Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Snapshot review: ‘American Ultra’

AMERICAN ULTRA

Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart star in the action-comedy "American Ultra."  Photo courtesy of EPK.tv

Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart star in the action-comedy “American Ultra.”
Photo courtesy of EPK.tv

Critical rating: 2½ stars out of four

Directed by: Nima Nourizadeh (“Project X”)

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, Connie Britton, Walton Goggins, John Leguizamo and Bill Pullman

Rated: R for strong bloody violence, language throughout, drug use and some sexual content

The story: “American Ultra” is an entertaining action-comedy about a youthful slacker (Jesse Eisenberg) who easily dispatches two assassins that attempt to kill him, leading to the realization that he is really a former CIA agent who had his mind wiped. His loyal girlfriend (Kristen Stewart) is along for the ride.

The scoop: There are funny moments, and director Nima Nourizadeh mixes them with sequences of brutally graphic violence. Viewers will have a good time if they can look beyond the glaring plot problems and focus on the solid performances and Nourizadeh’s emphasis of style over substance.  Those who demand more from their filmmakers will see “American Ultra” for what it is: a lightweight Tarantino clone.

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Snapshot review: ‘Terminator Genisys’

TERMINATOR GENISYS

Critical rating: 3½ stars out of four

Directed by: Alan Taylor (“Thor: The Dark World”)

Starring: Jai Courtney, Emilia Clarke, Jason Clarke, Arnold Schwarzenegger and J.K. Simmons

Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and gunplay throughout, partial nudity and brief strong language

The story: The fifth installment in this long-running science-fiction franchise takes viewers to the future and past with a story that relies heavily on time travel. Much of the action centers on Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), who was played by Michael Biehn in the 1984 original. Viewers watch as Kyle is sent back to 1984 to save Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). Presumably this would result in a replay of the first movie, but Kyle lands in a timeline that has been significantly changed. In fact, there is a point where humanity’s prophesized savior, John Connor, becomes mankind’s biggest threat.

The scoop: “Terminator Genisys” is a fitting tribute to all the films that came before and the most entertaining franchise entry since 1991’s “Judgment Day.” Like the first two movies, the film is sometimes silly, often funny and always action packed. It’s a great summer blockbuster.

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New to home video: ‘Get Hard,’ ‘The Gunman,’ ‘While We’re Young’ and ‘Danny Collins’

Sean Penn plays an assassin who is hunted for the secrets that he harbors in

Sean Penn plays an assassin who is hunted for the secrets that he harbors in “The Gunman.”

Photo courtesy of Universal

The new home video releases for June 30 include …

GET HARD
2½ stars out of four
Rated R for pervasive crude and sexual content and language, some graphic nudity and drug material
Warner Brothers
Starring: Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell
Written and directed by: Etan Cohen (first feature film)
The scoop: Will Ferrell plays a millionaire who is sentenced to prison after a fraud conviction. Devastated, he hires the only black man he knows, Darnell (Kevin Hart), to prepare him for lockup. The only trouble is Darnell is as squeaky clean as they come. Hart and Ferrell are charismatic actors and the premise is funny, but the execution is hit-and-miss.

THE GUNMAN
3 stars out of four
Rated R for strong violence, language and some sexuality
Universal
Starring: Sean Penn and Javier Bardem
Directed by: Pierre Morel (“Taken”)
The scoop: A former assassin (Sean Penn) finds himself hunted by dangerous men afraid of the dark secrets that he harbors. Moviegoers have seen similar things in the past, but the film is still engaging thanks to solid pacing and a nice performance by Penn.

WHILE WE’RE YOUNG
3 stars out of four
Rated R for language
Lionsgate
Starring: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Grodin and Adam Horovitz
Written and directed by: Noah Baumbach (“Frances Ha,” “The Squid and the Whale”)
The scoop: The story of a middle-aged couple (Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts) who try to recapture their youth by hanging out with a much-younger couple (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried). The subject matter is enticing and the cast is remarkably talented.

DANNY COLLINS
3 stars out of four
Rated R for language, drug use and some nudity
Universal
Starring: Al Pacino, Annette Bening, Jennifer Garner, Bobby Cannavale and Christopher Plummer
Written and directed by: Dan Fogelman (first feature film)
The scoop: An aging rock musician takes stock of his career and tries to reinvent himself after receiving an undelivered letter that John Lennon wrote to him at the beginning of his career. Al Pacino isn’t completely believable as a superstar singer, but the movie’s dramatic arc is surprisingly engaging.

NOTE: Blu-rays, DVDs and screening links are provided to the reviewer at no charge. This enables us to run reviews the day titles become public, but it does not influence the opinions expressed.

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New to Home Video: ‘Kingsman – The Secret Service,’ ‘The DUFF’ and ‘Project Almanac’

The following home video releases are available in most formats as of June 9 …

Kingsman: The Secret Service

3½ stars (out of four)
Rated R for sequences of strong violence, language and some sexual content
20th Century Fox
Starring: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Caine, Mark Strong and Mark Hamill
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn (“Kick Ass,” “X-Men: First Class”)
The scoop: Story of a troubled young man (Taron Egerton) who is invited to try out for a top-secret spy organization. His mentor is a long-time agent named Harry Hart (Colin Firth). The movie is a delightful mix of comedy and action, and the cast is outstanding. The film is also extremely violent, which is to be expected since it came from the director of “Kick Ass.”

The DUFF

Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual material throughout, some language and teen partying
Lionsgate
Starring: Mae Whitman, Robbie Amell, Nick Eversman, Bella Thorne and Bianca A. Santos
Directed by: Ari Sandel (first feature-length, fiction movie)
The scoop: A high school senior (Mae Whitman) throws her school’s social order into disarray when she fights back after learning that everybody knows her as the “designated ugly fat friend.”

Project Almanac

Rated PG-13 for some language and sexual content
Paramount
Starring: Johnny Weston, Sophia Black D’Elia, Sam Lerner and Allen Evangelista
Directed by: Dean Israelite (first feature-length movie)
The scoop: Documentary-style picture about a group of friends who build a time machine only to discover that their meddling has unintended effects that puts everyone in danger.

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‘San Andreas’ snapshot review

SAN ANDREAS

Critical rating: 2½ stars out of four

Directed by: Brad Peyton (“Journey 2: The Mysterious Island”)

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Paul Giamatti, Alexandra Daddario, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson and Ioan Gruffudd

Rated: PG-13

The story: A massive earthquake rattles the San Francisco coast, forcing a rescue chopper pilot (Dwayne Johnson) and his estranged wife (Carla Gugino) into a desperate search for their missing daughter (Alexandra Daddario).

The scoop: Movies don’t get much stupider or more overblown than “San Andreas.” As with most disaster movies, the severity of the destruction and loss of life are belittled by the fact that only a handful of characters receive significant screen time. Nevertheless, there is something relentlessly entertaining about all this nonsense. The special effects are astonishing, and Dwayne Johnson is charming even when he’s working with an insipid script. “San Andreas” is a guilty pleasure in the guiltiest sense.

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‘Spy’ snapshot review

Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) and her fellow CIA operative Rick Ford (Jason Statham) pose as a “happy” couple as they go deep undercover to stop an arms dealer.

Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) and her fellow CIA operative Rick Ford (Jason Statham) pose as a “happy” couple as they go deep undercover to stop an arms dealer.
Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

SPY

Critical rating: 3 stars out of four

Directed by: Paul Feig (“The Heat,” “Bridesmaids”)

Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Jude Law and Rose Byrne

Rated: R for language throughout, violence, and some sexual content including brief graphic nudity

The story: “Spy” is centered on a CIA analyst (Melissa McCarthy) who is promoted from her long-time desk job to an undercover assignment where she must try to stop a nuclear weapon from falling into the wrong hands.

The scoop: Writer-director Paul Feig becomes one of the industry’s most reliable comedy directors with a film that’s set to become a mainstream hit. “Spy” isn’t the most original picture to hit theaters in 2015, but it is a consistently funny Hollywood concoction that entertains while poking good-natured fun at the espionage genre. Melissa McCarthy does most of the heavy lifting, but the excellent supporting cast – particularly Jason Statham in a rare comedic role – is likable as well.

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Harry Potter franchise ends on a high note

The final spell has been cast and the Harry Potter movie franchise is coming to a close. Of course, you knew that.

The boy wizard’s face has been everywhere lately: trailers, movie posters, magazines, TV shows. If there’s one thing you can count on with a big-budget summer movie, it’s hype. Quality, on the other hand, is a more uncertain variable, one too often sacrificed to the gods of Lowest-Common-Denominator Programming. Thankfully, returning director David Yates and the other professionals on the Potter creative team have not wavered.

READ THE ENTIRE REVIEW

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