Two Hercules movies in one year? Oh no, this cannot be good … Going into this film I thought that it was going to be a total disaster given the history of director Brett Ratner (X-Men: The Last Stand, 21 and the Rush Hour trilogy). Ratner’s films are usually action packed, but lack a brain. This time, I decided to go along with it. While Hercules was completely ridiculous all the way through I found parts of it to be mildly amusing. Luckily, Ratner’s Hercules is far superior to the god-awful The Legend of Hercules, that opened earlier this year. Dwayne Johnson also has more brawn and acting chops than the previous Hercules played by pretty boy Kellan Lutz.
Together Ratner and Johnson create an action packed but silly film based on the late Steve Moore’s Hercules: The Thracian Wars. In the end, I had fun at times and rolled my eyes at others with Johnson’s muscle-happy Hercules running around. Cue the action-packed battle scenes, cue the Goddesses, cue the computer-generated creatures and cue the egotistical Hercules running around in body paint defeating soldiers. At least I wasn’t banging my head against the wall like I was with last winter’s wimpy Hercules.
The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards proved to be a big win for broadcast and cable television and a big lose for the streaming service Netflix, which was nearly shut out. AMC’s Breaking Bad went out with a bang on Monday night, winning five Emmys, including its second consecutive Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series. The big three (Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul and Anna Gunn) all took home Emmys for their show.
While, Netflix shows (House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and Derek) had an impressive 31 nominations, they went home with only seven awards, all of them won in the Creative Arts session, which are given out ahead of time instead of during the NBC broadcast. The Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series went to ABC’s sitcom, Modern Family. The series has now tied Frasier for a record of five consecutive wins. Ty Burrell also took home an Emmy for his show. The biggest surprise of the night was the Sherlock sweep taking home three Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries (Benedict Cumberbatch) or a Movie, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie (Martin Freeman) and Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special (Steven Moffat). Julianna Margulies was also a surprise by taking home an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her role in CBS’s The Good Wife.
The loser of the night was HBO’s True Detective, which was snubbed out of an Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Matthew McConaughey). Although, it was in stiff competition against the critically acclaimed Breaking Bad. This was probably because True Detective decided to run as a drama series instead of a miniseries, which was won by Fargo. True Detective did win an Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series (Cary Fukunaga, Who Goes There). I still believe that it was the right choice for Breaking Bad to win because it has accomplished so much for TV over the last seven years. In my opinion, it is the greatest drama show ever made.
A Robin Williams tribute also took place during the show and was presented by a close friend, Billy Crystal. “He made us laugh. Hard,” Crystal said as he appeared onstage. “As genius as he was on stage, he was the greatest friend you could ever imagine,” Crystal continued. “Supportive. Protective. Loving. It’s very hard to talk about him in the past because he was so present in all of our lives … for almost 40 years, he was the brightest star in the comedy galaxy … his beautiful light will continue to shine on us forever. And the glow will be so bright, it’ll warm your heart. It’ll make your eyes glisten. And you’ll think to yourselves: Robin Williams. What a concept.” Crystal’s speech was wholesome and heartfelt and never missed a beat. As Williams’ tribute shined brightly at the Emmys the rest after that was history.
Here’s is the list of all the Emmy winners:
Outstanding Drama Series
Winner: Breaking Bad (2008)
Outstanding Comedy Series
Winner: Modern Family (2009)
Winner: Fargo (2014)
Outstanding Television Movie
Winner: The Normal Heart (2014) (TV)
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Winner: Bryan Cranston for Breaking Bad
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Winner: Jim Parsons for The Big Bang Theory (2007)
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie
Winner: Benedict Cumberbatch for Sherlock: His Last Vow (#3.3) (2014)
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Winner: Julianna Margulies for The Good Wife (2009)
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Winner: Julia Louis-Dreyfus for Veep (2012)
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie
Winner: Jessica Lange for American Horror Story (2011)
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Winner: Ty Burrell for Modern Family
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Winner: Aaron Paul for Breaking Bad
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie
Winner: Martin Freeman for Sherlock: His Last Vow (#3.3)
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Winner: Allison Janney for Mom (2013)
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Winner: Anna Gunn for Breaking Bad
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie
Winner: Kathy Bates for American Horror Story
Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Series
Winner: The Colbert Report (2005)
Outstanding Reality Competition Program
Winner: The Amazing Race (2001)
Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program
Winner: Jane Lynch for Hollywood Game Night (2013)
Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series
Winner: Modern Family, Gail Mancuso (Vegas)
Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series
Winner: True Detective (2014), Cary Fukunaga (Who Goes There)
Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special
Winner: Fargo, Colin Bucksey
Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series
Winner: Saturday Night Live (1975), Don Roy King
Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series
Winner: Louie (2010), Louis C.K. (So Did the Fat Lady)
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series
Winner: Breaking Bad, Moira Walley-Beckett (Ozymandias)
Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series
Winner: The Colbert Report
Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special
Winner: Sherlock: His Last Vow (#3.3), Steven Moffat
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
Winner: Allison Janney for Masters of Sex (2013)
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
Winner: Joe Morton for Scandal (2012)
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
Winner: Uzo Aduba for Orange Is the New Black (2013)
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series
Winner: Jimmy Fallon for Saturday Night Live
Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special
Winner: Sarah Silverman for Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles (2013) (TV)
Outstanding Directing For A Variety Special
Winner: Glenn Weiss for The 67th Annual Tony Awards (2013) (TV)
Coming off of the first film’s surprise box office hit The Purge: Anarchy tries to explore more of its mayhem and ultra-violence. While the first film did perform well in theaters, it still looked better on paper than on screen. The first Purge was not tremendously awful nor was it powerful enough to recommend. I do give writer-director James DeMonace (The Purge and The Purge: Anarchy) credit though because he tried to explore an interesting idea of our country being crime free for 12 hours each year.
This simply means anything goes. People can murder, steal or rape as they please. In a sense this allows them to get all of their anger and frustrations out for one day and go the rest of the year stress free … pretty intriguing right? I thought so too. That is until halfway through the first film became a stupid cliched home invasion mess. After that the film spiraled downhill into nothing more than cheap scares and gore. Of course, the audience ate it up and it made enough money to spawn off a sequel, which brings us to Anarchy.
Anarchy explores more of the events that take place on the street during the Purge so we get a different point-of-view rather than being stuck in a house for an hour and a half. DeMonace throws us right into the pit of hell by having the audience view the chaos and night life on the streets. The main character, an unnamed Sergeant (Frank Grillo), is out on the annual Purge night for one specific purpose: to get revenge on someone who did him wrong in the past. Grillo’s plans, however, are put on hold when he decides to help a family whose car broke down. Now, why would a family be driving around on the annual Purge night is beyond me … ? The remainder of the film follows these five characters through the chaos and nightmares of the streets until they reach a safe house.
Yes, Anarchy is better in almost every way than its predecessor, but that doesn’t mean that it’s smarter. Instead of focusing on the social allegories like the film presumed to be DeMonace continues to focus on cheap thrills and ultra-violence. But if Anarchy does get one thing right it’s building tension. DeMonace knows how to steadily pace the film and draw the viewers deeper into the suspension. At times Anarchy is entertaining and at times it becomes rather tedious. Anarchy delivers nothing more than a moderate thrilling and bloody experience. In the end, the effectiveness of Anarchy will depend on its viewers’ expectations of the film. The box office and its viewers will determine whether these movies will become an annual Purge.
Actor, comedian, film producer, screenwriter, but most importantly a friend. Robin Williams did it all and for many years, on and off the screen, he brought enormous amounts of joy and laughter to people. Sadly, Williams’ life was cut short due to an apparent suicide by hanging on Sunday, Aug. 11, he was 63. Now, this tribute will not look at the reasonings behind Williams ending his life, instead he will reflect on the man who brought uncontrollable laughter and charisma to our households.
You know him as Mrs. Doubtfire, Popeye, Dr. Malcolm Sayer, Dr. Sean Maguire, Parry, Alan Parrish, Peter Pan, The Genie, Armand Goldman, John Keating and Theodore Roosevelt. And of course, Mork from Ork, where it all began for Williams in 1978 as the hilariously quirky alien who landed in Colorado on the “Mork & Mindy” show. These are all characters that Williams transformed into throughout his years of acting. Williams’ characters were always full of heart, while he put delegate time and effect into each of them. Williams was also the master class at improv and ad-lib on and off the screen. In Disney’s Aladdin Williams improvised so much that Disney had 16 hours of raw material. The Oscars also turned down Aladdin for Best Adapted Screenplay because Williams ad-libbed so many of his lines.
Who could forget one of Williams’ most famous lines in Good Will Hunting, “Son of a bitch. He stole my line.” Not many people realize that this line was ad-libbed by Williams at the end of the film. Mr. Williams not only had a skill in improv, he was also very gifted with humor. From stand-up comedy to film Williams always found a way to make the audience laugh until their sides hurt. In the ’70s, Williams first started out with stand-up comedy and after he gained a lot of attention he was cast as Mork for two episodes in the hit TV series Happy Days. Williams’ character, Mork, became so popular with viewers that it led to a spin-off hit television sitcom, Mork & Mindy, which ran four seasons. After Mork & Mindy, Williams’ career took off from stand-up comedy with HBO (Off The Wall, An Evening with Robin Williams, and Robin Williams: Live at the Met) to hosting the 58th Academy Awards show to making multiple guest appearances on the Johnny Carson show. These of course were all done through Williams’ skill in improv and his heart of humor.
Williams not only invested his career in stand-up and television, but in film as well. He first started out in low budget films like Can I Do It ‘Til I Need Glasses? and Popeye. In 1987, Williams finally got his breakout role in Good Morning, Vietnam. He played Adrian Cronauer, a radio “shock jock,” who keeps the troops entertained with comedy and sarcasm. Williams was allowed to play the role without a script, improvising most of his lines. This earned him his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. During the film Williams created voice impressions of people including Walter Cronkite, Gomer Pyle, Elvis Presley, Mr. Ed and Richard Nixon. “We just let the cameras roll and Williams managed to create something new for every single take,” said producer Mark Johnson (Dr. Zhivago and Good Morning, Vietnam).
His film career really took off in the 1990s by being in films like Dead Poets Society, Awakenings, The Fisher King, Hook, Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji, Hamlet, The Birdcage and Good Will Hunting. Here he showed his viewers that he could not only play comedic roles, but serious roles as well. In my opinion, Good Will Hunting and Dead Poets Society are Williams’ best performances on screen. In Good Will Hunting, Williams plays therapist Dr. Sean Maguire, a man trying to help Will Hunting (Matt Damon) who has a deeply disturbed past. Williams put delegate effect into this role by showing us a man who has faced many trials in his lifetime, but who has also remained solemn. Williams received his first Oscar win as Best Supporting Actor for this film. “You’ll have bad times, but it’ll always wake you up to the good stuff you weren’t paying attention to,” Williams said in Good Will Hunting.
In all, he had 59 wins and another 70 nominations. Williams proved that he could not only make you laugh but cry. His skill in stand-up, television and filmmaking made an impact on this world. Mr. Williams did it all, from the one-man show, to One Hour Photo, to founding Comic Relief USA. Sadly in the end, Mr. Williams took his own life. Now, with his absence the world will be a little darker and dealing with a little less laughter. Thank you Mr. Williams for bringing so many smiles to our faces and tears to our eyes from your outstanding and wholesome performances over the years on film. We will miss you Mr. Williams, your charisma and humor is and will be cherished in years to follow.
When it was confirmed that 20th Century Fox was going to reboot the Planet of the Apes series it was clear that there were only going to be two outcomes … it would suck or it would wow. In 2011, Rise of the Planet of the Apes clearly wowed viewers and critics alike with the exception of its title. Now, set eight years later, after the events of the first film Dawn of the Planet of the Apes succeeds in almost every way for sequels. It’s a more ambitious, thrilling and emotionally resonant film from its predecessor. Taking over the director’s chair from Rise’s Rupert Wyatt is Matt Reeves (Cloverfield and Let Me In).
From the beginning of the film Reeves immediately throws us into the action to get your pulse racing. This informs us of the chaos and tension left from the first film. We meet Caesar (played by Andy Serkis) and his loyal group of primates, who have grown a community in San Francisco’s Redwood Forest. Serkis is top-notch like he was in the first film. He gives Caesar a sense of morality and leadership. Every move of facial expression Serkis makes through the motion-capture acting is perfection. Caesar and his family have also matured over those eight years by building a community and using signs to communicate. They are in peace away from the humans. It’s a shame that it doesn’t last long because those “damn dirty humans” show up.
Most of the humans want to exterminate the apes for giving them a virus, including their leader Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), but Malcolm (Jason Clarke) sees differently. He wants to make peace and befriend the apes. Caesar is cautious at first but ends up warming up to the humans. Of course, with this being a film not everything falls into place. Koba (played by Toby Kebbell) doesn’t like it. He despises the humans because of his past and wants them annihilated. Caesar’s fight for peace puts him into mortal conflict with Koba. The human performances were good, but the real show is stolen by the performances of the apes. Serkis and his crew triumphed at the motion capture acting.
Their performances were stunning and it made the apes feel even more real. Apart from the acting is the groundbreaking special effects. Reeves and cinematographer Michael Seresin bring a sense of awe to the screen. In the end, Dawn triumphs Rise by a long shot and leaves you eager for more sequels to follow. Charlton Heston’s original 1968 Planet of the Apes is still one of my favorites in the series, but after seeing Dawn it is clear that we may have a new winner. These apes are dynamite entertainment.
Echo is adorable but he is also forgettable. Younger viewers may be mildly entertained, while the adults will be scratching their heads thinking, “Haven’t I seen this before?” Basically, this film is an updated story of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Why exactly did we need an updated version of E.T. for this generation? We don’t, but apparently director Dave Green thought it would be cool to have the youth in this film tell us their story through their eyes and first-hand experiences. The film tries to use the found footage format, but instead ends up being a shaky-cam amateur-footage gimmick.
The film introduces us to three friends, Tuck (Astro), Munch (Reese C. Hartwig) and Alex (Tea Halm), whose lives are about to change. Their Las Vegas suburb, Mulberry Woods, is being destroyed by a highway construction project, which is forcing their families to move away. Before they depart the gang discovers a strange signal coming from their smartphones. That signal of course ends up being Echo, who is stranded on Earth. The gang teams up with another school friend, Emma (Ella Linnea Wahlestedt), who helps them protect Echo and fight to get him home safely. The plot is very familiar and has been seen over a dozen times in other films, but that is not the main problem with this film.
The problem with Echo is that it lacks imagination and originality. Yes, there are often times of charm with this little guy, but the film did not separate itself enough from the classic E.T. By the end of the amateur-footage and forgettable characters I would have rather seen Echo phone home E.T.
This review will be short. Audiences who are used to Melissa McCarthy running around obnoxiously like a chicken with its head cut off may find this film semi-amusing, but the true McCarthy fans who remember her from Gilmore Girls will be utterly disappointed. In 2011, McCarthy finally got her break-out role in Bridesmaids. Personally, I thought McCarthy was hilarious as the crazy/foul-mouth sister-in-law. Here she was able to use her loud comedic charm to win the audience over, but since then she has not gotten away from that character (Identity Theft, The Hangover Part III and The Heat).
Now, that same character has become tedious. So after Tammy (McCarthy) loses her job and finds out her husband (Nat Faxon) has been cheating on her, she hits the road with her alcoholic grandmother (Susan Sarandon). That’s basically the entire movie. The jokes fall flat, the writing/direction is sloppy and the film quickly crash burns off the road. McCarthy has much more potential than she is giving. She needs to go back to square one and get out of this obnoxious character she has been labeled with. In the end, Tammy should have kept the bag over her face to hide the shame … no pies for her.
Sun’s out, guns out … you know what that means? Another Jump Street movie is coming to town and just in time for summer. Coming off their surprise LEGO hit last winter, Phil Lord and Chris Miller (The LEGO Movie and 21 Jump Street) return to the directors’ chair to give a hilarious follow-up that laughs at its own dumb logic. Yes, 22 Jump Street is basically the same exact movie as its predecessor, but they know that and they know that you know that.
Everyone is in on the joke. I mean look at the title: 22 Jump Street refers to a new address where Jump Street’s headquarters is located, but now HQ has moved across the street from 21 to now 22. So Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) are not longer in the Korean church, now they are located in the Vietnamese church with Vietnamese Jesus right outside. This is what makes the Jump Street films so much fun. We can sit back and relax and have a great time laughing along with Hill and Tatum’s bromantic chemistry. Like its predecessor, 22 Jump Street keeps its good-natured humor constant throughout the film to keep viewers laughing non-stop.
The film begins with quick recap of the first film and then throws you right into the fun and mayhem. Schmidt and Jenko get a new assignment from Captain Dickerson (Ice Cube), but instead of going undercover at high school they are off to college. “Infiltrate the dealers, find the supplier!” says Captain Dickerson, just as he did in the first film. From there the adventure begins and by the end of the film we don’t want to end. Yes, Hollywood has a bad reputation in delivering mediocre sequels in the past. Lord and Miller know that and that’s why they poke fun at their own darn film. It’s so ironic you can’t help but laugh and enjoy the ride while it lasts. Besides the gut-punching good humor are its two main stars’ (Hill and Tatum) bromance. Their friendship grows stronger the second time around.
Like they did in the first film, Hill and Tatum continue to mock their own respective images throughout the film, while they nail every big laugh on screen together. It wouldn’t be much of a film without characters to root for. Lord and Miller know that and they execute this brilliantly by giving us characters with humor and a heart. In the end, 22 Jump Street came, partied and nailed the big laughs. P.S. stay tuned for the credits with some priceless parodies of more ideas for endless Jump Street follow-ups.
The four-time Tony award-winning jukebox musical, Jersey Boys, hits the big screen and Director Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino) takes everything into account. If it was on the stage then it is in the film as well. Eastwood uses all of it from showbiz cliches to the documentary-style format and he knows it. Eastwood realizes that there will be faults from stage to film but he doesn’t care. All he wants to do is to tell the story of how the Four Seasons started, one way or another. Some may think this is risky, while others will think it’s genius … for me I was in the middle. Eastwood’s film had many pros and cons.
I liked that each character in the film personally talked to you on screen just like they did on stage. On the flip-side I did not like the long boredom pauses and darker undertone in this film. But in the end, when those catchy musical numbers hit (December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night), Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry and Walk Like A Man) I could not resist, and I gave into Eastwood’s version. The story follows the four members (Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Nick Massi and Tommy DeVito) of the Four Seasons, from their rise to fame to the fall of a break-up. Through their highs and lows we are there singing right along with them all the way until they get back together at the 1990 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. One additional plus to this movie is the presence of John Lloyd Young as Valli. Young played the same character in the original 2005 Broadway production and even won a Tony, Outstanding Actor in a Musical, for his performance as Valli. Young is just as sharp as he was in the original.
Whenever he hits those high notes the film’s darker undertone fades away. Once the band starts singing the film regains more life, while Eastwood continues to show homage to them. Other notable performances are by a fierce Christopher Walken, an out-of-control Vincent Piazza, a smooth Michael Lomenda and a shy Erich Bergen. Overall, if you are going in thinking this will be as good as the stage production you will most likely be disappointed, but if you are going in for the sure pleasure of the tape-dancing musical numbers you should enjoy it. The Four Seasons are a classic band that deserves a tribute film and for the most part Eastwood gives us that. Yes, Jersey Boys has its faults but once those classic songs come up I don’t care about the rest. I could listen to their music for hours.
2010’s How to Train Your Dragon proved one thing … that Dreamworks Animation finally had the emotional level and dramatic depth we’ve been waiting for in them. Now, four years later Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and Toothless return in rather spectacular form. There is a sense of awe with this series and I am already excited for the third one to come out. How to Train Your Dragon 2 is more thrilling and more emotionally powerful than its predecessor. It also boasts off its beautiful animation that will draw you deeper into the film.
Our adventure begins five years later after the events of the first film, which gives us both a grown-up Hiccup and Toothless. Hiccup and his village now live in peace with the dragons, led by his Viking dad, Stoick (voiced by Gerard Butler). Flying for a day of fun and adventure Hiccup and his faithful companion Toothless discover that Eret (voiced by Kit Harington, Game of Thrones Jon Snow) is helping build a dragon army for the evil Drago (voiced by Djimon Hounsou). Hiccup realizes that the dragons are in danger from Drago. Now, it’s up to him to show Drago that there is true friendship between humans and dragons.
While on his journey Hiccup meets Valka (voiced by Cate Blanchett), keeper of the dragon sanctuary. Her ice castle is a visual gem that shows the true beauty of this animation. Blanchett’s performance is stunning for animated films. Her voice gives the film a deeper sense of human emotion. From there the film leads into a race for time to save the dragons. How to Train Your Dragon 2 has action, adventure and drama, all in one film. It’s more than your average children’s outing, but that is what makes this film so brilliant. Director Dean DeBlois (How to Train Your Dragon and Lilo & Stitch) takes animation to a whole new level. His skill as a director has vastly improved over the years and he will have a good chance at ranking with the greats.
Other noble performances are by a witty Baruchel, a stern Butler, a funny Kristen Wig, an ego-happy Jonah Hill, a charming Christopher Mintz-Plasse and a fearsome Harington. Overall, How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a more sophisticated film than its predecessor. This series ranks up with the greats of animated series, like the Toy Story trilogy. How to Train Your Dragon 2 breathes fire for future animated films to follow and already has my pick for Best Animated Film at The Oscars next year. It will leave you eager for more sequels to follow in the years to come.
For Your Consideration:
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Next Best Picture
In Their Own League
Mike, Mike, and Oscar
The Movie Oracle