Rise Against – Appeal To Reason – review

Rise Against
Artist: Rise Against
Title: Appeal To Reason
Label: Interscope
Rating: 0/10

Corporate line:
Chicago’s Rise Against is anything but a single-minded musical outfit. An astounding fusion of unhinged power, ear grasping melodies, stimulating lyrics and the ability to reach audiences in both underground and mainstream circles, they have redefined the rules. To date, the band has released four albums plus a rare material EP, and a DVD called “Generation Lost.” Each of their past two albums have sold just shy of 1/2 million copies in the U.S. with each album garnering three full on Modern Rock radio hits.

The good:
“Audience of One” – This is where Rise Against are at their Goo-ey best. Rise Against have some serious Goo Goo Dolls flavor on this song. It has the biggest potential for mass consumption. Whether that is good or bad is a matter of taste–but it seems that Rise Against has been chasing a hit throughout the album.

“The Dirt Whispered” – The rare occasion where a song feels like it has some soul–yet it still sounds far too much like every other song on the album.

The rest:
“Collapse (Post-Amerika)” – There is some passion and a message–but you’ve heard it all before except with more poignancy. Where are the Sex Pistols when you need a revolution?

“Forgotten Sons” – Rise Against shoots for an epic but settle for average.

“Entertainment” – The definition of filler.

Finally:
The biggest issue with Rise Against’s “Appeal To Reason” is that it doesn’t sound so new. Sadly, Rise Against doesn’t take a big enough risk. So instead of going more for a Bad Religion or Sex Pistols potency they settle for radio songs in a bad attempt at being the Goo Goo Dolls. Unfortunatly, Rise Against end up stuck in the middle of nowhere by playing it safe.

Speed Racer – movie review

speed racer
Cast: Emile Hirsch
Studio: Warner Bros.
Rating: 7/10

Corporate line:
After the success of the films in the Matrix series, the Wachowski Brothers return to the director’s chair with this adaptation of the classic cartoon. Emile Hirsch (“Into The Wild”) jumps into the Mach 5 car as Speed Racer, while John Goodman and Susan Sarandon play his parents. Christina Ricci costars as Speed’s girlfriend Trixie, and Matthew Fox (“Lost”) is Racer X, his biggest competitor.

The review:
“Speed Racer” feels like anime coming to life. The Wachowski brothers have once again created a cinematic atmosphere like no other. The Wachowski’s also know how to make fun movies–even the plot is lacking and everything else seems pretty lame. “Speed Racer” is definitely fun to look at and action packed. What’s missing is a meaningful plot or any sense of meaning. “The Matrix” and “V for Vendetta” had a deeper meaning and both were very philosophical. “Speed Racer” is as philosophical as an episode of Spongebob.

“Speed Racer” is pure eye-candy. It could be Oscar worthy for visual effects but might also receive a Razzie Award for the lack of substance.

Finally:
“Speed Racer” is fun without being an event. We are used to the Wachowski Brother movies being an event and this simply isn’t. We know these guys love anime and Japanese flicks–but they could have passed this up for something more intelligent and thought-provoking. Just because they can doesn’t mean they should. If the effects weren’t so unbelievable it wouldn’t be worth recommending. Let’s just hope this isn’t what we can expect from the Wachowski Brothers in the future or else they dynamic duo might be brought back to earth.

Watch the trailer:

What Happens In Vegas – movie review

what happened in vegas
Cast: Cameron Diaz
Studio: Fox
Rating: 5/10

Corporate line:
Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher star as strangers who unwittingly end up as bride and groom in this comedy. When one of them strikes it rich after playing the other person’s coin, the pair gets married. But all’s fair in love and war–and Las Vegas–as each of them tries to get the money.

The review:
If you are up for a super-sappy-silly movie then boy do we have the movie for you.

Cameron Diaz and and Ashton Kutcher are the queen and king of sappy. The fact that they are complete opposites and end up being in Vegas together isn’t too far from reality but here it’s just convenient plot point. This is just where all the ridiculous plot holes open up. They drink. They marry. They win $3 million in a slot machine.

The best part of the movie comes later as the unhappy couple try to get one another to leave the money and marriage behind. The truth is there are answers to the stupid questions but because its a movie nothing is simple. Instead, the movie takes the dumbest possible route. The movie is written with the intention of forcing laughs at the expense of reality. Of course, this is all going to end like a Disney movie where everyone is happy and sappy. What reality are the filmmakers living in?

The only smart move the filmmakers did make was hiring Rob Corddry and Lake Bell as supporting cast. They steal every scene and are always good for a laugh. Even Dennis Miller has his moments. Why the main characters couldn’t be appealing is anyone’s guess.

Finally:

“What Happened In Vegas” is barely worth watching.

Watch the trailer:

Iron Man – movie review

iron man
Cast: Robert Downey Jr.
Studio: Paramount
Rating: 8.5/10

Corporate line:
Paramount Pictures and Marvel Entertainment’s big screen adaptation of Marvel’s legendary Super Hero Iron Man will launch into theaters on May 2, 2008. Oscar nominee Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark/Iron Man in the story of a billionaire industrialist and genius inventor who is kidnapped and forced to build a devastating weapon. Instead, using his intelligence and ingenuity, Tony builds a high-tech suit of armor and escapes captivity. When he uncovers a nefarious plot with global implications, he dons his powerful armor and vows to protect the world as Iron Man. The film also stars Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow and Oscar nominees Terrence Howard and Jeff Bridges and is directed by Jon Favreau.

The review:
I want to be Iron Man. I used to want to be Spider-Man, but now I’ve changed my mind. This might be one of the best super hero movies ever. The CGI is brilliant. Amazing.

The plot is great and does a great job of appearing realistic. Sure, its hard to believe a guy flying around in a mechanical suit–but the rest of the plot regarding Afghanistan could be happening right now. Downey’s character Stark is a man who needed a purpose and he finally gets it and that is when the fireworks start.

Robert Downey Jr. is a stunner. Downey was born for this role. Another stunner is that Jon Favreau directed the movie. Who knew he had such talent? Paltrow owns the screen every moment she is on it. Jeff Bridges as the bald executive is another great addition. It appears that the stars have aligned for “Iron Man.”

Finally:
Director Favreau does a great job introducing the origin of “Iron Man” and doesn’t waste too much time introducing a character. Favreau doesn’t rush into a plot. Every aspect gels. This is a fanboy’s dream. Hopefully there will be numerous sequels to follow.

Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay – movie review

Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
Cast: Kal Penn
Studio: Fox
Rating: 6/10

Corporate line:
“Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay” marks the triumphant return of these two hilarious, slacker anti-heroes. The movie stars John Cho (American Pie I & II, American Dreamz) as Harold and Kal Penn (Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj, Epic Movie) as Kumar, two stoners who can’t seem to get a break. Their last adventure found them traveling across country to find a White Castle hamburger in order to satisfy a weed-induced case of “the munchies.”

This time, the boys get themselves in trouble trying to sneak a bong on board a flight to Amsterdam. Now, being suspected of terrorism, they are forced to run from the law and try to find a way to prove their innocence. What follows is an irreverent and epic journey of deep thoughts, deeper inhaling and a wild trip around the world that is as “un-PC” as it gets.

The review:
There have been plenty of pro-war movies and a few anti-war documentaries–but no one has recently made a comedy that takes shots at all the parties involved–at least not like “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.” This isn’t going to be called a “smart” comedy and it doesn’t have to be–because comedy fans only want a funny movie. These potheads only care about getting their buzz while dealing with a whole range of odd characters. One of the best characters is Neil Patrick Harris. Harris reprises his hilarious role and once again kills. Rob Corddry, who plays the Homeland Security Chief, is hilarious as the dumbass racist.

And of course there are plenty of dick jokes, drugs and nudity to spare. They had to fill in the gaps with something. So instead of writing endless jokes they went for the truly absurd and hoped it would get them through–and on occasion it works.

Finally:

The ultimate question is whether the movie is as good as the first–it is. “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay” isn’t going to win any awards–but it sure is funny as hell.

Baby Mama – movie review

baby mama
Cast: Tina Fey
Studio: Universal
Rating: 6.5/10

Corporate line:
In a comedy that brings together some of today’s sharpest talent, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler team with writer/director Michael McCullers and producers Lorne Michaels and John Goldwyn to tell the story of two women, one apartment and the nine months that will change their lives: Baby Mama. Successful and single businesswoman Kate Holbrook (Tina Fey) has long put her career ahead of a personal life. Now 37, she’s finally determined to have a kid on her own. But her plan is thrown a curve ball after she discovers she has only a million-to-one chance of getting pregnant. Undaunted, the driven Kate allows South Philly working girl Angie Ostrowiski (Amy Poehler) to become her unlikely surrogate. Simple enough… After learning from the steely head (Sigourney Weaver) of their surrogacy center that Angie is pregnant, Kate goes into precision nesting mode: reading childcare books, baby-proofing the apartment and researching top pre-schools. But the executive’s well-organized strategy is turned upside down when her Baby Mama shows up at her doorstep with no place to live. An unstoppable force meets an immovable object as structured Kate tries to turn vibrant Angie into the perfect expectant mom. In a comic battle of wills, they will struggle their way through preparation for the baby’s arrival. And in the middle of this tug-of-war, they’ll discover two kinds of family: the one you’re born to and the one you make

The review:
“I just don’t like your uterus” is one of the funniest and crudest things you might ever hear in a movie about having a baby, ever. Then there is the scene where we see what Kate’s kids will look like depending upon her sperm donor. This all happens before the crazy Angie gets involved.

Once Angie ends up in Kate’s life its game over for Kate but the fun real starts for the audience. Poehler is hilarious as the crazy white-trash baby donor. Parts of the movie and irony of the situations hearken back to “Baby Boom.” “Baby Mama” isn’t nearly the classic that “Baby Boom” is however its certainly funnier than recent comedies of its ilk like “Knocked Up.”

The talent level is high with Fey, Poehler, and Steve Martin turning in fantastic performances. Michael McCullers has written a hilarious script that is always on the verge of reality but also keeps enough sense to make us laugh out-loud even when its not realistic. Fey and Poehler are a perfect duo. They are comedy gold. I haven’t seen a team this funny since Farley and Spade. Sigourney Weaver is also surprisingly funny.

Finally:
“Baby Mama” is a gut buster. That’s the best measure of a good comedy.

88 Minutes – movie review

88 Minutes
Cast: Al Pacino
Studio: TriStar Pictures
Rating: 2/10

Corporate line:
In “88 Minutes” Al Pacino stars as Dr. Jack Gramm, a college professor who moonlights as a forensic psychiatrist for the FBI. When Gramm receives a death threat claiming he has only 88 minutes to live, he must use all his skills and training to narrow down the possible suspects, who include a disgruntled student, a jilted former lover, and a serial killer who is already on death row, before his time runs out.

The review:
I want to believe that the concept for “88 Minutes” was good because it was made into a movie–but after seeing the movie it’s hard to believe it was anything but crap from concept to delivery. It appears that someone thought “hell, mobile phones are big with the kids nowadays lets make a thriller about one.” And someone went off and wrote some crap movie about a mobile phone. The worst part of all, Al Pacino got sucked into the the mess.

It’s embarrassing to see a scene in which Al Pacino takes a call with the asinine line “tick tock, Doc.” There are worse parts of the movie–all in all this is the worst movie of Pacino’s career. No matter how many dopey twists and turns thrown in it doesn’t matter. Everything about “88 Minutes” is implausible. One of the funniest parts, and remember its a thriller so there shouldn’t be funny parts, of the movie is the guy who keeps seeming to follow Pacino and yet never arrested or asked “who the hell are you?”

Finally:
Plot holes are nothing new–but the fact that everything thing about “88 Minutes” rests on the holes gives you an idea that this is a crap movie. All the twists are there to throw you off the scent not to add depth to a movie swimming in the shallow end.

Watch the movie trailer for “88 Minutes:”

The Forbidden Kingdom – movie review

The Forbidden Kingdom
Cast: Jet Li, Jackie Chan
Studio: Lion’s Gate
Rating: 8/10

Corporate line:
An American teenager who is obsessed with Hong Kong cinema and kung-fu classics makes an extraordinary discovery in a Chinatown pawnshop: the legendary stick weapon of the Chinese sage and warrior, the Monkey King. With the lost relic in hand, the teenager unexpectedly finds himself traveling back to ancient China to join a crew of warriors from martial arts lore on a dangerous quest to free the imprisoned Monkey King.

Directed by Rob Minkoff (Stuart Little, Lion King), the film marks the first-ever on-screen pairing of martial arts superstars Jackie Chan (Rush Hour, Drunken Master) and Jet Li (Fearless, Once Upon a Time in China). The original screenplay by John Fusco (Young Guns, Hidalgo) is based on the traditional Chinese legend of the Monkey King. The film is produced by Casey Silver (Ladder 49, Hidalgo, the upcoming Leatherheads) of Casey Silver Productions. Renowned action choreographer Wo Ping (The Matrix, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) is creating the fight sequences, and the director of photography is Peter Pau (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon).

The review:
Certainly the teaming of Jet Li and Jackie Chan is worth seeing alone. In my opinion a Jet Li movie is always a must see and now Jackie Chan being added is a huge bonus. But names alone don’t make a movie so a good script must be had in order to take it over the edge. The good news is the plot is great and neither legend is wasted with frivolous nonsense. This is a fantastic piece of storytelling with brilliant action. Any decent kung-fu movie is worth seeing and fans will be happy to know this is extraordinary.

Li and Chan play kung-fu masters who, in an interesting way, are playing themselves or at least their on-screen persona. That sounds far more mind-boggling than it is. The best part is that the movie brings nonstop entertainment that is just plain fun. It reminds me of the many fairy tales from the ’80s that were made for young boys.

Finally:

“The Forbidden Kingdom” harkens back to the days of innocent fun that spares no stunt in order to purely entertain. This is a true fantasy film for all ages and will certainly appeal to tween boys who love martial arts and fantasy. It’s not attempting to be an epic–and never has to be. Every young boy will walk out of the theater wishing they were there. You can see it in the kid’s eyes as they leave in wonderment dreaming of the many moves and who they might use them on. I know how they feel–I left dreaming about performing a few of those moves myself.

Watch the “The Forbidden Kingdom” movie trailer:

Prom Night – movie review

prom night
Cast: Brittany Snow
Studio: Screen Gems
Rating: 2/10

Corporate line:
Donna’s senior prom is supposed to be the best night of her life. After surviving a horrible tragedy, she has finally moved on and is enjoying her last year of high school. Surrounded by her best friends, she should be safe from the horrors of her past. But when the night turns deadly, there is only one person who could be responsible…a man she thought was gone forever. Now, Donna and her friends must find a way to escape the sadistic rampage of an obsessed killer, and survive a night “to die for.”

The review:
There is the rare bad horror movie that somehow doesn’t toss around buckets of blood and still entertain. I figured since there was no press screening I’d drop a few bucks and see it–even though I know the mere fact that there wasn’t a press screening was a bad sign. Well this PG-13 horror flick is pretty weak all the way around. The lack of gore, plot and anything else left a lot to be desired. If I didn’t want to be entertained I would have stayed home and watched “Idol Gives Back” on Tivo.

Finally:
I really wanted to like the movie, considering I haven’t seen a good horror movie in a while. The bad guy loves to kill and we are supposed to be happy just to watch. And I might have been into if there were some twists or I had to use my brain. But brains are checked at the door along with the tux. “Prom Night” is horribly bad. Although I will admit my prom might have been a lot more interesting had it gone down like this.

Watch the trailer:

Street Kings – movie review

street kings

Corporate line:
In Street Kings, a police thriller directed by David Ayer, Keanu Reeves plays Tom Ludlow, a veteran LAPD Vice Detective. Ludlow sets out on a quest to discover the killers of his former partner, Detective Terrance Washington (Terry Crews). Academy® Award winner Forest Whitaker plays Captain Wander, Ludlow’s supervisor, whose duties include keeping him within the confines of the law and out of the clutches of Internal Affairs Captain Biggs (Hugh Laurie). Ludlow teams up with a young Robbery Homicide Detective (Chris Evans) to track Washington’s killers through the diverse communities of Los Angeles. Their determination pays off when the two Detectives track down Washington’s murderers and confront them in an attempt to bring them to justice.

The review:
It’s hard to take Keanu Reeves as a bad-ass. He pulled it off in the Matrix but that had to do more with a brilliant script than Reeves’ acting. Now throw Reeves into a film about cops, who do whatever it takes to get the bad guy, and you have the formula for a smash. To bad this smash is the kind where you throw a pumpkin off a bridge.

Reeves isn’t convincing in his role that was played to perfection decades ago by Clint Eastwood. I kept waiting for Neo, I mean Keanu, to pull a one-liner ala Eastwood. Something like, “let’s dance homie.” Reeves is once again miscast as the loner who has too much weighing on his mind. Is it me or is every movie Reeves has been in for the last ten years has him playing the same guy in a different costume? Reeves is in a hole he can’t dig himself out of–either as an actor or as detective Tom Ludlow.

It’s a shame that Reeves can’t carry this movie. It could have been a good movie, but with Reeves inability to move Ludlow along in a believable manner kills the movie. It doesn’t help that the script is full of holes. The only person reason to watch “Street Kings” is Cedric the Entertainer. Cedric is brilliant in his role. After watching Cedric you can’t help but wonder if either he or Forest Whitaker might have brought more to the Ludlow role. Jay Mohr proves that he can act when given a character that fits his ability–and wackiness.

Finally:
“Street Kings” would have been better if it had an ounce of authenticity. We can only wonder if the savior of this movie might have been on board already–just cast as a secondary role.

Watch the “Street Kings” movie trailer:

Check out the Keanu Reeves interview with TV Guide for “Street Kings”: