Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

This Jerry Bruckheimer production truly “brings it.” On the heels of Pirates of the Carribean, this mega-producer was able to produce another highly entertaining Summer swashbuckler for Disney. It is partially based on the popular video game of the same name.

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Cast

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Directed by

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Jake Gyllenhaal (Jake from here on out) plays Dastan, a street rat who becomes a prince. Sound familiar? No, actually other than that there are no parallels to Alladin. He obtains a dagger that is able to rewind time one minute in duration. Naturally everyone wants this dagger so he must keep it safe. Gemma Arterton is the beautiful princess who is charged with the task of getting it back from him. Dastan wrongly believes she wants HIM and not the dagger, as every prince probably would, but he is mistaken. Their romantic comedy banter back and forth is some of my favorite stuff from this film.

There are a couple of actor heavyweights in the film as: Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina. They bring a stoic feeling to the film. Both are very physical in the film, along with Jake. They appear to do many of their own stunts including Alfred Molina’s harrowing scene when he kisses an ostrich. I understand these are mean animals and yet, they manage to be ridden in the film without the use of CGI. Quite amazing if you asked me.

The film looks like a sword and sandal epic but feels just short of it at times. It isn’t a bad movie but it’s not as good as The Gods of Egypt or The 300. The story is a bit complex and I think could have been more engaging if it were whittled down and simplified a bit. Despite poor reviews and some stale audience periods, It did gross over 300 million dollars so something definitely is there that kept people swiping their cards and slapping down bills at the box office. I would recommend this film for fans of Jake or possibly the video game (I’ve never played it) but ony after you’ve seen everything else he’s done. I think you’ll find it a lot of fun in a branched off performance for him.

Skyfall

Since this is my first Bond Films experience, I decided to not get to big for my breeches. I picked three high points and that’s what I’ll share with you. There is a LOT that makes this film work but I’ll save the advanced stuff for the experts in this franchise.

Skyfall (2012)
PG-13 | 2h 23min | Action, Adventure, Thriller | 9 November 2012 (USA)
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Bond’s loyalty to M is tested when her past comes back to haunt her. When MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.
Director: Sam Mendes
Writers: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade | 2 more credits »
Stars: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris

But before my 3 things: The director gets a nod: Sam Mendes. Here’s a list of what the guy has done:

2015/I Spectre (directed by)
2012 Skyfall
2009 Away We Go
2008 Revolutionary Road
2005 Jarhead
2002 Road to Perdition
1999 American Beauty

I haven’t yet seen Spectre but know a little about it. I am looking forward to it. Revolutionary Road is a hard watch and definitely gives couples something to think about. Kate Winslet was married to the director at that time. They have since divorced. There is no such impressive acting in most action films and this Bond film doesn’t have it probably by design but that’s okay. The Road to Perdition and American Beauty are also character and dialog driven films, unlike this Bond film. So, how has the director made this film “work” for so many people it’s first on the majority of lists ranking the franchise? Here are three memorable components I noticed, again as I said, there are many more.

The views over and in Shanghai are breathtaking cinematography. Instead of focusing only on the action, Mendes envisioned so much more for this film. I felt like the armchair traveler reading and SEEING what he is reading on the other side of the world. One might see the film in this movie as a cheap vacation idea. It really took me away and drew me into what Bond was up to.

The villain played by Javier Bardem was scary and abrasive. I really wanted Bond to kick his ass. As the film continued though, I could empathize with him. He is not altogether a bad guy. Still, he had to be dealt with in the plot of the story. The parts where he removed his teeth were chilling and worked so well.

The Bond girls were all mysterious and sexy, which I’ll bet is true in all the films. They are also scary and NOT SOFT. In so many films the villainesses persuade the protagonist to stray from his task but nit here. This Bond has been around the block. It fun to watch the Bond girls in this film even while they are cold as ice beneath their beauty.

There are my three mentions about this film. I truly liked it and will definitely continue to the next in the series. I have a body horror podcast to do tomorrow so I will be reviewing films for that but I am sure next week you’ll be hearing from me on this blog about my next Bond film pick and review. If you have a second, why not leave me a recommendation. This one was tops! 10/10.

Storks

My Rating: 7/10

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Storks
Cast

Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Kelsey Grammer

Directed by

Nicholas Stoller, Doug Sweetland

Written by

Nicholas Stoller

Other Info

Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Rated PG
89min (and no more, thankfully)

For grown-ups:
For kids:
Storks landed in my local theater tonight and I was there with my 2 daughters ages 9 and 11.  By the way, I’m 47. I’m happy to report the 9 and 11 year-olds loved the film. I was only somewhat impressed.

IMDB gives this synopsis: Storks have moved on from delivering babies to packages. But when an order for a baby appears, the best delivery stork must scramble to fix the error by delivering the baby.

If that sounds like  a convoluted story, you don’t know the half of it.

Kids will like it though.

This film has been promoted in theater trailers and internet for what seems like a year at least. I think the makers felt the title would resonate in so many people’s childhood memories that they would mark the premiere date on their calendar as well as their Google alerts. As old as I am, my parents never told me anything about storks bringing babies. If any parents needed an explanation, it was them. I’m the oldest of 4 siblings and I was intelligent and very inquisitive as a kid. Thankfully for me, they shared the truth about how babies are made and how they come into the world at a reasonable age: no need for storks.

My dad on the other hand did get the stork story when he was a kid. I sent him a text after the movie joking that he should see this film. Maybe he’ll get it. I think this film assumed the audience knew this dishonest legend that parents used to tell their kids. It’s ironic how parents in the 1940’s needed storks to explain the mystery of childbirth to children. After this movie, a lot of parents will have to explain the mystery of the storks in the movie through the actual explanation of birth.

But, enough about the weird stork angle, let me tell you 2 things that do work in the film. 1) The babies. The first strong impression I recall of a baby in an animated film is Jack Jack in The Incredibles. He is a firecracker. I loved the way he giggled as he was blurting out superpowers. I think he stands out in all our minds as a movie baby we won’t forget. The babies in this film are amazing in a similar way. Their voices are perfectly timed with deft CGI artistry. This makes them extremely cute and loveable. The best aspect is the laughs. Their laughs make the Pilsbury doughboy sound stand-offish. They invite you to love them. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of merch comes from this film. 2) SOME of the jokes. There is a small bird who is a sort of pseudo-nemesis. He is very funny. Some of the jokes lag too much though. I was surprised this film was so flat in its humor after having been in production for a year or more. Usually they test things like that with focus groups etc. This film feels “off the cuff” a lot. Moreover, so much is predictable because we have seen all this before.

Having said that …

Kids will like it. To them, I recommend it. All else, tell me what you think. I think I could have skipped this one and not have missed much.

‘Ben Hur’ (2016)

*This review contains spoilers.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting this film’s release and now, after watching it am suffering extreme let down. Hopefully you don’t like sermons or preaching, if that’s the case you may agree that this film misses the mark by a mile. If you liked this film, read on with caution, especially if you liked the enhanced evangelical aspect.

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Ben Hur (2016)
Cast

Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Rodrigo Santoro

Directed by

Timur Bekmambetov (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter)

Written by

Keith R. Clarke
John Ridley
Based on the novel by: Lew Wallace

Other Info

Adventure, Drama, History
Rated PG-13
124min

For many this can be a fun afternoon at the movies, don’t let me ruin it for you but this is after all, my blog so here goes.

From Ben-Hur to Jesus’ words and back again … repeat. That’s pretty much the formula of this Ben-Hur reboot. This is quite different globally from the 1959 subtle presentation of religion. We rarely see Jesus in the original, he is a suggestion, a sideline, a background to be accessed and made sense of only by the individual. That’s what makes the original a more powerful movie. What little religion is there, you can take or leave it. It’s not preached but rather suggested.

The story is more or less the same, though certain parts were left out of the reboot: A Jewish prince must suffer to make it back to his rightful freedom. Along the way, he has battles with his adopted brother. It turns out the best way to defeat him is in a chariot race. There are periodic appearances of Jesus speaking scripture and acting out Bible stories in parallel time to Ben-Hur’s life. In the end, it is revealed that this Jesus guy/god was telling the truth and everyone gets a healing of sorts.

The original Ben-Hur is a beloved film made in 1959 starring Charlton Heston and a cast of thousands. It is as epic a film as one can imagine. Looking at it even on a surface level shows what is really happening here. This is a movie for evangelicals first. So why is it in theaters? That’s my biggest question. Producer Mark Burnett who is known for the Bible miniseries and the religious film Son of Man, secured the rights to re-do the 1959 film that won 11 Oscars. I have always seen the original as a secular movie to be enjoyed by all religions or by those who practice none.

Why pick a film to reboot that was so popular in its time as it was? Why not pick a film that did poorly and improve upon it? The answer is this: The name Ben-Hur is already established and therefore easier for evangelicals to force an agenda and a reading into a film.

Jesus appears a few times in the original Ben-Hur but in the reboot, he pops up a lot more. When he does, we see his face, hear extended monolog, and we even hear him tell Ben-Hur “I have a plan for your life.” Sounds like youth group at the local evangelical church “movie night.” The original Ben-Hur can be seen as pro-Christian but it is subtle and doesn’t over shadow the whole movie (especially the last 1/4). I honestly thought Greg Laurie or Billy Graham was going to appear during the credits and ask people to come forward to make a decision for Christ. Honestly people, there is a time and a place for this. Stealing the influence of Ben-Hur is not a cool move for the faithful. It’s already blowing up in their faces being a 30% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 4/10 on IMDB. I predict it will not be in theaters long.

But let’s get to the actual movie instead of going on and on about the philosophy of the producer: Is this a quality film apart from the preachy religious stuff? Apart from two segments, this is a nothing more than a Hallmark tv movie. It’s hard to believe it made it to theaters. The two segments that made it worth watching fo me are: 1) The galley slave/boat scenes and 2) The chariot race. Everything else is like witnessing a dud firework not go off.

I should say a quick word about Morgan Freeman. All the acting is bad in this film. It’s like watching a long-haired 13 year old play Spartacus after oiling up his arms. Freeman is comatose. It’s as if he was paid a ridiculous sum out of the 100 million spent on the film and is thinking about all his relatives private school tuitions as his lines are delivered. I hope people reading this who disagree with me will get a chance to see the original Ben-Hur. This is nothing like it in any way. I had a similar criticism of Pete’s Dragon recently. I will actually praise Pete’s Dragon over this because Pete’s Dragon can stand on its own without preaching religion. There are parts that are neutral and enjoyable but due to its preachy side, this film should be playing in churches, not secular theaters.

In conclusion, I have no problem with a movie having religious overtones, many humans have religion and movies are for people. The problem here is that this reboot is preaching. Secular movies should be adventures anyone can get on board. I’ll forget this film in a couple of days and I do not recommend it. If you liked it, I’d like to hear why in the comments. To me, this is a made for church, church movie. I’m looking forward to putting my dashed hopes aside and getting on to the next film I want to see.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

“The devil comes from the sky.” -Lex Luthor

Apart from misleading marketing, even down to the very title of the film, “Batman v Superman” is an amazing film that audiences are sure to continue enjoying. The critics at large have dismissed its genius but time will take care of that.

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Cast
Ben Affleck

as Batman

Henry Cavill

as Superman

Amy Adams

as Lois

Directed by
Zach Snyder
Written by
Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer
Other Info

Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Rated PG-13
151 min

I’ve gone around and around with it in my head and decided I just can’t take points from a movie because it was named and marketed poorly. Honestly though, that’s the only thing wrong with this film. It shines. My nearly eighteen year old son said it dragged at the beginning and was laboriously long but we both agree the mid to end portion is spectacular I thought the whole movie was stellar.

Without giving any spoilers, let me just say the title should have been something like: “Superman 2: Luthor rises.” This is really a Superman film with the usual nemesis Lex Luthor who uses rhetoric to persuade Batman to kill Superman. Does he succeed? Yes and no. You’ll have to see the film. There is some other stuff in the plot I’d love to talk about. It’s a grand scale monster we hear nothing about in the trailers. In my opinion, the monster and Lex are really what this movie is all about.

Ben Affleck plays a great Batman, which many of us felt he would. There is also the debut of the DC character Wonder Woman in the latter part of the film. This was briefly explained. In fact, the intro to her coming on screen was so miniscule, I have to go back and watch it again to get where she came from etc. It was a long and involved film so please forgive me. I didn’t bring my notepad, a mistake that will not happen again.

Another thing that maybe could have taken a star from my 5 star rating of this behemoth, beautiful film is the insertion of histories, mostly on Batman. Now we all know Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed in front of him as a child. Scenes like this and others are plentiful in the early part of the film. I would have rather they not be, they aren’t relevant. Still, this film picks up and gets you on a ride that all you’re thinking is “I can’t wait to tell my friends about this.” Don’t believe the critics on this one. I found it much preferable to the critical darling “Deadpool.” I highly recommend it.

The 5th Wave

5thwave-4128637Title: The 5th Wave
Number of times I’ve seen it: 1
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Year: 2014
Director: J Blakeson
Top Billed Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz (“Hugo,” “Kickass”), Matthew Zuk, Gabriela Lopez (“Million Dollar Arm”)
Brief Synopsis: Aliens start inhabiting Earth and a group of tenagers rebel trying to save themselves. The main character, Cassie Sullivan, is trying to find her little brother.

The rest of this review may contain spoilers.

Here we have yet another teenage post apocalypse love triangle action sci fi film. On that level, it holds its own. There are some great action and cgi destruction scenes.

Chloë Grace Moretz commands the screen with a presence that belies her youth. It’s a great movie and I highly recommend it. My one criticism is that it took a while to get going. I don’t think the story started moving for me until the scene where the main character is shot in the leg. That’s where the mysteries start to unravel. Because that took far too long, it lost a star from me.

‘Star Trek: Beyond’ – Don’t Blink on This Ride

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Starring: Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho

Genres: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Directed By: Justin Lin

Studio: Paramount Pictures

MPAA Rating
PG-13

I saw Star Trek: Beyond last night on its second night after release. When I see Star Trek films, I usually miss some secret winks because I am not much of a “Trekkie” and therefore don’t know the labyrinth of secret passageways that many others I meet new. In fact, my wife, who is not a film critic, explains a lot to me when we go to see these films. Last night had a few parts I couldn’t figure out but I’ll avoid those.

Instead, I’ll tell you that Captain Kirk is put in a position to save the galaxy (common theme). The adventurous quest to do that is a rip-roaring ride! Directed by Justin Lin (Fast and the Furious), the spaceships are now the race cars. There is a lot of action in this film but I must disagree with some other critics who are saying it’s too fast and furious. There are moments of suspense as well and moments where the viewers is ban rest, stop, and get cerebral..

The visuals are stunning. Because this is a quick review intended to have “no spoilers,” I won’t describe them to you. I will say that in 1977 when Harrison Ford, Alec Guinness, and Mark Hamill saw the death star for the first time, it had a mind-blowing effect on movie goers. There is actually some stuff in this film that will leave you in “shock and awe” in a similar way. Please note however that the plot is pretty good and special effects are secondary to that, which always makes me happy.

There is so much in this film worthy of the ticket price. There is a side story Spock is dealing with, sense that virtually fill the movie with the now departed Anton Yelchin, a Smokin’ hot Zoe Zaldana, a vaguely funny Simon Pegg (but funny all the same.) I had a blast watching this film. I anticipate Trekkies will like the new villain Krall (Idris Elba). He’s a tortured creature with a lot of hate for the federation which makes for some really juicy fight scenes. I did have some issues with the film. Instead of developing the villain they sort of catapulted him into hate mode. I wanted to know more about him and why he became who he was. It was explained a little in a very rushed fashion in the last 1/4 of the film but I think doing that earlier would have invested me more in his character. For the haziness of the villain, I took one star away. This is an amazing film, I highly recommend it.