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MOVIE REVIEWS
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Jul 23 12

By Matt Patches

Every story hinges on something to care about, and with larger-than-life comic book movies, that hook is even more important. Batman Begins delivers on a sweeping origin story — the first moments of a true hero. The Dark Knight downplayed its defender of justice to make way for a villain who struck true fear into our hearts, making us pray for someone could put an end to the unfiltered chaos. The Dark Knight Rises, director Christopher Nolan's third installment in his Batman franchise, packs a whole lot of cinematic stuff into two-and-a-half hours, but never sparks with a particular emotional undercurrent. On an entertainment scale, sizzling performances and large-scale action are outweighed by a clunky script. Dark Knight Rises unleashes tons of ideas, but rarely are any worth caring about.

The film picks up eight years after The Dark Knight, when Batman/Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is in hiding for a crime he didn't commit: the murder of D.A. Harvey Dent. Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) knows the truth of Dent's demise, but the untimely death invigorates the police of Gotham in unprecedented ways. Crime has all but vanished in the city, and for nearly a decade, Gotham hasn't really needed a Batman. ALTIt's not until hulking mercenary Bane (Tom Hardy) arrives on the scene, ready to strike up city-wide destruction without mercy, that Batman sees his new purpose. The emergence of the menacing threat — along with the appearance of Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a cat burglar with bigger plans than just jewel thievery up her sleeves — pulls Batman out of retirement. Unfortunately for Mr. Wayne, kicking butt as a caped crusader isn't like riding a bike, and the playboy-turned-superhero overestimates his abilities to take on his muscled foe. Batman is no match for Bane, who cripples the city from the inside out with terrorism that turns Gotham into an anarchistic jungle.


Jul 04 12

By Jenni Miller

Tyler Perry's most famous character Madea is actually the least obnoxious part of his latest movie, Madea's Witness Protection. Given that Madea is Perry in drag as an overweight gray-haired woman who delights in threatening people with violence, this is pretty amazing.

The Madea movies aren't supposed to be nuanced character portraits, they're Teachable Moments. In this case, it's about shady businesses and Ponzi schemes — Bernie Madoff is even referred to by name. Although there's no doubt we're all feeling the repercussions of the 2008 financial crisis and will be for some time to come, Madoff isn't exactly breaking news any more. Perry also wants to have his cake and eat it too, showing the greed and corruption of big companies while also offering at least one of the people at fault both the benefit of the doubt and a shot at redemption. ALTNone of it adds up, and half of the movie is taken up by a tiresome group of snobs who deserve their comeuppance at the hands of Madea.


Jul 04 12

By Matt Patches

First thing's first: Magic Mike delivers on the eye candy. Club Xquisite, the wildest male strip club in Tampa, sports an ensemble of muscled men ready to flash their ridiculous moves in even more ridiculous dance numbers (this crew has never seen a pair of assless pants they didn't like). Bringing a few dollar bills to the movie is recommended — Magic Mike is shot up close and personal enough that flailing them about will come naturally.

But between the codpieces, air humping, and penis pumps Magic Mike tells a surprisingly relatable, funny, and poignant parable, centered on a character all too familiar to anyone with an ounce of ambition. Mike (Channing Tatum) leads a triple life: By day, he's a roof tiler; by night, an exotic dancer; and in his dreams, he's a furniture craftsman and entrepreneur. When Mike first crosses paths with Adam (Alex Pettyfer), his worries about the future are dispelled, slipping right into mentor mode to show the 19-year-old the wonders of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Adam's broke and without direction — the perfect state of being for a stripper-in-the-making. ALTMike's sales pitch is irresistible, and when Adam unwillingly takes the stage for the first time, he feels the rush of a dozen woman screaming, groping, and stuffing singles down his jock strap. There's no question: A stripper's life is a journey worth embarking on.


Jul 04 12

By Matt Patches

Boldly proclaimed on the posters for Ted is a divisive phrase: "The first motion picture from the creator of Family Guy." Seth MacFarlane's kooky, profane, animated TV show has its diehard fans and vocal dissenters, but the the writer's leap to the big screen is an impressive stretch that should suit both groups (or, perhaps, neither). The tale of a boy and his sentient stuffed bear, Ted takes the classic mold of a '50s comedy and stuffs it full of MacFarlane's signature foul-mouthed humor. The result is sweet, sick and satisfyingly simple. For a movie about a talking toy with a drug, alcohol and sex problem, Ted is surprisingly low concept.

Avoiding the over-explanatory storytelling pitfalls of most deranged comedies, Ted cuts to the chase. When John (Mark Wahlberg) was a kid, he wished for his teddy bear to come to life. Unexpectedly, Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) did come to life, dedicating himself to becoming John's best buddy forever. ALTIntegrating into the real world with the utmost ease (albeit finding momentary fame for being "that toy that came to life"), Ted and John's friendship seldom hits a bump, even when the human half of the pair finds love with Lori (Mila Kunis). The biggest hurdle comes four years into couple's relationship: Lori feels the urge to settle down; John is waiting to move up the ranks of his dead end rental car job; Ted just wants to smoke pot and watch more Cheers DVD commentaries with John. Real life problems.


Jul 04 12

By Matt Patches

Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky, Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime, first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race, second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel, but stunning visuals, shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.

Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design, Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet, one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. ALTAlong for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron), the ruthless Weyland proxy, Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain, a slew of faceless scientists, and David (Michael Fassbender), HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene, zipping up high-tech spacesuits, jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.


Jul 04 12

By Matt Patches

The Amazing Spider-Man would prefer if you didn't call it the fourth Spider-Man movie. See, this ain't the Spider-Man your older brother knew from ten years ago — it's a reboot. The latest adventure to feature the comic book webslinger throws three movies worth of established mythology straight out the window, swapping the original cast with an ensemble of fresh faces and resetting the franchise with a spiffy new origin story. "New" in the loosest sense of the word — the highlights of ASM, mainly a sleek new design and spunky reinterpretation of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and gal pal Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone), are weighed down by overpowering sense of familiarity. Nearly a beat for beat replica of the 2002 original with some irksome twists of mystery thrown in, Amazing Spider-Man fails to evolve its hero or his quarrels. The film has a great sense of cinematic power, but little responsibility in making it interesting.

We're first introduced to Peter Parker as a young boy, watching as his parents rush out of the house in response to a hidden danger. Mr. and Mrs. Parker leave their son in the care of his Aunt May (Sally Fields) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen), who raise him into Andrew Garfield's geeky cool spin on the character. Parker's a science whiz but faces the challenges of every day life — passing classes, talking to girls, the occasional jock with aggression issues — but all of life's woes are put on hold when the teen discovers a new clue in the mystery behind his parents' disappearance. ALTThe discovery of his dad's old briefcase and notes leads Peter to Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), a scientist working for mega-conglomerate Oscorp and his Dad's old partner. When they cross paths, Connors instantly takes a liking to the wunderkind, and loops him into the work he started with his father: replicating the regeneration abilities of lizards in amputee humans (Connors is driven to reform his own missing arm). But when Parker wanders into Oscorp's room full of spiders (a sloppily explained this-needs-to-be-here-for-this-to-happen device), he receives his legendary spider bite that transforms him into the hero we know.


Jun 27 12

The Ocean's trilogy of movies are among the most popular casino movies of all time. For moviegoers that have not had the opportunity to watch the trilogy of movies, you can best describe the films as caper comedies but ones that are move humor-driven as opposed to violence-driven. Today we will take a look at the Ocean's trilogy of films.

Ocean's Eleven was the first and most popular of the trilogy of movies. The film stars George Clooney as Danny Ocean, Julia Roberts as Tess, Andy Garcia as Terry Benedict, and Matt Damon as Linus Caldwell. The first film's plot revolves around Danny Ocean's plan to rob the Bellagio, one of the major Las Vegas casinos. While this appears to be your run of the mill caper plot, there is seemingly a deeper motive behind his heist.

Tess is currently involved with Terry Benedict, the owner of the casino and Danny is trying to get her back from the film. It appears near the end of the film that Ocean gives up all the money in exchange for Benedict releasing Tess out their relationship. Viewers find out later that this is a rouse and Ocean ends up with both the money and the girl.


Jun 26 12

By Matt Patches

Thanks to a filmography filled with modern classics like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Wall-E, Pixar Animation has a high bar set for themselves. Each new film is unfairly compared to the last — really, can every animated blockbuster be an existential silent film starring a robot? — with "good" Pixar movies feeling subpar. The feeling is unavoidable. The studio's latest, Brave, suffers from the comparison. With a messy plot and inconsistent tone, the movie sails under Pixar expectations and then some. The fairy tale feels directed by committee — something you might expect from the umpteenth entry of Shrek — instead of telling a singular story. Brave timidly enters the arena of female-centric fare and exits badly bruised.

ALTMerida (Kelly Macdonald) isn't like her fellow Disney princesses — she's tough, loves an adventure and could care less about who she's going to marry. But her passion for archery, rock climbing and all things Scottish warrior come into contention with her mother, The Queen (Emma Thompson), who hopes to pair her up with one of the Highlands' finest in order to mend a divide between the country's clans. Finding no help from her burly father Fergus (Billy Connolly), Merida decides to "change her fate" (a phrase you'll be endlessly repeating in your worst Scottish accent after the credits roll) on her own, first besting her suitors at target practice then abandoning the coupling ceremony all together.


Jun 26 12

By Matt Patches

One scene sums up the mind-boggling, inconsistent, completely lacking in self-awareness antics on display in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: with a female vamp mere inches from digging her fangs into his neck, Lincoln (Ben Walker) is rescued by his bumbling cohort Speed (Jimmi Simpson), who breaks through the wall of a mansion by driving a horse and carriage through it. Like a truck. Because horses are as powerful as trucks.

The inherent ridiculousness of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter requires an acknowledgement of said ridiculousness, but director Timur Bekmambetov doesn't seem to be in on the joke. Instead of winking, he and writer Seth Grahame-Smith (adapting from his own novel) steep the story to historical accuracy (seriously) and fill in the major plot holes and illogic with aggressively incoherent action scenes. ALTEmploying his hyper-kinetc, CG-filled style from Wanted, Bekmambetov crafts a straight-up Lincoln biopic with rewired origins. Now, Lincoln is inspired to study law, take a stand in the U.S. government, run for President and emancipate the slaves because if he doesn't, vampires will take over America; His personal valet, William H. Johnson (Anthony Mackie), is actually his parter-in-crime, slicing and dicing vampiric foes in two with all the agility of a ninja; And teaching them how to conduct their vampire hunting business is Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), who also encourages Abe to wipe all bloodsuckers off the planet — not just the one who killed his parents.


Jun 26 12

By Matt Patches

Instead of following a ragtag team of brutes hired for a suicide mission to destroy an Earth-bound meteor, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World plays out the apocalyptic "what if?" scenario from the everyman vantage point. Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria (Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist), the film pairs average joe Dodge (Steve Carell) with wallflower Penny (Keira Knightley) for a journey across the east coast, a hunt for Dodge's college sweetheart. Scafaria takes a character-first approach to her anti-blockbuster, examining the end of the world with a pitch black sense of humor. But the road trip loses steam as it chugs along, with the film's insistence to avoid Hollywood disaster tropes taking a toll on the entertainment value. Dodge and Penny are so normal, they aren't that interesting to watch. In turn, neither is Seeking a Friend.

Worse for Dodge than the whole "destruction of humanity" thing is the fact that he's facing it alone; his wife leaves him, he has no real family, and he hates nearly all of his friends. ALTWhile everyone he knows is either hooking up or shooting up in hopes of going out on a high note, Dodge buckles under the weight of an existential crisis that feels all too familiar. To his rescue is next-door neighbor Penny, who insists the two hit the road together to go find Dodge's one-that-got-away. They don't have much of a choice, as New York City is quickly overrun by Malatov cocktail-hurling riots.


Jun 26 12

By Matt Patches

The magical R-rating is both a gift and a curse to Adam Sandler's signature brand of lowbrow humor. In That's My Boy, the comedian returns to the dim-witted roots that made him a star in early outings like Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore (complete with high-pitched, mushmouth accent), but with a ramped up "ew" factor. Unrestrained, Sandler piles on as many expletives and gross-out scenarios as a two-hour movie can hold — and it works out quite well. With costar Samberg nailing the disgusted straight man role, Sandler's penchant for acting like a fool is enhanced by the sick stylings of director Sean Anders (Sex Drive) and only occasionally teetering into truly offensive territory. Laughs aren't guaranteed, but the movie provokes (which is a big step up from Jack and Jill).

Back in the '80s, Donny had a secret relationship with his teacher Ms. McGarricle that resulted in a son, Han Solo (he's a middle schooler, what do you expect?). The torrid affair put McGarricle in jail, Donny into celebrity tabloid spotlight and Han Solo in the hands of a tween father. ALTThirty years later, everyone's screwed up: Donny (Adam Sandler) is a drunk on the brink of jail time for tax evasion, McGarricle's still in jail, and Han Solo (Andy Samberg), now "Todd," is a successful number-cruncher with severe social issues. On the weekend of Todd's wedding, Donny reenters his life, hoping to bring revive their relationship and reunite him with his mother — that is, on camera, so Donny can make $50,000 from a gossip TV show and stay out of the slammer. Posing as Todd's long-lost best friend, Donny stirs up trouble, becoming buddies with Todd's friends and family and acting like a imbecile.


Jun 26 12

By Kelsea Stahler

A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big, juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory, but when it comes to serving up laughs, just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes, even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.

It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures, the series has not only maintained its momentum, it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.


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