Quick Movie Review: Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

star trek into darkness

The fact that it doesn’t have the unique reboot premise of its predecessor almost alone makes Star Trek Into Darkness just as impressive.

It doesn’t have time travel, but it does have ridiculously awesome action sequences and a lot of jaw dropping visuals.

This time around, Captain Kirk, Spock, and the crew must face the killing machine, Khan, played by the always-macabre, Benedict Cumberbatch.

What’s at stake here may not be as catastrophic as the 2009 film either, but you wouldn’t know otherwise. It provides an interesting and detailed story without a complicated or convoluted narrative–sucking us right in.

The jokes are kept appropriate to the situations. They’re never forced or too comic-booky. The film is fun without ever resorting to silliness, which is common among this reboot franchise. It tends to avoid the Avengers route. The quips are delivered with conviction and the banter usually comes from a place of stress, providing just the right amount of levity.

2009’s Star Trek mostly blind-sided us. Fanboys were shocked at how awesome it was, and non-fans were surprised at how much they loved it. This one didn’t have as much to prove, but it delivered regardless, giving us 132 minutes of gripping story, compelling characters, and near-perfect pacing. I’d say it did just fine.

Twizard Rating: 99



Quick Movie Review: Now You See Me (2013)

now you see me

Everyone loves magic tricks. The wonder has been ingrained in us since our childhood. And movies about magic are usually just as enjoyable. This one is no exception.

Four individual magicians–each with a different specialty–get summoned by some mysterious master magician to join together and perform “tricks” to steal from the rich and give to the poor. Meanwhile, a frustrated FBI agent, played by Mark Ruffalo, can’t seem to figure out how it’s all happening. He teams up with a female Interpol agent (Melanie Laurent) to put a stop to the madness.

The dynamics among the magicians are fun and kept very light. The tricks they perform are, at times, very fascinating to the point that we wish we could go to Vegas to watch their show. We become invested in the lives of these people because the writers let us. But then something happens–our focus is forcibly changed.

For the last 60-90 minutes we are pretty much solely focused on Ruffalo’s character. We don’t want to be, but we are. And as we travel deeper into the story, the befuddlement steadily increases. Luckily, the film makes itself fairly easy to focus on to somewhat help negate the convolution.

It helps to rewatch this movie. But then again, seeing behind the curtain–which is the ending–may cause you to feel like you’ve been manipulated. Realizing the filmmakers trick you into seeing what they want you to. And depending on how much you like magic tricks, you may or may not be happy about it.

But see, putting together a movie is different than live magic tricks. Filmmakers can make up their own rules, using cuts and edits to change your perspective–not slight-of-hand–making much of it feel contrived. Personally, I wouldn’t say that it bothers me. It just feels too easy here.

We do get a good bang four our buck with plenty of subplots. There is one about Morgan Freeman who plays a magic debunker smugly trying to crack these elaborate tricks. He has a rivalry with Michael Caine, who acts as a financier for the magicians’ performances. Caine exits about an hour in, but Freeman has much left to accomplish. And amidst all the action, there is an obvious romance building between Ruffalo and Laurent.

But all of the story-building amongst the characters only helps to thin them all out in the process. There is little depth. And the depth that’s established feels forced.

Mind you, none of this changes the fact that this film is wildly entertaining. How can you call it anything but? It’s gripping from beginning to end, and the way it’s set up, you will probably end up wanting more. Give it huge points for that. Beyond that, though, I can see why people feel slighted.

Twizard Rating: 84

Quick Movie Review: Starred Up (2014)

starred up

Superbly acted and brilliantly directed, Starred Up presents us with one of the most realistic prison films we’ve ever seen. You forget you’re watching a movie and immediately get brought into this world of brutality and subversiveness.

We have Eric (Jack O’Connell) who gets starred up–or prematurely moved from a juvenile detention to an adult prison–and finds that his father (Ben Mendelsohn) is there too.

The script brilliantly draws contemplative parallels between the hierarchies within the prison system, as well as the circular despondency that it creates. It also portrays a father-son relationship in a way that I don’t think has really ever been done in cinema.

Everything works how you would want it to in a film of this nature. It’s just never clear as to why Eric or his dad are in prison to begin with.

Starred Up leaves a couple of questions unanswered, but never strays from the realistic atmosphere it sets for itself. It’s definitely hard to watch and the characters’ banter might be just as difficult to understand–so you might want to use subtitles.

Twizard Rating: 97

Quick Movie Review: The To Do List (2013)

to do list

Aubrey Plaza may have a unique comedic style, but it’s not one that I particularly like. I gave her a chance with The To Do List, but less than 5 minutes into the movie I not only thought she was unfunny, but I also realized that she can’t act. Her most sincere lines were delivered with such awkwardness and feigner. And even in a film with this level of flippancy you need that genuineness in order to care about the character.

Plaza plays Brandy, a goodie-two-shoes high school graduate who is constantly made fun of for being a virgin. She throws all her morals out the window when she sees a guy that she wishes to sleep with. She then compiles a list of experiences she wants to have to better prepare herself for her rendezvous with this guy.

The To Do List is insensitive and so is everyone in it. No one is nice to each other and everyone is too self-righteous to learn any type of lesson. Throughout her “journey” Brandy learns next-to-nothing. She hurts those closest to her on several occasions and ignores the reasons why after they each confront her. These friends just all end up forgiving her without actually discussing their individual issues with her actions.

Bill Hader can’t even save this film. It’s unfunny and the dialogue is painfully bad. The only saving grace of this movie is that it takes place in 1993, which provides for a great soundtrack. But with an unappealing cast with an even more unappealing lead I can’t recommend this film to even the biggest American Pie fans.

Twizard Rating: 44

Quick Movie Review: Clear History (2013)

clear history

Larry David proves once again that his humor is still relevant and that he can still retain our attention on screen regardless of his age. After his character, Nathan Fromm, gets into a tiff with his boss and sells back his 10% share of a soon-to-be multibillion dollar company, he moves to Martha’s Vineyard to start a new life under a new name, Rolly DaVore, to escape the nationwide humiliation that this ordeal turned out to be. We fast forward 10 years. No one knows of his past and a once cynical nihilist can now be loved and enamored as well as we all hope to be.

Regardless of its irreverent and politically incorrect nature, Clear History carries quite a lot of depth.

In life many of us have to chose between being smart and being lovable. While most of Nathan’s life he has chosen the former, he now realizes that being loved feels pretty good. He’s made great friends and relationships that he doesn’t want to lose. He started over fresh.

Then, all of a sudden, his former boss, Will (Jon Hamm), moves into town. Rolly/Nathan starts reverting to his old ways again and old attitudes start coming out. Even some of his biggest admirers begin realizing that he’s really just a dick. However, we feel for Rolly. We realize that sometimes it’s hard to stay sane when everyone around you is so mindlessly blissful.

But is it really worth it to be truly pliable just so you can be a billionaire? If all it takes is a little smiling and nodding and just going along with everyone else who has rose colored glasses in order to be rich, would you? You’d have to chose between your own sanity and riches. Nathan chose sanity.

It speaks as an ode to the arrogant. This movie makes you feel for them, while demonstrating what happens if you continue down that road.

Honestly, I think the only thing I would have liked more about this movie is if it had Will give the money to Rolly regardless. I mean, it’s not terribly unfathomable that he would want to blow up his former boss’ house. I mean, many people kill themselves in the situation he went through. Will can just build a new house, while Rolly watched his whole life disappear. We want that redeeming value. After all, we like Rolly. Perhaps that’s the point though. Or perhaps it just serves the film’s irreverence.

Either way, it’s about as intriguing and unique of a story that you’ll find. It’s even better than much of the stuff you’ll see in theaters. And it’s sprinkled with the perfect amount of goofy to make it feel right at home with you.

Twizard Rating: 92

Quick Movie Review: The Kings of Summer (2013)


I wish The Kings of Summer had been around when I was in high school–not because I had a bad relationship with my parents, but because it would have been awesome to be inspired to build a house in the woods. I really like this movie. The acting is impressive, the characters are fun to watch grow, and it’s really funny. The humor is very unique and a bit surrealist, which is right down my alley.

When it comes down to it, this is a very simple film. It succeeds at inspiring and entertaining all at once–an objective that is usually just aspired to, compromised by one of the two elements. Although their time in the woods isn’t terribly eventful, the character development and dialogue is fun to experience.

The pacing is a little irregular, but director Jordan Vogt-Roberts uses it as an advantage. Usually I’m not a huge fan of uneven tone, but in this situation it brings so much charm to the film. However, I do wish that there was a better sense of location. The whole time I wondered where this takes place–I must have blinked once.

The movie does a good job of keeping you on the edge of your seat while using it’s uneven tone to its advantage–keeping you thinking that anything can happen next.

There’s not a lot about The Kings of Summer that I don’t like, except for the fact that it ended too soon.

Twizard Rating: 95

Quick Movie Review: Charlie Countryman (2013)

Shia LaBeouf is a genius in this movie. He is at 100% here and undeniably believable. And the rest of the actors are great as well. It knows when not to take itself too seriously and when to be dark while somehow keeping a consistent tone. However you just want it to be deeper than it is. Shia’s acting makes you feel like we know more about his character, Charlie, but when you stop to think about it, we really don’t. But you WANT to! He seems so fascinating! There are a few points in the script that cause you to ask questions, but none of them are too distracting and the alternatives won’t change the outcome of the film anyway.

I do give credit to the script for its great theme of following your heart to the ends of the earth without any regrets and never doubting your love. I also commend the director for acknowledging these themes and succeeding in bringing them to life. I love a movie where you know that the director is getting his exact points across in the exact way that he had intended–and when its this obvious in watching the finished product.

Overall, it was really enjoyable to me and kept my attention thoroughly. It just makes me never want to go to Bucharest.

Twizard Rating: 92

Quick Movie Review: The Bling Ring (2013)

This is a film about the rich stealing from the rich. There is a lot of social commentary expressed in the details of this movie. It parallels these kids aspiring to live the lives of celebrities and needing to have it all. Chasing something that they don’t have and never realizing that it’s still not there–even though the audience does. And the lack of privacy in the celebrities lives is how they end up being so “good” at burglarizing their homes, but it’s that lack of privacy which ultimately does them in at the end. 

There was depth in these characters as a group through the nature of the story, however I found myself wanting a little more focus on their individual development rather than focusing too much on what it’s trying to say about our culture. Although, maybe this lack of depth streamlines the point of the film even better. And either way, this is the decision of the filmmaker and maybe that was the route that she wanted to take. But even still, it could have used just a little more critique of the rich and famous lifestyle than it gives because it finds itself teetering at times.

Although the script wasn’t all that great and there wasn’t a whole lot of meat, the way the plot developed was unique. It’s not quite the Social Network/Spring Breakers mashup that it strives to be, but it does tell the story well. And Coppola’s direction isn’t perfect, but I do like how she allows the actors to have a very natural free-flowing behavior as they interact with each other. 

Overall, this isn’t really my taste tone-wise, but I did really enjoy the story that was told and the statements that it made

Twizard Rating: 74

Quick Movie Review: Lovelace (2013)

Not sure why this film got such mediocre reviews. I liked it actually. The story telling was really cool how they told the same story twice in a row showing it in a different light each time. It helped to juxtapose what everyone else saw with what reality was. To some, this way of showcasing events may have been this film’s downfall as they felt as though it should have used all of that time to gradually show the rise and fall of Linda Lovelace instead. I’m not sure I agree 100% because the rise and fall wasn’t gradual at all–it was only 17 days. It’s supposed to feel somewhat quick, otherwise we would feel fooled that the timeline was a lot longer than it actually was. The filmmakers do a good job ot expressing their opinions at first and letting the story speak for itself, remaining unbiased. Then as events unfold, the audience is as surprised as the readers of Ordeal probably were. Linda’s own introspect was fully realized until her monologue at the end. But I think that was slightly the point–it’s not that the filmmakers didn’t want to show Linda addressing how she felt about everything that was happening, but they knew that she DIDN’T address how she felt because she felt like she couldn’t. This is why the story was told in such a unique way–to be as muted as Linda had to be back then.

I think this is almost as good of a film about this story that we could get–until someone comes along and proves me wrong. Amanda Seyfried was amazing in her best role yet. No matter if you like it or not, I guarantee that you won’t feel like it was a waste of time watching it.

Twizard Rating: 86

2013 Oscar Snubs

So, one of my top 5 favorite things to do in the world is to complain about the Academy and their decisions to nominate (or lack thereof) certain films or people compete for their prestigious awards. Here is my own personal list of who I felt could have been included in this year’s race. Many of these are widely known across the Oscarverse as snubs, while some of them may not be as agreed upon. I know I’m a little late on the snub post, but better late than never I guess.

Best Picture

Snub: Skyfall…although this is the first year in forever where I actually like all of the Best Picture nominees, I do think that there is room for, in my opinion, one of the top Bond films of all time, as well as one of the best films of the year.

Who It Should Replace: Well, since there are only 9 nominees and the cap is 10, it could fit on without any of the current ones being taken off. But if you had to take one off, it could probably be Amour.

Honorable Mention: Robot & Frank and Seven Psychopaths should have at least been talked about a little bit more.

Best Actor

Snub: John Hawkes in The Sessions. I would also make a case for Tom Hardy in Lawless.

Who He Should Replace: Denzel Washington in Flight. Although Denzel’s performance was great, Hawkes’ was career-defining and so much more convincing. In such a great year for leading actor performances, it’s hard to place Denzel above a handfull others who, in my opinion, should be there instead.

Honorable Mention: Tom Hardy in Lawless, Richard Gere in Arbitrage, Anthony Hopkins in Hitchcock, Bill Murray in Hyde Park on Hudson, and several others….This is the reason why I’ve always felt that the Best Actor category should be like the Best Picture category and have between 5 and 10 nominees depending on the vote percentage.

Best Actress

Snub: Helen Mirren in Hitchcock AND Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone

Who They Should Replace: Naomi Watts in The Impossible, and Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty

Best Supporting Actor

Snub: Javier Bardem in Skyfall, and Samuel L. Jackson in Django Unchained.

Who They Should Replace: Alan Arkin in Argo, and Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master.

Honorable Mention: Dwight Henry in Beasts of the Southern Wild, and I’ll probably get shunned for saying this, but I think Giovanni Ribisi would have been an interesting candidate for his role in Ted. Yeah, sure, he probably shouldn’t have gotten nominated over these others, but he should have at least been talked about in contention.

Best Supporting Actress

Snub: Any one that’s not Amy Adams in The Master

Who They Should Replace: Amy Adams in The Master. I still have no idea how she got nominated.

Best Director

Snub: Ben Affleck for Argo, AND Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained

Who They Should Replace: Michael Haneke for Amour, and Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild

Honorable Mention: Tom Hooper for Les Miserables. I don’t think Kathryn Bigelow should be here, despite popular belief.

Best Animated Feature

Snub: Rise of the Guardians…much reminiscent of last year’s Arthur Christmas, which was also a Christmas film and failed to get nominated.

Who It Should Replace: The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Best Foreign Language Film

Snub: The Intouchables

Who It Should Replace: A Royal Affair

Best Original Screenplay

Snub: Looper AND Seven Psychopaths

Who They Should Replace: Moonrise Kingdom and Zero Dark Thirty

Best Adapted Screenplay

Snub: There are a few screenplays, such as The Sessions, or The Hobbit, or The Dark Knight Rises, or even The Avengers that could be considered here, but I’m not sure that I would be able to replace any of the existing nominees.

Who They Should Replace: If I had to choose, I would pick Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Best Original Score

Snub: Cloud Atlas or Beasts of the Southern Wild

Who It Should Replace: Anna Karenina

Honorable Mention: The Hobbit

Technical Categories

Snub: Cloud Atlas for Production Design, to replace The Hobbit

Snub: The Dark Knight Rises for Sound Editing, to replace Argo