Though nearly full from eating a chapter brimming with empty calories,… MoreThough nearly full from eating a chapter brimming with empty calories, audiences nonetheless receive a very satisfying serving of political intrigue, warring thrills and an aces dark curtain closer with Mockingjay - Part 2. For the finale to a successful franchise, this deuce remains hopelessly flawed. By carrying over the plodding boring tone from Mockingjay - Part 1, this continuation finds its rhythm killed in the first act. The first two dystopian chapters featured battle-to-the-death gladiator games, as does this go-round ... but the lackluster (and, simply lacking) third movie failed to keep this imperative hook - the hook promised by using Games in the title itself - as a fulcrum. Unnecessarily split into two parts to reap more profits, the adaptation of Suzanne Collins' final book boasted enough excellently drawn storytelling to round out one powerful taut flick. Instead, the producers diluted the potion, padding one anemic outing with little exposition and one rousing outing with residual tedium from its fraternal sibling. Once we go from Hunger to War Games, however, Mockingjay - Part 1 shakes off its predecessor's tone and really takes off, rarely letting up to let moviegoers catch their breath. First off, this final race to the climax manages to provide some downright exciting sequences. The Mutt chase (deadly, fanged, genetically engineered flesh-eaters nip at their heels and worse in a sewer tunnel) may be one of the series highlights, as well as the pod encounters (high-body-count booby traps set around the capital). Then, there comes the third act twist involving Katniss and her loyalties, a delightfully cynical turn of events that's appropriate to the series' looking glass handling of our own culture. Granted, the series always dealt in dark matters but this final bow gets pitch black, which sets the franchise apart from the rest to the detriment of some but also gives the series its rich allegorical verve. The movie ends up to be leaps above the cattle call of other filmic YA fantasy and a step below this franchise's best entry, Catching Fire.
In this PG-13-rated final chapter in the sci-fi Dystopian series based on the book series by Suzanne Collins, Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence), after being symbolized as the "Mockingjay," and District 13 engage in an all-out revolution against the autocratic Capitol.
Closing out her time as Katniss, Jennifer Lawrence gives audiences an amazingly nuanced turn that beautifully edges the character into the terminal cynicism that comes with experience. In Francis Lawrence (no relation), the series found its guiding light. Gary Ross may have helped hone the defining look and faces of the series, but Lawrence streamlined the action and storytelling.
Bottom line: Pallor Games
Well past his sell-by date, Roger Moore shamelessly headlines an… MoreWell past his sell-by date, Roger Moore shamelessly headlines an overly camp adventure where the only action comes courtesy of a killer theme song. Trading adventure in for bad jokes, this rote outing marks an embarrassing entry for the series. Thanks to A View to a Kill, Sean Connery didn't suffer the indignity of being the only Bond to go out on a low note. In his 7th outing as Bond, Moore's superspy has become Perry Como with a License to Kill. Low energy as he goes through the all-too-familiar paces of redundancy, his now-lackluster 007 fails to throw off sparks even with a villainous two-fer played by Christopher Walken and Grace Jones.
In this PG-rated spy adventure, an investigation of a horse-racing scam leads 007 (Moore) to a mad industrialist who plans to create a worldwide microchip monopoly by destroying California's Silicon Valley.
When a slow-moving blimp is the literal 'vehicle' that sets your supposedly explosive climax in motion, you know it's time to hang up your Walther PPK. Indeed, the final San Francisco Bay Bridge action set piece offers the most excitement of the entire flick ...which is to say, none at all. At this troubling juncture, Jones' character name, Mayday, seems symptomatic of the franchise in general.
Bottom line: That Fatal Kiss
Showing his age and literally running away with the circus, Roger… MoreShowing his age and literally running away with the circus, Roger Moore stars in this pedestrian Bond adventure where the title proves the most thrilling component. Seeing 007 dressed up as a clown pretty much sums up how silly, diluted, and unexciting this series had become when compared to the intoxicating high bar set during the swinging '60s.
In this PG-rated spy adventure, a fake Fabergé egg and a fellow agent's death lead James Bond (Moore) to uncover an international jewel-smuggling operation, headed by the mysterious Octopussy (Adams), being used to disguise a nuclear attack on N.A.T.O. forces.
Two decades and several white hairs on, Bond comes full circle with his camp leanings by becoming a cheap carnival ride, boasting only one series hallmark with a slight - very slight - of hand making the duplicitous Octopussy seem like the big bad. Some amped-up action sequences might keep you invested but the only truly exciting component of this flick is its title.
Bottom line: All Time Not-So-High
Its leaky Cooperage filled to the brim with fine star performances and… MoreIts leaky Cooperage filled to the brim with fine star performances and a few floaters of good tidings, H'wood's latest obligatory holiday chestnut to audiences goes a bit dark but still manages to taste too saccharine sweet to stand out from the rest of the fruitcakes. Between the overpowering soundtrack, annoying kids, and meandering threads detailing the messed-up lives of a particularly boring family, Love the Coopers comes down to a case of Hollywood re-gifting the dysfunctional family homecoming formula in new gift wrap. It's a bad sign when the title doesn't even know what it wants to be. Is LOVE the Coopers a demand? Did they forget to put a comma in after "Love" as if it were a To/From tag on a gift? Statement or query, no one ultimately cares. The characters and their life problems don't amount to a hill of jelly beans, certainly not enough to love. On the other hand, the dialogue and plot points don't offer much by way of a gift. Trying to watch Oscar winners like Alan Arkin and Marisa Tomei try to spin gold out of tinselly lines like "As if you can schedule happiness and joy--can't do it" makes you want for a gift receipt.
In this PG-13-rated comedy, four generations of the Cooper clan come together for their annual Christmas Eve celebration, but a series of unexpected visitors and unlikely events turn the night upside down, leading them all toward a surprising rediscovery of family bonds and the spirit of the holiday.
Audiences have seen this sort of spread before, for better and worse. Every holiday season, moviegoers get gifted with early presents from H'wood in the form of star-studded, dysfunctional family, Christmas stories (Christmas with the Kranks, Deck the Halls, Four Christmases, Fred Claus). Franchises excluded (1989's Christmas Vacation), there's apparently only room for one new modern holiday classic every decade, give or take a few years (1983's A Christmas Story, 1990's Home Alone, 2003's Love Actually). Love the Coopers fails to make the cut. Even the big reveal (the parents are separating-scandalous!) For every silver bell (Olivia Wilde and Jake Lacy frolicking in an airport), there's three burned-out bulbs to contend with (Ed Helms enduring sadsack job search, Amanda Seyfried wanting to leave her ho hum small town, Marisa Tomei shoplifting an ugly broach).
Bottom line: Lazy Stupid Love
Brilliantly re-introducing the legendary Peanuts gallery to a whole… MoreBrilliantly re-introducing the legendary Peanuts gallery to a whole new generation of Lucies and Linuses, this touching colorful Movie smartly doesn't throw out the Brown with the bath water. Instead of going cynical and cutting edge, the latest adventures of Charlie and Snoopy perfectly nail the heart and humor of Charles Schultz, connecting with nostalgia as if it were the football that our pint-size hero finally gets to kick. Indeed, The Peanuts Movie ends up to be the furthest thing from a "dark and stormy night."
In this G-rated animated family flick, Snoopy embarks upon his greatest mission as he takes to the skies to pursue their arch-nemesis, while his best pal Charlie Brown begins his own epic quest back home.
In an era when potty humor, fully automatic zingers, and overly syrupy messages get fired at the audience from characters moving faster than Ricochet Rabbit on a cocaine binge, it says a lot that this flick plays out nice and easily as opposed to fast and furiously. This is not to say that it's slow-just that it's not overactive and frenetic like the Ice Age series that ironically comes courtesy of the same inspired minds and animation house. Seriously, if select children want that badly for racecar-in-the-red bedlam, they need Ritalin-not Scrat, the Flying Prehistoric Squirrel. Certainly, Peanuts doesn't lack ambition, it simply fixes up - rather than outright fixes - what isn't broke. With eye-popping computer animation, the movie brings in all of the telltale Schultz hallmarks that made the comic strips and holiday specials (A Charlie Brown Christmas and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown) so enjoyable and indelible. Some slight modern touches (Meghan Trainor sings "Better When I'm Dancin") don't do much for the story but they don't exactly detract either.
Bottom line: New Kids on the Blockhead
A white-knuckle actioner that lets the Spectre of its past haunt… MoreA white-knuckle actioner that lets the Spectre of its past haunt audiences just a bit too much, the latest in the 007 series finally and entertainingly gives Daniel Craig his most Bond-esque adventure to date but sometimes at the cost of what made his iteration so unique. Surpassing The Spy Who Loved Me for best opening sequence, the 24th film in this franchise deftly offers fisticuffs aboard a barrel-rolling helicopter that's over a thousand-strong Mexico City Day of the Dead procession...and that's after an entire city block gets detonated. Yes, Spectre delivers exceptionally well on the extravaganza front while offering a compelling story that ties the entire Craig-era together. This era arose in the post-9/11 world where Jason Bourne played grimly and grittily with nefarious types. The producers wrapped a new down-and-dirty Bond in the same legendary packaging that made Connery and Moore action heroes-Monty Norman's theme, gun barrel-view opening, and opening action sequence. Taking aim at reality way more than cheekiness, Casino Royale and the two films that followed certainly wanted for humor and more ties to its iconic history. With recurring characters M, Q, and Moneypenny now re-established, it feels like this current administration surely took long enough to full ground its roots in canon. Spectre does much more than this, however, introducing a supervillain with a lair and some Brosnan-worthy one-liners that lead it somewhat into formula. In other words, it dispenses with any foreplay and gets right to it.
In this PG-13-rated spy thriller, a cryptic message from agent James Bond's (Craig) past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization while M (Fiennes) battles political forces to keep Her Majesty's Secret Service alive.
In the process of going full 007, Spectre ahem, softens the edge of the hard hitting mostly A-Level chapters that preceded it. Christolph Waltz plays the exact same villainous character that won him the Oscar for Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, which is to say "pure menace." Man's man Craig, meanwhile, continues his sterling run as her majesty's sometimes rogue favorite secret agent, bedding and vetting for queen and country. Even following a recipe, it's a rousing Spectre-cle that offers the actor a fitting bow, something Connery and Moore never took advantage of to our detriment.
Bottom line: Never Say Never Ahem
As dark and satisfying as the Roger Moore era of Bond ever got, For… MoreAs dark and satisfying as the Roger Moore era of Bond ever got, For Your Eyes Only lacks the tongue-in-cheek thrills of the series overall but makes up for it with the actor's best and most nuanced performance of the superspy ever. Indeed, gets downright murderous in this, the most sobering chapter since On Her Majesty's Secret Service. The action soars, the story fires on all cylinders, and Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof makes an excellent sidekick in what would've and should've made for an excellent swan song for Moore.
In this PG-rated spy adventure, Agent 007 (Moore) gets assigned to hunt for a lost British encryption device and prevent it from falling into enemy hands.
Just freeze-frame on that scene where a foot soldier pleads for his life as his car sits teetering on the edge of a crumbling Cliffside. Without a trace of his trademark grin hiding the tongue in his cheek, Moore kicks the vehicle and the henchman into nevermore. The Living Daylights gets credited for taking 007 into dark waters, but For Your Eyes Only deserves plaudits for this first strike. Unlike the film that would follow eight years later, however, Moore's personal best take on the character manages to stay better rooted to the franchise, which would celebrate its 20th anniversary a year later.
Bottom line: The Eyes Have It
A Sandra Bullock vehicle that goes into Crisis mode thanks to… MoreA Sandra Bullock vehicle that goes into Crisis mode thanks to heavy-handedness and a slipshod presentation, this political drama based on a powerful documentary somehow dilutes the message and sadly amounts to Brand X...as in generic. In the first act, Bullock grandstands with a rousing speech meant to boost us to our feet but it falls on deaf ears because you're being spoon-fed so forcefully that you feel like you smartly boycotted the film via a starvation protest. Oh, there are humorous moments where the dialogue comes close to hitting a bullseye in this intended dark comedy, but the success for such expert marksmanship goes to the ace cast, not the screenwriters or director. Notice the word "intended." The film wants badly to chart in this sub-genre like such cynical political gems Bulworth and Thank You for Smoking. Our Brand is Crisis, however, tries pulling at both heartstrings and laugh-lines like the audience was composed of marionettes, but it all ends up a tangled mess. In truth, it's more of a dramedy and much of the drama cancels out much of the comedy in this equation. Normally, this proves troubling for the end message, but the curtain closer here does enough damage on its own. Too on-the-nose and saccharine, it simply lacks much punch at all.
In this R-rated dramedy based on the 2005 documentary of the same name, an American adviser (Bullock) who's well-versed in successful political campaigns gets sent to the war-torn lands of South America to help install a new leader but is threatened to be thwarted by a long-term rival (Thorton).
David Gordon Green started his career helming more critically acclaimed hard-hitting fare (George Washington, All the Real Girls, Undertow, Snow Angels) before turning his attention to some popular comedies (Pineapple Express, HBO's Eastbound & Down). Lately, however, his handling of both comedies (Your Highness, The Sitter) and drama (Manglehorn) has done a disservice to both ends of the spectrum. His mixing of both genres in Our Brand is Crisis meets the same disappointing end, hitting audiences between the nose with middling material.
Bottom line: Thank You for Smoking and Burning
Throwing a Julia Child's Tantrum that amounts to a great performance… MoreThrowing a Julia Child's Tantrum that amounts to a great performance in a hopelessly color-by-numbers culinary drama, Bradley Cooper works up a sweat cooking up an unlikeable anti-hero but fails to propel this intended Oscar nominee anywhere near three Michelin stars. It's not his fault, mind you. With mediocre lines like "That kitchen's the only place I really felt I belonged," the white hot actor isn't exactly being given the base ingredients to make a succulent and satisfying spread. Instead, what we have here is the equivalent of a TV dinner, processed, easy to eat, and brightly packaged for people who like shiny things.
In this R-rated dramedy, Chef Adam Jones (Cooper) once destroyed his career with drugs and diva behavior, but now he's cleaned up and returned to London, determined to redeem himself by spearheading a top restaurant that can gain three Michelin stars.
A three-time Oscar nominee acts alongside his American Sniper co-star (Miller) and gets directed by the man behind the Oscar nominated August: Osage County (John Wells) while working from material from the screenwriter of the critically acclaimed Eastern Promises and Locke (Steven Knight). So why isn't the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences just handing out awards to this film now and cutting out the middle man? Well, the fact that this dramedy found itself largely absent from the film festival circuit - the proving ground for awards season - warned audiences that this film's prospects were quite, ahem, Burnt. Save for some fine acting and one A-Ha-worthy twist, filmgoers always know where they're headed. If you're anywhere near the spectrum of living in an Italian-American family you know that the most delicious meals don't come courtesy of a written recipe, they come courtesy of intuition, inspiration, and loving teachers who ingrained the blueprint into their memory. Burnt, on the other hand, checks off every familiar box as comfort food. Beat for beat, this redemption tale plays out as safe and tasteless as if it was cooked in an Easy Bake Oven.
Bottom line: No Silver-Linings Cookbook
Beginning with a rousing start that eventually turns into Bond's worst… MoreBeginning with a rousing start that eventually turns into Bond's worst misadventure ever, gratuitous Star Wars cash-in Moonraker mostly proves to be made of cheese. When George Lucas' space saga blasting off into blockbuster status in 1977, it began a misbegotten space race in H'Wood. This 007 adventure might boast the title of an Ian Fleming novel but it gets adapted into something that's dumber than a box of moon rocks. Always on the cutting edge with gadgets and McGuffins, the Bond series loses much credibility with this vehicle, which takes a quantum of no solace leap forward into futuristic sci-fi that's better suited for the world of Buck Rodgers than Peter Gunn. Exhibiting ray guns and Jaws-in-love during the climax, Bond in Space plays out more like a Pigs Ear in Space.
In this PG-rated spy adventure, James Bond (Moore) investigates the mid-air theft of a space shuttle and discovers a plot to commit global genocide.
The only best-forgotten chapter, Moonraker marks the lowest point of both Moore's tenure and the Bond series in general. It remains a horribly calculated attempt for this tiger to change its stripes. Just as it would have been franchise suicide for the producers to turn 007 into a jive-talking hippie in the late '60s to meet with the changing times, it is just as bad an idea to have this iconic character space-walk a mile in Han Solo's shoes. Even if you could toss the Space Shuttle Laser Tag scenes aside (and you can't-just try), the rest of the storyline is strictly standard-issue and redundant spy stuff.
Bottom line: The Empire Strikes Out