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The 21 Jump Street big-screen reboot shouldn't have worked. In the film, the leads, newly graduated officers played by Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, are told the police department has run out of ideas. Rebranding a once-popular idea was all the creativity the department could muster. That was a message for us, that everyone involved was in on the joke. Even Johnny Depp stopped by to be in on it. Against the odds, 21 Jump Street worked. What does Hollywood do with an idea that works? They do the same thing, naturally. Thankfully, the same team (chiefly co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller) is back and still in on the joke. 22 Jump Street becomes the Jump Street movie to end all Jump Street movies. Maybe.
A strange noise in the middle of the night awakens a young couple. The husband, Richard Dane, goes to the closet, opens it, and quietly begins to load his gun. He begins searching the house, walking down the dark hallway towards the living room. Suddenly, a beam from a flashlight shines against the far wall, a light that is coming from within the house. Richard freezes, unable to take in a breath. Panicked. This is the first of many moments that generate a veritable intensity throughout Cold in July, powerful adaptation of the Joe R. Lonsdale crime-thriller novel from We Are What We Are director Jim Mickle. Read more below!
The name of the movie is Edge of Tomorrow, but the name of the novel that inspired it is All You Need is Kill, definitely a harder hitting title than the safer, more user friendly name Warner Bros. came up with. Oddly enough, the movie's title is more appropriate for the story it tells, but Edge of Tomorrow still lives up to its source material's title, matching it bullet-for-bullet and generally kicking just as much ass. It's a non-stop jolt of summer blockbuster-sized entertainment, made all the more so by an expected charismatic turn from Tom Cruise. Altering and adjusting the novel in all the right ways, Edge of Tomorrow's marriage of story and eye-popping visuals makes it the one to beat for the remainder of the season. Read on!
Maleficent is the new black. I make that statement referring to the Mistress of All Evil character Disney originated in the 1959 animated film Sleeping Beauty, now getting her own feature length, live-action film with a misunderstood backstory. The character is one for the ages and packed with a performance to match. Angeline Jolie commits to the role, flashing 90% teeth and 200% cheekbone. The character of Maleficent is great, and the film is a digital effects-laden extravaganza, the kind of fantasy epic that has "movie event of the Summer" written all over it. Unfortunately, a less-than-epic story makes for a much lesser film as a whole, never quite living up to the greatness of this classic Disney character or that performance. Read on!
The past of the X-Men franchise is a rocky road to success. The rough patches mostly came around the middle. While stumbles like X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine made audiences cringe at the thought of another mutant adventure, most of the series has been solid. X-Men: Days of Future Past marks yet another achievement, continuing the high marks left behind by recent entries X-Men: First Class and The Wolverine. An intriguing story development mixed with sporadic bouts of top quality action is pretty much all we ask for in a summer blockbuster. Thanks to returning director Bryan Singer back behind the wheel, X-Men: Days of Future Past delivers, safely securing the franchise's future. For now.
Enemy, the latest cerebral thriller directed by Prisoners helmer Denis Villeneuve, can suitably be described as an absolute mind-bender. That is to say the film’s screenplay rides the thin line between total understanding and complete bafflement. Villeneuve’s directorial style and color provide stylish yet discomforting flares to the narrative, and the dual performances by Jake Gyllenhaal (who also starred in Prisoners) are among the strongest of the actor’s career, not to mention the equally strong supporting cast.
Meanwhile over at Sony's take on the Marvel cinematic universe, things have gotten ugly. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 rides a high wave of comic book fandom in the movie world, but that doesn't mean it carries with it the same weight or impact we've seen recently. The first film of this ill-timed reboot was worthless, a cheap retread over familiar territory that added little to the Spider-Man universe. The sequel, however, is littered with moments and ideas that bring about some very genuine emotion. Unfortunately, those moments are few and far between, and instead of getting something fun, fresh, or original, we are bombarded by the same cartoonish tropes and over-the-top performances that nearly killed the comic book movie in the 1990s. Congratulations, Marc Webb, some comparisons to Joel Schumacher are in order.
Visually haunting and lyrical in style, Jonathan Glazer’s adaptation of the novel Under the Skin is the kind of profound sci-fi brain-stopper that will be sure to draw comparisons to some of the greats. We’re talking Kubrick and Roeg comparisons. History will tell if Under the Skin attains any part of that level of legacy, but it’s undeniable the film achieves success in the images it displays before our eyes and the emotions they beckon from the audience’s soul. Always at an arm’s length of understanding its grand design, the film relies on aesthetic and a gripping performance from Scarlett Johansson to hold the viewer’s attention. All things considered, that's not a bad combination of benefits to choose from. Read on!
Cinematographer Wally Pfister's directorial debut, Transcendence, barely even registers. You can forget about it transcending anything. From the minute we're introduced to the wrap-around, and long before we even flash back, the stagnancy of the screenplay begins to dull everything down around it. It's playing on some interesting ideas, concepts that may well come across as far more mind-blowing when found in a science book. Too much is bland in Transcendence, and that goes for story, acting and direction. Not even the immaculate eye of Wally Pfister can escape the black hole of enjoyment that's at the heart of this film.
It's high time comic book movies gave us something serious and incredible. Who am I kidding? Marvel is doing it and doing it well, hitting a steady stride of peaks and valleys on their way to the next big cataclysmic movie event, The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Before we get there though, we have the second adventure of America’s favorite patriot, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier is an exceptional stopping point along the way. Hungry for a cool, conspiracy theory mystery? It’s here. Got a hankering for awesome, big budget, heavy-hitting, and high-flying excitement that barely lets up? We've got that. Ready for - yes, we keep saying this - the best Marvel movie yet? Captain America: The Winter Soldier stakes that claim too.
"Leave no loose ends," says the tagline for the latest Arnold Schwarzenegger action extravaganza, Sabotage. The line is in reference to the mystery at the heart of the film, but it's a line the writers should have taken to heart in their screenplay. While it's no grand revelation that a Schwarzenegger film is lacking in the writing department, it should be mentioned that Sabotage is the kind of film that prides itself on having both over-the-top, insane violence and a tightly wound, suspenseful story. It wholly delivers on just one of those aspects, but it's never a film that puts a black mark on Schwarzenegger's action career. On the contrary, he may just be succeeding in his action career resurgence where Stallone is stumbling. Read on!
The Muppets are back. Again. It only took one motion picture after their triumphant return to the big screen, but the bloom is definitely off the rose when it comes to what makes the Muppets special. Muppets Most Wanted brings back much of the same creative team behind 2011's The Muppets, but something is missing. The wide variety of jokes are in there, everything from pratfalls to the best "Wocka Wocka" punchlines Fozzie Bear can muster, and the slew of cameo appearances is still on full force. And yet Muppets Most Wanted ultimately comes off as a cash-grab slapped together to keep this Muppet train a-rollin. At least they don't start this one with a song all about the greatness of sequels. Oh, wait. They do.
Even with middle-of-the-road reviews and decent box office, a sequel to 300 always seemed inevitable. The art of Frank Miller's comic book brought to cinematic life by director Zack Snyder with all the slow motion and speed ramping he could muster seemed justified enough for a follow-up. That sequel is 300: Rise of an Empire, and though Snyder isn’t sitting in the director’s chair this time around, the trademark look and feel of his 300 is present in every frame. That’s not all. Despite the familiar look, and the all-too familiar narrative points we have to go back over, 300: Rise of an Empire also has a familiar way of kicking the audience’s ass, loading the screen with epic battles brought to life this time around with the very best in digital effects hard at work. That’s to say nothing of the awesome villainy on display from Eva Green.
You’ve got to hand it to Liam Neeson. The guy knows precisely on which side his bread is buttered. Since rising to Stallone-level status in the action world, Neeson has been on a tear, dropping into plenty of action films, only worried about the punching and kicking. The same goes for Jaume Collet-Serra, the director of Neeson’s latest actioner, Non-Stop. Despite a resolution that makes the mystery that came before it that much dumber, the film delivers top-notch action, giving us exactly what we’ve come to expect from the collaboration that gave us Unknown last year. At the very least, Non-Stop’s premise and the fury from some solid moments of suspense keep it from being just another forgettable entry on Neeson's action resumé.