Non-Stop ***

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“Non-Stop” is the latest action flick to star Liam Neeson after the success of “Taken” from 2009. This time he plays an air marshall on a flight to London. When the plane is threatened by an unknown enemy, Neeson must race against time to figure out which passenger it is and save the innocent.

The film starts as Neeson’s character is finishing a few drinks before his flight. We get the sense that he has had some troubles in his life. When the flight starts he finds himself sitting next to an odd lady played by Julianne Moore. She goes from passenger to passenger awkwardly asking for their window seat. Neeson and Moore strike up friendly conversation just as Neeson starts receiving anonymous texts from someone threatening to kill passengers. The unknown terrorist demands 150 million dollars be transferred in to an account and he will murder someone every 20 minutes until it is complete.

Neeson essentially plays a variation of the character he has now portrayed in a few different paranoid thrillers such as “Unknown” and the previously mentioned “Taken”. He is good at playing this type of role but I hope he doesn’t start to become stuck in them.

The film was directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown), and written by John W. Richardson, Chris Roach
and Ryan Engle. Together they craft a well made, sometimes tense and exciting thriller. I personally was able to pin point the villain of the film very early on but I did second guess myself a few times. If you have enjoyed Neeson’s action films so far than you will probably enjoy this as well.

Robocop (2014) **

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I have been against this “Robocop” remake since it was announced. The original film came out in the 80′s and is considered a classic. Why make a new version instead of a totally original film? To make money is the obvious answer. Sure the original film’s visual effects are out of date but that just adds to the charm. But here we are with yet another remake.

“Robocop” follows the same story outline as the original film but really expands on the building of the Robocop suit as well as his training. Detective Alex Murphy is on the trail of police corruptions involving a local crime boss. When he is critically injured after a car bombing, his wife makes the crucial decision to allow I did find a lot of these moments fairly fascinating. There are some neat visual moments, such as when the suit is removed to find that only Alex’s head and lungs seem to be remaining. I also liked the part where Alex wakes up for the first time from his coma. We see him at a family BBQ when suddenly the scene sort of drifts in to the lab setting he is actually in and we realize he is dreaming.

At this point I was actually enjoying the film. It is when Robocop is released in to the streets of Detroit that the film sort of falls apart. Obviously Alex is going to want to solve his own attempted murder, which he resolves fairly easily, leaving him with not too much to do for the last half of the flick. There is a lot of political subplots involving the corporation that built Robocop and the government that wants to regulate his use which sort of dominates almost every scene. Michael Keaton and Gary Oldman sort of overtake these scenes as they struggle with what is right for humanity.

The film also ends with a lot of unnecessary CGI action and violence, none of which can hold a candle to the over the top gore of the original film. Here everything is watered down for the PG-13 crowd in an attempt to maximize the opening weekend box office. This is a real shame because a lot of the charm of the original film was the dark humor involving moments of gruesome, unexpected violence.

Well an other week and another failure of a remake. I have been dreading this film for a while now and it failed to surprise me in almost every way. The performances are good but the product does not offer much compared to the source material.

The LEGO Movie – ***1/2

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Everything is awesome! That is the song that the citizens in “The Lego Movie” listen to over and over. That is also what I was thinking during this movie. What an exhilarating cinematic experience. This movie took me back to my childhood when I was obsessed with Lego. The fact that it is absolutely hilarious and heartfelt just added to my experience watching this movie.

The main character is Emmet, voiced by the very funny Chris Pratt. Emmet lives his life exactly the same as everyone else and enjoys doing it. He is so positive that he shouts “Awesome!” when he is charged 37 dollars for a coffee. When he comes in contact with a sacred piece of lego he is thrust in to a journey to save his kind from the oppression of President Business voiced perfectly by Will Ferrell.

Other characters who join the fun are Batman (Will Arnett), Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), Metal Beard (Nick Offerman), along with 1980 Something Space-Guy (Charlie Day), Superman (Channing Tatum) and Green Lantern (Jonah Hill). Each actor brings their distinctive personal styles to these characters, making them fresh, fun and fully entertaining. I especially liked the blind arrogance of Batman, who at one point hitches a ride on the Millenium Falcon!

The writing and directing team include Phil Lord and Chris Miller who brought us the very funny “21 Jump Street” remake and it’s impending sequel due out later this year. Based on these two movies I can say that these guys get comedy. They show us how to mock popular culture right. I love how they don’t try to dumb down the dialogue in these movies. The screenplay has a lot of wit and dry humor for the adults as well as lots of great jokes for the kids as well. And just when you thought the film could not be more creative and original, suddenly there is a surprise twist that flipped the plot on to it’s head.

I love when a movie completely surprises me in so many different ways. “The Lego Movie” is just such a movie. It celebrates peoples love for the Lego toys as well as the cultural phenomenon that Lego has been for decades now. It is also a phenomenally made movie. The animation is pitch perfect and always stunning. This is the best movie so far this year.

The Monuments Men **

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I was very much looking forward to “The Monuments Men” and I am flat out shocked at just how much I simply disliked it. I found it to be a disjointed and unfocused mess of a movie that really doesn’t engage it’s subject nearly enough. I had never heard of this story before and I love when a movie sheds light on small pieces of history like this but I came out without about as much knowledge as I went in with.

The cast is impressive but they didn’t seem gel together properly. It felt like each character was in their own movie. George Clooney, who also writes and directs, plays Frank Stokes, who puts a team of art historians, museum curators, and architects in an attempt to recover stolen art and relics from the Nazi’s in World War II. His team consists of characters played by Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bill Murray, Jean Dujardin, and Bob Balaban. Murray in particular seems like he is operating in a totally different genre of film.

The men are put through basic training, which they do not take seriously, and then are dropped in to the war behind the Allies. This is where the film starts to meander a bit as the boys attempt to find transportation as well as some backup. They eventually split up with different missions. Damon is sent to Paris to connect with a French curator played by Cate Blanchett, who as forced by the Nazi’s to assist in the theft of art for a proposed Nazi museum. They hint at a possible romance that never really goes anywhere.

Balaban and Murray go looking for a specific set of panel art stolen from a cathedral. They get sidetracked by a Nazi soldier who seems to have been cut off from his unit and is wandering alone in the woods. There is a silent stand off that wastes a few minutes of screen time and again doesn’t really go anywhere. Eventually they catch up to a Nazi general who is hiding art on a French farm.

Goodman and Dujardin’s task was not really made very clear but they do end up in a stand off with a teenage sniper and then in the middle of an unnamed battle between the Allies and the Nazis.

Eventually the group is reunited in an attempt to finish the job. This is basically the last third of the movie, which finally gets the plot moving along and offers some interesting historical tidbits.

I am not too sure what I was expecting with this movie. I got a sort of heist movie vibe set during the second World War. By no means do I need a movie set during that horrific period to be fun but it should at least be interesting and engaging. It is almost like Clooney got too sidetracked with melodrama from the characters. The problem is that I didn’t know them well enough to get caught up in their personal issues. I found myself wanting them to start searching for stolen art.

“The Monuments Men” is a movie that really has me baffled. The only things I truly learned were at the beginning and the end when Clooney’s character is giving lectures to government officials. Everything in between seemed too relaxed. There isn’t really a sense of urgency until the end of the film.

That Awkward Moment ***

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<font size="2" face="Arial""That Awkward" moment is a better movie than early reviews have suggested. It is actually pretty funny and has some truly poignant moments. There are a lot of flaws but still it is not a bad movie.

<font size="2" face="Arial"Zac Efron plays one of a trio of friends who spend their nights looking for women and creating their so called roster of sexual partners. Well two of them do. The third is a married man headed for divorce. His friends are more than happy to recruit him in to their life style but it is more complicated than that. The results are fairly predictable but it is the acting and the dialogue that elevate the material.

<font size="2" face="Arial"Efron stars along side Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller. Jordan is an up and coming star but sadly he seems to be the weakest link here. I think it is more the way his character is underwritten than anything. The other two guys are the main focus of the story. Efron is a guy with a lot of charisma which is on full display here. It is nice to see him play a character that isn't so loveable. He is a nice enough guy but is seriously misguided when it comes to women.

<font size="2" face="Arial"Miles Teller plays a motor mouth of a character that I really disliked at first. But his character learns and grows and it blossoms in to a nice performance.

<font size="2" face="Arial"The director is Tom Gormicon, who also wrote the screen play. Based on this film alone he seems to be a good writer and director. I think the script needed more fleshing out to be honest but it did hold my attention for the duration of the flick.

The Best Films Of 2013

These were my favourite films of 2013.

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12 “The Place Beyond The Pines” “If you ride like lightning, you’re going to crash like thunder.”

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11 “Disconnect”

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10 “Only God Forgives” “Billy was my first son. We had a very special relationship. Julian was so jealous. It was like he was cracked or something. He had paranoid delusions about us. And it pains me to say this to you, as it would pain any mother, but he killed his own father with his bare hands. That’s why he had to get out of America. He’s a very dangerous boy.”

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9 “Dallas Buyers Club” “Oh, I’m the drug dealer? No, you’re the fuckin’ drug dealer. I mean, goddamn, people are dyin’. And y’all are up there afraid that we’re gonna find an alternative without you.”

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8 “To The Wonder” “There is love that is like a stream that can go dry when rain no longer feeds it. But there is a love that is like a spring coming up from the earth. The first is human love, the second is divine love and has its source above.”

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7 “Short Term 12″ “Please don’t be offended if I’m not very friendly, but I’m going to be living with my dad soon, and I don’t really like wasting time on short-term relationships. So, you know, it’s nothing personal.”

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6 “Before Midnight” “I am giving you my whole life ok? I got nothing larger to give, I’m not giving it to anybody else. If you’re looking for permission to disqualify me, I’m not gonna give it to you. Ok? I love you. And I’m not in conflict about it. Okay? But if what you want is like a laundry list of all the things that piss me off, I can give it to you.”

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5 “Captain Phillips” “Listen up, we have been boarded by armed pirates. If they find you, remember, you know this ship, they don’t. Stick together and we’ll be all right. Good luck.”

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4 “The Wolf Of Wall Street” “On a daily basis I consume enough drugs to sedate Manhattan, Long Island, and Queens for a month. I take Quaaludes 10-15 times a day for my “back pain”, Adderall to stay focused, Xanax to take the edge off, part to mellow me out, cocaine to wake me back up again, and morphine… Well, because it’s awesome.”

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3 “Her” “It’s like I’m reading a book… and it’s a book I deeply love. But I’m reading it slowly now. So the words are really far apart and the spaces between the words are almost infinite. I can still feel you… and the words of our story… but it’s in this endless space between the words that I’m finding myself now. It’s a place that’s not of the physical world. It’s where everything else is that I didn’t even know existed. I love you so much. But this is where I am now. And this who I am now. And I need you to let me go. As much as I want to, I can’t live your book any more.”

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2 “12 Years A Slave” “I am Solomon Northup. I am a free man; a resident of Saratoga, New York. The residence also of my wife and children who are equally free. I have papers. You have no right whatsoever to detain me…”

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1 “Gravity” “I get it, it’s nice up here. You could just shut down all the systems, turn down all the lights, just close your eyes and tune out everyone. There’s nobody up here that can hurt you. It’s safe. What’s the point of going on? What’s the point of living? Your kid died, it doesn’t get any rougher than that. It’s still a matter of what you do now. If you decide to go then you just gotta get on with it. Sit back, enjoy the ride, you gotta plant both your feet on the ground and start living life. Hey, Ryan, it’s time to go home.”

August: Osage County ***

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“August: Osage County” is a fairly heavy movie when it comes to the drama that takes place. There are a lot of grueling performances and long dialogue sequences to get through. I was not too surprised to find that this was based on a play. As a movie I enjoyed it but I just found that it was bursting at the seams. Perhaps the screenplay needed to be drawn out a little more to give everyone a little more weight and depth.

When it comes to family bitterness, “August: Osage County” gets it almost too perfectly. The story follows a rather large extended family as they reunite to mourn the loss of the grandfather. The cast includes Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Juliett Lewis, Sam Shepard, Dermot Mulroney, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Abigail Breslin. Each actor pretty much disappeared in to their character. I especially liked Julia Roberts, who manages to completely shed her super star status and inhabit a person who is harboring much anger towards her mother.

The plot I can’t really describe without giving away some of the surprises. Just know that there are some shocking and disturbing family secrets here that are about to boil to the surface. The cast all do a fantastic job of portraying a family that would rather live on the brink of destruction rather than watch the family crumble.

Part of me wishes that there was another hour or so to this movie. It almost felt like there was too much covered in the two hours of screen time. I wanted to know more about how Benedict Cumberbatch’s character turns out as well as how Chris Cooper and his wife fared. But that is just me wishing for more of a good thing. I honestly would not be opposed to a sequel.