Straight Outta Compton

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STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON

  Biopics are a tricky thing.  If you have a compelling story based on true events, then they can really be effective.  But, if you have an actor portraying an icon it’s easy for that performance to appear as bad impersonation, distracting you from the journey.  That’s not the case with Straight Outta Compton.  The story of one of the first big rap groups N.W.A., pioneers of Gangster Rap, is not only surprisingly poignant, but it’s quality film making at a high-level. There are great performances across the board, and none of which feel like hokey imitations.  Strong turns by
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Mad Max: Fury Road

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FURY ROAD

You’ve probably heard it all about Mad Max: Fury Road.  “Non-stop action thrill-ride.” “Best summer movie in years.” “Genius” “Masterpiece.”  ALL TRUE. The almost unanimous early buzz shouldn’t be seen as mere fanboy hyperbole, but serve as a ringing endorsement to get off your butt and go see this movie on the big screen. It’s really hard to find a critique of a film that is almost perfect in every way.  Fury Road is the reason we go to the cinema.  A modern day Stagecoach that is no doubt likely to resurrect a lost old school style and flare of
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Avengers: Age of Ultron

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Age of Ultron

The gang’s all back together and then some as director Joss Whedon and company try to top the commercial and critical success of Marvel’s The Avengers. There’s a lot going on inside this mega follow up. New characters, all kinds of subplots to aid into Marvel phase 3 flicks, and the ante has been upped with all the major action sequences. The story is way too crowded, the battle scenes are pretty flat, yet somehow Avengers: Age of Ultron overcomes its sequel shortcomings to be an overall satisfying experience, especially for the hard core comic fans. The strength of this
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Chappie

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Chappie

The most frustrating thing about potential is that it generally sets our expectations so high that anyone that has shown great promise or been tagged as the next wunderkind rarely reach the apex critics and audiences everywhere anticipate them achieving. Frankly that’s not fair. But life’s not fair. The bottom line is that Neill Blomkamp has major film making chops. We saw it in District 9 and we saw flashes of it in the visually stimulating, but uneven, Elysium.  Blomkamp is back with Chappie, a cautionary tale in a familiar setting (an embattled Johannesburg, South Africa) and it’s a hodgepodge
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A Critic’s Dozen: Best Films of 2014

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Inherent Vice

  1. Inherent Vice Two things stood out to me in a big way about Inherent Vice: 1) After I saw it the first time, I immediately wanted to revisit it.  2) The enchanting way it manages to achieve mystique, sadness, and absurd humor all at the same time. A lot of people have been asking, “What is Inherent Vice about?” That’s easy. It’s about America. Power. Class warfare. Hiding. Dirty hippies. Dope. Free love. The seventies. Cults. Pancakes. Charles Manson. California beach life. Boats. Nazis. Dentists. Sex. Love. Lust. Detectives. Politics. Ex-girlfriends. Loyalty. The LAPD. Mortal enemies. Dope. And
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Jupiter Ascending

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Jupiter Ascending

Man oh man what a wild ride The Wachowski’s filmography has been so far.  With the ground-breaking blockbuster “The Matrix” and the two disappointing sequels that almost ruined it, to a psychedelic Speed Racer movie, to a move about reincarnation and love that bordered on genius, to this…”Jupiter Ascending”.  To say the least it’s been very interesting.  Their latest is another of great ambition, something the sibling filmmakers Lana and Andy never seem to be short of.  But for the many reasons it falls short, the one that stands out most is the lack of character development that causes pure
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American Sniper

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From the opening moment, American Sniper is an effective war movie.  Our protagonist draws a beat on his target, a woman who could possibly be an Iraqi insurgent, then suddenly a boy appears in his cross hairs and appears to be carrying something under his clothes and walking towards a U.S. military convoy.  This sets the tone for what life in combat was like for Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper). War is hell and Chris Kyle is the trigger man stuck in the middle of fighting for his country that he feels so deeply about and the moral unease that comes
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Inherent Vice

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Inherent Vice

A lot of people have been asking, “What is Inherent Vice about?” That’s easy. It’s about America. Power. Class warfare. Hiding. Dirty hippies. Dope. Free love. The seventies. Cults. Pancakes. Charles Manson. California beach life. Boats. Nazis. Dentists. Sex. Love. Lust. Detectives. Politics.  Ex-girlfriends. Loyalty. The LAPD.  Mortal enemies. Dope. And the sad empty loneliness that some people are left carrying around for years. But if Inherent Vice is truly your bag the dozens of foggy “plot” details that whiz by and then fade away like distant stoned memories won’t matter much. Don’t concern yourself so much with the story, it’s
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The Gambler

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Wahlberg's 'Gambler' never lets us see him sweat - unfortunately

The Gambler is a peculiar movie.  It’s a movie about a compulsive gambler that never really admits that the protagonist has a problem.  It approaches the premise from an existential point of view in lieu of telling the story of an addict.  Considering the source material, the 1974 film of the same name starring James Caan, and being directed by Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) and written by William Monohan (The Departed) you’d think the creative team would be able to put together a sure thing.  The final product just ends up being very uneven and
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Gone Girl

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GONE GIRL, from left: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, 2014. ph: Merrick Morton/TM & copyright ©20th

Gone Girl was assuredly made for the entertainment of adult audiences everywhere. At its very core is that Hitcockcian spirit that seems to throw logic out the window and speed right past plot holes for pure movie-going pleasure. This type of film making only excels when in the hands of an expert though, and Gone Girl just happens to be made by one of the best auteurs working today – David Fincher. Fincher brings Gillian Flynn’s best selling novel about marital bliss gone awry to the big screen and wisely hired the author to adapt her own book into a
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