Sunday, July 27, 2014

Lucy / **½ (R)

Lucy: Scarlett Johansson
Professor Norman: Morgan Freeman
Mr. Jang: Choi Min-Sik
Pierre Del Rio: Amr Waked

Universal Pictures presents a film written and directed by Luc Besson. Running time: 90 min. Rated R (for strong violence, disturbing images and sexuality).

Luc Besson’s new sci-fi thriller “Lucy” is one of the more interesting action movies to come along recently. It’s one of the more interesting screenplays by Besson since his early films, like “La Femme Nikita”, “The Professional”, and “The Fifth Element”. But then again, the word “interesting” isn’t necessarily the highest compliment you can pay to a film. It’s a tough one to figure, because in some ways it is a great movie. However, in the end it leaves you feeling cheated out one of the two movies to which it couldn’t fully commit.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Unknown Known (2014) ***½

PG-13, 103 min.
Director/Writer: Errol Morris
Featuring: Donald Rumsfeld
Voice: Errol Morris

In his first feature, “Gates of Heaven”, documentarian Errol Morris interviews an old woman who just lets loose on his camera with a five minute monologue that goes from one end of the spectrum to the other in a way that sees her contradicting her own point by the time she reaches the end. “The Unknown Known” is a feature-length version of that same monologue, this time with former two-time U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as the interviewee.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Planet of the Apes (2001) **½

PG-13, 119 min.
Director: Tim Burton
Writers: William Broyles Jr., Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal, Pierre Boulle (novel “La Planéte des Singes”)
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Clarke Duncan, Paul Giamatti, Estella Warren, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, David Warner, Kris Kristofferson, Erick Avari, Luke Eberl, Evan Dexter Parke, Glenn Shadix, Freda Foh Shen, Chris Ellis, Anne Ramsay, Lisa Marie

Tim Burton’s 2001 remake “Planet of the Apes” stands as the bastard child of the franchise. Even in comparison to such wretched entries to the series as 1973’s “Battle for the Planet of the Apes”, Burton’s film is held with contempt in fans’ minds. I was never in this camp of thinking. In fact, when I first reviewed the film upon its theatrical release, I gave it 3½ stars. In light of the recent reboot series, my initial thoughts on Burton’s take seem ill conceived.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Silent (2014) **

NR, 3 min.
Directors: Limbert Fabian, Brandon Oldenburg
Writers: Limbert Fabian, William Joyce, Brandon Oldenburg

Just because it’s a short animated film, that doesn’t mean it’s good. Just because it pays homage to the Golden Age of Hollywood, that doesn’t mean it’s good. Just because it tells a clever story without words, that doesn’t mean it’s good.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Odd Thomas (2014) ***

NR, 97 min.
Director: Stephen Sommers
Writers: Stephen Sommers, Dean Koontz (novel)
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Addison Timlin, Willem Dafoe, Shuler Hensley, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nico Tortorella, Kyle McKeever, Laurel Harris, Patton Oswalt

If anything, “Odd Thomas” is odd. It follows a man who sees dead people. They appear to him and he helps to bring their murderers to justice. He also sees these things that are kind of like demons who hang around people that are going to cause chaos and death. This makes him an invaluable resource to a local police detective.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes / **** (PG-13)

Caesar: Andy Serkis
Malcolm: Jason Clarke
Dreyfuss: Gary Oldman
Ellie: Kari Russell
Koba: Toby Kebbell
Alexander: Kodi Smit-McPhee
Carver: Kirk Acevedo
Blue Eyes: Nick Thurston

20th Century Fox presents a film directed by Matt Reeves. Written by Mark Bomback and Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver. Based on characters created by Jaffa & Silver and inspired by the novel “Le Planéte des Singes” by Pierre Boulle. Running time: 130 min. Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and brief strong language).

For the past two weeks we’ve watched as the Gaza Strip has once again blown up in conflict with innocents dying on both sides and both sides claiming the righteousness of their causes. I would not claim to know enough about either side of this never-ending conflict to judge whether anyone is right or not. I do believe that after a certain point the righteousness of such conflicts fades in comparison to the cost in human life. War is just war after a while. Is it just an inevitable aspect of the human existence? The new film “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”, in the same tradition of the original series of films inspired by Pierre Buolle’s novel “Le Planéte des Singes”, argues that it may be the nature of any dominant species, be it man or ape.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The World’s End (2013) ****

R, 109 min.
Director: Edgar Wright
Writers: Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, Rosamund Pike, Pierce Brosnan, David Bradley, Michael Smiley, Steve Oram
Voice: Bill Nighy

“The World’s End” was one of my favorite movies from 2013. I think some people might look at it and wonder why. It’s a strange British movie. It’s part of the Cornetto Trilogy by filmmakers Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. The two previous films were “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”. The only three things that really tie them together are these three artists, the fact that the ice cream treat called a cornetto appears at some point in each film and each is a spoof of a decade specific genre.