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Full of mustache jokes, minus the laughs

January 30, 2015 Features, Movie Review
Photo courtesy of johnnydepp.yuku.com Johnny Depp stars alongside Gwenyth Paltrow in “Mortdecai.” The film was released in theaters on Jan. 23.

Photo courtesy of johnnydepp.yuku.com
Johnny Depp stars alongside Gwenyth Paltrow in “Mortdecai.” The film was released in theaters on Jan. 23.

I remember seeing the trailer for this film last year. It reminded me so much of actor Peter Sellers’ performance as the clueless Inspector Jacques Clouseau in the classic film, “The Pink Panther.” Alas, this film was no “Pink Panther.”

In a performance unlike any other we have seen from him, Johnny Depp brings the words “classic” and “sophisticated” a new meaning in “Mortdecai.”

There is only one man who has the power to juggle angry Russian mobsters, the British Secret Service (MI-5), his impossible wife and an international terrorist.

His name is Charlie Mortdecai and once you meet him you will learn how his fashionably good looks and special charm will win you over.

As a debonair art dealer and part-time rogue, he must travel the globe in a race to recover a stolen painting which is rumored to contain a long-lost code to a bank account that contains Nazi gold.

Mortdecai stars Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany, Ewan McGregor, Olivia Munn and Jeff Goldblum. David Koepp directs the film.

The only part that kept the film from failing entirely is the fact that Depp is having fun as Mortdecai. He is truly trying his hand at something different and has a ball with it.

Does this mean that Depp is only good at the dark and dramatic roles? I don’t think so.

Despite having an impressive supporting cast of A-list superstars, the performances are lacking at best. Bettany as Mortdecai’s thuggish manservant is probably one of the funniest roles in the movie.

Seeing Bettany give a stern and intimidating performance is just hysterical to me. He pulls it off, but it is a change of pace for him. I don’t think Paltrow portrays a posh wife character, which I am glad because she is really a better actress than that.

The same could be said about McGregor, who plays a Scotland Yard inspector who also harbors longing feelings for Mortdecai’s wife.

Lastly, another actor who has seen better roles, is Olivia Munn, who is very sexy as the seductive, nymphomaniac heiress, but is primarily used as eye candy.

Koepp is most famous for being a writer. He has written films such as “Jurassic Park,” “Spider-Man” and “War of the Worlds.”

His first mistake with this film was not writing the script. If he had written it, the film would have been immensely better.

As for directing, he truly has an eye for it, especially capturing all of the action scenes. But without the writing being solid, it is hard to notice.

As a whole, the movie focuses way too much on silly and sexual innuendos. After the first 10 times I saw a joke being made about Mortdecai’s mustache, I seriously just wanted to rip the thing off.

On the other hand, the mustache jokes are something unique and this role is unlike anything Depp has previously done.

Story by John GruccioContributing writer

‘American Sniper’ is brutal, emotional

January 23, 2015 Features, Movie Review
Photo courtesy of variety.com Bradley Cooper stars in “American Sniper,” a true story about Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL sniper for the military. The movie was released in theaters Jan. 16.

Photo courtesy of variety.com
Bradley Cooper stars in “American Sniper,” a true story about Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL sniper for the military. The movie was released in theaters Jan. 16.

I know lately that this film has been taking a lot of fire in the media. I implore you do not listen to the nonsense that comes from the Internet about this film; go see it for yourself and then make your judgment.

This film is a true and brutal look at life in war and is in my opinion one of Clint Eastwood’s best films.

This time, he brings us the true story of the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history.

When you are in war, there is only one thing that matters and that is the lives of yourself and your brothers. For Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, that was his mission and he would not fail.

As a sharpshooter, Kyle has amazing accuracy and eventually became known to both his troops and his enemies as “The Legend.”

After saving countless lives, the real battle came from home when he tried to be a good father and husband to his family.

Despite everything he had seen or went through across the world, Kyle served many tours and truly lived the SEAL creed, “leave no man behind,” but like with any other person who has seen bloodshed, he knew that it would not be easily forgotten.

American Sniper” stars Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Luke Grimes, Jake McDorman, Cody Hardrict and Keir O’Donnell. The film is directed by Eastwood.

Cooper is completely unrecognizable in this film. Playing the role of Chris Kyle, Cooper gained almost 60 pounds of pure muscle and a grizzly-man like beard.

This is Cooper’s finest work as an actor. The way he deals with the character’s demons and the intensity that comes with killing threats, it is uncanny how Cooper becomes Kyle.

As Kyle’s wife, Taya, Miller plays a role of just that. She gives us a gut-wrenching and emotional performance as a woman who doesn’t know if her husband will come back alive.

Her character, however, is sadly underutilized throughout the film. She shares scenes with Cooper or by herself.

Eastwood is a gifted storyteller. He has been for decades. Giving us such great films like “Unforgiven,” “Million Dollar Baby” and “Hereafter.”

This film is another film to add to that list. Focusing mostly on the war, Eastwood is able to garner many scenes that will make you think and also want to cry.

With this ultimately being a film shaped around Kyle, Eastwood goes all out to focus on his service and the combat and not so much his life at home and the after effects. It does limit the emotional capability of Cooper’s character.

There will always be speculation on whether events are accurately portrayed in military-based films. The film looks and feels real, sometimes it is scary how so.

Whether that be the case with this film, it is possible that details were left out. I think this film is important to see and then reflect on.

For those of us who haven’t served, this film will give a hard-hitting look at what soldiers go through in combat.

I sincerely thank all men and women who have either served or are serving for your service and commitment to our country.

Story by John Gruccio, Contributing writer

Neeson is even more brutal in ‘Taken 3’

January 16, 2015 Features, Movie Review
Photo courtesy of geeknation.com Liam Neeson stars in the third installment of the “Taken” franchise. The film was released in theaters Jan. 9.

Photo courtesy of geeknation.com
Liam Neeson stars in the third installment of the “Taken” franchise. The film was released in theaters Jan. 9.

For the last several years, one name has become synonymous with action hero: Liam Neeson. After giving the most hardcore and righteous threat in cinema history, he is back again in “Taken 3.”

First, he had to save his daughter from Albanian kidnappers, then he had to protect both his daughter and his ex-wife from certain retaliation in Istanbul. Now Bryan Mills faces his biggest challenge ever.

After his attempt at friendship with his ex-wife, Lenore, is cut short when she is brutally murdered, Bryan finds himself on the run as the prime suspect. Angry and confused, Bryan must evade the police, the FBI and even the CIA as he tracks down the real killers. No matter what it takes, the only thing that matters to him now is that the last person he loves, his daughter, is safe.

The film stars Neeson, Forest Whitaker, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Leland Orser, Sam Spruell and Dougray Scott. It is directed by Oliver Megaton.

When watching these kinds of movies you really have to admire Neeson’s physicality, especially for his age. The fight choreography looks like a chaotic dance, and Neeson is totally believable as the man on a mission from hell. You would think that these movies would lose their flavor over time, but they haven’t. A lot of that is because of Neeson’s standing as a great dramatic actor.

In this film, we see a more emotional side of the character of Bryan Mills, most notably when he is dealing with the death of the woman he loved. Only a talented dramatist like Neeson could give us a full range of emotion like this.

If there were any person that could be chosen to play opposite Neeson in a manhunt, Whitaker would be my first choice. I’m not sure if he could take Neeson in a fight, but mentally he is just as dangerous. Whitaker gives a good and fresh take on a tiresome investigator role. He shows bits of humanity through his mannerisms and actions.

Grace and Neeson have one of those connections, which you can tell has been honed and smoothed over the years into a believable father-daughter duo. Getting in the action in the last film, Grace takes a step back by being more of a moral center for Neeson’s character. Being a noted beauty, it would be nice to see her do more leading roles instead of supporting, but she is still wonderful in this film.

Is this movie going to make you want to see it over and over again? Not likely. It’s a shoot ‘em up action thriller in which the villains are way too easily taken down for their supposed skills and training, which makes you wonder if the bad guys will ever learn or if Neeson will always be invincible.

Either way, it is important to have that mindset in check when you go see a film like this, especially around awards season. This is just an action movie, nothing more.

However, despite the second film being somewhat similar to the first, this film is more edgy and shakes things up a bit for the better. It’s a good movie to watch to get out of the cold weather.

Story by John Gruccio, Contributing writer

‘Dumb and Dumber To’ fails to impress

November 21, 2014 Features, Movie Review

dumb and dumberTwenty years ago, we were introduced to a film that showed us all how truly stupid a pair of characters could be. I am speaking of the film “Dumb and Dumber.”

Whether it be the scene where Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels eat a series of hot peppers and then scream for their lives or when Carrey adds laxatives to Daniels’ hot chocolate, only then for the audience to see Daniels unleashing hell on the toilet, these scenes were funny to all of us in our adolescence.

However, they do not fare well now that the majority of us have grown up. Sadly, the same can be said about the sequel.

After 20 years, Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne are still the best of friends, but when Harry finds an old postcard from his former flame, Fraida Felcher, detailing that he has a daughter, the two friends embark on a road trip to find her.

While on the trip, Harry must decide whether or not he is ready to accept the responsibility of being a father. With Lloyd by his side, what could go wrong?

“Dumb and Dumber To” stars Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Laurie Holden, Rob Riggle, Rachel Melvin, Steve Tom and Kathleen Turner. The film is written and directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly.

For Carrey and Daniels, this film was more about going back to their roots than anything, I believe.

“Dumb and Dumber” was one of the first comedies that made Carrey a household name. Seeing the duo back together again does bring back a lot of happy memories. 

When you watch them together, it seems like no time has passed. The kind of utter enthusiasm they bring and play off of one another shows how well they work together.

However, even with their larger-than-life performances, the movie still fails, as gags from the previous films are done to bring new laughs.

The majority of the film’s supporting actors only contribute to the chaos of lending new light to the old gags.Screen shot 2014-11-20 at 12.47.16 PM

As funny as Riggle is, his character in the film is almost a complete play off of the thug with an ulcer from the first film. One thing that does add a bit of laughter to the film is the number of unexpected cameos. 

Sequels are such a tough nut to crack. For the Farrelly brothers, who were at one point in time kings of adult comedy, with such films as “Kingpin,” “There’s Something About Mary” and “Me, Myself & Irene,” have fallen far with their last couple of films.

I hope these guys can figure out a way to get back in the game; they do have talent. I’m not sure how many more of these sleepers we can take.

“Dumb and Dumber To” is not the worst comedy of all time.

If you are feeling nostalgic and want to kill some time, you should check it out. It is definitely good for a few laughs.

Story by John GruccioContributing writer

Gylenhaal nails eccentric, risky role

November 7, 2014 Features, Movie Review
Photo courtesy of shockya.com Jake Gylenhaal stars in “Nightcrawler,” a thriller that was released in theaters Oct. 31.

Photo courtesy of shockya.com
Jake Gylenhaal stars in “Nightcrawler,” a thriller that was released in theaters Oct. 31.

This fall, we have been treated to so many great dramatic films. Most of them have real and unique sparks of genius that made them great movies. Jake Gyllenhaal’s new film, “Nightcrawler,” is the same.

In Los Angeles, there is plenty of crime. Whether it is rape, murder or arson, it’s everywhere.

For young Louis Bloom, freelance journalism is where the money is.

As a novice in the trade and with help from a local TV news anchor, he slowly muscles into the high-speed world of night crawling.  

With persistence and dedication, Bloom is soon everywhere a siren screams.  As time progresses, he starts to become obsessed with a ceaseless search for footage, which eventually leads him to be the star of his own story.

“Nightcrawler” stars Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Ann Cusack and Bill Paxton. The film is written and directed by Dan Gilroy.

Ever since his role in 2013’s abduction drama “Prisoners,” Gyllenhaal has just been on fire. In “Nightcrawler,” Gyllenhaal portrays freelance cameraman Louis Bloom who has a drive to succeed in his field. His drive, however, takes some dark twists and turns as Bloom starts to fancy himself an artist in a world of crime. 

It is no secret that Gyllenhaal has taken some risks with his films.

However, this one could be his most risky. Not only did Gyllenhaal lose weight for the role, but he makes us aware of his presence on the screen in a way that is both creepy and poisonous. 

The way Gyllenhaal turns from eccentric cameraman to an almost sociopathic artist is amazingly done.

He delivers a great performance once again.

Director Dan Gilroy, in his first time as director, nails it.

The world he creates is so disturbingly beautiful it makes you question if a world could be that dangerous.Screen shot 2014-11-06 at 9.17.50 PM

Giving the film a bit of realism, supporting actors Rene Russo and Bill Paxton star as a ruthless news director and a fellow night crawler that start off as pawns in Gyllenhaal’s game, only to become his enablers.

In a film like this, you need veterans in order to keep such a hard character as Gyllenhaal’s Bloom in check.

The only part I had an issue with was that Gyllenhaal’s character doesn’t really know how to stop.

Even though he gives probably one of the best performances in his career, the character does start to become erratic and reckless.

The film also has constant shifts from beginning to end, which can grow tiresome after awhile.

This film will surprise you by making you sympathize with characters no matter the varying levels of intense, almost sociopathic behavior.

If you want to see a film that will intrigue and shock you, then definitely go see “Nightcrawler.”

Story by John GruccioContributing writer

‘Gone Girl’ mystery implores viewers

October 10, 2014 Features, Movie Review
Photo courtesy of northparktheater.org Ben Affleck stars in “Gone Girl,” a mystery novel turned motion picture that was released in theaters Oct. 3.

Photo courtesy of northparktheater.org
Ben Affleck stars in “Gone Girl,” a mystery novel turned motion picture that was released in theaters Oct. 3.

As one of the most anticipated movies to hit theaters this year, the film “Gone Girl” does not disappoint. With an amazing cast and great direction by David Fincher, the same man who gave us such films as “Se7en” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” this film is getting a lot of acclaim, and it deserves all of it.

On the evening of their fifth anniversary, Nick Dunne reports to the police that his wife, Amy, has gone missing. With an intense and determined search soon underway, Nick becomes the focus of a media frenzy and finds himself the lead suspect in his wife’s case. As the stress of everyone questioning his moves and motives starts to get to him, the portrait of Nick and Amy’s blissful union begins to crumble to pieces. Soon Nick’s deceits and strange behaviors are called into question as he is asked the most direct question he has ever faced in his life: did he kill his wife?

Gone Girl” stars Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit and David Clennon. Fincher directed the film with a screenplay by Gillian Flynn, who wrote the novel the film is based on.

Ben Affleck has been the subject of additional attention because of his casting as Batman in the forthcoming 2016 film, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” With that being said, Affleck is unrecognizable in this film. He completely detaches himself from the image we all see both morally and even more so emotionally. With his performance in this film and others like “Argo” and “The Town,” this man will have no issues getting another Oscar in the near future.

On the other hand, Affleck’s on-screen bride, Pike, does not play your typical naive and vulnerable wife. Pike gives just as much of herself as Affleck does in this film.

Besides the two wonderful leads, this film has one of the best supporting casts I have ever seen. From the creepy, rich ex-boyfriend played by Harris to the role of Affleck’s loving twin sister, Margo, played by Coon, all of these roles are phenomenally played. If not for these supporting members, I do not know if Affleck and Pike would have shined as brightly as they did.

While I believe this is not the darkest film that Fincher has directed, it is definitely a thrilling mystery that he can add to his already impressive repertoire of intense films.

Fincher teamed up once again with his musical cohorts, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who outdo themselves once again with a beautiful score that helps drive the mystery.

As far as the story goes, one of the first things I was impressed with in this film was that you did not have to read the book, even though it is a great novel, to find yourself immersed in the story. This film will surprise you and it will implore you to try and solve the mystery.

Story by John Gruccio, Contributing writer

Crime thriller impresses viewers

September 26, 2014 Features, Movie Review
Photo courtesy of apnatimepass.com Liam Neeson stars in the new myster thriller, “A Walk Among the Tombstones,” which was released in theaters Sept. 19.

Photo courtesy of apnatimepass.com
Liam Neeson stars in the new myster thriller, “A Walk Among the Tombstones,” which was released in theaters Sept. 19.

Out of all the genres there are in a cinematic arsenal, one of the hardest ones to combine or get right is the combo of mystery and thriller. You usually only see these two attempted with scary movies or crime stories. With “A Walk Among the Tombstones,” we have a crime story that successfully achieved the combination. It’s also a bonus that it stars Liam Neeson.

Matt Scudder (Neeson) is a former New York policeman who spends his days working as an unlicensed private detective. When he is hired by a known trafficker of heroin to solve his wife’s kidnapping and murder, he is more than reluctant. However, when he learns of the savagery these men have committed against their victims, he can’t help but feel compelled to stop them. While blurring the lines between his own morals and the consequences of right and wrong, he must track them through the backstreets and alleyways of New York City before they kill again.

One of the first things you realize with this film is that it is Neeson’s movie all the way. The entire film is structured around his character. This is one of his best performances since he broke new ground with 2008’s action film, “Taken.” It says something when you are in your upper 60s and you can still deliver hard-hitting performances.

The supporting cast is filled with a mix of known supporting actors and new ones. One in particular that viewers may recognize is Dan Stevens, who played Matthew Crawley on BBC’s “Downton Abbey.” In this film, Stevens, just as the others did, played his part beautifully.

Director Scott Frank successfully transfers the story to the screen, and when dealing with an already known novel; this is not an easy task. The film reminded me so much of the classic crime thriller series, “Dirty Harry.”

Now, this is not to say Neeson was doing a Clint Eastwood impersonation, but to acknowledge the way the film was shot. The attention to detail the film brings to the city’s landmarks is fascinating.

The main problem I had with the film is that we never get a good reason for the depraved actions of this twisted duo other than the fact that they are unbalanced men.

Also, some of the supporting characters at times feel a little one-dimensional.

If you want to see an intriguing and dark crime thriller, “A Walk Among the Tombstones” is definitely your movie.


Story by John Gruccio, Contributing writer


‘As Above,’ sinks below

September 12, 2014 Movie Review
Photo courtesy of circleofconfusion.com The psychological thriller, “As Above, So Below,” was filmed almost entirely in the catacombs beneath the streets of Paris, France.

Photo courtesy of circleofconfusion.com
The psychological thriller, “As Above, So Below,” was filmed almost entirely in the catacombs beneath the streets of Paris, France.

Like clockwork, we are introduced to a couple months of semi-scary horror movies that lead us up to Halloween’s fresh batch of frights. Sometimes we get lucky with these films and we get even more excited for Halloween to come. “As Above, So Below” is not one of those films to get excited about.

Desperate to finish her father’s quest, a young researcher gathers a small team to journey into the catacombs that lie beneath the beautiful streets of Paris.Everyone knows the tales that have been told about the catacombs, especially the ones featuring death.

However, this group of adventurers soon learns that even darker secrets have haunted these underground tunnels for a very long time.

The film stars Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge, Francois Civil, Marion Lambert and Ali Marhyar. It is directed by John Erick Dowdle (Devil).

For a “found footage” psychological thriller, I have to admit this film had an interesting concept.

I have never seen a movie use this type of ‘found footage’ filming while going underground and in foreign areas. As an almost unknown cast, this particular group of American and French actors collaborated well.

As thrillers go, this film had a good eeriness to it and a creepy score to go in hand with it.

The usefulness of the score is really justifiable seeing as within these catacombs, you have no idea what is in front of you or behind you.

With all of that being said, it would have made a very good Netflix film, but not a theatrical one.Screen shot 2014-09-11 at 12.37.11 PM

The overall plot may be intriguing with spiritual intuitions and references to Hell, but the story makes no sense whatsoever. Whenever we get glimpses of the researcher’s true intentions, the film jumps to something else.

Other than the catacombs, we never get a clear look at anything else in France. Since this film was shot on location in Paris, it is kind of disappointing.

Besides some skull crosses and a little bit of blood, you really do not get to see anything mesmerizing about the haunted catacombs.

The male and female leads are not only predicable, they are also very stereotypical. At times during the film, I forgot that I was watching this film and found myself seeing a crappy version of either Lara Croft or Indiana Jones running through underground Paris.

“As Above, So Below” is creative and intriguing. But it lacks all the right necessities to make a thriller – one being, for lack of a better word, thrill.

Save your money, wait for Redbox if you must. Or just catch it on Netflix in a year or so.


Story by John Gruccio, Contributing writer


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