DIRECTED BY: Edgar Wright
STARRING: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Paddy Considine, Timothy Dalton, Billie Whitelaw
OPINION STARS: 5 out of 5
THIS FILM IS: Funny, Clever, Exciting
DESCRIPTION: Nicholas Angel (Pegg) is a decorated London cop who gets transferred to a quaint English village to work alongside a blundering but well-meaning young constable (Frost). It’s a terrifically boring job – until things begin to stir with a series of nasty and fatal “accidents”.
NOTE: Part satire, part homage, thoroughly brilliant. I can’t remember the last time a film surprised me the way this one did. I popped it in expecting a mildly amusing spoof of the “buddy cop” genre. What I got instead was a Pythonesque satire loaded with sly references and goofy slapstick, paced with absolute aplomb, and crowned with one of the best gun battles ever committed the film. Simon Pegg? Gotta love him. Nick Frost? Gotta love him, too. But ultimately, the coolest thing about Hot Fuzz is the fact that it tells a real story, populated with characters for which we can actually give a darn. It’s strictly for the older crowd, but provided you can handle some salty language and a bit of gore, I think you’ll find this smart and hugely entertaining movie well worth your time.
FOR AGES 17+
“Sergeant Butterman, the little hand says it’s time to rock and roll!”
NOTE: Fact: I consider my viewing of Donner’s Superman (1978) to be one of the most traumatic experiences of my cinematic life. No joke. I’ve never cared for Supes as a character, and the original film simply confirmed me as a hater. Thanks to Snyder and Nolan, however, that hatred is rapidly dissipating. Man of Steel is a fantastic origins story – one of the best we’ve had since 2005’s Batman Begins. The first forty-five minutes or so were a bit rocky, and I’ll admit, I was beginning to worry. Then the story really hit its stride. And Superman slammed General Zod through a building. Everything after that was so gloriously insane that the flaws were all but forgotten, and I found myself enjoying a jaw-dropping exercise in Herculean butt-kicking. (FYI, more buildings are leveled in this one film than in all other superhero movies combined.) Wed this to an exhilarating musical score, and throw in actors who really know their stuff, and you have what is potentially the biggest, baddest blockbuster of 2013. In the words of Jason Zingale, “This is exactly the kind of reboot the franchise desperately needed… a massive and incredibly enjoyable step in the right direction.”
IFFY FOR AGE 14
“What are you going to do when you aren’t saving the world?”
CREATED BY: Jordan Thomas (director), Ken Levine (writer)
STARRING: Fenella Woolgar, Doug Boyd, Anne Bobby, Sarah Bolger, Sydney Unseth
OPINION STARS: 5 out of 5
THIS GAME IS: Intense, Dark, Thoughtful
DESCRIPTION: Eight years after the events in Bioshock, the first Big Daddy ever created wages a one-man war against the city of Rapture in a desperate effort to reunite with his Little Sister, Eleanor Lamb.
NOTE: Also known as The Most Underrated Sequel Ever. Seriously. I cannot fathom why this game was not more well received. Bioshock 2 not only matches its predecessor’s genius, but in some ways – get this – even surpasses it. Yeah. “Balderdash!” you might say. “I don’t believe such a thing is possible.” Well, neither did I… but I assure you, it is. So pooh-pooh to the haters; I side with the guys over at GamesRadar: “The weapons are better. The plasmids are better. The enemies are better. At some points, even the storytelling is better. What’s most amazing and surprising about BioShock 2, however, is that by diving deeper into Rapture’s tortured history and exploring more of Rapture’s haunted world, it actually manages to make the original BioShock better, too.”
IFFY FOR AGE 16
“You had me under a gun… and yet you just walk away? No monster alive turns the other cheek. No monsters does that. A thinking man does that.”
DIRECTED BY: Gore Verbinski
STARRING: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jack Davenport, Bill Nighy, Stellan Skarsgård
OPINION STARS: 4 out of 5
THIS FILM IS: Funny, Epic, Exciting
DESCRIPTION: With the reluctant aid of Will Turner (Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Knightley), Capt. Jack Sparrow (Depp) works to free himself from a blood debt to the ghastly Davy Jones and his villainous crew.
NOTE: The second installment of the Pirates series is not the classic its predecessor is, but it’s a heckuva lotta fun anyway. Stupendous visuals, a terrific sense of humor, epic swashbuckling, and Depp’s performance are the biggest draws here. On the downside, the story is rather wobbly, the script occasionally lacks polish, and Elizabeth Swann is more annoying than ever. I didn’t care for her in the first film, but this time around I actually disliked her (to the point of ardently desiring her demise via Kraken). Oh well, maybe she’ll be offed in the next film. One can always hope.
FOR AGES 14+
“You want you to find this, because the finding of this finds you incapacitorially finding and or locating in your discovering the detecting of a way to save your dolly belle, ol’ what’s-her-face. Savvy?”
DIRECTED BY: Stuart Hazeldine
STARRING: Adar Beck, Luke Mably, Nathalie Cox, John Lloyd Fillingham, Chukwudi Iwuji
OPINION STARS: 4 out of 5
THIS FILM IS: Suspenseful, Clever, Dark
DESCRIPTION: Eight job applicants in a guarded room are given instructions, exam sheets, and 80 minutes to answer a single question that may garner them a position. But this is no ordinary exam – and as the minutes tick away, and the puzzle remains unsolved, things start to get ugly.
NOTE: Amazing what you can do with a single set, a tight screenplay, and a handful of talented actors. Major kudos to this film for trying to stand apart from the Hollywood crowd; the execution isn’t perfect, but there’s something refreshing about watching a thriller with some genuinely neat tricks up its sleeve. It’s a morality tale and a battle of wits, with a just touch of science fiction; and though it probably won’t blow your mind, it is consistently entertaining and smart. WARNING: despite the fact that this film has not been rated by the MPAA, it does contain strong language and some violent content.
FOR AGES 16+
“There is one question before you, and one answer is required. If you try to communicate with myself or the guard, you will be disqualified. If you spoil your paper, intentionally or accidentally, you will be disqualified. If you choose to leave this room for any reason, you will be disqualified. Any questions?”