To both Scott Eastwood and Britt Robertson, get the sappy movies out of the way before your careers really take off.
While The Longest Ride isn't as cringe worthy as pervious Sparks films, it still is embarrassing to watch and sit through. This latest Sparks tearjerker will make you roll your eyes multiple times throughout the film. Luckily, The Longest Ride gets nowhere near the “Oh My God” territory of pitiful awfulness as Safe Haven did in 2013. Ever since 2004’s The Notebook, every Sparks film to follow has been a mirror replica of sentimental button pushing and cheese fest heartbreaks.
Sophia (Robertson) is a college student studying art at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. She meets Luke Collins (Eastwood, a splitting image of his father) after the big lug finishes some Bull-ridin’ at a rodeo. There he gives her his hat … awe he’s a keeper! Luke is obsessed with winning after a bad throw from a bronco and Sophia is hesitant to follow. The film proceeds into more recycled Sparks material. Guy picks girl up with flowers blah blah blah, guy saves old man from a burning fire blah blah blah and girl discovers the old man's love letters he wrote to his late wife. Come on, more letters?!
From there, well, you get the picture. We get two sub plots trying to shove the term “love means sacrifice” down the audience’s throats. When the sap piles up the performances and heartbreaks become tedious. The Longest Ride isn’t the worst Sparks film to come along, but it won’t win any newcomers either. Eastwood and Robertson, you both deserve better so go out and make a name for yourselves away from these mediocre soap operas. Brace yourself … more Sparks films will come in the near future.
The Longest Ride is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For some sexuality, partial nudity, and some war and sports action.
While DreamWorks has been on a role with some of their last animated movies (How to Train Your Dragon 2, The Croods and Kung Fu Panda 2), sadly, Home is a bit of a step back for the studio.
From the get-go Home lacks any clear identity of its own, resulting in a recycled storyline and offbeat humor. Oh (voiced by The Big Band Theory’s Jim Parson) is a lovable alien misfit on the run from his own home planet, who eventually collides with an adventurous girl named Tip (voiced by singer Rihanna) on Earth. From there, the story proceeds into a series of comic adventures between the duo, as they discover the true meaning of the word home.
While adults will see every twist and turn coming in this colorful adventure, kids will be distracted at least until the end. Home is not a bad film; however, there are far better movies in the world with similar elements – Lilo and Stitch, Despicable Me, Monster vs. Aliens and or Toy Story. In the end, Home rehashes a familiar feel from previous animated films and fails to stand on its own term.
But if you want a film to distract your kids for a couple of hours, then Home is the movie for you. Its pop culture references, offbeat humor, cheeky animation will engulf the little one’s imagination. As for the adults, like myself, you will be a little disappointed that this DreamWorks animated film failed to come to life like others have in the past.
Home is rated PG (Parental Guidance). For mild action and some rude humor.
Veteran movie critic, Richard Corliss, dies at 71 after conveying 35 years of critical writing for Time magazine.
Like them or hate them, film critics are here for one thing and one thing only … to express their passion and opinions for the movies. As for Corliss, he could go one week praising a masterpiece to debunking the next, but Corliss saw them all, the good, the bad and the ugly. He gave each film the highest of chance and if it didn’t make his quota he was going to let you know about it. Time said Corliss, "conveyed nothing so much as the sheer joy of watching movies — and writing about them.”
Corliss’ authenticity showed throughout his reviews from the past 35 years and each one captured the essence of his heart, good or bad. His exceptional writing style didn’t come by default; this was pure talent and nothing more. Throughout his career Corliss wrote some 2,500 reviews and other articles for Time, including more than two-dozen cover stories. Corliss was Time’s longest serving-movie critic and probably one of the most quoted throughout the film world.
Corliss was also served on the board for the New York Film festival and was a former editor-in-chief for Film Comment. He had a heart for independent, violent noir's, epics and Pixar films. Some of Corliss’ favorites or “guilty pleasures” included Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese. Who could forget when Corliss coined his own term “Drop Dead Gorgeous” in 1985 when describing Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance in the film, Into the Night? Corliss could breath life into his reviews and sometimes his reviews had more life than the film itself.
He had balance between love and humor within his films and he was able to articulate constructive criticism throughout his career. Corliss’ colorful language could fill a dictionary and it blossomed this those 35 years. It was for this reason I became an avid reader of Richard Corliss. He was a deep thinker, who wanted to let his voice be heard throughout the world and he succeeded. His passion for the movies will leave a resting place in your heart. It was shocking to hear the news that we have lost one of the greats due to a stroke and yet Corliss had so many more films to see. Corliss leaves behind an incredible legacy and his voice will be deeply missed for generations to come.
Director Kenneth Branagh (Henry V and Thor) gives a refreshing revision to the Cinderella story, bringing bright colors and infinite costume design to the table.
While we didn’t need another Cinderella story, Disney still went for it. Disney focused on the story and characters more than the CGI. The past live-action Disney films have failed to do so (Alice in Wonderland, Oz: The Great and Powerful and Maleficent). You should know from the start, Cinderella is gorgeous and captures the fairy tale charm of the original '50s film. By scrapping the silly songs, director Branagh expands more on the character development and back-story of Ella.
This live-action crowd pleaser is the first of many Disney animated classics to follow (Beauty and the Beast, Mulan, Dumbo, Winnie the Pooh, The Jungle Book and Pinocchio). Hopefully, Disney does the same with those upcoming films as they did with Cinderella. We're off with a radiant but, at times, breathy Lilly James (Lady Rose on Downton Abbey) who brings innocence and feminism to the role of Ella. Here, scriptwriter Chris Weitz (About a Boy) gives us the back-story of Ella and how her family died. Even with loosing her family and receiving a wicked stepmother (a maliciously superb Cate Blanchett), Ella is still kind.
From there you know the rest: Ella talks to mice, cleans up after her evil stepsisters, forbidden from going to the ball and then is able to because of her fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter). What made the film worth watching was its eye-popping costume design that will steal you heart away. On top of that, we get one of the most memorable pumpkin exploding scenes ever to come to film.
Other note worthy performances are from a handsome prince (Richard Madden from Game of Thrones), a sly Stellan Skarsgard (the Grand Duke), a loyal Nonso Anozie (The Captain) and a Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Bonham Carter. Kids will be in awe, while, adults will be proud of the classic story rightfully coming to life. Disney’s revision of the Cinderella story is bright, colorful and full of magic.
Cinderella is rated PG (Parental Guidance). For mild thematic elements.
Disney runs away with your heartstrings by giving us a safe but excellent sports film.
Whether you’re the kid inspiring to be the next cross-country athlete or that old man in the back of the theater crying his eyes out, McFarland USA is a film for everyone. Disney goes back to the old hat and uses the familiar sports drama routine, but McFarland is still able to gain momentum after the first race. We have seen it all before from Cool Runnings to Remember the Titans to Miracle to Glory Road. What all of these sports films have in common is the inspirational “based on a true story” gimmick. From the start, Disney grabs you in and pulls at your emotions.
From there, each film has formed its own path around the coaches' and player's relationship. Each film has grown and matured, which make them unique in their own way. McFarland is fresh by showing the audience new perspective of a different sport … cross-country. This film touched me in a different way, personally, because I am a runner. McFarland’s sense of comfort and lightheartedness gives the film balance. Even when we are fully aware with the style of music and plot turns, the performances are what really matter.
McFarland is the familiar underdog story; it’s 1987 and we meet coach Jim White (Kevin Costner) who is fired from his job in Boise, Idaho as a football coach. So coach White has to find a new place to coach with his family … McFarland California. McFarland is an economically challenged community and has been for a longtime. This poor community of mostly Hispanic populace is a total culture shock for the White family. Not long after setting up in McFarland, coach White realizes that football will not workout for him so he decides to start up a cross-country team for the high school.
When Costner isn’t eating ice cream in Aspen, he’s probably coaching his runners up those hills. What made this film so impactful were the performances from seven cross-country runners (Carlos Pratts, Johnny Ortiz, Hector Duran, Sergio Avelar, Michael Aguero, Rafael Martinez and Ramiro Rodriguez). Costner also gets a thumbs up for his grizzly coaching performance. McFarland works by its talented director (Niki Caro, Whale Rider), fun energy and likable presence. It also shows just how hard of a sport cross-country truly is. Trust me, running everyday mile after mile can be a real bitch at times.
McFarland is an absolute tearjerker, as we see these boys go from losers to winners throughout the season. This sport not only helped them gain confidence in themselves, but also in their education. As coach White pushes each of them to strive for greatness, they also reflect on their character. McFarland is nothing more than a feel good movie and when you see Danny (Rodriguez) sprint towards the finish line to help out his fellow teammates you will tear up, I guarantee it. So take this inspirational journey with these compassionate runners. McFarland came, ran and conquered. Bravo Disney.
McFarland USA is rated PG (Parental Guidance). For thematic material, some violence and language.
South African filmmaker Neill Blomkamp’s (District 9 and Elysium) third time around with the robot card is a disappointment.
In 2009, District 9 blew audiences away and brought all of the elements of a classic sci-fi to the table. Director Blomkamp’s imagination and visual splendor made an impressive mark in Hollywood. This sensational social commentary was thoroughly smart and original. Blomkamp had succeeded in his underlining message and action packed pulp fest. Next, came the more messy Elysium in 2013.
While it had the social commentary as District 9, still, it was a bit of a comeback for director Blomkamp. The blunt action scenes and jargon of a storyline threw this film for a loop, but Matt Damon’s performance kept the film somewhat in place. For the third time around, Blomkamp’s sci-fi continuum feels depleted and poor Chappie didn't even have a starting chance. We return to Johannesburg, where we meet scientist Deon (Dev Patel) who upgrades a damaged police robot. Deon reboots the droid with an artificial intelligence and human feelings. Chappie (voiced by a veteran Sharlto Copley) is like a child and has to learn to adapt now in the new world.
Unfortunately, two gangbangers (played by Watkin Tudor Jones and Yolandi Visser of the South African zef rap-rave group Die Antwoord) kidnap Deon and Chappie and decide to keep his precious machine. From there, Jones A.K.A. Ninja and Visser help raise Chappie on the street life and program him to shoot, steal cars, street talk, wear bling and act gangsta. Chappie has big ideas, but squanders over them and Blomkamp has finally exhausted his expertise on the action scenes.
As for the cast, Sigourney Weaver’s talent is wasted and Huge Jackman sports one of the worst haircuts in recent memory. At times Chappie is charming and funny, but in others is tedious and completely incoherent. Copley was the only privilege while watching this film by giving Sir Chappie an extra burst of excitement. Sadly, that is not enough to save this film itself. So is Chappie friend or foe? Regardless, Chappie ends up being Sappie.
Chappie is rated R (Restricted). For violence, language and brief nudity.
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