Category Archives: Film

Still Hungry

By Brian Taylor

“The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay Part 1” picks up after Katniss (played by Jennifer Lawrence) destroys the simultaneously primitive and futuristic games. She awakens to see the retaliatory destruction of her home district and the urgent request for her to be the heroic symbol to spur a general uprising that is brewing. Heavy on her mind is the fate of Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) who was left behind to the mercy of the Capitol.

Still of Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (2014)  (Photo: Lionsgate)
Still of Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014) (Photo: Lionsgate)

As someone who has enjoyed the previous installments of this series, “Mocking Jay Part 1” was a let down. A very slow and predictable beginning set the stage for what was a bland 123 minutes. “What made the movie bland?” you might ask.

Firstly, the movie — apart from one memorable scene — contained very little actual action. At least that is how it felt as I drove home trying to make sense of my sentiments.

Secondly, I felt no bond or connection to any of the characters this time. We are given very little to “care about” as it pertains to the individuals in the movie. Perhaps this is due to there being no big physical tribulations shown.

I really wanted this to be a better movie. I will, reluctantly, be back for the next one. Hardcore fans will be fine with it.

An hour and a half into the film, one woman (not yelling, but gasping to herself) said, “when will this be over?” I couldn’t help but exhale slowly in agreement.

Unexpected rise to Cap fandom

Brian Taylor

Marvel has taken one of my least favorite of it’s characters and made a must-see movie event with Captian America: The Winter Soldier. Clever and well-written character dialogue meet crisp hand-to-hand combat sequences and seamless special effects as Steve Rogers (played by Chris Evans) searches for his place as Captain in today’s America. (continued)

Supporting cast is very solid with Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Anthony Mackie as Falcon, and catch phrase king Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. There is a grit to this film that makes it very appealing. You get a rare glimpse (one would imagine, if thrust into the Marvel world) at the mortal side of some key characters.

What’s just as engaging to watch as a troubled hero? A troubled villain, of course. When the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) is revealed, the plot gets richer. Far from the “Go America, Go” movie I thought this would be, the film contains some real kernels of national introspection. I found my emotions rising and falling with this movie. Smiling when cued to due so, laughing at moments set aside for it, and rooting for the best side of humanity. That — with me — is not the easiest of feats.

RoboCop 2014: Target not quite acquired

BY BRIAN TAYLOR

Ever go to a themeless potluck dinner? There’s good food, gross food, multiple this, and no that. This was my experience with the 2014 reboot of RoboCop. Parts were  interesting and entertaining, but in the end I felt somehow short of a meal.

Joel Kinnaman and Abbie Cornish in "RoboCop." (2014 Kerry Hayes / Sony Pictures)
Joel Kinnaman and Abbie Cornish in “RoboCop.” (2014 Kerry Hayes / Sony Pictures)

Set in 2028, military and technological giant Omnicorp has designed robots to police the world; the world abroad, that is. Political red tape has prevented storm troopers from landing inside the United States. In comes pesky and soon-to-be-sent to the brink of death cop Alex Murphy (played by actor, Joel Kinnaman). Almost snubbed out by criminal elements, he is saved (salvaged?) by Omnicorp and marketed an empathetic, robotic policing option for the U.S.

The film  follows a similar plot line as its 1987 counterpart and Kinnaman delivers an impressive roll as Murphy. I “like” Alex Murphy as acted by Kinnaman. But somehow, I never develop a vested interest in him like I did in the 1987 movie. I don’t feel the 2014 movie developed any of the characters very well. Neither did they really build up an evil head honcho. The sequence of the movie was very choppy and too frequently had me asking, “why did they just do that?”

Samuel Jackson — one of my favorite actors to watch, whether his roles are great or terrible — plays an over-the-top, pro-military force, newscaster that acts somewhat like a narrator/plot climatologist. While I enjoyed his presence as a Jackson fan, I feel the frequency of his appearances and extreme voiced opinion was put there because directors couldn’t trust us to figure out the messages.

“But at least they paid homage to some of the more memorable scenes and one-liners we loved so much, right?” Nope. Every attempt to tip the hat to the 1987 version was a robo-fail.

Most viewers will be just fine to stream this one in six to eight months.

Post Hangover Nausea

By Brian Taylor

Four brief chuckles and a snicker. That was all I could muster through the furiously unfunny film, The Hangover Part III. And I was really hoping for a “laughy” evening. The comedic power of The Hangover (part one) was the combination of outrageous, left field circumstances that seamlessly flowed together. The latest movie felt like 40 short, sometimes over– sometimes underdone clips, rubber cemented together and falling apart at delivery. “Choppy” comes to mind.

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The story picks up with Alan (played by Zach Galifianakis) facing the death of his father and the realization — magnified by being off his meds — that his life is rudderless. On the way to confronting his problem — joined by Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha) — they run into more problems. ‘Half the fun is getting there’ being the theme of the Hangover series, getting there was not fun this time… at all.

Why oh why — I asked myself — did writers not allow Alan to be Alan throughout the film. He just seemed like a slightly different guy. Galifianakis tried to work his magic, but he was squeezing a faintly moist towel. Bradley Cooper could have been a character in The Walking Dead, and John Goodman’s supporting role (I enjoy many of his other roles) sounded and felt like a first read through of the script. Ken Jong, who plays Mr. Chow was largely in the same boat as Galifianakis.

What began as a slightly smarter slapstick, adventure comedy, fizzled into a When the Whistle Blows,* lowest-common-denominator, bore. If you liked The Hangover, don’t see this film. You will go see it, but you ought not.

*When the Whistle Blows is the fictional show-within-a-show of Extras whose creator, co-writer and star is Ricky Gervais’ character Andy Millman. The show uses studio audiences, canned laughter, and the reliance on funny wigs, costumes and catchphrases for laughs.

Dead On

By Brian Taylor

When I hear the term “remake,” a guttural sigh uncontrollably leaks out of my body. So many of them loose the essence of the original. And then there are those great exceptions like “Evil Dead,” directed by Fede Alvarez.

Courtesy of TriStar Pictures
Courtesy of TriStar Pictures

The story is about five friends (portrayed by actors Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, and Elizabeth Blackmore) who take a therapeutic trip out to a family cabin, deep in the woods. Curiosity leads them awry when they discover an ancient book that unleashes an evil can of whoop-ass on them.

The series of movies following “The Evil Dead (1981),” mixed a delicate cocktail of gore, suspense, and near-parody comedy. They included “Evil Dead II (1987),” “Army of Darkness (1992),”  This latest installment aptly stays the course, even without “Ash,” the original, unlikely hero, played by Bruce Campbell. Campbell co-produced the remake as well as the previous three movies.

Weak stomachs need not apply.