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AUGUST 12TH, 2014

MUPPETS MOST WANTED // Losing most of the magic instilled by the 2011 reboot of “The Muppets” and even with three years between productions, “Muppets Most Wanted” still feels like a lesser quality product with less humor and less soul. Do not get me wrong, I am entirely happy just to see the Muppets back in action on the big screen and will obviously take what I can get from every single one of the iconic characters. But where “The Muppets” had the competent ‘let’s get the band back together’ story-line and a human cast boasting Jason Segal, Amy Adams, and Chris Cooper, “Muppets Most Wanted” takes a left turn as they take their show on the road to Europe, containing a human cast that I view as second tier actors with Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, and Tina Fey. The Muppets do return to their caper roots, with Kermit being mistaken for the British criminal mastermind, Constantine, who looks exactly like Kermit except for a mole on his upper lip. With Kermit in a Russian prison and the gang unaware of the switch, Constantine and his follower Dominic Badguy (Gervais) steal precious jewels all along the Muppets’ European Tour. With a lack of the musical number brilliance from “The Muppets” and a screenplay that barely goes through the motions, where Segal’s passion project involved fans of all ages, “Muppets Most Wanted” feels oriented towards small children and no one else. Regardlessly, a second rate Muppets movie is better than no Muppets movie at all.

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BREATHE IN // With 2011’s “Like Crazy”, two things happened: Drake Doremus became one of my favorite directors and I developed a huge crush on actress Felicity Jones. A few years later, we are once again graced with their presence together in the independent drama entitled “Breathe In”, an emotionally complex study of a family which faces its breaking point after welcoming a beautiful high school foreign exchange student into their home. Guy Pearce and Amy Ryan play Keith and Megan, whose struggles as a married couple are so recognizable and on the surface that the authenticity of this relationship is undeniable. Battling the curse of getting older and wondering where his life got off track, Keith is already destroying foundations when we first meet him, as he loses a game of Jenga with his wife and daughter, Lauren (Mackenzie Davis). All it takes is Felicity Jones as Sophie, the well-educated and beyond-her-years exchange student, to send the family’s foundation crashing down in a heap of blocks. Keith and Sophie bond over a love of creating music, which develops one of the main themes of the film, with the music, particularly the piano, playing a key part in the progression of the plot, while also tying in an enthralling soundtrack that mesmerizes.

Complex emotions and deep meanings are Doremus’ forte, both of which are highly prevalent during “Breathe In”. There are no clear-cut answers as the complexity of human nature is put to the test. By the end of the film, none of the characters are particularly happy, but the emotions felt by the characters as well as the audience are so raw and intense that Doremus is basically capturing lightning in bottle. Nothing captivates me more than an intelligent director willing to make deeper connections. Normally shooting off very small treatments, Doremus allows for the dialogue to feel organic and although the script is often light, he still displays great meaning in all other aspects of the film. When you sit back and realize what each element means; Megan’s jars, Lauren’s swing set, the innocent game of Jenga, the true genius of Doremus shines through. Also continuing a staple of his, this brilliant director allows intense chemistries to flourish between his main protagonists, providing them free range to explore their characters, which becomes particularly apparent in their long gazes at one another where a million things could be running through the character’s mind, but the audience sits in silence. Doremus is a director of subtly and profound emotion and to be able to deliver in such a passionate way speaks volumes about the sensitivity and vision of the man pulling the strings. With “Breathe In” proving to be every bit as solid as “Like Crazy”, young director Drake Doremus is two for two.

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A HAUNTED HOUSE 2 // After having five “Scary Movie” horror parodies thrown at us, the biggest fear now is that “A Haunted House” will become a franchise. The first film was an answer to the “Paranormal Activity” craze, basically just changing the name of the parodies and letting Marlon Wayans step out on his own to make fun of that one set of Blumhouse found footage films. “A Haunted House 2,” however, ends up in the same exact territory as the previous parody franchise, as it attempts to mock several horror films like “The Conjuring”, “Sinister”, and “Insidious”. At the beginning of the film, Malcolm (Marlon Wayans) believes that his possessed girlfriend from the first film, Kisha (Essence Atkins), has died in a car accident and has moved on. He now finds himself moving in with his new white girlfriend, Megan (Jaime Pressly), and her son (Steele Stebbins) and daughter (“Awkward” star Ashley Rickard), to whom he is constantly making remarks on the difference between the color of their skin.

The best moments of “A Haunted House 2” are Malcolm’s completely committed freak outs, where his high pitched shrill takes front and center. The worst moments are the terrible gags that wear out their welcome almost immediately and just become painfully depressing, like Malcolm’s inexplicable affair with the Annabelle doll from “The Conjuring”. The great irony of the film is that these childish jokes would probably work great for young teens who still laugh at fart jokes, but with an R-rating, it remains just out of their reach. Adding Gabriel Iglesias to fill the film’s quota of racist Hispanic jokes, it is blatantly apparent that the film is cashing in on that particular demographic. “A Haunted House 2” feels completely unnecessary on almost every level, containing zero originality as far as parodies go and setting racism back by a couple of decades. The main difference between this and the “Scary Movie” craze is that those films started off with a following and demand slowly burned off along with the quality, while “A Haunted House” started off with so very little quality and demand to begin with, yet keeps limping along. Hopefully it is put out of its (and our) misery.

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LOCKE // Following in the footsteps of a film like “Buried”, which was shot entirely in one location with only one actor ever present on screen, “Locke” takes its single character show on the road. Starring Tom Hardy and an extensive voice cast, this simple idea sees character Ivan Locke (Hardy) taking a two hour long night drive from work to London all while a series of life changing events take place in the form of cell phone conversations. With several cameras fixed on Hardy as he drives, he literally carries the entire film, which is no small feat. Able to project intense, complex emotions all while never leaving the driver’s seat of his car, Hardy’s acting prowess is on full display in one of his most impressive performances yet. Covering topics of infidelity, the differences between people’s moral compasses, and finishing what one started, “Locke” does not simply rely on its out-of-the-box cinematic qualities. Instead, it delivers a meaningful character study with so much depth that it does not matter that you never steer away from the one location. In fact, having the protagonist start and attempt to put out fires without actually facing those involved produces such an imaginative effect that if the other characters were even shown in a simple split-screen, an element of mystery and depth would have been completely lost. Also allowing for a feeling of helplessness that will have you begging for him to turn around and go back, “Locke” is one of the most expertly executed character studies I have ever witnessed. The only thing that could have made this one of the best films ever made is if, somehow, they could have shot the entire film in one take. But continuing the impressive career of Tom Hardy, “Locke” places him on the very small list of actors that can carry an entire concept completely on his own.

New Releases
Breathe In
Disneynature Bears
Filth
Frankie and Alice
Hateship Loveship
A Haunted House 2
Locke
Muppets Most Wanted: Extended Edition
Rage
The Railway Man
Summer In February AmazonPrime

TV Box Set

  • Bitten: Season One
  • The Blacklist: Season One  
  • Ghost Hunters Season Nine, Part One
  • Girls: Season Three  
  • Low Winter Sun: The Complete Series  
  • The Marx Brothers TV Collection
  • Young Justice: Season One
Special Editions/Other Releases
  • Arthur Goes Back to School
  • Batman: Assault on Arkham
  • Black Angel
  • Boredom
  • Bunnyman Massacre
  • The Butterfly Room
  • Crawl Or Die
  • Creed of Gold
  • Crimson Winter
  • Dancing in Jaffa
  • Dark Space
  • Decline of an Empire
  • Escape to Grizzly Mountain
  • Forbidden Girl
  • The Girl On The Train  2-denied2-small
  • Heatstroke
  • Hell’s Caretaker
  • How To Love
  • Jesse
  • Kilimanjaro
  • Love Streams
  • The Midnight Game
  • The Moment
  • The Other Side
  • The Past Is A Grotesque Animal  2-denied2-small
  • Proxy  2-denied2-small
  • Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella
  • Seed Of Darkness
  • Swelter
  • Turtle Power: The Definitive History Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Worm
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