The Giver (2014)

The GiverReleased: August 15, 2014. Directed by: Phillip Noyce. Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep. Runtime: 97 min.

Note: Sorry for the font inconsistencies – I really couldn’t figure out how to fix it. 

The Giver starts out exactly like Divergent; with a basic review of what this futuristic community is like, followed by a ceremony where occupations are chosen for each citizen at their 18th birthday (where those in the premise of Divergent were put into different groups of basic personality traits). The second similarity is a love story – which is interesting to think this was a thing in Young Adult literature circa 1993, so not much has changed – but it’s essential to the narrative. These similarities are where they begin and end.

This is a unique young adult novel adaptation because it depicts a perfect world (a utopia, rather than a dreary dystopia in The Hunger Games), one with no violence, pain, suffering, differences or choice. A young man, Jonas (Brenton Thwaites in his first big starring role), is chosen as the Receiver, a position chosen every ten years or so – and it is a position in which he will become the future Giver – to assist the elders with making decisions for the community. You see, the Giver (a mesmerizing Jeff Bridges) has the most knowledge and experience in the whole community, because he holds all of the memories of the old world. The one with hideous violence, but also wondrous beauty.

I think Brenton Thwaites’ (OculusMaleficent) performance is actually memorable because he is different from his peers and not absolutely robotic. He brings some humour to his character, and hope to his peers. Jeff Bridges as The Giver is great because of his love of life and his need to get beauty back to the community. He also brought a welcome amount of humour to his character, though I am almost convinced he’s still stuck in the voice he used for Rooster Cogburn in True Grit. A charming young Israeli actress Odeya Rush (The Odd Life of Timothy Green) portrays Fiona, and is also notable for how well she captures her character’s fear and natural curiosity for change. Taylor Swift portrays one of those characters who play a crucial role in a character’s development but only show up for five minutes. A scene she shares with Bridges and a piano is just lovely.

I think these performers set themselves apart from the rest because everyone else just feels so plain. Especially Cameron Monaghan and Katie Holmes who are both quite boring. Alexander Skarsgård is still boring, but less so than the others. These characters, and every other cookie-cutter citizen, are all about never lying and using the precision of language – so for example, if you want to ask someone if they love you, you must ask instead if they “enjoy” you. At times I wondered if this is what the modern grammar Nazi sounds like.

One enjoyable technical aspect is the utilization of black and white film – which is about half of the runtime, but the other half is in colour. You might notice as the film progresses that B&W and colour are used more and more as a storytelling device to set the film’s tone. Black and white scenes are more robotic and plain, while scenes in colour are usually captivating and intriguing. The more it got into the heart of the film, the more I found myself enjoying it – after a very boring first twenty minutes (though the final minutes left me dissatisfied). One more comment on the technical aspect – the cinematography is absolutely stunning, in both B&W and colour. The Giver is filmed in South Africa, where the settings and nature complement the film’s quality and beauty.

It’s an ugly truth in this premise that in order to have no violence, one also has to surrender race, religion, uniqueness, decision-making, and emotions, among other things. This community is created by characters who focus on the hideousness of the old world, and want to shelter the citizens from it. This character – mostly the Chief Elder – is portrayed by an adequate Meryl Streep. However, the citizens are also being sheltered from the beauty of the world – namely colours, sunsets, and double rainbows. Robin Williams as John Keating in Dead Poets Society said, “…The human race is filled with passion… Poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” That quote does not describe The Giver‘s community, even though it is considered a “perfect” community. Even though our world has violence, one can escape in the beauty of everything around you. It has poetry, romance, love, beauty – but most of all – creativity, and that sounds like the true perfection to me.

Score67/100

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R.I.P.D. (2013)

R.I.P.D.Release Date: July 19, 2013. Director: Robert Schwentke. Stars: Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Bacon. Runtime: 96 min.

A recently slain cop joins a team of undead police officers working for the Rest in Peace Department, that hunt Deados (ugly spirits who slipped through the cracks of the system and are now rotting on earth), and tries to find the man who murdered him.

It isn’t truly fair to compare films; but with “R.I.P.D.,” it’s nearly impossible to not make comparisons to the “Men in Black” franchise. They’re both buddy action comedies. Cops from both films battle otherworldly beings. The characters are similar, even if the character arcs are different. (More on that later.) There is one fundamental difference: The “Men in Black” franchise is smart, funny and fun; while “R.I.P.D.” is only one of those things. (Note: The “MIB” comparisons stop here, for the most part.)

Unoriginality and laziness are a few of the main problems that plague this film. The story is a basic save-the-world narrative. The story also isn’t enthralling, and there are few surprises in this safe feature. At one point, when the film seems to be holding a potentially awesome reveal for the end, it cowers away and restrains itself. The movie is never boring because there’s a lot going on and it’s loud. Its goofy tone helps it to be moderately fun. It’s never downright hilarious because, as much as The Dude and Van Wilder try, the writers don’t write many great jokes for them to deliver. The last time director Robert Schwentke made a comic book a movie (“Red”), it ended being a great success. This movie can’t be a great success, because this moderately entertaining time-waster is insanely disposable.

A fair deal of the content is chuckle-worthy throughout and the fact that the movie doesn’t take itself seriously is welcome. There’s only one laugh-out-loud moment, delivered by Jeff Bridges. Bridges is the most amusing part of the film, playing a cop who thinks he is the best lawman to ever live and die. He’s doing his best impersonation of John Wayne’s Rooster Cogburn. He is the most memorable part of the movie – because for audiences, it will be fun to impersonate his impersonation of Cogburn. Ryan Reynolds is okay, his character’s arc is interesting; he hasn’t yet come to terms with his unexpected death, because he didn’t get closure with his wife (Stephanie Szostak). However, this thought-out arc almost feels strange in such a silly movie.

“R.I.P.D.” is just forgettable. It’s hard on the eyes, because the darkly tinted glasses make the ugly 3-D effects even worse. (If you do end up seeing this, do yourself a favour and watch it in 2-D.) The Deados are also hard on the eyes because they’re so damn ugly, and not in the awesomely ugly way some creatures are, like in “Pacific Rim.” They’re all a bit too similar, too, even the underwhelming leader. One of the coolest things about the movie are the guns. However, they look like they’re stolen from the set of “MIB.”

It’s amusing when we get to see the avatars of Reynolds and Bridges. Reynolds appears to the real world as an Asian man (James Hong, “Balls of Fury”) shooting a banana, instead of a gun. Bridges appears as a supermodel (Marisa Miller) who, appropriately, everyone gawks at while Marvin Gaye plays over the soundtrack. (Those scenes are chuckle-worthy, and it’s where the writers show shades of cleverness.) It would be welcome to see entire sequences with the characters’ respective avatars, rather than only the bit-sized periods of time they are on-screen. It’s distracting to constantly see the characters go from Bridges to Miller; from Reynolds to Hong.

If you see “R.I.P.D.,” you might or might not like it, but you surely won’t care if you ever see it again. Suffice to say, you could see worse this summer (“Grown Ups 2“), but you could see so much better. Or you could even re-watch “Men in Black.” This movie will struggle to linger in the mind, because it will be known as that one movie that’s a lot like “Men in Black,” but isn’t “Men in Black.”

Score50/100

Box Office Predictions: July 19-21

There are four big releases coming out this weekend, so I’ll try to keep my thoughts on each of the movies brief, so this article doesn’t become too tedious. The movies are “The Conjuring”, “Red 2”, “R.I.P.D.” and “Turbo”.

“The Conjuring” will do superb business this weekend. James Wan’s movies have an average opening of $10.9 million. Supernatural horror movies open at an average $15.26 million, but 2013 horror movies have been outstanding in their opening weekend performances. “Mama” opened to $28.4 million back in January, and “The Purge” opened to $34 million last month. Those movies opened to little to no competition. (“Mama” was up against “Broken City” and “The Last Stand”, two under-performing movies; while “The Purge” was up against the modestly-performing “The Internship”.) This movie opens on a busy weekend, but it is heavily anticipated and it has critics raving. Also, since “The Purge” had such poor word-of-mouth, it plummeted from $16.7 million on the Friday to $10.4 million on the Saturday, a day where movies usually earn more than the Friday. Anyway, horror fanatics haven’t received a horror movie since “The Purge” in June, and they haven’t received a good horror movie since April’s “Evil Dead”. Since it is anticipated, has star power (Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson), and since it looks great, I’m going to go high with my prediction. I also think this will have phenomenal word-of-mouth, so this will go strong all weekend. I’m predicting $37.5 million for its opening.

“Red 2” is the sequel to 2010’s action comedy hit. It brings back the cast and this one looks really fun. I haven’t seen the first movie, so I’ll be watching the first one sometime this week. The first “Red” opened to $21.76 million back in October 2010, against “Jackass 3-D”, that opened to $50.3 million. “Red” has a good following, though, as it has a standing 7.0 IMDb score based on over 140, 000 user ratings. It is also the tenth-best selling DVD of 2011 (sandwiched between “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” and “Despicable Me”). The movie has a great cast including Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins and Mary-Louise Parker (who is also starring in “R.I.P.D.”).With this film’s good following, I think this sequel will beat its predecessor in its opening weekend number by a decent-sized margin; so for the three-day weekend, I’m predicting this at $25 million.

“Turbo” is DreamWorks’ latest production, and I think it’ll do well, as family audiences aren’t yet tired of animated movies. They have emptied their pockets on “Monsters University” and those little yellow minions are still dominating the market, so this could very well suffer from competition of those animated movies, and the other new releases. And families just could wait for “The Smurfs 2”. This seems like DreamWorks’ answer to “Cars” and “Ratatouille” in the way that it’s an underdog story. Kids like racing movies, but are they willing to see a racing movie that has a snail going for gold? Of course, Pixar was able to make a rat appealing in “Ratatouille”, but DreamWorks isn’t nearly as respected as Pixar. (But then again, which animated studio is?) And “Epic” had a snail and a slug as supporting characters, but they were there for comic relief, mostly. Anyway, with a decent-looking underdog story and a good voice cast (Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Ken Jeong), this should do decent business on a busy weekend. For the three-day, I’ll predict $28.8 million; and for the five-day (Wed-Sun), I’m predicting $43 million.

Now that I’ve discussed all the ones I think will do well, this is the one I don’t have a lot of faith in. “R.I.P.D.” looks like fun, but it’s the least appealing out of all of the new releases. The 3D action comedy is adapted from a comic book of the same name, but I don’t see it doing well. Audiences haven’t been showing a lot of enthusiasm for it yet, but I think it’ll still attract a small audience somewhere in the low-teen millions. People like Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds (who’s going to have a busy weekend), but I don’t know if this is on many people’s radars. I think it could do decent business, but it’s going to suffer because of all of the competition. And older action fans will probably just see “Red 2” instead. It’ll break $10 million, I think, but I don’t think it’ll go past the $15 million mark. I’m going to underestimate Bridges and Reynolds’ combined popularity and say an awful $12.8 million.

Here’s how I see the Top 10:
1. The Conjuring: $37, 500, 000
2. Turbo: $28, 800, 000 (5-day: $43M)
3. Red 2: $25, 000, 000
4. Despicable Me 2: $22, 473, 000
5. Pacific Rim: $19, 825, 000
6. Grown Ups 2: $19, 500, 000
7. R.I.P.D.: $12, 800, 000
8. The Heat: $9, 025, 000
9. Monsters University: $6, 000, 000
10. The Lone Ranger: $5, 800, 000

My most anticipated movies of July

Hi everyone, this is my post for the movies I’m most anticipating this month. I’m going to leave out the ones I’m not anticipating (but will be seeing), because who wants to write a paragraph about a movie they’re not particularly passionate about? (I’m talking about you, GROWN UPS 2.) I’ll be writing reviews about those said movies, but that’s for another day – and I love writing reviews. So, that’s good, then. I’ll start with a few thoughts on the movies I can wait for, but I am looking forward to watching.

Fruitvale Station (7/12)

Fruitvale Station (7/12)

Plot: The true story of Oscar, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family, and strangers on the last day of 2008.

I like a good bio pic and a good emotional drama, so I’m intrigued by this. It also has critics raving, so I’m hoping it’s good. I thought Michael B. Jordan is great in CHRONICLE, and I like Octavia Spencer in just about anything.

Red 2 (7/19)

Red 2 (7/19)

Plot: Retired black-ops CIA agent Frank Moses reunites his unlikely team of elite operatives for a global quest to track down a missing portable nuclear device.

I can mostly wait for this one because I haven’t seen the first. I own it, so I’ll watch that this week or next or something, and then maybe I’ll be a bit more excited about this one. I love a good crime comedy, and the cast intrigues me.

R.I.P.D. (7/19)

R.I.P.D. (7/19)

Plot: A recently slain cop joins a team of undead police officers working for the Rest in Peace Department and tries to find the man who murdered him.

I don’t know if this will be a box office hit – but it does look very amusing. I love the first and third MIB movies, so I’m pretty intrigued by this. It looks fun, and Jeff Bridges has many great one-liners in the trailer.

The To Do List (J7/26)

The To Do List (7/26)

Plot: Feeling pressured to become more sexually experienced before she goes to college, Brandy Clark makes a list of things to accomplish before hitting campus in the fall.

This looks like a predictable comedy, but it does look very funny. I like EASY A a lot, and this seems to have similar awkward humour. I’m curious to see how Aubrey Plaza will do in her first leading lady role. (I’ve seen a few episodes of TV’s PARKS AND RECREATION and it’s just hilarious.) There are some real laugh-out loud moments in the trailer, especially Clark Gregg’s thoughts on taking the back door.

Turbo (7/17)

Turbo (7/17)

Plot: A freak accident might just help an everyday garden snail achieve his biggest dream: winning the Indy 500.

I like the voice cast and the simple thought of Ken Jeong voicing a little Asian grandma makes me giggle. This looks like DreamWorks Animation’s answer to CARS and FAST & FURIOUS, and maybe even RATATOUILLE (instead of rats and cooking, it’s snails and racing). I think the idea’s just as silly as Stuart Little playing soccer, I mean, this little snail is probably going to get run over. I think I’ll enjoy the movie a lot, regardless.

The Wolverine (7/26)

The Wolverine (7/26)

Plot: Wolverine makes a voyage to modern-day Japan, where he encounters an enemy from his past that will impact on his future.

This looks pretty cool. I’m not huge on superhero movies, but I do enjoy the X-MEN movies. I’ll have to have a marathon soon to pump up for this one a bit more. It looks good, but it could be so much better if Darren Aronofsky really did end up directing it. I guess I’m really just hoping it’s better than X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE.

Now these are the ones I’m really excited for. 

5. Pacific Rim (7/12)

5. Pacific Rim (7/12)

Plot: When an alien attack threatens the Earth’s existence, giant robots piloted by humans are deployed to fight off the menace.

I think this looks awesome. I haven’t seen any GODZILLA movies, but I like a good monster movie. And, this is monsters AND robots. Whoa. It sounds like it could be everything BATTLESHIP and TRANSFORMERS aspired to be. Lots of fun, and well-made. And Del Toro is at the helm! I might have to re-watch CLOVERFIELD and find a GODZILLA movie online this week to get a bit more excited. It seems action-packed, and frankly, I want to see the movie right now, and not just the trailer. But I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of hearing Idris Elba shout, “Today we are cancelling the apocalypse!”

3. Only God Forgives (7/19)

4. Only God Forgives (7/19)

Plot: Julian, a drug-smuggler thriving in Bangkok’s criminal underworld, sees his life get even more complicated when his mother compels him to find and kill whoever is responsible for his brother’s recent death.

I love Ryan Gosling and the director, Nicholas Winding Refn, and DRIVE is one of my favourite movies of 2011. The story intrigues me, as well. While critics haven’t exactly been praising the movie, I think it could be pretty awesome. It might be wavering my expectations ever-so-slightly, but I’m still really looking forward to it.

3. The Conjuring (7/19)

3. The Conjuring (7/19)

Plot: Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse. Forced to confront a powerful entity, the Warrens find themselves caught in the most terrifying case of their lives.

I think James Wan is a fantastic director. I’ll have to watch INSIDIOUS to get a vibe of his atmospheric haunting flicks, though. This looks absolutely terrifying, and while I’ll probably be watching the movie through the my fingers, I can hardly wait. Vera Farmiga is great, too. The trailer creeps the hell out of me, and I love it. The true story edge is even spookier – so, I just want it to be July 19 already. It would be great if this will birth a Warren files franchise.

2. The Way, Way Back (7/5)

2. The Way, Way Back (7/5)

Plot: 14-year-old Duncan’s summer vacation with his mother, her overbearing boyfriend, and his daughter. Having a rough time fitting in, Duncan finds an unexpected friend in Owen, manager of the Water Wizz water park.

I love a good coming-of-age tale. THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER is my second-favourite movie of 2012. And THE DESCENDANTS is one of my favourite movies of 2011. Two of the Oscar-winning writers from that movie (Nat Faxon, supporting actor in most of the Broken Lizard movies, and Jim Rash, the Dean on TV’s COMMUNITY) co-write and direct this one. I love the cast so much. Steve Carrell as a major jerk, Sam Rockwell, Rash in a supporting role, AnnaSophia Robb, and Rob Corddry, Toni Colette and Allison Janney. Suffice to say, it sounds amazing – and I can hardly wait for this to come to my city.

1. Despicable Me 2 (7/3)

1. Despicable Me 2 (7/3)

Plot: Gru is recruited by the Anti-Villain League to help deal with a powerful new super criminal.

I love the original DESPICABLE ME 2. This sequel looks amazing and hilarious. I can hardly wait for it. I love Gru and the minions, and I think this will be a real winner with a lot of heart and some great action. And new villains, of course. This is not only my most anticipated movie of July – but it’s probably my most anticipated movie of the year. (But, I’ll have to make a list to see if that’s true. I might be a bit more excited for KICK-ASS 2.) I can’t wait to have a second helping of the minion madness, though. Anything under a score of 75 will be disappointing. I hope this is in the same league as the first.

Here’s all of the movies opening in July: http://www.imdb.com/movies-coming-soon/2013-07/

Iron Man (2008)

Iron ManIron Man

Release Date: May 2, 2008

Director: Jon Favreau

Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges

Runtime: 126 min

Iron Man is a good movie that introduces a second-tier super hero to mainstream audiences. It changes Iron Man from a hero that is only known by avid comic book readers, to one of the more popular of the Marvel universe. Robert Downey Jr. portrays the textbook narcissist extremely well. The action sequences are effective and the plot is easy to follow. Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane is awesome, but I’m not sure how likely it is for Stane to become a household name.  Jon Favreau brings some fine direction to the picture. The beginning is rather slow. Though, after it gets past fifty minutes, things heat up. It’s worth the wait. It truly does ease itself into a comfortable pace, and it’s good entertainment from then on.

76/100