Birdman Review

Birdman is an example of film as an art. Starring Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts and Edward Norton, Birdman tells the story of a washed up movie star trying to make it on Broadway. Watch the trailer after the jump and then read my review.

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Gone Girl Review

“Have you ever heard the expression, the simplest answer is usually the right one?” “To be honest, I haven’t found that to be true.”

That exchange, between two police officers in David Fincher’s Gone Girl, highlights exactly what makes it one of the best movies of the year. The twists and turns are too numerous to count.

Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry, Gone Girl tells the story of a seemingly perfect couple, which is turned upside down when she goes missing.

Watch the trailer and then read my review.

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Philomena Review

One part investigative journalism, one part a story of a mother looking for her son, Philomena tells a true story of love, loss and faith. Starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, the movie tells the true-story of Philomena Lee whose son was taken from her 50 years ago, and Martin Sixsmith, a troubled journalist who helps her find him. You can watch the trailer after the jump and then read my review.

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American Hustle Review

A con man helping a cop catch corrupt politicians. That in a nutshell is the premise behind David O. Russell’s new movie, American Hustle. Starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner and Louis C.K., the movie follows Irving Rosenfield as he juggles avoiding arrest and relationships, while still pulling off cons. Watch the trailer after the jump and then read the review.

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The Wolf of Wall Street Review

Corruption on the stock exchange is very real and no one captured that better in the 1990’s than Jordan Belfort. So when Martin Scorsese decides to tell that story, he goes all out with three-hours of spectacular chaos. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Jean Dujardin, Cristin Milioti, Jon Faverau and Rob Reiner, this movie follows convicted fraud felon Belfort, and how he built and lost his empire. Watch the trailer after the jump and then read my review.

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her Review

What happens when a man falls in love with his phone? That is the fundamental question that Spike Jonze explores in his new film, her. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde, Chris Pratt and the voice of Scarlett Johansson, the movie follows the emotional relationship between Theodore Twombly (Phoenix) and his operating system, Samantha (Johansson). Watch the trailer after the jump and the read my review.

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Despicable Me 2 Review

In 2010, Despicable Me was a surprise animation hit, which naturally leads to a sequel. And while Despicable Me 2 does not reach the levels the first one did, it is still a solid family film that everyone should enjoy. Starring Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand and Steve Coogan, this film sees Gru return as a spy to help the Anti-Villain League catch a super villain, with the help of his minions. Watch the trailer after the jump and then read my review.

It’s hard to be critical of a film like this. On one hand, the first movie had a much more original story. On the other, the sequel ramps up the jokes with more minions and extreme scenes. Kids probably won’t notice the difference and once the movie gets going, it’s easy to just relax and enjoy seeing these characters again.

The first film was very much a family movie. This one still is, but could also fall under both the romantic-comedy or spy genres. I’m sure kids will enjoy all the sappy love thrown into this one, with Gru and Margo discovering love. At the same time, the treat is much more personal while also less clear as the minions are kidnapped by a world-famous supervillian. Both story lines compete with each other for most of the movie and while it isn’t a smooth ride, it leads to a good payoff.

The romantic story line is especially interesting. It is a hard-hitting theme and it is everywhere in this movie. Almost all the background characters in the mall or at a party are couples, holding each other in very romantic ways. Almost right from the beginning, Nasim Pedrad’s Jillian tries to set Gru up with women, easily foreshadowing the ending. But they also explore young love with Cosgrove’s Margo dating on the good-looking Antonio. For a kids movie, I think it might have been too much, but as a way to continue Gru’s growth, they couldn’t have picked a better angle.

Steve Carell really likes the Gru character and returns as the lovable bad guy with a force. Just check out this stunt on Ellen.

Carell provides some great laughs throughout, but also changes the tone of his voice when scared or angry. It isn’t easy to be a voice-actor when you are standing behind a microphone, but Carell has that skill. The character still grows and has to be one of the best written villains/ heroes in animation today.

One thing I really enjoyed was the many call backs to the original. They aren’t forced but it’s clear directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud listened to fans and kept their most popular moments. Fluffy the Stuffed Unicorn is here, along with a slow-moving Dr. Nefarious and the freeze-ray. It’s small but something I noticed and enjoyed.

The three girls are all back and now that they have a Dad, they are more confident and have clearer personalities. Margo has a cellphone and a boyfriend and Edith has weapons and is grossed out by love. But it’s little Agnes that is the star again, with extremely cute lines and big eyes like before. Fans of the girls from the first movie will be satisfied with where they go in the sequel.

Benjamin Bratt came in late to replace Al Paccino as the villain only six weeks before the films permeate but I didn’t notice anything different. He may have recorded his role quick, but it’s still very creepy and funny, which is for the best. As a villain, El Macho is weaker than Jason Segel’s Vector (I don’t really remember what his goal is) but he does get an amazing introduction that might have been the funniest scene not involving minions.

Speaking of minions, they are back in full force. Anyone who saw the first film knows, the minions are the stars and I am just going to highlight a couple of my favourite jokes. Easily my favourite creative choice in this movie is that Gru knows each minion’s name. Dave, Fred, Jeff and many more are easily identified even though they all look the same. I also enjoyed a scene where they are partying, eating ice cream but acting like they were drunk. This only graces the surface of the minion jokes but I laughed many times when they were on-screen and you will too.

However, even more of a star than the minions is Kristen Wiig’s Lucy. Wiig actually played the owner of the orphanage in the first film but here she gets a much stronger, funnier and important role. Lucy is a kick-ass spy who teams with Gru to catch the villain. She steals every scene with quick one-liners and quirky movements that I was pleasantly surprised to see. I expected the character to simply become a damsel in distress and while that happens, it isn’t a conventional trope which fit the character. While the minions had more memorable lines and gags, Lucy is the strongest character in this movie and I was glad to see her get a happy ending.

While not as ground-breaking as the first film, there isn’t much not to like in Despicable Me 2. Everything people liked in the original are back and the additions mostly add to the franchise. Like the best animated movies from Disney, this movie has things kids and adults will enjoyed and for that reason, I highly recommend it.

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This is the End Review

If the world were to end, how would different famous people react? That is the age-old question This is the End looks to answer. The directorial debut of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the movie stars Rogen, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride and Jay Baruchel as themselves after the apocalypse hits and they are forced to stay in Franco’s house. Watch the trailer after the jump and then read my review.

This movie was a lot better than I expected. The premise sounds bad, with six famous guys locked up in a huge mansion after the world ends. But Rogen and Goldberg take this idea to some interesting places and it becomes a very funny and very thrilling apocalypse movie.

A big reason this movie is actually good has to do with the script. Rogen and Goldberg have designed their characters, even though they are actually the actors, to be full of one-liners and gross ideas, while still being terrified of what’s outside the house. For example, Franco is always carrying a gun, McBride eats all the food and Robinson can’t take a small cut to the finger. Obviously it gets much more R-rated than that, but some of the best jokes don’t involve sex or drugs. They stem from the fact that these are just a group of guys trying to survive.

As the trailer shows, this film is full of cameos. Most (but not all) happen in the first 20 minutes at a huge party at James Franco’s house, with everyone from Paul Rudd and Jason Segal to Rihanna and Mindy Kaling. Even Emma Watson shows up. Most of them play themselves, just a celebrity looking to have a good time at a party. But Michael Cera goes above and beyond as a very exaggerated but very funny coke head. His 10 minutes of screen time is some of the funniest of the whole movie and I almost wish he was around longer.

One thing that did surprise me is the special effects in this movie. The CGI monsters are very well done, looking like something you would see in a real science-fiction movie. They are big, fast and gross looking, which I was pleasantly surprised about. They also do some cool things with smoke and lighting, so that some scenes are actually suspenseful and scary. Of course most of the movie is jokes, but Rogen and Goldberg put just the right amount of scares in this to keep the movie moving.

There wasn’t any real performances that stood out from the main cast. I really enjoyed Robinson’s as the big teddy bear character. And McBride played the arrogant slob roll pretty well too. Hill and Franco, who are frequently made fun of for being Oscar nominated actors, probably are the most boring. And Rogen is just along for the ride, as if he forgot to give his character anything to do while writing the others lines.

It’s really Jay Baruchel who keeps the plot moving forward. He plays the straight man; a guy who doesn’t want to be at the party in the first place and the only one who can keep his cool the whole time. He is brave, bold and smart while the other guys just try to one up each other with stupid stunts (which isn’t a bad thing). While he didn’t offer a ton of laughs, I really enjoyed Baruchel’s performance.

This is the End should be a stupid movie but it isn’t. Rogen and Goldberg have proven themselves as directors with a film that is both very funny and very exciting. I think having the actors play themselves made a big difference to the story and it created many opportunities for the stars to poke fun at themselves and their movies. I am very excited to see what this directors duo does next and do recommend you run to the theater to see this.

Monsters University Review

Summer is officially here and that means there is a new Pixar movie for fans to flock too. This year, the animation geniuses try their hand at a prequel, explaining how our favourite monsters, Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan, met. Starring Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren, Charlie Day, Aubrey Plaza, Bobby Moynihan and Nathan Fillion, this new movie explores what life as a monster student is really like, in some very funny ways. Watch the trailer after the jump and then read my review.

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Man of Steel Review

Superman is one of the most recognizable characters ever created and he finally has a movie that I think captures the pure power of Kal-El. Starring Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane and Russell Crowe, Man of Steel reboots Superman’s origin story and sees him faceoff against his greatest enemy, General Zod. Watch the trailer after the jump and then read my review.

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