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Director Roland Emmerich doesn’t hide his disdain for our little blue planet, or maybe he just sees so many opportunities to kill millions in the most spectacular ways possible. What are the logical chances that the USS John F. Kennedy, pushed by a gigantic tsunami, hits the White House head on and destroys it? Certainly the shot in question is going for a bit of CGI nostalgia as the last time Emmerich destroyed the White House Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum destroyed an alien civilization with a Macintosh.

Years after the vastly disappointing Day After Tomorrow, Roland is back to distribute destruction spectacle like no other. Michael Bay must sit home at night wondering how he can get Emmerich to marry him, or at least return his phone calls. 2012 is based on the well known Mayan prediction that December 21, 2012 will results in the end of the world, in this film that equates to the Earth’s crust shifting, massive title waves, and a few hundred thousand being saved aboard arks the government has been constructing for three years.

While the story is as far fetched as they come, you really aren’t traveling to your local Cineplex for award winning dialog and a character piece bestowed with emotion, instead you want to see the world come to an end in the most awesome way possible. For the first 90 minutes, 2012 delivers everything you could possible ask for (and more), but when the script ends the world and starts to focus on the 2D characters we were forced to escape from a host of perilous situations the wheels come tumbling off.

Really we don’t care about failed author Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) or his ex-wife, or their kids, her new boyfriend. We don’t care about Oliver Platt’s power grab after the President (Danny Glover) bites the big one (that isn’t much of a spoiler; you see it coming like a 1,000 foot tidal wave). There just isn’t enough to get excited about, the “good” characters survive and the underlying theme of putting your well being aside to save the greater good was done hundreds of times better twenty five years ago in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

So you’ll be munching on popcorn for well over two hours, enjoying every minute of the collapse of modern civilization, you’ll be beaten over the head a few times with morals so blatantly obvious that anyone who doesn’t get it should be purged from the gene pool, and finally the film kind of ends with the remains of human civilization setting sail to start a new life, and give Emmerich new ideas on how he can have them perish into the bowels of the planet.

Zombieland is exactly what you would expect from its title and marketing, it’s a movie, about a land full of zombies, there’s no time for back-story, explanation, or exhibition about how, why, where, or what turned almost everyone into mindless, feasting machines, instead we (as an audience) are simply introduced to the post-apocalypse and to a few survivors who are each searching for something, and trying to stay alive.

The majority of the story focuses on Jesse Eisenberg’s Columbus (everyone is named after a city to keep from developing emotional attachments with real names) who is trying to get back to his namesake hometown and see if his parents are still alive. After Jesse introduces us to his “Rules” for staying alive in a zombie infested land, he eventually meets up with Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and the two of them eventually happen upon Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) and a tenuous alliance is formed.

There are stories of an amusement park where zombies don’t roam free, the girls are trying to find it in Los Angeles and reclaim some of young Little Rock’s youth while Tallahassee is running from his former life and Columbus listlessly wonders after being left with nothing.

The film is lean, mean, and incredibly well written and well acted. Harrelson in particular looks like he’s having the time of his life working on this picture as a redneck with a penchant to crack wise, kill everything in his way, and paint the number “3” on every care he’s able to steal. Eisenberg also excels playing a Michael-Cera-lite role of the fumbling everyman who eventually gets the girl and turns out to be more than he thought he could be.

First time feature film director Ruben Fleischer busts onto the scene with a love for beautifully crafted action sequences and slow motion cuts. His opening credit sequence is amazingly well done and immediately gets you in the mindset for this film.

The most surprising thing, like Shaun of the Dead before it, is that the combination of guts, gore, and guffaw is perfectly presented, easy to follow, and, most importantly, perfectly executed. Hearty belly-laughs are interplayed with sight gags and even a little bit of emotion as the four survivors grow closer.

Zombieland may very well be one of the best films of the year and easily one of the funniest, everyone owes it to themselves to partake in the experience and remember to keep up on the cardio an avoid the theater’s restroom.

Phil Messerer’s Thicker Than Water: The Vampire Diaries Part 1, is realistic stab at the vampire genre that has become the hot item as of late with TV shows, books, and that Twilight fanaticism that seems to permeate from every junior high in America. Yet, Messerer breaks from the traditional way of looking at vampires and integrates his own lore in creating a neat indie film that is running through festivals at a blazing pace bringing in praise and teasing fans with sequels.

The film firmly establishes vampires as a species, similar in the way Underworld established vampires and lycans as offshoots of the same bloodline, but the core values of vampire lore are firmly in place, no sunlight, need blood, have super strength, etc. Everything a life of watching Whedon-created TV shows and Marvel comic books have established as the way things should be is here.

The story focuses on a small town family, the Baxters, who at one time may have lived the perfect life with three kids, a happy little home in a happy little town. Twin sisters are the film’s focus, Helen (Devon Dionne) is the lovable, likable one with guys clamoring over her and generally making fun at her cemetery loving, Anne Rice stalking sister Lara (Eilis Cahill). One morning Helen wakes up profusely bleeding out the nose, after only a few hours she’s dead, and after a few more she’s back at the front door, complete with a body bag and a host of questions on just what the hell is going on.

There’s a lot going on in this little indie especially in the fresh take on vampires in general. While the genre is nothing new, and was nearly killed as the films got more and more aggressive in the way they changed the mythology, Thicker Than Water has a clear direction on where its going, although that sort of tapers off at the end. When Helen initially returns and the remaining, living, family members are debating what to do, the possibility of abducting townsfolk and tourists comes up surprisingly fast and Mom’s (Jo Jo Hristova) explanation of doing what ever it takes not to lose what she’s already lost before is completely ridiculous. It would have been a lot deeper for everyone, even Helen, to take a look at the moral implications and debate what they were doing; instead the family goes from slightly dysfunctional to homicidal in no time flat, Charlie Manson would be instantly impressed.

Still this is a missed opportunity in the script to really dig deeper into the ethics of the family, you have a hard time believing that a deeply religious mother would suddenly be okay with her son coming out of the closet and dismembering a body, all before dinner. There’s also a certain level of absurdity when other vampires finally seek out Helen and show up in eighteenth century blouses and wigs, something tells me that strolling through a New England town, especially a small one, would turn a few heads. But you could attribute this to the movie’s overarching, Army-of-Darkness-like B-movie feel that oozes campiness from every pore start to finish. It’s the take no prisoners, and make no qualms about it attitude by the director that makes these shortcoming feel like an organic part of the picture, like the film would be worse off without its faults.

Messerer takes on a lot, here editing, writing, directing, et al. While the editing is generally tight, there are some overused shots and wonky camera angles that are almost too, “I have a camera, where can I stick it to give me a kick-ass shot.” The use of time-lapse could have probably been cut in half the shots it was used, it’s a great effect in certain cases but it usually wears out its welcome pretty quickly because its breaking you away from the story in a way. Still, the general cinematic direction is excellent and the inter-spliced story of the first vampire escaping and rampaging Mayan civilization is excellent and just as intriguing as the film, especially when you start to think about how its all connected.

There’s a lot to see and take in with Thicker Than Water, and while there are some growing pains for a first time director, its also a learning process, something that should make the sequel even better and hopefully pick up more awards and more notice from the powers that be in the industry and maybe take Thicker Than Water to the next step. Even if that never happens, anyone with the opportunity to see this independent feature at a festival near you should take up the opportunity and enjoy themselves.

For more information on the film, check out

Sandra Bullock hasn’t done a whole hell of a lot noteworthy since Speed, and let’s not even go into the debacle that was Speed 2: Even Speedier. Still, throw her in a romantic comedy with a good looking dude, and the date crowd is sure to flock in, even if the film is passable at best in the eyes of the normal viewer, a good love story knows its demographic, and gratuitous shots of Ryan Reynolds side-ass is sure to keep the ladies pining for more.

Luckily for everyone involved, especially Reynolds who doesn’t need to get pigeon-holed into roles like this so early in his career, The Proposal actually turns out to be a decent chick-flick that’s appropriate for both guys and girls and usually together in the theater. This is the quintessential date movie of the summer, and while some might argue that 40 foot robots are more romantic that a 40-plus year old Sandra Bullock, the film still succeeds in throwing all the romantic movie clichés into a pot, stirring them up, and serving up an appetizing dish that leaves you satisfied.

Bullock plays Margret Tate a cut-throat editor in chief of a New York publication that has everyone cowering for fear when she arrives for work. Her “secretary” is Andrew Paxton (Reynolds) who left his family in Alaska to experience the big city and become a writer. As we’ve all seen in the trailers, Tate is to be deported to Canada and seeks a phony marriage to Paxton to stay in the country legally with the plan to eventually get divorced. As you would expect there’s a grand helping of comedy in the center of this reheated storyline, some of it is great, some of it not so much, but what works, works well enough to keep you entertained for two hours.

Eventually everyone finds out what the wedding is about, Margret leaves Alaska to be deported, Andrew realizes he really does love her, totally for real this time, and goes after her, and supposedly they live happily ever after. The closing credits feature a montage of Andrew, Margret, and various other cast members answering questions at the behest of the Immigration Department about Andrew and Margret which proves to be the funniest part of the film by far, much like The Hangover’s end sequence sealed the deal on that comedy masterpiece.

Notable standouts are Betty White playing the same character she’s played for the better part of the last decade (see: Lake Placid) as the old-lady-slash-comic-foil and Oscar Nunez (The Office) as the versatile Ramone who steals every scene he’s in.

As mentioned before, The Proposal doesn’t set out to do anything new, mostly treading ground already worn bare by years of insufferable dribble, but with the charismatic Reynolds in a leading role, and the ability to envision Bullock as a self-centered bitch, you make a likeable pair that is almost worthy or repeat viewings.

For the last seven years fans have been wondering how we’d recover from the disappointment that was Star Trek: Nemesis, the film that broke the even/odd scheme we’d come to rely on. For everything that J.J. Abrams has done right in Hollywood, had he done enough to take over one of the oldest and most beloved franchises in the industry? Could the writers, actors, director, and studio withstand the undying fanatical cries from the devoted fanbase? Could Star Trek actually become relevant again after a prematurely canceled prequel series and two straight disappointing Next Generation-headlining films? The answer to all of these questions is, of course, a resounding “Yes” as the forty-plus year old franchise is reborn and revitalized under the direction of a capable director, excellent casting, and an excellent story.

All the gushing aside, Star Trek isn’t a perfect film, but its many hits almost completely negate its misses. For every gaping plot hole we get a shout out to the original series or a great line of dialog. For every canon-bucking event, we get pitch-perfect casting and an excellent rapport between characters we’ve known and loved.

The most daunting aspect of the new film would be how to fill the shoe’s of some of sci-fi’s most iconic characters including, but not limited to, Captain James Tiberius Kirk, Mr. Spock, Bones, Scotty, etc. The entire cast is fleshed out well with even smaller supporting rolls like Chekov (Anton Yelchin) getting enough meat and potatoes for the audience to fully understand the character. Enough can’t be said for Karl Urban as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, he isn’t trying to fully emulate the late DeForest Kelly, but his perfect delivery of classic lines, demeanor, hatred for the “green-blooded hobgoblin” all sink in so well with the audience.

A lot has been said about Zachary Quinto as Spock and Chris Pine as Kirk, Quinto’s performance as the emotionally troubled, younger Spock works so well in the middle-stages of the film as a dramatic event really tests the half human/half Vulcan. Pine’s performance as the womanizing, eff-authority Kirk is just what you would imagine. We already know Kirk has a history of disregarding orders from a superior (as seen in Star Trek III), and it becomes fully realized how very good he is when we finally see his solution to the Kobayashi Maru test.

The rest of the cast is filled out nicely with Simon Pegg as Scotty, John Cho as Sulu, and the stunning Zoe Saldana as Uhura. A welcome addition to the cast is Bruce Greenwood as Captain Christopher Pike who’s character is fleshed out nicely compared to what we knew of him from the original, unaired Pilot, and subsequent TOS episode “The Menagerie”.

The aforementioned script issues and underwhelming menace don’t detract too much from the overall picture, however keen observers will blow open the fallacies and breakdown of basic logical thinking, but, honestly, you’re having too much fun to care. Even after repeated viewings you’re more than willing to let a few things slide as you gear up for the next set-piece, the next joke, the next overwhelmingly cool CGI shot that modernizes and energizes the film.

The thing about Star Trek is its exciting, from the moment it begins with Nero’s (Eric Bana) attack on the USS Kelvin, to the closing scene of the Enterprise warping away, its never tedius, the two hour runtime flows along, never ebbing, always keeping your eyes glued to the lens-flared screen and still provoking you like no Star Trek film has since The Undiscovered Country, or possibly First Contact.

It seems almost generic these days to call Star Trek a hip reboot of a successful franchise, and if there’s a less cliché term, please use it, but Abrams Star Trek adventure is just that, an adventure, a continuing voyage of the wagon train to the stars where heroes do exist, enemies lurk, and the faithful crew of the Federation flagship keeps us protected, even 40 years later.

There should be a special level of hell for adaptation writers. Truthfully there can’t be a harder job in Hollywood that someone who is tasked with taking an existing story, universe, or timeline and adapting it for a feature film. Over the years we’ve seen hits and missing to both extremes, and at times we pleaded Hollywood to give up, but then rays of hope appear like Iron Man or The Dark Knight and our lust for our favorite properties on the big screen is renewed. Then there are films like Wolverine, which is sure to feel the wrath of fanboys and general comic book fans for years to come for basically not caring at all.

Wolverine is a passable action movie if it didn’t include some of host hallowed Marvel mutants this side of Captain America, as a comic book movie the film is terrible throwing caution to the wind the filmmakers, producers, and writers tear down one of the most beloved characters in comic book history and reassemble him, with a few other mutants in a film that should never have been made. Regardless of how you feel about prequels and origin stories, these types of films, if done right, are usually a great way to reconnect with characters created in a great film. Bryan Singer’s X-Men ushered in the new wave of high-budget, well written comic book movies only exemplified by the aforementioned Batman reboot, Spider-Man 2, and the X-Men series’ pinnacle, X2: X-Men United. Sure what Singer did wasn’t totally perfect, and the liberties that he took to modernize the series were also ambushed by the rabid, but his film started a franchise that has been run into the ground. Wolverine is to X-Men as Batman & Robin was to Batman, the fourth film in a franchise that basically murders it just for the hell of it.

The biggest obstacle for Wolverine was to meet up with the original X-Men film, after all, we see Sabertooth, Cyclops, Storm, and Wolverine all again. As the film ends you wonder how Liev Schreiber’s Sabertooth (who looks and acts totally different than Tyler Mane’s in X-Men) basically becomes a pitiful dumb-ass in the course of fifteen years. Here he’s able to sustain direct blasts from Cyclops (or Cyclops’ power, more on that later), jump off a cooling tower at a nuclear power plant and survive yet in X-Men he falls off the statue of liberty, into water, and dies. That’s consistency, look it up. Its like everyone who made this movie didn’t bother to even watch X-Men, even Hugh Jackman, who was IN the movie, let this pass. Didn’t he think anyone and everyone would call him out on this stuff? Lets not even get nitpicky with stuff like adamantium bullets, how Wolverine can heal his metal skull, how Stryker knew that Wolverine would survive a bullet to the head, but his memories wouldn’t, how Deadpool can have full swords in his arms, and still bend them.

While we’re on the subject, why did they even include Deadpool, or Wraith, or Gambit, or Silverfox, or Blob or anyone besides Wolverine? Each of the aforementioned gets about 10 minutes of screen time total, with the exception of Silverfox, and one of the biggest hyped additions was Reynolds as Wade Wilson, who basically has one scene and doesn’t even play Deadpool when he’s created. Each of the above characters is mutilated to the point they’re almost beyond recognition.

There’s just so much wrong with the film that it would take pages to explain just how terrible it is, how clearly and utterly pissed off a lot of people are, and should be, after viewing this train wreck. There was no care and no love put into this film, and the few good parts are marred by everything that’s bad. This film is a testament to what’s wrong with modern comic book filmmaking to the point where X-Men: The Last Stand starts to look like Citizen Kane.

Observe and Report was supposed to be the antithesis of Paul Blart: Mall Cop, a product of the Happy Madison machine that goes for cheap laughs and not much substance. However, somewhere along the line Report turned itself into what it never wanted to be, a below average comedy, stooping to cheap, shock thrills to get a laugh, and never really powering up as a comedy. The movie trolls along for just over 90 minutes, throws a few laughs at you, you’ll smile a few more times, but it ultimately falls flat.

With the amount of talent present in this production its really surprising to see the end result fail so hard. Seth Rogen, who’s in just about everything these days, really misses here as the law enforcement obsesses Ronnie Barnhardt who’s delusional nature makes the character almost unlikable for the entire runtime of the film. Just when you think he might finally catch on to how strong he’s coming on, he completely loses it. The jokes that get the most laughs were so played out in the trailers that the theater was completely silent when they finally came up.

It isn’t just Rogen who lays an egg here, the normally charming and impeccable Anna Faris is completely wasted as Brandi the make-up girl. Ray Liotta, taking a stab at comedy, can’t seem to figure out any sort of cohesive timing for the funny lines he’s suppose to deliver. The supporting cast is a collection of one-note, one-joke caricatures that we’ve seen time and time again to the point they aren’t funny anymore.

The weak story only adds to the even weaker whole of the script. When Barnhardt becomes obsessed with catching a flasher at the mall he patrols he eventually takes a magical journey of blaming everyone of ethnicity, then attempting to be a police officer, mockingly blow away a psychiatrist with an invisible shotgun, take down five drug dealers, and finally fall from grace, get his redemption, and ride off into the sunset in a golf cart. The film as a whole is really paint-by-the-numbers at its best, and derivative at its worst.

Again, its incredibly surprising to see such talent collected and distilled into a cheap comedy you expect to see late-night on TBS. Maybe the explosion of Paul Blart earlier in the year turned people off to a mall cop comedy, or maybe it was Observe and Report‘s own undoing by simply not being good enough to run with the big boys, but after the movie is over you just kind of want to completely forget it ever existed.

With both Paul Walker and Vin Diesel’s careers in somewhat of a freefall after ill-advised projects like Running Scared (which wasn’t half bad) and Babylon A.D. respectively, they both needed a return to the franchise that made them famous. In swoops Universal with a fourth entry in The Fast & The Furious series, stripping out the new cast employed in the third installment, shaving off the “The’s” off the title and reinstalling the original core cast members.

The results are marginally better than you would expect. The storyline isn’t anything special, but is a solid narrative when compared to the rest of the series. The motivation and happenstance to bring Walker’s FBI agent Brian back to face off with Diesel’s Dom seems a bit contrived from the get go, but once the fast cars and scantily clothed women begin to grace the screen once more, the story just falls by the wayside.

Walker has seemed to tone down the surfer-dude persona employed in the series’ first two installments, turning O’Conner into a more serious FBI agent who goes against the grain when necessary and has a boss who allows it, to a point. Basically the typically movie-screen agent, mulling around L.A. with a map, looking for bad guys in a non-discrete car. Dom is still the quiet type, although the script attempts to paint him as more of a quiet romantic, leaving his Mexican heist lifestyle to protect those that he loves. Dom eventually runs afoul of a big time Mexican drug dealer who is also wanted by the FBI (how quaint).

The series action is intact from the pre-credits get-go with the scene we’ve all seen in the trailers as Dom and his new crew steal gasoline trailers from a ridiculously long tractor-trailer. Eventually things blow up, cars can still fit under things, and we’re back in L.A. for more action. The film is a literal balls-to-the-walls pace with street races through the City of Angels with some of the new technology that’s come on the scene since the original’s release. There’s nods to the original ¼ race between Brian and Dom about using nitrous at the right time, but there’s very little exposition on what happened to all the supporting characters like Leon and Vince.

Fast & Furious is easily the best entry in the series and it isn’t expected to be the last after its monster opening weekend. Where the story goes from here is unknown, those who have seen Tokyo Drift (which actually happens after this film) will know Dom’s eventual fate, so will we see a sequel in a year or two? Let’s hope so, although there’s dangerously few words left in the title, hopefully Universal thinks to either add a few back in, rather than take more out.

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