Guardians of the Galaxy review

I’m still trying to figure out how Guardians of the Galaxy works. It’s a movie set in an unfamiliar universe, it introduces several new characters with diverse backstories on numerous worlds, and features a talking raccoon, a fighting tree, familial death, and multiple villains, all set to seventies and eighties pop music. On paper, there’s no way the movie should work. But not only did writer/director James Gunn find the perfect mix to make it work, Guardians of the Galaxy soars. All of those elements marry each other just right to tell a singular, direct and entertaining story. Along the way there’s room for jaw-dropping and innovative action, beautiful visuals, robust characterizations and more laughs than probably all the other Marvel movies combined. Yes, Marvel has another winner in Guardians of the Galaxy. Read the rest of our Guardians of the Galaxy review below. Read More »

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This post contains some very minor spoilers for Season 2 of Orange is the New Black

I just finished the second season of Jenji Kohan’s Orange is the New Black on Netflix and I was blown away by it. What an extraordinary piece of work Kohan has created: a show that is brimming with rich, complex characters, and that looks and sounds like nothing else on TV (or Netflix) right now.

Here are a few reasons why this show is so incredibly impressive.
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Life Itself

Editor’s Note: The following review was originally published on January 20th 2014 after a screening at the Sundance Film Festival. The review is being republished as the movie is hitting theaters.

A movie about the life of a film critic might sound a tad indulgent, but there’s never been another film critic with the influence and character of Roger Ebert. Almost anyone who’s ever seen a movie in the US (and many other countries) has heard his name or taken one of he and partner Gene Siskel’s patented “Two Thumbs Up” recommendations to the box office. As a young film fan, I remember scouring the TV Guide searching for the Sunday morning broadcasts of Siskel & Ebert, and devouring every episode. In particular, I’ll never forget an episode where Ebert dissected Quentin Tarantino’s camerawork in Pulp Fiction. It opened my eyes to a whole new world of film language. Ebert had that effect on a lot of people.

If Ebert opened up that world to people then Steve James‘ latest documentary Life Itself opens Ebert to the world. Based on Ebert’s autobiography of the same name, the film tells Ebert’s life story, yes, but it does so via the framework of our own love of the movies. Great care is taken to specifically illustrate not only how Ebert changed the face of film criticism, but how he helped us all discover our own passion for the movies.

Make no mistake though, this isn’t some simple love letter. Life Itself is a warts and all dissection as well as a beautiful tribute. Issues such as alcoholism, struggles with weight, ego and sex are all part of his story. This is a vast, entertaining and thought-provoking look at Ebert the man and Ebert the icon.

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They Came Together

They Came Together, directed and co-written by David Wain, is a madcap, off the wall, comedic send-up of the romantic comedy genre that goes so far over the top, you won’t believe it. The cast is a who’s who of comedy, from stars Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler to supporting actors Melanie Lynskey and Jason Mantzoukas, all the way down to scene stealers like Bill Hader and Ellie Kemper. There are a lot of laughs, an ambitious premise and I think a lot of people are going to like the movie. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people.

I may, however, grow to be one of those people. The brilliance of Wain’s comedy is that it can be so unexpected and off-putting that sometimes time and familiarity can make a movie funnier than it feels on the first viewing. However, on my first viewing, I felt They Came Together tried to be shocking so many times, and failed more often than not, that I couldn’t get into it. It’s so incessantly obsessed with the next joke, it skips everything in-between. Read More »

Comet Emmy Rossum Justin Long

Imagine you’re watching your relationship on TV. It is playing on five channels, with each channel airing a different stage of the relationship. When things get too uncomfortable, awkward or emotional, you just flip the channel. On that next channel, you’d continue to watch your relationship unfold, maybe from a point a few years later. The cumulative result of the experience would probably put into perspective the whole of what you and another person can be together. Loving in one moment, hateful in another, caring, selfish and more.

That metaphor is an elaborate attempt to describe Comet, the directorial debut of Sam Esmail, which had its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival this weekend. Comet stars Emmy Rossum and Justin Long as the central couple. While there is absolutely no TV channel surfing involved, the film’s complex and fascinating structure feels like that, from the audience perspective. It’s a dense, funny, insanely well-written and well-acted film. Unlike most romantic films, it keeps you guessing. Simultaneously, it raises questions about the nature of love, life, and truth, all disguised in an semi-conventional love story told in the most unconventional of ways. It’s a special movie. Read More »

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (header)

I saw How to Train Your Dragon seven times in theaters when it was released in 2010. For me, few other films have taken better advantage of the IMAX format, and few have done a better job at conveying the exhilaration of flight. But beyond being a technical marvel, it also had a lot of heart and introduced us to one of the most adorable, heart-melting animated characters ever conceived, Toothless.

This weekend, How to Train Your Dragon 2 hits theaters. Could it live up to my impossibly high expectations? Find my video review after the jump.

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22 Jump Street (9)

/Film’s Germain Lussier called 22 Jump Street (out in theaters this weekend) one of the funniest and best films of the summer. I saw 22 Jump Street this week and found it to be immensely enjoyable. Its knowing references to its bizarre sequel status were amusing, and I loved the gags in the last half of the film, when it felt like directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord felt free to let loose and really play with the film’s reality.

I spoke with Germain about why he loved the film so much and how 22 Jump Street avoids being a repetitive sequel in the vein of Hangover 2. Find our video review after the jump.
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Edge of Tomorrow review

There is so much to like about Doug Liman‘s Edge of Tomorrow. An adaptation of the Hiroshi Sakurazaka novel All You Need Is Kill, the film takes sci-fi elements from The Matrix, Aliens, Starship Troopers, manga and more, and wraps them all up in a rewarding time travel conceit right out of Groundhog Day. Next, it builds upon that construct in a way we’ve never seen, managing to entertain with humor, action and suspense. Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt both bring a grounded, confident charisma to their roles. and Liman’s direction mixes the biggest scope imaginable with beautiful, quiet, intimate moments. The film is almost amazing.

However, a few small but distracting issues – mostly derived from the script by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez and John-Henry Butterworth  - hold the film back from reaching its full potential. Still, even with those problems, Edge of Tomorrow delivers on its promise of a memorable, exciting and emotional sci-fi action film. Read More »

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