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War And Peace (1956) Movie Review - Should You Watch Vidor's Adaptation of Tolstoy's Masterpiece?

People consider it a task reading any Tolstoy book, but when they realize Tolstoy's reasons behind writing so much, they shall simply fall in love with his works. In War and Peace, you may ask why Tolstoy included so many scenes of so many characters. The last philosophical epilogue that many people choose to skip provided me with some answers. Tolstoy felt that there were innumerable causes, time and external factors to analyze before judging a person's actions or an event. His scenes are branched out only to emphasize this very point, that a person can't be judged as good or bad by just regarding one deed of his/hers. Take Natalie's elopement for instance: in the book, we sort of anticipate this impulsive tendency of Natalie through her internal thoughts, her family's similar traits and her failed romances with Boris and Denisov. This not being clearly mentioned in the movie, we are forced to think Natalie tries to elope only because she was unwelcomed by Princess Marya and Count Bolkhonsky since their encounter precedes the scene at the theater. Tolstoy the writer had the freedom to extend his book as much as he wanted to justify his characters' intentions to an extent, while King Vidor the filmmaker has to consider many factors while making War and Peace, the most important being to make his work a box office hit. Thus, in spite of being fairly impressive in bringing the book to screen, Vidor's War and Peace isn't able to capture the nuances that the genius Tolstoy could.

The runtime of War and Peace, despite stretching a generous 210 minutes doesn't manage to do enough justice to many of its events, especially the arc involving Pierre's relationship with Helene, which had to be deliberately stretched 'without' the presence of the characters together in order to emphasize how pathetic and disconnected their marriage was, but isn't. Through this disconnection, Pierre's feelings of attraction and pity towards Natasha automatically increased in the book but since the scenes in between the rare encounters of Pierre with Helene can't be stretched too long in the movie, there isn't enough of the latent passion within Pierre towards Natalie as in the book, especially when Pierre comes to console Natalie after her failed elopement (in the book, Pierre is so moved by her plight he immediately falls in love with her).

Or take Napoleon's accession and fall; in spite of Herbert Lom's sincere performance as the pompous, arrogant tyrant, we don't feel the aura that a war and its aftermath should create because Vidor limits the number of characters, thus not emphasizing Tolstoy's statement that in a war, there are so many forces working together. The countless negotiations and treaties, the faulty calculations and wrong assumptions by the various argumentative generals and the pawns in the form of millions of Russian and French soldiers was so comprehensively and exhaustively charted out by Tolstoy, readers simply felt overwhelmed and overawed by the gravity of the situation. Vidor plays safe, partly because its 1956, partly because of his direction style, partly because of the screen duration, partly because of budget limitations and partly because it's Hollywood.

Pierre's development is quite disappointing; while in the book, he undergoes a sea of change that teaches him that 'the kingdom of God is within oneself', in the movie he (and Prince Andrei) seem secondary to Natasha Rostov. Instances that are supposed to cast a deep impact on Pierre such as the arsonists' execution scene are hastily finished with, and without the inner voice that Tolstoy persistently gives to his characters, Pierre just seems like the same old albeit wounded Pierre after the war. And the Hollywood like resolution was thoroughly unsatisfactory; remember how the intuitive Princess Marya realizes Pierre's feelings towards Natalie and agrees to have a word with her in the book - that anticipation is missing in the movie. John Wayne is miscast indeed as Pierre, but more to blame are the dialogs which do not bother capturing the complexities of Pierre's nature. Brando, the method man could've done much more had he been provided the geeky spectacles of Pierre - he would've demanded for a fat suit to get into Tolstoy's version of the character. Mel Ferrer is in the same boat as Wayne; the issue with him is that his mouth speaks more than his eyes. Not in the case at all with Audrey Hepburn as the spirited, caring and spontaneous Natasha; Hepburn outshines everything else in her scenes with the deeply expressive eyes and her whole body language. The ballroom scene is perfectly played by her and it is exactly how Natalie had been written in that chapter in the book.

The audio recording (rerecorded at the studio) is, as you may have heard from many other viewers, bad and some good dialogs sound flat and not in synchrony with the actors' lip movements. The visuals shine but personally I was looking for something darker especially during the war scenes - the murkier the war is, the more we connect with the characters' pains. Costumes at the soirées are better suited then those at war, but I guess Vidor wasn't aiming for too much realism. In the end, War and Peace the movie is a hit or miss affair - it hits whenever Hepburn turns up, stays afloat most of the time and misses at doing complete justice to Tolstoy.

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Such Experimentation, Capable Acting and Fine Editing, I'm Baffled at the Hate for Blair Witch

The most striking thing about The Blair Witch Project is that the ending strikes you two seconds later, when the end credits begin. For a moment, your mind reels back to the preceding events and you realize how terrific and terrifying the moment is. Paranormal Activity, released much later may have more jump scenes, but nothing in the movie, not even the spooky as hell climax is as intense as Blair Witch's last fifteen or so seconds. If you think I am going to say 'The ending is great but the rest isn't', you are incorrect. Comments such as 'The worst movie ever', 'I hated this film', 'Indie crap' are written as usual without much justification, and that some call the characters 'absolutely unlikeable' is a thing I find utterly baffling.

Three newcomers - one a Shakespearean actress (Heather Donahue), another an experienced independent director (Joshua Leonard) and the other a theater actor (Michael C. Williams) not just act but also film most of their scenes in an isolated forest area using a 16mm and handicam and not just that, the actors were not aware of what was to happen in the woods since the directors didn't tell them what would happen next in their scenes. In the director's commentary, one realizes how spontaneously the three amigos (not exactly 'amigos', just using it because it sounds sweet, sad and ironic) improvised their scenes in order to extract realistic performances. Donahue, who won the Razzie Award for Worst Actress for an act that should've clinched her a Golden Globe nomination, is believed to have modeled her character on a director with whom she had worked with. With such experimentation, such capable acting and such fine editing, I am simply astonished that the word 'worst' is attributed to The Blair Witch Project. 'Unlikable characters'? So if the characters were unlikable, then the reviewers should've loved the film since they 'got what they deserved' according to them - similar to the unlikable characters of Final Destination series. What is get from reading their reviews is plain contradiction - I think the moment they realized it was a shaky camera, they judged every other element superficially.

The plot is simple: Three student filmmakers begin making a documentary about the legend of the Blair Witch, and this leads them to the forest where the witch is believed to have existed. Things turn sour when they find stuff in the forest they aren't supposed to, which is ironic since these stuffs would've made their documentary even more credible. They realize that the Blair Witch is simply not a myth of the ignoramus past, and that this force would always work in a similar fashion: haunt at night, leave an after effect in the morning. They also have to maintain their sanity even when tensions and tempers are high. Shaky camera is probably the best aspect of Blair Witch Project. How close we are to the action, how much we anticipate like the actors about what's to happen, how much we are involved in the film because of this wonderful camera technique; it is something only a person who is ready to adjust to any film would understand. Remember Meryl Streep's line at the Oscars: 'When they called my name I had this feeling I could hear half of America going, "oh, no!"', the same thing may apply to certain audience members when they sensed the shaky camera 'When they saw shaky camera, half of the audience members went 'Oh no!'. You have to look beyond that.

The camera work is crisp, highly engaging and very ingenious, even though the actors themselves didn't realize some of the best shot scenes by them were accidental. I never imagined Donahue's last message to her parents was an accidental stroke of greatness till I saw the director's commentary: Heather had thought the camera was recording her entire face while she shot the sequence. Also the interesting shot of Michael in one the bottom left corner of the screen while the rest of the frame is taken up by the tall, foreboding trees was accidental. Even the perfectly coordinated shot of Michael walking away at a distance while Donahue is talking to Joshua in front. Everything is raw, raging and unconventional.

Interviews with local townspeople are also very engaging, since some of the members were non-actors: Advice - don't miss the director's commentary if you have the DVD; you may find new love for the movie. Another advice: do not sleep during those things, considering them on trivial importance. Coming to the three main stars, Donahue is certainly the best, channeling so many emotions in the course of the film effortlessly. The scenes where she breaks down are absolutely powerful. Great support from the two guys, and again, you'll get to see 'Michael's Great Moment No 1,2... ' in the director's commentary. The DVD version does go for an overkill with the made for TV feature that seems silly and excessive - it reminded me of a silly animated movie we had made for a competition where we included dozens of additional attractions, including fake reviews for the film within the film.

Verdict: Recommended. (8.5 / 10)

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Ballet Mecanique: The Third Gender Theory

Classical ballet is regarded a highly technical dance form which emphasizes on precision and perfection of movements like the pirouette, which is a rapid whirling of the body on one toe or balls of feet done often by ballerinas towards the end of the performance as a show-stopping move (as in the movie 'Black Swan'). Ballet Mecanique is dominated by circular movements and resembles the pirouettes done in ballet and the repetitive cold mechanism in the film may allude to the formal technicality of the dance (In Black Swan, Nina was criticized for being emotionless and technical). But there is something more to Ballet Mecanique that struck me only on my fourth or fifth viewing of the bewildering movie, when I decided to take a pen and paper and dissect the film by marking down every object that appeared in the frames. I term my findings as 'Ballet Mecanique: The Third Gender Theory'.

I shall put down every element that appears on screen, and shall also give a brief description of what elements struck me in particular. The very first image of Charlie Chaplin on screen in a cut out inspired by Cubism art made me wonder why Chaplin was chosen. Slowly I realized that Chaplin's oldest movies relied much on repetition of actions and mechanical mime (I know this because I had the displeasure of watching a 1916 film of his which had probably a hundred and fifteen moments of people kicking each other in the rear side). His movements do not represent human movements but those of a character who has been specially created for the audiences to laugh at. The next image is of a woman on a swing opening and closing her eyes like a puppet while a booming Antheil soundtrack plays in the background. Suddenly a rapid succession of images break the flow and our eyes catch some circles and triangles, a typewriter, the legs of a chair, 1-2-3 numbers, bottles, machine parts and lastly a hat. Then we see the lips of a woman smiling but her head isn't visible - this image keeps repeating like many of the previous images, some of which I couldn't decipher at all, throughout the film.

The shiny ball is an important motif that keeps recurring at various points: what does it represent or more importantly, does it even represent anything? While thinking about the movie, when I pictured the oscillating ball, an image of the man later seen in the film also appeared in my head. The man appeared hypnotized and that's when I realized that maybe, the shiny oscillating ball was to hypnotize us. Next come very important images that support my theory: images of pot lids and round objects shown through prisms. The object of these prisms is to multiply a figure or an item, and it only struck me later that I had seen such images elsewhere: it was in my school when we used to go to the laboratory during our biology classes; when we used to see plants under the microscope, the cell structure appeared to form images like the ones that are present in Ballet Mecanique. So does it mean Ballet Mecanique is showing us a person/thing/object's cell structure that is made of pot lids and bolts?

We get one shot of a parrot and the immediate thought in my head was that 'this person or object that is being made is going to imitate human voice, actions and gestures in a rote manner'. We also glimpse shots of someone's eyes, probably that 'thing's' that'll soon be revealed. The next portion of the film is a direct comparison of man and machines and is maybe the most easily understandable part of the film. Of course the multiple shots of a heavyset woman climbing the stairs with a gunny sack on her back bring us back to cryptic-ville. But I noticed she gave a thumbs-up sign towards the end each time, and even though that gesture may have been to ask the director whether the shot was alright, I consider it as a 'thumbs up' sign for the 'object/person/thing' to indicate that it is about to be completed. What puzzles us the most is the following sequence of dancing digits, especially zero, one, two, three and inter-titles. Machine language consists of zeros and ones but I'm not sure whether machine language existed in those days. If it did, then the sequence smartly shows how our English language is processed to machine language that does not care to understand the meaning behind those words. But I think this entire sequence should've been skipped and the soundtrack during the sequence should've been shortened to exclude the part.

The climactic moment arrives - a head shot of an androgyne first shaking her head up and down, then turning her face from right to left and then putting on various expressions. The previous juxtapositions led me to come to my conclusion that this indeed is the third gender figure made out of machine parts to represent the growth of technology. I also have the DVD of Metropolis which was made in the same period and too included a robot as its protagonist. To me, everything in Ballet Mecanique made sense after believing that the sixteen minutes of abstraction's purpose was to show the birth of this gender, slowly arising out of machine parts. The end shot of the woman smelling flowers makes us wonder whether she can actually smell the flowers or is she just miming human behavior. There are various interpretations on the internet, one saying that the movie is about sex and the circle here is the vagina and another one actually saying that the movie is about rape (that is rape of cinema on us through the explosive images). Such theories only consider the immediate thing that comes to the end when a circle is shown; I believe my theory is comparatively sound and well thought.

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Review: Easy Money

Many of us aspire to live what is known as "the high life." There are various reasons why these people want to be apart of the financial elite and there are multiple ways to get there if you can. Some of these people will do whatever it takes to attain such status and that includes breaking the law to get there. That's what the lead character in the film Easy Money is thinking about doing. The problem for him is that it might not be as easy as he thinks.

JW (Joel Kinnaman) is a college student from a lower class background who wants to live the "good life." He see the lives of many of his associates and is instantly enamored with them and their lifestyles. He works hard in order to one day attain the great level of success that he desires, but the opportunities aren't coming fast enough for him. His lack of funds becomes even harder for him to bare after he meets Sophie (Lisa Henni), the girl of his dreams who is living above what he can afford. So with the extra bit of inspiration, he decides to make things happen at a faster pace and ends up taking a dip into the criminal underworld to sustain his image and live up to what he believes Sophie might want in a man.

At the start of Easy Money, we meet JW while he's in school and mingling with his wealthier counterparts. Although he doesn't have much of what they have as far as family structure and finances, he does what he can to project the image of having come from a good family that also has a strong financial background. In his dorm room, he has posters and images of male models plastered over a good amount of the walls so he can study them and emulate their style of dress. He sees things he wants and women that he wants to be with, but doesn't feel that he can attain such prizes.

Because of this, he is driven to succeed and he eventually finds himself involved with a group of criminals. He knows that this may be his fastest way to the top of the financial mountain if he's careful and has the right connections. According to the arrangement h has with the group, he doesn't even have to get violent nor does he have to do much in terms of work that would put his life in danger. This obviously looks like a case of making some easy money and having it fall straight into his hands. All that's left for him to deal with is watching his back and living his life while the career criminals do all of the heavy lifting.

But JW is not alone in his quest for some quick cash. There's also Jorge (Mattias Padin Varela) and Mrado (Dragomir Mrsic) who are just as desperate to reach the financial promise land that they dream of. Like JW, they have their own personal difficulties that they need to get in order and it's not going to be easy. One has to deal with responsibilities of raising his daughter on his own and the other has to look out for his family members that are in dire straits. All three of these characters have their stories intertwine as e continue to learn about who they are and what pushes them to break the law.

Throughout all of this, we're shown the pressures of JW's new occupation and the direct impact that it has on certain aspects of someone's personal life if they're living under these circumstances. It's clear to me that director Daniel Espinosa is doing whatever he can to humanize these characters and make them multidimensional. By giving each one a different flaw or hang up that hinders them, it's looks as if he doesn't want them to be your typical bad guys and he wants the audience to glance at their motives and desires just as much as their actions.

From a personal standpoint, I felt indifferent about Easy Money and just about everything in it. This is a decent movie for the most part, but nothing jumps out at you and there's nothing that makes it great or even memorable. It's a well structured film with good balance and a great deal of patience that wants to talks to its viewers about the choices people make and the consequences that they may have to face. The actual execution of the film forces you to understand that this is not about crime, but the people. It's also the best part of the movie.

As a fan of movies and as a movie critic, Easy Money divides me. If I'm looking at it from the eye of a film critic, I'll have to notice the quality of the storytelling and I think that's good here. As a fan of cinema, I would have wanted a little more violence and a little more energy as we get a closer look at the dangers that these men experience. If you're going to see this movie as a member of the general public, you have to know what you're getting and you may not like this as much as critics might. If you're looking for a hard and brutal movie, then you're going to have to look someplace else.

Easy Money is not about violence or even really organized crime. It's about those life altering choices some of us have to make and how things like greed, lust and apparent need can alter the lives of people. This is a sleek crime thriller that's light on crime and even lighter on violence when compared to other films from this genre. From my view, there's nothing wrong with it, but with the exception of the well structured story there's not much in it either.

Score: 3/5

Rating: R

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Joel Kinnaman
Mattias Padin Varela
Dragomir Mrsic
Dejan Cukic
Liusa Henni
Annika Ryberg Whittembury

Film Length: 119 minutes

Release Date: July 11, 2012 (Limited)

Distributor: The Weinstein Company

Country: Sweden

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Premium Rush

Being a bike messenger probably won't make you the most popular person on the road. You're darting in and out of traffic, coming close to hitting civilians and generally causing frustration whenever. This occupation can certainly be a difficult way to make a living, but it can be even more difficult if you're like the protagonist in Premium Rush. On this day, he's unknowingly delivering something the could change lives, and maybe even end his.

Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) spends his days on the streets of New York City delivering packages as a bike messenger. He might be the best at what he does and that's because he's a risk taker. His bike only has one gear and he refuses to employ brakes of any kind, since he believes they will get you killed on this job. Although these practices put him at risk for certain accidents he wants to keep his life and has mentally prepared for the usual threats that come with his current occupation.

But on this day, the young man who's gained a reputation for being reckless, might be in store for more than just the usual threats. After he goes on a run to receive his last envelope of the day, he runs into something different. He finds himself running for his life as he's being chased by people that seem to want him dead, whatever it is that he's carrying or both.

Going in, I was looking forward to a movie that had fast-paced, full throttle, non-stop type of action taking place. Just by watching the trailers you would think that's what you were going to get along with some potentially creative use of bikes flying through high traffic while Wilee is doing all he can to avoid all sorts of trouble. Just thinking about all of the possibilities that could from this movie was intriguing for me.

You obviously get some action with Joseph Gordon-Levitt zipping around the streets of "The Big Apple," so that's not truly an issue. The issue is that none of this action is anywhere near fantastic or even memorable. These scenes are just vanilla for the most part and don't contain anything extraordinary or all that fun. It lacks any real punch, there aren't too many bike tricks on display and there's never a sense of actual danger for any of the characters that are on the side of Gordon-Levitt.

Because of its lack of danger, Premium Rush feels it was made for release on Nickelodeon or The Disney Channel. You take out the little bit of profanity that you had, a couple of scenes and alter the very end of the film, and that's essentially what you have. Based on what I saw beforehand, I was thinking that I was going to see some things that would be similar to something like Speed or Die Hard with a Vengeance as far as pacing and energy, but it might be geared more toward teenagers. I was wrong and it looks as if their target audience was closer to pre-adolescent kids.

They didn't take many risks in creating the story for this film and it's quite obvious that they never really tried or wanted to. I figure that they threw in the profanity and that last part of the final action scene just to make it appear somewhat edgy. They had to know that this film was way too safe and it didn't deliver on what they promised in the trailers or the television advertisements.

When looking at the other aspects of the film outside of the action, it should come as no shock that there is a love story going on in Premium Rush. It sometimes feels like there's some sort of love story in every movie released these days. For some reason, I didn't think one would be in here since it's supposed to be this high adrenaline type of movie about some young guy who rides a bike around town for a living and due to the fact that it's barely even an hour and a half long.

The truth is, they used the love story to connect the primary story together with some of the characters and to fill in some of the time that would have otherwise been nothing but empty space. It's clear to me that they didn't have a bunch of ideas to work with because of this, and the very bland reasoning for everything that's taking place in the movie. As I said, the movie isn't very long. If you take out most of this extra stuff that's essentially unnecessary, you'd have something that would be lucky to reach the forty five minute mark.

Besides the love story, one of the other things that I found to be only good to consume time are the flashbacks that they use to progress the plot. They do explain the story by going back to the recent past, but they also disrupt the action that we are given an opportunity to watch. I would have preferred to see the plot unfold as the movie went on and as the audience, we could see it all unfold over time. Instead of that, they just spell it for us with these scenes and it also kills some of the suspense that could have been added.

When I step back and look at the movie, I might have expected too much from it. You're talking about a feature length film that's based on guys who ride bikes around the streets to make deliveries. How much could they possibly add to make an actual feature length movie out of something like this? After seeing it and dissecting it, that would explain why Premium Rush is so short, why they felt the need to overuse an otherwise useless love story and why they included so many scenes where they hit the rewind button to tell the back story. It looks like they just simply had a difficult time coming up with anything interesting to put in the movie.

Score: 2/5

Rating: PG-13

Director: David Koepp

Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Dania Ramirez
Michael Shannon
Wole Parks
Jamie Chung
Aasif Mandvi

Film Length: 90 minutes

Release Date: August 24, 2012

Distributor: Columbia Pictures

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Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

For most kids, summer is the most anticipated time of the year. That's primarily because it's getting warmer and they get a ton of free time due to the fact that they don't have to go to school for a while. In the eyes of children, being out of school is one of the biggest rewards you can get. There's plenty of things you can do to have fun and you don't have to worry about school work. That's what the main character in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days is expecting for his extended time off from all things school, but that may not be what he's going to get.

With summer arriving, Greg (Zachary Gordon) is preparing his dream vacation. He intends to spend the entire summer sitting in front of the television playing video games. Unfortunately for him, his father Frank (Steve Zahn) has other plans for him. He intends to get his son out of the house, because he wants him to be more physically active this summer. In order to avoid doing everything that his father has planned for him, the "Wimpy Kid" decides to pretend that he has a job. Doing this may or may not get him out of his father's plans, but it might not save him from the dog days of summer.with his friends,

Instead of having his dream summer vacation of video game bliss, Greg is forced to divide his time between hanging out with his friends, helping his older brother (Devon Bostick) meet the girl of his dreams and doing all he can to avoid his father's tasks. He also runs into a bit of trouble every once in a while as he meets some familiar foes from the previous film Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules. It's not all bad though, because his forced time away from video games also allows him to continue his pursuit of Holly Hills (Peyton List) when he gets the time and opportunity.

The story isn't a very deep one and it shouldn't be expected from a movie like this. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days is a family film that hopes to entertain children and I think that it does that for the most part. There are plenty of goofy scenes that kids can get behind while finding reasons to laugh with all of the precarious situations that Greg is thrown into.

It's the same formula from the previous film, but it contains slight alterations. As an example I'll point out the fact that he had a not so great relationship with his older brother in the previous movie of the franchise and in this film, he has some of the same issues with his father.They have nothing in common, but Greg still wants to make his relationship with his dad a good one and he's determined to bond with him in some way.

This part of the film's plot leads to just some of the many misadventures that Greg faces and all of it is innocent fun for the entire family. If I had kids, this would be something that I'd have no problem taking them to see. They'll most likely get a kick out of it and that's what it's meant to do. There's nothing ground breaking or new here. The creators of this franchise knows what this is and they know their audience. Due to the fact that this has been a successful franchise, I'm sure that's what the fans want out of it.

I'm not exactly the kind of guy who enjoys being around kids, but I think I know an entertaining children's movie when I see one. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days fits the bill in my opinion and it's something that's good for both kids and families alike. It gives them a chance to watch something with family values at it's core and there's always a place for that in my book. With so many forms of entertainment going away from those things, it's nice to see something like this being released to the masses every now and then. It gives families a chance to do something together and this movie in particular could inspire children to be more active in a positive way. That's never a bad thing.

Score: 3/5

Rating: PG

Director: David Bowers

Zachary Gordon
Devon Bostick
Rachael Harris
Robert Capron
Steve Zahn
Peyton List
Karan Brar
Melissa Roxburgh

Film Length: 93 minutes

Release Date: August 3, 2012

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

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Review: The Watch

Sometimes in life, it's necessary for people to take a stand. It could be for yourself, it could be for others or maybe you're just standing up for something that you believe in. Regardless of why you might be choosing to take this stand, it's admirable if you're doing for all the right reasons. It's too bad that I can't say that about the guys in The Watch.

For a multitude of reasons (most of which have to do with just getting out of the house), four neighbors decide to ban together and form a neighborhood watch group. They're expecting just to keep an eye on their town while making sure to have some fun in the process. That's how it starts, but they soon run into what they believe to be is an alien invasion that has the threat of potentially taking over the world while using their town as a starting point for their plan. After their Earth shattering discover, the group knows that they must do all they can to stop the invasion and save the planet from sure destruction.

After an "invigorating" speech from Evan (Ben Stiller) where we're introduced to some of the main characters, we eventually join this neighborhood watch group that's patrolling the streets for the sake of everyone in the neighborhood. Hilarity ensues almost immediately once they run into people who seem to be causing havoc on the mean streets of suburbia. Not only do they have to go face to face with vicious criminals like a mean group of adolescent boys that they cross paths with, they also have to deal with some stiff competition from a police force that doesn't take them seriously.

Fighting crime and direct opposition from the cops is tough enough, but adding aliens and strange neighbors to the fold just makes things that much more difficult for the foursome. Much of the story that's shown in The Watch uses these two major factors as its backbone with the alien invasion easily being the number one subject. When you're talking about the film as a whole though, the comedy is king.

That shouldn't come as a shock to anyone who knows a bit about this movie and if that's what you're looking for, you'll get it in spades here. In describing The Watch, saying that it's a typical comedy wouldn't give its potential audience a proper view of what they're in store for. Comedy completely rules the day here and that's easily the most important aspect of the film. Most of this comedy is more of the verbal type. There's definitely some physical comedy, but it's not close to the amount of verbal stuff in general. I say that these verbal interactions between the various characters is what makes The Watch what it is.

The attempts at grabbing laughs from the audience starts from the very beginning and continues all the way through with almost no breathes in between. As you should be able to recognize based on the R rating that it receives (and earns), the types of jokes that are being utilized are extremely vulgar and contain things that you might hear if you're hanging around a bunch of guys who are just having a good time trying to make each other laugh. The Watch is sophomoric, crude and for adults who don't mind a little immaturity from time to time.

With the clear connections that these characters have with one another, all of this goes off without a hitch and most of it seems natural and feels like it is being said off the top of their heads. For all I know, all of the leading cast members may hate each other in real life, but there does seem to be a certain chemistry with these guys and it's not hard to see because of how everything is executed. That level of comfort makes all of the comedy and character interactions between these guys run smoothly.

In terms of the consistent dirty jokes and attempts at drawing out non-stop laughter from the viewers, The Watch reminds me a bit of Ted in a sense. I remember in my review about Ted I said something about this approach working for them, because it hide's the film's flaws and its overall lack of a story. The Watch has that same style, but it separates itself from Ted, because their creators actually make some legitimate attempts a story building.

These guys have their own lives outside of their duties as neighborhood watchmen. We witness that with Bob (Vince Vaughn) worrying about his young daughter as she seems to be growing up too fast for his liking. We also get to learn about Evan, his personal life and some of the major issues that go along with it. The desire to rely on other things besides jokes by building lives for these guys and making the neighbors more than just cardboard cutouts makes these characters better than the ones we see in Ted. I liked Seth McFarlane's movie and this is not a knock on it. I'm simply pointing out some differences in movies with similar styles and why I favor one (The Watch) over the other (Ted).

Not only does it remind me of Ted, but for a different reason, it also reminds me of my favorite comedy so far in 2012 in 21 Jump Street. Not because they both star Jonah Hill, but more so the way it's presented through the trailers and what actually happens in the movie. Like 21 Jump Street, the trailers for The Watch aren't that good and they don't show you much. Because of this approach, the movie is more entertaining and they don't spoil the surprises that you're actually going to see. I welcome this because it makes so many good scenes better and more memorable when you don't see what's coming.

How The Watch came to be what it is, is an interesting story in itself. As a film, it has seen some significant changes since the time that was originally being developed. It was originally intended to be geared toward teenagers and it was going to be rated PG-13 until Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg came on to take over the writing duties. Thankfully, they turned it into the R rated fun fest that we see on the screen as its finished product.

There were also changes made due to the Trayvon Martin tragedy that occurred about five months before its release. They changed the name from Neighborhood Watch to The Watch and they were going to promote the film differently. The focus was first placed on the leads and not the alien invasion, but they changed it for obvious reasons. It wouldn't have been a smart or respectful to promote a movie showing members of a neighborhood watch group hounding and harassing kids when you just had an idiot pretending to be a leader of a neighborhood watch end someone's life over nothing.

One set of changes was made for the actual movie itself. Of course I haven't seen what it was supposed to be, but I like what the final cut that ended up with. The other set of changes were made with the hopes of distancing themselves from a tragic and disturbing news story. With all of the changes that came to The Watch during its time in development, we still get a movie that's brought to the people with the hopes of it being funny and enjoyable. From revamping the script, avoiding any negative connections and making an entertaining movie I think they accomplished all of that and it's certainly something worth watching.

Score: 3/5

Rating: R

Director: Akiva Schaffer

Ben Stiller
Vince Vaughn
Jonah Hill
Richard Ayoade
Rosemarie DeWitt

Film Length: 98 minutes

Release Date: July 27, 2012

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

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Review: Red Lights

If you're like I used to be and you've experienced the occasional bout of insomnia, then you've more than likely found yourself flipping through the channels at three or four o'clock in the morning hoping to get tired sooner or later. During this time, you might have seen infomercials talking about psychics or shows showing televangelist who magically heal people with life-threatening illnesses. I've seen things like that on television years ago, but I never thought anyone would make a movie about people like that. Apparently, writer/director Rodrigo Cortés thought that doing just that was a good idea and that's why we have the movie Red Lights.

In the story written by Cortés, Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy) are paranormal investigators who make a living disproving supernatural powers and exposing the fraudulent people who claim to have them at their disposal. They believe that these abnormal occurrences are impossible and that everything has to have a logical explanation connected to it. This team has taken on and embarrassed plenty of pretenders, but there is Simon Silver (Robert De Niro), someone who Matheson refuses to go after. Against Matheson's wishes, Buckley and his understudy Sally (Elizabeth Olsen) decide to investigate him anyway. That decision may be prove costly though, and it may give them some answers that they might not want to hear.

Red Lights is a weird movie for me to review. After watching it, I was left with very little to really speak about, because it didn't have much to offer in a positive or negative way. We watch these investigators ply their trade and attempt to expose potential frauds, and we also learn a bit about the characters involved and a few of their motives over the course of the film. From there we witness some supernatural activity that may or may not be legitimate and it seems that these investigators are getting deeper and deeper into something that they don't know about. This is where Cortés tries to add some suspense to the movie, but it never quite gets there in my opinion.

The movie itself was flat and it doesn't accomplish what it set out to accomplish. There are multiple scenes in Red Lights that lead you to believe that the movie will start to get going and the movie will be decent at the very least, but those instances would always amount to nothing due to the fact that it would always seem that the script would always find its way back to mediocrity. This is due in large part to the failed attempts at suspense that I was speaking of. It's hit or miss and many of its hits are eventually fruitless and don't do much as far as furthering or improving on the plot.

This movie does boast a cast that has some acting credentials. You have a blend of veterans like Robert De Niro and Sigourney Weaver mixed in with the younger but established Cillian Murphy and the relatively new Elizabeth Olsen. With all of what I would consider to be legitimate acting talent, the director of this movie render the cast useless. Their characters aren't very good and Olsen in particular had very little to actually do except stand in the background and make a comment every once in a while. The others did what they could, but you could feel the lifeless script pulling the movie down despite their efforts.

While there aren't that many positives in Red Lights, I will say that the end is nice and it's better than anything else that's shown in the film. It contains a big twist that is at least a fine pay off for your viewing patience and it also helps to explain some of the things that occur throughout the entire film. There is an issue here however. Although the film's climax is intriguing and it does answer some questions, it also creates more questions when you think the movie over and many of those can't be answered if you tried. As much as I like this part of the movie, it blew a large amount of the story out-of-order and pushes the movie into non-sensical territory.

In an awkward way, this ending that I think of as having good quality actually hurts Red Lights as a whole when you connect it to all of the previous scenes that came before it. There's a big trade-off here and it's highly unlikely Cortés didn't see coming beforehand. You get a nice ending, but you lose so much else when that ending forces the movie not to make much sense at all. As a member of the audience, you sit through this film that doesn't contain anything that ever reaches anywhere near above average only to find yourself wondering how certain characters in the movie missed so many signs that are obvious from the outset and other signs that should have been obvious from the outset. The movie was at least average to slightly below average for me at first, but it took a dip from my point of view after taking the whole thing in.

I honestly wanted to like Red Lights, because I enjoy watching films explore the possibilities of the paranormal and the supernatural. I also wanted it to be some good, because it also had a couple of actors that I think highly of in the savvy veteran Robert De Niro and the rising newcomer Elizabeth Olsen. The truth is, no matter how much I wanted it to succeed, it just wasn't a worthwhile experience. The execution is flawed and it appears to be suffering from a sub par script. There's only one person to blame here for these innate flaws that flow through Red Lights, and that's the director who just happened to write it as well. He wanted a smart psychological thriller, but what he got was something that wasn't smart, psychological or the least bit thrilling.

Score: 2/5

Rating: R

Director: Rodrigo Cortés

Sigourney Weaver
Cillian Murphy
Robert De Niro
Elizabeth Olsen
Toby Jones
Joely Richardson

Film Length: 113 minutes

Release Date: July 13, 2012 (Limited)

Distributor: Millenium Entertainment

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Review: The Babymakers

Although she's getting more into acting now, I first saw Olivia Munn on a show that she hosted a few years ago called Attack of the Show. At the time, I begin to notice that she was developing quite a following with men who found her to be attractive. It could have been her plan all along, but apparently she and her handlers also saw this and decided she would have a decent chance at establishing herself as an actress. She has an energy and a vibe that could go over well and her people probably thought that a movie like The Babymakers might be what she needs to truly kick start her career.

In this movie, Audrey (Olivia Munn) and Tommy (Paul Schneider) are a happily married couple who are at a comfortable time in their lives together. At this point, they both agree that it's the right time to have a baby. They try again and again to get it done, but for some reason they can't get it to happen. Fearing that he might not be able to have kids, Tommy resorts to extreme measures after he remembers that he made some "deposits" at a sperm bank years earlier. So he rounds up his friends and an ex-Indian Mobster (Jay Chandrasekhar) to assist him in obtaining his donation. If he's successful, he may be able to get his wife pregnant and build the family that they're both dreaming of.

A movie like The Babymakers always has it's heart set on being funny. In order to accomplish this task, they rely on a story that revolves around a married couple and the friends that surround them. As stated earlier, the goal for these guys is to help their friend come up with a resolution to his sperm problem. Once that's finally outed as the main storyline we get into what is supposed to be the backbone of the film. We get to watch Tommy get into unconventional circumstances while maintaining the full love and support of his wife Audrey.

Over the course of The Babymakers, we get something that's similar to the countless sitcoms that have been on television for as long as I can remember. Here, Audrey and her friends are the responsible, balanced and stable half, while Tommy and his friends are the bumbling idiots who can't seem to get anything right. This is typical stuff from sitcoms where the women are all mature and the men couldn't do anything without them. I've hated this in comedies since I was a kid and I hate it now. It's not that it's a bad thing to use every now and then, it's the fact that it's been used to death. So if I don't want to see it on t.v., you know I don't want to go out of my way to see it in a movie theater. Not only that, it almost has no meaning in this movie based on how the women are used.

Outside of the women (Olivia Munn) being eye candy and being viewed as the responsible half of the two genders, they serve no real purpose in the movie and they're only in it because they have to be. You couldn't make a movie about sperm with an all male cast, because that might get people thinking that they're about to watch a "different" kind of movie. As responsible as the females are supposed to be, they don't actually do anything. They say their piece (usually to each other) and then they disappear from the sight for a while. The spotlight always goes right back to the guys getting into situations where the audience gets to witness some comedic gags that never really deliver.

To me, The Babymakers is an extremely rare comedy though. It's rare in a sense that it's one of the few comedies where I literally didn't laugh at any of the jokes or gags that are being showcased. None of what they did ever worked and none of it is even close to being funny. This film looks like it was done by a bunch of amateurs who have never written a comedic script before and have never been behind a camera. I would think that writers and directors would learn things as they go on in their careers, but it doesn't look like that's the case with these guys.

Being completely fair, there are about two scenes that I found reasonably amusing even though they failed to make me laugh or anything. One of the scenes involved the character played by Kevin Heffernan when they get into the sperm bank. It's nothing to write home about and it's highly predictable, but it's one of the best spots in the movie. The other one involved a joke involving Jesus Christ and is the second spot in the movie that's somewhat amusing. Other than that the rest of The Babymakers is completely flat and lacks anything that can be perceived as decent.

When I look at the comedy in The Babymakers, I think some of it might have worked better if it actually occurred in real life. These things would be rare occurrences and they would catch you off guard, because we're not used to seeing them. But as I say that, I have to acknowledge that these Broken Lizard guys even made a man getting hit below the belt seem corny and unfunny in this movie. Except for when it happens to me, I always laugh that happens. I didn't think it was possible for me not to laugh at something like that until I watched this "comedy."

The entire mood of the movie is just as tired and lifeless as the comedy. It's certainly an uninspired effort on the part the team that put this together. This team has failed on several occasions now and I don't know if they can do any better than this. I don't really understand why they keep getting these opportunities. If they do continue to get chances, I hope they finally succeed and put something out that's worth while. It will be great for me as a movie watcher and it will be great for them, because it will be the first entertaining movie that they've ever put out.

As for Olivia Munn? She's going to have to get moving and make some movies that can help her establish herself and build her brand as an actress. The Babymakers isn't helping her cause and it's one of the worst comedies that I've ever seen. Doing more movies like this wouldn't be good for her or her fans. This was so bad, that i even had to make some alterations to the way that I handle scoring on The Movie Picture Show. You don't want to be connected to movies that fail as bad as this one did when you have the potential to stand out in various ways. Doing movies like this can cost you fans and a large amount of money.

Score: 0/5

Rating: R

Director: Jay Chandrasekhar

Paul Schneider
Olivia Munn
Kevin Heffernan
Wood Harris
Nat Faxon
Aisha Tyler
Jay Chandrasekhar

Film Length: 93 minutes

Release Date: Aug 3, 2012 (Limited)

Distributor: Millenium Entertainment

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Review: The Campaign

The world of politics can be a very dirty place for anyone who's trying to make a living in it. The mudslinging can get down right disgusting, especially during election season. The Campaign is a movie about those things, but it involves a comedic touch. That should be expected when you have Will Ferrell and Zack Galifianakis in the lead roles as rival politicians.

When a couple of extremely wealthy business men get wind of a major public error by Congressman Cam Brady (Will Ferrell), they see it as a chance to gain influence in a North Carolina district by bringing in their own politician to win the upcoming election and take his place. They feel that they can use just about anybody to take on the task if they throw enough money behind him and they're doing so with the awkward and unknown Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis). With their help, Huggins enters the race and each side pulls out all the stops in doing whatever it takes to win.

Cam Brady is a charismatic politician who is living his dream life in his current position as a congressman. Brady has power, two children, women and a wife who's only with him for money and status. He's a virtual lock to be re-elected into office whenever election season comes along and it's highly unlikely that he'll ever come out on the opposite side of victory. That's mainly because no one else in his district ever wants to run for office. What more could he ask for? He's a guy who takes full advantage of the situations and has no plans on giving up his role as a congressman.

Marty Huggins on the other hand, is the direct opposite. While Huggins also has a wife and two kids, he also has a pair of pet pugs that he loves sincerely. What separates Huggins from the likes of Congressman Brady is that he's a nice, but extremely weird man that no one seems to take seriously. He's always wanted to be a politician, but he's never had the chance up until this point and time. With the backing of his father (Brian Cox) and a group of people who support him by making sure he doesn't suck, Marty marches on to challenge for the seat that only one other man wants.

Once everything is set-up and the characters personalities are fully established, the movie moves forward into the campaign as the two men begin their run for office. Getting into the run for office is where we see the comedy that anyone would show up for this movie for. I was sure that there were going to be some laughs to be had going in and that these two political hopefuls would partake in the usual mudslinging, but I didn't think they would go as far as they did. Some of the chances they take to humiliate and discredit each other stoops to lows of epic proportions.

The Campaign has comedy that's insanely funny at times and it ranges from conventional to extreme. This politic satire is filled with a large number of crazy ideas that work in the situations that are put on display. It would have been hard for me not to like the comedy in this movie. It's "laugh out loud" funny at times and it's carried out nicely by a willing cast led by Ferrell and Galifianakis. These two leading men fit their characters as well as they could have hoped and put out very fun and energetic performances.

That's something I couldn't say about about Ferrell's last movie Casa de Mi Padre. That was terrible and it was one of the worst movies that I've ever seen before. I was wondering if that was all Ferrell had left as it looked like he was going into full on Adam Sandler mode and just start tanking it in every movie. The Campaign shows me that he's still has something left and he's willing to give the necessary effort. It sits at the opposite end of the spectrum in large part due to Ferrell and Galifianakis and it helps to restore some of Ferrell's credibility.

As entertaining as The Campaign is throughout its entirety, it does slow down after a while. It would have been hard to remain at the pace that they came out with for the whole film and that's understandable. This gets off to an amazing start and slows down, but remains good throughout. The script, the comedy and its characters never allow The Campaign to ever come close to completely falling of the table.

Surprisingly, The Campaign takes its time to throw in some real issues that plague politics and our real lives. I was expecting something related to politics in this, but I didn't think that they would go as far as they did. They speak on many current affairs that are having an impact on the lives of many people. It's some heavy stuff that's being shown in certain scenes and it hopes to get people to look at what might be happening in the world of politics. This aspect of The Campaign truly has meaning and I believe that it adds unsuspecting substance to a movie that's all about comedy.

When looking at the comedy, the performances and the purpose that's behind the plot, you get a movie that's telling a meaningful story and having fun at the same time. With The Campaign, the audience must expect the unexpected at nearly every corner in this film, because that's what you're going to get. Is it perfect? No, but it's a fun watch for adults who want something that's graphic and a little different.

Score: 3.5/5

Rating: R

Director: Jay Roach

Will Ferrell
Zach Galifianakis
Jason Sudeikis
Katherine La Nasa
Dylan McDermott
John Lithgow
Dan Akroyd
Brian Cox

Film Length: 85 minutes

Release Date: August 10, 2012

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

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Review: The Bourne Legacy

I was disappointed when the expected news of Matt Damon not returning to the Jason Bourne film franchise was confirmed. I know that it had to happen sooner or later, but it was still crappy news once it came down. Since then, I've come to terms with my disappointment and I've accepted the fact that Damon wasn't returning to do The Bourne Legacy. Now I'm ready to move on from the team of Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass and I'm ready to accept the new team of Jeremy Renner and Tony Gilroy. Those two guys have talent and I'm sure that they can make a Bourne movie just as well as those other guys right?

Even though Jason Bourne is missing in action, the legacy of Jason Bourne continues to carry on. That doesn't sit well with former Col. Eric Byer (Edward Norton). He wants to get rid of any and everything associated with Bourne and Treadstone. Byer decides that his best option is to wipe out what he calls "the disease" before it spreads into other areas of the government. In order to complete his objective, he believes that he's going to have to knock off anyone associated with the program and that includes assassinating field agents like Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner).

Cross catches on to this and goes on the run to escape the danger that awaits him. Along the way, he meets up with Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), a scientist in the program who also has a price on her head. Agent Cross and Dr. Shearing are now on the run and must travel the globe to save their lives and get some answers. But they have to move with extreme caution, because If they fail, they'll meet the same ending of the many who have crossed path with the unseen forces that are hunting them down.

The Bourne Legacy is a continuation of the story that we saw in The Bourne Ultimatum. While it does continue parts of the actual story from that film to an extent, it branches out into the other parts that coincide with the time span from that previous film. This movie opens up with Aaron Cross training in the freezing cold weather of Alaska's wilderness. This is also the place where the likes of Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) had also trained over the years for this same program.

Once Cross' existence in the world is established, the movie goes on and attempts to reconnect the dots while adding some new ones during the process. The audience learns about what's going on now with the likes of Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), Noah Vosen (David Strathaim) and a few others who were left behind to clean up the mess in The Bourne Ultimatum, but we're also introduced to some other government agents who want this mess cleaned up in their own way. This group of agents are led by Eric Byer and they don't agree with finishing the job in the courts and unlike some of their predecessors who took this on, they have a much more detailed understanding of what's actually taking place.

The creators of this film wanted to make the main antagonist feel superior to the one's that were in previous Bourne films. They wanted to do it, but that's not what happens. I had a difficult time taking Edward Norton seriously in this role. He looks like a nice guy and he doesn't have any sort of base in his voice. When Ted Conklin (Chris Cooper), Pamela Landy and Noah Vosen were chasing Bourne in the three previous Bourne films, I could fully believe their characters. They were stern, strong, in control and forceful when need be. Norton tried to do that, but he just didn't fit the role and I don't think anyone could convince me otherwise.

He's not the only problem when I'm talking about the acting. Norton is an accomplished actor and I would never question his ability. I'd say the same about Renner and Weisz. That's why it's weird for me to criticize them in a sense, but I have to be honest and admit that they didn't bring any powerhouse performances to the table and they are clearly lacking in chemistry. Renner and Weisz had decent acting performances, but I expected more than just decent. The love story (if you want to call it that) came off as inauthentic, because of this and these two having no chemistry between them.

I don't think that Renner or Weisz were made for their roles anyway. While being a good actor with range, Renner didn't have the style or charisma that I feel is important for roles like this. He certainly couldn't match Damon's portrayal as Bourne in any of those categories and that's certainly noticeable. He should be portraying characters like the one's we've seen in movies like The Town and maybe 28 Weeks Later. He's not built for roles that ask him to be a violent and deadly super spy.

As far as Weisz is concerned, I view her as not being properly cast as well. Unlike Renner, who I believe has a role that might have been too expansive for him, I think Weisz has a role that was too restricting for her. While Renner's role should have gone to an established actor, the role that Weisz has should have went to a lesser known and slightly younger actress who could have brought some kind of freshness to a film. I actually believe that The Bourne Legacy holds her back somewhat and she's not able to show off what she can do when it comes to acting.

Being is miscast is basically the same issue that Renner, Weisz and Norton face. That's one of the differences between this Bourne film and the others that came before it. Those films had actors that fit and with the exception of Damon, none of those other guys were well known names when compared to these guys. For example, Franka Potente had a role that fit some of the things that she's done before and she was a slightly new face that American audiences hadn't really seen much of yet. Similar things can be said of actors like Brian Cox and David Straithaim when they were cast.

The average to decent acting from the miscast actors hurts the movie in a multitude of ways. The largest and most obvious way it hurts it is because there's not that much action to speak of in The Bourne Legacy. You heard me right, there isn't much action to speak of. There's very little fighting and shooting and whether it's on vehicles or on foot, there's very little chasing. I couldn't believe the lack of activity being displayed right in front of my eyes.

Apparently, someone decided that it was best to primarily rely on talking, a few flashbacks and attempts at drama instead of intelligently done high octane action for some reason. I don't mind those things coming into play, but people come to Bourne movies to see bad guys getting beat up and the lead protagonist using intelligence and intuition to find his way out of dire circumstances when there are a countless number of agents and cops who are hot on his trail. We do get a small amount of that, but it's just nowhere near enough and it's only ever decent at best. How can you even think about putting out a movie in the Bourne franchise with action done in this style?

You might think that you'd be in for a smart movie with more substance due to the fact that there's more talking and drama to go with less action, but The Bourne Legacy is less brainy and less dramatic than you might think it should be. The previous versions of Bourne are intelligent in the way they handle everything. Directors Doug Liman and Paul Greengrass were able to tell an attention grabbing story with a lead character that didn't do much talking and really didn't show any emotion or personality. It shows off the attention to detail that's important in film and this latest movie missed a bunch of that.

If I don't compare The Bourne Legacy to the other films in the Bourne franchise and I allow it to stand on its own, I'd say that this movie is an average film at best with some solid acting and a few action scenes that are decent at certain points. On the other hand, if I compare to the three films that preceded it, I would say that it looks much worse and that it's not comparable at all. That's tough for me to say, because I love all of the Bourne stuff and I honestly wanted this to succeed with or without Matt Damon. Instead, we get a watered down action movie that needed more action and a much better script.

I was originally hoping that the creators of this movie wouldn't copy Bourne trilogy completely. I came out of it wishing they would have stole from it more than they did. Trying to link Matt Damon's Jason Bourne to the film by showing a picture of his face every now and then or showing his name in certain places isn't going to build the continuity that the creators are looking for. A smart action movie with style and substance would have built that continuity and I would have been amped to sit through the two plus hours again just to see it on more than one occasion.

The Bourne Legacy reminds of the time when someone thought it was smart to make a Halloween movie without Michael Myers in it. It was a terrible idea and the universal boos are still being heard to this day. The Bourne Legacy might not be as bad as Halloween 3 was, but it certainly doesn't live up to the three previous Bourne movies with Jason Bourne as the lead protagonist. The Bourne Legacy never even felt like a Bourne movie and it never really looked like one either. They only shared the names and that's about it.

Bourne's legacy is not helped by The Bourne Legacy. There's a lot to live up to with this franchises' first three films being so well received and that should be enough pressure for people to want to succeed. There was simply no reason to fail this bad unless they didn't know what they were doing and I find that to be unlikely. Hopefully the next one sees the return of Jason Bourne as we dive further into the stories that are ahead of him. If that doesn't happen, I'll pray and hope that they put forth a better movie from top to bottom than this one.

Score: 2/5

Rating: PG-13

Director: Tony Gilroy

Jeremy Renner
Rachel Weisz
Edward Norton
Stacy Keach
Scott Glenn
Oscar Isaac
Joan Allen
David Strathairn
Corey Johnson
Louis Ozawa Changchien

Film Length: 125 minutes

Release Date: August 10, 2012

Distributor: Universal Pictures

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Review: Total Recall (2012)

I vaguely remember the original version of Total Recall from 1990. I know that it had a ton of violence, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone in a skin tight fitness outfit and a topless woman with three breasts. Out of all of those things that stuck out to me the most, I'd say that the woman with the three breasts was easily the most memorable. Not because it was nice to see or anything. It's the most memorable because it freaked me out. I had never seen anything like that before and I was hoping to never see it again... Then I heard that they were remaking Total Recall with a 2012 release date.

Replacing Arnold Schwarzenegger in this remake is Colin Farrell. He stars as Douglas Quaid, a factory worker who lives a simple yet frustrating life with his lovely wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) in a small worn out apartment. In order to get away from his frustrating life, Quaid decides to visit a company called Rekall. Here, they can take any of your wildest fantasies and turn them into what feels like reality. But there is a catch for anyone who gets linked up to this machine. There's the potential for permanent damage and you might end up confusing reality with fantasy in the process.

Despite warnings from his friend Harry (Bokeem Woodbine), Quiad enters anyway and finds himself immediately in trouble when a group of armed gun men rush into Rekall not long after he takes a seat and gets hooked up. Is it real or is it fake? Quaid doesn't know, but he also doesn't know what's going on and he finds out that he might not be able to trust anyone either. With the situation becoming more dangerous by the second, he finds himself on the run from several people who are trying to stop him as he desperately attempts to find answers to the mysteries that surround him.

The first thing you might notice in Total Recall is the level of beauty that is on display in the film's scenes that take place outside. The beauty of these outside surroundings reminds me a little of movies like Minority Report and I, Robot. It's dark, grayish and sometimes rainy, but it is nice to look at. Based on some of these shots (especially during some of the action sequences), this would have been the perfect film to use 3D. I think that these graphically rendered backdrops do help sell the movie and I think it would have done wonders for all of the stuff that appears on-screen during this time.

Now notice, when I was talking about beauty in this version of Total Recall I was specifically pointing out the outside shots of the film's environment. That's because it's rather plain and vanilla when ever they move indoors for a scene. No matter where they are these sets are stripped down and have very little personality or character of it's own. It's so average that I could have went to a store, bought the material myself, designed it and pocketed the rest of the money saved these guys some money. I've never really done any interior design or anything, but I surely could have done just as good as these guys did here.

Outside, inside, beautiful or average looking, none of that stuff is important in the grand scheme of things. Total Recall is a movie that cares about action and action only. They use some small scenes featuring dialog just to set up the inevitable action that's surely going to follow. Other than that, there is no real use for any dialog in this movie. The film's entire set up is kind of like a video game in that sense. There's some shooting and fighting followed by more shooting and fighting with maybe a little chase scene tossed in between. Every once in a while they'll stop and talk only to begin the action all over again.

When you rely this much on action or any single aspect of film, it better be amazing. I would love to say that all or most of the action is just that, but I'd be lying. The action in Total Recall isn't bad, it's just normal and common place. They don't do anything that flashes out at the screen and there's nothing that will make you take notice. Everything that we see here are things that we've seen in plenty of other movies. You can also say that it was done better in a bunch of movies. I would have loved to have seen some more innovation and something less generic. With all of the high tech weaponry and the two plus decades in between Total Recall movies, they certainly had some things to work with, but they decided not to use any of it.

The action also loses some steam to me, because of a particular character's ability to smack grown men around despite the fact that she's a very petite woman. It's hard for me to believe a female who's barely one hundred pounds is having competitive back and forth fights with a fully grown man who can take out ten to twenty armed and trained killers by himself. In some movies I can look past this, but in others I can't. Sooner or later the sheer physical aspects of these battles would have to actually have some kind of importance to the fights. I think the extra one hundred or so pounds that he might have on this chick might eventually come into play don't you think? That's especially true when he's supposed to be the best at what he does.

What do I think of this version of Total Recall? Well it's not bad per se, but it does leave a lot to be desired. Not only do they have the flaws and repetitiveness that I already mentioned, but it also hurts itself in other ways. They use the same tired "Leave her out of this" and "Let her go" types of lines that we've heard a million times before.They even use some of the usual bad guy movie mistakes that I would classify as being vintage James Bond stuff. As the audience we're also never in a position to get to feel anything for the characters whether they're good or bad, because there isn't much time for dialog and/or character development.

Those things do hurt the movie, but as I said earlier, not everything is bad in Total Recall. There is some decent (although familiar) action through the entire film, Bokeem Woodbine is back from the dead after not being heard from since like 1995 and Kate Beckinsale is as lovely to look at as she's always been. I'm also happy to announce that the woman with the third breast didn't freak me out as much as it did when I was a kid. That's probably because I'm a little more mature now and the scene appeared to be a lot quicker this time around. Remember, unlike the original Total Recall, this 2012 version is PG-13. That might be why the scene was so quick this time.

When I take a look at all of the positives in Total Recall, I can see some people enjoying this movie based on the entertainment value that they may find in all of the running, shooting and fighting. I even liked those parts of it myself to an extent. It's just that I would have wanted more out of this movie and I simply didn't get it. When you remake a movie, you should make one with the hope of being better than the original. You might not accomplish that, but why else would you want to try? That's the question that the creators of this remake need to be asked.

Score: 2/5

Rating: PG-13

Director: Len Wiseman

Colin Farrell
Kate Beckinsale
Jessica Biel
Bryan Cranston
John Cho
Bokeem Woodbine
Bill Nighy

Film Length: 109 minutes

Release Date: August 3, 2012

Distributor: Columbia Pictures

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Review: Step Up Revolution

All my life I've done my best to avoid movies that are centered around dancing or singing. It's not the that they don't have a place in the world, because they do. There are plenty of people (mainly females) that really like this stuff. But me? I'm not a dancer and I refuse to sing, so why would I want to watch anyone else do it on a movie? With all that being said, I did decide to review Step Up Revolution. Why you ask? Well, I was already at the theater to see another screening and this was playing right after it.

Step Up Revolution tells the story of a group of faceless dancers who call themselves The Mob. This group of dancers runs around Miami, Florida surprising people with dance numbers out of nowhere. This gets them a little bit of recognition, but if they're not careful, it could also get them int trouble with the law. Because of their escapades and their growing amount of attention that they're receiving, they grow more and more influential. This is both good and bad, because it brings them more attention from the authorities, but it also introduces one of it's key members to love.

Step Up Revolution opens up with a dance number that's meant to introduce the audience to the mysterious group simply known as "The Mob." After this, we enter a short period in the movie where we meet some of its important members face to face as we get a glimpse into their lives outside of their love for dancing. Anyone who's ever watched movies (or T.V. for that matter) will surely recognize some of what takes place next in this story. We have the two leaders of The Mob Sean (Ryan Guzman) and Eddy (Misha Gabriel) who grew up together and have been best friends their entire lives. We also get a love story thrown into the mix as Sean falls for his dream girl Emily (Kathryn McCormick), who he eventually has all of these dances with.

I'm going to stop right there and not to go into any details, because I don't want to give away any supposed spoilers or anything. I say "supposed spoilers," because most of what's in the story is your run of the mill stuff. Despite the fact that the story is a retread of things that we've seen a million times over, some of you potential viewers may want to see it while it's happening on the big screen, so you might not want to read about it on The Movie Picture Show. As you know, I go out of my way to avoid spoilers and I feel that giving anything away in this review would pretty much allow you to figure most of what is going to take place in this movie. That's how common and predictable it is.

Anyway, I'll start by talking about the parts of this movie that are more on the positive side of the spectrum. Some of the dance numbers in Step Up Revolution are well done and can be quite nice to watch at times. This can be said specifically of the performances that include a large number of the performers dancing together within their well choreographed sets. The one on one dances between Sean and Emily on the other hand, are relatively boring and they have no sexual or sensual chemistry between them. Maybe if they could actually act, these scenes would have had more of an impact.

While the dancing scenes are fine for the most part, the rest of this movie is resting comfortably at the bottom of the barrel. I won't be disrespectful and say something like "the acting in Step Up Revolution is terrible," I'll be nice and say that the acting is as well below average as you can get. The two leads in particular put on some very wooden performances that show up every time the D.J. hits pause and the bodies stop moving. With the exception of Peter Gallagher and the light skinned black guy that I remember from one of National Geographic's Locked Up Abroad episodes I believe, I don't recognize anyone else in this movie.

If the rest of these actors are actually dancers by trade I can give them somewhat of a pass. It's not what they do, so them delivering horrendous acting performances would be understandable. It would be like me trying to act except I'd probably keep looking at the camera while sounding just as robotic as these guys do. If they are actors? Well, they probably won't be getting too many more opportunities unless they drastically improve their acting skills. I could be wrong though, Zac Effron still gets movie roles.

The biggest problem with Step Up Revolution isn't the acting. The biggest problem that the movie faces is the story. As I stated earlier, this is your run of the mill script and generally speaking, it fails in nearly every way imaginable. Much like the actors, it's stale and offers very little to keep you interested. I think the story is in place just so they could actually call it a movie, because aside from some of the dancing there is no other reason to watch this.

If you like movies like this, then you'll probably go see it and you may have a good time. I can understand that. It's a chick flick with a lot of dancing and I could some people actually being entertained by it. For anyone else, you're probably not going to like this too much because there's not much in here to like. Aside from some of the dance sequences and Kathryn McCormick's marvelous legs and "assets" (emphasis on the first three letters of assets), I really didn't see any positives myself and I still can't believe that I sat through the whole thing.

By the way, I also want to add that you can see this movie in 3D if you choose. However, I would advise you to skip that version if you're able to see it on a normal movie screen instead. With the exception of one scene, this is some of the most useless 3D in the history of mankind. It's literally in every scene I believe and it does absolutely nothing in all but maybe two of them. I went into Step Up Revolution wondering how they could possibly make 3D work in a movie about dancing and I came out of it realizing that they couldn't.

Score: 1.5/5

Rating: PG-13

Director: Scott Speer

Ryan Guzman
Kathryn McCormick
Misha Gabriel
Peter Gallagher
Stephen Ross
Mia Michaels
Megan Boone
Tommy Dewey

Film Length: 97 minutes

Release Date: July 27, 2012

Distributor: Summit Entertainment

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Review: The Dark Knight Rises

I was immediately blown away after seeing The Dark Knight for the first time. I couldn't believe how good it actually was and how great Heath Ledger was as the Joker. With no hesitation, I proclaimed that this was the greatest comic book movie of all time and I couldn't wait for the next installment. At the same time, the next installment did worry me somewhat. Would it be as good as The Dark Knight? Could it be as good as The Dark Knight. Well my questions would be answered once I saw The Dark Knight Rises for myself.

The story in The Dark Knight Rises starts eight years after the events that took place in The Dark Knight. Batman (Christian Bale) has disappeared and is now a fugitive after taking the blame for the death Harvey Dent, the District Attorney of Gotham. No one has seen or heard from Batman since then and it looks like no one will. The chances of seeing the Caped Crusader is even less likely when you add to the fact that Gotham is now considered a safe place and there doesn't appear to be any reason for him to return. That is until Bane (Tom Hardy), a notorious mercenary arrives with lofty goals based around the destruction of Gotham.

After a nice action set piece to get the ball rolling, The Dark Knight Rises settles down and begins to tell a story that's letting us know who some of the newer characters are and tells us about Bruce Wayne's current living arrangements. Wayne is still depressed and emotionally beaten down, because of what happened to Dent and several others who were victims of the maniacal Joker. He's a shell of himself in that way, but he's also physically past his prime due to his age and all of the injuries that he's received due to his adventurous excursions as Batman.

He's not truly happy in his current state, but he is what I would call "content by force," because he doesn't appear to have much of a choice psychologically speaking. He appears to be in dire straits and no matter what Alfred (Michael Caine) says or tries to do, Wayne seems to have shut down almost completely. What helps him overcome this however are his meetings with a few people who are either disrupting Gotham or leaving their mark on it as he phases himself out of some of his various roles in life. These people in one way or another inspire him to rise and take on the role of the Batman one last time.

I've given Nolan a decent amount of props for his work on some of his previous movies, including Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. I've always respected his intelligent filmmaking, his attention to detail and his ability to create a smooth and even story. He even made a movie telling a story backwards make sense. While I'm sure he's still capable of doing all of these things that I gave him credit for, I have to admit that I'm a little disappointed with The Dark Knight Rises. I thought that it was a good movie overall, but it's not done as well as it could have been.

This Nolan led franchise is supposed to hang its hat on realism to at least some degree, but this movie goes away from that almost completely. Many of the lines are really cheesy early on and a good number of the characters aren't anywhere close to being believable. At least early on in the film they kind of remind me of the characters from the Batman t.v. series from the 1960's featuring Adam West as Batman. They are a little too animated compared to the previous two films and that's something that I really didn't anticipate.

The flaws of the characters are shown primarily in the first hour of the film and it is one of the things that makes the movie feel a bit jumbled and uneven in these early stages. It also doesn't help that that first hour or so of the movie is slow and they are very heavy on the dramatic side of things. The slow and dramatic style doesn't sound like it would work with characters who deliver too many cheesy lines. It zaps some of the emotion from it, because it's hard to take it seriously when it's done this way.

They also spend an extremely large amount of time introducing the new guys at this juncture of the movie. That's one of the reasons why it took so long for them to get completely invested into the main story. They don't even leave enough time to really resolve some of the issues that are carried over from The Dark Knight. These issues are essentially just thrown out there, they may or may not open up potential wounds and then they are left alone. I would have liked to have seen how some of the people affected by this news truly reacted, but we didn't get much of a response.

Overall, I'd say this portion of The Dark Knight Rises is decent, because other parts of it are good and the action is usually solid. There's nothing spectacular about it, but there's nothing terrible about it either. It just lingers on a bit longer than it should have and a few of the characters were surprisingly too cheesy and corny. The of high level of cheese probably wouldn't have stood out to me as much if I wasn't going by what Nolan did with the first two Batman movies before it, but he was the one who clearly wanted to separate his trilogy from the other Batman movies, so comparing it to his previous work is reasonable in this case.

If I was caught off guard by anything else in The Dark Knight Rises, I'd have to say that it's Bane as a character. He's much more underdeveloped than I thought he was going to be and he's basically all about muscles and being physical. Just by looking at some of the plans that he conjures up in this movie, Bane is obviously a smart man, but it doesn't really show through that much and neither does his evil nature. He bullies people, smacks them around, breaks necks with one hand and speaks in a poetic tone at times, but he doesn't do much else. His character is definitely bigger, stronger and probably badder than Heath Ledger's Joker, but he doesn't feel as threatening or as imposing.

On the positive side of The Dark Knight Rises, I'd have to say that much of the action can be seen as the number one saving grace of the movie. We get more and more of it as the film rolls along and you're eventually allowed to forget about how cheesy some of those lines are before it gets to this point. During the action sequences, there are quite a few set pieces that are fun to watch as Nolan attempts to create epic battle scenes predicated on political oppression and the call for the people to rise. The action is mostly fast, fun and contains a large amount of energy.

A good deal of that energy comes from Han Zimmer's hard soundtrack. Some people (like me) might love all of the noise that comes from Zimmer's work here, but others may not take to kindly to it, since it's extremely loud. It's kind of like they turned the bass up as high as they could and just let him go. There are a couple of times when one of the Batman's new toys will show up on-screen and you might not be able to tell if it's Zimmer's music playing in the background or if it's the engine from the very loud vehicle when it first pops up. Despite the fact that some might not like the level of noise, I liked it because it pumps up the action and adds a bit more emotion and drama to these scenes.

When I look at The Dark Knight Rises in its entirety, I'll always say that this it isn't a Batman movie to me. I'd classify it as being more of a movie that just has Batman in it. The truth is, Nolan is now telling the story of Gotham city and the people who live there more than he's telling a story about Batman. I kind of figured this would be the case going in, because I knew that they were basing the movie on one of the Bane stories from the comics and it would be impossible to feature a movie completely about Batman with what goes down in that particular story.

Despite not being a true Batman film in my eyes, The Dark Knight Rises serves its purpose as an official ending to a fantastic trilogy that changed the genre and Hollywood altogether. It doesn't compete with Batman Begins and it doesn't come anywhere close to The Dark Knight in terms of quality, depth or greatness, but it is good in its own right. Despite its obvious flaws, it's a fitting climax that sends Nolan and his franchise on their way for good if he chooses to truly let it go.

I was interested in seeing how they would end it, because I'm pretty sure that Warner Bros. is going to bring back Batman in some way, shape or form sooner or later. He's too financially valuable to them just to let him go away for good. I did wonder however, if they would leave the door open in order to continue this story if they choose to or that door would be slammed completely shut? If it's completely shut, they would have to start over again. If it's open just a little bit, there would be potential to continue this version of Batman. After sitting through the entire movie, they left my question unanswered, because it was handled in a way that I didn't expect going in.

They can connect the next set of Batman movies with this trilogy or they can do the opposite and start over with a new outlook and a new style. Nolan left the door wide open while still closing it almost completely shut. Does that make any sense? Of course not, but that's why I loved the way this film ended. I won't say what happens, but it might not be what you expect due to the multiple twists that present themselves during the wonderful closing scenes. Either way, this trip through Nolan's take on the legendary superhero known as Batman was extremely entertaining and I can't wait for the next set of Batman movies to come through regardless of which direction they end up taking.

Score: 3.5/5

Rating: PG-13

Director: Christopher Nolan

Christian Bale
Gary Oldman
Tom Hardy
Anne Hathaway
Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Marion Cotillard
Michael Caine
Morgan Freeman
Matthew Modine

Film Length: 164 minutes

Release Date: July 20, 2012

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

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Review: Hit and Run

When the everyday citizen wants to bond or express their commitment to their spouse (or spouses depending on your moral beliefs), they go on dates, get married, get matching tattoos or something like that. While those things do happen in Hollywood, they sometimes do things that us normal folks can't do. For example, they decide to show their love by doing movies together and get it released all over the world. That's what Dax Shepard does when he works with his real life partner Kristin Bell in his movie Hit and Run.

Charlie Bronson (Dax Shepard) is a young guy who lives with the love of his life Annie (Kristin Bell). All is going fine until Annie gets a job offer in Los Angeles. The couple decide that it's best for her to take the job and then pack up and hit the road for the city of angels. What seemed like a normal plan ends up being very problematic for the team. They run into some familiar foes who are out to for justice and some law enforcement officers who don't seem to know what they're doing.

Dax Shepard is known as somewhat of a comedian by people who have seen him throughout his career. If you know anything about him, Hit and Run appears to be the type of movie that he would write and star in. It's one of those casual B movies that most will view as uncomplicated and that looks to be his style.

There's some decent comedy in Hit and Run that you may be able to get some laughs out of, but a good portion of it misses its mark. Although that's a large problem with the comedy, that's not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is the fact that there's not much comedy to speak of. This is more of a movie with romantic themes than it is a movie with comedic themes. The romance aspect of the film fills up so much of the film's running time that it doesn't allow for the amount of comedy that I thought there was going to be.

His character fits this romantic approach more than it would a straight up comedic one. I don't know if it's deliberate or not, but he plays a lovelorn and emasculated guy who's girlfriend appears to have his balls comfortably tucked away in her purse. It looks like she didn't even have to forcefully take them from him. It appears that he willingly gave them to her with a smile on his face. He's constantly whining and bending over backwards for her and it gets aggravating to watch after awhile.

When he's not doing that, he's kissing her, hugging her and essentially telling her how perfect she is and that makes it even worse. They even have a picture of him kissing her as the wallpaper on his laptop. I expected some romantic stuff and I don't have a problem with that, but I don't really enjoy seeing what's supposed to be a crude comedy where normal but obsessive love appears to be the main focus on far too many occasions. As an audience, we're forced to sit through this and hear this couple blabber on about their relationship, their trust issues and how bad and offensive the use of a certain gay slur might be.

Although it may not be a big deal to some, that last part that I just pointed out stuck out to me and it illustrates a flaw in the writing. It's compared to racial slurs at one point and that's dumb in the eyes of many, but it's also mishandled based on the way it fits in with the rest of the movie. You can't make it a point to say that using that word is wrong only to have the same character who said you should never use that or any word that can be seen as derogatory use a word similar to it later on and have no one react to it or even acknowledge it. That's seems hypocritical and ignorant and as a writer, your essentially admitting that you don't know what some of these words mean.

There are other things in the movie that didn't make much sense either, but that one was one of the more egregious errors that stuck in my head and it was clearly a part of the political correctness agenda that this movie seemed to have on a few occasions. I don't have a problem with people being PC or anything, but you should leave that to the more knowledgeable people who know how to properly talk about these subjects. Plus, I don't think that a crude comedy is the best place to try to promote some of these messages anyway. Maybe I'm making a big deal out of nothing and nobody else really cares, but I just thought the way Shepard handled it in his script defeated the purpose of bringing it up in the first place.

Anyway, aside from the two love birds who spend most of their time talking about their relationship, most of the other characters don't really have much to do. Bradley Cooper is shown quite a bit in the trailers and commercials that I've seen, but he doesn't even really show up until later on in the movie. When he does pop up, he's in a few scenes and at least a few of his jokes are funny, but he and his gang are completely underutilized. I was shocked that Michael Rosenbaum got just as much if not more screen time than Cooper does and I don't think that they even show him in the trailers or commercials once.

These other guys that include Cooper and Rosenbaum are the ones that usually provide Hit and Run with its comedy. If it wasn't for them, the film couldn't have been considered a comedy at all, because the scenes with Shepard and Bell don't really provide anything to laugh at. The most consistent actor out of this group of role players is Tom Arnold. There's nothing impressive about him and he plays the same loud character that he always does, but he at least tries to keep the laughs coming from the very beginning. The rest of the role players didn't even get that chance since they don't have that many scenes.

Shepard and Bell sharing the overwhelming majority of the screen time hurt the movie overall because of this. They should have found more time to give to the other characters that are easily more interesting and at least a little more entertaining. Even if they did get on camera more, I don't know if the movie would have been a whole lot better than it actually is. That's because the script could have used more work in general and Dax Shepard would most likely still be the one writing it.

When I look at everything in this movie, Hit and Run looks like it's made by a man in love who decided to work with his sweetheart and give her top billing even though his character is actually the star in my humble opinion. I'm not going to really knock him wanting to work with Bell and they do have some nice and legitimate chemistry working in their favor as a couple. I just wish that the overall movie was better and the PC stuff was done properly if it's going to be used to help tell a story. If these two tag up together again, hopefully for my sake and theirs, they will be working with some better material.

Score: 1.5/5

Rating: R

Dax Shepard
David Palmer

Dax Shepard
Kristen Bell
Bradley Cooper
Tom Arnold
Beau Bridges
Kristin Chenoweth
Joy Bryant

Film Length: 100 minutes

Release Date: August 22, 2012

Distributor: Open Road Films

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