MOVIE REVIEW: GANGSTER SQUAD (2013)

Running time: 1 hour, 53 minutes
Cast: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Emma Stone
Director: Ruben Fleischer

Gangster Squad boasts an A-List cast and Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer, but apparently that’s not enough to make a great movie. I felt this movie was over the top at times, a little cheesy, and way too heavy handed with the gun violence. Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, and Sean Penn are definitely worth watching and I think they saved this movie from being plain bad.

Gangster Squad 2013 poster

Picture it:

1949. Los Angeles. Gangster Mickey Cohen (Penn) is terrorizing the city and Sgt. O’Mara (Brolin) leads a secret police unit tasked with driving Cohen out of town. Sgt. Wooters (Gosling) is the last cop to join the unit, and he’s also having an affair with Mickey’s girlfriend, Grace (Stone). Now, get yer guns ready!

Um, what kind of movie is this?

I couldn’t tell if this movie meant to be a spoof, or if there was just some bad acting and writing in certain spots. One scene that comes to mind: Gracie is at a club wearing THE red dress that you see in the poster, and she makes immediate eye contact with Wooters. Gracie speaks in a slow, drawling, breathy tone reminiscent of the 1940s leading ladies of Hollywood, and Wooters had an awful Bogart-esque, too cool for school tone. I almost laughed. But then I started thinking it was supposed to be serious.

Shoot ’em up!

I think ‘Guns’ should have top billing alongside Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling. Seriously, I tuned out during the numerous shooting scenes, and I thought it was a bit excessive.

Good cast…but two people didn’t mesh well.

Josh Brolin carried this movie as the earnest do-gooder O’Mara. We got a sense of his family life with his pregnant wife Connie, who is scared for his life as he hunts down Cohen. Sean Penn really hammed it up as the bad guy and he was fun to watch. I cringed through some of the scenes with Gosling and Stone though. On a scale of 1 to 10 their chemistry level was a 0, which surprised me because so many critics praised their chemistry in 2011’s Crazy, Stupid, Love. 

Final thought.

This movie was frustrating at times, because I felt some parts of the plot were rushed forward and other parts were only partially explored. However, I didn’t regret watching this movie because the actors were so damn good with the material they were given.

If you watched Gangster Squad let me know what you thought about it!

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MOVIE REVIEW: PAIN AND GAIN (2013)

Running time: 2 hours, 9 minutes
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub, Ed Harris
Director: Michael Bay

I never thought I’d say this, but I went to a Michael Bay movie and had a good time! Pain & Gain has plenty of laugh out loud moments and a stand out performance from Dwayne Johnson. It is a little unsettling to watch though, because this movie is based on a true story of kidnapping, torture, and extortion. There’s also some jarring scenes here, so I think your enjoyment of the movie will depend on your personal tolerance level.

Pain and Gain 2013 poster

Quick Summary

Daniel Lugo (Wahlberg) is a fast talking, not-so-bright Miami bodybuilder at Sun Gym. He  enlists fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Mackie) and recently released convict Paul Doyle (Johnson) to help him execute a plan: extort assets from a new, wealthy Sun Gym member named Victor Kershaw (Shalhoub). Their plan quickly spirals into kidnapping, torture, and murder.

The Good

Dwayne Johnson is hilarious as Paul Doyle, a convict who wants to serve God but becomes increasingly conflicted during the extortion scheme. Johnson typically plays no-nonsense characters (see: Fast Five, Fast 6, Snitch, GI Joe), but his WWF/WWE fans know that he is a very funny guy. Rebel Wilson, who stars as Doorbal’s wife, and Johnson serve as the comedic relief in an otherwise depressing movie. One of the funniest scenes is Doyle cooking severed hands on a barbecue grill. It’s ludicrous, disgusting, and insane but Johnson plays it well.

The Bad

This is a very, very, very dark comedy, and after reading the true story I’ve decided that I can’t watch this again. It’s hard to laugh during this movie when you realize how much dismemberment and blood didn’t make the cut, considering the movie already has plenty of those elements in it. There are some scenes that are hard to watch, such as the scenario where the Sun Gym gang realized torture, fire, and an SUV won’t be enough to kill Kershaw.

Score a point for Michael Bay

I think Bay lucked upon this movie, so I don’t expect him to repeat this and deliver another good movie. Pain & Gain includes a couple of the typical Bay standards: hot, scantily clad women and an over-abundance of machismo and bravado, but these aspects seem credible given the story shown here.

Final thought

I enjoyed this movie up to a certain point and then it became uncomfortable. I can’t easily recommend this movie.


MOVIE REVIEW: PITCH PERFECT (2012)

Running time: 1 hour, 52 minutes
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Skylar Astin, Anna Camp, Brittany Snow
Director: Jason Moore


When Pitch Perfect hit theaters in fall 2012 I didn’t rush out to see it. It received rave reviews from the critics but I’m always hesitant to watch musicals. I do have some musicals that I enjoy, such as Cats, Sweeney Todd, and Singin’ in the Rain, but  since I knew Pitch Perfect would include today’s biggest hits I didn’t want to watch a 2 hour Glee-inspired movie.

I have finally watched it and I enjoyed it! I suppose one downside is that the plot is very predictable. There’s no surprises here and it all ends just as you would expect. However, the music scenes are fun, all of the actors are funny and have distinct personalities, and overall it is very entertaining.

Pitch Perfect 2012 musical comedy

Beca Mitchell (Kendrick) is a reluctant freshman student at Barden University. She wants to move to LA and pursue a career in music, but since her father is a professor at Barden he convinces her to try college for a year. If she gets involved at school and still doesn’t like it, he promises to help her move to LA. Enter the Barden Bellas, an all-girl a capella group led by Aubrey (Camp) and Chloe (Snow).

There’s a funny scene that shows how Beca is officially recruited into the group, and one-by-one the Bellas create a group of misfits: super soft whisperer Lily (Hana Mae Lee) who actually seems a bit disturbed, sex-obsessed Stacie (Alexis Knapp) who has a huge bust-line and shirts that are a bit small, Cynthia-Rose (singer-songwriter Ester Dean) who has amazing vocals and a gambling habit, and lastly Fat Amy (Wilson) who is a fan favorite for obvious reasons -she’s freaking hilarious.

Of course we need to have a love story, so let’s cue Jesse Swanson (Astin) a fellow freshman who develops a crush on Beca. He joins the Bellas’ archnemesis, an all-male a capella group called the Treblemakers. Can they find love even though they are on rival teams? Hm?

All of the songs are performed in fun sequences, and are definitely the highlights of the film. Some of the songs include Rihanna’s ‘Don’t Stop the Music’, Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Since You Been Gone’, and even ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ by  Simple Minds gets remixed for the movie.

This is probably a movie that I’ll only watch every once in a while, but it was quite enjoyable. Below, check out Anna Kendrick performing ‘Cups’, which turns out to be one of the most popular scenes from the movie:

Anna on David Letterman:

The official music video (skip to 1:15 if you want to just get to the music):

Did you enjoy Pitch Perfect?


MOVIE REVIEW: IRON MAN 3 (2013)

Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Cast: Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley, Rebecca Hall
Director: Shane Black

I enjoyed Iron Man 3 but I doubt I would ever watch it again. It’s a fun summer movie with some cool action sequences, and Robert Downey, Jr. delivers another great performance as Tony Stark, but after awhile I got tired of the explosions and wanted to see more of the actual story. Also, the villians kinda sucked in this one.

Iron Man 3 movie starring Robert Downey, Jr and Gwyneth Paltrow

Of course this movie stars off with a look into Tony Stark’s super-rich, super-exclusive, are-you-jealous-yet lifestyle. He’s at a New Year’s Eve party in 1999 with Michelle Hansen (Hall), a scientist who is working on a regenerative treatment named Extremis. Tony blows off an impromptu meeting with another scientist named Aldrich Killian (Pearce) and it comes back to haunt him. So…

Fast forward a few years and Tony is suffering from panic attacks following the events from The Avengers movie. He works endlessly to create an army of Iron Man suits, but his work puts a strain on his relationship with Pepper Potts. A terrorist named the Mandarin starts launching a string of bombings, one of the bombings hits too close for comfort in Tony’s area, and the war is on!

One cool thing about this movie is the Iron Man army that is controlled remotely by JARVIS, and occasionally Tony Stark will jump into one of the suits as needed. Who doesn’t love shiny robots? However, with all of the high flying and super-speed tricks there is something that the movie is missing, which is a convincing villian.

Ben Kingsley has a comedic turn as the Mandarin, who appears in mass televised broadcasts and talks about his bombings. His character actually has a minor role here. Then we have Killian who is still bitter that Tony blew off their meeting many years before, and he’s determined to show that Extremis is a dangerous force that needs to be respected.

I liked Guy Pearce as Killian. He could’ve played this role as a one-dimensional, bitter brute who wants to laugh at Iron Man and say ‘Haha I’m stronger than you” but Pearce tries to give his character multiple layers and imply that perhaps Killian is in over his head. But even with Killian’s powers I still wasn’t convinced that he could actually defeat Tony Stark.

Overall I enjoyed Iron Man 3 but I do think its the weakest of the entire trilogy. It is a fun movie and I would recommend it, but if I had to pick out some of my favorites from the growing Marvel movie canon I’m not sure I would reach for this one.

If you saw Iron Man 3 let me know what you thought about it!


SAD TIMES: NBC CANCELS ‘DECEPTION’

Hi folks, I have some sad news for the #RenewDeception fans: It’s been canceled. Huffington Post has the details. Seems like the declining ratings really hurt the show, even though the writing and the acting were pretty solid in the second half of the season.

Deception NBC

 

I understand why this show was canceled but trust me, I don’t like it. This show started off very slowly and a little shaky. The storyline was tough to get into in the first couple episodes, and the characters were very cliche to me. I’m sure lots of people stopped watching at this point.

However, as we headed into mid-season the show hit a really strong groove. The storyline seemed to even out and gave us an awesome conspiracy surrounding the death of Vivian Bowers, and each character developed their own interesting storylines.

I especially loved episode 9 titled ‘Good Luck With Your Death’. The writing was excellent,  the characters threw some incredibly nasty insults at each other, and we saw some of the best scenes of the entire series, including the following:

Meagan Good and Wes Brown gave the viewers something to root for as their characters Joanna and Julian tried to navigate through their complicated relationship. They are affectionately referred to as ‘Jolian’ by the Deception fandom but unfortunately we won’t see new Jolian moments in a season 2.

If you watched Deception, are you sad to see it go or do you think the cancellation is justified?