Synopsis: An affable underachiever finds out he’s fathered 533 children through anonymous donations to a fertility clinic 20 years ago. Now he must decide whether or not to come forward when 142 of them file a lawsuit to reveal his identity.
Release Date: November 22, 2013
Thoughts: If all goes as planned Vince Vaughn will have a nice little summer hit with the enjoyable The Internship, putting him in a good spot for audiences to welcome another comedy later in 2013 that’s a remake the well-received a 2011 Canadian film Starbuck. Both movies were directed by the same guy (Ken Scott) that could pose a potential problem because history has shown that sometimes it’s easier to provide a shot-for-shot remake rather than truly remake the film from the bottom up. From what I know of Starbuck, Vaughn may be the best man in Hollywood for the job and based on an appealing turn in The Internship I’m putting this one a little higher on my list.
Synopsis: The tale of an outlaw who escapes from prison and sets out across the Texas hills to reunite with his wife and the daughter he has never met
Release Date: August 16, 2013
Thoughts: A film that looks to be an intriguing mix of Terrence Malik cinematic grandeur and Coen Brothers dark romantic triangles, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints may not be grammatically correct but it sure does look like a film to sit up and take notice of. Casey Affleck is one of the more underrated actors working in Hollywood today and this could finally be the film that wakes up Hollywood to an actor really coming into his own. Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Side Effects) is another fascinating actress that’s on the hot list right now thanks to her ‘all-in’ approach to her performances. Set against the ominous stretches of Texas back country, I’ll be interested in taking a look at this one later in the summer.
Synopsis: Hobbs has Dom and Brian reassemble their crew in order to take down a mastermind who commands an organization of mercenary drivers across 12 countries.
Stars: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Elsa Pataky, Luke Evans, Gina Carano
Director: Justin Lin
Running Length: 130 minutes
TMMM Score: (7.5/10)
Review: Big. Dumb. Fun. These three words describe not only Fast & Furious 6 (or is it Furious 6 as the title credits suggest?) but also its star. Though the film franchise has had its occasional bumps in the road, the movie owes much of its successful entries to Vin Diesel (Riddick), a modesty decent actor that is at least smart enough to know his limitations.
Coming off a surprisingly impressive fifth entry that showed there’s more than a little gas left in the tank, the sixth chapter keeps things speeding along so fast that the plot holes and implausible stunts just appear as roadside distractions on the way to your final destination. That’s mostly thanks to Diesel and director Justin Lin who returns for his fourth film in the director seat. By this point, Lin is old hat at highlighting the best assets of a muscled cast while still giving the audience what it came for – high octane action sequences that provide lots of popcorn entertainment.
This globe-hopping film brings back many of the characters from previous entries…being somewhat familiar with the series will benefit any viewer so you’re able to keep things straight. In fact, there’s someone from each of the preceding films that play a part here so the more you know who is who the better…especially for the post-credits scene that hints at where the seventh film (coming Summer 2014) is headed.
Wait…I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Furious 6 takes the characters in a slightly different direction as Diesel and his crew team up with the federal agent (Dwayne Johnson, Pain & Gain, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island) that was after them in Fast Five. Why do they join forces you may ask? Well (spoiler alert) it seems that Diesel’s girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), who seemed to meet her end at the beginning of #4 is alive and well with a case of amnesia. She’s working for the bad guys though (headed by Luke Evans, The Raven) that are out to steal a top secret government weapon.
That’s really all you need to know before heading into the film because after that basic set-up it’s primarily just a lot of well-staged action sequences that lead up to a ear-splitting finale involving a helluva lot of cars and one large airplane on what seems to be the longest runway in the history of modern cinema.
These films have a proven formula that’s rarely deviated from…which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because with each entry there’s a strange sense of refreshment from all involved. While some franchises can’t even spit out three films (see The Hangover III) the Fast and Furious flicks are doing well at #6 and looking forward to a seventh entry that’s already in pre-production. Back in the day I wouldn’t have attributed the success to Diesel and company but after sitting through this decidedly good natured film I must give credit where it’s due.
True, there should be a drop box as you enter the theater where you can deposit your brain and sense of logic but isn’t that what some of the more fun summer movies are all about? Don’t think too much about the stunts that would break the backs of everyday men and women but bask in the joy of seeing the stunts executed so realistically. Though it seems this entry has less car action than in the past, there’s some ingenious stunt work done when it comes time to rev those engines.
Franchise fans are in for a treat with this entry that isn’t quite as good as the last film but still makes a strong impression for those that have followed the series for the better part of a decade. One note…make sure you remember that #3 (Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) takes place AFTER the events of this film…you’ll enjoy the final tag more.
Review: First things first…this final chapter in The Hangover trilogy is much better than the hypnotically awful second entry from 2011. Still, the old adage that good things come in threes doesn’t apply here to a film that has a scant handful of laughs and goes out with a small guffaw. When The Hangover was released in 2009, it was an overnight hit that built on strong word of mouth with each passing week. I’ve revisited that film a few times over the years and while it doesn’t quite hold up as well with repeated viewings, it’s hard to deny that there were a lot of good ideas that landed above expectations thanks to smart writing and interesting performances.
As is widely agreed upon by audiences and critics alike, the sequel two years later was a total misfire…a basic remake of the first that confused disgusting gags for humor and tried in vain to capitalize on what made the original such a success. That same confusion exists within the third entry as well but there seems to be a little more effort put into the rounding off of these characters as they sail off into the sunset.
The film opens with one of the worst gags I’ve seen in film recently…if you’ve seen the trailer you know what’s coming for you and I watched these opening moments with a sinking sense of dread. They wouldn’t actually do that, I asked myself…right before they did. The follow-up scene is another laughless exercise and I had to turn to my friend and ask “This IS supposed to be a comedy, right?” Sadly, the laughs were rare as the film unspooled and though it does move fast over the course of its 100 minute run time, you really do notice that there’s little to enjoy as The Wolfpack get embroiled in another scheme involving kidnapping and stolen gold.
Make no doubt about it… this is Galifianakis’s show all the way and Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, Hit and Run, The Place Beyond the Pines) and Helms (The Lorax) are on hand to merely set-up his gags and not much else (poor Justin Bartha has even less to do as he’s once again sidelined early on). What worked so well about the original film was the way these unlikely friends played off of each other and though all three have worked steadily in the four years since it’s obvious that director/writer Todd Phillips found Galifianakis (The Campaign) the easiest to write for. That’s too bad because had Cooper and Helms been given more to do, they could have balanced a movie that’s weighed down by Galifianakis and his obtuse and only occasionally funny man-child antics.
The biggest mistake the film makes is moving peripheral character Mr. Chow front and center as part of the action which puts the biggest hole in this dingbat dinghy of a movie. Played by the supernaturally annoying Ken Jeong, the character scored big in his small part of the original film and struck out astronomically in Part II. Miraculously, in Part III he’s given even more to do which really ruins any chance the film had to succeed thanks to Jeong’s performance that seems to be culled from outtakes.
Though the film brings back some other characters from the previous installments and adds John Goodman (The Internship, Argo, Flight) to the mix, they are only there for show as Phillips fashions his film around gross-out humor and a disturbing amount of violence toward animals that’s meant to be humorous. While I’ve always appreciated the film’s center core of friendship against all odds, the goodwill of franchise fans is put to the test here with a finished product that’s not very satisfying but thankfully signals the end of the road for these people.
Synopsis: After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.
Stars: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, John Cho, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Peter Weller
Review: Here’s a math riddle to start my review of the sequel to 2009’s re-boot of Star Trek. What do you get when you add well-formed characters that evolve, solid special effects, an interesting villain, and a highly anticipated second chapter in a historic franchise? Well…Star Trek: Into Darkness of course. In movie math, this sequel really has it all when you look at what makes a summer blockbuster and its thanks to a dedicated production team that have gathered the right people that the movie flies as high as it does.
After the re-imagined Star Trek was such an orbital hit when it was released four years ago a sequel was greenlit before opening night audiences were tucked safely in their beds. Everyone was eager to see the further adventures of the revitalized crew of the Starship Enterprise…but little did people realize that the wait would be a little longer than expected. While director J.J. Abrahams went right to work on another film for Paramount (the way underappreciated Super 8) screenwriters Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof started to lay the groundwork for the follow-up film.
Turns out the subsequent four years was well worth the wait because Star Trek: Into Darkness represents a carefully formulated film designed for maximum impact for fans and the general movie-going population alike. While some knowledge of the previous film is nice, it’s certainly not a requirement to enjoy what Abrams, Orci, Kurtzman, and Lindelof have thought up in this mostly stand alone entry.
Opening in the middle of a breathless rescue mission on a primitive island, the crew of the Starship Enterprise hit the ground running (literally) as they race to stop a volcano from wiping out the native people. This is the one scene where the 3D technology works the best and I found myself instinctively dodging as spears fly by and towering plant life creep out.
With Kirk (Chris Pine, People Like Us) taking a hit for his actions in this mission, hard feelings develop between not only Kirk and Spock (Zachary Quinto) but also Spock and his lady love Uhura (Zoe Saldana) who questions his feelings for her. When the Federation is attacked by a mysterious figure (Benedict Cumberbatch) resulting in the death of a featured character, it’s up to the Enterprise crew to track him down and avoid dissention from within.
Moving at a breakneck speed, I found Star Trek: Into Darkness to be slightly superior to its predecessor mostly because it feels like the characters were allowed to expand and breathe a bit more in this film. While there were some colorful touches in the original (most notably Simon Pegg’s brilliant Scotty) there seemed to be a little tentativeness in the rest of the cast to truly make the roles their own. That hesitation doesn’t exist here and instead we have actors like Pine and Quinto stepping up and owning their interpretations of characters that have been around for four decades.
There was a lot of smoke and mirrors around Cumberbatch’s character and how he fits into the scheme of things and while the revelation wasn’t unexpected it’s thanks to Cumberbatch’s steely performance and unlikely choices that makes some of the secrets revealed so much fun. (Early reports had Benicio del Toro being thought of for the role…which wouldn’t have been nearly as good). Cumberbatch even manages to pull a little bait and switch action keeping us guessing for a while where his loyalties really are.
Abrahams seems to be the kind of filmmaker that Michael Bay (Pain & Gain) only wishes he could be, delivering a well-paced and handsome looking sci-fi stunner that builds and builds to a dynamic finale where a lot of expectations are thrown out the window. Though this updated franchise will continue on more missions, it seems likely that Abrahams won’t be in captain of the ship moving forward thanks to his deal to direct the next Star Wars film for Disney. Here’s hoping that the next director continues on with the forward thrust that Abrahams and company have provided.
Synopsis: Left for dead on a sun-scorched planet, Riddick finds himself up against an alien race of predators. Activating an emergency beacon alerts two ships: one carrying a new breed of mercenary, the other captained by a man from Riddick’s past.
Release Date: September 6, 2013
Thoughts: The character of Riddick must be one that haunts actor Vin Diesel (Fast and Furious 6) because he’s tried to set up a quasi franchise with the night-seeing anti-hero for well over a decade. First introduced as a secondary character in 2000’s modest hit Pitch Black, Diesel returned to the character in 2004 (bringing Judi Dench with him!) for The Chronicles of Riddick. I found that second film to be a bit of a mess so let’s hope that in the nearly ten years since the sequel was released this third film learned from the mistakes of its predecessor.
Synopsis: A New Jersey guy dedicated to his family, friends, and church, develops unrealistic expectations from watching porn and works to find happiness and intimacy with his potential true love.
Release Date: October 18, 2013
Thoughts: You may not know it but crafting a solid movie trailer is really an art form. Sure, anyone can make a bad movie look good if left in the hands of a master editor…but delivering a truly enjoyable trailer is a rare feat. So it’s with a wee bit of glee that I present the first trailer for Don Jon, the writing/directing debut from Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Dark Knight Rises, Looper, Premium Rush) and it looks like a slam-dunk winner for the dependable star. With ample amounts of laughs that I believe don’t give away the best parts, the preview is engaging and energetic as it clearly lays out what type of movie audiences can expect to find when it’s released in October. I’ll be one of the first in line.
Synopsis: Disgraced former Presidential guard Mike Banning finds himself trapped inside the White House in the wake of a terrorist attack; using his inside knowledge, Banning works with national security to rescue the President from his kidnappers.
Stars: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Dylan McDermott, Ashley Judd, Melissa Leo, Rick Yune
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Running Length: 120 minutes
TMMM Score: (5/10)
Review: It’s been said that timing is everything and if that’s true then the producing team behind Olympus Has Fallen should have listened to that wise old saying when it came time to release their film concerning a hostile takeover of the White House. Released back in March at the height of tensions between North Korea and the US, the film did respectable business but was nowhere near the type of pre-summer hit that everyone involved must have hoped for.
Truth be told, I’m not sure that the final product would have ever really caught on regardless of when it was released because it’s a largely goofy affair that scores highly on the tension scale but exhausts itself and the audience with melodramatic acting and far too many extraneous plot happenings. Opening in the shadow of July’s similarly themed White House Down, Olympus never really rises from the ashes of a been-there, done-that vibe that would have seemed more at home in a season of 24. Oh wait…24 DID do nearly the exact same plot in its second to last season.
Poor Gerard Butler just can’t catch a break when it comes to films. Though critics may make you think otherwise, he’s never been a true box office draw and a parade of stinkers in the last two years hasn’t helped his clout in Hollywood. Olympus Has Fallen is probably his best film of the bunch, mostly because it allows Butler’s more macho/muscular streak to emerge rather than bear the weight of the romantic comedy nightmares he’s been stuck in recently.
Here Butler is a former guard to the President, a role he loses after an iffy opening sequence set on an icy bridge involving the First Family. It’s never adequately explained how/why he gets bumped down a few notches on the Secret Service totem pole but it helps set up his redemption later in the film. Now he’s a paper pusher with a nice view of his former office from his standard D.C. digs.
When a terrorist attack leaves the White House in shambles and the President and his staff held hostage in an underground bunker, it’s up to Butler to perform a one-man rescue mission by any means necessary. The bulk of the first half of the film is taken up by the seemingly endless infiltration on 1600 Penn Ave by Korean militants that want the US to pull out of the DMZ between North and South Korea. To do so would surely mean the fall of South Korea but with the fate of our nation’s leaders at hands what choice do we have.
These kinds of films where US governments are held hostage by a foreign entity always make me squirm because the movies always go the same. It’s clearly stated that we do not negotiate with terrorists but when you flash a loved one in danger everyone always buckles. The body count in this one is high which adds some extra suspense in who truly will survive by the time the credits roll.
Working in what must have been left over set pieces from The West Wing, director Antoine Fuqua moves the action around with ease even though most of it takes place in shadowy darkness. It becomes hard to tell who is who…but when it’s just one man against the bad guys…you just need to focus on Butler and his bone-crushing methods of extracting information about the head villain in charge.
The big bad wolf is Rick Yune (Die Another Day) as one of the least intimidating villains in recent memory. Though he doesn’t hesitate to put a bullet into more than a few people, Yune’s calm delivery seems more sleepy that sociopathic. On the opposite side of the hero coin, Aaron Eckhart’s (The Dark Knight, Erin Brockovich) President Asher is underused and not called on to do much but play on his All-American looks to cut a believable presence as the Commander in Chief.
Filling out the cast are several overly earnest performances that never seem to gel with each other. Morgan Freeman (Oblivion, Now You See Me) is the Speaker of the House that’s thrust in charge when both the President and Vice President become indisposed. Freeman’s played the President before (in 1998’s Deep Impact) and he’s largely recreating that role here. Dylan McDermott and Ashley Judd pop up in pivotal roles and poor Radha Mitchell is the victim of overstuffing the turkey as Butler’s wife. This whole storyline between Butler and Mitchell has nothing to do with the plot and bogs the film down.
Two respected actresses are also on hand and both are fairly disappointing. Angela Bassett (This Means War) has little to do but give off of looks of both horrified terror and ballsy determination as the Secret Service Director. With each passing role Bassett seems more determined to simply toe the line and not step out of her comfort zone. Even worse is Oscar winner Melissa Leo (Oblivion) in an atrocious wig offering line deliverers that seem to be coming via satellite based on the way she pauses before each one. Leo growls and howls through most of the film…culminating in her unintentionally hilarious recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in pained agony. For my money, the actresses should have swapped roles…I’m slightly convinced they mistakenly were given the wrong roles and no one noticed until it was too late.
Even with its silly plot contrivances and less than stellar special effects the film does truck along with reckless abandon that entertains more often than not. You absolutely have to check your brain at the door and be prepared for some slightly tacky moments near the end when people start cracking jokes while standing in the middle of a sea of dead bodies. A rental at best, Olympus Has Fallen may eventually get the job done but you’ll have to decide for yourself if it’s really worth it at the end of the day.
Synopsis: A veteran pot dealer creates a fake family as part of his plan to move a huge shipment of weed into the U.S. from Mexico.
Release Date: August 9, 2013
Thoughts: Attempting to shed her Friends image yet again, Jennifer Aniston (Wanderlust) dives headfirst into this black comedy as a stripper that gets involved with a pot dealer, agreeing to pose as his wife along with two other phoney balonies that are to be their children. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber has a great name but a spotty track record when it comes to successful movies so this could go either way. Bonus points go for a trailer that has some nice laughs and a cast that I’m interested to see go all the way with this type of material.
Synopsis: Their relationship on the rocks, a young Brooklyn couple heads to a remote B&B to work things out. But from the moment they arrive at The Happy House it’s one disaster after another, and they soon begin to suspect they’ve wandered into a real life horror
Release Date: TBD 2013
Thoughts: These quirky little indies are always a mysterious grab bag, you never know exactly what you’re going to get until you’re sitting in a theater or in your home taking them in. I’m thinking this one may be one of the lesser efforts based on an iffy trailer that doesn’t really offer a compelling reason to sign up to watch the whole film. Mostly written up here because the poster intrigued me enough to read up on the piece, I’ll have to read some reviews of this one first before trying it out.