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A couple of times every year a movie will come out that completely surprises me where I find the plot cleverly disguised and 180 degrees from what I was expecting after the first 20 minutes. Like most everyone else, I detest movie trailers for the simple fact that they’ve become too long and too specific for my taste. Trailers today spoil our movie experience by connecting too many dots in the storyline and test driving all the laugh lines on us viewers-- all before we’ve even settled into our theater seats.
Former James Bond 007 actor Pierce Brosnan returns to the world of professional assassins in this film based off the bestselling “November Man” book series by Bill Granger. In “The November Man” Brosnan plays Peter Devereaux, an ex-CIA agent who earned the nickname of the movie’s title for always leaving an unmistakable path of death and destruction behind him. Brosnan’s Devereaux is forced out of retirement and back into the field to help save an undercover agent and secure intelligence information. Directed by Roger Donaldson (“No Way Out” in 1987), “The November Man” is an espionage thriller that could have been ripped straight off of the front page of today’s newspapers.
Inspired by true events, “When The Game Stands Tall” is the story of the De La Salle High School (Concord, Calif.) football team posting the longest winning streak in football history. The film neatly illustrates the De La Salle Spartans 12-year rule on the gridiron and how “the streak” ending comes almost as shocking to the world as a Harlem Globetrotter loss in basketball. The problems the coaches, players and community have in confronting their rare defeat and moving on in life gave the film so much potential. Unfortunately, the remarkable real-life story that helped propel De La Salle to triumph once again on and off of the football field fails to inspire film-goers the same way on the big-screen.
Certain movies and directors challenge viewers’ intellect, daring to take the path less traveled on the cinematic screen in order to make audiences actually have to think. Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” (2010) about hijacking dreams and 2012’s survival challenges in “The Hunger Games” are two thought-provoking success stories. We can now add “The Giver” to the list of films requiring moviegoers to think outside the box and ponder the role of individuals in society.
Not since 1977 have such an unlikely handful of misfits stepped forward to save the universe from evil. Taking a page straight out of the original “Star Wars” (or Episode IV: New Hope) playbook, “Guardians of the Galaxy” delivers a fast-paced story combining camaraderie, humor and even some sexual tension between the main characters. This richly talented group comes together to make “Guardians of the Galaxy” a funny, playful and marvelous summer hit.
The late, four-time Oscar nominee Philip Seymour Hoffman provides us with another gripping keystone performance in “A Most Wanted Man” —the last film appearance for Hoffman before his accidental death earlier this year from drug intoxication. Unfortunately, Hoffman’s role as the leader a German spy agency was the only remarkable screen presence. This yawner from director Anton Corbijn leaves viewers more informed on the underground funding for terrorist cells but fails to captivate and draw in audiences due to its shallow support characters and weak storyline.
Following on the heels of the entertaining and successful 2011 “Rise of the Planet of the Apes’”, this motion picture was supposed to take the humanity vs. ape conflict to a whole new level of fervor. The bitterness and meanness of the apes was expected to escalate, while the few humans who survived the Simian Flu outbreak gathered and plotted a strategy to dominate once again. Instead, the “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” storyline gets stretched out to the point of appearing artificial and lackadaisical.
This controversial political film from directors Dinesh D’Souza and John Sullivan will invoke vastly different reactions from audience members. Many will find the film a patriotic, yet underreported, story on how our nation has prospered from our early years due to innovation, entrepreneurship, and capitalism--emerging as not only the wealthiest nation on the planet, but also the most generous. Just as many other viewers will leave the theaters feeling jilted by a political infomercial disguised as a documentary. Lastly, some moviegoers may be introduced to several political hot-button issues for the first time, and left reflecting on D’Souza’s historical data points on subjects such as relations with Mexico and Native Americans, slavery, imperialism, and capitalism. Regardless of a person’s position or thoughts on these subjects, this film accomplishes one significant feat—it empowers people to formulate one’s beliefs and positions, squaring the movie’s interpretation with their own life experiences.
The cast returns in this sequel to the 2010 “How to Train Your Dragon” movie, providing viewers with a hard-edged storyline. Very quickly in the film it’s apparent that “Dragon 2” is at least on par, if not better, than the original journey. Writer and director Dean DeBlois establishes all the familiar characters for moviegoers to pick-up right where they left off in the previous film. The most significant ploy by DeBlois, though, is his masterful narrative that makes this animated movie enjoyable for adults and children alike.
This is a film that normally would make for easy discard by critics and moviegoers alike; a simplistic story about four troubled New Jersey youths growing up, each trying to make it big and get out of their neighborhood for good. Many could argue that with a plot and movie conclusion already predetermined, all that’s left is for some feel-good music to be thrown in to break up the dialogue--and keep impatient audiences awake. Fortunately, despite criticism from film experts to the contrary, director Clint Eastwood’s latest movie works. In fact, “Jersey Boys” doesn’t just work, it rock and rolls.
Let’s be honest, Tom Cruise’s last entertaining part was in 2008’s “Tropic Thunder” as Les Grossman. The young man, who introduced himself to us in the 1980s with films like “Taps” and “Risky Business”, has grown up right before our eyes, both physically and professionally. By 1986, he reached the highest watermark any Hollywood movie star could aspire to, flying F-14 Tomcats in the mega-blockbuster hit “Top Gun”. As an established box office sensation, Cruise then cemented himself to dramatic roles in such films as “Rain Man,” “Born on the Fourth of July” and “A Few Good Men”—diversifying his acting portfolio with meatier leading roles.
This film is a deeply emotional roller coaster ride about life and unfinished business. It boldly takes on the subject of cancer and all of its painful side effects for a young teen, who is unwilling to yield to the deadly disease. “The Fault In Our Stars” refuses to be a movie solely about cancer and the pain it causes, instead focusing on relationships and living life to the fullest. Yes, pain demands to be felt; but it doesn’t need to be at the expense of friends, family and true love. The narrative triumphs because it doesn’t shy away from the lives that cancer affects while illustrating the strength to keep moving along in life. Such an emotional, touching journey is difficult to impart upon viewers through the big screen, but this film nails it.
Jon Favreau directs and stars in this delectable summer entrée about a talented chef attempting to follow his creative cooking instincts while balancing life’s demands outside the kitchen. Favreau’s character, Carl Casper, is a rising culinary star that must overcome setbacks on his journey towards the American dream. “Chef” showcases what it takes to make it as an entrepreneur; a belief in oneself, talent, risk and customer service. It marinates each of these into a solid story with added pinches of humor.
This Walt Disney baseball film’s plot is as easy to predict as a Nolan Ryan fastball; a predicament that often makes a film less enjoyable. However, despite possibly knowing the outcome of this true story, “Million Dollar Arm” gives us many other wonderful subplots to explore and admire along its cinematic journey. This movie offers audiences many different changeup pitches—from culture, travel, to romance. And, yes, even some sports.
Spawning nearly 30 movies in 60 years, “Godzilla” has built worldwide name recognition while wreaking havoc upon Japanese cities. Along this historic path of terror, the franchise has gathered new generations of monster fans. A product created by Japan following Hiroshima and Nagasaki, “Godzilla” drew the world’s attention to the delicate balance between nuclear weapons and humanity. In this 2014 sexagenarian anniversary year of the “King of Monsters”, the newest saga should have celebrated and highlighted Godzilla for all to see. Instead, this remake relegates our favorite creature from a big-screen movie icon to a mere movie extra.
Watch out “Animal House”, move over “Old School” fans, the movie “Neighbors” has taken up residence as Hollywood’s newest frat-com. This film packs plenty of lewd behavior and laughs, as Seth Rogen (“Knocked Up”) and his family attempts to maintain some semblance of suburban peace and quiet. This comedy builds a strong case for audiences to look into their own Home Owners Associations and Neighborhood Watch programs. In the film, we see Rogen’s Mac Radner character team up with his wife, played perfectly by Rose Byrne (“Bridesmaids”), as they scheme ways to persuade Zac Efron to move his frat-pack to a new zip code.