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22 Jan


Audiences do not have to be too familiar with Greek mythology to keep up with Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters. The film follows the title character and his friends on another quest to save Olympus from destruction. Percy Jackson is a little older, but not wiser when it comes to dealing with teenage adversity. He feels doubt, loneliness, and does not know how to accept his unbeknownst cyclops brother. Director Thor Freudenthal does a good job taking the source material and highlighting the adolescent lessons of acceptance and confidence along with a very straight forward and fast moving plot. Everything about the film is positive, except the predictability of the story. It looks great and everyone does a good job, but like Zeus himself, audiences know what is going to happen long before the characters do. Percy Jackson’s is not immortal and neither is the second installment of the Rick Riordan’s books.


Chuck’s Grade: B

Adma’s Grade: N/A

THOR: THE DARK WORLD hammers out an unsatisfactory ending

18 Jan


The sequel, Thor: The Dark World finds the title character tackling the all-to-common villain that wants to destroy the entire universe for some illogical reason that is never fully explained and never full thought out. However, it does not matter because Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Jane (Natalie Portman) are re-united for a meet the parents episode while Loki (Tom Hiddleson) broods in prison for his past offenses. Dark Elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) is a formidable arch-rival for both Thor and Odin who will ultimately need Loki’s help to confront Malekith. The film is entertaining and I prefer it over the original because the characters are able to delve deeper into their relationships with one another. However, like most Marvel products the ending does not do the rest of the film justice because it hammers out an unsatisfactory ending that cannot control the balance between action and comedy.

Chuck’s Grade: B-
Adam’s Grade: N/A


6 Jan


I have not read the books, but everyone tells me the first film was water down when it came to the politics. As for the second film, the same people told me the second installment was closer to the book’s true intention. From an objective point of view, the politics come from  the same oppressive position found in most science fiction films. It was suggested in the first through an ideological state apparatus, whereas in the second film it manifests itself into a repressive state apparatus through military force and law enforcement, which makes it easier for audiences to identify. Both films were good, but the second film is entertaining because the antagonists’ intentions are blurred, making a more complex film for audiences to enjoy. Winning is not the only thing that is important in this film, which creates opportunities for Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) to build and explore their characters’ darker side.


Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: B

Insidious: Chapter 2 is lost in the after life

17 Sep


James Wan may have now established himself as the King of modern horror with SAW, Insidious and The Conjuring under his belt. He knows how to keep his audiences on edge and screaming for more. The sequel to the 2011 surprise horror hit brings back the cast and pick up right where they left off at. The Lambert family (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) seek to uncover the secret that has them attached to the supernatural.

The film does give some better scares than the first one, but also makes some predictable choices that would bore the avid horror fan. Writers Wan and Leigh Whannell bring some welcomed creativity to the story but at the same time overreaches and leaves too many unanswered questions. John Leonetti deserves some recognition for his brilliant camerawork as he frames the film’s haunting atmosphere. Insidious: Chapter 2  will frighten audiences, but the story does not live on in the “after life” of Chapter 1.


Adam’s Grade: C+

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Riddick grabs you by the throat…

13 Sep


Riddick grabs you by the throat at the beginning of the film and squeezes hard. The special effects and the gritty survival story pulls everyone in right away, until the B-level supporting cast (bounty hunters) shows up and reminds audiences they are watching a sci-fi film closer in quality to Pitch Black than Chronicles. Diesel’s slow delivery and deliberate physicality demonstrates his box office appeal. He has not lost a step, although this version of the title character has an “in the gutter” sense humor that helps keep audiences entertained as he must kill man and beast over and over again. It does get a little repetitive at the end, but Riddick delivers on his promises. This movie does not advertise to be something it is not. Audiences get what they expected and most people leave satisfied and hoping for another film that will feature a climatic showdown between Riddick and Vaako (Karl Urban).


Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: N/A

The Dark Knight Rises, but only so high

30 Aug

Everything comes to an end in Christopher Nolan’s ambitious conclusion to his Batman Trilogy. Set eight years after The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a guilt-ridden recluse content with his tarnished reputation. A powerful, new villain, Bane (Tom Hardy) has a complex plan to destroy Gotham.

The Dark Knight Rises is a good film, but not a great film. Nolan tries to do too much with Bane. A “revolution” of convicts running around didn’t work well in the first film and it doesn’t work in this one either. Anne Hathaway as Catwoman was brilliantly played, but she became one of Nolan’s unnecessary moving parts, although she contribute in the end; she serves as Batman’s deus ex machina rather than something she can stick her claws in.  The expectations were unreasonably high for the third film, but it cannot be used as an excuse for some basic story problems. The Dark Knight Rises, but only so high.


Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade for IMAX: B+
Chuck’s Grade for Standard Screen: B-

The Dark Knight is a diabolical masterpiece

29 Aug


Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight raises the bar and turns the sequel to Batman Begins into one of the most memorable action films of all time. It exceeded most audience’s expectations because of its complexity, rich story, exhilarating action, and Heath Ledger’s legendary performance as The Joker. No one should ever put on the white make-up again after Ledger’s diabolical performance. Gotham will never be the same and Batman (Christian Bale) had to use everything at his disposal to combat his arch-nemesis.

Even at a running time of over two and a half hours the story and characters have no problem holding audiences’ attention. The visual effects combined with adept sound design/editing elevate the film and become an integral part of the unforgettable masterpiece. The Dark Knight is not only the best superhero film, but one of the most entertaining and satisfying films of all time.


Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: A+

Before Midnight

16 Jul


Before Midnight is the third installment in the unexpected but still wonderfully touching Before Trilogy. Just like in the first two films, writer/director Richard Linklater brings us back into the evolving love story that follows Jesse and Celine (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) vacationing in Greece, nine years since we last saw them in Before Sunset. The film explores a familiar territory for those dealing with teenagers and the dreaded mid-life crisis.

Linklater has a command of his script and guides his actors through the emotional landscape of unconditional love and loss. His approach reminds me of some of the best French cinema with long takes that allow scenes to play out in real-time. Hawke and Delpy performances add to the heighten sense of realism that is a welcomed change from domestic films obsessed with getting from scene to the next.


Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Toy Story 2 is kept near and dear

10 Jun


Toy Story 2 is one of those rare films where the sequel is equal to or better than the original. Pixar develops the Woody (Tom Hanks) character into Gary Cooper like hero that resonates with young and old audiences. They also expand Buzz Lightyear’s role (Tim Allen) turn him into a larger than life hero.  Toy Story 2 is more than a visual exploration of computer animation. It is a film that entertains a set of serious ideas rooted in the importance of loyalty and friendship. The second installment brings back all of the original characters, as well as some new ones that will expand upon the film’s humor in a way that balances its sharp wit with physical humor. Audiences are treated to Pixar’s toy box and leave feeling good about those special toys that everyone kept near and dear as a child.


Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: A

Fast and the Furious 6 has too many miles on this vehicle

29 May


The latest installment of Fast and the Furious franchise has lost touch with reality. I admit the vault sequence in Five was improbable, but in Six it is downright ridiculous to the point I was laughing out loud at Vin Diesel’s super human stunts. Director Justin Lin takes on too much when he decides to resurrect Michelle Rodriguez (Letty) back from the dead. The soap opera script gets audiences to buy tickets, but there are too many miles on this vehicle.  There are plenty of fast cars and explosions to satisfy the summer blockbuster movie fan and I did enjoy Luke Evans and Gina Carano, but of their characters are inconsistent and the stunts are stupid.  Although, I was disappointed with the film I will put my seat belt on for part Seven because of the end credit’s teaser. Hopefully, Lin will take his ride into the shop and get it fixed in time.


Chuck’s Grade: C

Adam’s Grade: N/A