Latest Entries »

We’ve officially hit July, which means the summer movie season is half over! What movies are the best of the best?

Quick note: I haven’t seen every single film to be released and am sorely lacking in the independent films, but oh well.

1. Inside Out: Pixar’s return to form. This is an emotional roller coaster that is every bit as good as the studio’s best efforts. The voice cast, headlined by Amy Poehler, is spot on. And one character not featured in any of the trailers absolutely steals the show. This film is more for adults than it is kids. But it’s absolutely worth seeing and is the best blockbuster film of the summer by far.

2. Mad Max: Fury Road: Maybe the biggest surprise of the summer, Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy help make Mad Max’s return to the big screen an amazing trip. It’s thrilling and beautiful to look at. There’s a shocking amount of narrative heft to it, despite limited dialogue. Director George Miller proves he still knows how to craft a unique and amazingly entertaining action film.

3. Spy: It’s easy to write this Melissa McCarthy vehicle as the same as all the films she’s done. That would be a mistake. This hilarious spy comedy is spot on, with comedy gold performances from Jason Statham and Rose Byrne to boot.

Biggest disappointment: Avengers: Age of Ultron: Look, this film had its entertaining moments. But it was essentially the same as the first Avengers right down to the teaser scene at the end. For maybe the first time since Marvel Studio’s cinematic universe began, this film felt more like a chore to get through than a joy.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

“Interstellar” review

Director Christopher Nolan is back with his first film since “The Dark Knight Rises”. Does “Interstellar” live up to the hype? Or is this 2014’s version of “Prometheus”?

The Good: This film is not for everyone. But when this movie clicks, it absolutely soars. Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Wes Bentley, Jessica Chastain, Matt Damon, and everyone in between is absolutely superb with their performances.

Of course, the special effects are truly spectacular. But the real moments are those moments when the film hits a home run with some emotional moments. You can feel what the characters are going through right along side them. And the film takes a few twists and turns that I didn’t see coming.

The film’s scope is epic and ambitious. And there are ideas at play that are at once recognizable and yet new and thrilling at the same time.

The Bad: I wanted badly to say this was a masterpiece. Alas, it was not. The film gets a little … unique near the end. And more than a few people groaned as this film seems to suffer from “Return of the King” syndrome where there’s about three or four spots where the film could have ended.

I’m also not sure the film’s primary driving human relationship is hitting home with audiences. I’d say more than half of the crowd I saw it with were yawning and growing restless midway through the film.

The film reaches high, but it definitely doesn’t reach those heights all the time. And when it doesn’t, the film can feel overly long and tedious.

The Final Word: This is not the next “2001: A Space Odyssey”. What it is, however, is a beautiful, good film. At times, you catch glimpses of an instant classic. At others, a film that slows to a crawl. Yet, I’d say this is a film worth checking out. Because you if you like it, I think you’ll love it.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

“Furious 7” trailer

Here’s the first trailer for “Furious 7”. And it looks awesome.

The film stars Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Elsa Pataky, Lucas Black, Jason Statham, Djimon Hounsou, Tony Jaa, Ronda Rousey and Kurt Russell.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

“John Wick” review

Keanu Reeves is back in action mode with “John Wick”. Is this movie worthwhile or a misfire?

The Good 

This movie is a blast. Action-lovers will have a lot of fun with the shootouts, and there are plenty. Reeves is in full a@@ kicking mode and there are several set pieces that are some of the best of the year.

There’s a lot of humor in the film as well, which helps keep the film moving along and entertaining. The supporting cast, including Willem Dafoe, Michael Nyqvist, and Adrianne Palicki all do a fine job with their respective roles. And it never takes itself too seriously, which only adds to the film’s enjoyment.

The Bad

Well…realism isn’t exactly this film’s strong suit. And, there are a few confusing choices made with some of the characters that could make a potential sequel a little hard to imagine.

The Final Word

A fun, funny and entertaining ride, “John Wick” is probably my favorite straight-up action film of the year. It’s a blast that is definitely worth checking out.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

Here it is! The “Avengers: Age of Ultron” teaser trailer!

The highly anticipated Marvel film sees the return of Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow and a lot more. The film stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, James Spader and a host of others.

What do you think?

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

By Brandon Engel

October is by and large the unofficial horror film month. As the weather grows increasingly chilly and the leaves fall from the trees baring their skeletons there is a spooky feeling in the air (and it’s not just the trick or treaters). Of course, Halloween being the ending note to the month certainly helps solidify horror films popularity during October, but there’s just something about that autumn breeze rustling the leaves and shaking the tree branches that makes it optimal weather to get scared out of your mind.

When looking for some great horror films to watch people usually revert to the classics. Psycho, Halloween, Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, and Night of the Living Dead are often at the top of every horror buff’s list. Given the current (laughable) state of horror films, who could blame them for looking for older films to give them that fright? Fighting back against the typical overkill that’s dominating today’s horror films are a handful of directors who’ve been able to create this generation’s horror classics. Sure, you can watch those great horror marathons that many cable stations are airing right now (like the AMC Fear Fest, SyFy Channel’s 31 Days of Horror, and more – try here for ways to watch), or you can build your own marathon of the older greats and the new classics. Let’s take a look at the top five best horror films of the modern age that you can add to that list.

Donnie Darko

While not being a jump-out-of-your-seat typical horror film, this 2001 film is a psychologically thrilling film that stirs up an incredible amount of anxiety from it’s viewers. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal as the titular character it takes place in 1988 in Middlesex, Virginia. In the film Donnie starts to have visions of a man named Frank who appears to him wearing a rabbit costume, Frank warns Donnie the end of the world will happen in 28 days. The film follows Donnie as he struggles in school and in therapy, where he’s diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. We watch as Donnie’s mental state deteriorates and relationships become strained building up to a bewildering climax at the end of the film.

The Conjuring

This 2013 film directed by James Wan and starring Vera Farmiga made over $318 million during it’s run in theaters and became one of the highest grossing horror films of all time. Tens of millions of people all around the world rushed to theaters to watch this supernatural horror film set in rural Rhode Island in the 1970’s.
Farmiga plays Carolyn Perron who, along with her husband Roger and daughters Sadie, Cindy, Andrea, Christine, Nancy, and April, begin to experience paranormal events following the discovery of Sadie laying dead outside the house one morning. Following Sadie’s death the strange and unexplained events begin to take place more frequently and becoming more violent. In a state of panic Carolyn brings in paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, who inform her that her home was once owned by a witch who placed a curse on the land before sacrificing a newborn baby and herself to the devil in 1863. As the Warren’s try to help the Perrons rid themselves of his curse, the activity takes a turn for the extreme and puts everyone’s lives in danger.

Drag Me to Hell

As if the name itself wasn’t frightening enough this Sam Raimi directed film tells the story of an ordinary bank loan officer named Christine (played by Alison Lohman). She enjoys her job but her boss tells her she’s got to be tougher with her loans if she wants to advance in the bank. She takes his advice and decides to deny a mortgage extension to an elderly woman who begins to beg and plead her to reconsider or she’ll lose her house. Christine asks security to take the woman away because she’s scared of the woman, and after she gets off work the woman attacks her, rips a button from her coat, and uses it to place a curse on her.
She later visits a fortune teller who informs her she has been cursed and and as long as she possesses the cursed object (the button) she will be haunted by the demon Lamia who will torture her for three days before dragging her to hell. As the three days progress Christine is visited multiple times by Lamia physically and psychologically attacks her and drives her toward madness. She continues to see the fortune teller who is her only hope to understand what is going on, but her three days are running out and she’ll soon be dragged to hell if she doesn’t find a way to break the curse.

The Cabin in the Woods

This film, which serves as an incredibly promising directorial debut forDrew Goddard, tells the story of a group of college students who take a weekend retreat to a remote cabin in the woods. The cabin and it’s surroundings are being controlled by two men who are working from an underground facility and part of a mysterious project or group that has drugged the group and is monitoring them.
After one of them inadvertently summons the zombies of the sadistic former owners of the cabin the group must fight for their lives while trying to understand what is going on. With the zombies attacking and the group frantically trying their best to escape, their efforts are fought by those at the facility, who are watching with bated breath. The film not only creates a sense of fear from the zombie attacks, but also mystery from never fully knowing what the men monitoring the situation are motivated by until the end.

Let the Right One In

While this Swedish horror film may require you to read subtitles, the sense of fear it projects is international. Set in the suburbs of Stockholm in the film follows a bullied 12 year old boy named Oskar. When he meets a strange girl his own age named Eli, he immediately falls in love with her despite her eccentricities. Those eccentricities, Oskar soon finds out, are due to the fact that Eli is a vampire, and her father is the one who’s bringing her blood from the bodies of those he’s killed to keep her alive. Despite his young age Oskar is in an all too real mental battle between feeling love or repulsion towards Eli.

Michael Bay is back with a new “Transformers” movie. Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci and Kelsey Grammer head the human cast. Is this film the best in the franchise? Or is time for this series to roll out.

The Good

Let’s face it. We know what’s good about a “Transformers” film. There are those money shots that are indeed glorious. But there are also long action scenes involving the humans that aren’t the military. And it’s a breath of fresh air … at first.

Perhaps more surprising is that, even though the film’s run time approaches three hours, it didn’t feel like the longest of the series to me. That may not be high praise, but hey, it’s praise all the same.

There’s way more focus on the human characters this time around … which isn’t always a good thing. But, the characters aren’t nearly as annoying as some of the characters who appeared in past installments. And, Tucci is entertaining throughout while Grammer does his best with his limited character.

The Bad

With the focus so much on the human characters, there’s surprisingly little robot action in this one. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of action scenes. But, never the all out robot vs. robot battle the film was seemingly building up toward. Focusing on story may seem like a step in the right direction … Except when the story is pointless, dumb and with characters who don’t think or act like a rational human being in parts.

Also, none of the characters rank as overly annoying, but they all have their moments. And there are absolute throw away characters who serve almost no purpose in the film (though I’m sure some would make the argument all the human characters in this franchise serve no purpose).

The Final Word

At times, “Transformers: Age of Extinction” seems to bring the franchise into new directions that could be genuinely interesting. At other times, you’re reminded that this franchise has some really bad moments in them. If you’re looking for a lot of action, you won’t be disappointed. But those hoping a new cast meant a new start will be disappointed.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

Clint Eastwood adapts a hit musical while a sequel to “Think Like A Man” also hits theaters. Who will come out on top?

“Think Like A Man Too”, from director Tim Story, hits theaters two years after the first one surprised many by opening to $33 million. This one stars Taraji P. Henson, Gabrielle Union, Meagan Good, Regina Hall, Dennis Haysbert, Michael Ealy, Romany Malco, Adam Brody, Jerry Ferrara (“Entourage”) and Wendi McLendon-Covey (“Bridesmaids”). Oh yeah. And a little known comic named Kevin Hart.

The film moves its location to Las Vegas, always a smart choice for a comedy (“The Hangover”, “Last Vegas”, “What Happens in Vegas”, etc.) and this one will benefit from a summer opening. “The Best Man Holiday”, also a sequel, earned more than $30 million about the same amount of theaters as this one. Expect this one to be in the same range.

Opening weekend: $35-40 million.

On paper, Clint Eastwood plus “Jersey Boys”, an award-winning musical, should equal Oscar bait, right?

Clearly not, because Warner Brothers is releasing this one in the summer, not the fall. The last musical they released during the summer was “Rock of Ages” with Tom Cruise and a host of others. That movie bombed. And I can’t see this one doing much better. In fact, it might do worse.

The film brings much of the stage cast with it, and adds Christopher Walken to the mix. But, this is going to have limited appeal. I don’t see many young people seeing this film. And Frankie Valley and the Four Seasons aren’t the Beatles. Their appeal to people from that generation are also much more limited. On a side note, it can also be argued Eastwood’s last few outings, including “J. Edgar”, “Trouble With The Curve” and “Grand Torino” haven’t been up to par either.

Opening weekend: $10-15 million.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

 

J.J. Abrams’ “Star Wars: Episode VII” may just now be filming, but some big news has come out about “Episode VIII”. Rian Johnson (“Looper”) will direct the installment!

Johnson joins Gareth Edwards (“Godzilla”) and Josh Trank (“Chronicle”) as the other directors joining the universe.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are back for “22 Jump Street”. Is this a rare comedy sequel that outdoes the original or a “Hangover Part II” sized miss?

The Good: Fear not. “22 Jump Street” is very good. Tatum and Hill are dynamite. The chemistry they have on screen is absolutely hilarious and fans of the first film will undoubtedly love them for the second go around. There are a lot of “in” jokes in this one, specifically on movie sequels that do the same thing all over again. It’s quite funny to see them poke fun at that idea, although there’s a few too many of those for my liking.

I really enjoyed Ice Cube in this one. He has a few particularly memorable scenes and easily the best supporting character of the bunch in this film.

Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller already had one hit on their hands in 2014 with “The Lego Movie”. And that irreverent humor shows up again here and once again, they are mostly spot on. They are quickly rising near the top of my list of favorite comedy directors out there, bar none.

The Bad: The film mostly hits its mark, but there are a few moments where the humor seems a little too forced. And some of the supporting characters, while they have their moments, don’t really stand out to me. The villains all seemed, just kind of rushed into the film as a matter of necessity and were missed opportunities to mine for more comedic gold.

The Final Word: I enjoyed “22 Jump Street” a lot. And out of the big comedies so far this summer, this is my favorite ahead of “Neighbors”. Fans of the original will love the sequel. And while it won’t win over any new converts, its target audience will find this film to be an absolute hoot.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.