Movie Review: Lucy (2014)

Plot synopsis: A woman (Johansson), accidentally caught
in a dark deal, turns the tables on her  captors
and transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond
human logic.
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Runtime: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Rated: R (for strong violence, disturbing
images, and sexuality)
Director: Luc Besson
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman,
Min-sik Choi
Action | Sci-Fi
In Lucy, a scared and clueless young woman (Scarlett Johansson) gets abducted by ruthless Taiwanese drug-lords. She is made to work as a mule for distributing their goods. When a part of a package she is carrying gets loose in her system, the full potential of her brain is chemically unlocked, allowing her to become more than a match for her enemies—and possibly also, for any other super-hero that has ever been conceived.

After she is mentally liberated, Lucy (for some reason) becomes a different person – determined, brave, philanthropic, and just a hair's breadth away from all-knowing. And in some damn impressive high-speed chase sequences, with awesome telekinetic displays of power, she can travel through the 4th dimension. With this transcendence, Lucy tears through the story...like those advanced aliens from Independence Day vs. some anthill on earth on a ranch in Elmendorf, Texas.

Movie Review: The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

Plot synopsis: A young couple (Zach Gilford, Roberta
Valderrama) works to survive on the streets after their car
breaks down right as the annual purge commences, as
they fight to survive with a mother and her daughter
(Carmen Ejogo, Justina Machado) and an unknown
gunman (Frank Grillo).
 .................................................................................................
 Runtime: 1 hour, 43 minutes
 Rated: R (or strong disturbing violence, and for language)
 Director: James DeMonaco
 Starring: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford
 Action | Horror | Thriller

Taking place just two hours before the onset of the next bloody purge - in which all of "America Reborn" acts out their deadly anger without fear of legal repercussion - The Purge: Anarchy takes off in 2023 with a new cast and new characters. What is not new is what the film seeks to accomplish, which is exactly what the first one did (only, this one does so a little less effectively).

Movie Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Plot synopsis: In the wake of a disaster
that changed the world, the growing
 and genetically evolving apes find
themselves at a critical point with the
human race.
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Runtime: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Rated: PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi
violence and action, and brief strong language)
Director: Matt Reeves
Starring: Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Andy Serkis
Action | Drama | Sci-Fi
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes continues the human-vs-smart-ape crisis some ten years after the viral outbreak which cost humanity the vast majority of the world's population. The apes are starting to take the lead, but the humans still have the weaponry, with each side fighting harder than ever for domination.

Like the first Planet of the Apes revamping, this film has spades of action, tons of story, and a strong emotional appeal throughout, as it keeps audiences torn between rooting for their own kind and a new race of super-apes.

The film's remarkably static intelligent undercurrent shows the intellectual and emotional growth of Caesar as a leader who can make complex moral decisions and advance his cause, thereby reminding us of what fortifies character. The problem? Well, how about why audiences would ever be expected to go for such a premise behind a remake in the first place?

Movie Review: Deliver Us From Evil (2014)

Plot synopsis: NY police officer Ralph Sarchie
(Eric Bana) investigates a series of crimes. He
joins forces with an unconventional priest, schooled
in the rituals of exorcism (Édgar Ramírez), to combat
the possessions that are terrorizing their city.
________________________________________________
 Runtime: 1 hour, 58 minutes
Rated: R (for bloody violence, grisly images, terror throughout,
and language)
 Director: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Eric Bana, Édgar Ramírez, Olivia Munn
Crime | Horror | Thriller
Director Scott Derrickson (Sinister, The Possession of Emily Rose) brings us Deliver Us From Evil, a crude-but-biblically titled horror that feels more like an apologetic video for a fundamentalist Catholic evangelistic effort aimed at lapsed, on-the-fence Catholics in New York as opposed to moviegoers at large.

And while Eric Bana (Hulk, Vantage Point) and Édgar Ramírez (The Bourne Ultimatum) work great together, the writing behind who they are and what they are doing is left hanging in a wishy-washy, unoriginal patchwork of a film that is neither interesting, nor scary.

Movie Review: Maleficent (2014)

Plot synopsis: A vengeful fairy (Angelina Jolie) is driven to curse
 an infant princess (Elle Fanning), only to discover that the child
 may be the one person who can restore peace to their troubled
land.
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Walt Disney Pictures
 Runtime: 1 hour, 37 minutes
 Rated: PG (for sequences of fantasy action and violence, including
frightening images)
 Director: Robert Stromberg
 Writers: Linda Woolverton, Charles Perrault (based from the
story "La Belle au bois dormant" by)
 Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley
 Action | Adventure | Family

Director Robert Stromberg (Pan’s Labyrinth, The Hunger Games) gives us Maleficent, a cunning re-invigoration of the story of Sleeping Beauty, the tale this time told from a much more modern point of view, with a newfound respect for acknowledging the dualistic nature of personhood.

Movie Review: The Quiet Ones (2014)

Plot synopsis: A university professor (Jared Harris) and a team
of his students (Sam Clafin, Erin Richards) conduct an experiment
on a young woman (Olivia Cooke), uncovering
terrifyingly dark and unexpected forces in the process.
_________________________________________________
 Lionsgate
Runtime: 1 hour, 38 minutes
Rated: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence
and terror, sexual content, thematic material,
language, and smoking throughout)
Director: John Pogue
Writers: Craig Rosenberg, Oren Moverman
Starring: Jared Harris, Sam Claflin, Olivia Cooke
Horror
Despite its throat-scraping screams of terror, The Quiet Ones is absolutely mute when it comes to contributing to the horror genre in any meaningful way.

An experiment involving students at Oxford in 1974 leads a skeptical few to realizing that the force they seek to reduce to terms most familiar is far more sinister and deadly than they can imagine.

Wanna know what I can't imagine? Why a film with such fine and devoted acting can't do anything but occupy space as another "show up the skeptics" piece of cinema where the supernatural elements are over-utilized and where sudden shocks and cheap "jump" surprises typical of possession-style horrors unjustly dominate the screenplay.

Movie Review: Godzilla (2014)

Plot synopsis: The world’s most famous monster is pitted
against malevolent creatures that, bolstered by humanity’s
scientific arrogance, threaten human existence.
__________________________________________________
 Warner Brothers
Runtime: 2 hours, 3 minutes
Rated: PG-13 (for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem,
and creature violence)
Director: Gareth Edwards
Writers: Max Borenstein, Dave Callaham
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan
Cranston
Action | Sci-Fi | Thriller
It works really hard to capture the awe and the essence of the original 1954 classic work. Grading on a curve, it might have succeeded on that level. But for all of its pride and effort, it still fails to intrigue or entertain. And really, not enough happens to keep us caring for much of what transpires.

The narrative has nearly enough cohesion to work, but to no avail. The CGI, however, is magnificent (probably the only thing in this film that is).

Movie Review: How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

Plot Synopsis: When Hiccup (Jay Baruchel, voice)
and Toothless discover an ice cave that
is home to hundreds of new wild dragons
 and the mysterious Dragon Rider, the
two find themselves at the center of a
battle to protect the peace.
________________________________________
DreamWorks Animation
Runtime: 1 hour, 42 minutes
Rated: PG (for adventure action and some mild rude
humor)
Director: Dean DeBlois
Writers: Dean DeBlois, Cressida Cowell
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler
Animation | Action | Adventure
The sequel to How To Train Your Dragon is itself a fantastic production from DreamWorks Animation, giving us both a backstory and augmentation to the lovely events that preceded it. It's a surefire crowd-pleaser.

This one features new dragons, some twisty new protagonists, and a new fiercesome competing tribe led by a ruthless conquerer (Djimon Hounsou, voice) who seeks to subvert dragon powers for his own dictatorial purposes, and the emergence of Hiccup's mother (Cate Blanchette, voice).
  
It's nearly everything a sequel should be, minus some not so soothing pacing, and what seems to be more of a teenaged appeal.

This one doesn't quite offer up the succinct focus as what we received the first time around, but the adorable characters remain as enchanting as ever.

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