Movie Review: “Warcraft”

Starring
Travis Fimmel, Toby Kebbell, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Ben Schnetzer, Daniel Wu
Director
Duncan Jones

Hollywood has a pretty awful track record with video game adaptations, so when it was announced that director Duncan Jones would be bringing the mega-popular “Warcraft” franchise to the big screen, many people were hopeful that he would finally break the curse. Sadly, it doesn’t even come close. Although there’s no question that Jones (a self-proclaimed fan of “World of Warcraft,” the massively multiplayer online RPG that boasted 12 million subscribers at the peak of its popularity) is a talented filmmaker, “Warcraft” is a disappointing misfire that swallowed up several years of his career. That’s time he could have spent making more original movies like “Moon” and “Source Code” instead of this sluggish and derivative fantasy flick.

The story begins in Draenor, the dying homeworld to a warrior race of orcs. Their leader, the evil sorcerer Gul’dan (Daniel Wu), uses a dangerous magic called the Fel – which feeds on the energy of life – to send a small war party of orcs through a portal to the peaceful realm of Azeroth in the hopes of conquering the land and using its inhabitants as fuel to transport the rest of the fleeing Horde. But not everyone agrees with his methods, particularly Durotan (Toby Kebbell), the noble chieftain of the Frostwolf Clan, who believes that Gul’dan’s obsession with the Fel is what caused Draenor to wither away. Meanwhile, the human forces of Azeroth – led by King Llane (Dominic Cooper), heroic warrior Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) and powerful magician Medivh (Ben Foster) – scramble to defend their kingdom with the help of Garona (Paula Patton), a human/orc half-breed who must decide where her true loyalty lies: with the orc Horde that raised her or the humans that freed her from a lifetime of slavery.

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Movie Review: “Now You See Me 2″

Starring
Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Dave Franco, Lizzy Caplan, Daniel Radcliffe, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine
Director
Jon M. Chu

If the idea of a sequel to the illusionist action comedy “Now You See Me” is shocking, look no further than the box office numbers. The original film grossed four times as much as it cost, and probably would have netted even more if they hadn’t stacked the movie with so much high-priced talent. For the sequel, “Now You See Me 2” (that they didn’t call the film “Now You Don’t” seems like a missed opportunity), they went for a flashier direction style, which suits the story well. At its core, it’s a heist movie, so appropriating from the “Ocean’s” films is to be expected.

One year after the events of the first film, the master illusionists The Horsemen are still lying low, waiting for instructions from the secret organization of magicians who call themselves The Eye. Their handler, FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), finally gives them a target: tech guru Owen Case (Ben Lamb), who has invented a mobile phone chip that steals customers’ personal information in order to sell it to the highest bidder. The Horsemen, who are now folk heroes and wanted men (and woman), crash Case’s launch party with the intention of exposing him, but they get the tables turned on them by Case’s former partner Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), who abducts the Horsemen and forces them to steal the chip before a slew of black market goons intend to. Rhodes and the Horsemen are completely stuck, but they receive help from an unlikely source.

It is so nice to see that Jesse Eisenberg has recovered from whatever chemical imbalance/hypnotic spell/caffeine overdose led him to give the worst performance of his life in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” He’s not extraordinary here, but no one is – it’s not that kind of movie, and that is why they cast the aforementioned high-priced talent. Get the right people to just read the lines, and everything else will fall into place. And that’s exactly what happens.

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Movie Review: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows”

Starring
Megan Fox, Stephen Amell, Will Arnett, Laura Linney, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, Tyler Perry, Brian Tee, Gary Anthony Williams, Sheamus, Brad Garrett
Director
Dave Green

Contrary to the harshly negative reviews that it received, Jonathan Liebesman’s 2014 reboot of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” wasn’t that bad. The product of a misguided adaptation that was course-corrected with extensive reshoots, the film doesn’t hold up as well on repeat viewings, but it’s still a better-than-average franchise-starter that got enough things right to warrant a sequel. Though “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” isn’t necessarily better or worse, you have to hand it to the filmmakers for actually listening to the fans, because the new movie is such a nostalgia-fueled throwback to the original animated series (the holy grail for adult fans) that it atones for many of the first film’s blunders.

One year after stopping The Shredder from unleashing a deadly virus on New York City – an achievement that news cameraman Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett) has gladly taken credit for to protect the real heroes’ identities – Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Donatello (Jeremy Howard) and Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) continue to watch over the city from the shadows. But when Shredder (Brian Tee) escapes police custody and teams up with mad scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) to open a portal to Dimension X, thereby allowing the nefarious, brain-like alien General Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett) to invade Earth with his world-destroying war machine the Technodrome, April O’Neil (Megan Fox) calls in the Turtles for help. This time around, however, Shredder has enlisted a pair of dimwitted mutant henchmen named Bebop and Rocksteady (Gary Anthony Williams and WWE wrestler Sheamus, respectively) to do his dirty work for him.

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Movie Review: “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping”

Starring
Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer, Sarah Silverman, Tim Meadows, Chris Redd
Director
Akiva Schaffer & Jorma Taccone

Following the 2007 oddball comedy “Hot Rod,” audiences were eager to see what The Lonely Island – the comedy trio comprised of Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer – would cook up next. But while the group found great success with their ongoing series of “SNL” Digital Shorts and Grammy-nominated albums, it’s taken nearly a decade for them to return to the big screen. Their latest film, “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping,” is a funny but flawed “Behind the Music”-style mockumentary that, although it aims to match the comic genius of Rob Reiner’s similarly themed cult classic “This Is Spinal Tap,” doesn’t quite reach the same heights.

Samberg stars as pop superstar Conner4Real, a former member of the hip-hop group the Style Boyz who launched a successful solo career after falling out with lyricist/childhood friend Lawrence (Schaffer). The group’s other member, Owen (Taccone), decided to stick by Conner’s side as his official DJ, watching from the background as Conner rose to the top of the music world with his debut album Thriller, Also. But when Conner agrees to film a documentary centered on the release of his upcoming sophomore effort, the cameras are there to capture his meltdown when the album spectacularly flops (Rolling Stone gives it a poop emoji out of four stars) and his celebrity lifestyle is threatened. Desperate to win back the public’s affection, Conner implements a number of increasingly silly gimmicks into his concert tour with disastrous results while his new opening act, rising talent Hunter the Hungry (Chris Redd), begins to upstage him.

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Blu Tuesday: Triple 9, Race and More

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on social media with your friends.

“Triple 9″

WHAT: When a group of bank robbers is blackmailed by the Russian mafia to pull off an impossible heist, dirty cop Marcus (Anthony Mackie) suggests killing his new partner Chris (Casey Affleck) – thus initiating a 999, police code for “officer down” – in order to draw every responding cop to the other side of town. But as loyalties are tested and the criminals begin to turn on each other, the whole plan threatens to unravel.

WHY: Director John Hillcoat (“The Road,” “Lawless”) specializes in bleak storytelling, so it makes sense why he would gravitate towards a gritty crime thriller like “Triple 9.” Though the movie isn’t totally bereft of clear-cut heroes and villains, most of the characters (from Chiwetel Ejiofor’s bank robber to Anthony Mackie’s conflicted cop) operate somewhere in between. The complex relationships bred from that moral ambiguity is likely what helped Hillcoat attract so much great talent, but while the film boasts a killer cast from top to bottom, only a few (like Casey Affleck and Mackie) really stand out. Ejiofor’s talents are wasted on an underdeveloped character, Aaron Paul mines familiar territory as a troubled drug addict, and Kate Winslet is miscast as the ruthless wife of a Russian mob boss. “Triple 9” is pulled in so many different directions that it’s unable to provide the focus that each subplot deserves, and although that prevents the movie from reaching the heights of Michael Mann’s “Heat,” it’s still a fairly solid crime thriller thanks to some exhilarating set pieces and an excellent cast.

EXTRAS: There are two short featurettes and a handful of deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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