“Sex Tape” Review

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“Nobody understands the cloud! It’s a fucking mystery!”

At least Sex Tape isn’t the worst comedy to have come out this year (that honor goes to the dreadful Tammy). However, it is worse than this summer’s Blended, and that’s not a movie that I’d particularly call “funny” or “enjoyable”. As it stands, this raunchy comedy is at the same time too vulgar and too safe for its own good, which in turn leads to a very uneven and sometimes awkward film with some terrible writing as well.

When it comes to the acting, I don’t have much to complain about. Cameron Diaz does her best with the material she’s given and it seems like she’s having fun with her role. And I’ve always liked Jason Segel, so even though he doesn’t do much here, he’s still enjoyable. The rest if the cast does fine (it’s a comedy, you shouldn’t expect Oscar-worthy performances) and there’s one cameo later in the film that is quite a pleasant surprise. Nothing too spectacular, but I did find it to be quite funny.

And that’s where my praise towards this film ends. Sadly, there isn’t enough story here to sustain a 90-minute movie Simple as that. Alas, the filmmakers found a way to fill the time, but this leads to more time giving the audience that unneeded sentimentality that most people already hate seeing in these type of films. Usually, comedies lay on sentimentality in the last act of the film, but here, it’s everywhere. This, of course, is because there just isn’t enough story to actually tell.

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Screenwriters Kate Angelo, Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller don’t even try to give us a story worth being told. And if they did, then they did a terrible job at it. The lead’s just don’t do much in the movie, that’s what the problem is. They go to their friends’ house, they go to her boss’ house and then they very briefly go to a Porn Company’s headquarters with their kids (good parenting, right?). It all just feels like a game instead of something serious and it doesn’t help that nothing really important or noteworthy happens at all in the movie. Well, there’s that twist at the end…but God, that was awful. And also a bit creepy. But mostly just awful.

Not only this, but the film just doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. From the name alone, you’d assume it’s a hard-R comedy. But,it at times feels like one of those corny love stories that you’d find on the Hallmark Channel. That is to say, this film gets a bit awkward when it shifts from a family breakfast scene to a graphic look at the couple’s porno. When someone towards the end tries to give the two advice and asks them why they love each other, they use the word “fuck” so many times to the point where it just feels like the filmmakers are messing with you. It’s kinda like they made it feel like a romantic movie for the ladies and a sexy movie for the guys, but they just failed at mashing the two together.

Overall, Sex Tape is one of those films that tries to be crazy and over-the-top, but at the same time falls for a lot of the lame romantic cliches we’re used to seeing, leading to a very awkward movie-going experience as a whole. Add to the fact that there is pretty much no story to tell, this film ends up being for no specific group of people or audience. if you’re gonna make a sex comedy, make a sex comedy. Don’t try to appeal to everyone, even if it could possibly attract more people. This is why. You end up with confused, unfocused messes like this. Except this one isn’t good period, thanks to it’s uninspired and lazy script. But hey, we got to see Cameron Diaz naked and Jason Segel hit a dog, so I guess that’s a plus…?

“If the mailman has seen my vagina, we’re moving.”

“The Purge: Anarchy” Review

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“Stay safe.”

The Purge was one of my most anticipated films last year, but it turned out being extremely disappointing. And I wasn’t alone in feeling this way. In fact, many people I know absolutely hated the movie and said that they definitely wouldn’t see this sequel. And for a long time, I didn’t plan on seeing this one either. However, once the marketing kicked in, I realized something: this is what the first Purge should have been, but since they had budgetary constraints, they couldn’t do much. Now, with the sequel, they could finally make the film that many movie-goers wanted to see in the first place.

Sadly, this is one of those cases where the film tries to cram way too much into a short amount of time. There are a lot of cool and interesting ideas on display here, but there is so much going on all at once that all these plot points get all jumbled up, creating a huge mess. And trying to make the film longer would only worsen things, as the film can get quite dull during its “quieter” moments, due to some uninteresting and, quite frankly, stale dialogue provided by writer/director James DeMonaco.

Ironically, the whole “Anarchy” aspect of the film feels the most out of place here. It never feels developed enough and there’s not much build-up to it, leading to a quite anti-climatic conclusion to that section of the story. They could have easily saved this aspect for the inevitable sequel, and I really do hope that they bring it back because that story had potential. But like I said, it just gets meshed in with all the other plot points, which in way turns it into nothing more than a slightly amusing sub-plot.

Something that I will give DeMonaco credit for is that, despite both of these Purge films being less than stellar, they both feel like they’re at least trying to be ambitious and deliver some sort of social commentary, something that can’t be said about most horror films today. Now, this is more of an action-survival flick than it is a horror film like the first one, taking cues from The Warriors and Escape from New York, which I actually liked better than the slasher aspect of the first one. This is what most people wanted out of the first one, anyway. And even though it is slow at times, a lot of what happens in the film kept me intrigued and to my surprise, the film wasn’t as predictable as I thought it would be.

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Anarchy also has a stronger lead performance this time around, thanks to Frank Grillo. Playing a character who is essentially The Punisher from the Marvel movies, Grillo carries the film on his back and yet again proves why he’s one of the more underrated actors working today. Without him, this movie probably would have derailed, as the rest of the actors leave something to be desired.

The open-world look on this “holiday” is just what this sequel needed, because without it, I doubt many people would have even wanted to see this. It gave the sequel more room to work with and more situations to display that they couldn’t quite show in the first installment. Sadly, DeMonaco tries to stuff way too much into one movie, causing the film to feel quite bloated and even convoluted with all the different gangs and people to follow. This is the main issue that I had in the film (as well as some of the acting), but I admire the ambition on display here, even if it mostly fails.

An admirable step-up in quality and thrills when compared to the first film, but DeMonaco just isn’t skilled enough as a director or writer to tackle these admittedly intriguing ideas all at once. Maybe next time he won’t “release the beast” like the rest of the Purgers and take a step back to either work on writing better characters and dialogue or focus on some smaller, but more interesting ideas that this franchise has in store, particularly what happens after said “purging”. But then you’d just have those idiots saying that there wasn’t enough action or killing in it, even if it was a better movie because of that. That’s America for you, ladies and gentlemen.

“We’ll see you on the hunting ground!”

2.5 out of 5

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” Review

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“War has already begun.”

It hurts me to say this, but Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is not as great as everyone is making it out to be. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still really good. It has an admirable vision for the world and the characters in the film, the emotional weight for this one is arguably heavier than it is in Rise, and the visuals are even more spectacular this time around. However, many of the supporting characters are very weak and sometimes the story is a little more cliched than I had wish it’d been, which in turn brings down the film a few notches.

Throughout the movie, there were two clashing conclusions that I kept coming to until the very final frame: “Damn, this is one ballsy studio movie…” and “Damn, they really played that part safe…”. Scenes like the opening fifteen or so minutes of the film where there is no spoken dialogue at all or whenever Koba is up to something sinister were somewhat surprising to see in a film of this kind (which, by the way, is MUCH darker than the first one in this reboot series). But, there were some plot points where you could tell the studio pulled the reigns on director Matt Reeves just enough to not totally offend the general audiences.Reeves does the best with what he’s allowed to do with the rating, though.

Like I said earlier, the film’s emotional impact is possibly even greater than it was in Rise, which was already quite an emotional film. Caesar is clearly the main character here, unlike last time where he arguably shared that role with James Franco‘s character. Throughout most of the film, Caesar is torn between trusting the humans or attacking them, but his most important duty is to protect his family, which he goes to great lengths to do, no matter the cost. Like usual, Andy Serkis gives one hell of a performance this time around, but Caesar’s arc gives him more to work with this time around than when compared to the material given to him for Rise.

However, this same theme of “family” isn’t carried over with the lead human character, Malcolm, played by Jason Clarke. There was potential to link the two different species with the family theme, but Malcolm’s kid and love interest aren’t giving much to do. This leaves us with hints towards yet another similarity between the two different types (something the film constantly tries to remind us), but never quite uses it to the fullest of its potential.

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But, I did like all the other comparisons between to two different kinds. In reality, both sides could and should be considered “animals”. Both sides hunt and kill to survive, but what makes one side more evil than the other? This is angle that the film thankfully uses to its advantage. The fact of the matter is that there are no “true” villains in this movie. Some might be a bit more misguided when it comes to their views, but everyone has a “point” or some sort of reasoning behind their actions, something that most films don’t dare to touch on today.

Though we already have the family aspect that drives both Caesar and Malcolm to do what they do, Gary Oldman‘s character and Koba, the scarred chimp from the labs in Rise, also have their own views. Whether it’s for family, for revenge, or for the sake of an entire race, all of these characters have something that’s worth fighting for, and you’re never flat-out hating any one character, even though Koba’s ideals and actions are much harder to get behind. But, you can clearly see why he’s doing what he’s doing, especially if you’ve seen Rise.

Sadly, the story can be cliched at times, which is quite sad, given some of the heavier themes and messages that the film has to offer to us. The film has some obvious influences (which I will not name here), leading you to easily predict the outcome of many situations throughout the film. The story definitely isn’t bad, but it sure as hell isn’t original. Also, there are some different (and better) directions that the film could have taken later in the in the second act of the movie, but it sadly resorts to the more reliable and “safe” route, which can be disappointing at times.

Overall, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is emotionally heavy, carries some interesting themes and ideals, and has some phenomenal special effects. I really didn’t talk about the special effects, but let’s just say they’re some of the best I’ve ever seen, and that’s no joke. Sadly, some predictable plotting and underdeveloped characters drag it down a bit, but not enough for it to be considered a disappointment in my book. A very solid effort that I’d say is about as good as Rise, but I’d hesitate to call it “great”. But then again, how many movies can make apes riding horses not only look realistic, but also completely badass?

“Malcolm, they’re animals!”

4 out of 5

“Tammy” Review

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“Muscle shirts are for muscles!”

What’s the best film to watch after seeing Trainspotting and Shallow Grave? Well, obviously the most logical choice would be Tammy, right?

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.

This “movie” is bad. “What makes it bad?” you might ask. Well, let’s start with the story. It’s your basic road-trip movie, except for the fact that they go absolutely nowhere. Screw where they are, all you need to know is that they hit up a bar and a lesbian party. That’s it. That’s honestly all that happens. There is no sense of location or setting here at all. All I know is that this film took place somewhere around Missouri. Everything else is just filler fat jokes to pass the time by. WE GET IT, MELISSA McCARTHY IS FAT. HOLY SHIT. But what about the story or setting? Nope? Okay.

Now, the leads of this film, McCarthy and Susan Sarandon, have no chemistry together, so it made this experience much more painful. Neither of their characters are likable in any way, shape, or form, and I’m sorry, but McCarthy looked absolutely repulsive in this. I’m not sure if the director (who is actually McCarthy’s husband) wanted to make her look like that, but if I was her and I was being presented as a fat, ugly woman who only gains laughs from jokes about her weight or her looks, I’d beat the living shit out of him. But, you know, money.

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So, apparently, this was McCarthy’s “passion project”. If this was her passion project, then I’m sorry, but she should never been involved in making a film ever again. Everything about this film is terrible. The camera shots are some of the laziest I’ve ever seen in comedy or any film for that matter, the only laughs that this film delivers are from the supporting actors, most of which only have around five minutes of screen-time, and there really isn’t a story at all. So, it’s 97 minutes of NOTHING.

What saddens me is that there is a lot of talented filmmakers out there with great ideas, but instead, we get films like this. A dull, lifeless “comedy” that is nothing but a paycheck for everyone involved (except for McCarthy, apparently). I mean, it physically hurts me to see the likes of Mark Duplass and Dan Aykroyd wasting their talents on films like this. They deserve much better. Hell, I guarantee you that producers Adam McKay and Will Ferrell only produced this “film” to get in on some quick cash, hoping to bank on the lead actress’ popularity.

Ugh. Fuck this movie. At least with films like I, Frankenstein and Winter’s Tale, even though they were shit, it felt like the filmmakers actually cared about their work. Here, it doesn’t even feel like anyone was trying at all. And the worst part? $20 million was spent on this piece of shit. $20 MILLION.

Melissa McCarthy, you were funny in Bridesmaids, but now you just piss me off. Please leave us alone.

“I feel like we’re getting somewhere, and that, like, under different circumstances we’d probably be good pals.”

1 out of 5

“Transformers: Age of Extinction” Review

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“Dad, we can’t go home. They blew it up.”

Transformers: Age of Extinction doesn’t deserve a star rating. It’s so mind-bogglingly stupid and mindless at times that the film should only receive a half a star, if that. But, other times, the film is soo batshit insane and absurd that you can’t help but watch in total awe and amazement and not be impressed. I’m so torn by this movie that it’s ridiculous. But, no matter what your thoughts on the franchise as a whole are, you can’t deny that whoever replaces Bay as the director for the next film has some MASSIVE shoes to fill.

Speaking of Bay, this is easily the definitive Michael Bay movie; it even manages to top his 2003 sequel Bad Boys 2 in total “Bay-ness”. I have never seen so much senseless destruction presented on-screen before and in such a manner that I’m even having a hard time describing it. It’s not bleak and depressing like Dark of the Moon or fun and playful like the first film. No, no, no…Age of Extinction is in its own damn category of craziness. Think Pacific Rim mixed with the likes of Crank: High Voltage. This film tries soo hard to feel like a once in a lifetime event that it actually turns out being one, even if the story doesn’t support this wild vision that Bay had for the film.

In fact, the films plot is pretty simple; a shady black-ops organization attempts to hunt down the remaining Transformers so that they can create their own from the DNA of the fallen robots from the Chicago incident. But, a single father stumbles upon one of the Transformers in hiding, causing him, his daughter, and her boyfriend to get caught up in a secret war. Simple enough right? Well, when it comes to a Michael Bay movie, there’s always more than meets to eye (sorry, I couldn’t help it).

The lead villain, Lockdown, is where the film starts wearing its stupidity proudly. It would have been alright just to have him be a badass bounty hunter, but to work with the humans, specifically Kelsey Grammer? I mean, come on. First off, how did they even come in contact to make this “deal” to take out the Transformers? It’s not like they had a lovely long-distance phone call, right? But, you know, fuck me sideways, because the film doesn’t give a rats ass if you realize that or not. So, like the plot of the film, I’ll move on.

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Next, the film sets up what the audience is led to believe will become the “true” lead villain with this massive set-up and the fact that, you know, the films plot changes because of this character and his motivations. But nope, I guess we’ll just have to deal with the bland villain that’s only purpose is to capture Optimus Prime. “What’s he supposed to do with him after that? And what about that other villain?” you might ask. To which Michael Bay responds, “Hahahaha, your guess is as good as mine. Maybe the sequel will…BAM!!!!!! Did you see that explosion?”.

Enough with the villains. Let’s focus on the humans. The first hour or so of the film is spent building up certain characters that we assume we’ll follow and learn more about as the film progresses. Wrong. Mark Wahlberg‘s character is really one-note: try to act smart, be an asshole to his daughters boyfriend, and constantly talk about how cool the alien gun that he has is.

Speaking of the boyfriend, it’s revealed that he’s older than his girlfriend and that it’s illegal to be with her due to her age (I didn’t know Michael Bay wanted to add some elements of his life into the story…). All kidding aside, that was kind of creepy and as a father, I’d be furious about that. But not Walhberg, because one scene later they’re all “buddy-buddy”. I guess that’s not really a big deal at all.

Now, it’s time to talk about the most asnine, absolutely preposterous element of the film: the Dinobots. Just let that sink in. Dinobots. If that name didn’t make you cringe already, just wait until you see Optimus Prime ride one of them into battle. Yeesh.

Okay, okay, now it just sounds like in ripping this film a new asshole, but now I’m onto the good. Trust me. Because despite all the negatives I just pointed out, there actually is a lot to be amazed by in this installment.

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Remember when I brought up how the film tried to be bigger than the plot had any right to be? Well, because of this, Bay gives audiences what is probably the most narratively confused and jumbled plot that any film has dared to take ownership of. But, this film embraces that and takes you along for the ludicrous, but undeniably entertaining ride. You, like the filmmakers, have no idea where the plot is heading, sending every character and you, the audience member, into a frenzy. This is actually interesting because I honestly had no idea where the film was heading towards the end.

Also, some of the actors involved seem to have realized how dumb the movie actually was, so they hammed up their performances up to the absolute max. The actor that comes to mind when I say this is Stanley Tucci. He is responsible for a lot of the films laughs and is honestly the only character the film actually decides to develop in its nearly three-hour runtime. Watching him yelp and cruse at old Chinese ladies made me realize that he’s perfect for Bay’s type of idiotic humor and should work with him more often.

Also, the film focuses more on the Autobots instead of the human characters after the first section of the movie. This is probably a negative to most people looking for a thought-provoking movie, but this is Transformers, so fuck you. The action was exhilarating and had my jaw slumped on the ground more than a few times. Somehow, Bay managed to top the Chicago finale in the last installment, and that’s no easy task. Just keep those damn Dinobots away. That’s all I ask.

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Not only that, but the film also has moments where it genuinely tries to be a “good” movie. The artsy camera shots early on, the whole scene about how humans make mistakes, and other moments that feel powerful (well, for a Transformers movie) and you feel like Bay has finally stopped dropping acid for a second to try and actually tell a story in between all the glorious mayhem.

All in all, Age of Extinction is a mess of epic proportions. It refuses to follow any sort of three-act narrative and just mashes the middle of the film into the climax, which leads to an exhausting viewing experience. The filmmakers don’t seem to care if it all makes sense or not either, they just want to make sure the damn thing worth the price of admission on a huge movie screen. Not many films actually warrant the need to see it in a movie theater, so I give Bay some respect for trying to outdo every action movie to give people spectacle like they’ve never seen before. And if any film demands to be seen on the big screen, it’s this bad boy.

This sequel/reboot is probably the most relentless and insane blockbuster that I’ve ever seen. Not only that, but I’m honestly convinced that this is the first big-budget movie that has actually strived to be daft and moronic as well. Thank you Michael Bay for the experience, even though I’m not entirely sure if I loved it or just absolutely hated it.

“How do you say “get the fuck out of the way” in Chinese?”

3.5 out of 5 (but in reality, this film defies an actual rating)

“How to Train Your Dragon 2” Review

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“A mother never forgets.”

And here I was thinking that no animated movie this year would even could close to the quality of The LEGO Movie. Silly me. Now, my enjoyment for this film might be heightened because I didn’t have necessarily high hopes for it (the previews made this one look like a stinker), but I was genuinely surprised with this one. I’d say it’s better than the first one and up there with the two Kung Fu Panda movies as some of Dreamworks’ best.

Director Dean DeBlois has stated that this film took four years to make, as he and his crew got to work on this follow-up immediately after the release of the first one, and you can tell. The visuals here are breathtaking and I’d be pressed to say it’s the best animation I’ve seen in any film. It looked a hell of a lot better than some of the similar kids films that were advertised prior to the film, Penguins of Madagascar and Home (both of which look absolutely terrible). You can tell the filmmakers actually took the time to fully realize the world that they were making for audiences.

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The story itself is also pretty impressive. On the outside looking in, the premise might seem a bit generic, but with the restraints that any kids film has, How to Train Your Dragon 2 shakes up the formula just enough that it feels fresh and fun. Clearly taking cues from The Empire Strikes Back, the film has a much darker tone than the original film did, leading many of the younger children in my audience to gasp and scream at times. To some people (parents), this might not be a good thing if you were planning really young kids to see this, but I personally loved seeing an animated movie with some bite to it.

Some of the voice-work is iffy, but maybe that’s just me. I never liked the fact that Jay Baruchel voiced Hiccup in the original because I never felt like his voice “fit” the character, and I still feel the same way here. But, I did like seeing Hiccup being a little cocky at times because that’s something that no one expects Baruchel to portray in his characters. Sadly, his character doesn’t have much of an arc, which is probably the only reason why I’m hesitant to give the film a full-fledged five out of five.

But besides that, I don’t have much negative to say about this one. It looks beautiful, the action set-pieces are exhilarating (something I can’t say about most animated features), and the film even has an extra bite to it for the parents to appreciate and the kids to be thrilled by. Here’s to hoping DeBlois can deliver a third film that can live up to this one and its predecessor. Not an easy task, but he managed to top his last film with this and somehow made Toothless even more likable this time around, which I didn’t think was even possible. So, I have faith.

“You have the heart of a chief and the soul of a dragon.”

4.5 out of 5

“22 Jump Street” Review

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“I think we’re starting to get too old for this shit.”

22 Jump Street is a strange beast. At times, it feels like the film is going through the motions and following the same plot as the first one (which was clearly intended because, you know, that’s so meta dude). At times, it felt quite lazy, but at the same time, I feel like there was no other way to approach the sequel. So, by jokingly doing the same shit and making fun of why every sequel fails, this follow-up not only feels familiar, but is also a fun diversion at the same time. I’m still having a hard time understanding it myself, don’t worry.

Jonah Hill (someone who I feel could be a total asshole in real life) falls back into the lonely nerd role that he played for the first twenty or so minutes in the first film, and I actually liked that. Hill is much better when he’s not striving to impress with his fat jokes or trying to be cool, so for a while I actually liked him in this. As for Channing Tatum, I’ve always defended the guy, as I think he gets way too much shit as an actor. He was born for this role and I think tops his performance in the first one here.

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The film also had a distinct “look” to it, something that most modern comedies fail to accomplish (or even try to accomplish). So what if directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord blatantly copy the look of Michael Bay‘s Bad Boys films? It actually works here, and from a filmmaking standpoint, it was much better than the muted and generic look of the first film. It also works because they’re clearly making fun of those movies.

Lord and Miller also mimic (mock) Bay with it’s “go big, or go home” mentality. Hill and Tatum are constantly making jokes about going over-budget or how people are just crashing into shit because it looks cool, which is always a dangerous path to take with a comedy. Thankfully, the meta feel of the film is just right and it doesn’t go overboard with it (at least I didn’t think so). Nick Offerman‘s on-the-nose dialogue runs on a thin line when doing this, but Offerman is talented enough to make the lines actually work, whereas in the wrong hands, it would have been cringe-worthy.

And I think that’s why 22 Jump Street doesn’t fall on its ass when it’s all said and done. Lord and Miller are clearly competent directors, but with this and The LEGO Movie, these two might have just made a name of themselves. They made an animated film that could have easily been titled Product Placement: The Movie, but these two instead turned the film on its head and gave us a modern day animated masterpiece. Now, they’ve given us a sequel that’s on-par, if not better than the original. And it’s a COMEDY sequel. Not only that, but they filled it to the brim with meta jokes and the exact same plot as the first film, which could have easily ruined the film. Instead, their “risk” worked. I’m not necessarily sure how it worked, but it did.

In other words, fuck you science.

“We Jump Street. And we ’bout to jump in yo ass.”

4 out of 5