Archive for the ‘ Drama ’ Category

The Instant Critic puts up the guardrails

Welcome, fellow film enthusiasts!

In case you missed the last post, I offered some thoughts on a faith-house film and a made-for-TV special.

This week, I’m taking a step in the other direction. I’m going to list a film on Netflix that I believe should be absolutely avoided!

LIMITLESS (PG-13, 104 minutes – featuring Bradley Cooper)

Limitless really should not have be on this list. The film hosts an intriguing premise, a likable star, a stylish director and some keen cinematography. As this film develops, the reasons for its detestability come into play.

Cooper’s character, a troubled writer who finds solace in a mind-enhancing pill, could not have been more unlikable. Instead of clinging to a wire-thin moral base, our “hero” cavorts around in his misdoings, escaping every turn with his magical helper NZT (the “clever” pill name). His character devolves from a sketchy author to a flat out criminal.

Yes, his misdemeanors with the NZT do get him involved with gangsters, bad businessmen and the police. The implausibility of his many narrow escapes slaps the viewing audience right in the face.

I really do like Cooper, but any attempts to humanize the lead lose their effectiveness by film’s end.

Other than a terrible anchor, the film stomps through sewage of genre clichés and stock supporting roles. There is nothing new or fresh about Limitless despite what the premise might entail.

Limitless is a soulless celebration of scumbags hindered by a terribly written lead character.

Well, that was disheartening!

What say you? Have you seen this film? Care to disagree? Let me know in the comments section.

As always, the lines are open for a request or two. Leave them in the comment section as well!

Next week, I will pick up my boots out of the mud and return to the wonder world of good cinema.

Until then, may your popcorn be fresh and your movie better than Limitless.

The Instant Critic

The Instant Critic plays golf in Orlando

Greetings, fellow film enthusiasts!

In case you missed last week, we took a break from movies to remember the High Rise flood.

This week, we are hitting the green and heading to Disney World.

SEVEN DAYS IN UTOPIA (G, 98 minutes – featuring Robert Duvall, Lucas Black, Deborah Ann Woll and Melissa Leo)

I usually cringe at the thought of a faith-based movie. Since faith-house cinema almost limits itself to “gems” such as Facing the Giants and Fireproof, the average Christian film buff finds the situation dire when looking for a movie with a deeper meaning.

Thankfully, Seven Days in Utopia rises above the usual faith-based fare to offer viewers an uplifting tale of finding yourself in the most unlikely of places.

The story centers on Luke, a disgraced golfer who stumbles upon a small Texas town after a minor car crash. While there, he meets a former golfer (Duvall) who helps to give Luke the training he needs to continue in his career.

Going in, I had no idea that the film held a Christian base, but I was surprised and pleased that I enjoyed the film at the level I did. Sure, a few moments of genuine corniness are in store, but the earnest approach made those moments strangely tolerable. As a Christian, I’m glad to see a good movie from our side every now and then.

On the acting side, Duvall can never be bad in a movie, and up-and-comer Lucas Black manages to hold his own with the screen vet for the second time.

If you are looking for a film that you can safely watch with the folks over Spring Break, Seven Days in Utopia easily takes the cake.

This film and the upcoming Blue Like Jazz (a film I thoroughly enjoyed) give faith-house cinema a bright future.

DISNEY PARKS: UNDISCOVERED DISNEY PARKS (TVG, 43 minutes)

As a longtime advocate of Disney World, I found this short television special to be a must for those considering a trip down to the house of the mouse anytime soon.

While I’ve never been to the West Coast, I can say that I have been to Orlando fourteen times (the next trip steadily approaches).

Even I learned a thing or two watching this informative special.

Disney Parks: Undiscovered Disney Parks gives you exactly what it promises. Viewers are taken backstage to see some of Disney’s best-kept secrets, whether it is a private restaurant or an inside look at the mechanics of a certain electrifying parade.

Sadly, some of the information in this special will be old news for longtime park-goers, but for those new to the Disney experience, the short episode offers a great deal of intriguing information about the theme park and its surrounding resorts.

If you are headed to any of the major Disney parks in the foreseeable future, I recommend you give this television special a try. It may not be a movie, but it’s easily worth your time.

What say you? What’s your take on the current climate of faith-based cinema? Are you more of a Universal Studios type of person? Let me know in the comments section.

You know the drill. Recommendations are more than welcome and can be placed in the comments section as well.

Next week, the Instant Critic and his fantastic readers will be receiving a well-deserved week of rest.

Until then, may your sunscreen be effective and your break wonderful.

The Instant Critic

The Instant Critic covers the High Rise flood

Hello, fellow film enthusiasts!

In case you missed last week, two sequels took center stage.

This week, I’ve decided to veer slightly off the normal game plan to write about an event that affected many a “Lipscombite” last night.

Around 2:30 in the morning, I arose from my solemn slumber to hear the sound of shuffling shoes and sirens. I heard voices repeating claims of a necessary evacuation from the dormitory.

An evacuation? In the middle of the night? Serious claims, indeed.

I shook off my wishes to stay in bed, woke my roommate, got dressed in a hurried fashion and made my way down the stairs.

Once outside, I noticed the catalyst for the commotion. Two massive fire trucks sat near the High Rise dormitory. Campus security guarded the entrances to the building, preventing anyone from reentry.

As I stood in my Lipscomb T-shirt, Nike gym shorts and Rockport church shoes, I began to grasp the gravity of the current situation. A huge pond of water had taken over the grassy plain in front of the High Rise lobby.

I believed we had a leak on our hands.

Once I gained better knowledge of the situation, I put on my journalist’s cap and went to work. Scouring the campus looking for possible interviewees, I stumbled upon one or two well-qualified candidates.

One, a first-floor resident, gave me keen insight on the commotion of the evening. The other, an official of the university, gave me the actual statistics of the events.

10 feet of water flooded the mechanical room of High Rise, caused by an 8-inch pipe’s untimely burst.

I spent the next two hours or so gathering extra quotes, taking startling pictures and trying to gain a better understanding of the possible ramifications of what had just occurred.

Was the damage severe? Did any students lose any personal belongings? How long until I could climb back into my wonderful bed?

Only time could tell.

If you have ever seen the found-footage thriller Cloverfield, you might be able to understand the feeling for many High Rise residents.

Strangely awoken in the middle of the night by an unseen terror, many students wondered throughout the campus throughout the morning, unsure of what had happened and what was to come.

Some students made their way into Allen Arena, but quickly after, the arena was evacuated. Students had to make their way into the campus activity center.

Lights flickered, students fled to the nearest Waffle House and some made runs to Wal-Mart to gather necessary supplies for the remainder of the morning.

Some students just simply sat, wondering what forced them from their beautiful sleep and what was to come.

For a short while, uncertainty and pandemonium took hold of the Lipscomb campus.

The Cloverfield monster might as well have shown up. He would have been more than fitting for the occasion.

As I walked, my feet began to angrily pulse with a fury only feet lacking socks could convey. “The Rockports” are fine and dandy until socks leave the equation.

I felt as if I was walking on a solid block of finely carved wood only made for the best Dillard’s shoppers.

As soon as the situation came to a quick standstill, I left school, making the third trip to my car on the evening to both charge my iPhone (a blessing, really) and grab a quick breakfast.

As the sun began to rise over High Rise, the story began to take shape. Students (including yours truly) were slowly filtered into the dorm to obtain the necessities needed to carry out the morning’s activities. I grabbed my computer, threw on a pair of jeans, got my phone charger and of course, put on a pair of glorious socks.

Glorious, glorious socks.

I proceded to find a spot in the student center, where power still remained, and watch the events of the evening unfold on the morning news while checking my computer for anything that required my attention.

“Crazy, crazy, crazy,” I thought to myself.

A few breaking updates and a few interviews later (including one with Dr. Lowry himself), the smoke cleared. The building opened for business after many hours of uncertainty, and High Rise residents finally entered their once tumultuous home to take a well-deserved nap.

The draining, dreary night had finally passed. The four major news crews packed their bags after a long night of coverage, the students of other dormitories slowly emerged to find their classes cancelled and this journalist finally made it back to his room.

Be thankful for the brave men and women who put forth tireless effort to help relocate the weary High Rise residents back in their beds. Heroes, if you ask me.

I know I’m thankful that once I tie up a few loose ends coverage-wise and finish this post, I will once again my reunited with my wonderful maiden – sleep.

As for a movie, take a day off. Catch up on some older posts, maybe. The choice is yours.

I’ll be happy to take some requests for next week’s post. I’m like you. I can’t wait to discuss some awesome films again.

For now, last night’s events remain the topic at hand.

Until then, may your dorm’s pipes be tightly wound and your sleep wonderful.

An exhausted but grateful Instant Critic

The Instant Critic steps into the Grid: Reviews of Tron: Legacy and The Pixar Story

Welcome back, fellow film enthusiasts!

In case you missed last week, I offered my two cents on two movies featuring horses.

By popular demand, this week’s post will take a look at a stellar adventure and an intriguing documentary!

TRON: LEGACY (PG, 125 minutes – featuring Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde)

A sequel to the 1982 gem, Tron: Legacy excels as being a visual treat as well as a moving narrative.

The story takes place inside the Grid, a fictionalized computer world where Kevin Flynn (Bridges) has been trapped since the early 80s. His son, Sam (Hedlund), stumbles upon a portal that takes him into the Grid, igniting a series of events that will reunite father and son just in time for a battle of epic proportions.

Those looking for rip-roaring action have found their match. The film’s strongest moments come from the eye-popping visual effects. A certain light-cycle battle in an arena of thousands will leave you breathless.

The score, orchestrated by the techno duo Daft Punk, brings an added fury to the film.

Bridges channels his inner mellowness for Kevin Flynn, and Hedlund provides a strong, anchoring performance as Sam.

Tron: Legacy makes for a wonderful sequel, but the film also works extremely well as a standalone feature.

Now, let’s go from the Grid to Emeryville.

THE PIXAR STORY (G, 88 minutes – featuring interviews with John Lasseter, Steve Jobs, Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and George Lucas)

There is not a film studio that comes close to rivaling Pixar.

Any film that bears the Pixar logo enchants our imaginations in ways that most studio fare cannot.  Over the years, audiences have been spoiled by the astronomical levels of quality a Pixar title brings to the table. Toy Story, The Incredibles, Ratatouille and Monsters Inc. are just a few of the classics the studio has produced.

Care to see how this humble studio came to be?

A good documentary always tells a story that can rival the fictitious creation of a Hollywood screenwriter. A great documentary almost seems fictitious itself. I am happy to say that The Pixar Story falls into the latter category. This fascinating documentary gives viewers an engaging look into the storied past of the famous studio.

I do not want to spoil the surprises the documentary has to offer, but did you know the late Steve Jobs had an impact on the studio’s beginnings?

The Pixar Story is a success because the viewer will truly feel as if they have been granted an exclusive backstage pass into the world of Pixar.

What’s your take? Do you agree with my praise for Tron: Legacy?

How about The Pixar Story? Let me know in the comments section.

Next week, I’ll be taking a look at a pair of Oscar-nominated documentaries.

Until then, may your popcorn be fresh and your movies wonderful.

The Instant Critic

Watch the Mane Attraction: Reviews of Secretariat and High Noon

Welcome back, fellow film enthusiasts!

In case you missed last week, I offered insight on two of the finest films on Netflix.

This week, we’re headed to the stables to take a look at movies featuring everyone’s second favorite four-legged animal, the horse. By request, I’ll offer some thoughts on Disney’s Secretariat. Also, I’ll take a look at the Gary Cooper classic High Noon.

SECRETARIAT (PG, 123 minutes – featuring Diane Lane, John Malkovich and Fred Dalton Thompson)

When I think about Secretariat, I can’t help but remember the stunning horse-racing sequences. No matter the medium, a good horse race will always catch my attention. The filmmakers should be thankful for the fact that these scenes worked. When I say thankful, I mean thankful.

Without the horse racing, Secretariat amounts to nothing more than the typical melodrama found on the Hallmark Channel. I found some merit with the performances, but the film struggles early on to find its narrative footing. Is this truly a story worth telling? The last 45 minutes seem to indicate so. If you can stomach a little Disney-approved inspiration alongside a slightly overlong runtime, this film warrants a viewing.

Now, let’s look at a film where the horses serve as transportation instead of entertainment.

HIGH NOON (NR*, 84 minutes – featuring Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly and Lloyd Bridges)

High Noon refuses to go down in history as anything else but a classic Western. Two-time Academy Award winner Gary Cooper, unarguably one of the greatest actors of all time, gives a demanding performance as Will Kane, a retiring Marshal who must garner courage to face an old enemy. Director Fred Zinnemann gives Cooper the perfect stage – a world where Kane, forsaken of all help, must solemnly walk alone into his possible doom. It’s a striking portrayal of true, unflinching grit in the face of evil.

Despite the high quality of the work, some viewers might be afraid to watch an entire film in black-and-white.

Please don’t let the cinematography turn you away. Titles like High Noon set out the blueprints for the films we love today. If you want to see where modern-day adventure and drama gained inspiration, watch the classics. It doesn’t hurt that they’re also fantastic films.

High Noon really is something special, largely in part to Cooper’s portrayal of a truly courageous individual. If you love a good Western, here’s your movie.

And if the theme song doesn’t get stuck in your head, I don’t know what will.

*I would equate this film to about a PG rating. There’s a little violence, but that’s about it.

So, what do you think?

Am I being too hard on Secretariat? Are you affected by black-and-white cinematography? Does it really matter to you? Let me know in the comments section.

For next week, I’ve offered a poll to see which genre I should focus on. Be sure to cast your vote!

As always, if you’d like to see a certain movie reviewed, let me know. I’ll feature it with next week’s post.

Until then, may your popcorn be fresh and your movies wonderful.

The Instant Critic