I learned at an early age that having more body mass was not a way to keep up with the people around me. Assumptions were made that I could not hit or catch a ball and I must be slow in a game of tag. Though initially I did not think I was different as time went on I sort of fell into people’s expectations. Oh and not being able to wear the latest trends in clothing because they did not make them in my size really pushed me over the edge. What could I do? I did what others in my situation did, ditch these unwritten rules. Little did I know this was going to help me later in life. AFTER living in apartments where all the residents pretty much were on equal footing, I bought a house. It was a major adjustment for me. From living in places where a building superintendant handled any issues, I was confronted with a neighbor who would point out everything that was wrong (in her opinion) with the outside of my house. First let me say she along with all the other neighbors loved (though I felt it was coming from an envious place) my landscaping. I was always getting complimented on it, though I had nothing to do with the lawn and flowers. A close friend of mine was a landscape architect who lived in a high rise building and missed getting his hands dirty. We were a perfect match because I disliked getting my hands dirty. My neighbor would sit out on her front porch and watch everything my friend did around the yard. Sadly this was the only thing she liked about my place. Anytime I was outside she would remind me I needed to do something about my storm windows, my screen door, my chimney; you get the point. From the lessons I was taught early on, I was able to ignore these reminders with a smile and a remark, “Really?” I did not need to keep up with her standards though you should with yours regarding this action comedy. THE new neighbors, Natalie and Tim Jones, played by Gal Gadot (Fast & Furious franchise, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) and Jon Hamm (The Town, Mad Men-TV), not only fit in with the neighborhood, they were perfect. They seemed a little too perfect for their neighbors Karen and Jeff Gaffney, played by Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers, Home and Away-TV) and Zach Galifianakis (Masterminds, The Campaign). Spying on the new couple would only show how perfect they were indeed, in certain areas of their life. What can I say about this movie; except to say it was poorly thought out and written. The script and story were generic; it was easy to see where the jokes would come in. A waste of talent even though I thought Gal and Jon made a fun couple; I would have liked to have seen this movie focus just on them. If you saw the trailer you already saw the film. You will not be missing anything if you decline an invitation to go see this movie at the theater. Do not feel you have to keep up with the newest movies out.
1 ¾ stars
My first experiences with live magicians it turned out were not really performing magic. In fact, they were not even magicians. I would see them in stores surrounded by throngs of people. Each time I spotted one I would run up and join the crowd, enthralled with the magician’s flair during their presentation. I saw glasses that would never fog up, even if they were held over a steaming pot of water. There was the wonder knife that a magician would thrust up into the air to show its sharp gleaming blade, just before he used it to slice through a metal pipe. At the time I thought these individuals were doing magic; instead, they were product demonstrators. As a young kid I still could be entertained by the different demonstrations. It was the same feeling I had while watching this adventure film about illusionists. Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network, Zombieland), Woody Harrelson (Seven Psychopaths, Rampart), Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers, Home and Away) and Dave Franco (21 Jump Street, Warm Bodies) played street performers who became The Four Horsemen, a popular magic act that appeared to rob a bank in the middle of their act. Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers, Shutter Island) played FBI agent Dylan Rhodes who was determined to catch the illusionists, but always it seemed was a step behind. Even with the help of Interpol detective Alma Dray, played by Melanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds, Beginners) and magic debunker author Thaddeus Bradley, played by Morgan Freeman (The Prestige, Children of Men); it still seemed as if they were just pawns in the Four Horsemen’s high stakes game. The movie started out strong and fast; it was easy to keep up. The magic tricks kept getting bigger and more elaborate as they were expertly performed by the four actors. Everything was working to make this film a fun exciting experience to watch. But halfway through the story it became unfocused and lost steam. The quick editing and shifts in the story became too much to handle. Frantic pacing only deflated the thrills; I started to get bored. Now I may be gullible when it comes to magic, but I know when smoke and mirrors are being used in an attempt to create a passable story.
2 1/2 stars
The haves and have nots, the rich get richer while the poor get poorer, the upper class exploiting the lower class, wealthy husbands and their mistresses; any of these topics can be found in today’s headlines. They also are part of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, The Great Gatsby. Brought to the big screen by director/writer Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge, Australia), we saw the lavish surroundings where the wealthy play; oblivious to those of lesser means. The marketing of this movie has been intense, showing glimpses of spectacular parties, classic cars, mansions; all accompanied by a heavy hip hop beat. Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception, Django Unchained) played Jay Gatsby, a mysterious wealthy man whose life had been motivated by his love for one particular woman. Carey Mulligan (Drive, Shame) was Daisy Buchanan, a wealthy socialite married to the unfaithful Tom Buchanan, played by Joel Edgerton (Warrior, The Odd Life of Timothy Green). Set up as the narrator of this story was midwesterner Nick Carraway, played by Tobey Maguire (Spiderman franchise, Brothers). I enjoyed the performances from each actor; they did their best with what was written for them. The costumes and sets were brilliantly reproduced to reflect the era of 1920’s Long Island, New York. With such detail given to the look of this film, I found the choice of music to be a distraction. At a particular scene I glanced down at my watch to make a mental note of the time. It was approximately 50 minutes into the story before I started caring about any of the characters. I found the 1st half of the film to be bloated as it lumbered along. The last half of the movie contained most of the drama, almost force feeding it to the audience. The heavy handed way the story was told made it sag under its own excessiveness. This extravagant film could have benefitted from an austerity program. A couple of brief scenes with blood.
2 1/2 stars
Since today is my favorite holiday of Thanksgiving, I feel this is the perfect movie to review. Do you know that feeling where random variables line up perfectly to make your life easier? For example, when all the traffic lights turn green so you can get to the movie theater on time. You enter the full parking lot just as one car pulls out giving you the only open space. Then you get to the long ticket line just as extra cashiers open up, speeding up the line, so you can get into the theater just as the last preview ends and you see your favorite seat is the last seat open. In a similar vein, I felt everything fell into place to make this movie extra special for me. Recalling fond memories from past Thanksgiving meals with friends and family, as soon as the film started I felt I was that little boy again, filled with wonder and excitement. This wonderful animated movie starred characters we all used to believe were real. When an evil spirit threatened the children of earth, it would take the forces of the Guardians to come together to save the children. The Guardians consisted of Jack Frost, voiced by Chris Pine (Star Trek, This Means War); North aka Santa Claus was voiced by Alec Baldwin (To Rome With Love, 30 Rock-TV); Tooth aka Tooth Fairy was voiced by Isla Fisher (Wedding Crasher, Confessions of a Shopaholic) and Bunny aka Easter Bunny was voiced by Hugh Jackman (Real Steel, X-Men franchise). These actors did a wonderful job of bringing life to their characters. Jude Law’s (Anna Karenia, Hugo) voice was spot on for his character Pitch the evil spirit. The CGI effects were magical to me, adding an extra layer of fun and excitement to the story. As I walked back to my car I tried to remember if I ever believed in these characters when I was a little kid. Honestly, I do not recall ever believing in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. But because of this movie I believe in them now. As a side note, there is no reason to see this movie in 3D.
3 1/3 stars