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Saturday, August 29, 2015


An intense international thriller, NO ESCAPE centers on an American businessman (Wilson) as he and his family settle into their new home in Southeast Asia. Suddenly finding themselves in the middle of a violent political uprising, they must frantically look for a safe escape as rebels mercilessly attack the city. Directed by John Erick Dowdle and written together with his brother Drew, NO ESCAPE stars Owen Wilson, Pierce Brosnan and Lake Bell.

Director: John E. Dowdle 

Cast: Owen Wilson, Pierce Brosnan, Lake Bell, Sterling Jerins.

Release Date: Aug 26, 2015

Rated: R for strong Violence Throughout, and For Language

Runtime: 1 hr. 41 min.

Genres: Suspense/Thriller


John E. Dowdle’s No Escape feels like a mash up of The Purge: Anarchy, The Warrior and Hostel.  It’s a tense mess of a film that really hits all the worse clichés of the dangers abroad genre.  Dowdle’s direction is fairly strong as he ratchets up the tension to insane levels particularly during the first half of the film.  Sadly, there’s little to no characterization of any of the characters and only the thinnest and cheapest of explanation about the coup that sets off the action.  Pierce Brosnan appears disappears, reappears and disappears for good from the movie remaining the most interesting character in the whole production.   Owen Wilson and Lake Bell deliver solid work hitting all the panicked notes you can think of.  They’re continually frazzled and on edge but seemingly have time for some family discussions regardless of whatever is going on.  There’s logical plot holes left and right even as the film beats its message over your head with it literally spelled out for you.  And then, just like that, it’s over since the escape route was conveniently close and far enough to keep the film rolling.  


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of American Ultra & Hitman: Agent 47

Dearest Blog: Yesterday it was off to the pictures for a pair of shoot-em-up flicks, American Ultra and Hitman: Agent 47.

Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers.

This week's first kudos go not to either movie, but to the schedule maker(s) at Marquee Cinemas, who receive a full nine Weasleys for two 90-minute films with 30 minutes in between. Perfection!

First up on that ideal schedule: American Ultra.

All is not as it seems with a pair of stoners in a (made-up) little West Virginia town.
American Ultra is one of those movies that has the potential to be accidentally awesome. It doesn't look like anything special, but all the pieces are there so it *could* be, you know? It isn't quite awesome, but it's still pretty solid.

Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart share an awkward chemistry that serves them well as a couple pretty awkward people. Eisenberg moves effortlessly from mellow to panicked to deadpan to badass, always believable and sympathetic.

Stewart is often accused of being expressionless, but she's solid here as well. The supporting cast is uniformly decent, for as much as they need to be (what a waste of Bill Pullman!), but basically, if you don't like Eisenberg and/or Stewart, that's going to be an almost insurmountable hurdle with this movie. American Ultra has plenty of twists and turns, with fast, brutal, bloody action, and a dry wit that holds it all together.

American Ultra clocks in at 95 minutes and is rated R for "strong bloody violence, language throughout, drug use, and some sexual content."

American Ultra is missing that *something* that would have made it exceptional, but I still found it smart, exciting, and entertaining.

Of a possible nine Weasleys, American Ultra gets six and a half.

Next on the agenda, Hitman: Agent 47.

A woman reluctantly teams with a super assassin to unravel the mysteries of her past.

Dear reader(s), there's no sugar-coating it: Agent 47 is a real snooze-fest, and, if not for my mad crush on Zachary Quinto, I might have nodded off. There's not a hint of genuine emotion or excitement to be found anywhere in Agent 47. Nicely-designed stunts are blandly executed, and the leads are as dry as my lawn invariably is 'round about this time of the year. Hannah Ware has all the expression of the freshly-Botoxed, and Rupert Friend looks like a perpetually-annoyed Orlando Bloom. Ciaran Hinds gets the job done, but he doesn't turn up until it's far too late to salvage anything. It's quite a feat for a movie this short to wear out its welcome, but that seems to be the one area where Hitman: Agent 47 actually succeeds.

Hitman: Agent 47 runs 96 minutes and is rated R for "sequences of strong violence, and some language."

Agent 47 is so dull I was hardly even annoyed when the guy next to me played on his iPad the whole time.

Of a possible nine Weasleys, Hitman: Agent 47 gets two.

Until next time...

Curiously, this is also how my homecooked Sunday dinners usually turn out!

Sunday, August 16, 2015


Entrenched in the racial tumult of Los Angeles in the mid-1980's, a group of aspiring rappers banded together to revolutionize the global consumption of hip-hop and popular culture. NWA was born out of racial frustration and the disadvantaged economics of their South Central neighborhood. F. Gary Gray directs this biopic about the rise to stardom for the act that earned the moniker of "The World's Most Dangerous Group", featuring Ice Cube's son O'Shea Jackson Jr. playing the role of his father, Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre, and Jason Mitchell as the late Eazy-E. ~ Daniel Gelb, Rovi

Director: F. Gary Gray

Cast: Corey Antonio Hawkins, O'shea Jackson, Jr., Jason Mitchell, Aldis Hodge, Neil Brown, Jr.

Release Date: Aug 14, 2015

Rated: R Language Throughout, Drug Use, Strong Sexuality/Nudity and Violence

Runtime: 2 hr. 27 min.

Genres: Drama


F. Gary Gray’s Straight Outta Compton is a thoroughly engaging if imperfect musical biopic.  It hits all the standard notes for this type of film with some of the moments coming off as manufactured or inauthentic.  It’s not a massive flaw but noticeable.  Thankfully an impressive ensemble cast carries the film with strong performances throughout with O’Shea Jackson Jr. making the biggest mark for his uncanny impression of his father.  Paul Giamatti is saddled with the role of the shady business manager and manages to give the role a bit more depth than expected.  The story itself might be familiar to some and totally foreign to others.  Either way it’s an interesting story that’ll keep you engaged as we watch the rise of gangster rap and its evolution.  The problem the film faces is that there are so many storylines that it does occasionally feel unfocused.  In the final act, Gary doesn’t quite seem to know where to end the story as we proceed through a travelogue of the 90’s.  It would have benefited from some trimming to make it a more efficient film.  That being said Straight Outta Compton is a strong film that feels terribly timely as well.


Cindy Prascik''s Reviews of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Mr. Holmes

Dearest Blog: today it was off to the pictures for a pair of highly-anticipated (at least by me) titles: The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Mr. Holmes.

Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers.

First up: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

An American C.I.A. agent and a Russian K.G.B. agent reluctantly team up to keep a nuclear bomb out of dangerous hands.

Ladies and gents, it will surprise exactly no one when I say I know nothing about the original Man from U.N.C.L.E. TV series, aside from the fact it's where Ducky from NCIS got his start. If you're looking for comparisons between this big-screen outing and its small-screen ancestor, I fear you'll have to look elsewhere.

On its own merits, the big-screen Man from U.N.C.L.E. feels like it can't quite decide what it wants to be. It's amusing, but not nearly funny enough to be called a comedy. It's a little too silly to sell its attempts at drama. There's some nice action, but none of the big stunts we've come to expect from great action pieces. In other words, it's a lot of "what might have been."

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer are as good-looking a pair of guys as you'll find anywhere, perhaps cinema's most dashing double-leads since Newman and Redford. Unfortunately, Cavill has all the charisma of a used lunch bag, and Hammer (whom I adore, for the record) has been shoved into a role that never seems to fit. They have a few genuinely good moments together, but overall it seems a waste of two capable leading men.

Female lead Alicia Vikander is absolutely stunning and absolutely unremarkable in every other way. It's only when Hugh Grant turns up you feel like you've got someone who knows what to do with a feature film. As mentioned, the action is good fun at times, but nothing very exciting or new. There's espionage and double-crosses and triple-crosses and none of it is ever much of a surprise. Some of the locations are almost as pretty as Cavill and Hammer, but if I had to name the one thing I actually really, really loved about The Man from U.N.C.L.E., it'd be Daniel Pemberton's fantastic score.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. clocks in at 116 minutes and is rated PG13 for "action violence, some suggestive content, and partial nudity."

It's a passable couple hours of brainless summer fun, but, to be honest, if your cinema is still playing Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation, you'd do better just to see that again.

Of a possible nine Weasleys, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. gets six.

Next on the docket, Mr. Holmes.

An elderly, failing Sherlock Holmes is haunted by a past blunder.

Dear Reader(s), every once in awhile, even *I* need a break from car chases and explosions, and this weekend my cinema was kind enough to accommodate with this well-regarded showcase for Ian McKellen.

Mr. Holmes is a pretty slow-moving vehicle; in the interest of making that not sound like a negative, we'll call it "deliberately paced." This movie is in no hurry to get anywhere, but that's not to say there's not plenty going on. A couple of old cases nag at the edges of Holmes' fading memory, and his declining health adds its own drama. McKellen and Laura Linney are expectedly great, but it's the youngster Milo Parker who steals the show, comfortably holding his own opposite his two decorated co-stars. It's a quietly intense film that will have no trouble holding your attention from start to finish.
Mr. Holmes runs 104 minutes and is rated PG for "thematic elements, some disturbing images, and incidental smoking."

A nice respite from shoot-em-up summer blockbusters, of a possible nine Weasleys, Mr. Holmes gets seven.

Until next time..

Somebody get me in the middle of that...STAT! :-)
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