Battle, or lack thereof, in Los Angeles
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Aliens invade in ‘Battle: Los Angeles.’
Aliens are invading California!
That phrase conjures images of immigrants crossing the border looking for a better life and politicians using them as a political puppet. Unfortunately, the aliens in “Battle: Los Angeles” are not from this world, and they are definitely not here for our low-skill jobs.
“Battle: Los Angeles” is the story of a Marine unit in the middle of a global alien invasion. The event is worldwide, but the film focuses on the invasion in the Los Angeles/Santa Monica area. Water is the most precious substance in the universe and Earth is blessed with a vast supply of it. It’s that abundance that brings the aliens to our world to bleed it dry. The movie also raises the question: How would the world react to an alien invasion?
The characters in the film are painfully stereotypical of a traditional war movie. It has the grizzled old veteran, played by Aaron Eckhart, on his way to retirement; the inexperienced lieutenant fresh out of training; the soon-to-be married Marine with a reason to fight; and the pretty Air Force girl thrown in for equality.
The visual effects are decent, but not amazing. There are a few good shots of L.A. littered with devastation, but these effects have been seen before in movies such as “2012,” “Transformers” and “Independence Day.” What the film lacks in amazing effects, it makes up with shaky camera footage.
If you are looking for bloody scenes of battle, look somewhere else. The effects of being shot or blown up in the film are equivalent to losing a game of dodge ball.
“Battle: Los Angeles” probably won’t be winning a film-of-the-year award, but it is hardly the worst film I’ve seen. If you’re on a tight budget and you still want to see soldiers fighting aliens, just go rent “Independence Day.”
Runtime: 116 minutes
‘Red Riding Hood’ is too much like ‘Twilight’ — only worse
BENJAMIN MICHAEL SOLIS
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Amanda Seyfried stars in ‘Red Riding Hood.’
When “Twilight” graced (and desecrated) movie theaters in 2008, moviegoers and production studios knew that any film made in the teenage-age love/horror genre could possibly make a lot of money following the same sappy guidelines.
Sadly, Warner Bros. tried to capitalize off that unfounded success and came up with this piece of yard fertilizer.
In “Red Riding Hood,” a small woodland village has been ravaged by a large, ominous werewolf for years. So the scared town-folk call in a priest (Gary Oldman), who moonlights as a grand inquisitor and monster hunter, to come rid them of their anguish.
Seems like an alright concept by itself, but as soon as you start adding a love story, misguided casting choices and a bad mix of awkwardly meshed camera techniques, you get “Twilight — Version 4.0.”
And it seems that this was all the movie was: a story developed in the same worn-out formula told through a different lens. Both the leading male characters fought over the affection of village hottie Amanda Seyfried, who only had real feelings for Peter (Shiloh Fernandez).
Seyfried’s character must decide whether to follow her heart or the conventions of her society, which is plagued by a talking werewolf. It was a love story that was not only unnecessary, but oddly too sexual for the PG-13 rating.
Even the character of Seyfried’s father appeared in the Twilight movies as heroine Bella Swan’s father, and the characters were exactly the same.
Wrong. And to make this film even worse, the director chose the most mismatched batch of novice film techniques and gaudy makeup to make Red Riding Hood more artsy than it should have been. Did I mention the talking CGI werewolf?
If you are a fan of mindless, hyper-sexualized teenage cinema, you would probably enjoy this movie (and you should still be a senior in high school for that matter). If you have a brain, save your money, time and neural capacity for something better.
Runtime: 100 min.
Pills and thrills not enough to save ‘Limitless’
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Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper star in ‘Limitless.’
It was wild, it was brash, it was creative — but sketchy acting performances and an unconvincing plot really leave a lot to be desired.
“Limitless,” starring Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Anna Friel and Abbie Cornish, tells the story of a struggling author named Eddie Morra (Cooper) whose life undergoes some chaotic changes after being introduced to a black-market drug that allows him to access the powers of his entire brain.
Learning new languages in a day, remembering everything he’s ever learned and knowing all the answer to life’s problems — Morra experiences all of this in the course of the movie. But when the pill supply runs out, he has to scramble to find more in order to maintain his ideal lifestyle.
The biggest problem I had with this movie its lack of focus. The plot has too much going on. While Morra is “Wall Street gold” to one of the market’s biggest players, Carl Van Loon (De Niro), he also is being accused of murdering an innocent young model.
And while we’re at it, wasn’t Morra a struggling novelist? Where did his connections with Wall Street come into play?
They shouldn’t have.
The movie is entertaining and fun while Morra is on the drug, but other times it seems like he’s just sitting in meetings, talking to brokers and doing a lot of uninteresting things.
There were some parts that really caught my attention, though. The visuals when Morra is on the drug are pretty cool and the movie definitely takes you on a long, winding rollercoaster ride.
“Limitless” definitely has its share of thrills and often kept me on the edge of my seat. However, that wasn’t enough to save the crazy plot and odd acting performances throughout the movie.
In better words, it won’t be much of a problem for you to limit yourself to seeing it once.
Runtime: 105 minutes
‘Adjustment Bureau’ — starts slow, but eventually shines
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Matt Damon and Emily Blunt in ‘The Adjustment Bureau.’
The concept was tremendous and the movie was even better.
“The Adjustment Bureau,” starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, takes place in New York, where Congressman David Norris (Damon) is running for the United States Senate.
After losing in his first campaign, Norris meets Elise Sellas (Blunt) just minutes before giving his final speech of the campaign. Falling in love at first site, Norris soon finds out he’s never allowed to see her again, because it’s not in God’s plan. Or “the Chairman’s” plan, as is commonly referred to in the movie.
Three years after their first meeting, Norris and Sellas meet again where they attempt to reconnect, but not without The Adjustment Bureau (a group of agents who make sure things go according to “the Chairman’s” plan) causing problems.
While the film isn’t billed as an action movie, it really had me on the edge of my seat several times. Though it started a bit slow, once the movie was building toward its climax, it really had the audience captivated.
The connection that Norris and Sellas have is amazing. It’s believable, and both actors give stellar performances. Somehow, the movie turns The Adjustment Bureau and God into the antagonists, and has you rooting against fate in hopes that they’ll end up together in the end.
The biggest downside of the movie was its lack of comic relief. It attempted a few jokes, but for the most part they were pretty stale.
Regardless, “The Adjustment Bureau” is undoubtedly a movie to see in 2011, if only for what Damon and Blunt bring to the screen.
Runtime: 106 minutes
‘Hall Pass’ worth a shot
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Jason Sudeikis and Owen Wilson in ‘Hall Pass.’
Anyone who has been in a long-term relationship can relate with the idea of getting away for a week without any repercussions from your mate for your actions.
This is the premise for the comedy “Hall Pass,” which follows two men who get the chance to act as wild as they can for a week — and their wives can’t do anything about it.
Owen Wilson and “Saturday Night Live” cast member Jason Sudeikis star, and they party their week away reliving their “glory days” that were mostly about meeting women.
While the concept seems tailor-made for a comedic romp, the film misses its chance to really capitalize on a great idea.
Directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly (“There’s Something About Mary” and “Me Myself and Irene”) have the comedy pedigree to fool patrons into thinking this film lives up to their legacy. While the movie has many funny moments, they usually don’t play into the story well because they seem forced.
Wilson and Sudeikis have a great chemistry and even play well off their screen wives, played by “The Office” star Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate. That relationship helps make a boring plot entertaining for most of the film. The middle half-hour of the movie really drags and the few funny moments are too spread out to make up for it.
That’s not to say “Hall Pass” is not funny. In fact, a theme of cracking on comedienne Kathy Griffin is a highlight. While it may not live up to expectations of most rated R comedies, “Hall Pass” is worth a watch, especially if you wait for the DVD release.
Runtime: 105 minutes
‘Just Go With It’ — or not
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Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler in the Columbia Pictures’ comedy ‘Just Go With It.’
I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for Adam Sandler films. Outside of a couple terrible films of his (“Zohan”) I usually like everything he is in. And while I enjoyed his latest flick “Just Go With It,” I didn’t leave the theatre with a smile on my face.
The film stars Sandler as Danny, a plastic surgeon who pretends to be married in order to sleep with women. He uses a sob story about his horrible “wife” to woo them into the bedroom. He falls for a woman named Palmer, (played by Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker), and she discovers his fake wedding ring and breaks up with him.
Sandler’s character seeks the help of his assistant Catherine (Jennifer Aniston) to convince Palmer that she and Danny were once married. Following a string of odd circumstances, the trio, along with Catherine’s two kids and Danny’s cousin, end up taking a family trip to Hawaii.
Danny’s cousin is played by comedian Nick Swardson, and he steals the show. Swardson’s over the top characters and goofy nature usually don’t work for me, but in this film it added something to a very boring script.
Featuring cameos from Nicole Kidman, Dave Matthews and tennis star Andy Roddick, “Just Go With It” seems like an excuse for Sandler to film a movie in Hawaii and make out with Decker and Aniston. While I can’t hold that against him, it seems to be a trend in his movies lately.
Despite a weak story coupled with jokes and gags that are a staple in the genre, “Just Go With It” is a decent romantic comedy. While I would recommend it, I’d also suggest waiting for the DVD release and saving some the money.
Runtime: 116 minutes
‘The Eagle’ fails to soar at the box office
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Tahar Rahim (left), Jamie Bell (center) and Channing Tatum (right) star in the Roman epic adventure ‘The Eagle.’
It’s fair to assume that a movie entitled “The Eagle” would be fast and smooth, but instead, this movie was slow-paced and quite boring.
Taking place in around 140 A.D., the film stars Channing Tatum as Marcus Aquila, the son of a leader who failed to return from a trip to Scotland alive with a golden eagle.
What seems like three hours into the movie, the plot picks up when Aquila saves a slave named Esca (Jamie Bell). Aquila begs and eventually does persuade Esca to accompany him on a journey that his father once failed — a trip north to find the eagle.
The action scenes that followed were dry and boring, probably because they really didn’t involve the special effects that I’ve come to expect from a film in 2011. The movie is rated PG-13, and it shows by the lack of blood and gore from this so-called action film. To be honest, the movie consisted of people talking about sword fighting and slaying enemies more than actually doing so.
The only real positive in this movie is the developing relationship between Aquila and Esca. When Aquila originally saves Esca from a gladiator battle, a bond is almost instantly formed. The two really will do anything for each other and risk their lives for each other several times throughout the movie, but it’s not forgotten that the relationship is still one of slave and master.
Going into the movie, it seemed as if Tatum would not fit into the role as a gladiator in 140 A.D., but I was pleasantly surprised at the job he did. He properly shed his dancing, airhead role, and put on his big-boy pants in this film. In fact, if it weren’t for the horribly slow start and middle of the film, this movie could have been quite the hit.
However, Tatum’s role isn’t enough to save the film itself, and “The Eagle” was pretty much a bust — and its fourth-place finish at the box office in its inaugural weekend shows just that.
Runtime: 114 minutes
‘Bieber Fever’ hits the big screen
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Justin Bieber in Paramount Pictures’ ‘Justin Bieber: Never Say Never.’
“What’s a Bieber?” Ozzy Osbourne may not have known the answer to that question until his Super Bowl commercial ran last week, but millions of ’tween girls have fallen in love with the pop sensation.
The 16-year-old has wooed his young fans with hits like “Somebody to Love,” “One Time” and “Lonely Girl.” Now he is making his debut on film.
“Justin Bieber: Never Say Never,” is a biography of the young pop star’s rise to fame. The movie starts with one of Bieber’s first Youtube videos, reminding fans that he started as a viral sensation, and finishes with his concert at Madison Square Garden in New York.
The film is less biography and more concert video, filled with live concert clips, home videos and interviews with family and friends. Celebrities and mentors comment on “the Biebs,” including Usher, LA Reid and Snoop Dogg.
Bieber is shown with his friends acting like a typical teenager: shooting hoops, eating pizza, goofing around and not cleaning his room when asked by his grandmother.
As you may guess from the title, “Never Say Never” portrays Bieber as the underdog. No one thought such a young kid would sell out Madison Square Garden, but Bieber did it in 22 minutes.
Three days before the big show, we see the drama unfold when Bieber, with strained vocal cords, is forced to cancel a show in Syracuse, N.Y. It seemed to have been blown out of proportion considering we saw clips from the MSG concert throughout the film. However, in the end Bieber puts on a great vocal performance, gyrates across the stage with his pretty-boy face, and all is well again.
Bottom line: If you aren’t already a fan, this film most likely will not convince you. If you’ve already got a bad case of “Bieber fever,” this movie delivers all the squeal-inducing Bieber you can stand.
For parents of those crying, screaming girls with “Future Mrs. Bieber” T-shirts, it’s a decent film with a good message: Follow your dreams.
Runtime: 105 minutes.
‘Strings’ fever: friends with hot benefits
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Natalie Portman plays Emma and Ashton Kutcher plays Adam in “No Strings Attached.”
We’ve all seen this movie before. Guy meets girl. Girl and guy get along great until there is a big fight. Guy and girl break up. Guy and girl can’t seem to get the other out of their heads. One of them breaks down and calls the other. They meet one last time and promise things will be different and try their love one more time. Roll credits.
But thankfully the film “No Strings Attached” finds a way to keep the audience entertained while following that well-worn plot-line.
“No Strings Attached” is the story of Emma Kurtzman (Natalie Portman) and Adam Franklin (Ashton Kutcher) and their mostly physical, but sometimes emotional, relationship.
After a couple of brief encounters in their youth, (including one at the University of Michigan), Kurtzman and Franklin begin a relationship as adults. However, the two agree that they will only be using one another for sex and nothing else. In fact its Portman’s character, a doctor, that wants to avoid anything that involves emotion or even talking for an extended period of time.
The pair use each other at all hours of the day and hook-up wherever and whenever they can fit time into their busy schedules.
The film does follow the typical love story laid out earlier, but does a fantastic job of using dialogue and humor to keep the film from dragging. The characters and their supporting cast all do a wonderful job of keeping the scenes fresh and entertaining while developing the story.
While the movie revolves around sex — and lots of it — there is nothing in this film that even borders on the inappropriate.
Portman and Kutcher have a great chemistry, and it really makes the audience feel like they are real people on the screen.
“No Strings Attached” is the perfect date-night movie that offers a little bit of something for everyone. Most of the men in the audience were laughing right along with their female companions.
Movies like this sometimes seem like the same story you’ve seen before, only with a new cast. And while that is partially true here, Director Ivan Reitman does enough to keep the story engaging and new to the audience.
Runtime: 108 minutes
‘The Mechanic’ not your typical assassin movie
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Jason Statham (as Arthur Bishop) stars in CBS Films’ “The Mehanic.”
Violence, brutality, blood, guts and gore. Most people cringe when hearing or seeing them, but it’s exactly what makes “The Mechanic” a candidate for one of the best action films of 2011.
It was short, explosive and violent, everything I could have possibly asked for in the remake of the 1972 film “The Mechanic,” and everything I look for in action movies nowadays.
Jason Statham stars as Arthur Bishop, a mysterious and somewhat dark “mechanic,” which is pretty much another word for assassin. Bishop is secretive and for the most part keeps to himself, but when it comes to killing, there’s no one better.
When Bishop’s mentor Harry (Donald Sutherland) is killed in what looks like a carjacking gone wrong, Harry’s son Steve (Ben Foster) comes to town with a vengeance. He’s ready to become an assassin and wants to go after the agency that ordered the hit on his father.
While Statham masters his usual role as the good, butt-kicking killer, it’s the role of Foster that really makes the movie. It’s obvious that Steve has a gripe with Bishop in the film, but it’s displayed in a subtle way. Just as convincing, Steve’s stuck-up, resentful attitude provides a few good laughs throughout the film.
With that out of the way, here’s the good stuff: the explosions are amazing, the guns are everywhere and the badass effect is always present when Bishop is on the screen. In fact, if there’s one best way to describe this film, it’s definitely “badass.”
Looking at it from all perspectives, the only real downfall of the film is the lack of women. The movie is really only appealing to the macho male and most the females in the theater looked rather bored. In fact, I counted two, that’s right two women in the entire film. It’s definitely a guy movie.
Overall, “The Mechanic” was definitely worth the price. It’s a short film filled, and I mean filled, with good action scenes.
Runtime: 92 minutes