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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of 22 Jump Street & The Purge: Anarchy + Bonus Afterthoughts on How to Train Your Dragon 2

Dearest Blog, it's Jamboree in the Hills weekend here in the upper Ohio Valley, and you know what that means: I spent BOTH days hiding out at the cinema. On tap: a second screening of How to Train Your Dragon 2, a first (very late) screening of 22 Jump Street, and the new release The Purge: Anarchy.

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

First up was a second go at How to Train Your Dragon 2. Regular reader(s) will know I was gravely disappointed in this the first time I saw it, as the original ranks among my favorite movies of all time, and this one...well...this one doesn't. While I still don't agree the sequel is better than (or even as good as) the first, I will say I definitely warmed to it upon a second viewing. I found much more to laugh about, much less to be annoyed about, and remained in awe of its visual magnificence. If you don't bother for any other reason, do see it on the biggest screen you can find just for the privilege of seeing the best-looking movie ever.

After revisiting the film, I would probably upgrade it from my original seven and a half to eight of a possible nine Weasleys. Still not as good as the first, but it probably wasn't reasonable to expect that anyway, no matter who said it nor how often.

Next up was another sequel, 22 Jump Street. I'm well aware this has already left many theatres and if you were gonna see it you probably would have done by now. I'm still reviewing it for two reasons: first, because it's worth a good word if that good word convinces anybody buy the DVD or see it in a second-run cinema, but also so I don't forget it when it comes time for my year-end top ten, which at this writing would include it.

Having succeeded in their high school undercover mission, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) move on to college.

22 Jump Street is that rare sequel that is equal to its predecessor, hilarious from beginning to end, with a couple twists that rival most mysteries and thrillers. Hill and Tatum have a genuine chemistry that sells their relationship, and a comedic fearlessness that translates to great entertainment. The supporting cast is a riot, and laugh-out-loud physical humor combines with self-aware sequel jokes to make this the summer's funniest movie thus far.

22 Jump Street runs 112 minutes and is rated R for "language throughout, sexual content, drug material, brief nudity, and some violence."

If you're in the mood for a good laugh, this is your movie. Of a possible nine Weasleys, 22 Jump Street gets seven.

Finally, today it was The Purge: Anarchy.

A small group caught out during the annual Purge teams up to try to survive the night.

Two notes: I have seen only minutes of the first Purge, in passing. It is by all accounts terrible. The sequel was only on my radar--and barely, at that--because I've had a bit of a thing for Frank Grillo since The Grey. Yeah, I know I'm late to that party, so sue me. Earlier this weekend, I saw a review comparing this new Purge to Walter Hill's The Warriors, one of my top ten movies of all time, and it became a must see.

I didn't expect much, but I'm pleased to report I was very pleasantly surprised.
Let this be the first and probably only review to note that the annual Purge takes place on Gary Oldman's birthday, March 21. How's a transplanted Brit to celebrate his special day in a country that's doing THAT with it? I strenuously object, and respectfully petition for a change of Purge date.

Okay, back to business. As mentioned, The Purge: Anarchy is much better than I expected. I figured I'd indulge my crush in a so-so movie and be done with it, but I was actually engaged from start to finish. The concept is scary as hell, but provides some interesting food for thought. There's some wonky dialogue, but the movie is smart enough not to try getting too talkey. Tension holds steady throughout, no chance to feel certain of anyone's safety. The Halloween-masked antagonists are particularly effective, and their scenes especially well staged. There's plenty of violence, but nothing overly graphic or gory. Grillo is well suited to his role. I expect I'd feel pretty safe in his charge were my life threatened...or, hell, even if it weren't. The rest of the main cast does a decent job of: a.) appearing terrified, and b.) running for their lives. So. Much. Running. It's like a World Cup game, but without the diving. Finally, the movie gets full marks for not wearing out its welcome.
The Purge: Anarchy clocks in at 103 minutes and is rated R for "strong disturbing violence and language."

It may not be what you'd call a "summer fun" movie, but it's engaging, entertaining, and worth the price of admission. Of a possible nine Weasleys, I'm happy to give The Purge: Anarchy seven.
Until next time..

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Saturday, July 19, 2014


A vengeful father comes to the aid of a mother, her teenage daughter, and a defenseless young couple on the one night of the year that all crime, including murder, is legal in this self-contained sequel from producer Jason Blum and original writer/director James DeMonaco.  This unlikely group must stick together in order to survive the night. But little do they realize that their nightmare has only just begun. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

Director: James DeMonaco

Cast: Frank Grillo, Kiele Sanchez, Michael K. Williams, Zach Gilford, Carmen Ejogo

Release Date: Jul 18, 2014

Rated: R for Strong Disturbing Violence and Language 

Runtime: 1 hr. 43 min. 

Genres: Horror, Suspense/Thriller 


The Purge was a solid film with a nice little premise which it never really expanded on, instead just turning it into a standard home invasion thriller.  There was plenty of meat on the idea to explore which was left untouched by the original so I was looking forward to a sequel but worried it’d miss the point of it all.  The Purge: Anarchy is actually a nice surprise even if the message is about as subtle as a sledgehammer.  The story smartly gives us 3 storylines to follow which converge rather quickly.  It’s enough to give us a feel for the world at play and some of the ideas extrapolated out stretching the not so subtle metaphor out and expanding the mythos.  The characters outside of Frank Grillo’s, delivering a grizzled Punisher like performance,  man out for vengeance are rather bland but they’re there to serve a purpose.  We are given a Warriors like trek through the anarchy like streets during Purge night.  At its core, the sequel feels a lot like some of the wonderfully ham fisted exploitation message movies from the 70’s and 80’s which isn’t a bad thing.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Cindy Prascik's Review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dearest Blog, today it was off to the cinema for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers.

A decade after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a virus has wiped out most of humanity. What's left attempts an uneasy peace with the apes, but...........

Well, dear reader(s), as usual I have to be upfront and admit I hated Rise of the Planet of the Apes so much I was prepared to take a pass on this one. Then they cast Gary Oldman, and chances of my taking a pass on a Gary Oldman movie are about as much as my saying, "No thank you," if someone offered me a winning lotto ticket. I never go into a movie set on hating it, but in this case it might have saved me some disappointment if I had.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is even worse than its predecessor...if such things can be measured. I struggled mightily to stay awake through the first hour, and mostly just prayed for the end through the second. Though the disaster effects are alright, the apes once again look like a bad cartoon.

Andy Serkis is a genius, but he hasn't won me over with his much-lauded portrayal of Cesar, the leader of the apes. Jason Clarke and Keri Russell are about as meh as any movie pairing, ever. Gary is great with what screen time he's got, but it's not nearly enough to salvage anything from this mess. Boring "emotional" scenes alternate with somewhat-less-boring action scenes.

There's a smattering of not-funny humor thrown in for good measure, all leading up to a cheesy, predictable ending. Usually I can at least get a laugh out of poking fun at something this terrible, but right now I just resent that my seven bucks will help this dog turd take the number-one spot at this weekend's box office.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes runs 130 minutes and is rated PG13 for "intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief strong language."

If you're a fellow Gary Oldman addict, you'll understand when I say I'd rather re-watch Tiptoes or Nobody's Baby than sit through this EVER again.

Of a possible nine Weasleys, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes gets one.

Until next time..

Saturday, July 12, 2014


This follow-up to Rise of the Planet of the Apes concerns the next step in the genetically advanced primates' takeover of the world as a virus begins to wipe out the human race. Let Me In's Matt Reeves handles directing duties, with Gary Oldman, Jason Clark, and Kodi Smit-McPhee headlining the human cast. ~ Jeremy Wheeler, Rovi

Director: Matt Reeves 

Cast: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell

Release Date: Jul 11, 2014

Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi/Fantasy 

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief strong language


Rise of The Planet of the Apes is one of those rare reboots that actually worked.  Against all odds, and a failed Tim Burton attempt, it set up a prequel franchise properly so the sequel had a lot to live up to.  Dawn of The Planet of the Apes succeeds on various fronts with Andy Serkis, Hollywood’s most underappreciated actor, front and center this go around.  The apes are fully realized creations with definitive personas and motivations.  The script delivers some wonderfully fleshed out characters from the opening sequences with a big chunk of the characterization done without spoken dialogue, its true testament to the work done by the motion capture actors.  In an odd reversal, the human characters get the short end of the stick.  Most of them, even the criminally underused Gary Oldman, are just types there to serve the script.  Jason Clake is appropriately stoic and noble throughout but never given anything meaningful to do.  Oldman is asked to be paranoid and scream Jim Gordon style which he does well but I just wish there was more to the character.  Thankfully the ape characters are interesting enough to keep the film thoroughly engaging even if the actual plot is a run of the mill coup d'état.  Even with it’s faults Dawn of The Planet of the Apes is one of the better summer films of the season with more heart than most other films out.


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