[Happy 15th Birthday!] Shaft (2000)

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Director: John Singleton

Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Vanessa Williams, Christian Bale, Jeffrey Wright, Richard Roundtree

Screenplay: Richard Price, John Singleton, Shane Salerno

99 mins. Rated R for strong violence and language.

 

Apparently, Shaft is one bad motha-“Shut Your Mouth!”

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John Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction, Avengers: Age of Ultron) has carried on the family crest from his uncle John (Richard Roundtree, Se7en, Speed Racer). When he responds to a racial attack and has millionaire rich-kid Walter Wade, Jr (Christian Bale, The Dark Knight, Knight of Cups) arrested in the death of a black youth. Now, with the help of Narcotics specialist Carmen Vasquez (Vanessa Williams, Eraser, Temptations: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor), Shaft must defend the woman who witnessed the attack from Wade who has now teamed up with drug lord Peoples Hernandez (Jeffrey Wright, Casino Royale, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1).

Shaft is surprisingly not terrible, though it seems to have forgotten a lot of what made the original so cheese-good.

The greatest idea put forth here was to make this incarnation of Shaft a sequel to the previous trilogy. We even get to see the Richard Roundtree as the uncle, also known as John Shaft. I love the idea of continuing the story. Too many films just go the remake route but this works so well.

Sam Jackson does a great job here, but he gets bogged down by the truly disappointing work from Wright and Bale.

I also felt this to be the tamest of the Shaft series. Literally, he doesn’t have any of the sensuality of the original character. Now, granted, as I said before, these are different characters, but I feel like it was a big miss from the film.

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Shaft is good, but I can see why the franchise never continued. Singleton’s directing works in short spurts but this film didn’t really go anywhere. The film had several plotlines that didn’t go anywhere, for example the thread involving Dan Hedaya and that other guy becoming crooked cops. I just didn’t care. There were just a lot of chopping to be done to this film and a lot of elements missing here.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of John Singleton’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, click here.

 

Top Ten of 2014 (incomplete)

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You might notice this list is incomplete. Here’s how it works. This list begins in January and continues until the midway through 2015. There are a lot of films still being released and becoming available from 2014, so this list will be adjusting as time goes on. Here it is so far…

 

  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  2. The Lego Movie
  3. X-Men: Days of Future Past
  4. Noah
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy
  6. Draft Day
  7. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
  8. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
  9. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  10. Sex Tape

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)

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Director: Francis Lawrence

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland

Screenplay: Peter Craig, Danny Strong

123 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material.

 

Of all the young adult post-apocalyptic stories currently drowning our theaters, The Hunger Games is definitely at the top of my list. The list is of good quality work, and the list is small. At just over two hours, the newest film in the franchise, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, takes the series in a new direction while setting up the final climactic piece to this series, but does it work?

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Yes and no.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook, X-Men: Days of Future Past) has escaped from the Third Quarter Quell Hunger Games intact, and now she finds herself in the midst of a major rebellion against the Capitol and the insidious President Snow (Donald Sutherland, The Italian Job, Horrible Bosses). Her on-again-off-again real-but-also-kind-of-fake boyfriend Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson, Bridge to Terabithia, Epic) has been captured and might be dead. She is joined in her quest to take down Snow by friends Gale (Liam Hemsworth, The Expendables 2, Empire State) and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson, TV’s True Detective, No Country for Old Men) as well as the rebellion leader President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore, Magnolia, Non-Stop) and her second-in-command Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote, Doubt). Does Katniss have what it takes to be the face of a rebellion, and can she save the ones she loves from the dark and powerful Capitol?

First of all, I must say that I was in agreement about making Mockingjay into two films. Having read the book, I found that there was a lot of material to be mined from it and I couldn’t see a logical place to cut it without it feeling rushed. That being said, I felt that the area they could’ve beefed up and gone into more were not. We are thrown into the film without have a few minutes to start connecting the dots. I spoke to some views who hadn’t read the books to question their thoughts and they felt as though a little more prologue or something to bring the story into its frame of reference would’ve been appreciated. We also could have spent more time with some of our new characters and there are a lot of them, virtually all of them in this film. We could’ve developed Liam Hemsworth’s Gale as more than just a good-looking fella. There is some action for Hemsworth in this picture but it doesn’t feel as exciting because frankly we don’t know his character like we should.

Now, this movie isn’t bad, don’t think that’s where I’m going with this, but it could’ve had better pacing and more to it. We get some great work from J-Law here as Katniss, and some awesome work our second tier players Moore, Hoffman (in the last performance before he was taken from us), and Harrelson.

Director Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend, Water for Elephants) handles the material well, but I don’t think he added as much from a stylistic perspective as he could have. Think about the latter Harry Potter films, the ones directed by David Yates. Each Yates film in the series, although directed by the same man, has a different feeling and a wholly unique style. I could see a moment from Yates’ film and know which film it is. I don’t feel like F-Law has learned anything from last year’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which he should have. Again, not really a flaw, just a notice.

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The problem with most of these films is that they are intended to be viewed as a whole, so when The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is released next year, I will take a look back at this first installment (or third, technically) and see how it holds up as a complete saga. Mockingjay – Part 1 is a strong and powerful entry in The Hunger Games saga. There are some truly great moments in this film, and we get a wide array of awesome performances and a lot of tension building for next year’s finale. It is, however, a step down from Catching Fire.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Horrible Bosses (2011)

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Director: Seth Gordon

Cast: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Kevin Spacey, Donald Sutherland, Jamie Foxx

Screenplay: Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein

98 mins. Rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language and some drug material.

 

I usually find one great comedy every year. 2011’s Horrible Bosses was a great comedy. My review for Horrible Bosses here.

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Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman, TV’s Arrested Development, This is Where I Leave You) has been working his butt off for a promotion, but his boss Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey, TV’s House of Cards, American Beauty) seems not to notice or care. Dale Arbus (Charlie Day, TV’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Lego Movie) is trying to be the best fiancé he can be, but his boss Julia (Jennifer Aniston, TV’s Friends, Cake) wants to ruin it be forcing Dale into a sexual relationship through blackmail. Then there’s Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis, We’re the Millers, Drinking Buddies), who is all set up to take over his boss’s position when he retires. Unfortunately, Kurt’s boss Jack Pellitt (Donald Sutherland, The Italian Job, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1) dies, and his son Bobby (Colin Farrell, Total Recall, Winter’s Tale) takes over instead. Now, these three have no choice but to get the help from Mothafucka Jones (Jamie Foxx, Django Unchained, Annie) to kill their horrible bosses in this dark comedy gem.

I love this movie. Most films don’t try the black comedy anymore and even fewer actually succeed as perfectly as Horrible Bosses did. I also found the story to have plenty of twists and turns to it, enough so to keep me enthused even without the laughs, but then add in the genius of Bateman, Day, and Sudeikis as the everymen along with the strong performances of Spacey, Aniston, and Farrell as the “horrible bosses” and you have a great time at the movies. Director Seth Gordon (Identity Thief, Freakonomics) handles this crew nicely and gives each equal laughs and equal screentime to boot.

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All in all, you see a movie like Horrible Bosses for laughs, and it has plenty. It isn’t a perfect film, but it is about as close to genius comedy as one can get.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 5th Birthday!] 2012 (2009)

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Director: Roland Emmerich

Cast: John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Thandie Newton, Danny Glover, Woody Harrelson

Screenplay: Roland Emmerich, Harald Kloser

158 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense disaster sequences and some language.

 

So 2012 came and went. We survived. This movie is now forfeit. My review of 2012 begins now.

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Our movie starts in 2009 as Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave, Salt) discovers solar flares that somehow mean that the world is going to come to an end (I doubt the 45 minutes of expository science boils down to much). He makes Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt, X-Men: First Class, Chef) and President Thomas Wilson (Danny Glover, Saw, Bad Ass 2: Bad Asses) aware of the Earth’s impending doom, and a plan is set into motion to do as much as possible to begins saving lives.

Flash forward to 2012. Jackson Curtis (John Cusack, Being John Malkovitch, The Bag Man) is a failing novelist who wishes to spend the weekend with his kids at Yellowstone. There, he comes across Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson, No Country for Old Men, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1), a crazed conspiracy theorist who knows all about the end of the world. Then, the world starts ending.

2012 is a movie that you can get drunk with some friends and just watch things get destroyed. It is also a horrible movie signifying the death of director Roland Emmerich’s career (he had already decided to make this his last disaster movie, which leads me to the theory that he might’ve just made a list of all the shit he wanted to destroy before he quit it for good).

The effects are a true spectacle here. They are incredible. Although, I still found visual effects that created major plot holes in the sense that it seems that the Earth is hollow. This is a shitty movie. That’s all I can say here.

I like John Cusack and the rest of the cast here. I can at least see that they are having fun, and that’s all this movie really boils down to. There isn’t a lot of merit to be thrown around.

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When it comes down to it, I think 2012’s cult following will pick up soon, and people will enjoy it for what it is: a movie so bad it’s kind of fun. Not good, but fun-ish.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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