Darren's Movie Reviews & News
Top Gun

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Starring: Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerritt, MIchael Ironside, Barry Tubb, John Stockwell, Rick Rossovich, Tim Robbins, Clarence Gilyard Jr., Whip Hubley, James Tolkan, Meg Ryan

Directed by Tony Scott

Run Time: 110 min
Rating: PG
Genre: Action, Drama, Romance
Release Date: May 16, 1986

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 55%

My Score: 9 out of 10

Synopsis:

Hotshot naval pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Cruise) is sent to the Top Gun Academy to enhance his flying skills with his co-pilot Nick “Goose” Bradshaw (Edwards). There, Maverick enters a head-to-head battle with fellow classmate Tom “Iceman” Kasanzky (Kilmer) for the top spot in the class and falls in love with Charlotte Blackwood (McGillis), who turns out to be one of his instructs at Top Gun.

Review:

This movie screams the 80’s, but heck!! It is what it is! Top Gun is your typical 80’s film with a basic plot, a killer soundtrack, and great stars!

Tom Cruise stars as Maverick, a hot shot pilot given the chance to train at the Top Gun Flight Academy in Fightertown, USA. At the school, there is a whole host of unforgettable characters that feel like they are unique, but also could fit into any 80’s flick. The most notable, tough call between Val Kilmer’s Iceman and Kelly McGillis’s Charlotte Blackwood who is Maverick’s instructor and also love interest. The plot is basic, but the dogfight at the end is great. Although it has pacing problems at points, the lines and music makeup for it entirely and make those moments easy to forget.

The film is memorable in many ways. The lines are great, some even go to length and are iconic (“I feel the need…the need for speed”) and the soundtrack is even better. Featuring great songs that are still around today, including “Take My Breath Away”, “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”, and “Danger Zone”; its obvious why this movie has made its impact on culture. Older generations grew up watching it, and younger ones continue to discover it.

Final Thoughts:

 Top Gun may not be the most sophisticated film, but its a fun ride with great characters, iconic lines and a memorable soundtrack that make it a timeless classic for many movie goers.

Transcendence

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Starring: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Kate Mara, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy, Cole Hauser, Clifton Collins Jr., Cory Hardrict

Directed by Wally Pfister

Run Time: 119 min
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Science Fiction, Drama
Release Date: April 18, 2014

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 14%

My Score: 6 out of 10

Synopsis:

Dr. Will Caster (Depp) is shot, and given five weeks to live. The attack on his life was carried by the terrorist group known as RIFT, and they hit several artificial intelligence labs across the country in hopes of preventing the technology from being further developed. Caster`s wife Evelyn (Hall) attempts to upload her dying husband to the internet so that she can preserve him, but RIFT and their friend Dr. Max Waters (Bettany) see this as the singularity that will change human life forever.

Review:

This movie looked really cool. The entire artificial intelligence premise was fascinating, and it felt like this movie could have been a really interesting science fiction flick, but unfortunately was not able to deliver on its promise. 

The film looks great, Wally Pfister`s experience as cinematographer for Christopher Nolan`s Inception shows as all of the shots of the film serve a visual purpose and make that purpose clear. But, missing to give the shots meaning is a compelling story line. The film starts off slow, but it builds on the premise and you feel like its going somewhere…..but it never does unfortunately. The cast is decent, all of them giving good performances but are restricted due to the plot issues. The movie is entertaining enough, but there are definitely moments where it lags and you begin to lose interest. For such a big concept, I felt that it could have been handled better but knowing that it would not be the best sci-fi flick I had ever seen. Was just looking for something decent.

Final Thoughts:

Cool idea, but due to poor plot development, Transcendence does not live up to its full potential despite boasting a talented cast.

Something Borrowed

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Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson, John Krasinski, Colin Egglesfield, Steve Howey, Ashley Williams, Geoff Pierson, Jill Eikenberry, Peyton List

Directed by Luke Greenfield

Based on the Novel by Emily Giffin

Run Time: 112 min
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Release Date: May 6, 2011

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 15%

My Score: 7.5 out of 10

Synopsis:

Rachel (Goodwin) has just turned thirty, and realizes that apart from being a New York lawyer, that she has in her mind wasted her twenties. While out with her best friend Darcy’s (Hudson) fiancee Dex (Egglesfield), the two have a one night stand routing back to their unspoken crush on each other while at law school. Attempting to hid it from Darcy, the two begin an affair as Rachel struggles with what she really wants with her life.

Review:

Not going to lie, but this movie was pretty entertaining! The plot is simple, but the laughs fly which makes the film a fun escape! The story sets itself up perfectly for the laughs as you watch Ginnifer Goodwin fall in love with her best friend’s fiance, and knowing that her best friend is a crazy woman played by Kate Hudson, its not going to be pretty! The plot is very basic and predictable, but the story is fun and the cast is entertaining enough to ignore the simplicity to the typical rom-com story line.

The reason the movie succeeds is the main cast. And by the main cast, I’m referring to John Krasinski as Ethan and Kate Hudson as Darcy. The two of them are absolutely hysterical through out the entire film and created such dynamic characters that you want to see how their story ends. Ginnfer Goodwin is entertaining in the lead role, but its her love interest in Colin Egglesfield that falls short in talent compared to the rest of the cast as he appears to just be a young version of Tom Cruise casted for his looks only. 

Memorable moments of the film…easily the badminton scene!! I don’t think I have ever seen that entertaining of a badminton scene in a film ever!! The jokes are flying, it absolutely steals the entire film and is just hysterically entertaining! If you watch the movie for any one scene, this is the scene you will be waiting for.

Final Thoughts:

Something Borrowed doesn’t offer much new to the romantic comedy genre, but its strong cast and hysterical through out the film easily make up for it providing a entertaining watch!

Footloose (1984)

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Starring: Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, Christopher Penn, Sarah Jessica Parker, Frances Lee McCain, Jim Youngs, John Laughlin

Directed by Herbert Ross

Run Time: 107 min
Rating: PG
Genre: Musical, Comedy, Romance
Release Date: February 17, 1984

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 56%

My Score: 6 out of 10

Synopsis:

Ren McCormack (Bacon) has left the big city and moved to a small town with his mother (McCain) to live with his aunt and uncle. But soon after arriving in the small town, Ren learns that dancing and rock & roll music have been outlawed, and Ren embarks on a battle against the ruling figures in the town to abolish the law preventing dancing so that he can continue doing the thing he loves the most.

Review:

The best part of Footloose is easily the film’s soundtrack. Featuring great songs from the 80’s as most iconic movies from the 80’s do, the songs drive the movie from start to finish. The story is also the timeless tale of teenage rebellion and following your dream as Kevin Bacon fights to make dancing available to teenagers in a small town. The story is nothing special, but its the music and dancing the steals the show. The dancing is not extraordinary, but it is entertaining and goes to some great songs. 

The cast itself isn’t bad. Kevin Bacon is here in one of his most notable roles and he dances his way through life quite easily, Lori Singer is a decent love interest and John Lithgow is good as the local reverend against dancing. Also in the film is Sarah Jessica Parker, and her infectiously happy personality is a nice addition to the film when it gets to serious and dry, lightening up the film in only a way that she could do.

Final Thoughts:

Footloose may not have the best story, but its music and dance sequences easily make up for this and is the reason why this classic 80’s movie is still remembered today.

Chronicle

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Starring: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan, Ashley Hinshaw, Michael Kelly, Anna Wood, Bo Petersen

Directed by Josh Trank

Run Time: 83 min
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Science Fiction, Action
Release Date: February 3, 2012

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

My Score: 7 out of 10

Synopsis:

Andrew (DeHaan) is a lonely child living with his abusive father (Kelly) and sick mother (Petersen). But while at a party one night with his cousin Matt (Russell), they stumble upon a mysterious cave in the ground with their classmate  Steve (Jordan). In the cave they find a strange object, but wake up the next morning with no recollection of leaving the cave and discover that they have all begun to develop telekinetic powers. 

Review:

I had never been a huge fan of any of the found footage films I had seen before, but Chronicle proved that if crafted in a smart manner, the found footage shooting style can make the movie more intense. The premise to Chronicle is simple. Three friends find an alien ship underground and soon after start displaying telekinetic powers. The cast is very good, each of the young actors gives a great performance which helps you create the connection to the characters that is necessary for this film to succeed. It feels like a superhero film at times, but its darker nature and deviation from that genre midway through the movie makes the movie standout compared to the typical hero origin story. The entire fight sequence at the end of the movie is perfectly laid out and absolutely thrilling, helping the conclusion to the movie to become a thrill ride that you do not want to miss!

Final Thoughts:

Chronicle is a great example of how found footage can intensify a movie, and the strong performances from DeHaan, Russell and Jordan ground the usual superhero origin story that takes an exciting dark twist leading to a great finale!

The Book Thief

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Starring: Sophie Nelisse, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Ben Schnetzer, Nico Leirish, Roger Allam

Directed by Brian Percival

Based on the Novel by Markus Zusack

Run Time: 131 min
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Drama
Release Date: November 8, 2013

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 46%

My Score: 6.5 out of 10

Synopsis:

Liesel (Nelisse) is sent to live with a new family (Rush and Watson), where she is taught by her adoptive father to read. As Liesel is enchanted by the wonders of the written words, she begins to seek out new books to read. But when a Jew appears on their doorstep one night, her parents begin to hide him in their basement to prevent him from being discovered by the Nazis, and Liesel comes to struggle with the way the world acts compared to the perfect image of it she has from the many novels she has read.

Review:

I was never one of the many individuals who read this novel and fell in love with it. I just never got around to it, but I tried out the film and I enjoyed it. The film follows young Liesel, portrayed through a great performance by Sophie Nelisse, who is sent to live with a foster family in Nazi Germany during World War II and learns to read while they are hiding a Jew in their basement. The film has a likable plot, but I find that its bigger message to be muddled and hard to discover at plots. But, the film has great performances from Nelisse and her adoptive parents played by Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson, which helps the movie’s long run time to move faster while the duo is on screen.

The movie has somewhat of a predictable ending. You know something bad is going to happen based on the period of the film, it was impossible for it to avoid the despair. And sure enough, it happens and it hurts if you have become invested in the story. I feel that the movie does a good job of investing its viewers in the story, but it doesn’t get them to the fullest potential in which the ending would be a complete emotional blow to viewers. The film’s score by John Williams adds to the emotion of the film, which is an added pleasure, but the score doesn’t reach the heights that many have claimed it has in my opinion.

Final Thoughts:

The Book Thief is a nice film featuring good performances from its three main cast members, but its message is muddled by its long run time and fails to make the connection with audience preventing the film from having the effect it strove to achieve.

Bears

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Narrated by John C. Reilly

Directed by Keith Scholley & Alastair Fothergill

Run Time: 86 min
Rating: G
Genre: Documentary
Release Date: April 18, 2014

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%

My Score: 6.5 out of 10

Synopsis:

Bears follows the first year in the lives of two young bear cubs and their mother as they make the venture from their winter dwelling in the look of food in the summer months.

Review:

Normally I’m not a fan of documentaries, but Disney sure knows who to make a documentary about little bear cubs and their moms a cute film! The film follows the family of bears for an entire year, though it focuses mainly on the summer and fall portion of life for the bears. While Disney chooses to avoid some of the darker aspects of life but teasing them but then having it turn out all good in the end, this film is one that will warm your heart and prove that no matter the subject, Disney will be able to deliver the family friendly film you are looking for.

The footage in the film is quite spectacular. Fully taking advantage of the beautiful landscape of Alaska, the directors have taken some great footage of the bears’ natural habitat and stitched it all together to create a great visual work. And John C. Reilly’s narration is welcomed in the film as he creates the story of the bears for the viewers to follow.

Final Thoughts:

Entertaining and featuring some great footage of the bears in Alaska, Bears is a sweet and entertaining Disney version of a documentary. 

Beowulf

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Starring: Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Robin Wright Penn, Crispin Glover, Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Brendan Gleeson, Alison Lohman

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Based on the Epic Poem

Run Time: 115 min
Rating: R
Genre: Fantasy, Action
Release Date: November 16, 2007

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%

My Score: 5 out of 10

Synopsis:

Beowulf (Winstone) battles the monster Grendel (Glover) who is terrorizing a Danish kingdom in hopes of ridding the village of Grendel to bring continued honour to his name. But Beowulf soon discovers the Grendel is only one of the monsters that is lurking in the kingdom.

Review:

I used to really enjoy this movie when I was a thirteen year old boy, but after re-watching it over the weekend, I’m struggling to see what I saw in this film. Granted it has great animation and probably was ahead of its time in this regard and the cast is a distinguished one as well (though I know it definitely wasn’t that either!)

The movie tells the famous epic, and its true to the story, but its the absurdity of the movie that bothered me. The gore was excessive at times, and it wasn’t even like the blood of the 300 films which at least seems real. This wasn’t so appealing now, and the story just didn’t grab me as much as it used to. And Angelina Jolie as Grendel’s mother, haha!! Interesting portrayal but none the less it was good. The movie’s key feature is the motion capture technology to create beautifully animated world. 

Final Thoughts:

Beowulf features great animation an all-star cast, but the insane amounts of violence and blood fails to create the thrilling film that I used to experience years ago while watching this film.

New Poster for “Million Dollar Arm”In Theaters May 16, 2014

New Poster for “Million Dollar Arm”
In Theaters May 16, 2014

New Poster for “Edge of Tomorrow”In Theaters, 3D and IMAX 3D June 6, 2014

New Poster for “Edge of Tomorrow”
In Theaters, 3D and IMAX 3D June 6, 2014

Final Trailer for “X-Men: Days of Future Past”
In Theaters and 3D May 23, 2014

New Poster for “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”New Episodes Premiere Tuesday at 8pm on ABC

New Poster for “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
New Episodes Premiere Tuesday at 8pm on ABC

New Photos from “Maleficent”
In Theaters, 3D and IMAX 3D May 30, 2014

New Images from “Guardians of the Galaxy”
In Theaters, 3D and IMAX 3D August 1, 2014

New Trailer for “22 Jump Street”
In Theaters June 13, 2014