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Movie Reviews

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John Hamm stars as a down on his luck sports agent who has the brilliant idea to travel to India to launch a reality show about finding Major League Baseball’s next big pitcher.  After watching Cricket on TV one night, JB Bernstein, played by Hamm, decides that in a country full of 1 billion people, the odds of finding a cricket player that can be taught to pitch baseball is pretty good, so he embarks on the trip of a lifetime.

Million Dollar Arm is Disney’s latest feel good sports movie that is supposed to give you the redeeming story of  a crass, womanizing sports agent turned good guy, reformed by the love of a good woman who encourages him to bond with his young Indian athletes instead of treating them like they’re his next meal ticket.  And yes, we do get that, thanks to Hamm’s charismatic portrayal of JB Bernstein and Lake Bell’s charming turn as his guest house tenant who opens his eyes to how he really should be treating the young charges who are in his care.  But where this movie really shines is with the casting of  Life of Pi’s Suraj Sharma as Rinku and Slumdog Millionaire’s Madhur Mittal as Dinesh.

Sharma and Mittal are both incredibly authentic and endearing as  two young men given the chance to travel to America and attempt to try out for a major league baseball team.  Where the movie shines is not in showing us Hamm’s eventual redemption from cad sports agent to caring sports agent, but in showing us the struggle that two young men, far from home and with no grasp of the world they’ve been thrust into, endure and eventually conquer.

Lake Bell is a wonderful addition to a cast of strong supporting characters including Alan Arkin’s hilarious baseball scout Ray, and Aasif Mandvi’s Aash, JB’s loyal but at the end of his rope employee.

There is nothing about Million Dollar Arm that will surprise you, and in fact you can see the ending coming a mile away, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.  Sharma and Mittal are so likeable that you can’t help but root for them the minute you see them on screen (I might have developed a small crush on both of them by the end of the movie), and the fact that Disney included so much of their story from India and subtitled much of their Hindi conversations made the movie that much more enjoyable.

Million Dollar Arm might be predictable but it’s also a warm, funny and feel good sports movie that the whole family can enjoy.

A word of warning – there are a lot of subtitles in this movie – especially during the scenes in India and the conversations between Dinesh and Rinku – so you might want to think about bringing any kids who can’t read to prevent yourself from having to explain a lot of the dialogue to them.

Check out the clip below and a featurette

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In the world of The Avengers, if you asked me to rank my favourites, Captain America would probably rank somewhat low on the list. After all, the cryogenically frozen then thawed out superhero soldier played by Chris Evans doesn’t have the witty and biting personality of Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man, and his hair pales in comparison to Chris Hemsworth’s Thor.  And let’s face it, Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk just smashes things, so he’s a lot of fun too.  I realize now that this is unfair. because when looking at standalone movies, the first Captain America flick surprised me with how much I enjoyed it.  Much more than the first Thor movie (which was incredibly weak) and almost as much as the second Thor movie – so I really shouldn’t have been surprised by how much I loved Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

I was invited to an advance screening of Captain America: The Winter Soldier by Disney earlier this week, and once again I found myself selling the Cap short.  I was excited – but not ‘Iron Man’ excited, and I had little knowledge of what to expect.  What I discovered was that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is two and a half solid hours full of action,  great characters and a super suspenseful ride.

Samuel L. Jackson is back in all his badass self as Nick Fury and we’re introduced to Anthony Mackie as a fellow soldier who befriends Steve Rogers (and gives us a few of the movies best scenes).  This movie gives us everything we want in an Avengers movie – witty dialogue, amazing action sequences (MMA fans will love the fight scene between GSP in a cameo role and Chris Evans) and heroes who kick some major ass.  Not only is Captain America the star of the show but Scarlett Johansson once again shows us that the female Avengers are just as hardcore as their male counterparts.   Anthony Mackie is a welcome addition to the franchise but it’s Sebastian Stan’s portrayal of The Winter Soldier that will have you on the edge of your seat.

Marvel is really great at giving us villains that we love just as much as our heroes, and The Winter Soldier, while more tortured and not nearly as charismatic as Loki, still earns his fans by the end of the movie.

I’ve had some people ask me if this movie is suitable for kids.  I tend to be a bit more lenient when it comes to the movies my kids watch – when someone gets shot or a building gets blown up they know that it’s make believe.  And this movie does have a lot of shoot em-up action and of course a lot of stuff gets blown up, so if you don’t like your kids to see that then you might want to skip this movie.  But I would say that’s a shame because any Superhero fan, regardless of age, is going to love this movie.  I can’t wait to bring my kids to see it just so I can see it again, that’s how good it was.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a fabulous kick off to this year’s batch of Superhero/Mutant movies and is definitely worth the price of admission. Go see it.  Oh, and I shouldn’t have to tell you this – but stay through the credits – ALL the credits.

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I wasn’t going to see Non-Stop when I received the press pass in the mail for my local screening. I had mixed up the dates in my head and with no sitter available I just wasn’t going to go.  And I wasn’t sad about missing it. Then I looked at the pass again as it hung on my fridge and realized my error with the dates and decided that I could actually make it.  So last night my husband and I arrived at the theatre about 40 minutes early (which I swore to my husband would be LOTS OF TIME) and ended up having to sit in the front half of the theatre because it was so packed.  He was not impressed by my lack of planning.  By the time the movie started there wasn’t an empty seat in the house, something I’ve only seen twice before during all the screenings I’ve attended: once for Magic Mike and once for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Colour me shocked!

Clearly people were a lot more excited to see Non-Stop than I was, or people just really enjoy a free movie, but I was quite surprised to see the theatre sold out.  Non-Stop is one of those movies that you can look at two ways – you can choose to analyze the cast and the unoriginal storyline and the preposterous ending and call this movie out as another generic action thriller, or you can take it for what it is, which is a pretty fun ride.  I’m somewhere in the middle.

Liam Neeson stars as a former cop turned Air Marshal with a fear of flying who boards a trans-altantic flight to London where he immediately starts receiving text message threats that someone on board is going to die every 20 minutes unless $150 million ransom is paid.  Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery and Academy Award Nominee Lupita Nyong’o star as flight attendants and Julianne Moore stars as a passenger on the plane.  At this point I’m going to assume that Lupita signed on before the Academy Award nomination and that Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson really just needed the money.

The plot starts out intriguing, but if you overthink it (or even just think about it) you quickly discover the multiple holes in the storyline.  And don’t get me started on the ending, which was only slightly ridiculous but even more disappointing in that I was looking for something a bit more.

The key to enjoying Non-Stop, if you like action flicks, is to definitely not overthink it.  If you go to the theatres just expecting to be entertained, Non-Stop will do that.  My back was actually sore when I left the theatre because I was so tense during the movie.  So while there is little that is original about Non-Stop, it’s still enjoyable for an action flick.

I’d give Non-Stop 3.5 stars out of 5.

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Do you remember the original Endless Love?  Back in October when I posted the trailer I wrote that I’m pretty sure that I’ve never seen the entire original movie, since I was 9 when it came out, but I still feel like I have memories of that movie.  Like, I clearly remember the scene where Brooke Shields and whoever starred as the male lead with her ( I have no idea!) were getting it on in her bedroom.  And then there’s the song, Endless Love.  ‘My love, there’s only you in my life, the only thing that’s right…..’  You’re singing it right now, aren’t you?  That was probably one of the most iconic songs of my youth, so when I heard that they were making a remake of the movie that produced that song, I was a bit sceptical.

OK to be honest I was a lot sceptical, especially since I’m not a huge fan of the male lead in this version – Alex Pettyfer, and I have never heard of the female lead Gabriella Wilde.  Last night when I went to an advance screening of Endless Love my expectations were pretty low, which may be why I left the theatre thoroughly enjoying the movie that I just saw.

Endless Love is based on the same story as the original, except in the original Brooke Shields’ character is younger than the male lead that she falls in love with.  In this version, both David (Pettyfer) and Jade (Wilde) are 18 and 17 respectively, I’m assuming because it’s easier to make a movie for the big screen these days that doesn’t involve sex with a minor. But you also lose a bit of the desperateness that you got with the original story as well.  Now it’s a classic love story about the young, rich, daddy’s girl who has lived a bit of a sheltered life who falls for the boy from the wrong side of the tracks.  Of course Jade’s father isn’t happy that his daughter is falling in love with a boy who he thinks isn’t worthy of his daughter, so he does everything he can to keep them apart which only results in them wanting to be together even more.  And of course we root for the couple to be able to be together no matter what the odds, but it isn’t the same as the illicitness that you felt with the original.  The scandal and the desperateness isn’t there, but it was still a decent movie that teenage girls will absolutely eat up.

Most of the credit for being such a decent movie is the performance by Gabriella Wilde.  Not only is the Brit actress gorgeous, but she comes across on screen as completely likeable and someone who most teenage girls will want to be just like. While Pettyfer gives a much less solid performance, she always seems to be able to make you believe that these two are star crossed lovers.   Joely Richardson also shines as Jade’s mother who so desperately wants to believe in love again, and Dayo Okeniyi as David’s best friend Mace provides just the right amount of comic relief while Rhys Wakefield as Jade’s brother Keith is as likeable as his onscreen sister.

Endless Love is a movie that might have done better if it were released in the summer vs. Valentine’s Day  only because it very much caters to the teenage crowd and I think those caught up in the throes of summer love might be a bit more susceptible to the teenage angst that this movie will instill in you instead of Valentine’s Day.  Do teens even care about Valentine’s Day?  Either way this is the kind of movie that will make young girls swoon and leave the theatre desperately seeking their David, or at the very least how they can become as close to Jade as possible.

I am quite sure that Endless Love will be panned by many of the critics out there, but if you love a good teen angst love story, Endless Love is the perfect fit.

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Before going to see THOR: The Dark World with my friend Sarah last night, I had to explain to her what happened in the original Thor movie as well as what happened in The Avengers, which was a bit of a stretch because who remembers all that plot stuff?  Anyway, in a nutshell I explained that Thor was all hunky goodness with great hair – Loki was all charming evilness with great hair and a killer smile, and Natalie Portman was all annoyingness and ridiculously miscast as Thor’s love interest.  You’ll be happy to know that all stayed the same in the THOR: The Dark World.

The plot of THOR: The Dark World is a bit confusing.  Seems there’s an ancient enemy of Asgard – Malekith – who is some kind of evil elf kind of dude.  Thor’s grandfather was responsible for him being banished thousands of years previous and while the Tesseract was the big, powerful object everyone was fighting over in Thor and The Avengers, the object of Malekith’s desire in this movie is called the Aether which is some kind of substance that will help him turn the world dark.  Or something like that. It was all a bit confusing.  As movie big bad’s go, Malekith was just OK and the plot of the movie was a bit muddled, but the writers gave us enough witty dialogue big action sequences that you can almost forgive that.

While out doing some research, Dr. Foster (Portman) and her intern Darcy (Kat Dennings) stumble upon some kind of portal.  *Spoiler Alert*

When Foster goes to investigate further she’s transported into another dimension where she comes in contact with The Aether. Obviously now this means that Malekith will come after Foster so Thor must do what he can to protect her, which involves bringing her to Asgard.  The evil elves declare war on Asgard and the Nine Realms so Thor must do everything in his power to protect not only his worlds but the woman he loves.  Sounds about right for a superhero movie.

Basically what THOR: The Dark World does well is know the strength of it’s characters.  Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston as Thor and Loki are always their best when they’re on screen together, but Hiddleston manages to steal every scene no matter who he’s opposite. I won’t pretend that I like Natalie Portman as Dr. Jane Foster because I don’t, but she is tolerable in this movie.  Kudos to the writers for giving Kat Dennings a much larger role this time around as Dr. Foster’s intern Darcy, because she stole more scenes than Hiddleston.  And Stellan Skarsgard was once again hilarious as Dr. Selvig.

I was not a fan of the first Thor movie, so my expectations were low going in to this one, but I will admit that I was pleasantly surprised.  I can even see myself going to see it again so I can bring my kids to see it.   Sure the plot was a bit shaky, and I left with a few questions about what had actually happened, but as far as superhero movies go I definitely felt like I got my money’s worth.  If you do go check it out, make sure you stick around past the credits:)

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If you could travel back in time to effect change in your own life, would you? That’s one of the questions that we’re faced in the movie About Time.  Full confession – the very first time I saw the trailer for this movie I knew I would like it. Partly because I love Rachel McAdams but mostly because of the small snippet of chemistry we see in the trailer between Domhnall Gleeson, who plays Tim, and Bill Nighy, who plays Tim’s dad, made me fall in love with the movie already.

In About Time, 21 year old Tim is told by his father the family secret – that men in their family have the ability to time travel back to events within their own lives and effectively change the outcome.  Obviously Tim doesn’t believe his father until he makes his own attempt to time travel and discovers that yes, his father was telling the truth.

The trailer for About Time made me believe that this movie was a romantic comedy about Tim finding love with Rachel McAdams’ character of Mary, over and over again until he gets it right.  And that is a lot of what this movie is about, but it’s also about so much more.   Of course time travelling isn’t always without consequences, and in the movie Tim is sometimes faced with some very difficult choices to make about his secret power.

About Time is a sweet, genuine and lovely movie that not only tells the story of two people who were obviously meant to be together, but it also has a deeper and more poignant story to tell about love and family and sacrifice that will sneak up and totally make you cry while sitting in the theatre hoping that no one is noticing you wiping your tears.  And when you go home you will totally hug all your children and make a point of ensuring that you cultivate the kind of relationship with them that Tim has with his family because again, it’s just so lovely.

The cast of this movie is simply amazing.  While Rachel McAdams might be the biggest North American name in the movie, she definitely doesn’t steal the show.  That honor goes to Domhnall Gleeson who will capture your heart with his portrayal of Tim.  And Bill Nighy again is brilliant as Tim’s father.  But it isn’t even just the main characters who are good – it’s all the supporting characters as well. From Tim’s loveable Uncle Desmond, to his free spirited sister Kit Kat, to Mary’s best friend Joanna – every character is layered and adds to the story.

If you’re a fan of romantic comedies that can pull at your heart strings, About Time is definitely worth seeing.

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I went to see The Lone Ranger last week at an advance screening.  I watched The Lone Ranger television show as a child, but my memory of the actual show was a bit sketchy. I mean, I know that there was The Lone Ranger, his trusty sidekick Tonto, his stallion Silver and of course that iconic theme music, but aside from that I couldn’t actually remember much of what the show was about, so I didn’t really know what to expect with the movie.  I brought my 16 year old niece with me as well and she had no clue that there was even a television show. Way to make me feel old.

Was the television show funny? Because the movie is actually quite comical.  I was expecting more of a typical Western style movie, maybe a bit more dramatic, but The Lone Ranger is more funny than serious.  But it’s long.  I would say it’s a good half hour too long.  The movie centres on Armie Hammer’s character John Reid and how he becomes The Lone Ranger and hooks up with Tonto.  We first see John Reid as a district attorney on his way back to his home town in Texas who is so strictly on the very best side of good that he refuses to use a gun – convinced that the law is the only justice he needs.  Of course that is until tragedy strikes thanks to the movie’s bad guy Butch Cavendish, and he meets Depp’s Tonto and Silver.  Tonto doesn’t share The Lone Ranger’s belief in justice and is seeking his own in the form of revenge against Cavendish.  Tonto presents Hammer’s character with his mask  and The Lone Ranger is born.

First off I enjoyed the movie. I didn’t love the  movie and I don’t think I would go see it if I wasn’t sent for a screening, but it wasn’t a terrible movie and if you like Westerns you probably would enjoy this movie.   But I found too muddled – there’s a lot of stories happening in this movie.  There’s Hammer’s relationship with his brother, with his brother’s wife, with Tonto, Tonto’s relationship with his tribe, the bad guys, the building of the railroad, the relationship between the Comanche tribe and the white settlers.  There’s just a whole lot happening.

Hammer did a good job portraying The Lone Ranger though.  Normally every time I see Hammer all I can think of is a Winklevoss twin, but he did a good job of making me forget that and see him as The Lone Ranger in this movie.  Johnny Depp was another story.  I had this discussion with a friend about a week before I saw the movie and whether Depp portraying a Native American was racist or not.  I have to admit, while I can’t answer whether it was racist or not – it was distracting. Especially since all the other Comanche’s in the film seemed to be portrayed by actual Native American’s.  Johnny Depp was funny but at no time did I believe that he was a Comanche Indian – he was just always Johnny Depp in white face paint to me and he even looked more odd in the scenes with other other actors portraying Comanche Indians.  Honestly the one thing that stayed with me after watching the movie was whether I could really buy Depp as Tonto, and I still don’t know.

That being said Depp and Hammer are fun to watch together and Depp delivers most of the movie’s laughs – mostly at Hammer’s expense.  If you can get past Depp being Tonto and the film’s bloated script, you probably will enjoy the flick. My 16 year old niece gave it two thumbs up, while I’ll give it 3 stars out of 5.

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Last night I went and saw a sneak preview of Despicable Me 2 starring the voice talents of Steve Carrell, Kristen Wiig and Russell Brand.  My passes were for 2 so naturally I had my kids fight it out Hunger Games styles to see which one of them got to go with me.  I figured with 4 kids that was pretty much the fairest route to go, right?  Just kidding, I randomly selected my middle son who’s almost 7 and endured the ‘oh, so he’s your favourite?’ comments from my other 2 sons. My daughter was at a birthday party sleepover so she didn’t care.

I’ve seen the original Despicable Me about a bajillion times thanks again to having 4 kids, and their love of watching Agnes yell ‘it’s so fluffy’ that they rewind that scene over and over again.  The original was super charming and funny and touching, something I found the sequel lacking in slightly.

For the record I enjoyed Despicable Me 2, just not as much as the original.  But in fairness, I’m not the target market for this movie.  My little almost 7 year old, who sat beside me completely enraptured for the entire 90 minute running time,  didn’t at any point stop to ask me what time it was, if the movie was almost over, or if he could sit on my lap.  And he laughed out loud, a lot.  As did all of the little people around me who seemed to find Gru and his minions completely hilarious.  Which they were.  Seriously – everyone will leave this movie wanted their very own Minion.

In Despicable Me 2 we find Gru has abandoned his evil ways now that he’s a single dad to 3 girls, and trying to make it as a jam and jelly manufacturer.  Enter Kristin Wiig’s character of Lucy, an agent with the AVL, the Anti Villain League, who wants to enlist Gru to help her find the latest super villain who is plotting to take over the world.  Also mixed in is a subplot about Gru being a single dad of 3 young girls,  and Agnes feeling unworthy about being in her school’s Mother’s Day play because she doesn’t have a mother.  Soooooo we know where this is going.

Gru resists at first but eventually decides to help Lucy discover who this new super villain is and to help capture him and save the world.  Of course this involves a lot of Minion help, which is a good thing because the Minions by far steal the movie – in a good way.   The movie is cute and the minions are hilarious but the blossoming love story between Gru and Lucy isn’t quite as charming as the original movie’s blossoming love story between Gru and Margo, Edith and Agnes.   Again, the kids didn’t care, and that’s the most important thing.

The final scene in the movie once again shows that boy bands rule the world, and the combination of boy bands and Minions will always be a winning combination.  Stay tuned while the credit roll for seriously funny Minion stuff too – guaranteed to make your kids howl with pleasure and give you truly the best of the 3d experience.

For me, I would give Despicable Me 2 a solid 3.5 stars out of 5, but my son would give it 5 out of 5.  Which makes me bump my original rating up to 5, because it really is all about the kids.   Despicable Me 2 opens on July 3.

 

 

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A few nights ago I got to attend an advance preview of the movie Pitch Perfect and needless to say I was just a bit excited. I feel a bit biased because I loved this movie from the moment I saw the first trailer, but combining students and show choirs is just a recipe for success in my books. Pitch Perfect stars Anna Kendrick, who a lot of people will know from Twilight but I had to tell my husband that she was that girl in Up in The Air before he knew who she was. He does not share my love for Twilight movies.

anna kendrick pitch perfectAnna plays the lead character of Beca, a freshman at Barden College who’s got the whole ‘alt/angsty’ girl thing going on. You see, Beca wants nothing more than to move to LA to be a dj and produce music, but her dad, who happens to be a professor at Barden, insists that she get her free college education first. On orientation day Beca runs into Chloe and Aubrey who are recruiting for their acapella group The Barden Bellas, an all female acapella group that like to sing songs like “I Saw The Sign’ while wearing glorified flight attendant uniforms. Chloe basically confronts Beca in the shower after hearing her sing and insists she join the group. Beca then tries to get the Bellas to try something different musically but her ideas are met with resistance by prim and proper group leader Aubrey.

 

the treblemakers pitch perfectThe Barden Bellas have a rival acapella group on campus known as the Treblemakers. Headed up by Bumper (played hilariously by Adam Devine of ‘Workaholics’) the Treblemakers are a group of guys who are a lot obnoxious, a little nerdy and completely overconfident. Enter Jesse, played by Skylar Astin, as the quiet wannabe movie scorer (is that a word?) who is interning with Beca at the campus radio station. Clearly there’s an attraction between Jesse and Beca, but Jesse joins the Treblemakers and the Bellas are forbidden to associate with the Trebles because they’re arch enemies.

 

 

you call yourself fat amyOK so that’s basically the plot of the movie but not what makes the movie really great. Pitch Perfect has been described as a full length movie sized version of Glee. I can’t say that I disagree with that completely. What I can tell you is that the movie is so much more than just the musical numbers – which are fantastic if I’m being honest here. The supporting cast has some of the strongest characters I’ve ever seen on the big screen. Rebel Wilson steals the movie with her portrayal of Fat Amy. There is not a moment when she’s on screen that I wasn’t laughing out loud. And as strong a supporting character as Rebel is, the rest of the Barden Bellas were equally entertaining and laugh out loud funny.

 

 

pitch perfectPitch Perfect not only delivers ridiculously entertaining musical mash ups but it also delivers some of the funniest lines I’ve heard in a long time. Pay particular attention to Hanna Mae Lee’s character Lilly. There was a moment where I thought I was going to have to leave the theatre because I couldn’t get my obnoxious out loud laughing under control. Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgens also provide a ton of laughs as the commentators for all the acapella singing competitions. The angsty hurt girl storyline fell a little flat with me, and I could have done without the entire storyline involving Beca and her father, but fortunately the music and the ensemble cast made up for it and I can’t wait to see it again. For now though I literally just sit and watch the trailer and the attached clips over and over again. If you haven’t seen it before you must watch the video below of the cast and fans singing Starships. It’s brilliant and I guarantee you can’t watch it only once.

If you like comedies and musicals I would say Pitch Perfect is a definite must see. Pitch Perfect opens in select cities on September 28th and everywhere on October 5.


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