The Adjustment Bureau

The-Adjustment-BureauTitle: The Adjustment Bureau

Cast: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Michael Kelly, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery

Director: George Nolfi

Plot: David Norris (Matt Damon) is an up and coming politician who has a chance encounter with a beautiful stranger, Elise (Emily Blunt). Working behind the scenes though, is a mysterious group of men who call themselves The Adjustment Bureau, who are intent on keeping them apart, and try to maintain David’s predetermined future.

What I Liked:

  • Cast. This movie is nearly perfectly cast. Matt Damon is great as David Norris, and the chemistry he has with Emily Blunt is fantastic. All of the smaller, yet still important, roles were also expertly presented, with special notice to Anthony Mackie who is amazing as Harry Mitchell.
  • Theological Questions. I love Hollywood movies that actually raise good questions. I don’t even necessarily care if the answers they present are accurate, I just love when they ask the tough questions. This movie does just that. “How much control do we have over our life?”, “What exactly is free will?”, “Are we predestined?”. I may not necessarily agree with how the questions are answered, but I love and respect the fact that they are even asked at all.
  • Fast Moving. I hesitate to call this an action movie, but the pace of the movie is quick, and it has some pretty intense moments. The running and chasing seemed like a toned down version of “Bourne Identity” (possibly due to the fact that this movie starred Matt Damon), and yet it didn’t go overboard with action, violence and speed. The story moved fluidly, there weren’t many slow scenes, and the ones they did have were necessary to the plot and didn’t last too long. It entertained you from the start, and kept you interested.
  • Plot. I have to give credit to the writers. In a time when, most movies are just remakes, sequels, or not very original, they made an original, smart movie with a really good plot. It juggled the political story, love story and theological/free-will story perfectly.

What I Didn’t Like

  • Who are the Adjustment Bureau? They sort of explain it, but not really. I understand that they work for the “Big Guy”…but are they angels? Are they men? Are the spiritual entities? Where did they come from?
  • (Spoilers) Convenient plot twists. The fact that rain, and water, are enough of a shield to protect you from the Adjustment Bureau seems way too easy of a plot point. Also, the fact that, all you need to travel through those door portals is the right hat and to turn the handle the opposite way is just ridiculous.

Lessons Learned:

  What would you do, or give up, to be with someone you love. Would you fight to be with someone if it meant giving up your, and their, dreams?

How much free will do we actually have? Do we make ANY choices, or is everything predestined?

Honesty is very important. One of the most powerful scenes of the movie, is when David gives his political speech where he admits to being fake. It’s a speech I would love to see an actual political give. It’s honest and refreshing.

The Adjustment Bureau is a movie that raises a lot of questions, and is a fantastic starting point for what could be an amazing discussion-it earns an 8.5/10. I loved the casting, Matt Damon and Emily Blunt are amazing, the plot was unique and refreshing, the love story was vital yet not cheesy, and the movie was fast paced and kept you on the edge of your seat. There were a few too many convenient plot twists though, and the fact that the movie just decides not to fully explain WHO or WHAT the Adjustment Bureau is left me frustrated. In the end though, it’s a great, entertaining movie, and it actually tries to ask some of the right questions. Worth checking it out for sure!

 

 

Sleepwalk With Me

Sleepwalk-With-Me-PosterTitle: Sleepwalk With Me

Cast: Mike Birbiglia, Lauren Ambrose, James Rebhorn, Carol Kane,

Directors: Mike Birbiglia & Seth Barrish

Plot: Matt Pandamiglio (Mike Birbiglia) is an aspiring Stand-Up Comedian, who has a sleeping disorder; He Sleepwalks. The sleepwalking puts him in danger, his family thinks he needs to find a real job, and his girlfriend wants him to settle down and marry her. On top of all that, Matt is not a good Comedian, and spends more money on getting to venues than he actually makes from the gigs.

What I Liked:

  • Semi-true. The names have been changed, and I am sure that a lot of the content is added for pure comedic/dramatic effect, but the basic plot of the movie is based on Mike Birbiglia’s life. He really does (or did) have a sleeping disorder, and his early days of being a Stand-Up Comedian did resemble this movie closely. I love how he so clearly basis the movie off of his real life (even the fake name is a clear satire of his actual name), and is able to make light about a serious, and somewhat sad, experience.
  • Funny. This movie is very funny. Now, it’s not “roll on the floor, wet your pants” kind of funny, but it is light-hearted and will make you chuckle. If you are familiar with Mike Birbiglia’s Stand-Up comedy, then you will know what type of humour to expect from this movie.
  • Well Acted. I’m always concerned when a comedian tries to move to acting. Mike does a fantastic job in the lead role (probably because it is based on his real life), and the rest of the cast is fantastic. I love how there are no big-name stars in this movie. It probably had to do with the small budget, but it made the movie realistic and you weren’t distracted with, “Oh look…that’s the person from ___(insert movie title)___”.
  • Serious moments. A lot of comedies try to be funny all the time. This movie takes some time to be serious. You can tell that Matt is dealing with a lot of inner turmoil. He loves his girlfriend but is afraid of commitment, he wants to please his parents, but doesn’t know how, and you can tell that he desperately wants to be a great Comedian, but he faces such brutal adversity that it’s heartbreaking at times. These moments, and others, aren’t just brushed aside for comedic effect, they are developed and taken seriously.
  • Relevant. This one is for me personally. I always find it interesting to watch romances in movies, in light of the fact that my marriage has fallen apart. Seeing the romance/relationship in this movie both encouraged me, saddened me, and resonated with me. It’s hard to explain without giving everything away, but it really spoke to me and was way more relevant than I expected it to be. I love seeing actually romantic drama, and not just the sappy romance that so many other movies portray.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Too Short. I wish this movie was much longer. It didn’t NEED to be longer…but I enjoyed it too much, and wanted it to keep going and never stop (which is a sign of a fantastic movie!)
  • Awkward Moments. This movie is constantly balance between being hilarious and heartbreaking. When he is doing his early Stand-Up and there is no one in the audience, and the jokes are horrible, you want to laugh but feel so terrible for him. Even watching him sleepwalk is both hysterical and depressing. You can’t help but feel for him.

Lessons Learned:

Following your dreams required hard work and sacrifice. Matt literally has to give up everything to follow his dream of being a Stand-Up Comedian. It’s not an easy journey, but it’s his dream and he goes for it.

It’s ok to laugh at your life. Mike Birbiglia is clearly able to laugh at his past and his struggles. It’s encouraging for us to be able to say that, we can look back on our lives, our mistakes, struggles, embarrassing moments, and laugh at them. We don’t have to be ashamed of them, saddened by them, or try to hide them.

Sleepwalk With Me was a huge, pleasant surprise, and earns an 8.5/10. The acting is fantastic, the semi-true story is heartbreakingly funny, and the movie isn’t afraid of including serious moments. I also loved how relevant this movie was to me, specifically. I wish the movie was longer, and there are a few too many awkward moments that make you uncomfortable and leave you unsure of how to react (whether, laugh or cry), but on the whole this is a fantastic Indie comedy. It’s a very unique movie. If you have ever seen Mike Birbiglia’s Stand-Up, you should watch this movie. If you haven’t, but enjoy Stand-Up Comedy, you should watch this movie. Actually…regardless of your opinions of Stand-Up Comedy, you should watch this movie. It’s a small budget indie comedy with a great big heart! You will laugh, you will cry, you will awkwardly squirm, but you will fall in love with this movie!

 

 

Seeing Through The Fog

seeing through the fogTitle: Seeing Through the Fog

Author: Ed Dobson

Pages: 145

Plot: Ed Dobson writes an honest and thought provoking book about his struggle with ALS

What I Liked:

  • Honest. Dobson doesn’t mince his words. He speaks from the heart, and explains his fears, doubts, struggles and pain.
  • Perfect Length. Normally, I would say a 145 page book would be borderline too short, however, because of the subject matter, and the fact that Dobson is well aware of the fact that this will likely be his last book, it seems perfectly long enough. It’s short enough that you can read it in a day or two, but long enough that you still get into his mind, and can empathize, sympathize and be encouraged by his story.
  • Applies to more than just ALS. The book is about Dobson’s struggle with a specific, terrible disease, however, the book is an encouragement to anyone who is going through a struggle. I personally read this book in the midst of a separation, and it helped me try to see some positives in the Fog that I am experiencing.
  • Well Written. This book may be serious in content, however, the writing style is fantastic and easy to read.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Slightly Depressing. I can’t judge the book too harshly, and Dobson does try hard to not make this a sad book, however it’s impossible to write a book about ALS and not have it be a little bit depressing.

Lessons Learned:

Find the little joys in life. We don’t understand why life turns out the way it does, but it’s important to try to see through the fog, and find happiness, peace and joy.

Seeing Through the Fog is not always easy to read, but it is well worth the effort, earning an 8/10. The book is well written, and, even though its specifically written from an ALS perspective, has things that apply to anyone who is suffering or struggling. It’s also a pleasure to read a book that is so honest and heartfelt. It is a slightly depressing book at times, but that is to be expected due to the subject matter. If you know someone who is dealing with ALS, or just having a really tough go at life right now, this is a book that may help you put things into perspective.

 

 

Hotel Transylvania

hotel transylvaniaTitle: Hotel Transylvania

Cast: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Fran Drescher, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade, Ceelo Green

Director: Genndy Tartakovsky

Plot: Dracula (Adam Sandler) owns and runs a hotel for Monsters and Ghouls, safe from Humans. That is, until a human named Jonathan (Andy Samberg) stumbles into the hotel and falls in love with Dracula’s daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez)

What I Liked:

  • Animation. I love animated movies, and while this one didn’t necessarily have the perfection of a Pixar film, it still looked good and fit the nature of the movie.
  • Great Voice Cast. One of the best things about an animated movie, is not knowing who is in it and trying to guess by the voices. I could easily guess David Spade and Fran Drescher, but the rest of the cast did a great job of being the characters and not distracting you with “oh, that’s OBVIOUSLY so and so”. Selena Gomez really surprised me as Mavis, and Andy Samberg has the perfect animated voice!
  • Really Funny. There are definitely funnier animated movies out there, but this one definitely includes many hilarious moments and keeps you entertained. Speaking of being funny, the best moment of the movie, is…
  • The Twilight Parody. It’s literally a 3 second scene, but Dracula see’s a scene of Twilight and makes a comment about how vampires are portrayed in the media. Nice subtle jab, and yet doesn’t go out of it’s way to bash the movie. It was a smart joke.
  • Full of Heart. It wasn’t just a silly movie with not substance. The movie has heartfelt moments, and actually has some good scenes that tug at your emotions.
  • Not a Halloween movie. I was nervous at first that a monster movie like this would be more of a Halloween movie, but it’s not. They do a great job of having the monster characters, but not limiting themselves to only a few days in October.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Too scary for kids It always bothers me when animated movies, which are generally made for kids, make themselves too scary for young children. While this movie isn’t terrifying, and most kids older than 6 or 7 should be fine (I say most, because there are always a few poor sheltered souls who can’t handle anything remotely thrilling), due to the fact that the movie is about monsters, and includes Frankenstein, Vampires, Shrunken Heads and Mummies, it will cause quite a few kids to get a bit scared and intimidated.
  • More Characters than Necessary. This isn’t a major issue, but the movie introduced a lot of characters, and then barely used them. There were some great characters that were underused. It didn’t really hurt the movie, but doing a bit more with the wolves, the two tiny bugs, and the skeletons would have been fantastic.
  • Could have been funnier. While the movie was hilarious at times, I felt there were some jokes that could have been made, or that could have been better. (Seriously…how is Monster Mash or Thriller NOT part of this movie?).

Lessons Learned:

The major lesson is to not judge a person (or monster) based on their appearance.

While parenting is very important, eventually you have to let your kids grow up and experience things. Dracula is the typical overbearing parent who refuses to accept the fact that Mavis has grown up (and is already 118 years old!).

I didn’t think I was going to enjoy this as much as I did, but Hotel Transylvania earns a solid 7.5/10. The voice cast was excellent, and there was some fantastic humour and satire. As I mentioned, the small Twilight joke was pure perfection. It also is filled with heart and great life lessons, and is a movie that isn’t limited to just the Halloween season (despite being about monsters). However, as funny as the movie was, it could have been much funnier. They also included more characters than they needed. It’s also a shame that, because of the nature of the characters being monsters and ghosts and stuff, a lot of kids may find it a tad too scary. If you are an animated movie fan, then you should give this one a chance. If you hate the idea of Dracula, Frankenstein, Ghosts, Skeletons, Werewolves and Mummies, then you probably have hesitations for this one-but I think you should still give it a try. It just may surprise you with it’s feel-good morals, heart, and soul!

*Note: Can I just say that the name of the Director, Geddy Tartakovsky is absolutely PERFECT for a animated movie of this nature. It just fits so well.

 

 

Death Race: Inferno

death race 3Title: Death Race: Inferno

Cast: Luke Gross, Tanit Phoenix, Danny Trejo, Ving Rhames, Dougray Scott, Fred Koehler

Director: Roel Reine

Plot: Carl Lucas, aka Frankenstein (Luke Gross) is one win away from earning his freedom in the famous, controversial Death Race. But when Niles York (Dougray Scott) buys the Death Race and moves it to a South African desert, he does everything in his power to make sure that Lucas doesn’t win the race and earn his freedom.

What I Liked:

  • Ving Rhames and Danny Trejo. By far, these two are the best part of this movie.
  • New Setting. Moving the Death Race to South Africa, and having a new prison and longer more dangerous race was nice.
  • Action. Let’s be honest here…no one watches the Death Race movies because of the plot. You watch it for the carnage, action, car chases and explosions. This movie has all of the above.
  • The Ending. I wasn’t really paying attention when I first watched the end, so I had to go back and re-watch it. While it’s kind of implausible and seemed a tad forced, I do appreciate their attempt, and give them credit for trying to make some sort of cool twist ending (won’t say more. Don’t want to spoil it for anyone).

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Acting. The first Death Race movie had decent acting…the following two just went downhill. This one seems like it almost gave up and thought, “meh…we have car chases, death and explosions…who cares about the acting!”. To it’s credit though, Ving Rhames and Danny Trejo do try and keep this movie from becoming a joke (Fred Koehler is actually not too bad either, now that I think about it.)
  • Same As the First Two. The only difference between this movie and the previous two is the setting. Plot is almost identical.
  • No Character Development. I realize you don’t expect development in a movie of this nature, but you learn basically nothing about the characters and could care less whether they live or die. I guess they are assuming that you will have seen the first two movies and therefore don’t try to develop the characters much beyond the previous movies…unfortunately, the previous 2 thought “We are making a sequel…we can develop the characters later”. In the end, 3 movies down and zero character growth or development. Someone missed a memo somewhere.
  • Stereotypical and Predictable. First off, the movie includes all of the stereotypes…the woman driver, the asian driver, the black driver, the nervous driver, the wreckless driver, and the cliche “dies before the race even starts” driver. And from pretty much the opening credits, you know exactly where the movie is going to end up.
  • Why is his cell filled with water? This has no bearing on the movie at all…just something that really bothered me. Did I miss something? Can someone please explain?
  • I preferred the ending BEFORE the twist. As I said above, I give them credit for trying a different twist ending, but I liked how they had it ended before they threw in the twist.

Death Race: Inferno was pretty much what I expected it to be…an action movie with no plot, no character development and just mainly a waste of time. It earns a 4/10. Ving Rhames and Danny Trejo are great, and the new setting was cool (especially having the race go through hostile territory and a city). I also give credit for an attempted twist/shock ending. However, the lack of character development, generally poor acting, stereotypical racers and predictable movie just made this a movie I never really cared about or got into. This is a franchise that didn’t need a sequel to begin with, let alone a third movie to make it a trilogy. If you have seen the previous two, you may want to watch it just to see how it all plays out…but if you haven’t seen the others, or didn’t like either of them, then don’t bother with this one.

 

Identity Thief

identity-thief-uk-one-sheet-posterTitle: Identity Thief

Cast: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, John Cho, Amanda Peet, Eric Stonestreet,

Director: Seth Gordon

Plot: When Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) discovers that his identity has been stolen, he embarks on a trip to find the thief and confront her.

What I Liked:

  • Great Chemistry. Bateman and McCarthy are fantastic together. Both very different characters, but they work well and have great chemistry. It’s obvious that they have a lot of fun, and play off of eachother well.
  • Unpredictable. Ok, let me clarify here. There are a lot of predictable moments to this movie, but there was a lot of things that I didn’t expect, such as the action and a few of the sub-plots that were uncovered.
  • Very Funny. This movie will make you laugh, and really, is that not all we want from our comedies? The best part is that there are a lot of hilarious scenes that aren’t in the trailer, which is always nice.
  • Ben Falcone. I love how Melissa McCarthy’s husband Ben is in this movie. He has a very small role, but it’s an important and good one.
  • Eric Stonestreet. Being a big Modern Family fan, I love when I see actors from that show play different characters in other movies/shows. Nice to see Stonestreet play a very different character from his flamboyant “Cam”, and I wish he had more screen time in this movie.
  • Not too crude. Yes, this movie is crude and has a lot of sexual innuendo and language. However, when you consider that the creators and producers of the movies Horrible Bosses and Ted were involved with this one (both of which I love by the way), this movie could have been much, MUCH cruder. I like how they toned it down and didn’t include more vulgarity than was necessary.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • (SPOILER) Quick Turnaround. I’m all for the concept of forgiveness, but the two characters are able to forgive eachother so quickly and easily that it seems so unnatural. She stole your identity, and yet you let her in your home, and are willing to just let bygones be bygones? Also, the fact that one simple phone call is enough to convict her and make her feel guilty enough to turn herself in? Just seemed far too sudden and convenient.
  • The Bounty Hunters. I enjoyed the idea of the characters, I just found that the two actors (T.I. and Genesis Rodriguez) weren’t the best choices and were the weakest actors in the movie.
  • The Singing scene wasn’t long enough. I LOVED the singing scene, but the trailer shows the whole thing. I was really hoping that the scene would have been longer, and funnier, but because the trailer showed it all, I was let down. I really hope the DVD will include an extended scene of it.

Lessons Learned:

First off, the movie is a warning about how easily someone is able to steal your identity. it’s a very timely and important message, and one that shouldn’t be ignored in light of the fact that this is a comedy.

Forgiveness is vital.

Family is the most important thing. Even when it seems like they will have no money and Sandy will have no job, his wife sticks by his side, and assures him that as long as they are together, it’s all that matters. An important and powerful message!

I had high hopes for Identity Thief, and it did a great job of trying to live up to my expectation, earning a solid 8.5/10. Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy are both fantastic choices, and work perfectly together. The comedy is hilarious, and includes a lot of things that weren’t shown in the trailer. I also loved the fact that McCarthy’s husband had a small role, and Eric Stonestreet was able to play a small part, as a really interesting and different character. The message about family, forgiveness is also a good one. However, I was disappointed by the two bounty hunters, the fact that the characters (SPOILER AGAIN) were so quick to forgive and confess, and the fact that the singing to the radio scene was pretty much exactly like they showed it in the trailer. In the end though, this is a great comedy, and one that is worth checking out if you are a McCarthy or Bateman fan. Just remember that, while made by the same people as Horrible Bosses and Ted, this movie is not nearly as crude, sexual or vulgar.

 

 

Premium Rush

premium rushTitle: Premium Rush

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Dania Ramirez, Anthony Chisolm, Wole Parks, Aasif Mandvi

Director: David Koepp

Plot: Wilee (Gordon-Levitt) is a bike courier in Manhattan, who receives a mysterious package that draws the attention of a NYC Detective who will do anything to get it.

What I Liked:

  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt. To be perfectly honest, JGL was one of the few good things about this movie.
  • Anthony Chisolm. I first saw this guy in Oz, and he impressed me there. I was pleasantly surprised to see him in this movie, and think he didn’t get near enough screen time.
  • Special Effects. A lot of the movie played out like a video game, and some of the animation, CGI was pretty impressive.
  • Stunt Work. Some of the bike stunts were very impressive.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Plot. I did enjoy the actual contents of the package, and the reason for why it was so important for him to deliver it in time, however, the rest of the plot was lame and basic. Over half of the movie was just him riding through the streets, and avoiding cars and pedestrians.
  • Use a car? First off, if the cop really wants the package, why not just hit him with his car and steal it from him? He drives alongside him and tries to convince him to stop, but HE IS IN A CAR….does he not think he can use that to his advantage? Also, when Wilee is running late to deliver the package, does he not think that maybe grabbing a taxi or  car would be faster than riding a bike?
  • Acting. Other than Gordon-Levitt and Chisolm, most of the other acting was pretty mediocre at best. It had a major B movie feel to it.
  • How did all of the other bikers get there so fast? It takes Wilee all day to get to a certain destination, but, at a simple text/phone call, all the other bikers arrive very quickly. How the heck did they get there so fast?
  • Character development The movie really gives you no real reason to like Wilee or to get emotionally invested in his love triangle. The villain is one dimensional, and all of the other characters just don’t develop at all.
  • Transporter on a bicycle. This movie is essentially like the movie The Transporter, but instead of transporting a person, he is transporting an envelope, and instead of cars he uses a bike (However, instead of horrible Jason Statham, it’s wonderful Joseph Gordon-Levitt…so that’s to it’s credit I guess!).

Premium Rush tries to be exciting and action packed, but it just comes across as silly and lame, earning a 5/10. I had no real expectations for this movie, but wanted to give it a chance because Joseph Gordon-Levitt was in it, and I trust him to choose his characters and movies well. There are some good action scenes, and some of the stunts are impressive, but the acting (JGL aside), lack of character development, and plot holes kept me from really getting into the movie. It could have been exciting and entertaining, but it fell flat.

 

 

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