While this high-end caper may loose focus on its narrative perspective, it never looses sight of its two glamorous con artist (Will Smith and Margot Robbie).
Now, Focus is no Notorious or American Hustle, however, it still gets the con done one way or another. Back by its slick sexy two leads, Smith and Robbie’s chemistry is a treat to watch on the big-screen. Self-importance and seductiveness takes top honors in the film and sets the stage for this colorful cat-and-mouse game.
Veteran con man Nicky Spurgeon (Smith) and his crew are at the peak of their business, that is, until Jess Barrett (Robbie) enters into the game. Smith brings charm and wit to the role of Nicky and never lets anyone get close to him. Cue that mysterious woman from his past. Nicky makes the mistake by taking Jess in under his wing and she ends up throwing his plans for a loop.
At times, Focus fumbles by loosing sight of its preposterous plot, but directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy, Stupid, Love) keep this steamy romance about two people who don’t trust each other going. To keep the audience distracted, Focus’ settings (New Orleans, New York and Buenos Aires) dazzle our attention spans. Smith bounces back from that God-awful film (After Earth), while Robbie is beauty and class. Her performance deals the winning hand in the end and keeps the audience guessing. Focus may not be the best of con films, but its glamor and color will hold the audience’s interest until it ends.
Focus is rated R (Restricted). For language, some sexual content and brief violence.
The second big-screen outing swims in more silliness and jokes that both kids and adults will enjoy.
Coming out a decade later from its predecessor (The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie, 2004), The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water still hits the hilarious gags and closeness of our Bikini Bottom friends. Just like the first film, the creators never take a lick of seriousness in these feature films, which makes SpongeBob a total blast. First airing on TV in 1999, SpongeBob SquarePants has become one of the longest running cartoon series of all time.
Now, it’s never easy to stretch a 22-minute show into a 92-minute feature film, but director’s Paul Tibbitt and Mike Mitchell pulled it off. There’s just enough plot and quirky humor to keep things moving right along and Antonio Banderas kicks off the film as a live-action pirate named Burger Beard, who follows a treasure map to secure a mythical book. That book, of course, contains the story of SpongeBob SquarePants (voiced by Tom Kenny) and fills non-viewers in with the basic storyline of this famous TV show.
Plankton (voiced by Douglas Lawrence) restlessly continues to attack the Krusty Krab, where SpongeBob cooks up those delicious Krabby Patties. Mr. Krabs (voiced by Clancy Brown) holds the secret recipe for the meal, but the secret formula mysteriously disappears as SpongeBob cracks another one of Plankton’s attempts to steal it. Now, without the precious Krabby Patties Bikini Bottom emerges into complete and utter chaos. This post-apocalyptic frenzy sends everyone into leather harnesses and face masks within a matter of seconds. It’s up to nemesis SpongeBob and Plankton to team up and find the formula to save their town.
Of course, there to help them are their veteran friends: Patrick Star (voiced by Bill Fagerbakke), Squidward Tentacles (voiced by Rodger Bumpass), Sandy Cheeks (voiced by Carolyn Lawrence) and Mr. Krabs. Cue all of the secondary characters to leave the stage! The real jokes come into place when the characters leave their underwater world and travel up onto ours. SpongeBob and his friends transform from two to three dimensional characters. The gags continue as they poke fun at themselves. Once our beloved pals are up on dry land they also take on a superheroic version of themselves to take down Burger Beard.
The CG is never jarring for the viewers and always remains cartoonish keeping that spongy charm still present. One certainly does not have to be a fan of the TV show to enjoy the goofball humor, but for diehards this is a film they can eat up just like those Krabby Patties. The sponge that lives in a pineapple under the sea has become a worldwide phenomenon since he first debut. Both feature films still hold the charisma and silliness as the TV series and that’s something hard to come by. The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water will keep your kids entertained and most likely throw a smile on your face here and there.
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water is rated PG (Parental Guidance). For mild action and rude humor.
Kingsman: The Secret Service blends action-spy with rambunctious comedy and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
From the get-go, Kingsman reveals itself has a hard-R parody of old-school James Bond movies and Austin Powers. The film never takes itself seriously, which is what made it cheeky fun. Director Matthew Vaughn (Kick Ass and X-Men: First Class) sends the spy genre into hyper mode with its zany plot, stylish action sequences and pure British pop culture. Adapted from Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons’ 2012 comic book series, anything-goes for Vaughn and his madmen working in front of the camera (Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Sophie Cookson, Sofia Boutella, Mark Hamill and Michael Caine).
This is probably one of the craziest movies I’ve seen in a long time, but I had the at most pleasure in letting Vaughn’s sleek British-spy satire play out. Meet British agent Harry Hart (Firth), code-named Galahad, an international man of mystery with pose and savvy. Firth is brilliant in the role and kicks ass multiple times throughout. 17 years prior, Gary "Eggsy" Unwin’s (Taron Egerton) father died saving Galahad’s life during a raid in the Middle East. Fast-forward 17 years, secret agent Lancelot (Jack Davenport) is murdered or more like split in half by the mischievous Gazelle (the Algerian dancer-actress Sofia Boutella). She’s Valentine’s (Samuel L. Jackson) slice-and-dice henchwoman with bladed prosthetic legs. Boutella is wickedly spectacular!
Valentine is a cynical tech genius and billionaire who is proceeding to ensure a global threat, lisp and all. From his gunpoint and Scripture reading (Pulp Fiction) to his baseball caps and maniacal lisp, Jackson is always a blast to watch up on screen. Now, with Lancelot out of the picture, it’s time for Kingsman to hire in the recruits for his replacement. Since Galahad is in debt to Eggsy deceased father, he decides to take in Eggsy. This is where the real fun begins; Eggsy is a talented but undisciplined young buck that needs to learn what it takes to be a Kingsman. Newcomer Egerton shows his strengths and that he is capable to compete with the big leagues.
Other note worthy actors were a sly Caine (Arthur, head of Kingsman), a skittish Hamill (Professor James Arnold) and a hard headed Strong (Merlin, Kingsman agent and trainer). Vaughn spares no punches; we go from pub brawls to a hate church massacre (Like those Westboro loonies) to exploding colorful mushroom heads (Obama’s being one of them). This film never takes itself seriously and that’s why Kingsman works. From its stylized violence to its keen direction to its top-notch acting, Kingsman is extremely over-the-top, but never the less, fun.
Kingsman: The Secret Service is Rated R (Restricted). For sequences of strong violence, language and some sexual content.
Jupiter Ascending is a sci-fi failure for director’s Andy and Lana Wachowski, where were the Guardians of the Galaxy to save the day?
Oh where to begin, this eye-popping, bloated CGI alien fest and narrative humdrum was an extreme headache. The Wachowskis have laid a few bad eggs during their career (Speed Race and Matrix Revolutions), but this one is a real mind-bender at what exactly went wrong? It starts with the endless action sequences of brainless attributes, a ridiculous space opera plot and just plain bad acting (Channing Tatum, Eddie Redmayne and Mila Kunis). Tatum who thrilled audiences last fall with his dark performance in Foxcatcher is a total dud here and Redmayne who won the Oscar (for Best Actor) last February with his gut-wrenching performance in Theory of Everything is flat out awful. But out of all the performances, Kunis was an unholy mess to watch up on the screen.
This $175 million budget is a total waste and nearly destroys Chicago half a dozen times. I haven’t given up on the Wachowskis as they exhilarated the thrills in the first Matrix and captivated me in Cloud Atlas, but it’s incredibly difficult to see imaginative directors fall so hard. The film begins, set in Russia, with a prologue of the origin story of Jupiter Jones (Kunis). Jupiter’s mother (Maria Doyle Kennedy) is close to giving birth to her when Jupiter’s father (James D’Arcy) is murdered (I won't spoil everything for you). Cut to present day, Jupiter Jones scrubs and cleans toilets in Chicago hotels – wait for it – she’s a princess. Like Sarah Connor, Jupiter holds the future of mankind in her hands but doesn’t realize it yet.
Cue Tatum’s character: a half wolf, half man named Caine. He’s a genetically engineered interplanetary hunter A.K.A. geek talk for a badass. Caine tracks down Jupiter and becomes her protect in a sense. The film reveals the main villains of the film: there are three heirs to the Abrasax Industries dynasty, Kalique (Tuppence Middleton), who tries to befriend Jupiter because she holds the key to eternal life; Titus (Douglas Booth), a slithering snake and the alpha, Balem (Redmayne), who wants Jupiter dead … muttering it a million times. I am boggled on how bad Redmayne’s performance was, sounding more like a frigged old British women than a fierce villain. At least, his Oscar glory can block this horrid stunt out of memory.
Throughout the film, we also get exhausting action sequences, blared with the loud orchestra in the background. The Wachowskis set out to make one headache of a movie. Yes, the film visually stuns at times and in others visually blinds. The Wachowskis inspired to make an epic sci-fi adventure like Star Wars, Star Trek, Blade Runner or Alien, but miserably failed in every category. These narrative humdrum and thinly developed characters are too critical to over look throughout the film. Where the Wachowskis once reigned as exciting minds now plunder in a mishmash of space junk. The cosmos are too great and mysterious to comprehend and, sadly, the Wachowskis keep searching for them.
Jupiter Ascending is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For some violence, sequences of sci-fi action, some suggestive content and partial nudity.
Julianne Moore finally got the Oscar she deserved and up held the foundation for Still Alice. She’s a true actress.
Still Alice overlays the reality of Alzheimer’s with compassion and sensitivity, but never looses its message of this nightmarish disease. Winning the Oscar (for Best Actress) last February, Moore proved that she was finally due for some Oscar love and gave this film a beating heart. She’s been nominated four other times (Boogie Nights, The End of the Affair, The Hours and Far from Heaven), but has never won. Here, Moore goes all out in her tour de force performance about a Columbia linguistics professor, Alice, who discovers she has Alzheimer’s disease.
Based on Lisa Genova’s novel, we follow her deterioration as she struggles with everyday life and is only guided by her strength and family. When Alice (Moore) discovers that she has early-onset Alzheimer’s not only must she endure it, but her husband (Alec Baldwin) and three children (Kate Bosworth, Kristen Stewart and Hunter Parrish) as well. This is a hard film to consume because it will hit close to home for audience who are personally struggling with this disease or have love one’s struggling with this disease. Director’s Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland (Quinceañera) know that and help guide the film with raw intimate passion and respect.
Rapidly consuming Alice’s every fiber, she has to take measures in trying to keep going. Alice has to type a checklist on her phone to keep her remembering the important aspects in her life. Bringing pain and solemn to the role, Moore gives one of the most gut-wrenching performances in recent memory, as she mentally breaks down in her kitchen for loosing her phone. The chronological order becomes a bit of a haze throughout the film, but it over shadows Alice has her condition worsens.
Alice’s inner world is collapsing and all the audience can do is watch. As the film ends on a depressing note, still, it helps shed light to this horrific disease that have caused so many pain of the years. Has we see Alice struggle throughout the film; the audience are there right beside her every step of the way. It’s heartbreaking to endure and Moore is damn near perfect in this film.
Still Alice is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For mature thematic material, and brief language including a sexual reference.
Without tarnishing his charisma or image, director Paul King successfully brings this beloved children’s character, Paddington, to the 21st century.
Cute, cuddly and very British, Paddington hits the sweet note for family-friendly adventure fun. He’s irresistible! From his old red hat and nifty blue duffle coat to his obsession with marmalade, young or old, this is a film everyone will enjoy. Based on the book series from author Michael Bond, this talking bear from Peru who is adopted from a London family made his first appearance in 1958. Producer David Heyman (Harry Potter) helps craft this delightful treat to the big screen and savers the magic from these classic children’s books.
Paddington, voice by a heartfelt Ben Whishaw, is introduced with his aunt and uncle living the bear life in the rainforest of Peru. Then, bam, an earthquake hits and Paddington's home is gone. It’s off to the cargo ship where he wants to start a new beginning in life. The bear comes to Paddington Station (hint his name) and is temporarily taken in by the Brown family. Paddington meets the rambunctious dad, Henry (Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey), the lively wife, Mary (a wonderful Sally Hawkins), and their two children, Judy (Madeleine Harris) and Jonathan (Samuel Joslin). It’s funny, adorable and its eye-candy splendor frame the film throughout. Nicole Kidman also makes an entrance as the Cruella De Vil with a love for stuffing things. A taxidermist, who wants to make Paddington her next stuffed collection on the wall.
Infused with pop culture and British undertones, this physical comedy reminded me of the Marx brothers or Wes Anderson. Paddington dazzles everywhere on screen, without over doing his CGI personnel and captures the audience’s heartstrings. The film stays true to this bear's roots and in the end will put a big smile on your face. High and flying over London with his umbrella, Paddington soars! This cuddly bear also underlines an important message about family and how they come in all different shapes and sizes. “Families stick together.” This bear receives four jars of marmalade! I can’t wait to see Paddington's charismatic presence again.
Paddington is rated PG (Parental Guidance). For mild action and rude humor.
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Mike, Mike, and Oscar
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