Lightning Review: Easy A

This review was originally posted for MovieRob‘s High School/Teen Romance-themed Genre Grandeur.

Easy A movie posterSynopsis
Olive (Emma Stone) has been completely anonymous throughout high school. When her friend Brandon (Dan Byrd) asks her to pretend to have sex with him so he will stop getting bullied for being gay, she gets more attention than she bargained for.

At its core, Easy A is very similar to most other teen movies. Olive is trying to discover who she is and in the process causes friction between her and her best friend and she feels more alone than ever. However, it ends up working on so many levels. A huge part of its success stems from Emma Stone. She nails Olive’s personality. She cute, smart, charming, and always ready with a quip. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine any other actress playing the part. Stone could easily carry the film by herself but she doesn’t have to. Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson as Olive’s parents steal every scene they’re in. Not only are they the chill and understanding type of parents, but they are funny. It’s easy to see where the character of Olive gets her wits. Besides the great characters, Easy A commentates on how easily information can be passed along and skewed in today’s digital age. Not to mention teens are more than willing to gossip and pass along scandalous information about their peers. This subtext isn’t heavy handed or in your face but easily picked up (the way it should be presented). Easy A is what every teen movie should strive to be. It has well-written characters, a great cast, a relevant message, jokes that don’t fall flat, and a big heart.


Favorite Quote
Chip: I like your pants.
Olive: Thank you. They’re Cosco. You can have them when you get a little taller if you want.
Chip: I’m never going to go through puberty.
Rosemary: Of course you will, baby. We’re a family of late bloomers. I didn’t until I was 14 nor did Olive.
Chip: Why does that matter? I’m adopted.
Dill: What!? Oh my god! Who told you? Guys, we were going to do this at the right time.


Cast & Crew
Will Gluck – Director
Bert B. Royal – Writer
Brad Segal – Composer

Emma Stone – Olive
Aly Michalka – Rhiannon
Penn Badgley – Woodchuck Todd
Dan Byrd – Brandon
Amanda Bynes – Marianne
Thomas Haden Church – Mr. Griffith
Lisa Kudrow – Mrs. Griffith
Patricia Clarkson – Rosemary
Stanley Tucci – Dill
Bryce Clyde Jenkins – Chip

Captain America: The First Avenger Review

Captain America:The First Avenger movie posterSynopsis
During World War II, Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) creates a formula to create a super soldier. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) was the first person selected to receive the serum. Before the procedure can be used again, Erskine is killed by a member of Hydra, a Nazi research division led by Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving). Now the only super soldier, Rogers goes after Schmidt to eliminate him and the rest of Hydra.

Captain America: The First Avenger was the final stepping stone to the historical The Avengers. Each of the Phase One films have all been unique. What makes this film stand out is that it’s a period piece, something that none of the other films did or have done since. It takes place during World War II, separated from the Iron Man films, The Incredible Hulk, and Thor. It’s not without it’s faults, but like the other movies of Phase One, Captain America: The First Avenger serves as a good introduction to Steve Rogers.

Right away, I want to say Hugo Weaving was the perfect choice to play Johann Schmidt. He can just play the perfect villain no matter the situation (he is arguably the best thing from the later Matrix movies). He is cold and heartless, or at least he is great at acting to be. I can see him being the sweetest person in real life.

At first, I wasn’t sure about Chris Evans as Captain America. I still envisioned him as the lighthearted, whimsical Johnny Storm. I wasn’t sure if he could pull of the more serious and patriotic Steve Rogers. Thankfully, my reservations were misplaced. Evans ends up doing great. The same can be said for Hayley Atwell. I wasn’t familiar with her before Captain America, but she simply killed it as Peggy Carter. She’s strong, independent and sassy, the perfect complement to Rogers (and Evans).

When dealing with a character like Captain America, where patriotism is a huge part of his character, it can creep into being obnoxious. This film does great with showing Steve Rogers’ personality without shoving that aspect down your throat. He is a good person and his country is important to him, but it’s not overbearing on the audience.

Alan Silvestri is one of my favorite composers, so it’s no surprise I really enjoyed the score. It may be my favorite of at least all the Phase One films (maybe even all of the MCU films). I immediately recognize it whenever it comes onto my Film Scores Pandora station. You can’t help but be filled with excitement and gusto whenever you hear it.

Captain America’s costume from the comics is as hokey as they come. I’m glad that the final outfit didn’t go that route. It still had the color palette but was actually practical. But there was a throwback to his comic book garb when he was touring the country trying to sell bonds, which was a nice touch.

The tiny Chris Evens in the beginning kind of freaked me out a little. The effect was well done but knowing how Evens looks normally, seeing him so disproportionate threw me off. After several viewings I have gotten used to it, but is still was weird at first.

My biggest issue with this film is the inconsistent pacing. Captain America: The First Avenger loves it’s montages. Normally montages aren’t a bad thing, but this movie doesn’t use them sparingly. There’s a montage and then a few scenes, then another montage, followed by some more scenes and another montage. I understand that it was almost a necessity to for time jumping, but it just seemed irregular.

Captain America: The First Avenger distanced itself from the previous Marvel films by it’s setting in World War II, giving it the sort of freedom to tell the story it needs to. Even with it’s spotty pacing, Marvel’s strong casting choices once again carries their movie further than it would have otherwise.


Also check out my reviews for the other films in Marvel’s Phase 1: Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and The Avengers.


Cast & Crew
Joe Johnston – Director
Christopher Markus – Screenplay
Stephen McFeely – Screenplay
Alan Silvestri – Composer

Chris Evans – Steve Rogers / Captain America
Hayley Atwell – Peggy Carter
Sebastian Stan – James Buchanan ‘Bucky’ Barnes
Tommy Lee Jones – Colonel Chester Phillips
Hugo Weaving – Johann Schmidt / Red Skull
Dominic Cooper – Howard Stark
Richard Armitage – Heinz Kruger
Stanley Tucci – Dr. Abraham Erskine
Toby Jones – Dr. Arnim Zola
Neal McDonough – Timothy ‘Dum Dum’ Dugan
Derek Luke – Gabe Jones
Keneth Choi – Jim Morita
JJ Field – James Montgomery Falsworth
Bruno Ricci – Jacques Dernier
Lex Shrapnel – Gilmore Hodge
Samuel L. Jackson – Nick Fury

Movie Quote of the Week – 4/17/15

Answer to MWL 4/15/15: Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) – Captain America: The First Avenger

Abraham Erskine: The serum was not ready. But more important, the man. The serum amplifies everything that is inside, so good becomes great. Bad becomes worse. This is why you were chosen. Because a strong man who has known power all his life may lose respect for that power, but a weak man knows the value of strength. And knows compassion.
Steve Rogers: Thanks. I think.
Erskine: Whatever happens tomorrow, you must promise me one thing. That you will stay who you are. Not a perfect soldier, but a good man.
Rogers: To the little guys.
Erskine: No, no. Wait, wait. What am I doing? No, you have procedure tomorrow. No fluids.
Rogers: All right. We’ll drink it after.
Erskine: No, I don’t have procedure tomorrow. Drink it after? I drink it now.

Thanks for everyone’s submissions and congratulations to the following people for answering correctly:

That Other Critic (That Other Critic)
Marta (Ramblings of a Cinefile)
Dave (The Film Editorial)
The ‘That Moment In’ guys (That Moment In) (I don’t know which one of you guys answered…)

Transformers: Age of Extinction Review

Transformers: Age of Extinction movie posterSynopsis
After the devastation of Chicago several years ago, Transformers are being hunted and have gone into hiding. Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) stumbles upon the dormant Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), causing Cade, Optimus, Cade’s daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), and Tessa’s boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor) meet up with the remaining Autobots and go on the run from the CIA.

I went into Transformers: Age of Extinction with what I wouldn’t call high hopes but some hope. It had a new cast and a fresh start. Unfortunately, it also had too long of a run time and no apparent sense of direction. Not only that, but the Dinobots, a large part of the marketing for the movie, only appeared at the tail end. I’m not going to be one of those fans that go on an angry rant, but I will say that it could have, and should have, been much better.

One of the positives about Transformers: Age of Extinction is that is does have some pretty funny lines and moments. Most of these are supplied by either TJ Miller or Stanley Tucci. Tucci is easily one of the best things about this film. His role is different than his other films like Easy A or The Hunger Games. It goes to show how versatile he can be. At times the humor felt a little forced, but overall it was pretty good.

Having Frank Welker voice Galvatron, the reincarnated Megatron, was a great nod towards fans, just like Peter Cullen supplying his voice for Optimus Prime. Cullen and Welker were the voices of Optimus Prime and Megatron/Galvatron respectively in the original 1980s The Transformers cartoon. Welker did a few voices in Dark of the Moon but I was happy to see him return to one of his original roles from the cartoon. Hugo Weaving was perfect for Megatron in the first three movies, but Welker needed to come in eventually and this was the perfect time to do it.

I was blown away by the special effects and computer generated images (CGI) of Transformers, and Age of Extinction takes that up a notch. All the character designs and models looked spectacular. Despite the chaotic nature of the fight sequences, it was much easier to follow than the first film. The final fight scene was especially impressive. My friend described it as much more fluid than before; It actually felt like a real fight rather than “Power Ranger Megazords fighting each other” (I think those were his words). I would have to say that is a pretty good analogy and I am inclined to agree with him.

Once the action really picked up, about 30-45 minutes into the movie, it literally never stopped. I don’t think there was more than a ten minute span where something wasn’t blowing up. Had this come out when I was younger, this would have been my favorite of the series for that reason alone. Action in action movies is great (it’s pretty much implied), but when that takes away from the characters, it becomes a little too much, especially when there is over two and a half hours of it.

Because of the huge focus on action and explosions, there was virtually no characterization. Any time it seemed like there was going to be some character development, like when Cade (Mark Wahlberg) and Optimus start discussing parenting, it cuts away and the action revs  back up. We learn about the human characters a little (a lot about how Cade was going to protect his daughter), but hardly anything about the Transformers themselves. Since the only returning Autobots were Optimus and Bumblebee, I would have liked to learn about the new robots. I know it wasn’t a matter of time, because with 165 minutes, it could have happened.

For a movie whose advertising strongly showed the Dinobots, they hardly had any screen time. They only appeared for the final 20-ish minutes of the action (maybe more, I started to lose track of time) and acted more like a deus ex machina than anything else. And I was expecting a more epic showdown between Optimus and Grimlock, which was very anticlimactic. I would have almost preferred that their presence in the film was not teased at all and instead have it be a surprise when they showed up on screen. My attitude would have been more “Whaa? Dinobots? Awesome!” rather than “Where are the Dinobots? That’s it?” Big difference.

Transformers: Age of Extinction suffers from too-man-villains syndrome. There is the main human villain, his head henchman, another human villain who is kind of but isn’t really a bad guy, the Transformers’ villain Lockdown, and Galvatron. The main focus was on Lockdown and Attinger (Kelsey Grammer), but unfortunately that meant Glavatron was pushed to the side and was hardly present. Attinger felt like your stereotypical comic villain, bordering on the corny side. I will say this though: Lockdown is a badass. He was a great adversary for the Autobots and different from the Decepticons from the previous films. As for Galvatron, I do like how they brought him into the series, it was the best way to introduce him without Unicron (a world-devouring being who transformed Megatron into Galvatron in the 1986 film The Transformers: The Movie).

I don’t know why, but I was expecting so much more from Transformers: Age of Extinction. The Dinobots, a huge part of the trailers and marketing in general, hardly have a presence in the film. Too many bad guys caused several villains to get only a few minutes of screen time. The human villain Harold Attinger, played by Kelsey Grammer, was pretty flat, but Lockdown, the big Transformers villain, was a badass. With a run time almost that of The Godfather, and non-stop action from the beginning, it was overwhelming. And even with that much time, there was virtually no character development. I understand the something like Transformers is supposed to be corny, but Transformers: Age of Extinction saw the line, flew over it and never looked back.



Cast & Crew
Michael Bay – Director
Ehren Kruger – Writer
Steve Jablonsky – Composer

Mark Wahlberg – Cade Yeager
Nicola Peltz – Tessa Yeager
Jack Reynor – Shane Dyson
Stanley Tucci – Joshua Joyce
Kelsey Grammer – Harold Attinger
Titus Welliver – James Savoy
Sophia Myles – Darcy Tirrel
Bingbing Li – Su Yueming
TJ Miller – Lucas Flannery
James Bachman – Gill Wembley
Peter Cullen – Optimus Prime (voice)
John Goodman – Hound (voice)
Ken Watanabe – Drift (voice)
John DiMaggio – Crosshairs (voice)
Mark Ryan – Lockdown (voice)
Frank Welker – Galvatron (voice)
Reno Wilson – Brains (voice)

Transformers: Age of Extinction Trailer #2

Official Synopsis: As humanity picks up the pieces, following the conclusion of “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” Autobots and Decepticons have all but vanished from the face of the planet. However, a group of powerful, ingenious businessman and scientists attempt to learn from past Transformer incursions and push the boundaries of technology beyond what they can control – all while an ancient, powerful Transformer menace sets Earth in his cross-hairs.

Optimus Prime riding Grimlock?  I’m sold.  There is a lot more action than the last trailer (and a lot less US flags).  Dark of the Moon was huge in terms of stakes, the whole world was in danger being enslaved after all.  Age of Extinction looks to try to keep the momentum going and offer a world wide threat yet again.  It’s different considering it is supposed to be the start of a new trilogy, but I guess Bay wanted to start over with a bang.  I really want to see who is on the ground fighting Optimus.  My guess is Megatron/Galvatron.  The good news is we won’t have to wait long to see the Dinobots finally hit the screen since it comes out in about a month.

Transformers: Age of Extinction explodes into theaters June 27, 2014.  With director Michael Bay returning, it stars Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Stanley Tucci, Titus Welliver, Bingbing Li, Kelsey Grammer, Sophia Myles, Abigail Klein, TJ Miller, Jack Reynor, and Peter Cullen.

Transformers: Age of Extinction movie poster

Transformers: Age of Extinction Teaser Trailer

Official Synopsis: Earth is scarred by the events of the past three movies, but is moving on after all the giant robots disappeared. Cade Yeager, an inventor, discovers a buried Transformer which sets the stage for the return of the rest of the Transformers.

It seems a lot has changed since the end of Transformers: Dark of the Moon.  Right in the beginning there was a billboard urging people to report “alien activity” and a voice over from Stanley Tucci telling the Autobots (I’m assuming), that they aren’t needed anymore.  This will make an interesting dynamic for sure, especially when the Decepticons return.  It won’t be the same without Megatron.  They could bring him back as Galvatron, which happened in the cartoon.  I am not sure who the bad robot leading the the charge is.  Maybe that is Galvatron…  It’s going to be hard to top the stakes of the last film, but it looks like it is going to try.

I know many die-hard Transformers fans cried foul when Optimus Prime was a cab-over semi-truck rather than a flat face like the 1980s cartoon.  This time Bay is paying homage to his original look.  It looks like Optimus starts the movie in the original look and later goes back to a similar design to the other movies.

This is only a teaser (a long one, but apparently that’s what it is), but it gives a pretty good look at Mark Wahlberg and Nicola Peltz as Cade Yeager and his daughter Tessa.  Titus Welliver and Stanley Tucci also get quite a bit of trailer time.  The other lead, Jack Reynor isn’t seen and neither is Kelsey Grammer, who has been cast as the antagonist.  If this is a “teaser” maybe they will show up in the next trailer.

Transformers: Age of Extinction hits theaters June 27, 2014.  With director Michael Bay returning, it stars Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Stanley Tucci, Titus Welliver, Bingbing Li, Kelsey Grammer, Sophia Myles, Abigail Klein, TJ Miller, Jack Reynor, and Peter Cullen.

Transformers: Age of Extinction poster