Category Archives: Movie Reviews

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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Harry Potter is still magical

Daniel Radcliff play Harry Potter in "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince."

Daniel Radcliff play Harry Potter in "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince."

It’s been two years since boy wizard Harry Potter graced the silver screen, and he’s not so boyish anymore. Fact is, Potter and the now monumentally famous actor who portrays him, Daniel Radcliffe, have become strapping young men, which seems appropriate for a fantasy saga that has grown increasingly bold and dark.

“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” draws from and builds on the gloom that’s been creeping into the franchise, but that’s no surprise to fans of the J.K. Rowling novels. The Potter faithful are well aware that “Half-Blood Prince” is packed with nasty dealings, all involving the revival of the evil wizard Voldemort. It’s important to mention the Potter faithful because this movie, more than any of the previous films, requires a primer.

Director David Yates, who also helmed 2007’s “The Order of the Phoenix,” assumes that his audience knows who the characters are, understands what they mean to each other and has at least basic knowledge of the evil stalking the title character. One needn’t read the books to get caught up, but a viewing of the five prior movies will help … a lot.

Click here for full review: http://www.rgj.com/article/20090715/ENT/90715001/1056/Harry-Potter-is-still-magical

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‘Witch Mountain’ is fun despite flaws

From left to right, Carla Gugino, AnnaSophia Robb, Alexander Ludwig and Dwayne Johnson in "Race to Witch Mountain."

From left to right, Carla Gugino, AnnaSophia Robb, Alexander Ludwig and Dwayne Johnson in "Race to Witch Mountain."

RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN
2 ½ stars (out of four)
Rated PG for sequences of action and violence, frightening and dangerous situations, and some thematic elements
98 minutes
Walt Disney Pictures

Disney’s re-imagining of the 1975 family adventure “Escape to Witch Mountain,” has its share of flaws but it’s still a likable feature, in large part thanks to the winning cast.

Dwayne Johnson stars as Jack Bruno, a Las Vegas cab driver with a sketchy past. Despite his desire to go straight, former associates are trying to lure him back to a life of crime, but that becomes a minor concern when two children, Sara (AnnaSophia Robb) and Seth (Alexander Ludwig), wind up in his cab and offer him $15,000 for an extraordinarily long journey.

It doesn’t take long for Johnson to learn that the kids have special abilities and that they’re being hunted by both the U.S. government and something far worse. When Sara and Seth tell Jack they are actually extraterrestrial, he balks. Still, he sticks with them, trying to keep them out of harm’s way despite increasing trouble and the nagging thought that they’re telling the truth. Eventually, Jack recruits a beautiful scientist named Alex Friedman (Carla Gugino) to the cause.

The story has a number of plot holes, most notably that the children regularly fail to use their abilities at times when they would come in most handy and that elite government agents are depicted as bumbling goons. This may bother demanding viewers, but the youngsters in the audience should be able to look right past the trouble spots and enjoy the ride. Truth is, adults can do that too, and those who like Johnson’s affable demeanor probably will. He is winning from start to finish and Robb, Ludwig and Gugino only serve to make him better.

Credit also goes to director and co-writer Andy Fickman who keeps the pace fast enough that viewers don’t have much time to dissect the nagging inconsistencies.

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