Movie Review: “Draft Day”

Starring
Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Dennis Leary, Frank Langella, Chadwick Boseman, Josh Pence, Tom Welling
Director
Ivan Reitman

You can tell the kind of movie “Draft Day” is going to be by the company it keeps. The NFL and ESPN are on board, which means they approve of the story line, which means said story is safe as kittens. And holy cow, is this movie safe. That it manages to still be entertaining is to its great credit, and nearly all of that is because of Kevin Costner. Imagining this movie with anyone besides him in the lead role is unthinkable.

Sonny Weaver Jr. (Costner) is the general manager of the Cleveland Browns, and he’s feeling the heat. It’s the first day of the NFL draft – and only a few months after his father, and legendary Browns head coach, passed away – and Sonny is picking seventh. He’s fine with picking seventh, but the team’s owner, Anthony Molina (Frank Langella), is not. He wants Sonny to make a headline-worthy move, making it clear that it will cost him his job if he doesn’t. Sonny lets that pressure get the best of him by agreeing to trade a king’s ransom to Seattle for the first pick in the draft, much to the dismay of new coach, and Super Bowl winner (just ask him), Penn (Denis Leary). Having the first pick puts Sonny in position to take can’t-miss Wisconsin quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Bo Callahan (Josh Pence), but as the day progresses, Sonny learns things about Callahan that cause him to question Callahan’s character. Is there a way to take the decision he made to mortgage the team’s future and spin it into something he can be proud of?

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Movie Review: “Dom Hemingway”

Starring
Jude Law, Richard E. Grant, Emilia Clarke, Demian Bichir, Kerry Condon
Director
Richard Shepard

It’s been nine years since writer/director Richard Shepard burst onto the scene with the hugely entertaining black comedy “The Madator,” and with the exception of his underseen 2007 follow-up (“The Hunting Party”), he’s spent most of that time as a hired gun for various TV shows. But he’s finally back with a new movie featuring a character that could rival Jonathan Glazer’s “Sexy Beast” for the title of Most Polarizing British Gangster, which is quite the feat considering that the British crime genre is jam-packed with loud, brash and over-the-top personalities. Apart from Ben Kingsley’s Don Logan, however, none come even close to being as memorable as the title character of Shepard’s latest film, which is pretty much the only reason why it works at all.

Dom Hemingway (Jude Law) is an expert safecracker who has spent the last 12 years serving a prison sentence after refusing to rat out his boss, Mr. Fontaine (Demian Bichir). And now that he’s finally a free man, Dom wants what is rightfully owed to him, so he heads to Mr. Fontaine’s estate in the French countryside with his best friend Dickie (Richard E. Grant) to collect his reward for keeping his mouth shut all those years. But after a strange chain of events leaves Dom penniless mere hours after he’s gifted a small fortune, he heads back to London in an attempt to reconnect with his estranged daughter (Emilia Clarke), who wants nothing to do with him.

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Movie Review: “The Raid 2″

Starring
Iko Uwais, Afrin Putra, Tio Pakusodewo, Alex Abbad, Oka Antara, Yayan Ruhian
Director
Gareth Evans

After directing what many consider to be one of the greatest action movies in history, Gareth Evans would have been excused had he buckled under the pressure. After all, they say that your sophomore effort is the most difficult, but what many people seem to forget is that “The Raid: Redemptionwas Evans’ sophomore effort, and he’s managed to follow it up with a film that’s not only just as good, but at times even better. “The Raid 2” is a very different beast compared to its predecessor – a slower, operatic crime saga with a lot more moving parts that require the necessary time to develop them properly. And while it would have been all too easy to give audiences a rinse-and-repeat sequel that offers nothing new, it’s refreshing to see a filmmaker like Evans go for broke with such a strikingly ambitious continuation to his 2012 cult classic.

Picking up several hours after the events of the first movie, honest cop Rama (Iko Uwais) is informed by one of his superiors that the only way he can protect himself and his family from being targeted for retaliation is to go undercover and find the source of corruption in the city’s police force. Following a two-year stint in prison where he makes friends with Uco (Arifin Putra), the son of respected Jakarta crime boss Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo), Rama is hired upon his release to work for the syndicate as an enforcer. But when a turf war between Bangun and the Japanese yakuza is instigated by a third party hoping to take over after the blood has dried, Rama must fight for his life once again with new alliances formed and a group of dangerous killers standing in his way.

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Movie Review: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”

Starring
Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Robert Redford
Director
Anthony & Joe Russo

There’s been a lot of talk about comic book movie fatigue these days, but the people at Marvel Studios clearly aren’t letting that affect their productivity, because just like fellow Disney-owned company Pixar, they’ve continued to deliver the same high-quality films as when they started. Granted, it’s only a matter of time before Marvel’s unblemished track record is ruined by a “Cars 2,” but “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is not that movie. In fact, it’s a major improvement upon the character’s first solo adventure, trading in the period war setting for an old-school conspiracy thriller that addresses real-world issues like national security. It also has some really cool action beats, occasional bits of humor, and perhaps most importantly, a better storyline for its titular hero.

Since being thawed from his icy slumber and aiding in the defense of New York in “The Avengers,” Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) has become a full-fledged member of S.H.I.E.L.D, but he’s still learning to adapt to the modern world and the questionable methods that Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) employs to ensure that it remains safe. When S.H.I.E.L.D. becomes compromised by people within the organization, however, Steve is forced to go on the run alongside fellow operative Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), in order to smoke out the traitors and stop them from assuming control of a secret fleet of aircraft carriers designed to eliminate threats before they happen. Standing in their way is a super-powered, metal-armed assassin called the Winter Soldier who looks suspiciously like someone from Steve’s past.

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Movie Review: “Noah”

Starring
Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth, Anthony Hopkins
Director
Darren Aronofsky

Just as the Bible speaks in many ways to many people, so does Darren Aronofsky’s epic “Noah,” a story about a man, his giant ark and the lengths a family will go to when facing the world’s first apocalypse.

Tackling a story of pre-apocalyptic earth in the before and after stages is nothing new, but Aronofsky knew that he had to pull out all the stops in dealing with the planet’s first biblical disaster. Luckily, he had Russell Crowe to work with. After a brief but eye-catching history lesson (via fast motion) from the time of creation through the questionable dietary choices in the Garden of Eden, to the slaying of Abel by Cain, we arrive at the tenth generation of man, where a young Noah (Dakota Goyo) witnesses his father being killed just as he is about to bestow his birthright, a glowing snakeskin sleeve, upon him.

Years later, an adult Noah (Crowe) is living a happy but isolated life with his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) and three sons, Ham (Logan Lerman), Shem (Douglas Booth) and Japheth (Leo Carroll). But if life (and Twitter 3:16) has taught us anything, it’s that you can avoid people, but not their mistakes. Noah receives a vision, one of great death by flooding. The Creator (The “G-word” is never said in the film) has decided that his experiment with mankind has gone completely off the rails, as everyone is a poster child for the worse sins imaginable against the planet and themselves.

Unfortunately, visions aren’t the same as having a phone call, Skype or even text messages, so Noah seeks out clarification from his granddad Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins). Thanks to his guidance, and getting slipped a mickey, Noah gets a clearer vision: the planet is about to be destroyed by a flood. He is to construct a giant ark with a sample of the planet’s animals and witness the first-ever heavenly version of a reboot. Aiding him in his quest is Ila (Emma Watson), an injured orphan girl who becomes his adopted daughter and love interest of Shem. He’s also greatly assisted by fallen angels turned giant stone creatures called the Watchers, who also sinned against the Creator and seek redemption.

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