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Tower Heist Movie Review

America is currently faced with #Occupy Everywhere.  The rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer. “Tower Heist” is a movie hitting the box office with precision timing.  It’s basically the one percenters vs. the ninety-nine percenters. Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) is a billionaire Hedge Fund Manager who lives in the Penthouse high above The Tower.  Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) manages the residence like a hotel.  He’s all about customer service. He and his staff are at their beckon call 24/7.

About a decade before, Josh asked Mr. Shaw for a favor, a business favor.  Representing Tower employees, Josh asked Shaw to invest their life savings.  As you’ve seen in the trailer, Shaw gets arrested & all the money is gone.  Infuriated, frustrated & cheated, Josh decides to take his team’s money back the swindler.  This sets the story into motion.

An unlikely team of bandits is assembled. They are, a down and out Wall Street investment broker, Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick) a concierge with a very short attention span, Charlie (Ben Affleck) a bellhop with visions of grandieur, Enrique Dev’Reaux, (Michael Pena) who’s nicknamed The Puerto Rican-Mohican, a Jamaican maid with attitude & hormones (Gabourey Sidibe) & a small time street hustler, Slide (Eddie Murphy.)

Together, they’re after $20 million.  The build up was very good.  You could see things clicking & working.  I also liked Special Agent Claire Denham (Tea Leoni.)  She played a likable agent who sympathized with the fraud victims & clicked with Ben Stiller’s character.    It was good to see Eddie Murphy returning to familiar territory.  After all, he’s played a few of my all time favorite characters like Billy Ray Valentine: Capricorn in “Trading Places,” Reggie Hammond, “48 Hours” & of course, Axel Foley in “Beverly Hills Cop.”

I’m sure Eddie’s early worked inspired director Brett Ratner.  It was vintage 80’s Eddie & that was good to see back on the big screen.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.  Everything with Tower Heist was working until the  Tower Heist itself.  On another note, last year, I was diggin’ “Iron Man 2” until the lame sequence when Jon Favreau was driving through the Monaco Grand Prix– in the wrong direction!

POSSIBLE SPOILER, BUT WHEN THE HECK, IT’S IN THE TRAILER.  The movie derails into the very same lameness when the caper resorts to driving a speeding truck through the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade– in the wrong direction!  It turns into a slapstick vibe when marching band trombone players are jumping out of the way.  It’s pretty bad.

In closing, the first two-thirds of Tower Heist are enjoyable.  In my humble opinion, the heist could have been more clever, more daring & most of all more believable.  It’s OK if you’re in the mood, but certainly won’t be remembered as a great heist film.  If that’s what you’re into, rent the original or remake of “The Thomas Crown Affair.”  It’s the very definition of a clever heist movie.

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The Rum Diary Movie Review

“The Rum Diary” is the co0lest movie of the year, by a longshot.  Puerto Rico circa 1960, how amazing that must’ve been. Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) is a reporter who’s had enough of the big city.  His writing assignments will now be for the San Juan Star newspaper.  The supporting cast is outstanding.  The paper’s editor, Lotterman (Richard Jenkins) is a frantic mess. In the newsroom, Paul buddies up with another reporter Sala. (Michael Rispoli)

If two words could describe this chapter of Paul Kemp’s life, they’d be rum-soaked.  Booze is everywhere.  Moburg (Giovanni Ribisi) is yet another reporter who covers religion, witchcraft & loves playing his records.  The downside of the records is they’re speeches of Adolf Hitler.  Moburg’s got access to booze that’s over 400 proof.  This isn’t alcohol abuse, it’s akin to drinking rocket fuel.  And these boys do drink.  Depp does hangovers like no other.

There is a ‘Rub’ a midst all the rum.  Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart) sees the island of Puerto Rico not as a tropical paradise, but as the tropical paradise that’ll make him a billionaire.   It’s all about the money.  So when Sanderson needs to ‘buy off’ a reporter to ensure favorable copy, he seeks out Paul Kemp.  The rich playboy Sanderson has everything, even the blonde bombshell pinup girl, Renault. (Amber Heard)

What I liked about the film is Johnny Depp’s return to quirky.   Johnny actually found this novel gathering dust in Hunter S. Thompson’s office.  After almost a decade of sailing, swords & sashaying ala Captain Jack Sparrow, Depp ventures off the beaten path to a place where few are willing to go.

The dialogue is wicked crisp.   The jazz score is perfect.  Along the way, you’ll encounter hostile natives, cock fights & alternate methods of transportation. My favorite:  The motorbike with sidecars.    Ultimately, Paul Kemp has to answer one question: Do I sell out, or do I bring down the bastards ‘with ink & rage!?!’

Johnny Depp developed & produced this film dedicating it to his late buddy & father figure, Hunter S. Thompson.  What a perfectly psychedelic tribute.  Now, someone pass me the rum.

“The Rum Diary” is Rated R.

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Puss In Boots Movie Review

Antonio Banderas’ voice is simply perfect for the animated feline, Puss in Boots……oh, and the Nasonex Bumblebee. Puss In Boots finally steps out into his very own adventure.  This story takes us to a time and place years before the feisty feline ever met a wise-cracking ogre named Shrek.

This a prequel I like to call, #OccupyFairyTale. It weaves in familiar characters like the dude with those crazy-magic beans, Jack, (voiced by Billy Bob Thorton). Or the dude who’s rightfully afraid of heights, Humpty Dumpty (voiced by Zach Galiafinakis).  Oh & there’s furry love too with Kitty Softpaws, (voiced by Salma Hayek).

Puss In Boots is silky smooth with all the lady cats, but come morning, he’s makin’ tracks.   The story synopsis:  Running from the law, Puss is an outlaw, with wanted posters adorning his hometown.  As kids, Puss In Boots & Humpty Dumpty were thick as thieves living in the same orphanage.   They both had a dream, they’d one day get Jack’s crazy-magic beans, plant the beanstalk & ascend to rarefied air, the place where a magic goose lays Golden Eggs, (by the dozen).

That scheme gets put into motion.  If there’s a theme for the young ones here, it’s trust issues. Trust your friends.  They may sometime betray you, but that’s life.  Learn from it.  There’s plenty of scenes that involve swordplay & dancing. I’m confident all the kiddies will be spellbound for the 90-minute running time.

My favorite parts of the movie were when we see the little things cats do.  Scratching, cleaning, rubbing & purring. I especially enjoyed seeing Puss In Boots order up a straight shot of milk in a western saloon.  Hats off to the animation team.

This is a fun movie.  Kids will love it.  As for movie critics who gave it an F, do us all a favor, just quit.  Can’t you let kids enjoy a movie without snooty criticism? Does every single movie need to be an Oscar contender starring Helen Mirren?   Get out of the business.

This movie is being touted as Puss In Boots 3D.  There’s an option here as many theaters are showing it in 2D.  You can easily save a few bucks there. If you want honest movie reviews, I’m always here.  Get the Film Freak iPhone – iPad app. It’s the app that saves you money on movies.  Just search Film Freak.

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In Time Movie Review

Justin Timberlake continues his non-stop acting assault.  Last year, he took on the part of real-life Tech Wiz, Sean Parker in “The Social Network,” this year the romantic comedy, “Friends with Benefits” & now the Sci-Fi Thriller, “In Time.” Set in the future, “In Time” is a simple story about the “Haves” & the “Have Nots.”

The currency isn’t money, it’s seconds, minutes, days, weeks, months, years, decades & tens of decades.  In this world, humans age until their full growth peak of 25 years old.  That’s when everyone stops aging.  The time display on your forearm allows just one more year of life.  One year, not a second more or less.

The way to stay alive in this game (of life) is obtain more time.  Beg, borrow, steal.  Most people are poor and only have one or two days worth of time.  You get up, work & you’re given a few precious hours, another day.   Just enough hours so you have to come back the next day, just in the nick of time.

Timberlake plays Will Salas, a guy in the ghetto who lives day to day.   He represents the masses.  In a twist of very good fate, Will finds himself with more time than he ever dreamed.  Imagine, you were walking down the street & you found a wheelbarrow filled with thousand dollars bills & it was all yours.  So now Will is upwardly mobile.  He was to mix it up with the ultra rich.  This is where society takes its time, because they have more than they could ever use.

It’s there where he meets Sylvia Weis, (Amanda Seyfried) a woman who comes from time. Her father, Philippe Weis (Mad Men’s Vincent Kartheiser) owns & operates the largest Time Lending Company on the planet.  Long story/short, Will & Sylvia make a run for it.  I like the cops of this world: Time Keepers.  Cillian Murphy plays Raymond Leon, a time cop that’s been on the beat for well over 50 years.  Sylvia finally learns what life is like when you can only live it day to day.

The film is set and filmed in Los Angeles for a specific reason.  People in LA seem to be much more obsessed with youth & the idea of staying young.  Take note.  You won’t see any graffiti in the movie, because people in this world just don’t have time to waste on such nonsense.  I liked how people in the ghetto were always rushing.  No choice. If you only had 12 hours before you ‘Timed Out,’ you’d hustle, double-step  & eat your food on the run every single day.

At the end of the day, it’s a Robin Hood story of stealing time from the rich & giving it to the poor.  The filmmakers aren’t being coy.  This is social commentary.  Those on the political right will have a field day dissecting “In Time.”  It’s all about redistributing wealth.  Those on the top want to keep it all while those on the bottom are quite literally dying in the streets because they’re out of time.

“In Time” is rated PG-13

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Paranormal Activity 3 Movie Review

“Paranormal Activity” is the new “Saw.”  The third haunting is a prequel.  It’s  September 1988. It is the golden age of VHS recordings.  These recordings show just how two young girls are terrorized by demons hiding under their covers.  The pace is slow, but that’s intentional.  The film making is minimalist to say the least.  No score. Subtle special effects.

If you’ve seen the first two, you’re in for a couple of pretty good scares.  I really don’t see too many people jumping in now without seeing the first two.  In defense of this film, it is a stand alone & you’ll be up to speed.  For me, I could feel myself tightening up as the suspense was building.  I got a little jumpy.  In the moment, I do get freaked. I’ve always been that way. But when the movie’s over, I jump in my car & forget about it.  No lingering nightmares.  That’s how I gauge these films, does the Freak-Out-Factor when you’re trying to sleep kick into play?  I was fine.

I imagine, we’ll be right back here next year talking about # 4.  Why is that? If audiences keep shelling out over 60 million bucks to see these films, rest assured, Hollywood will keep servin’ them up!

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3 Musketeers Movie Review

Alexandre Dumas’ “The 3 Musketeers” has been around for ages.  Films of this famed trio dates all the way back to 1939.  The most recent incarnation was 18 years ago with Charlie Sheen as one of the musketeers.  Swashbuckling! Winning! 2011 gets its brand new musketeer makeover.  The cast includes, D’Artagnon (Logan Lerman),  Athos (Luke Evans), Aramis (Matthew MacFayden) & Porthos (Ray Stevens).   Also along for the ride is Cardinal Richilieu (Christoph Waltz), Milady de Winter (Milla Jovivich) & finally the Duke of Buckingham, (Orlando Bloom).  The question: Did Bloom ‘defect’ the Pirates franchise or was he written out?  Either way, he’s back to get his sword-fighting ya-yas out again.

Let’s be clear folks.  This isn’t Oscar worthy material.  I will say, this type of movie had to be the kind of movie you’d go see on any Saturday afternoon anywhere from 50 to 75 years ago.  Pure adventure & the wondermint of film.  That’s what I thought about.  Ease up on the artsy-fartsy angle critics.   Yeah, the acting was just OK, yeah I can see the computer generated imagery in the background, yeah the dialogue speech accents are all over the place,  except France, where the story takes place.  I’m willing to overlook these things. Why? The bigger picture.

There was also cleverness in the form of aquatic assassins, hidden traps & passages ALA Indiana Jones, wonderful props, swords, weapons like grappling guns, detailed costumes & excellent production value.  There were cool ideas there.  I try to point out the good things as much as possible.  The crowd I saw the movie with, were all having a good time.  That’s key.

I’m pretty sure the studio is going after a much younger crowd.  This movie borrows heavily from “Pirates of the Caribbean,” & even “The Princess Bride.” (I counted at least four subtle & not so subtle references to one of my all time faves! All except the priest saying Mah-wage).  There’s a serious market for young, active moviegoers.  I think kids anywhere from 8 to 18 will really enjoy this adventure.

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50/50 Movie Review

Movie critics are raving about how “50/50” is the ‘best movie of the year,’ ‘the best comedy of the year,’ and my favorite ’50/50 is achingly funny.’  These people are literally off their collective rockers.  I get it.  It’s a true story about a guy who gets cancer & finds the humaneness & finds the humor during his journey.  I call BS.

I know what funny is.  For me personally, a cancer themed movie is a terrible thing in and of itself.  Using cancer as a springboard for ‘Funny-HaHa’ plays into my theory about movie critics. 100% of the time they love seeing someone up on screen with a life more screwed up than their own.  Please don’t brand me heartless.  You & I both know loved ones who’ve fallen to cancer or if lucky have survived this dreadful disease.  Excuse me if I don’t want to see that much reality on the big screen.  But what about seeing it on HBO? Redbox?  Blockbuster?  Maybe, if I’ve seen everything else, twice.

I will not jump on this fake bandwagon of how funny 50/50 is.  I was surrounded by movie critics laughing at really weird, awkward, unfunny cancer scenarios.  I wanted to stop the movie, stand up and ask these people what planet they’re from? These so called movie experts’ opinions are way out there on the outer fringe.  Theirs is the only voice heard because they are the only ones making noise, writing movie reviews.

Movie Snobs who dig heavy heavy dramedy, 50/50 was made just for you.  If this is your type of movie, your life has to be in a word, miserable.  Movies are supposed to be about escapism & wonderment.   For me 50 50 was So So.

50/50 is Rated R.

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Machine Gun Preacher Movie Review

Based on a true story, “Machine Gun Preacher” is a Baptism by gunfire.  Sam Childers, (Gerard Butler) is a scumbag.  He’s in jail for God-knows-what.  He’s a junkie who’d be high on crack for a month!  He’s a thief & probably a murderer too.  Oh and top it all off in a callous manner, he’s upset at his wife Lynn, (Michelle Monaghan) for quitting her night job….as a stripper! This guy’s a real piece of work.

Then Childers “gets right” with The Lord.  He created a church for sinners, The Shekinah Fellowship Church in Central City, Pennsylvania.  His life’s journey takes him all the way to Africa, more specifically, Sudan.   Sam just wanted to help out & lend a hand.  It’s there where he witnessed first-hand atrocities that happens to innocent kids every single day.  The game-changer: witnessing a young child getting his limbs blown off by way of a landmine.  It was that millisecond that changed Sam Childers forever.

Director Marc Forster doesn’t pull any punches.  You’ll see evil at work. To quote Sam Childers, “I found God in 1992, but I found Satan in 1998 in Sudan.”  Childers organized almost suicidal rescue missions to find & retrieve children whose lives have been shattered by this bloody civil war.  Being good with his hands, Sam built the Angels of East Africa Orphanage. Let’s talk numbers. The orphanage feeds at least 1,200 hungry children daily who are traumatized, injured, tortured & abandoned.  In the 125-degree heat, his place is not a mirage, it’s a miracle.

Saving kids in Sudan comes at a cost: Human life.  The white preacher quickly garnered a reputation of being an eye-for-an-eye type of man.  If a few evil men with guns were harming dozens of innocent kids, Sam’s decision was clear cut.  Take out the bad guys with a machine gun & rush the kids to safety & shelter.

Gerry Butler was up for the task.  He dove into this role by studying the man, Sam Childers.  If there was a scene where Sam was fixing a sink, Butler trained with licensed plumbers.  On the job site, he worked construction contractors. And yes, he mixed things up with full on tattooed bikers to get that leather, tough guy feel just right.  Butler also watched Childers speak for many many hours. He even taped his church sermons & spent lots of time with his family.  Total immersion. I love when actors do everything humanly possible to get the role right.  Plus, the guy does his own stunts in this film.

I liked how two worlds were showcased.  If Sam was saving kids in Africa, you have the feeling he was missing his family back in the states.  When he’s back with his family, you can tell he wants to be back to save more children.  Very powerful usage of both worlds.

If you want to help the cause, simply purchase Sam Childer’s book,  ‘Another Man’s War: The True Story of One Man’s Battle to Save Children in The Sudan.’

The story of Sam Childers is an amazing one.  “Machine Gun Preacher” is Rated R for extreme violence & drug usage.

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Moneyball Movie Review

Something impossible happened when I was watching “Moneyball.”  I felt a rush of excitement & literally chills while grown men were talking about baseball statistics.  That’s right, stats!  That’s a credit to good writing & director Bennett Miller. I can’t say these same feelings will ring true for people who aren’t students of the game.   Moneyball is the phrase used for creating a team through stats rather than starpower. That’s the entire movie in a roasted ball park nut shell.

Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, a one time unsuccessful pro ball player who is now the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics. Utilizing the theory of Sabermetrics, that’s just the Fancy-Pants name for Moneyball, which factors in percentages & seizes undervalued players, the A’s 2002 season was simply spectacular.

What I loved about “Moneyball” was Brad Pitt’s fast-paced negotiating of professional ball players.  Man, this is pure wheelin’ & dealin.’  This gives the audience & possibly never-before-seen insight of these conversations between big league managers & how a player’s destiny can change faster than a Nolan Ryan fastball on a hot day in Texas.

I also loved how the theme of redemption.  In this newfangled calculated strategy of baseball, ballplayers were given a second shot at The Show.  The conventional system of baseball scouting would spit out a player for life for any number of reasons: Age, addictions, attitude, ability, apathy & injuries.  Damaged Goods?  Bring it on!  Billy Beane, basically went to the junkyard, got forgotten parts & went for wins not winners.

The only real bad guy in “Moneyball” are the games lost. You are pulling for the A’s with every pitch.  The winning streak in 2002 was affirmation of this incredible new way of thinking.  Loved everything about the way the winning streak was played out in the film. You will too.  The pace of the movie is slow & steady & builds as would a traditional baseball game.

Some might find the pace slow, but I thought it was perfect.   Philip Seymour Hoffman was perfect as A’s Manager Art Howe.  Hoffman knows the golden rule in acting, this is a Brad Pitt movie, not a Philip Seymour Hoffman movie.  His performance is understated with a defined presence. It brought perfect authenticity.

There’s no love story in “Moneyball,” sorry ladies. I’m sure Brad Pitt’s face always attracts females at the box office.  It’s a solid movie that scores a “W.”

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Drive Movie Review

“Drive” is a movie with definite meat on its bones.   I can’t believe how many SPOILERS there are in various “Drive” trailers. Stay away from them if you don’t want to know too much.  Set in downtown Los Angeles, “Drive” seems like a movie catapulted out of the 1980’s.  There’s a minimalist vibe not unlike “The Terminator” from 1984.  Composer Cliff Martinez’ score was absolutely inspired by those hideous 80’s sounding synthesizers.   The musical effect worked perfectly with the tone of the film.

IMDB lists Ryan Gosling’s character’s name as simply, Driver.  This guy is a getaway driver, plain & simple. That’s what he does.  If you’re using him on a job, you’ve got 5 minutes. He doesn’t partake in the crime or carry a gun.  He just drives. His day job is a garage mechanic & also working part time as a balls-to-the-wall stunt driver in the movies.

This guy doesn’t live beyond his means.  He lives in a run down apartment complex.  His boss at the garage, Shannon (Bryan Cranston) is unsuccessful at enterprising, so he consorts with low level thugs, Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) & Nino (Ron Perlman).  There latest venture involves Driver.  One of my favorite things about this film was Albert Brooks’ departure from most everything I’ve ever seen him do.  When you see, you will know.

“Drive” has garnered an “R” rating. It deserves the hard “R” because it goes flat out over the top in its violent sequences. Tough for a date movie.  I know how many women love seeing a clean-cut Ryan Gosling on the big screen.  Be prepared for blood. It’s there with plenty of pints being spilled.

At the end of the day, there’s a score that needs settling.  It’s burn their house down or die.  Simple, straight forward.

You care for the characters.  Driver’s neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) has a nice little boy.  They are the ones who need protection & you feel their peril every inch of the way.  What I will say about Gosling’s character, he’s not much of a talker, but he’s resilient.  Brooding, he’s an eye-for-an-eye type of guy. Don’t mess with him.  He’ll run over you, then slam the car in reverse & do it again. Why?  To finish the job.  Talk about the Michelin Man Massacre.

If you need to employ violence to get out of bad situation & you don’t mind blood, then ‘Drive’ is your movie!

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