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Friday
Jul152016

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters
Directed by: Paul Feig
Release Date: July 16th, 2016
Grade: 2 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

For the love of all that is great and wonderful in the universe, if you are going to remake a beloved movie, please make it better than the original. Otherwise what’s the point? For example, another version of Ben-Hur is set to be released next month. The 1959 version starring Charleton Heston and directed by William Wyler, itself a remake, still stands among the best films ever and certainly head and shoulders over the crap the studios pump out today. Why, Hollywood? Why?

You can ask the same question for the new Ghostbusters film. While it does have its funny moments and some decent special effects, there’s no real reason for its existence other than to make Sony money. Hell, even Columbia Pictures made a whole new division called Ghost Corps as a way to broaden the appeal of the Ghostbusters brand. This franchise isn’t going to die anytime soon.

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Thursday
Sep172015

Pixels

Pixels
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Released on DVD/Blu-Ray: October 27th, 2015
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

Given that this year is the 20th anniversary of the comedy classic Billy Madison, a lot has been recently written or said about not only about the legacy of that film, but also of the career of Adam Sandler. The general consensus, at least among my peers, is that his first few films — namely the aforementioned Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore — stand among the best comedies of its time, but his output has since become uninspired and unfunny.

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Thursday
Sep172015

Beyond the Mask

Beyond the Mask
Director: Chad Burns
Released on DVD/Blu-Ray: September 8th, 2015
Grade: 1 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

For the past decade or so, producers and studios have been trying with varying degrees of success to appeal to church-going families for their movie-going dollars by producing Christian-themed movies. The trend started with Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, which proved there was an untapped market by bringing in over a half billion at the box office and going on to be the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time. It continued with Fireproof, the Kirk Cameron-starring drama that made Sherwood Pictures, a Christian film ministry, a major player in Hollywood after it became the highest-grossing independent film of 2008. It reached an apex last year when films like Noah, Son of God, God’s Not Dead, Heaven Is For Real and Exodus: Gods and Kings gave Christians plenty to choose from at the cineplex.

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Tuesday
Sep152015

Dragon Blade

Dragon Blade
Directed by: Daniel Lee
Released on: September 4th, 2015
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Gosh darn it. It is such a big production; it means so well; it stars Jackie Chan -- who is so cool; and it has two likable American actors: Adrien Brody and John Cusack. Yet Dragon Blade barely passes the entertainment mustard.

Inspired by, yet hardly accurately based on, historical events, writer-director-production designer Daniel Lee's film sets itself in 50 B.C. along the Silk Road. A significant road for trade between the Occident and the Orient, the protection of the road is headed by Huo An (Chan). A passionate, reasonable, and preferably peaceful man, Huo and his troop protect the land through negotiation and equality -- only resorting to violence when all other means have been resisted by members of the 36 warring nations roaming and occupying the northwestern territory.

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Wednesday
Jul152015

Self/less

Self/less
Directed by: Tarsem Singh
Release Date: July 10th, 2015
Grade: 2.5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

Tarsem Singh first caught my eye as the director of the dazzling music video of REM’s “Losing My Religion” and I was excited to see him break into Hollywood with his 2000 sci-fi debut, The Cell. That film’s plot, about a psychologist who uses advanced technology to enter the mind of a comatose serial killer, wasn't as good as it must have sounded on paper, but the movie was watchable because of Tarsem’s spectacular and disturbing visuals.

His latest film, Self/less, covers similar territory in terms of exploring man’s psyche and its relationship to the body. It concerns Damian Hale, played by Sir Ben Kingsley, a ruthless New York tycoon who is close to dying from terminal cancer. Of course a filthy rich son-of-a-bitch would want to live forever, so he decides to try a new procedure called “shedding,” where his mind will be transplanted from his dying body into a younger body (Ryan Reynolds) grown fresh in a lab.

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Monday
Oct132014

Left Behind

Left Behind
Directed by: Vic Armstrong
Released on: October 3rd, 2014
Grade: 1 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

Yep, it’s been 14 years since the incredibly awful, low-budget, end-times thriller Left Behind: The Movie starring Kirk Cameron hit video shelves. As per usual, idea-strapped Hollywood thinks it’s due for a remake. Producer Paul Lalonde returns to familiar Revelation-inspired territory with a bigger budget, more sophisticated productions values and a recognizable cast to retell the story of those left over after the Rapture, the event where the godly are taken instantly to Heaven before Christ returns to Earth, as some Christians believed is prophesied in the Bible. Based on Rev. Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins’ wildly popular series of novels, this Left Behind remake, despite its Hollywood polish, is just as bad and laughable as the original.

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Thursday
May152014

Brick Mansions

Brick Mansions
Directed by: Camille Delamarre
Released on: April 25th, 2014
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

Hollywood lost a talented young star when Paul Walker tragically died last November. Through his role as Brian O’Connor in the The Fast and the Furious series, he was carving out a niche for himself as a reliable hero of pulpy, mindless action. As silly as those movies are, I can’t help but glue myself to the television or laptop if I come across the chance to watch one. They’re just pure escapism. Walker’s latest, and sadly one of his last films, is Brick Mansions, the English language remake of the French District 13. This work is in the same camp as F&F: harmless, silly fun.

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Thursday
Apr172014

The Raid 2: Berandal

The Raid 2: Berandal
Directed by: Gareth Evans
Released on: March 28th
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Three years after the 2011 film, The Raid: Redemption, writer-director Gareth Evans returns with the highly anticipated, vehemently violent sequel, The Raid 2: Berandal.

Essentially commencing where The Raid: Redemption finished, the sequel finds the protagonist, Rama (Iko Uwais) going undercover to infiltrate a crime syndicate and bring everybody down, especially the crooked cops at the top.

As Rama falls deeper and deeper into his undercover role, he begins to lose his sense of what is right and wrong, incrementally becoming more punitive toward his aggressors. Of course, in a society where cops and government officials are as crooked as the gangsters, who can tell what is right and wrong? The only thing to know for sure is how to survive and fight another day.

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Wednesday
Mar052014

Non-Stop

Non-Stop
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
Released on: February 28th, 2014
Grade: 2 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) is a guy who starts the day with some booze mixed in with his coffee. You can tell he is sad by the way he carries himself, his lack of grooming and just his general disposition toward other people — in person or on the phone. He is not the sort of person you want to be around, and you certainly would not like him to be in charge of many lives.

As a U.S. Marshall who travels the skyways protecting passengers from terrorists, however, he is just that. Bill can carry a gun on a plane, and he can arrest people too. Apparently, torture is acceptable for Bill as well. The fact that Bill is afraid of the ascension of planes from terra firma only lowers one's confidence in him. Fortunately, the woman next to him, Jen (Julianne Moore), is there to comfort Bill on their way to London.

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Monday
Dec242012

Jack Reacher

Jack Reacher
Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie
Released on: December 21st, 2012
Grade: 2 out 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Released one week after the shooting massacre in Newtown, CT, writer-director Christopher McQuarrie's Jack Reacher opens up with Charlie (Jai Courtney) aiming his high-powered rifle at several people going about his or her day in Pittsburgh, PA. Amongst the possible targets is a young girl (Sophie Guest).

One can feel the tension in the theater. It may be too soon to show such images, but studios have to follow their release schedule.

Then Jai starts shooting, killing strangers from thousands of feet away.

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