a Superman movie, but none of these astronauts are revealed to us as Superman. Not even in the credits. This movie makes Diehard look like a documentary.

The second item that everyone should know is that water abides by the law of surface tension. If you pull water out of a glass in space it will stay together in a single globule, adhering to itself like a blob. With no gravity the water doesn’t “drip or drop” anywhere. And when people cry or sweat in gravity-free space the water droplets will adhere to their skin like glue (surface tension) not fall off conveniently toward the camera for a cool theater 3-D effect. It’s bad enough Hollywood is still pushing this 3D nonsense, but don’t pitch us cartoon physics to oversell your 3D snake-oil.

And now for the bad news - Sandra Bullock has made some terrific films in the past so I can see why she was cast as the lead for this film. But the sad truth is that Sandra Bullock is no Tom Hanks. Tom Hanks can simply mosey around on a quiet deserted island with no ticking time bomb nor any Hollywood soundtrack playing in the background and audiences are mesmerized for hours. That’s no easy feat and there are very few actors that can pull that off.

Sandra Bullock cannot pull that off, and they even gave her an ear shattering soundtrack to help the cause. She needs a supporting cast or you quickly lose interest. She was trapped in space in the same way Tom Hanks was trapped on a desert island. Yet I’d bet no one wanted to go to sleep as they watched Tom Hanks work out the solution to his problem. No such luck with Bullock. You’ll be glancing at your watch. She can’t carry a movie by herself.

And it’s a shame.
- Wait for Rental
Man of Steel
Man of Steel (R)
It’s been seven years since Hollywood released a Superman movie. That means there’s a whole new audience of teens that have never paid to see Superman at the theater. That’s the only reason to re-release a new version of this film - it offers nothing for the older crowd who have seen much better renditions of the Superman saga.

Henry Cavill (who?) takes over the Clark Kent role. He’s surrounded by well known better actors like Amy Adams (Lois Lane), Diane Lane (Kent’s mother), Kevin Costner (Father), Russell Crowe (biological father), Laurence Fishburne and Michael Shannon. Diane Lane and Costner really shine as Clark Kent’s surrogate parents, and that’s the only strength of the film. Unfortunately the movie skims over the adolescent years that were so engaging in the earlier films. When we do see flashbacks of the early years, they are too heavily laden with teenage angst and silly CGI.

The movie is far too dark for it’s own good. The whole thing feels like a big chunk of Kryptonite was left in the script office and it made everyone weak. I’m guessing a vast majority of the moviegoers didn’t go in with the intent of being brought DOWN by the movie. The Five for Fighting song “Superman” was an interesting take on the dark side of being Superman, but don’t take that lyric and run with it for 2 1/2 hours!

Lois Lane is just a low level reporter, but somehow she gets enough street cred virtually overnight that the US Military suddenly has her running point on the missions to save earth. Amazing!! I don’t understand it but, AMAZING!!

The sound techs certainly had fun as the movie is loud as hell. Kids no doubt dig the CGI, but as I’ve mentioned with the Transformer films, watching indestructible robots or indestructible men from other planets fight each other gets old immediately. If they can toss each other through multiple steel girder and concrete high rise buildings in a single toss, that leaves little else for us to watch. Tossing the indestructible guy forty times isn’t any better than when we saw him tossed around the first two times. We get it - he’s indestructible. It’s just a total waste of time to repeat the exact same gesture over and over with the same outcome. More importantly, how are their clothes able to withstand such punishment? You can’t even wrinkle that cape. I’m sure Levis and Nike are interested.

And when the final battle resolves itself, and the indestructible bad guy is finally terminated (which is good because you are tired of glancing at your wristwatch) you will simply shake your head and say, “So that’s it? 2 1/2 hours of my time and he kills him like that? Is this a WWF match? Did I actually pay money for this garbage?”

Or something like that.
- Wait for Rental
Iron Man 3
Iron Man 3 (PG-13)
Tony Stark dons the red suit once again to take down a diabolical terrorist. I predicated after the first Iron Man film that his buddy (played at the time by Terrence Howard) would become his crime fighting sidekick. They switched to his replacement buddy (played by Don Cheadle) with a red, white & blue suit of his own! How quaint. It’s just like a Lethal Weapon 14 release. Even funnier about my 2008 prediction that Iron Man sequels would be Lethal Weapon wannabes is that the Director for this sequel is Shane Black, who wrote the script for Lethal Weapon. Hollywood is as predictable as the sunrise.

The Iron Man suits are a big problem for this movie. With Jedi-Master-like powers, Stark no longer has to “put on” a suit. The suit flies to him - in pieces. More on this insanity later.

Gwyneth Paltrow gets some suit time too, because from this movie we now know that pretty much anyone in the shape of a human (one size fits all!) can have the suit fly to and attach to them and suddenly be a masterful fighter. Forget about all the extensive and sometimes hilarious training that Stark had to endure before he could work the original suit. Like putting on a baseball cap, pretty much anyone can do it with immediate style. Boy is that made-up new wrinkle a load off the minds of the Hollywood writers. Now ANYTHING is possible with this franchise. Even the ridiculously impossible.

And now that Tony Stark has met a young boy, who knows - the suit may come in tween sizes next year!

Can’t wait.

As a long-time movie-goer I’ll admit it’s exciting to watch a superhero take down bad guys, but there needs to be some ground rules so we know how far to suspend our beliefs as we enter the theater. If the rules are casually tossed out the car window like a chewing gum wrapper, the movie-going experience quickly loses its appeal and turns into nothing more than Saturday morning cartoons minus the overflowing bowl of Cap’n Crunch.

Superman wears a cape and can really fly. He has a lot of abnormal abilities that would allow him to win every event at the Olympics - because he comes from another planet. He’s not really a human being in the Earth sense. If you know that going in, it all makes perfect sense.

Batman wears a cape too, but that’s where the physical traits end. He’s not from another planet and cannot possibly fly without one of his expensive gadgets to propel him through the air. Batman is not faster than a speeding bullet, nor able to leap a tall building in a single bound.

Ground rules are important.

You can suspend your beliefs to accommodate the Incredible Hulk theme or Thor’s activities, and even stretch your imagination when ancient Chinese warriors leap through the treetops like squirrels. But Tony Stark is just a regular American human being in a high tech suit. He’s never even been bitten by a radioactive spider. That suit cannot make him indestructible like Superman or the Hulk. Just because he’s part of the Marvel Comic franchise, the writers can’t just lazily use that badge to write ANYTHING into the script. The laws of physics don’t allow for physical punishment, or stopping on a dime from high speed flight. Not only does a car crash quickly reveal the horrible trauma to the human body with a sudden stop, but Air force pilots can’t even take the punishment from a high G acrobatic training flight in a Raptor jet without suffering trauma!

The bigger problem with this movie is that it’s not set in the distant future where any of the on-screen activities could even be remotely possible. Not even Star Trek attempts this nonsense. The cartoon-like idea that 12 separate non-aerodynamic shaped pieces of his suit could individually rocket themselves 300 miles to auto-assemble onto his body like Transformer pieces is outlandishly absurd. Any script writer involved in that scene should be immediately exiled to the Hanna-Barbera studios. And if you think there are only two suits working this silly side show, oh how foolish that would be. By the end of the film you’ll be laughing at the expended Dixie Cup numbers of suits.

I don’t even want to delve into the human villains that are really fire breathing, refuse to die Terminator IV characters. Did they walk onto the wrong set? What’s going on here?

The movie ends in a flurry of CGI busy work while the stars just kind of watch the acton, like us. Who’s running this show? Oh yeah, Jarvis is conrolling the action. How boring that nugget is.

The 2 hr. 15 min. movie will feel like 2 hr. 15 min. and it takes its time building to the action. And then it’s a Superman movie. I just wish they’d tell us it’s a Superman movie on the marquee.

The earlier Iron Man films had interesting extra footage after the extensive end credits. This film adds two additional long scrolling screens of digital effects credits, in fine print with only comas between each name as the block text fills the full width of the theater screen. Life is good if you’re a Hollywood digital animator.

And sure enough, it ends with extra footage. Footage that acknowledges that they made you look. You’ll feel like a fool for waiting for it.

Can’t decide whether to see it in 3D or not? Don’t worry, it’s playing in Stink-o-Vision in theaters everywhere.
- Wait for Rental (on a rainy Wednesday night)
Warm Bodies
Warm Bodies (PG-13)
A zombie named R seems to have a pretty good sense of humor and a love of 80’s music (on vinyl, no less). When not listening to music he spends an inordinate amount of time (for a zombie) thinking about life. He’s a zombie Misfit Toy in this latest story of a new world of apocalyptic zombies.

There are of course non-zombie humans living on the “other side of the tracks,” a protective wall actually, but you get the basic Romeo & Juliet, West Side Story, Avatar formula. As with all these stories, the two sides don’t coexist well. In the end of these famous stories both sides still don’t coexist well even after the boy and girl from each side find love, but I degrees.

In this story the romance starts after an unlikely mission-gone-wrong scene has R leading a pretty military scout named Julie (Teresa Palmer) away from the flesh-eating carnage, whereupon he protects her for a few days while she’s on the wrong side of the tracks. Keep in mind R still has flesh eating blood on his face from his recent meal (Julie’s boyfriend). Why on earth this military trained daughter of the resistance General (John Malkovich) doesn’t immediately try to escape from this obviously deranged human-eating-zombie is just one of many questions that arise. If an obviously rabid dog with foam running out of his mouth or a wild grizzly bear seemed kind of friendly toward you, only an idiot would spend much quality time alone with either, much less go to sleep around them.

I can’t be certain but throughout the film I tried to catch R and the other zombies blinking. Quite early on I noticed they didn’t blink at all. If that was really the director’s intention, that attention to detail was well done.

But plot holes abound. You have to shoot the zombies in the head to kill them (again), but the much meaner skeleton end-stage zombies seem to go down if simply hit with a mini-airport cargo cart. Pretty much any gunshot to the body ruins the day for the skeleton guys. That’s all too convenient.

Then there is the unexplained goo that R smears like Indian warpaint on one of Julie’s cheeks to keep other zombies from smelling her “live” dinner bell flesh. What is it, where does it so conveniently come from, and how on earth could it possibly work? It’s nothing more than a weak plot device which lowered this film to made for TV levels. As a TNT or FX Channel exclusive movie it would be a home run. For $10, not so much.

Thankfully with a 90 minute running time the movie doesn’t drag on as long as it otherwise could have. Teresa Palmer can act and is easy on the eyes so this high profile film should launch her into more top movies. John Malkovich must have been bored or lost a bet with someone to want this small unremarkable role.

In the end, the symbol that grabs the attention of the zombies and changes the outcome of the story is pretty weak. It’s certainly a different take on zombie movies, but doesn’t really provide us with the fertile comedy we were expecting from the well edited trailer.
- Wait for Rental
Rise of Apes
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (PG-13)
A new generation of kids are going to the movies - time for those dirty stinking apes to appear on theater screens again.

This version stands on its own. You don’t have to know anything about the other six Planet of the Apes movies that have rolled out since the original in 1968. In this version a genetic engineer has an experiment go horrible wrong and decides to bring home a genetically engineered chimp from the chaos at the lab. The chimp’s name is Caesar and his destiny is to lead all apes to freedom.

Unfortunately, before that can happen we have to spend a hour or so with a pretty shallow bunch of humans. The cops in this film are pretty much of the Keystone variety as well.

The effects are well done. The apes are not totally Discovery Channel lifelike, but most scenes are close enough to keep you from thinking about it much. The pacing is just quick enough that you won’t get bored, but there’s less action that you will expect going in.

With the dose of serum running through his veins, Caesar’s brain develops like an Einstein chimp. It doesn’t stop with him - the problem spreads to other apes. But the bigger problem here is that the movie Apes suffer from the same silly Hollywood physics nonsense of the Spider Man movies. Just because you are given special enhanced qualities does not make your flesh and bones suddenly able to survive falls from three story buildings or enable your body to survive a leap though solid walls and laminated glass windows. Superman was from another planet and the Terminator was a machine - these Einstein apes are still bound by Earthly laws of flesh and bones physics. But you’d never know it from their Superman (or impossibly cartoonish) death defying antics.

But the kids won’t question any of it, and I expect this franchise to thrive for another film or two - one of which will no doubt be in 3D and totally suck.

When the movie ends you may say to yourself that the apes have only taken San Francisco. Surely they would be defeated as soon as the US Army rolled in. Stay seated when the credits roll and you see the bigger picture of what happens next. This leads us to the inevitable sequels to come.
- Wait for Rental
Cowboys & Aliens1
Cowboys & Aliens2
Cowboys & Aliens (PG-13)

{Top photo shows a typical dirty soul in a dusty Western mining town in the 1800’s. Bottom photo shows eye candy actress plopped into various scenes after shower, hair and make-up session.}

It’s a bit more cowboys than aliens, but it still makes for an enjoyable summer movie with a fresh premise.

Daniel Craig is perfectly cast as the bad-ass (think Clint Eastwood) who arrives into a post gold rush town in 1875. Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) runs the town with an iron fist of fear. Seems he has all the cattle in his possession which makes him the richest dude around. Dolarhyde’s loser son rolls into town to cause a ruckus and that’s when “the stranger” (Craig) shows the town what he’s all about.

But the problem is that this stranger doesn’t really know who he is or how he got to “them there parts.” And he has this strange metal bracelet locked on his left wrist that only people in “our parts” would recognize as an alien device of some sort.

The set piece story is purposely dark. This is a dying town in the middle of nowhere. The stranger has been roughed up enough to require stitches. And the Dolarhyde’s are mean-spirited, which makes the townspeople weary. And all that is before the aliens show up and put a hurtin’ on the local non-deserving townsfolk. So this film was in desperate need of eye candy.

Cue Olivia Wilde who plays one of the townswomen who takes up an interest in this newcomer when he enters the town bar. She’s not drinking (patron), not serving drinks (waitress) and not sweeping floors so he immediately assumes she’s working for the bar as a prostitute. But she’s not a harlot and no one in town seems to take notice of her in this dead, boring gold town. Unlikely as hell, and she’s horribly out of place in this 1800’s period piece. But thank goodness she’s there as she’s the only onscreen ray of sunshine in this otherwise dark, ominous film.

This is a period in history where the Indians were bad guys as well. But we all know that once invaders from another world come to Earth, everyone has to join forces against the foes. I’m not sure the reaction of the early settlers were very realistic when they saw their first flying machines in the sky. And when the machines fire upon them, the townsfolk seem even less horrified than people would be in today’s world.

But that’s Hollywood.

It’s worth a trip to the theater, but will make a great rental as well.
- See it on the Big Screen
Super 8
Super 8 (PG-13)
The photo above shows a group of talented child actors in the film Super 8. Elle Fanning has an edge with a sister named Dakota Fanning, but they are all surprisingly good in this Sci-Fi thriller.

The group sets out to shoot a low budget Super 8 home movie back in the 1970’s when a lot of families had such Kodak film cameras. In those early days, video cameras were only used by TV networks. After midnight they set out to film a scene for their zombie movie by the local train station. As fate would have it they witness a horrific train crash.

The reason for the train derailment defies all logic as well as basic physics (people from the midwest who know all about long 80+ car freight trains and accidents will laugh) but once the chain of events gets the train off the tracks, it’s a hell of a catastrophic ride of worst case scenario derailments. The theater rumbles like a 70’s rock concert and the visuals are quite stunning.

The toppled over Super 8 camera the kids were using continues to film and records the event. Only after watching the developed movie film do they see there is more to the accident than a simple train crash.

You’re not supposed to know anything more than what I have covered, so I’ll end the description there. It’s a thrill movie where the kids drive the story, much like Spielberg’s kid driven films, and it’s well worth a view.

As the credits roll, stay seated. This is one film where the movie continues by showing us the completed Super 8 zombie movie that the kids shot. Those that immediately get up to leave the theater will then stand in the aisles for a few extra minutes as they watch the ending.

Note on JJ Abrams - the director. It seems we’ll always be able to tell when a movie was directed by newcomer Abrams. He loves lens glare.

From the earliest days of moviemaking, nighttime shots of oncoming car headlights reveal a double glare that looks like four headlights moving across the frame as the car approaches. If you’ve ever noticed it you know that as the years go by directors have shot at angles that minimize this unwanted side effect.

But not Abrams. He embraces it.

As I mentioned with his 2009 Star Trek movie (see my earlier review of that film) Abrams seems to like shiny objects reflecting off the lens of his camera. This is especially true in the first quarter of Super 8 and with the ending shot. Spielberg produced this film and one would think that “the pro” would take the new director aside and give him a few pointers.
- See it on the Big Screen