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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a turkey.

When Marvel’s original The Avengers movie debuted, Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, Kenneth Branagh’s Thor and the WW2-era Captain America: The First Avenger were already fan and critic favorites. In 2012, we just hoped that adding too many heroes didn’t spoil the fun, which didn’t happen in that excellent superhero film. (Avengers: Age of Ultron is another story.)

DC has given us the low-flying Man of Steel, the unwatchable The Green Lantern, Razzie winner Catwoman and as many good Batman films as bad ones.

We should have seen this mess coming as far away as Krypton.

We didn't because Zack Snyder’s much hyped Batman v Superman has one of DC comic’s best storylines going for it: the rivalry and conflict between the vigilante Dark Knight (Ben Afflek) and the do-gooding Man of Steel (Henry Cavill). When we do get to the fight between the duo, it's dynamic. Unfortunately there are two and a half hours of bloated action scenes, a preposterous plot, pointless dream sequences, dark cinematography, an annoying Joker-take on Lex Luthor(Jesse Eisenberg), something big and tall to fight for the final act and countless teasers for future DC films.

Even worse, Snyder’s film insults us by making us watch Bruce Wayne’s parents get murdered again. How many times have we seen that in our lifetime?

A film with these top heroes should have either been a tight, single story clash-of-the-titans drama for the ages, or a lighter, vibrant alternative to Marvel. This is neither. Is it too late to cancel all the future DC hero films?

Simply put: Superfluous and super disappointing. DC should stick to TV (Flash, Green Arrow) and Legos (The Lego Movie.) Not for kids. Not for adults.

Award potential: Zero.

The ten buck review: Not worth ten bucks.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Pee Wee’s Big Holiday

what to watch recommended movies on Netflix
That’s his name don’t wear it out.

The word of the day is: relief. For fans (like me) that have been worried a sequel to 1985’s Pee Wee’s Big Adventure from a 63-year old Paul Reubens would be a sad, creepy or embarrassing bookend to the Pee Wee legacy — fear no more.

Pee Wee’s Big Holiday is a solid Judd Apatow production with a ton of laughs and just a few flaws. Surprisingly, none of those flaws are physical. Digital retouching has made Pee Wee visually timeless, and Reubens has energy to spare.

Similar to last year’s Star Wars and Jurassic Park reboots, Big Holiday hits the nostalgia button often by recreating similar moments. Unfortunately the road trip plot is too similar and begs too many comparisons to the groundbreaking eighties comedy.

Despite those missteps, Apatow (SuperBad, Stepbrothers) and Reubens know how to tap into a kid mindset to pull off sweet funny moments like a bromance with Joe Manganiello (Magic Mike) that totally works, and LOL moments from tantrums and screams that go too far to some comic gold hilarity with a balloon.

Although he’s no longer an innovator, a loner or a rebel, Reubens is still a comic genius who only needs a balloon and two minutes of screen time to deliver the biggest laugh of the year so far.

Simply put: For a nostalgic trip, Pee Wee fits into the suit just fine.

Award potential: Despite a score by Mark Mothersbaugh (Devo) and seamless visual effects to keep Pee Wee young, this is not awards bait.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

How to survive the first Sunday without Downton Abbey

will there be a downton abbey movie
Missing Downton Abbey already? Get your fix next Sunday with these five films that even the Dowager Countess of Grantham would approve of.

1. Gosford Park (2001)
Gosford Park is a 1930’s period film, written by Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, and directed by the legendary Robert Altman. Upstairs guests and downstairs servants are assembled for a hunting party weekend when one of the group is murdered. It’s a high-class whodunit with a dream ensemble cast including: Helen Mirren, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emily Watson, Clive Owen, Ryan Phillippe — and Maggie Smith as Constance, a dependent countess with a quip for every occasion.

2. The Remains Of The Day (1993)
If you think Mr. Carson is uptight, then it’s time to meet Mr. Stevens. Anthony Hopkins (Mr. Stevens) and Emma Thompson (Miss Kenton) star in this moving story of a butler's steely devotion to his master (Christopher Reeve) and the high-spirited young woman who threatens to crack his reserve. The Remains of the Day received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Screenplay and more.

3. Cranford (2007)
Cranford, a BBC mini series, is a charming period drama set in northwest England in 1842. Dame Judi Dench leads a cast of quirky, snarky and lovable characters who live in a place governed by etiquette, custom and above all, an intricate network of ladies. Jim Carter, Downton’s Mr. Carson, appears in many episodes.

4. Anna Karenia (2012)
Set in late-19th-century Russia high-society, the aristocrat Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley) enters into a life-changing affair with the affluent Count Vronsky (Jude Law). Michelle Dockery, Downton’s Lady Mary Crawley, has a role as Princess Myagkaya. 

5. The Secrets of The Manor House Series

The Secrets of the Manor House, a PBS documentary series, looks at many ancient British houses, and how mounting financial, political and social pressures brought momentous changes to both the wealthy and their servants. The Secrets of Highclere Castle explores the home that is the setting to Downton Abbey, The Secrets of Althorp –The Spencers navigates viewers through the childhood home and final resting place of Diana, Princess of Wales and The Secrets of Henry VIII's Palace: Hampton Court Secrets of Chatsworth visits the Tudor palace. All are perfectly charming. 

Worth ten bucks? All are worth ten bucks.

Monday, March 7, 2016

London Has Fallen

This franchise has fallen.

In 2013, Olympus Has Fallen, the modest Die Hard-in-the-White-House film, outperformed the similarly plotted but ultimately less entertaining White House Down. Both were better than London Has Fallen.

In this sequel to Olympus, the death of the British prime minister lures the world's most powerful leaders to a funeral in London — and to a terrorist trap. After the attack, Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) guides U.S. President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) through the city to escape from the bad guys.

True to many sequels, bigger is not better. All the original’s suspense of being trapped in the White House disappears when the action is expanded to a sprawling city.

This is the type of film where the heroes are targeted by armies of terrorists who can’t seem to get just one shot or grenade on the heroes before they are all taken out. Those types of films can be fun with James Bond or Arnold Schwarzenegger’s characters, but I don’t buy it from a serious, gritty Gerard Butler.

Even worse, the xenophobic ending felt reckless and irresponsible given everything going on in the world today.

Simply put: Sometimes having Morgan Freeman as Vice President is not enough.

Award potential: None.

The ten buck review: Not worth ten bucks.