Category: Theatrical Reviews

Need for Speed Review

poster from the Walt Disney Pictures film Need for Speed

My brother and I were all set to see Grand Budapest Hotel this weekend. Then I opened up the theater schedule and the only new movie playing was Need for Speed. In 3D. While I don’t hate cars (Top Gear is one of my favorite shows) I do hate dumb things. And this movie is based on a video game with no actual people in it.

A street racer jailed on a false manslaughter charge drives a one of a kind car across the country to defeat the real killer in a secret street race.

With the plot and character motivations tenuous at best, the real reason to watch Need for Speed is the cars. Though it does feature non-CGI race action and European supercars like the Bugatti Veyron, Lamborghini Elemento, and Koenigsegg Agera, it’s a shame that the star of this movie is a boring old Ford Mustang (GT500). For that we can probably blame sponsorship and the fact that the movie is American.

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Mr. Peabody and Sherman Review

poster from the Dreamworks Pictures film Mr. Peabody and Sherman

No way was I paying $14 to be bored to sleep by Slow Motion Swordfight 2: Now With More Beards and Instagram Filters, so my choice this week was cartoons. I only vaguely remembered Mr. Peabody from when I was little, so I could watch the reboot without all those pesky predetermined notions you usually have with a remake.

A hyperintelligent dog tries to keep his adoptive son out of trouble after he messes up the past trying to impress a girl from school.

My major concern was that I would be annoyed by the inevitable historical and scientific inaccuracies, but the movie is so hilarious that I ended up not caring about any of that. It also has some interesting things to say about adoption if you’re paying attention, so it’s both cute and funny. Take the kids. You’ll both like it.

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Non-Stop Review

poster from the Universal Pictures film Non-Stop

It was another underwhelming week for movies. There was only a generic looking thriller (Non-Stop) or a rehashed literal interpretation of the bible (Son of God) to choose from. And while I did promise to see more bad movies this year, I have to draw the line at the smirking Jesus movie. So I ended up at yet another Liam Neeson throat-chopping extravaganza.


It’s up to a lone air marshal to stop a hijacker who has threatened to kill someone every 20 minutes on a transatlantic flight.

Once again it was Liam Neeson vs the World, but because it was a contained space thriller with a (relatively) limited cast, there was a lot more texting than throat chopping. Which is a shame, because the only reason to go to these movies is to watch a (somehow still hot) Liam Neeson beat the snot out of bad guys.

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Pompeii Review

poster from the Sony Pictures film Pompeii

This week’s film selection was brought to you by nepotism. My brother worked in the sound department for Pompeii (filling in – sadly he’s not in the credits) so of course our family turned out in support. I’m not sure I would have bothered with this one otherwise. The effects looked cool and there’s Kit Harington, but the Pompeii story is not one of my hot buttons.

A Celtic gladiator competes with a skeezy Roman senator for the love of a wealthy daughter of Pompeii… on the eve of a giant volcano explosion!

The story of Pompeii is a paint-by-numbers construct, taking all your standard hero clichés and assembling them into a half-decently pretty canvas that is subsequently destroyed by the REAL star of the movie: the volcano effects. I enjoyed it, but I seriously doubt it will make anyone’s ‘best of’ list.

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Winter’s Tale Review

poster from the Warner Bros. Pictures film Winters Tale

I was underwhelmed by this week’s movie choices: one remake of an 80s movie (Robocop), one film adaptation of a novel (Winter’s Tale), and one film adaptation of a novel that is also a remake of an 80s movie (Endless Love). I probably should have said ‘the hell with it’ and gone to Vampire Academy but I didn’t. I went to Winter’s Tale. Blame Colin Farrell.

Angels conspire to help a handsome thief fall in love with a lonely girl dying of tuberculosis before Lucifer’s forces can kill him.

Winter’s Tale is partly historical fiction, as it’s mostly set in the early 1900s, and partly fantasy, because there are angels and demons and magic horses. It’s the literary type of fantasy, though, because the magic is just there to assist the story in being DEEP and MOVING. So it’s soppy, but the damn thing managed to make me cry anyway.

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The LEGO Movie Review

poster from the Warner Bros. Pictures film The LEGO Movie

I was a LEGO kid. I had almost all the Ice Planet sets, a fair bit of Magnetron, and a Space Police cruiser. In fact, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still have a couple of LEGO kits on the shelves in my office and half a dozen LEGO themed video games in my living room. I guess what I’m trying to say is that there was no chance of me skipping The LEGO Movie, even considering the generic storyline.

An ordinary construction worker discovers he is ‘the special’ and must save LEGO City from being destroyed by the evil Lord Business.

I watched the movie in a posse of unaccompanied adults, and I think we were laughing even harder than the kids. The story is generic, yes, and a little bit on the eye-rolling side of inspirational, but it’s the funniest movie I’ve seen since Easy A. Since most parents are young enough to be nostalgic about LEGO, it really is fun for the whole family.

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Labor Day Review

poster from the Paramount Pictures film Labor Day

This week, I chose Jason Reitman over Zac Efron. The trailer for Labor Day looked good, but I hadn’t read the Joyce Maynard novel it was based on, so I couldn’t tell whether it would have a (relatively) happy ending like Juno or a depressing ending like Up in the Air. I was really hoping for happy. I mean, who wants to depress themselves on purpose?

A thirteen year old boy recounts the story of how his mother fell in love with a fugitive during who invited himself into their home.

I have seen it now and am happy to report that while there are certainly depressing parts in Labor Day, I would not call it, on the whole, a depressing movie. In fact, it would make a pretty good date movie, especially if you’re an escaped murderer with a captive girlfriend you’re trying to Stockholm Syndrome into liking you. Because hey, if it worked once…

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Devil’s Due Review

poster from the 20th Century Fox film Devils Due

The movie I wanted to see this week was Devil’s Knot – the fictionalization of the West Memphis Three story. But the only new movie we got was I, Frankenstein. In keeping with my New Year’s Resolution to see more bad movies on Scene points, I presented myself for the Saturday matinee. Fate decided to step in and save me by canceling the showing, so I asked for a ticket to whichever of last week’s movies started next. It turned out to be Devil’s Due.

A young couple who were kidnapped on their honeymoon return home pregnant with a fetus that causes terrible things to happen.

I like horror movies but I preach moderation in the showing of monsters and blood because absence and expectation make for more tension and scariness. Devil’s Due showed a lot of restraint in that department… too much, unfortunately. It crossed the line between tense and boring.

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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Review

poster from the Paramount Pictures film Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit

I was looking forward to this movie. I liked the previous Jack Ryan films and since the world’s biggest ‘fun’ spy franchise (James Bond) has become ultra-serious, realistic, and confusing, I thought that Jack Ryan (previously ultra-serious, realistic, and confusing) might switch places with it. I was led to believe this from the fact that they chose Chris Pine and stopped basing the plots on Tom Clancy novels.

A CIA analyst is reluctantly pressed into action after he uncovers a Russian plot to take down the American economy.

While Shadow Recruit was certainly a thrilling thriller, that was (relatively) easy to understand and (somewhat) realistic, it lacked the element of fun I was hoping for. It’s moved away from the usual tropes of the Jack Ryan franchise but hasn’t taken over the ones James Bond abandoned, so it comes off a little bland. I worry about its staying power as a franchise.

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Her Review

poster from the Warner Bros. pictures movie Her

I had two choices for movies this week: depressing or weird. I wasn’t in an ‘everybody dies’ mood, so bypassed Lone Survivor in favor of my brother’s choice: Her. I’m not a fan of Joaquin Phoenix or Spike Jonze and I couldn’t see any way the movie would end happily, but at least Her seemed to have a bit of a sci-fi flavor and an original premise.

A lonely writer falls in love with his artificially intelligent operating system.

While I was expecting Her to be a little science fictioney, I was surprised and pleased to find that it was a LOT science fictioney, in a classic, Isaac Asimov, Golden Age, ‘what if’ sort of way. Unfortunately, I can’t honestly say that I liked it, as the movie also felt too long, too repetitive, too close, and too awkward to be a fun time.

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