Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Bottom Line: More aptly titled BLANDSCENDENCE – this cold, clunky, illogical, humorless and not-at-all mind-bending sci-fi thriller about Artificial Intelligence is easily one of the most boring movies I’ve seen this year.  And still, somehow, not the worst.  It’s a derivatively detailed and desperately dour mash-up of far greater films like Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, Spike Jonze’s HER and Stephen King’s THE LAWN MOWER MAN (yes, I used ‘The Lawnmower Man’ as a movie that’s greater than another movie.  That just happened).  This time out, too, Depp is partially to blame.  For the first time in a long time he brings absolutely nothing interesting to the table.  He just seems tired (perhaps in a scurvy-induced fog from playing Captain Jack far too many times, who knows).  …and if you’re looking to thrust blame in other directions, let’s run with a poorly used, big name cast, a first time director grappling a movie that's too conceptually large, a simpleminded script and a hackneyed, Edward Scissorhands-like job at editing a number of incoherent scenes.  Everything feels rushed, but I’m not sure another 60-120 minutes of explorative running time could have saved it.  Thematically intriguing yet narratively naïve, the script plunges down a nanotechnology-dug rabbit hole of sentient intrigue without ever thinking about how to pull itself out.  While a few big ideas regarding the evils of technology and man’s consistent insistence of the creation of deities are thrown out there, the film clumsily steps on its toes to dodge all through lines of logical thought.  It thinks it’s smarter than it actually is…  TRANSCENDENCE timidly approaches man’s transhumanistic thirst for knowledge, power and God.  It should have focused a little more on people who buy movie tickets – and their hunger for entertainment.  Time to unplug, time to reboot.
Starring: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Morgan Freeman, Kate Mara and Cillian Murphy
Directed by: Wally Pfister (cinematographer for director Christopher Nolan)
Running time: 119 minutes
Studio description: Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is the foremost researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence, working to create a sentient machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions. His highly controversial experiments have made him famous, but they have also made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists who will do whatever it takes to stop him. However, in their attempt to destroy Will, they inadvertently become the catalyst for him to succeed-to be a participant in his own transcendence. For his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and best friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany), both fellow researchers, the question is not if they can...but if they should. Their worst fears are realized as Will's thirst for knowledge evolves into a seemingly omnipresent quest for power, to what end is unknown. The only thing that is becoming terrifyingly clear is there may be no way to stop him.(C) Warner

Thursday, April 10, 2014


Bottom Line: Exuding enough gridiron charm to ensure non-stuffy moviegoers/critics enjoy their time on the sideline - this pigskinned, poor man’s MONEYBALL makes for a pleasant trip to the theaters.  Starring in a sports movie means K-Co’s in the zone – it’s a genre that suits his dry humor and everyman persona well.  And here, he plays the sharp, stressed, second-guessing General Manager of the Cleveland Browns to a tee.  This is a day-in-his-life struggle to make the right choice for his team and city as his every action is continually sidetracked by a headstrong owner, a doubting head coach, a grieving mother and a loyal girlfriend (who happens to work in the same office).  Also of cinematic note is the fact that the Seahawks, who are referenced quite a bit in the movie, have the #1 draft pick (a slot usually awarded to the worst team in the league) so you know going in that this is all make believe (#GoHawks).  The film does fumble every now and then as it tries to manage the multiple subplots, taking away from the highly intriguing, draft day selection process…  That ball, however, is almost always snapped up quickly though whenever the film gets back to the focus of the game.  Occasional scenes with future rookie hopefuls lends an element of heart to the proceedings as well…  DRAFT DAY isn’t a game changer, but it is serviceably lighthearted and fun as it tackles the daily stresses, tension and (hopeful exuberance) of playing for a winning team.  This behind-the-scenes look at the NFL may not be Super Bowl bound, but it is engaging and entertaining – audiences should eat it up in a snap!

Starring: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Ellen Burstyn, Chadwick Boseman and Frank Langella
Rated: PG-13
Running time: 110 minutes
Studio description: On the day of the NFL Draft, general manager Sonny Weaver (Costner) has the opportunity to save football in Cleveland when he trades for the number one pick. He must quickly decide what he's willing to sacrifice in pursuit of perfection as the lines between his personal and professional life become blurred on a life-changing day for a few hundred young men with dreams of playing in the NFL. (c) Lionsgate

Official site:

RIO 2 (C-/B-/B-/A-/A)

Bottom Line: I really enjoyed the first RIO movie – an energetic adventure about a rare, flightless, Minnesota-housed Blue Macaw.  It was well written, witty, colorful and sincere.  This follow up – well…it’s, um, it’s colorful.  This seemingly rushed rehash never recreated the physical pain I endured while watching Disney’s PLANES (Plane Pain, as I like to call it), but it sure as heck doesn’t fall too far from that let’s-not-try-too-hard tree.  The effort here – in terms of story – is a dazed and confused effort.  A few shrug-worthy jokes, lots of celebration of life and a few show tunes awkwardly shoehorned in because the brilliant success of FROZEN proved that that’s what we want…right?!  My family, five strong (and true to form), was all over the map: While my 6- and 4-year olds showered it with A’s, my wife and 9-year old – refreshingly – saddled it with a B-.  It’s hard to wow families in a post FROZEN/LEGO MOVIE world.  The color is all there, along with a tad of familial spirit - but the rest is a frantically chaotic mix of clichéd animated hijinx.  It was a soulless, style-over-substance bore.  Lushly animated and lazily executed, RIO 2 is, indeed, for the birds and the cinematic equivalent of parking your newly washed car under a pigeon-laden telephone wire.  Sure she looks shiny, but you know what happens next…

Starring the voices of: Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Andy Garcia, Bruno Mars, Jamie Foxx, Tracy Morgan, George Lopez, Jermaine Clement, Leslie Mann, Kristin Chenoweth and
Directed by: Carlos Saldanha (RIO, ICE AGE and ROBOTS)
Rated: PG
Running time: 101 minutes
Studio description: It's a jungle out there for Blu, Jewel and their three kids in RIO 2, after they're hurtled from that magical city to the wilds of the Amazon. As Blu tries to fit in, he goes beak-to-beak with the vengeful Nigel, and meets the most fearsome adversary of all - his father-in-law. All our favorite RIO characters are back, and they're joined by Oscar (R) nominee Andy Garcia, Grammy (R) winner Bruno Mars, Tony (R) winner Kristin Chenoweth and Oscar/Emmy (R)/Tony winner Rita Moreno. RIO 2 also features new Brazilian artists and original music by Janelle Monae and Wondaland. (c) Fox

Official site:

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Bottom Line: Marvel, in the midst of their ‘Phase 2’ campaign of superhero sequels (all leading up to next year’s AVENGERS follow up) has delivered an early-in-the-year, summer-sized flick that fires on all super serum-fueled cylinders.  CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER is their best entry to date and one of my favorite comic book movies of all time…  In a word, it’s marvelous!  Torn between freedom and fear, it deftly balances terrifically staged fight sequences and a We-The-People, go-go America mindset with a seemingly real world, protect-the-country-at-all-costs political climate…  This spectacular follow-up crackles with excitement, dazzles with spectacle and intrigues with its layered look at a (super) man out of his element and still learning who he can trust…  The violence (shown and implied; lots of explosions, gunplay and fisticuffs) might be a bit much for younger kids to handle – but that’s your call.  My nine and seven year old boys, much to their chagrin, will have to wait a few more years to view it in its entirety…  Amongst the well-played new characters (Redford, Mackie, Grillo) you’ll find added depth to some we already know (Jackson, Stan) and love (Johansson; not ugly) – and Chris Evans, as the Boy Scout in blue, delivers a tremendous, heartfelt, get-the-job-done performance that ensures you’ll not even miss the fast talking, wisecracking mouth of IRON MAN’s Robert Downey Jr.  This is a snappy, sharp and suspenseful Jason Bourne-like ride that’s explosively action-packed, morally charged and grounded in all sorts of governmental goonery.  It’ll likely be some of the most fun you’ll have at the theater all year…  Shield yourself from the few negative reviews.  It may be their opinion – but they’re flat out wrong.

Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L, Jackson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Frank Grillo and Robert Redford
Directed by: Anthony and Joe Russo (ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT and YOU, ME AND DUPREE)
Rated: PG-13
Running time: 136 minutes
Studio description: After the cataclysmic events in New York with The Avengers, Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, lives quietly in Washington, D.C. trying to adjust to the modern world. But when a S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague comes under attack, Steve becomes embroiled in a web of intrigue that threatens to put the world at risk. Joining forces with the Black Widow, Captain America struggles to expose the ever-widening conspiracy while fighting off professional assassins sent to silence him at every turn. When the full scope of the villainous plot is revealed, Captain America and the Black Widow enlist the help of a new ally, the Falcon. However, they soon find themselves up against an unexpected and formidable enemy.

Friday, March 28, 2014


Bottom Line: THE LORD OF THE RINGS meets MAD MAX by way of THE FOUNTAIN in this ambitiously gritty and semi-spiritually warped tackling of the famed biblical story…  NOAH is a movie that – more than anything else – deserves to be experienced with an open mind.  It’s a fairly fascinating, thought provoking and epic in scope exploration of beliefs, duty, doubt and free will.  A story of selfishness vs. selflessness that folds together balanced thoughts on creationism, evolutionism and environmentalism.  Aesthetically stunning and uncompressing inventive in its vision, director Darren Aronofsky (BLACK SWAN, THE WRESTLER) has created a big budget, major studio art-house flick that encourages discussion and debate -  something very few movies do these days.  …and with scenes boldly swinging from a heady, stylized, Terrence Malick-ian minimalism to a computer-generated Michael Bay-esque overindulgence, this flick boldly ricochets between wildly inventive and overtly tame.  The cast all do a fine job but it’s the Crowe show and he shines as a man staying loyal, stoic and mired in in his convictions as he tries to keep to his spiritual path.  There are bumps along the way – it’s a tad slow at times and the third act possesses multiple storylines all playing out a little too conveniently, with questionable main character motives and a rushed atmosphere.  This primordial, non-preachy and vividly imaginative approach, however, should help ensure that theaters are flooded with moviegoers as NOAH reigns supreme at the box office this weekend.

Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Ray Winstone, Logan Lerman, Nick Nolte and Anthony Hopkins
Rated: PG-13
Running time: 139 minutes
Studio description: Russell Crowe stars as Noah in the film inspired by the epic story of courage, sacrifice and hope. Directed by visionary filmmaker Darren Aronofsky (c) Paramount
Official site:

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Bottom Line: It’s time to face the music.  It’s time to get rewrites.  I think the Muppet crew crooned it best when, in the first musical number of this energetically unmemorable movie, they warned how ‘everybody knows that the sequel’s never quite as good’.  Truer words have never been sung by fuzzy, funny, hand-jammed icons of our childhood.  The first moments of this movie shine with spectacle and show tunes – reintroducing us to a comfort zone we’ve come to know and love.  Nothing groundbreaking, unfortunately – nothing that dazzled like 2011’s THE MUPPETS starring human actors Jason Segel and Amy Adams.  My three boys enjoyed it (not more than THE LEGO MOVIE or MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN mind you) but my wife and I felt like we deserved a more concerted effort to deliver the high brand of hilarity and entertainment that this franchise has owned for the past 35+ years…  The tone is too dark, the gags are too flat and the celebrity cameos (most of them) too unfamiliar.  As expected, there is a goofily fanciful, family friendly vibe – zippy tunes and simple laughs.  Dig a bit deeper, however, and you’ll discover a lazy and uninspired flatness to the whole shebang.  It’s an occasionally fun yet ultimately forgettable flick.  It may not be easy being green, Kermit – but earning more green on repeated trips to see your new movie will prove even tougher.  Why don’t we get things started…indeed.
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell and Tina Fey
Directed by: James Bobin (THE MUPPETS)
Rated: PG
Running time: 112 minutes
Studio description: Muppets Most Wanted takes the entire Muppets gang on a global tour, selling out grand theaters in some of Europe’s most exciting destinations, including Berlin, Madrid and London. But mayhem follows the Muppets overseas, as they find themselves unwittingly entangled in an international crime caper.
Official site:


Bottom Line: This youth oriented, societally segregated, dystopian flick (based off the popular book trilogy) is basically THE HUNGER GAMES minus any depth, drive or desire to turn a rabidly raved about read into a memorable movie.  On the plus side [gimme a minute – pretty sure there was something I kind of liked, or rather, didn’t hate] there’s a wafer-thin ribbon of intrigue that faintly runs throughout the bloated 2 ½ hour running time.  Unfortunately, that’s about it – the rest of this post-apocalyptic fortress lies in shambles due to mind-numbing editing,  zero character development, brutal acting (from both newcomers and seasoned actors alike), painful dialogue, cheesily placed industrial music, uninteresting storytelling, senseless action sequences, glaring plot holes, oblivious leaps in logic and an overall lack of wit, charm and passion.  For the record, my wife and 14-year old niece loved the books – grade-wise, they give the movie a D and C-, respectively.  A big part of this movie focuses on identifying and conquering your fears - I’ve decided that what scares me most is the thought of there being at least two more movies left to tell…  DIVERGENT is dull, derivative and more deserving of the similarly sounding DETERGENT moniker – if only because, above all things, it’s a complete mess.
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Miles teller, Ray Stevenson, Jai Courtney, Ashley Judd, Maggie Q, Tony Goldwyn and Kate Winslet
Directed by: Neil Burger (LIMITLESS and THE ILLUSIONIST)
Rated: PG-13
Running time: 143 minutes
Studio description: DIVERGENT is a thrilling action-adventure film set in a world where people are divided into distinct factions based on human virtues. Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) is warned she is Divergent and will never fit into any one group. When she discovers a conspiracy by a faction leader (Kate Winslet) to destroy all Divergents, Tris must learn to trust in the mysterious Four (Theo James) and together they must find out what makes being Divergent so dangerous before it's too late. Based on the best-selling book series by Veronica Roth. (C) Summit
Official site:

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Bottom Line: Woefully getting pounded by critics, this brainlessly loud bit of muscle car mayhem – while  firing on almost no storytelling pistons – still manages to, surprisingly, keep it’s pedal to the medal and deliver a great deal of high-octane thrills!  The plot is pointless, the characters are paper thin and perhaps the whole ordeal is best suited to a matinee screening or a pick-up-wherever-it’s-at viewing if you thumb by it on cable…  But it never takes itself too serious, contains some decent laughs throughout, has a cast who are all clearly having a blast and proudly owns it’s aggressively kinetic, B-movie, crowd pleasing vibe.  Aaron Paul (of TV’s BREAKING BAD) also proves himself an actor worthy of more big screen work and with him behind the wheel, the road for this flick is well-paved for sequels (NEED 5 SPEED?!).  In terms of live action films, 2014 is off to a pretty brutal start.  If all you’re looking for is a bit of obnoxiously mindless, popcorn-munching escapism, you’ll definitely feel the need…the NEED FOR SPEED!
Starring: Aaron Paul, Imogen Potts, Dominic Cooper and Michael Keaton
Directed by: Scott Waugh (ACT OF VALOR)
Rated: PG-13
Running time: 130 minutes
Studio description: Based on the most successful racing video game franchise ever with over 140 million copies sold, DreamWorks Pictures' "Need for Speed" captures the thrills of the game in a real-world setting. An exciting return to the great car-culture films of the 1960s and '70s, when authenticity brought a new level of intensity to the action, "Need for Speed" taps into what makes the American myth of the open road so enticing. The story chronicles a near-impossible cross-country race against time-one that begins as a mission for revenge, but proves to be one of redemption. In a last attempt to save his struggling garage, blue-collar mechanic Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul)-who with his team skillfully builds and races muscle cars on the side-reluctantly partners with wealthy, arrogant ex-NASCAR driver Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper). Just as a major sale to car broker Julia Bonet (Imogen Poots) looks like it will save the business, a disastrous, unsanctioned race results in Dino framing Tobey for manslaughter.(c) Disney

Thursday, March 6, 2014


Bottom Line: A fun, frantic and fast paced time-traveling 3D treat that’ll make you want to sit and stay, MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN (two of the more famous characters from The Rocky and Bullwinkle television show of the early sixties) is an animated, historical hoot…  Obediently educating while it entertains, this will rightfully be another unmitigated hit for kids and parents alike.  And while my wife and three boys debate whether or not this or THE LEGO MOVIE is their favorite family film of the past year, I can safely say – for me – it falls in at a close third behind the musical FROZEN and the aforementioned film built of little tiny plastic bricks.  I really enjoyed the offbeat charm, the whimsical wit and the energetic, action-packed, color-clashed visuals – but the story, still full of heart and hustle, is pretty thin and lacks some of the big screen, cinematic depth that made those other two my number one and two.  Bury your preconceived notions on all early-in-the-year movies being mediocre or  ‘cartoons’ only being for children – this rambunctious tale of a dog, his boy and history unleashed should have most audiences begging for more!

Starring the voices of: Ty Burrell, max Charles, Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann, Patrick Warburton, Stanley Tucci and Mel Brooks
Rated: PG
Running time: 82 minutes
Studio description: Mr. Peabody, the most accomplished dog in the world, and his mischievous boy Sherman, use their time machine - the WABAC - to go on the most outrageous adventures known to man or dog. But when Sherman takes the WABAC out for a joyride to impress his friend Penny, they accidentally rip a hole in the universe, wreaking havoc on the most important events in world history. Before they forever alter the past, present and future, Mr. Peabody must come to their rescue, ultimately facing the most daunting challenge of any era: figuring out how to be a parent. Together, the time traveling trio will make their mark on history. (c) Fox

Thursday, February 27, 2014

BTMG Picks the 2014 Oscar Winners

Let’s keep things simple this year and not even worry about all the reasons I’m running with the picks I’m running with…  Well, let’s cover a few: Matthew McConaughey (Best Actor), Cate Blanchett (Best Actress), Jared Leto (Best Supporting Actor) and Alfonso Cuarón (Best Director) should all be locks for their respective categories.  Should be…   
In the race for Best Picture, I can see one of three things happening: 12 YEARS A SLAVE wins because it’s an important and powerfully brutal film.  For me, it lacked the emotional trigger needed to make it a great film.  Perhaps GRAVITY wins because it assuredly and aggressively transports you to another place and drops you smack dab in the action – something, I’m pretty sure, most of us go to the movies for…  GRAVITY was also my favorite movie of 2013.  Finally, the overwhelming love (?!) for the vastly overrated AMERICAN HUSTLE wins the favor of Academy voters and trumps the sadness of SLAVE and the spectacle of space.
It’s anybody’s guess what each Academy member was thinking when they filled out their ballots.  Assume, for a minute, that I have a pretty solid grasp on their fiendish little minds and jot down my picks below – odds are you’re gonna do fairly well in this year’s Oscar pool.
As an added bonus – because I care about you more than any other critic ever will – I’ve included my letter grade alongside all the movies I’ve seen.  This is what is commonly referred to as a win-win scenario.  So go see some movies, fill out your ballot and earn Oscar pick bragging rights for yet another year… 
Be sure to let me know how you made out, and make checks payable to BTMG – oh, you know you already have the address you stalkers you!


American Hustle (C+) possible spoiler
Captain Phillips (A)
Dallas Buyers Club (B+)
Gravity (A+) who I want to win
Her (A+)
Nebraska (B)
Philomena (B+)
12 Years a Slave (B-) possible spoiler
The Wolf of Wall Street (A-)
David O. Russell/American Hustle (C+)
Alfonso Cuarón/Gravity (A+) who I want to win
Alexander Payne/Nebraska (B)
Steve McQueen/12 Years a Slave (B-) possible spoiler
Martin Scorsese/The Wolf of Wall Street (A-)
Christian Bale/American Hustle (C+)
Bruce Dern/Nebraska (B)
Leonardo DiCaprio/The Wolf of Wall Street (A-) who I want to win
Chiwetel Ejiofor/12 Years a Slave (B-) possible spoiler
Matthew McConaughey/Dallas Buyers Club (B+)
Amy Adams/American Hustle (C+) possible spoiler
Cate Blanchett/Blue Jasmine (B+) who I want to win
Sandra Bullock/Gravity (A+)
Judi Dench/Philomena (B+)
Meryl Streep/August: Osage County (B+)
Barkhad Abdi/Captain Phillips (A)
Bradley Cooper/American Hustle (C+)
Michael Fassbender/12 Years a Slave (B-)
Jonah Hill/The Wolf of Wall Street (A-)
Jared Leto/Dallas Buyers Club (B+) who I want to win/no spoiler
Sally Hawkins/Blue Jasmine (B+)
Jennifer Lawrence/American Hustle (C+) possible spoiler
Lupita Nyong’o/12 Years a Slave (B-)
Julia Roberts/August: Osage County (B+) who I want to win
June Squibb/Nebraska (B)
The Croods (B+)
Despicable Me 2 (C+)
Earnest & Celestine
Frozen (A) who I want to win/no spoilers
The Wind Rises (B+)
The Broken Circle Breakdown (B)
The Great Beauty (A-) who I want to win
The Hunt (A-) possible spoiler
The Missing Picture
American Hustle (C+) possible spoiler
Blue Jasmine (B+)
Dallas Buyers Club (B+)
Her (A+) who I want to win
Nebraska (B)
Before Midnight (A) who I want to win
Captain Phillips (A)
Philomena (B+)
12 Years a Slave (B-)
The Wolf of Wall Street (A-)
American Hustle (C+)
The Grandmaster (B)
The Great Gatsby (C-) who I want to win
The Invisible Woman
12 Years a Slave (B-) possible spoiler
Happy from Despicable Me 2 (C+)
Let it Go from Frozen (A) who I want to win
The Moon Song from Her (A+)
Ordinary Love from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (C+) possible spoiler
John Williams/The Book Thief (B) possible spoiler
Steven Price/Gravity (A+) who I want to win
William Butler and Owen Pallet/Her (A+)
Alexandre Desplat/Philomena (B+)
Thomas Newman/Saving Mr. Banks (B+)
The Act of Killing (A-) possible spoiler
Cutie and The Boxer (B)
Dirty Wars
The Square
20 Feet from Stardom (A-) who I want to win
Dallas Buyers Club (B+) who I want to win/no spoiler
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
The Lone Ranger (D)
American Hustle (C+)
Gravity (A+) who I want to win/no spoiler
The Great Gatsby (C-)
Her (A+)
12 Years a Slave (B-)
American Hustle (C+)
Captain Phillips (A) possible spoiler
Dallas Buyers Club (B+)
Gravity (A+) who I want to win
12 Years a Slave (B-)
The Grandmaster (B)
Gravity (A+) who I want to win/no spoiler
Inside Llewyn Davis (A-)
Nebraska (B)
Prisoners (C+)
All is Lost (C+)
Captain Phillips (A)
Gravity (A+) who I want to win/no spoiler
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (B)
Lone Survivor (C+)
Captain Phillips (A)
Gravity (A+) who I want to win/no spoiler
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (B)
Inside Llewyn Davis (A-)
Lone Survivor (C+)
Gravity (A+) who I want to win/no spoiler
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (B)
Iron Man 3 (B+)
The Lone Ranger (D)
Star Trek Into Darkness (C+)
Full disclosure, I haven’t seen any of the films nominated in these categories.  Run with my picks and you should come out on the other end fairly unscathed...
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