The Wall: Movie Man Jackson

I’ll let someone else make a witty connection between this film’s title and the 45th president of the United States of America. In 2007, the Iraq War isn’t exactly over, but the pullout of American troops is beginning. Called to lookout after U.S. contractors building a pipeline are killed, Army sniper “Eyes” Issac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and spotter Sergeant Matthews (John Cena), make a move away from their protected positions to scope out the site. It’s been 22 hours, and they’re ready to be evacuated.

Shortly after inspection, all hell breaks loose. Scrambling from the open space fire, Issac finds protection in the form of an unsteady wall. Desperately trying to request help, his radio is not only damaged in the attack, but tapped by the enemy sniper. It becomes clear that Issac and Matthews are in grave danger, but their stalking assailant wants to play wretched mind games before launching a fatal salvo.

In the vein of 2016’s lean thrillers such as The Shallows and Don’t Breathe is The Wall. Director Doug Liman’s most recent film uses the backdrop of Iraq and the war to provide a movie that is technically a war movie, but sharing much more in common with those aforementioned films than a Hacksaw Ridge, Saving Private Ryan, and the like. The Wall ends up summer 2017’s first 100% lean thriller.

Liman, who knows his way around big-budget features in The Bourne Identity and Edge of Tomorrow, seems to relish in directing on this minuscule scale that The Wall carries, reportedly made somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-5 million dollars. The minimalist approach is deployed, and it does immerse the viewer into its setting rather quickly. Music is entirely absent in the movie; one may forget they’re watching one. Swirling winds, the desert heat, and just the general fear of being in a person’s literal crosshairs make for a harrowing viewing experience, and Liman chooses to give little away as it pertains to his villain’s position. It’s a clever use of space, illustrating that distance between characters may be far, but still very claustrophobic.

However, even at a tight 81 minutes, I’d be lying if I failed to say that The Wall did not meander occasionally. Gradually, the audience does find out more about Issac and his reason for still being in Iraq as the war is winding down, giving a little bit of an emotional component. As the film goes on, some attempts are made to parallel—and in the case of the antagonist, somewhat humanize—the characters who lie on each side of the wall divide through Edgar Allen Poe and Shakespeare lines. At best, these parallels are broad, at worst, nonexistent. Not exactly painful-to-listen-to dialogue, but the type of dialogue that doesn’t accomplish as much as it wants to, either. As for the ending, it’s a bold direction, if a little farfetched for a realism-focused movie.

Keeping up his hot momentum after his marvelous turn in Nocturnal Animals is Aaron Taylor-Johnson here. His performance isn’t so much character-driven, but draws more upon the overall fatigue and hopelessness, mental, physical, and emotional, soldiers may find themselves into. This is unequivocally his movie, with the bulk of the camera focused on him, though John Cena provides adequate dramatic support in what is easily his best dramatic performance to date. Laith Nakli is the standard, sinister voice that’s needed for this type of feature when a mysterious character is unseen, think Kiefer Sutherfland in Phone Booth and Ted Levine in Joy Ride.

The first real surprise of the year? With a pretty limited script, a good director and strong performances keep The Wall from toppling over, ultimately making for an efficient war-set thriller.

B-

Photo credits go to Youtube.com, muscleandfitness.com, and liveforfilms.com

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2: Movie Man Jackson

Loud noises! After coming together to save the galaxy the first time, Guardians of the Galaxy Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) this find themselves assisting an intergalactic species known as the Sovereigns, taking down a dangerous beast in exchange for Gamora’s recently captured sister, the treacherous Nebula (Karen Gillan).

A misguided theft attempt by one of the Guardians (guess who) leads the Soverigns to come after the fivesome, who look to be dead-to-rights until a mysterious figure comes out of nowhere to save them from instadeath. Who is this figure? Only Quill’s/Star-Lord’s long lost and enigmatic father, Ego (Kurt Russell), who whisks away Quill, Gamora, and Drax to his home planet in an effort to ingratiate himself to his son and friends, while leaving Groot and Rocket behind to repair their broken spaceship. Even split up, the Guardians are still wanted, and the Sovereigns send Yondu to collect them all for proper punishment.

At this writing, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 has been covered at length by many a great bloggers and websites. Yours truly can’t add too much to what has already been stated, but I’ll do my best. The first Guardians of the Galaxy wasn’t supposed to succeed at the level it did; looking destined to be Marvel’s first true whiff (critically and commercially) in their MCU.

First trailer thoughts: Who in the blue hell are these jabronis? What is with all of this retro music in a comic book movie? To the tune of the almost 774 million worldwide and rave reviews, GoTG is hailed by a noticeable size of Marvel fans as the best the universe has to offer. A significant part of this feeling was simply due to the fact that we had never seen anything like it before in a comic book feature. To an extent, GoTG V2, possibly more than most sequels, was doomed to underwhelm more than most, not from a financial perspective, but from a quality one.

Guardians Vol 2 isn’t a complete rehashing of the movie that came before. James Gunn, returning to both direct and write the sequel, is more interested this time around with delving deeper into what makes the characters who they are. In particular, Star-Lord, Gamora, Rocket, and surprisingly, Yondu are standouts, and respectively, Pratt, Saldana, the voice of Cooper, and Rooker get to deliver some very good character moments, the type of moments that will lead this franchise into the future.

But, it is a little disappointing to see Bautista chained to the comedic role for much of the movie’s runtime. Drax, a standout before, gets the biggest laughs but also the most attempts to do so. Whereas before he was the perfect blend of ass-kicker and humor, the percentage is much more weighted towards comedy this time, neutering the character somewhat. Baby Groot does one note extremely well. Other supporting characters, like Mantis, get lost in the shuffle, while Russell, though a figure with purpose, is reduced to exposition more times than not.

And as a whole, Guardians Vol 2 feels overstuffed from a character standpoint. Or maybe it’s the endless Ravagers, gold-painted, bland Sovereigns, and five post-credits scenes that make me feel as such. Story wise, aimless is the word yours truly would use for the first hour. The script seems content to have the characters spit jokes at one another, or talk a bit about unspoken chemistry. It’s clear where this is going and what the final act is going to consist of, but it takes pretty long in getting there. The importance of family, whether blood or makeshift, is the theme (Guardians of the Furious? The Fate of the Guardians?). And as stated, there are a few good, even poignant, moments, but also a lot of yelling and angst that becomes a little old after a while.

The action still serves as a solid point, and the vibrant, trippy colors make for a good palette. We know that the Guardians and Doctor Strange, along with every major Marvel player, will interact in Infinity War, but consider it a missed opportunity, Marvel, if the Sorcerer and the ultimate ragtag bunch don’t get extended time together in their respective sequels. From a set piece standpoint, not much actually stands out in the way the chase scene, prison breakout, and “Guardians assemble” moment did in the original. Gunn’s direction isn’t bad or mediocre, but just uninteresting.

Uninteresting kind of sums up the overall thoughts that yours truly has of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. Doesn’t mean I don’t want want more adventures, just not hooked on this particular one.

C

Photo credits go to hollywoodreporter.com, movieweb.com, and cinemavine.com.

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson

Max: Movie Man Jackson

maxstub

“Max just has to know you want him.”

The other, smaller, Max of 2015. Out in Afghanistan, US Marine Kyle Wincott (Robbie Amell), makes rounds with his most loyal friend, German Shepherd Max. Max servers as his eyes, ears, and support during the most harrowing of times. Sadly, Kyle loses his life during a patrol with his unit, and the aftermath proves to be traumatic for the war dog.

Back at home in Texas, Kyle’s family learns of the heartbreaking news. His indifferent brother who-has-a lot-of-growing-up-to-do Justin (Josh Wiggins), was never all that close to his older sibling and keeps to keep to himself amongst his family. But oddly enough, he is the only person with whom Max is not hostile towards once Max comes home. As Max is Kyle’s last piece in the world, the Wincotts take him in to prevent him being put down. Slowly but surely, Justin slowly begins to grow closer to the dog, who changes not just his life, but everyone’s.

shepherd

At the core, Max is a coming-of-age story, and this can be seen in the first 15-20 minutes. The exact way it will unfold is unknown, but generally, one knows that in some fashion, the dog is going to somehow help the younger brother grow into a young man. That does happen in Max, but so does a bunch of other stuff. This other stuff ends up making the movie more like random bits of shrapnel scattered about.

Coming-of-age stories happen all of the time, and when done right, they can still work. No, they don’t reinvent the wheel, and can be pretty basic. But, they can provide a sometimes captivating story. Max, while far from captivating, works best when it focuses solely upon building the bond between Max and his new guardian Justin. As melodramatic (the whole film is scored to the hilt) and rushed as this bond is, it did mildly tug at the heartstrings of yours truly.

kyle

The thing that is weird about this, though, is the fact that director Boaz Yakin (Remember the Titans) is not content with that emotional core being enough. As average as a movie with only that would likely be, at least there would be no struggle with trying to decipher what Max wants to be. There are so many other side plots introduced that it does end up marring the heartfelt impact. Look hard enough and one can see Yakin trying to make social commentary on xenophobia, stereotyping, and racism, but it all comes off as more cringeworthy than educational.

Another subplot exists about weapons being dealt to Hispanic arms dealers in something that is probably meant to bring light to the difficulties ex-soldiers have in finding work upon returning from duty. In the movie, it never quite comes together, and ends up moving Max from a family-friendly offering to more of a very dark PG-affair. Really, the last third of the runtime evolves, or perhaps devolves, into a thriller/action. It becomes clear that the rating restricts what Yakin wants to do, and the editing in the final act sort of reflects this.

The canine who plays Max is the definite star of the movie. Maybe he can be the next Rin Tin Tin or Pal in show business. As far as his human counterparts go, they are serviceable. Lauren Graham and Thomas Haden Church are no slouches, but play the average middle-class parent roles that could be filled by anyone. Josh Wiggins is the sidekick for all intents and purposes to Max, and he seems to be a little shaky in his performance in spots in what is only his second film. Aside from common names in Graham, Church, and Jay Hernandez, much of the heavy lifting here is left to those who play teenagers. Like Wiggins, the people playing the roles have very limited experience in film, or even acting for that matter, and it unfortunately shows more times than not.

woods

Though some credit has to be given to Yakin for trying to diversify a standard coming-of-age story, sometimes the best path is sticking with the well-worn one. Max suffers from not knowing what it really wants to be, taking multiple but ultimately small bites at different ideas instead of a big but fulfilling one.

Grade: D+

Photo credits go to kidsmoviehq.com, usatoday.co, and dailymotion.com.

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson

Avengers: Age of Ultron: Movie Man Jackson

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“How is humanity saved if it isn’t allowed to evolve?”

How is it that striving for peace almost always seems to make things worse than they are? There is no assembling The Avengers this time around, the group is already comprised. In Age of Ultron, the good guys are back and a cohesive super unit. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye are doing their best to keep the world and humanity running smoothly. They are doing a great job, but as Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) states, they should be fighting in the hope that one day, they will no longer have to.

Enter the Ultron program, which Tony Stark is not able to build in a cave…with a box of scraps. Designed to be a global artificial intelligence defense that keeps unwanted intruders from entering Earth, Stark and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), decide to give another go. Unfortunately, the Ultron AI goes haywire, and “peace” in its mind involves the eradication of The Avengers and humanity.

ultron

At this point, Marvel cannot lose, from a revenue sense at least. Maybe one day a huge loss will come that ends up changing the terrain of comic book feature presentations, but not yet. From a quality sense, Avengers: Age of Ultron is still a winner, but not to the extent that the The Avengers was. Don’t take that as AoU being a failure, take it as AoU being a functional blockbuster.

Director Joss Whedon has the job of once again bringing these popular comic book characters together, and he possesses a real talent in doing so. He wastes no time in reintroducing the audience to the gang in a frenetic, fun, and maybe too comic-book-ish (it probably is stupid to complain about this given the origins, but whatever) opening sequence. Whereas maybe one or two characters from the first movie had less total impact and screentime, this go around, everyone’s contributions do feel as equal as could possibly be.

There’s even some notable depth given to a few of them that is totally unforeseen. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is more than the human archer, and yet he isn’t at the same time. Sounds confusing, but it makes sense when seen. But the real development occurs with the arrogant Tony Stark. Downey, in yours truly’s opinion, hasn’t been this good since the first Iron Man. What is being done with his character is a nice, long, slow burn heel turn, reminiscent of a wrestler who shows bad guy tendencies for months but never officially turns until way down the line. It should be great to see it culminate in next year’s Civil War.

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Not everything is handled expertly, however. It could just be a personal preference, but I’d prefer my Avengers films to be love-free. Not to spoil anything, but anytime two specific characters get doe-eyed and spout double entendres around each other, it is hard to stomach and the movie truly bogs down in pace. This is one of a few moments/side plots that are odd in their presence, adding to a story that at its base is somewhat coherent yet fragmented; not as complete as the predecessor. For what has come out with Whedon and the creative differences pertaining to AoU in various scenes, it will be interesting to see how things appear in the rumored extended cut once a home media release rolls out.

With a group this large and egos this sizable, you have got to have a villain to be formidable. Ultron (James Spader) is…just good. Visually, he looks menacing, and Spader gives a distinct voice to the character, but a belief exists that he could be so much more. His inclusion comes off as a tad rushed, as in it doesn’t even take a minute for the program to become corrupt. And, he falls short of being the badass he could be. The trailers painted him as a ruthless, sentient being, and he gets to about 75-80% of that. The other 20-25% is filled with hit or miss one-liners, which can be said for most of the film, and underdeveloped motivations.

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Avengers: Age of Ultron is still the definitive christening of the summer blockbuster season, and it is hard to be completely dissatisfied with what is present here. If a hunger for comic book heroes and villains exists, one will get their fill with this one. But instead of feeling like a unique event all in of itself like the original did, AoU ends up feeling like another cog in the Marvel machine.

Grade: B-

Photo credits go to geekslife.com, io9.com, and comicbook.com.

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson

Liebster Award: Take 3

Here we go again!

I would like to sincerely thank Jonathan Robbins over at https://robbinsrealm.wordpress.com/ for nominating me for this Liebster Award. He has great thoughts on many movies, old and new, and tackles them with a level of analysis I’d love to get at one day!

The rules for accepting this award are as follows:

1. Thank the person who nominated you.
2. Answer the questions from the person who nominated you.
3. Nominate 11 bloggers for the award.
4. Notify the bloggers you have nominated.
5. Create 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate.

Now, to answer the questions RobbinsRealm posed to me!

1. Do you watch “Game of Thrones?” If so, who is your favorite character?

  • I have never seen a full episode, and I am OK with that. Middle Earth and that type of historial fantasy has never truly appealed to yours truly.

2. List three of your favorite authors?

  • Richard Wright (Black Boy, Native Son (may be my favorite book ever)), George Orwell (1984, Animal Farm), and R.A Montgomery/Edward Packard (Choose Your Own Adventure, loved those books!)

3. What is the best place you have ever been to on vacation?

  • Daytona Beach, FL. Not a glamorous place when compared to other cities in the state, but it was the scene of the wildest end of year school parties I have ever been a part of. Two years running.

4. What is something that you are passionate about?

  • Writing this blog, I’d like to hope I am pretty passionate about film! Other things include scores of said films, education (I work in that sector), sports, and self-fulfillment.

5. What is your favorite kind of food?

  • Going to have to go with Mexican here. I grew up in Arizona, so that state knows its Mex. But my mother makes amazing tacos and my dad is the man with enchiladas. So many possibilities and options with Mexican.

6. What was the last film you saw and loved?

  • Furious 7. I do not believe it to be the best of the franchise, but it is up there, and delivered on just about everything I thought it would, along with an extremely beautiful tribute to Paul Walker.

7. What was the last film you saw and disliked?

  • The Hangover Part III. Missed this one in 2013, and it probably should have stayed this way. I still cannot believe how unfunny this was. As a comedy goes on, it is embarrassing to see that hardly any jokes are landing, and this feeling is magnified when watching a lame comedy in a theater.

8. Are you a coffee drinker, a tea drinker, both, neither?

  • Tea just about every day, and twice on Sundays. I love black tea, green tea, white tea, chamomile tea, and many others. Last time I tried to get into coffee was when I was 16. Not for me, though on a blue moon I’ll do a flavored espresso like French vanilla.

9. What is a television show that is no longer on that you would like to see get a reboot?

I’m going off the grid with this one. City Guys.

Loved this show, and had a solid cast with great chemistry. I see no reason why this couldn’t be done in the present day with a new batch of characters. Make it happen NBC!

10. What is your favorite color?

  • Dark blue is almost always a winner, but I’m fond of black, white, gold, and green as well.

11. If you could switch places with someone for one day, who would it be?

  • I’m more than content with being myself now, but to answer the question, give me Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s so mysterious. Being around that quality harem of women wouldn’t be a bad thing for 24 hours. Pure unadulterated fun!

Now it is time for me to choose eleven bloggers to give the award to. I feel honored to be such a great part of the WordPress community, specially with movies. I want to give some spotlight to those I haven’t been following long:

1. https://matchdaymovies.wordpress.com/

2. https://themoviereviewdude.wordpress.com/

3. https://wilsonreviews.wordpress.com/

4. http://pickoftheflix.com/

5. https://outofthisfilmworld.wordpress.com/

6. https://thatmovieperson.wordpress.com/

7. https://jwkurtz.wordpress.com/

8. https://filmandnuance.wordpress.com/

9. https://blockbusternostalgia.wordpress.com/

10. http://loganbushey.com/

11. http://tenstarsorless.com/

And now, for the questions for them to answer:

1. Who is your favorite film reviewer to read work from (living or deceased)?

2. Worst film you have recently seen?

3. Best film you have recently seen?

4. What summer 2015 blockbuster are you most excited about?

5. Twitter or Facebook?

6. It is one night before you are executed for a crime you didn’t commit. What is your last meal?

7. How far away do you live from your closest theater?

8. Where do you see yourself in five years (interview question!)?

9. Age-old question: Pop or Soda?

10. Is censorship always a bad thing?

11. Favorite TV comedy of all time?

Once again, thanks for Robbin’s Realm for nominating me, and thank you guys for giving me the support and feedback on this site. We all make up a great community!

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson.

 

Interstellar: Movie Man Jackson

interstellarstub

“This world’s a treasure, but it’s been telling us to leave for a while now.”

Time is such a delicate thing, and in Interstellar, the world doesn’t have much of it left. On future Earth, humanity’s prospects do not look good. The climate doesn’t cooperate, and crops are routinely ravaged by dust storms and other hardships, creating famine. Those with children face the impending reality that their sons and daughters may be the last of their bloodline.

One of the notable men with a family is Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a widower and former NASA test pilot/engineer now making his career as a farmer. Farming is not something Cooper enjoys, but the world needs more farmers with intellect like his, and he is a man who will do anything for his son and daughter (Timothee Chalamet, Mackenzie Foy). After stumbling upon something very secret, Cooper is chosen to lead a band of explorers across the expansive solar system for one mission: Finding a place that can support human life. Only problem is, a habitable planet may not be out there, and it isn’t a guarantee that he may every seen his family again even if he does.

 fatherdaughter

Interstellar is just as much of a spectacle as it is a film. It is grand and very ambitious, and in many ways the closest thing our generation may have to 2001: A Space Odyssey. This doesn’t make it a completely pristine piece of cinema, but it is a damn good piece in totality. A piece that may need to be seen multiple times to fully comprehend and analyze, and one that probably warrants it.

Over the years, director Christopher Nolan has built up quite the sizable fanbase, most often known as “Christopher Nolan fanboys” who seem to live and unabashedly support every action in every movie he has ever done. I don’t consider myself a part of this fanbase. No doubt, the man is very talented and skilled in his craft, but hyperbole often makes more of something or someone than perhaps deserved. Still, almost all of his works are intriguing, and many carry a sense of scale and unique storytelling that other works by other filmmakers do not possess. It doesn’t always come together seamlessly, but more times than not his ideas work, and the man must be commended for trying them.

Interstellar is much of the same in the scale sense, and different at the same time. There are few things bigger than exploring space, because it is so vast when time, gravity, wormholes, and other science concepts are factored in. This future, desolate Earth and expansive galaxy is fully realized in this. It is almost like Mass Effect on the big screen, without alien races. It is very sci-fi focused, and this could truthfully turn off many as much homework sounds like it was done to get things right factually. Regardless, Nolan does a wonderful job of crafting a world rife with permutations and possibilities, and as the explorers set out to find a new place, we are right along with them.

The production here is stellar; cinematography, sound mixing, and score all come together to create a sense of astonishment, unease, and wonder. Not enough can be said about this score, as once again Hans Zimmer proves he is one of the best in the business. Mind you I did not see this in an IMAX format perhaps like I should of, and yet it still blew me away.

hathaway

Even in all of the movie’s “epicness,” this is one of Nolan’s more basic and truly human movies. It does provoke thought on where we would be headed if for some reason our crops were reduced (really though about how farming is so crucial to my everyday life during this!). Sure, it is about space, exploration and the future of humanity, but at the core, it is about a man and his love for his family. It is an interesting look at how the care we have for our flesh and blood supersedes the care or lack thereof of people we have no real connection to. It is the classic short-term gratification v.s. long term potential. This aspect gives Interstellar the serious heft it needs to get it through an almost three-hour runtime.

Almost is the key word though. While the film is overall engrossing, there are more than a few times in which noticeable drag occurs. Some of the heavy dialogue, always a staple in Nolan films it seems, comes off as being wordy just for wordy’s sake, like taking 20 words to say something that could have been said in 10. Unrelated to the plodding pacing but still an issue is the disjointed area in the semi-climax of this that doesn’t feel tight or well-thought out at all. The narrative structure is pretty solid in totality, but what occurred in this part of the film and how it was presented became hard to follow and temporarily ceased the immersive experience had to that point.

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This recent career arc of Matthew McConaughey’s career can probably stop being called a “McConissance” at this point. As Cooper, McConaughey turns in a magnificent performance. Cooper is the type of guy that is stubborn and a bit arrogant, but he is also a deeply caring guy who just wants the best for those he loves and even for his home of Earth. The two desires clash though, and Matthew absolutely sells the internal discomfort of what is at stake. His journey is one that makes you invested on where it is going, and where it will end.

While McC is the undeniable star in this and easily turns in the best character work, his movie daughter played by Mackenzie Foy does a superb acting job as Murph, and is only bested by Matthew. The bond the two build in little time sets up the movie, and is integral to caring where everyone ends up. Foy’s scenes are very emotional, and very impressive for a child to emote so confidently. Filled with such accomplished actors, it is somewhat surprising that only McConaughey’s and Foy’s performances truly stand out. That isn’t to say that Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain, or Matt Damon are terrible here, but they have all been better before. They are perfectly able and adept, nothing more or less.

At the end of the day, Interstellar is science fiction done at a very high level, even if it could have been tighter and more compact. Whether in 35mm, 70mm, IMAX, Ultrascreen, or whatever else, give this a view, alright, alright, alright?

Grade: A-

Photo credits go to joblo.com, nydailynews.com, and screenrant.com.

Follow the MovieMan @MovieManJackson.

Jaws: Movie Man Jackson

jawsposter

“Well, this is not a boat accident! And it wasn’t any propeller; and it wasn’t any coral reef; and it wasn’t Jack the Ripper! It was a shark.”

Beaches are still feeling the lessened revenue of the summer of 1975 after this one. Amity Island is the setting in Jaws, a place where only the summer brings increased population and increased revenue from tourists. The beautiful beachfront is the hotspot, especially during the Fourth of July period.

However, there is something lurking underneath the waters. Something that may have claimed the life of a young boy and a young lady. Police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) is the only one to believe these deaths are not a result of common accidents, but of a killer shark. Despite the signs pointing to the latter, there is too much income involved to shut down the island.

After more unfortunate events occur, there is no doubting that a Great White is the cause of all of this mayhem. Knowing he can’t take down “Jaws” alone, Brody teams with marine scientist Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and crazed shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw), to eradicate the terror. Only certainty? They’ll need a bigger boat to take this bad guy down.

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There are some films that are very good but not much of an experience, and there are films that are a great experience but leave a little something to be desired on a substance level. On the rarest of fronts, there are films that offer an amazing watching experience with solid substance, and the ability to transform cinema history and even impact pop culture. Under the guidance of director Steven Spielberg, Jaws is one of those films, really redefining what a spectacle is in the world of motion pictures.

Jaws takes its inspiration from the 1974 novel by the same name. While the novel apparently has many subplots that have nothing to do with the man-eater, the movie itself is purely focused on the shark and the all-in hunt for it. It is definitely straightforward, with a collision course all but set between the protagonists and antagonist. That doesn’t mean it is any less engrossing though. There is a focus that the script has and it really never wavers from it. It may be a simplistic one (though it has sparked some intriguing analysis thematically), but it has direction. Really, the only slight to be had pertains to the fact that it may be just a tad too long. Certain scenes really could have been shortened in my belief, but it is a very, very minor complaint.

atsea

Part of the reason the basic script works so well is due to what Spielberg and company are able to do with the protagonists. Usually, big-budget movies are derided for the lack of strong characters. Brody, Hooper, and Quint are all distinct personalities who may not have been able to carry this on their own, but as a collaborative effort, their performances meld efficiently. As Brody, Scheider is the common man, the one that audiences relate to most, more grounded in reality than the others. For what it is, Scheider is very adequate.

It is Dreyfuss and Shaw, however, who give the movie some edge. Dreyfuss’ character gives scientific knowledge to the movie mixed with eccentricity, while the man Shaw plays is wrapped in mystery and a distinct drawl. While all three do a pretty wonderful job, kudos again goes to Spielberg for making us care about all three. There is just enough backstory given to each that fleshes out the characters, especially during a superb scene right before the final third of the movie. This attention pays off when the three heroes find themselves in harrowing situations. Their survival is something we want to see.

In only his second full length film, Spielberg hits on all of the right notes. From the initial shot on the sea, I knew this was going to be a unforgettable experience (this was my first viewing, shockingly!). With a multitude of the key scenes being at or near water, Spielberg almost gives it an ethereal and mystical kind of feeling. This simply augments the tension when it is feeding time. Partly due to the troubles of the animatronic shark, and partly due to Steven just not wanting to show the true star right away, the big reveal is held off for a very long time. But, the intensity doesn’t suffer, and in fact it benefits from this decision. Showing the world in the eyes of the great white is an extremely well-done, horror-like POV shot. Even almost 40 years later, the fact that there are still moments that are truly jaw dropping with practical effects is a testament to Spielberg and his skill.

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Even with the stellar cinematography, fleshed-out characters, and man vs. beast story, for many, Jaws is known as the movie with the recognizable orchestral piece featuring the steady crescendo and fury of  an impending shark attack. In many ways, that piece is more famous now than the movie itself, being parodied and utilized so much to represent danger in any facet. While it it one of the best themes ever, the whole score itself is wonderfully done by John Williams. Whenever music is found here, it never feels out of place and only further aids whatever is happening in that particular moment.

Again, not many films can claim to be a game-changer, but Jaws is one of the few that can stake claim to that distinction. How a studio promotes a feature, when it comes out on the calendar, and what defines a blockbuster are all things that Jaws either directly or indirectly contributed to. It is not only a wonderful film, but an important one in pop culture history.

Grade: A

Photo credits go to totalfilm.com, impawards.com, and filmfreakcentral.net

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Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: Movie Man Jackson

Alexander

“We are not going to let this day get the better of us!”

What a title. At the dawn of seemingly another ordinary day, Alexander Cooper (Ed Oxenbould) wakes up out of bed and immediately takes a fall after being awakened by a didgeridoo. Unfortunately for Alexander it gets much, much worse, from not getting his preferred county for a project to striking out with a crush. Though this misfortune seems to occur often, the ultimate gut punch for the young fella is his invisibility to those around him most—his family.

On the eve of his birthday , Alexander makes a wish. Maybe his father (Steve Carell), mother (Jennifer Garner), and siblings could understand him more if they got a taste of his daily misfortunes. Well the next day, the entire clan, sans Alex, gets a dark cloud hung over them. Much like what he goes though consistently, it is everyone else’s turn to have a terrible, horrible, no good, and very bad day.

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After a heavy and prolonged period of drinking, a minor detox phase is needed. Really, it is no different for movie viewing. Between all of the heavy, Oscar-focused fare and horror/hyper-mature offerings especially during this time of year, something light is needed to just kick back on, whether alone or with the family. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is that type of movie, surprisingly.

The movie is actually based on a 32 page children’s book over 40 years old…so for all intents and purposes this is only really connected to its source material in name only. Looking at the trailer, this really did not look to high a high possibility of success, even with Steve Carell bringing his expertise here. For a variety of mainly basic reasons, most of the previously existing skepticism is quelled quickly.

First? Simply, the film is quick and painless. At only 81 minutes, Alexander and the Terrible has a lot of smarts to know not to overstay its welcome. There are no extra subplots, needless characters, or anything else that could give off the feeling of existing only to meet a runtime quota. Obviously, this leads to a predictable beginning and end, but who needs an intricate plot here? While not intricate plot-wise, heart is something present in the script, and it never feels contrived or overly sappy. At the core of this is a film about family, and the bond they share in times of distress. We have all been there with our families, and immediately, it is something that can be related to.

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His character may not be the main one, but Steve Carell is still top-billed here, and he is still one of the better comic actors today. From his delivery to dialogue to perfect facial expressions, the man knows what is funny. He is perfectly cast not only for comedy, but when the script needs him to be a thoughtful and caring father of four, he delivers as well. Jennifer Garner appears in her element here, almost as if she isn’t acting but just playing herself as a matriarch of a fairly large family. That isn’t a negative at all, rather positive to be honest. Together, the two look and feel like your average heads of an American family.

Child actors can be hit and miss for yours truly. Oftentimes, a success in my book is for the actor(s) to merely not get on my nerves.  For some reason after viewing the trailer I went into this one with vibes of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which features one of the more unlikeable protagonists in recent memory. Thankfully, the kids here are not grating or unlikeable, but actually enjoyable! The title character is easy to latch onto, and the kid playing him (Ed Oxenbould) flashes some solid acting chops for a youngster during the heartfelt moments. Those playing his siblings (Kerris Dorsey, Dylan Minnette) have genuinely funny scenes, and seem to possess natural propensity for laughs.

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Like any comedy, laughs are most important. This likely isn’t a movie that will induce hysterical laughter, but it is consistent throughout with enough for every member to enjoy, even if the trailer gives away some bigger moments. In fact, it may cater too much to the older crowd in a few particular scenes. I’m sure that kids are growing up faster and faster, but to hear the male anatomical term just put out there so bluntly was a little jarring for a PG-rated movie. As a young adult it isn’t that big of a deal, but hearing and seeing these instances wasn’t something expected….

But it is probably just me sounding like an overly concerned parent (A parent I am not). Taking all of this into account, the key thing to know is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day isn’t as disappointing as it may have looked. Honestly, it serves as a pleasant, respectable, good, and not bad day at the movies.

Grade: B

Photo credits go to fandango.com, apnatimepass.com, and metacritic.com.

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Beverly Hills Cop II: Movie Man Jackson

bhc2poster

“How the f*** can you steal a house? This…my uncle’s house!”

You can take the man out of Detroit but you can’t take Detroit out of the man. Beverly Hills Cop II reintroduces us to Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy), a wisecracking, eccentric, but extremely knowledgeable police officer. It has been about two years since Foley went over his superior’s head and solved his best friend’s murder out in Beverly Hills, and he has settled back into life in the Motor City.

Meanwhile in the 90210, the city is being hit left and right by highly precise robberies dubbed as the “Alphabet Crimes” due to what the criminals leave behind. Familiar faces Rosewood & Taggart (John Ashton, Judge Reinhold) are hot on the trail, but are quickly cast aside and demoted by their new and egotistical police chief. The case soon becomes personal, which Axel catches note of back in Detroit. Like before, Foley must again venture out into Beverly Hills and reunite with old partners to bring justice to those responsible.

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The first Beverly Hills Cop firmly established itself as a fun, simple, and sort of bubbly comedy-action film, while simultaneously cementing its legacy as a 1980’s staple. With the box office numbers it brought in, it only made sense that a sequel was made. Beverly Hills Cop II like most second installments is bigger, louder, and more star filled. Unfortunately, it is also lazier, shoddier, and just less of a good time.

It isn’t a requirement for a comedy to have an amazing plot. But if it features sizable action and crime elements it is important for it to be at least respectable. With BHC II, the plot just comes off as so hackneyed and cobbled together that it severely lessens the enjoyment to be had with the movie. Additionally, there is one long subplot that involves Foley, a Ferrari, and his tag-a-long partner that a terrible waste of time. It would not be such a huge issue if this plot didn’t take itself so sternly, but this does carry more seriousness than it probably should. Within 30 minutes, I was uninterested in how things would play out. Like the first movie, there is no mystery as to who are the perpetrators are, making the bulk of this an elongated cat and mouse between cops and robbers.

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If only the humor could offset the tepid story. Try as it may, there just isn’t enough on hand to do so. Eddie Murphy does bring the rawness to hilarious levels in certain scenes, but others scenes rely on Murphy simply being loud, as if that is enough to be funny. Axel Foley depends on characters and hijinks to get him to where he needs to go, and some elicit amazing comedy while others should have been left on the cutting room board.

His partners in crime are back again in Rosewood and Taggert. The two along with Murphy are the best things about the film, but even their act is worn. The film gives them more character aspects, but they are completely random (Rosewood now a big gun nut?) or lazy and cliche (Taggart as a cop with marital problems).

It would be nice if BHC II possessed some intriguing villains for our heroic trio to battle with, but alas, it isn’t meant to be. These Alphabet Crime baddies are so generic and plain that it hurts to think about. Again, the lack of solid villains could be forgiven more if the story didn’t take itself so hard, but since it does, there has to be more substance in this area. Though the writing or lack thereof is certainty a factor for the unappealing foils, the actors portraying these foils do no favors either.

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They all are really dry, monotone, and indistinguishable (except for Brigitte Nielsen). Nielsen especially only serves as a pretty face. Maybe it is better this way as she isn’t someone who has ever been revered for her performances. Still, this points towards a larger problem in the movie: All women that appear here are either strippers, femme fatales, or behind desks, most all voiceless.

From a cinematic presentation standpoint, the movie falls awfully short as well. It switches more between Detroit and Beverly Hills, but you would never know by looking. Both places aesthetically look the same, so Detroit’s expanded inclusion is really unnecessary. Visuals aside, there never seems to be any cohesive direction. Many scenes just linger on and on with no end in sight for no reason. And yet, this problem pales in comparison to the editing. The editing itself is easily some of the worst I have ever witnessed. There is a laundry list of fails and gaffes and one wonders how so many stayed in or were unseen.

Even with an expanded budget and a comedian in his prime Murphy Beverly Hills Cop II lacks the freshness and endearment that made the first a classic, making this return trip much less memorable.

Grade: D

Photo credits go to Imdb.com, cnn.com, and moviepostershop.com.

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson

My Acceptance of the Liebster Award!

Good afternoon all! I am pleased to announce my acceptance of the Liebster Award! Thank you Ashalee from GeekedOutMovies for the nomination. Well, here are 11 facts about me:

1. I am 24 years old.

2. I am extremely lucky to live right across from a theater. Seriously, it takes no more than five minutes to walk from my apartment to it. And I can’t beat the prices. Shout out to @Marcus_Theaters for a great time every time!

3. After God, my family means everything to me. Thank you Mom, Dad, and Kasey for all you do!

4. I work in the publishing industry for a pretty well known company. My first job out of college and I’ve been at it for a little over a year. It is an ever-changing field for sure.

5. I am single ladies. Eat your heart out. 😉

6. University of Dayton graduate (December 2012). Awesome experience, and met so many great people. Highly expensive, but wouldn’t change the experience for nothing.

7. I play the trumpet. I’ve been playing since 10, and I consider myself good. Not in a band or anything anymore, but it is a part of my and something I will never stop doing. Playing it can be a stress relief at times.

8. Alcoholic drink of choice? Can’t go wrong with a good whiskey. Jack and coke is a tried and true combo. I also enjoy some rum, occasional vodka, and gin. I totally sound like an alcoholic now. I am not though! Just like to have a good time when the situation calls for it.

9. Aside from movies, I love sports as well. Basketball, football, and baseball are high up, and so is boxing. And yes, I even watch WWE. Lately I’m about the NBA playoffs, so the volume of posts may not be as often as I’d like, but I’m trying!

10. I got a PS3 a few months back. I don’t get to play video games as much as I used to anymore with work and movie viewing, but I do like to dabble still. Lately I have been getting into the Uncharted series, which is amazing. Finished Among Thieves a few weeks ago. Hopefully a PS4 is in my future.

11. Best/Worst movies seen this year

Best movie I have seen in this calendar year? 12 Years a Slave

Worst movie I have seen in this calendar year? Conan the Barbarian

Best movie I’ve seen released in this year so far? Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Worst movie I have seen released in this year so far? Need for Speed

So there you go guys! The next time, there will be even more facts about yours truly, The Movie Man Jackson. Thanks for reading!

And of course, my nominees for the prestigious Liebster Award:

contentforyoublog.wordpress.com

hmadsen93.wordpress.com

thepurplelenses.wordpress.com

cannonoftheyear.wordpress.com

I can be followed on Twitter @MovieManJackson (movie centric), and @Markjacksonisms (random stuff)