Soul Review

Soul movie posterSynopsis
Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) is a middle school band teacher and an aspiring musician looking for his big break. When he gets the opportunity he has been waiting for, he has an accident and finds his soul heading towards the Great Beyond. Not ready to move on, he escapes to the Great Before, where he meets the young soul 22 (Tina Fey) and together they try to return Joe’s soul to his body.

Review
Over the years, Pixar has told a variety of stories that have all been unique in their own way. Keeping with that trend, Soul is unlike any film Pixar has made before; the studio continues to find new and original stories to tell. This movie manages to stand out among Pixar’s other films as a masterful study of one’s perception of their purpose in life. It might not be the most kid-accessible plot but it is approached in a way that is meaningful to all ages.

Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) is a musician who never quite got his big break. In between going to various auditions, Joe became a middle school band teacher. He enjoys being a teacher but nonetheless feels unfulfilled and still chases his aspirations of becoming a musician. When a former student, Curley (Questlove), calls Joe and invites him to audition for his quartet, Joe feels could finally be the break he has been looking for. At the audition, Joe gets lost in the music and makes a good impression on the quartets leader, Dorothea (Angela Bassett), who asks him to return later that night for the show.

The strength of these first few scenes is they expertly set up several characters and threads that will be important throughout the rest of the film. Just before going to the audition, we see the dynamic between Joe and his mother, Libba (Phylicia Rashad), who wants her son to find a stable job and not a career with the uncertainty that comes with being a full-time musician. It is clear that they have a strained relationship. It is also clear that Joe has respect for his mother and wants to make her happy but at the same time, wants to be allowed to follow his dreams and do what makes him happy. We see Joe’s passion for music as well when he zones out while playing the piano during his audition. His passion is seen, not just heard. We, as the audience, are pulled into his love of music and can feel how much Joe enjoys playing piano; we understand how important this opportunity is to Joe.

Excited to be offered the job he has been waiting for, Joe hurries home but in his rush, he becomes distracted and falls into an open manhole. He wakes up as a soul going towards a giant light in the Great Beyond. Not ready to pass on before getting his big break, he tries to escape from the Great Beyond and finds himself in the Great Before, the place where young souls reside before going to Earth. As Joe travels between the Great Beyond and the Great Before, we get the first glimpse at how varied the animation of this film his. The sequence of Joe falling was very Kubrick-esque to me, being both entrancing and intriguing at the same time. Once in the Great Before, the style of animation is much more fluid and abstract that the realism seen in the New York City sequences. It’s very similar to Inside Out, where there are no clear edges and the environment is very flamboyant and runs together. The appearance of Terry and the multiple Jerry’s is probably the most unique character design in all of Pixar, which is saying something.

In the Great Before, Joe meets Counselor Jerry (Alice Braga), who informs him that souls in the Great Before can reach Earth using the Earth portal. However, every time he goes through the portal, Joe is returned to the Great Before. Thinking Joe is a lost soul mentor, Terry takes him to the other mentors, who assist young souls in finding their β€œspark” to complete their personalities, displayed as a badge on the soul, before being allowed to Earth. Seeing a completed Earth Pass as his ticket through the portal back to Earth, he impersonates another soul mentor. In the mentoring program, he meets soul 22 (Tina Fey), a soul who refuses to go to Earth. The pair agree to complete 22’s Earth Pass so Joe can use it to return to Earth and 22 can stay in the Great Before forever.

Unable to find 22’s spark in the Hall of Everything, Joe and 22 go see Moonwind (Graham Norton) and the Mystics without Borders, a group who help β€œthe lost souls of Earth find their way.” When the mystics locate Joe’s body on Earth, Joe rushes to get back. In his haste, Joe accidentally brings 22 with him. When Joe wakes up, he realizes that he is in the body of a therapy cat and 22 is inside his body. Together, 22 and Joe set out to find Moonwind on Earth to help them return to their proper selves.

What follows is a extraordinarily crafted story of friendship and passion. Joe and 22’s journey throughout the course of the film sees the two discovering that there is more to life than either expected. The themes are geared more towards an older audience who might have more appreciation for the movie’s message, but I feel they are also laid out in a way that a younger viewer can understand as well. It might not be as exciting or adventurous as some of Pixar’s other films, but the characters and their journeys make the experience well worth your while.

I mentioned it previously but I can’t review an animated film and not talk about the animation. New York City is a city full of movement and excitement. Soul captures that with such realism that if the characters themselves were not caricatures, it would be hard to tell this is animation. The opening scenes provide a look at the beautiful animation to come in the film but when Joe and 22 set off in New York City together is when the animation of the bustling city becomes truly breathtaking. The sights, the sounds, the colors, the energy, everything is authentic and gorgeously rendered. Pixar continues pushing the boundaries of what is possible in animation.

I thought Soul was GREAT πŸ˜€ The story provides a fantastic and emotional study of inspiration and purpose. As we get older, we forget that there is beauty in life around us. Soul serves as a reminder that no matter how mundane things become, never lose sight of what makes life truly beautiful and worthwhile.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Pete Doctor – Director / Writer
Kemp Powers – Co-Director / Writer
Mike Jones – Writer
Jonathan Batiste – Jazz Compositions and Arrangements
Trent Reznor – Composer
Atticus Ross – Composer

Jamie Foxx – Joe (voice)
Tina Fey – 22 (voice)
Graham Norton – Moonwind (voice)
Rachel House – Terry (voice)
Alice Braga – Counselor Jerry A (voice)
Richard Ayoade – Counselor Jerry B (voice)
Phylicia Rashad – Libba (voice)
Questlove – Curley (voice)
Angela Bassett – Dorothea (voice)
Cora Champommier – Connie (voice)
Donnell Rawlings – Dez (voice)
Margo Hall – Melba (voice)
Rhodessa Jones – Lulu (voice)
Daveed Diggs – Paul (voice)

Horrible Bosses Review

Horrible Bosses movie posterSynopsis
Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), and Dale (Charlie Day) hatch a plan to kill their bosses when they each push the three friends too far.

Review
Sometimes I will watch a movie simply based on the cast. I usually like slap-stick comedies like Horrible Bosses, but what really drew me towards the film was the cast. Having Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and Charlie Day play off each other was a great decision. Then adding in Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, Collin Farrell and Jamie Foxx is just icing on the cake.

The three main cast members each have their own unique comedic styles. Bateman, Sudeikis, and Day are able to bounce off each other to side-splitting effect. Their timing and deliveries are nearly flawless. Some of the best moments come when these three are together. Foxx is only in a handful of scenes with the guys. He never outshines any of them, but he does well not to be eclipsed by them either. I think if his part would have been bigger it would have been too much, so he maintains a good balance with the three leads.

Each of the three bosses are horrible for different reasons. Harken (Spacey) is condescending toward Nick (Bateman), Harris (Aniston) sexually harasses Dale (Day), and Pallitt is self-centered and doesn’t care about his employees, especially Kurt (Sudeikis). Farrell’s performance surprised me the most because I haven’t seen him in a comedy before. Spacey easily pulls of the intimidating corporate president with ease. I have been a fan of Aniston for a while, but after watching her in R-rated comedies such as this and We’re the Millers, she is becoming one of my favorite comedic actresses.

Although the cast is great, the script is equally hilarious. It is equal parts crude and humorous. There are so many memorable quotes they can easily be quoted for days. At times the script can be vulgar but it never becomes obnoxiously so. There are also moments of sincerity but not so much that it becomes hypocritical. It manages a fine balance between the two.

Horrible Bosses manages to work on so many levels. The awesome cast and fantastic script, not to mention some great cameos, make this film a stand-out comedy.

Rating
4/5

Favorite Quote
Det. Hagan: β€œDo you want to explain why you were going 61 in a 25 zone? One block from the victim’s house just moments after he was shot dead?”
Nick: β€œI was drag racing. I’m a drag racer.”
Det. Samson: β€œYou were drag racing? In a prius?”
Nick: β€œ…I don’t win a lot.”

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Seth Gordon – Director
Michael Markowitz – Screenplay
John Francis Daley – Screenplay
Johnathan M. Goldstein – Screenplay
Micahel Markowitz – Story
Christopher Lennertz – Composer

Jason Bateman – Nick Hendricks
Jason Sudeikis – Kurt Buckman
Charlie Day – Dale Arbus
Jennifer Aniston – Dr. Julia Harris, DDS
Kevin Spacey – Dave Harken
Colin Farrell – Bobby Pellitt
Jamie Foxx – Dean ‘MF’ Jones
Donald Sutherland – Jack Pellitt
PJ Byrne – Kenny Sommerfeld
Brian George – Atmanand (Voice)
Julie Bowen – Rhonda Harken
Wendell Pierce – Detective Hagan
Ron White – Detective Samson

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 movie posterSynopsis
Peter Parker’s (Andrew Garfield) life as Spider-Man is going great. The people of New York City love him and he has a great relationship with his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). But when Electro (Jamie Foxx) appears and starts wrecking havoc across the city, Peter realizes that being Spider-Man comes with a cost. Meanwhile, he is haunted by the promise he made to Gwen’s father to keep her away from his life as Spider-Man. On top of fighting the crime of New York City and his relationship, he also has to deal with the sudden arrival of his old childhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan). All of a sudden, being Spider-Man isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Review
When I first saw the trailers for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, I thought it looked like Sony was trying to pack as much as they could into this movie. I was afraid it would become another Spider-Man 3 where there was just too many plot threads and villains for its own good. Although a lot was happening, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 manages to be fairly balanced and finally seems to have the character of Peter Parker down.

One of the biggest problems I had with Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy and The Amazing Spider-Man was they didn’t seem to understand Peter’s playfulness. He started out light and quip-y, but as the movies went on, he became more serious and his wise cracks went away. This time, his humor was present all through the movie and felt much more like the comic version fans know and love.

When I first saw Electro was going to be the villain in this film, I was pretty excited. In the previous movies, the villains Spider-Man fought were, as Joss Whedon described the Avengers’ power set, punchy. With the exception of Sandman, they all matched Peter as physical adversaries. Electro offers a different set of powers that would give Spider-Man a different type of challenge to overcome. They did a great job with him here. The movie spends a decent amount of time with Max Dillon before is transformation into the master of electricity. By doing so, we get to understand Max and sympathize with his character and what happened to him. It also helps greatly that Jamie Foxx did great with the part.

I have mentioned before how much a good score/soundtrack can add to the film. Every time Electro was about to unleash his powers, his theme would start quietly then get louder, climaxing when his powers were unleashed. It is something small, but it added to the tension and excitement for me and I just wanted to point it out.

Superhero movies have the difficult task of finding a good balance between having the hero in and out of costume. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 I think manages to find a good balance between Peter and Spider-Man. I never felt like there was more of a focus on one or the other. This worked well because it showed how much of an integral part Spider-Man is in Peter’s life.

The special effects were extremely well done. Electro looked great and you could almost feel like you were swinging through the New York City skyline with Spider-Man. My favorite effects were when time slowed down to show Spider-Man’s spider sense in action. Each movie has shown his spider sense slightly different each time, but this is probably my favorite portrayal of it.

There were times when I felt this movie tried to include too many characters and subplots, making it feel convoluted. Despite Electro being the central villain, they incorporated the Green Goblin into the mix. The Green Goblin doesn’t have much screen time and when he does arrive he isn’t explored much. In an attempt to set up characters for future movies, several characters appeared briefly, such as Alistair Smythe (who eventually becomes the Spider Slayer) and Felicia (who I’m assuming is Felicia Hardy, also known as Black Cat).

I was disappointed to see how Peter’s and Harry’s relationship was handled. Peter has a deep connection with the Osborns; Harry is Peter’s best friend and Norman sees Peter as the successful son he never had. It was made clear that they were childhood friends but their relationship wasn’t developed that well. It’s a shadow of what I think it should have been and a far cry from their relationship in the comics or even Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy. The Osborns’ decent into madness is supposed to be a story of tragedy, but there is no time to see them break down and empathize with Peter.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 seems to have finally grasped Peter’s sense of humor, one of the flaws of the previous Spider-Man movies. Electro is a great villain for Spidey because it gives him a challenge other than physical strength to overcome, and Jamie Foxx plays the crap out of Electro. The special effects looked pretty amazing, especially when showcasing his spider sense. Several extra subplots and characters that seemed unnecessary were present and made the movie bloated. This caused the Green Goblin, one of Spider-Man’s greatest villains, to get very little screen time and be poorly developed. Peter’s relationship with Harry Osborn is one of the most important of the comics and unfortunately it does not receive the attention needed to really flesh it out. Despite being filled with unnecessary character introductions and subplots, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a great superhero story and at the very least never becomes slow or dull.

Rating
4/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Marc Webb – Director
Alex Kurtzman – Screenplay and story
Roberto Orci – Screenplay and story
Jeff Pinkner – Screenplay and story
James Vanderbilt – Screenplay
Hans Zimmer – Composer
Pharrell Williams – Composer

Andrew Garfield – Peter Parker/Spider-Man
Emma Stone – Gwen Stacy
Jamie Foxx – Max Dillon/Electro
Sally Field – Aunty May
Dane DeHaan – Harry Osborn
Colm Feore – Donald Menken
Felicity Jones – Felicia
Paul Giamatti – Aleksei Sytsevich
Campbell Scott – Richard Parker
Embeth Davidtz – Mary Parker
Marton Csokas – Dr. Ashley Kafka
Louis Cancelmi – Man in Black Suit
Chris Cooper – Norman Osborn
BJ Novak – Alistair Smythe

Lightning Review: White House Down

White House Down movie posterSynopsis
John Cale (Channing Tatum) is a Capitol Policeman and Afghanistan veteran who is applying to be in the secret service. After the interview, he takes his daughter on a tour of the White House. During the tour, the White House is attacked by a group of mercenaries trying to kidnap the President (Jamie Foxx). Cale manages to elude the terrorists and goes to search for his daughter (Joey King).

Review
White House Down works best if you go in with the mindset of accepting the absurd. The plot is just ridiculous; Each new twist is more silly that the last. It is riddled with cliches and tries to act as a call back to the cheesy action movies of the 80s. At the very least, it is aware of this and isn’t afraid to poke fun at the absurdity of itself. There are many funny moments throughout the film and Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx each get their fair share of one-liners, which are hit or miss. However, some of best bits come when those two are bantering back and forth. I was hoping that given the cast (Tatum, Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods), director and writer (James Vanderbilt also wrote The Amazing Spider-Man) that it would have turned out better. As long as you go into White House Down understanding it is nowhere near Emmerich’s best film and expect a lot of cheesy dialogue, the action, one-liners and buddy-cop-like chemistry between Tatum and Foxx make it more enjoyable than it otherwise would be.
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Rating
3/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Roland Emmerich – Director
James Vanderbilt – Writer
Harald Kloser – Composer
Thomas Wanker – Composer

Channing Tatum – John Cale
Jamie Foxx – President James Sawyer
Maggie Gyllenhaal – Carol Finnerty
Jason Clarke – Emil Stenz
Richard Jenkins – Raphelson
Joey King – Emily Cale
James Woods – Martin Walker
Nicolas Wright – Donnie Donaldson
Jimmi Simpson – Skip Tyler
Michael Murphy – Vice President Alvin Hammond
Rachelle Lefevre – Melanie
Lance Reddick – General Caulfield
Matt Craven – Agent Kellerman

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Trailer #3

Official Synopsis: It’s great to be Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield). For Peter Parker, there’s no feeling quite like swinging between skyscrapers, embracing being the hero, and spending time with Gwen (Emma Stone). But being Spider-Man comes at a price: only Spider-Man can protect his fellow New Yorkers from the formidable villains that threaten the city. With the emergence of Electro (Jamie Foxx), Peter must confront a foe far more powerful than he. And as his old friend, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), returns, Peter comes to realize that all of his enemies have one thing in common: OsCorp.

So at this point, I think I have said everything I am going to say about The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in my posts for the first and second trailers.Β  This trailer spends a significant amount of its time on Max Dillon and his turn to Electro, much more than the previous trailers.Β  I am looking forward to seeing Electro, Rhino, and a new Green Goblin on screen and recently it was confirmed B.J. Novak is playing Alistair Smythe, better known as the Ultimate Spider Slayer.Β  As I mentioned before in a previous post, I’m worried about the movie having too many villains.Β  Although I think (hope) Novak is more of a set-up for the next sequel.Β  One thing is for sure, Webb is definitely going big with his Spider-Man sequel.Β  It looks like The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is shaping up to be the largest, most ambitious Spider-Man movie yet.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2, directed by Marc Webb, will be in theaters May 2, 2014, starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Sally Field, Jamie Foxx, Paul Giamatti, Dane DeHaan, Chris Cooper, and B.J. Novak.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 movie banner

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 International Trailer #2

Official Synopsis: It’s great to be Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield). For Peter Parker, there’s no feeling quite like swinging between skyscrapers, embracing being the hero, and spending time with Gwen (Emma Stone). But being Spider-Man comes at a price: only Spider-Man can protect his fellow New Yorkers from the formidable villains that threaten the city. With the emergence of Electro (Jamie Foxx), Peter must confront a foe far more powerful than he. And as his old friend, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), returns, Peter comes to realize that all of his enemies have one thing in common: OsCorp.

That was fast.Β  The first trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 only came out about a week and a half ago, now we get another international trailer.Β  This trailer has some new stuff mixed with some stuff from the other recent trailer.Β  However, this shows much more of the lightheartedness that needs to be in a Spider-Man movie.Β  Spider-Man is always cracking jokes, even in the middle of his fights, and I feel the movies have had difficulty capturing that aspect of him.Β  The Amazing Spider-Man started off laid-back, but Spidey became more serious as the movie went on.Β  Same with the Sam Raimi trilogy.Β  If the tone of this trailer continues throughout the entire film, I will be so happy.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2, directed by Marc Webb, will be in theaters May 2, 2014 and sees the return of Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker, Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, and Sally Field as Aunt May, as well as introducing Jamie Foxx as Electro, Paul Giamatti as Rhino, Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn, and Chris Cooper as Norman Osborn.