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To this generation, Elaine Stritch is probably best known for playing Alec Baldwin’s overbearing mother on “30 Rock.” Before she was Colleen Donaghy, however, Stritch already had quite the résumé. In a showbiz career that’s now spanned roughly seven decades, she’s done it all, from movies, to television, to radio, to cabaret. Stritch cemented herself as a performing legend on the Broadway stage, starring in countless plays and finally winning a Tony for her one-woman show back in 2002.
A few weeks ago we got “The Lego Movie,” an animated feature that looked like a disaster waiting to happen. Since its release, however, the film has become a box office hit and received praise from virtually every human being on the planet, myself included. “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” is another family movie that seemed destined to flop at first glance. A modern day 3D extravaganza based on a 1960’s cartoon that was never even so great to begin with? I smell another “Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.”
When “300” came out almost seven years ago, you probably either thought it was the coolest movie of all time or the lamest movie of all time. While it was dumb and silly, the film’s glorified violence, striking look, and classic one-liners did admittedly have an effect on the macho dinosaur in me. The sad truth is that the style over substance appeal of “300” is only good for one movie. The first time you see such eye candy popping out at the screen, it’s friggin’ awesome. The second time around, it’s about as repetitive as watching Optimus Prime transform over and over again. That’s just one of the reasons why “300: Rise of the Empire” is dead on arrival.
It’s easy to imagine how the pitch for “Non-Stop,” the latest action thriller starring Liam Neeson, went down. “Okay, guys, how about this? It’s ‘Taken,’ but on an airplane!” The surprise is that “Non-Stop” not only could have been a sequel to “Taken,” but it’s also everything “Taken 2” should have been. The film finds Neeson is a familiar role in a plot that mixes together elements of “Air Force One,” “Flightplan,” and various Hitchcockian thrillers. While this sort of thing has been done before, the result is just fresh enough to stand out from all the rest.
To be perfectly upfront, I’ve never been a huge Kevin Costner fan. That’s not to say he hasn’t been good in a few movies such as “Field of Dreams.” He’s even directed some great movies…well one great movie at least. Then in the late nineties, Costner seemed to go on a major ego trip, constantly casting himself as mankind’s savior in movies like “Waterworld” and “The Postman.” Now he’s riding the comeback train with effective work in “Hatfields & McCoys” and “Man of Steel.” “3 Days to Kill” is unfortunately a step backwards for Costner. It won’t kill his career again, but it certainly won’t help it either.
Well it’s February, which means two things. First, we’re going to get a totally lame action picture that wasn’t good enough for a summer release, i.e. “RoboCop.” Second, we’re going to get several predicable romance movies that nobody put any thought into whatsoever. “Endless Love” isn’t just a predicable romance movie. It’s an excruciatingly predicable one. Every character ark and plot point can be seen from several miles away. Watching this seemingly endless parade of clichés will overwhelm any thinking human being with grave frustration, making them want to hurl tomatoes at the screen.
Remember the good old days when a big-budget action picture could earn a hard R rating? It looks like those days are officially dead. “Die Hard,” “The Terminator,” “Total Recall,” these were three of the best action movies of the late eighties and early nineties, complete with all the gleeful violence and profanity a kid could desire. Nowadays, everything must be toned down to a PG13 rating, including the recent sequels and reboots of the three aforementioned films.
Many adults complain that today’s youth is dominated by video games and iPads. But no matter how advanced technology becomes, Lego will always be there to provide the building blocks for good, old-fashion fun. Every Lego box is a treasure chest of infinite possibilities, allowing us to construct castles, cars, and entire cities. Lego has fueled our imaginations ever since 1949. Sixty-five years and 560 billion Lego pieces later, we get “The Lego Movie.”
It’s pretty ironic that a comedy called “That Awkward Moment” is radically lacking in awkward moments. The film isn’t without some potentially uncomfortable setups like walking in on two people having sex, realizing you’ve just had sex with a hooker, and showing up to a fancy party in a racy outfit. “That Awkward Moment” never goes all the way with its awkward humor, though. Scenes often feel incomplete, as if the director yelled, “cut,” before getting to the punch line. As a result, the film fails to deliver any genuine awkward humor or humor in general.
Not recommending “Gimme Shelter” feels about as low as kicking a lost puppy. The film’s heart is definitely in the right place. All writer/director Ron Krauss wishes to do is uplift audiences with an inspiring true story. If it were being graded on good intentions alone, “Gimme Shelter” would be an A+ movie for sure. On an overall filmmaking level, though, it’s more of a C+ movie.
Based on his four feature films, it’s clear that Spike Jonze’s mind is nothing short of an endlessly inventive wonderland. He brought two of the most creative screenplays ever written to life in “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation.” In “Where the Wild Things Are,” he took a 48-page picture book and transformed it into one of the most emotionally complex family movies of all time. “Her,” the director’s latest outing, is simply a revelation of imagination.
“Inside Llewyn Davis” is a new kind of project for the Coen brothers to take on. To an extent, the film is a musical of sorts along the lines of “Once.” In addition to being a love letter to old folk songs, it’s also one of the most brutally honest, if not disheartening, movies about the cruel nature of show business. While different territory for the masterful directing duo, “Inside Llewyn Davis” still has the Coen’s distinctive signature all over it. As with many of their films, they find the comedy in bleakness and the bleakness in comedy, resulting in a narrative that’s either saying a lot or saying nothing at all. However you view it, boy is it fascinating to watch.
Everyone had reservations when it was announced Peter Jackson would be splitting up “The Hobbit” into a trilogy. Do we really need three separate movies? Can’t this 300-page book be done in one movie? Isn’t this just a ploy to milk a franchise and make an extra couple billion dollars? When “An Unexpected Journey” finally came out last December, we all found that these initial concerns were pretty much spot-on.
Typically whenever a movie succumbs to the redundant car chase, it means that the screenwriter officially ran out of story to tell. It’s clear that the people behind “Getaway” never had any story to start with, as the entire film plays out like an extended car chase from its opening scene to its ridiculous ending.
“Kick-Ass” was one of those movies that seemed to have everybody split. Either you found the film morally reprehensible or you soaked up every minute of the film’s colorful violence and profanity. Personally, I was among the latter group.
If “Bridesmaids” was the female version of “The Hangover,” then “The To Do List” could be considered the female version of “American Pie.” You could also call it the female version of “Superbad,” the raunchier version of “Easy A,” or the 1990s version of “Sixteen Candles.”
When Osama bin Laden was assassinated, it felt like the War on Terror’s big climax. The enemy was defeated, America rejoiced, and a bright new day was born. Two years later, troops are still in the Middle East, lives are still being lost, and undisclosed wars are still taking place right under our noses. It’s a war without an end. That’s one of the many sad truths explored in “Dirty Wars,” a documentary that’s significant, admirable, and occasionally shocking, although never really profound.
I, for one, am officially fed up with movies about zombie outbreaks, mutant outbreaks, virus outbreaks, and outbreaks in general. To be fair, the end of the world/global epidemic genre can still be done well. The best recent example actually isn’t a movie, but “The Walking Dead: The Game,” which packed in more drama, thrills and heartfelt character development than the AMC TV show of the same name. Such compelling characters and genuine terror are missing from “World War Z.” It’s surprisingly hollow, surprisingly bland, and, most unforgivable of all, surprisingly boring.
There’s no denying that Richard Donner set the bar for the Superman franchise with his 1978 film. The icy landscapes of Planet Krypton, John Williams’ vigorous musical score, Christopher Reeve’s iconic performance -- every aspect of Donner’s movie remains definitive.
There’s one question that “Independence Day,” “2012,” “The Day After Tomorrow,” “Cloverfield,” “The Core,” “War of the Worlds,” and other disaster movies never acknowledge: Where are the celebrities during all this mayhem? Aside from Bill Murray’s hilarious cameo in “Zombieland,” we never get to see what the rich and fabulous are up to during the apocalypse.
Whether you had parents that were distant or parents that were overbearing, we all likely dreamed about running away from home while growing up. These unrealistic fantasies likely involved hitting the road with one or two good friends and building a safe haven somewhere in the wildness. Naturally, we all quickly woke up from this daydream, realizing that we’d never make it on our own. “The Kings of Summer” exists in an offbeat world fueled by our youthful daydreams. The end product is funny and quirky, but also wise and nostalgic with something meaningful to say about coming of age.
Most of the ads for “After Earth” have neglected to mention that M. Night Shyamalan co-wrote and directed the film. Movie studios finally seem to be realizing that having Shyamalan’s name plastered above the title will no longer sell tickets.
If you grew up in the early nineties, you probably remember an animated feature from 20th Century Fox called “FernGully: The Last Rainforest.” It was the environmentally conscious movie every 90s kid saw and, yet, nobody really liked. The film’s intentions might have been good, but even the youngest children seemed to find its blatant "green" message overly preachy. The fact that “FernGully” was lacking in any interesting characters or magic didn’t help.
Even though “The Great Gatsby” has gotten the movie treatment several times in the past, no film adaptation has ever really stood out as the definitive version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s celebrated novel.
Just about all the actors in “The Big Wedding” are severely typecast. Diane Keaton is a high-strung, divorced mother like in “Something’s Gotta Give,” Robert De Niro is the father of somebody getting married like in “Meet the Fockers,” Amanda Seyfried is a blushing bride like in “Mamma Mia,” Robin Williams is an eccentric minister like in “License to Wed,” Topher Grace is a deadpan, quick-witted nice guy like in “That ‘70s Show,” and Katherine Heigl is a needy single woman like in every movie she does. Even though the actors are in their comfort zones, not a single person feels natural in “The Big Wedding.” That’s probably because the film doesn’t understand its own characters or their motivations. Nobody behind the camera has any idea what they’re doing, resulting in one of the most awkward romantic comedies of recent memory.