Seventeen summers ago, Will Smith gave us the catch phrase "welcome to Earth" and then punched an alien in the face. This time he's the invading alien (kinda) and his new line "this is Earth" is much more doom and gloom than swagger. An international icon, father and potentially the next great crazy celebrity, Will Smith is finally ready to pass the baton to his son Jaden.
But it isn't a baton he's using in 'After Earth' (an original sci-fi film based on a story of Smith's own creation) but a C-40 Cutlass – a doohickey kinda like Darth Maul's lightsaber, which springs out different blades depending on what you need. Actually, we never quite know how the Cutlass in 'After Earth' works, but it is one of a number of really nifty gizmos that populates the half-baked mythos of this film.
With 'Star Trek Into Darkness,' Abrams' follow up to the 2009 'Star Trek' reboot (or continuation of the series, if you are Spock Prime) he has solidified his position as a master of propulsive, visceral filmmaking. Dude knows where to put the camera, when the music should swell, when the characters should zing each another or when they should project pathos to the cheap seats. The 'Star Wars' films are mostly gut and little brains and, unfortunately, that is what we have here. The movie still works as an exemplary thrill ride – I laughed, I cried, I cheered – but woe be to anyone who gets caught in a conversation afterwards trying to explain the overly complicated and, at times, silly plot. If you expect something a little sharper out of 'Star Trek' you may come away with some mixed emotions.
My disdain of the 'Scary Movie' franchise came early. I distinctly recall seeing the 'Scary Movie 2' poster, which featured Kathleen Robertson wearing a t-shirt that says "I See Dead People." This isn't a joke. It's just a reference. It isn't clever, it isn't witty - it's just saying a thing from another movie. It's not funny.
Almost 10 years later, 'Scary Movie 5' still suffers from this debilitating problem. There is absolutely nothing funny about going 'Inception'-style into Christian Grey's S&M room and having Mike Tyson show up. Yet, if you are somehow able to ignore the lowest common denominator pop culture appearances (I hesitate to even call them jokes) there are a great number of truly amusing gags and examples of rapid fire dialogue zings. Put bluntly: when the film is freed from the shackles of its referencing mandate, there's some good, dopey humor in here. Much to my surprise, I laughed out loud a good half-dozen times.
You can buy replicas of Richard Attenborough's amber-tipped cane or you can listen to ten minute loops of Jeff Goldblum's oddball laugh but there's something you haven't been able to do in twenty years: hear the roar of a T. rex fighting two Velociraptors from thunderous, surround sound of big cinema speakers. Something you've never been able to do is see it in 3D or in IMAX. Until now. And you don't want to miss it.
I stand before you, humbled, and tasked with explaining, in comprehensible terms, just what the heck 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation' is all about. Attaining comprehensibility, however, is a chore the filmmakers didn't wrestle with, doubling-down on pure adrenaline and big movie star charisma. It's a risky move and sometimes it works. Sadly, this is not one of those cases.
While there are chuckles to be had (I mean, that Cobra Commander helmet is just too incredible to dismiss) there isn't enough whiz-bang in this film to fully deflect the utter lack of a story or absence of intriguing characters. It is, surprisingly, the lesser of the two 'G.I. Joe' films, with Stephen Sommers' 2009 'The Rise of Cobra' featuring much more team spirit, pep and fun.
A few titters wafted through the screening of 'Dead Man Down' as the WWE Studios logo came up on the screen. “Prejudice!” I thought. “Who is to say that Vince McMahon's new(ish) venture can't produce a quality piece of filmed entertainment?” Turns out all skepticism was justified.
'Dead Man Down,' a tiresome, predictable slog through every “in too deep” crime story cliché you've ever seen has as much subtlety as the average Face or Heel shouting into the mic during a Monday Night Raw. This is a dull movie that only perks up when it veers into the laughable, as when Noomi Rapace's character intentionally spikes Colin Farrell's character's two-years-in-the-making vengeance plot because she “had a moment,” but then bounces back into plan five minutes later anyway. Yes, I'm getting ahead of myself.
'21 and Over,' despite being the directorial debut of the odious 'Hangover' writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, isn't quite the bro-fest you might think it is. Yes, it definitely treads a bit into date rape jokes and offers an easy layup to any and all homophobes in the audience (more on this in a bit) but, by some miracle, more scenes than you might expect will actually make you laugh. Despite a premise that has the blur of a Xerox of a Xerox, there are individual sequences that are, surprisingly, clever and endearing.
'Snitch' begins when middle-class 18 year old Jason (Rafi Gavron) agrees to accept a giant box of ecstasy tablets sent to him via FedEx from a dumbass friend. Now he's facing a harsh mandatory minimum sentence unless he gives up another name to the Feds. Problem is, the one guy he knows in the drug trade is the one who snitched on him, so he's got no room to negotiate. But not so fast - his father is Dwayne Johnson.
Crime doesn't pay. It'll just make you feel bad when your parents have to jump through all sorts of crazy hoops to rescue your ass.
Nobody asked for this movie. But someone was going to make it. I'm just glad it was Matthew Johnson, a young (but not as young as he looks!) Canadian director/co-writer/co-star who has the chutzpah to take on a really difficult subject and the chops to deliver without coming off as crass or exploitative. There are plenty who will refuse to give 'The Dirties' the time of day, and that's somewhat understandable, but if you believe that, in order to correct a problem it must first be discussed, 'The Dirties' is, I feel, a noble mix of entertainment and social importance.
'Warm Bodies' is a supernatural teen love story with a brain. (Excuse me. . .BRAINS!) It is hardly a memorable film, and certainly a step back for director Jonathan Levine after the masterful '50/50,' but it's cute, and if you are a high schooler looking for a date flick or slightly older and chaperoning your niece you could do a hell of a lot worse.
'Mud' is a great story, but not a particularly great film.
Dripping in regional specificity and broad metaphor, Jeff Nichols' new film feels more like a big, fat American novel you get assigned in 10th grade than the follow-up to 'Take Shelter.' That earlier film's ominous tone and psychological portraiture is traded-in for large, gestural story beats that itch to be broken down and discussed for their symbolic meaning. When you are done explaining just what Boo Radley represented, then you can sink your teeth into Joe Don Baker's character "King."
It is every 16 year-old's rite of passage to sneak into an R-rated slasher, get grossed out by blood, turned on by boobs and shout back at the screen. To that end, 'Texas Chainsaw 3D' is a worthy claimant to the franchise.
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