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[Review] Transformers: Age of Extinction – Transformers Done Right

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For years I have been repeating the same thing each time I walked out of a Transformers movie. “Why does Michael Bay think I care about the Humans more than the Robots?” I just want to watch Robots smash one another to pieces for two hours, with maybe a Human for scale.

When I sat down for Transformers 4 Age of Extinction, I was basically there to see the Dinobots. I had no real hopes for the movie beyond a few good CGI scenes, and a lot of facepalm inducing Bay moments.

I could not have been more wrong.

This movie was fantastic. It’s like Bay took every criticism I had towards his previous work and fixed them, while still keeping that style that makes him stand out so much. I very much believe that he has found his niche again.

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[Review] Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest by A. Lee Martinez

martinez_helenandtroy “I’m sorry, Mr. Whiteleaf, I’m not going to let a monster eat me for minimum wage.”

Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest  is a novel of adventure, love, danger, lost gods, and biker gangs. Helen is your average teenage Minotaur. Troy is a friend who is good looking,  smart , funny, pretty much everything Helen could ever want in a boy. They both work at the same burger joint, and one night their boss tries to sacrifice them to his god.

They all end up in a scuffle, and Helen and Troy accidentally sacrifice their boss to the god. The burger god (he’s now a mass of ground beef) curses them and sends the two unlikely friends on, you guessed it, an epic road quest to help him destroy and rule the world.
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[Rant] The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

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I’ve been putting this off, honestly. Much like Godzilla ( review here ), Spider-Man was an important part of my childhood. Some of my earliest memories include Spider-Man, including wearing a shitty plastic Spider-Man halloween costume  as everyday wear, climbing everything I could. In a childhood move from our first apartment, I lost a Spider-Man action figure, and I’ve spent the rest of my life looking for a replacement to that prized possession. Could this movie (finally) fill that void? If anything, it created a brand new one. There are probably spoilers ahead.

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Godzilla (2014)

godzilla_2014 I’ll tell you right away that I’m not going to be fair to this movie. I’m just not. This movie means too much to me. Godzilla was a defining piece of my childhood, arguably the thing that led me to marrying who I did (but we won’t go into that). Because of this, this movie will be scrutinized by me. Heavily. I’m also aware that my childhood thoughts of the Godzilla movies probably don’t match reality because it was through the eyes of an 8 year old boy.

I should also say that I don’t hate the latest Godzilla movie either. Parts of it I enjoyed, but I simply can’t get past what has become what I believe is an epidemic in Hollywood – mediocre stories, wrapped in cliches, with some action moments thrown on top. It’s a tried and true formula, but as someone who sees a lot of movies, I’ve grown tired of seeing it.

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[Review] “In a World” by Lake Bell

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An underachieving voice coach finds herself competing in the movie trailer voice-over profession against her arrogant father and his protégé.
Director: Lake Bell
Writer: Lake Bell
Stars: Lake Bell, Jeff Garlin , Fred Melamed
I’ve been interested in seeing the movie, In a World , for some time now. Doing podcasting, you pick up an interest in doing voice work. It’s somewhat of a natural transition as you’re working with microphones, using different audio equipment to help with quality and recording, as well as using your voice to produce a product. While this movie wasn’t technical at all, it did revolve around the industry, and told a nice story.

In the end, it’s about a woman’s journey, played by writer/director Lake Bell (who some of you may know from the comedy show, Children’s Hospital ), into the hyper-competitive voice-over world. Her father, Sam (played by Fred Melanmed), was retiring after once taking the place of the voice-over legend, Don LaFontaine , who died in 2008. You know Don for the phrase that give the movie its the title, “In a world…” Carol (Bell) was initially only a voice coach, but after another voice actor, Gustav ( Ken Marino , also of Children’s Hospital) fails to make it for a job, she has the opportunity to follow in her father’s footsteps. This leads to an eventual confrontation and resolution with the relationship that she has with her father.

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[Review] “Her” directed by Spike Jonze

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A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that’s designed to meet his every need.
Director: Spike Jonze
Writer: Spike Jonze
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson
I wasn’t skeptical going into Her with all the positive things I had seen, but more curious. I was curious how they would take what was, on the surface, a story about a man falling in love with his phone and turn it into a compelling movie. Well, it was actually an OS (operating system), not really a phone (that doesn’t matter to most of you…), and it absolutely succeeded in being  compelling. Honestly, it’s not even about him falling for his OS, as much just about people and relationships in general. It’s about what our needs and expectations are, and how whether it’s a person or an OS, some things don’t change in the dynamics of human relationships.

It’s easy to have a love affair with the movies of Spike Jonze , loving his movies like you would a phone or an OS. His movies are always new and fresh – feeling like nothing you’ve experienced before. It’s like that honeymoon portion of a relationship, when there is an insatiable desire, and all quirks are not only forgiven, but enjoyed. Being John Malkovich , Adaptation, Where the Wild Things Are , are all whimsical yet have serious undertones. They’re not parodies of their subject matters, but never take themselves to seriously, nor are they preachy with a message. They’re movies that feel like the dreams of a child in a grown up world, and it’s something I think works well.

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[Review] Blue Jasmine

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A New York socialite, deeply troubled and in denial, arrives in San Francisco to impose upon her sister. She looks a million, but isn’t bringing money, peace, or love…
Director: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Stars: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Peter Sarsgaard
After seeing several lists that contained the movie, Blue Jasmine , as part of their top 2013 best movies, I was excited to have a chance to finally see it. I didn’t know much about it, but had only heard that Cate Blanchett was amazing. This was something I would agree to – I thought she was fantastic playing a character who was one of the most shallow, annoying, and truly boring characters I’ve seen in recent film.

My relationship with Woody Allen movies has been, in the past, one of love, but I sometimes feel he misses the mark; however, like many writer/directors who are admired by a community, he sometimes is lauded simply for putting words on a page. I mean, there’s no doubt he’s been a great writer and moviemaker in his 47 year career. His catalog is big enough that he can have hits and misses, but I’m not sure why the critics are raving over Blue Jasmine , which is an utterly depressing movie with no message other than being rich, then poor, equals a form of mental illness.

Cate Blanchett plays Jasmine, a (former) New York socialite who is “recovering” from losing her wealth and stature after her husband, played by Alec Baldwin , is put away for securities fraud . She is forced to move in with her sister (they both adopted, but shared parents), and face living like a normal person with a job. Her modus operandi is to use those around her for her own selfish purposes it would seem, damn the consequences. We have multiple flashbacks and get the juxtaposition of her previous life as a socialite and her current life, as well as the life of her sister. We also learn that her husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin playing a nearly identical character from 30 Rock , but without any redeeming qualities), was a philanderer, a bully, and all around asshole.

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[Review] The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Starring and Directed by Ben Stiller

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A day-dreamer escapes his anonymous life by disappearing into a world of fantasies filled with heroism, romance and action. When his job along with that of his co-worker are threatened, he takes action in the real world embarking on a global journey that turns into an adventure more extraordinary than anything he could have ever imagined.
Director: Ben Stiller
Writers: Steve Conrad (screenplay), James Thurber (based on the short story by)
Stars: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig , Jon Daly

The film  The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is much like his portrayed life, fairly normal, with moments of brilliance – and a resolution that is more real than the rest of its pieces. It tells an OK tale overall, but is marred by almost obscene product placement, and weak CGI fantasy moments.

I hadn’t read any reviews going into watching this movie, but had seen grumbles about Papa Johns . So while I did expect it, I was not prepared for the gratuitous nature of it. My initial reaction of, “Oh, well this isn’t so bad…” was slapped with a full-on commercial later in the movie that honestly ruin all my good will of what I had seen up to that point. With exploding Hollywood budgets, I’m not surprised, but mostly disappointed. I would like films to be “art” first, but I’m afraid the financial realities don’t see it that way. That said, there’s no way I’m giving that a pass.

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