Movie Review: “3 Days to Kill”

Starring
Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfeld, Amber Heard, Connie Nielsen
Director
McG

It’s not often – on the big screen, anyway – that director McG traffics in human emotion. His films are mostly about the slam and the bang, so his attachment to a movie like “3 Days to Kill” is a bit surprising at first. This is not to say that the movie doesn’t have some slam-bang moments (it does), but that it operates at a different speed than McG’s other work. The father-daughter relationship comes first, though murder isn’t far behind. The story, by Luc Besson (“The Professional”), bites off more than it can chew, and it requires “Taken” levels of disbelief to excuse carnage that our government would surely have to answer for on a public stage, but the acting performances elevate the material from ‘predictable’ to ‘predictable but fun.’

Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner) is a seasoned field agent for the CIA. During an operation where he and his team are assigned to dispose of an arms dealer known as The Albino (Tómas Lemarquis), Ethan passes out after chasing down their target, wakes up in a hospital and is told he is gravely ill and has three months to live. Ethan plans on making the most of his time by reconciling with his estranged wife Tina (Connie Nielsen) and their daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld). No sooner does he promise Tina that he’s finished with the CIA than he receives a visit from fellow CIA operative Vivi Delay (Amber Heard), who was tasked with taking down the Albino’s financier The Wolf (Richard Sammel) at the same time that Ethan was supposed to take out the Albino. Vivi has access to an experimental drug that may keep Ethan alive, and she will share it with him if he agrees to help her finish the job, as Ethan is the only one who knows what the Wolf looks like. Ethan reluctantly accepts, and it is not long before the unpredictable nature of being a hired killer makes life complicated for a man who already has a reputation with his angry teenaged daughter of never being there for her. Oh, and a family of squatters has taken over his Paris apartment while he was away, and it is against the law if he kicks them out.

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Movie Review: “RoboCop”

Starring
Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Samuel L. Jackson
Director
Jose Padliha

At the rate that Hollywood is plowing its way through Paul Verhoeven’s sci-fi catalog, you’d expect Vegas bookies to start slashing the odds on an eventual “Starship Troopers” remake. Though it’s only been two years since fanboys got their panties in a bunch over Len Wiseman’s “Total Recall” reboot, many of those same fans have been dreading the release of the new “RoboCop.” It will probably come as a surprise, then, that the film isn’t nearly as bad as people feared it would be. In fact, it boasts a better cast, better effects and a better story, even if the 1987 original – which is admittedly pretty cheesy by today’s standards – is still the better movie. So why bother with this remake? For starters, because it’s not really a remake at all, instead taking the basic premise and carving its own path that falls more in line with current politics.

The year is 2028, and with the exception of the United States, the rest of the world is now policed by a robot military force operated by technology giant OmniCorp. The government has blocked the use of robots in the U.S. due to the belief that they can’t be held accountable for killing, so OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) decides to give the American public someone they can identify with by putting a man in a machine. And it’s not long before they find the perfect subject when Detroit cop Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is critically injured in a car bombing after he’s targeted by a local drug kingpin. With the help of Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman), a pioneer in robotic prosthetics, Sellars convinces Alex’s wife, Clara (Abbie Cornish), that the procedure is the only way to keep him alive. But the very thing that makes Alex unique (his emotions) also affects his performance in the field, and when Norton tries to counteract that by programming his brain to act more like a machine, Alex’s human side begins to fight back as he investigates his own murder.

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Movie Review: “The LEGO Movie”

Starring
Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Will Arnett, Will Ferrell, Liam Neeson, Charlie Day
Director
Phil Lord & Christopher Miller

The biggest conundrum for the makers of “The LEGO Movie”: how to make a movie that promotes the product without playing like a 100-minute informercial. To that point, we have heard from friends who refuse to see the movie because, in their opinion, it is blatantly designed to sell more LEGOs. Well, sure, the LEGO Corporation would certainly like people to buy more of their product, but that in and of itself is not the point of the movie. If anything, the movie is quite subversive in tone, in that it encourages kids to take their uber-precise themed kits and build whatever the hell they want to with the pieces. It preaches against conformity and encourages imagination, both noble goals, and it has Morgan Freeman saying Milhouse Van Houten’s name out loud. Yes, yes, yes.

Emmet (Chris Pratt) is a construction worker who does everything he’s supposed to do. He follows the instructions set forth by President Business (Will Ferrell), which in a nutshell ask everyone to bend to his will in the friendliest manner possible. One day, Emmet sees the lovely Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) poking around his construction site, and as he goes to catch up to her, he discovers an underground group of rebels, led by the blind prophet Vitruvius (Freeman), who refuse to live by President Business’ law. Emmet has discovered a piece that Vitruvius believes will stop President Business’ insidious plan to glue all LEGO pieces together, and because of that, Vitruvius declares that Emmet is the one that an ancient legend predicted will lead them to victory. This group of rebels includes every superhero imaginable (in the DC universe, anyway), along with several other “master builders.” Emmet, on the other hand, doesn’t have an original thought in his head. The rebels have their doubts about him, to say the least.

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Movie Review: “The Monuments Men”

Starring
George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville, Dimitri Leonidas
Director
George Clooney

When news spread that George Clooney’s latest directorial effort, “The Monuments Men,” wouldn’t be making its original December 2013 release date, many people were surprised, to say the least. After all, nothing sounded more Oscar-ready than a World War II film based on a true story and starring some of Hollywood’s finest actors. Although the studio’s official response on the matter was that Clooney needed more time to finish post-production, it was most likely because “The Monuments Men” just isn’t a very good film. It’s a lot better than most of the dreck that’s forced down our gullets this time of year, but for a movie overflowing with promise, it’s hard not to feel the sting of disappointment.

Clooney stars as Frank Stokes, an American art conservationist who leads a small platoon of experts – including museum curator James Granger (Matt Damon), architect Richard Campbell (Bill Murray), sculptor Walter Garfield (John Goodman), theater director Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban), French art dealer Jean-Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin) and British professor Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville) – into Europe during the final year of World War II. Their mission is to protect various monuments and buildings from being needlessly destroyed by Allied forces, as well as locate and retrieve the Nazi-stolen paintings and sculptures hand-picked for Hitler’s planned Führer Museum. After completing basic training, the men split up to undertake specific assignments across the war-torn continent, with Granger heading to Paris to meet a fellow museum curator (Cate Blanchett) who could be the key to tracking down some of the world’s most important cultural treasures.

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Movie Review: “Labor Day”

Starring
Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Gattlin Griffith, Clark Gregg, Tobey Maguire
Director
Jason Reitman

For a moment, it seemed like Jason Reitman could do no wrong, following up his excellent directorial debut, “Thank You for Smoking,” with one great movie after the next, and earning a quartet of Oscar nominations in the process. But even the best filmmakers are capable of making bad movies, and though “Labor Day” isn’t a complete failure, it’s the director’s weakest film by a country mile. Based on the 2009 novel by Joyce Maynard, the movie represents a major departure for Reitman, who’s made a name for himself telling stories with a dark comedic bite. That trademark humor isn’t present in “Labor Day,” instead replaced by the kind of gooey sentimentalism that you’d be more likely to find in a Nicholas Sparks adaptation, which leads me to wonder what Reitman was even thinking.

Set in a quaint New England town during Labor Day weekend in 1987, the film stars Kate Winslet as Adele, a shut-in single mother on the verge of a nervous breakdown. During a rare excursion outside to take her teenage son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) clothes shopping for the new school year, they’re approached by a wounded stranger named Frank (Josh Brolin), who takes Adele and Henry hostage and holes up in their rundown house with the intention of making a run for it at nightfall. A convicted murderer who escaped from the hospital while recovering from an emergency appendectomy, Frank insists that there’s more to the story, and as they spend more time with the supposedly dangerous fugitive, he turns out to be a pretty nice guy. So when Frank ends up staying the next day to do some repairs around the house, Adele and Henry don’t complain, and before long, he’s accepted as a part of the family, serving as a father figure to Henry and passionate lover to the fragile Adele.

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