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Grand Budapest Hotel review
Fox Searchlight
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‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ Review

Wes Anderson has finally done it. He's gone and created his own country.

Zubrowka, the fictional town at the heart of 'The Grand Budapest Hotel,' is positioned on the farthest Eastern edge of Europe's great empire. It is a melange of stylistic flourishes and decorative signifiers from a make believe 20th Century - a memory of a memory, a fastidious, whimsical take on real horrors - a storybook samizdat that entices with madcap adventure then goes in for the kill with existential dread. It is an incredible place to visit.

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Lego Movie review
Warner Bros.
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‘The LEGO Movie’ Review

"Everything is Awesome!"

Much has been said about our recent cinema kowtowing to nerds. From the massive success of 'The Avengers' to the ill-fated sci-fi odes of 'Paul.' (Anyone remember 'Paul?') The nerds have won. But whither the spaz?

Take a moment to remember the spaz. The hyperactive, highly-excitable enthusiast who can barely stay in one place for longer than sixty seconds and makes a little bit of a mess of things with his chaotic energy. 'The LEGO Movie' is the film for that person. From its opening frame to its surprisingly heartfelt conclusion, 'The LEGO Movie' has a bright and brash, candy-colored go go go dynamism that crackles with a glorious alacrity set to the tempo of the classroom's biggest and most disruptive spaz.

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The Monuments Men review
Sony Pictures
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‘The Monuments Men’ Review

“They don't make 'em like that anymore!”

That's what my old man always liked to say when we'd watch a black and white Hollywood classic. Sometimes he meant it as a sign of respect. Sometimes he meant it to mean, "Wow, that was super cheesy."

George Clooney's 'The Monuments Men' goes right down the middle.

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I Frankenstein Review
Lionsgate
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‘I, Frankenstein’ Review

Quite frankly as misguided and problematic as the forlorn romanticism of Kenneth Branagh’s 1994 adaptation, not to mention as ridiculously self-serious, Stuart Beattie’s ‘I, Frankenstein’ isn’t even campy enough to be fun. Cut from the mold of the films in the ‘Underworld’ series, Beattie’s film similarly eschews the natural intrigue of the original mythology to pump it full of steroids and Hot Topic-style cool, adding an epic, age-old conflict between no less than angels (well, gargoyles) and demons for Frankenstein’s monster to be caught between – all of which showcases an excess of thought, and yet a shocking lack of brains.

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Category: movie reviews
Devil's Due
20th Century Fox
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‘Devil’s Due’ Review

A newlywed couple (Allison Miller and 'Friday Night Lights' star Zach Gilford) returns home from their honeymoon with an unexpected pregnancy, but as the husband documents their lives, the pair begin to notice that something isn't quite right with the baby. 'Devil's Due' is the latest entry in the found footage horror genre, and while it does have its fair amount of creative visual effects, the thrills are hardly thrilling in this paint by numbers occult chiller. 

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Category: movie reviews
Ride Along review
Universal Pictures
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‘Ride Along’ Review

If you’ve recently watched Antoine Fuqua’s hard-bitten 2001 cop drama ‘Training Day’ and found yourself imagining what it would look like with a zippy comedic cast and a bizarrely convoluted plotline, Tim Story’s 'Ride Along' is the answer to your oddly specific cinematic dreams. For the latest round of big screen "good cop, bad cop, dumb cop," Kevin Hart and Ice Cube star as diametrically opposed do-gooders with very different ways of getting things done, even as they both rigorously adhere to the letter of the law.

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Category: movie reviews
Nut Job review
Open Road Films
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‘The Nut Job’ Review

Animated animals have long been used as cuddly, fluffy stand-ins for actual human beings and their fraught interactions, and director Peter Lepeniotis' 'The Nut Job doesn’t break from that tradition in the slightest, using the hungry inhabitants of a sunny park to frame up an allegory about political machinations and maneuvering.

No. Really. That’s what 'The Nut Job,' an animated film about squirrels trying to steal nuts from a local nut shop, is about. Politics.

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Category: movie reviews
The Legend of Hercules Review
Millennium Films
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‘The Legend of Hercules’ Review

In the late 1950s, American bodybuilder Steve Reeves somehow ended up in Italy and made a cheapo production of 'Hercules.' It spawned an avalanche of knockoff strongmen films -- some starring Reeves, some featuring a rather malleable new character named Maciste -- and are just wretched examples of boring cinema that, for whatever reason, I ended up seeing quite a bit of as a little kid. But to an 8-year-old back then, sub-Ray Harryhausen special effects and wafer-thin plots still managed to impress. Hey, it was a Sunday afternoon and a color TV.

It's easy to say “they don't make 'em like that anymore,” but the spirit of these garbage movies is alive and well in Renny Harlin's charmingly awful 'The Legend of Hercules.' Starring Kellan Lutz as a block of concrete that has to fake the classic British accent (even though Hercules is Greek), this is boring by-the-numbers dross from the artless Millennium Films, best known for 'The Expendables' films. It has maybe three good fight scenes and two moments that are so over-the-top bad you just have to laugh, and that makes for some undeniable entertainment. The best way to describe 'The Legend of Hercules' is as the fake movie that teenagers in movies go to see.

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Category: movie reviews
Anchorman 2 Review
Paramount
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‘Anchorman 2′ Review

There are a handful of extremely funny, laugh-out-loud moments in 'Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.' One happens early – the reveal that David Koechner now runs a cut-rate fast-food joint that saves money by serving fried bats (or, as he calls it, “chicken of the cave"). Another is a retread from the first film – a battle royale of news teams from various networks, but this time even more extreme. There's also great humor in what I suppose passes for “the point” of this movie – that lowest common denominator attitudes like those of Will Ferrell's Ron Burgundy are what inadvertently invented the cesspool of modern cable news.

Of course, what you will find funny is entirely dependent on your own taste, but these highlighted scenes (and several others, I must point out) really landed with me. It struck me later, as I was trying to piece together why the movie felt about six hours long, that these moments were all dependent on gags that could not have been ad-libbed. Ferrell, Koechner, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell and the rest of the gang are deservedly respected for their quick-thinking comedy chops. When they get together and riff, few can top them. The problem is that 'Anchorman 2' relies on this far, far too much. It's like a a dessert plate where mounds of fluffy whipped cream obscures the fact that, underneath, there's only a tiny bite of pie.

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The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Review
Warner Bros.
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‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ Review

There comes a time when we must stop kidding ourselves. These 'Hobbit' films – with 'The Desolation of Smaug' representing the shank of the trilogy – are not real movies. These are exploitation films for Tolkien nuts, for enthusiasts of the original 'Lord of the Rings' movies and for audiences so hungry for high fantasy they'll gobble up whatever is served to them and ask for seconds.

As someone who has sympathy, but not empathy, for those who have such proclivities, I can get why someone might come away liking this picture. But that is more of an involuntary reaction to exposure to certain elements, not the summation of a film. Listen, there's a grey-bearded wizard who warns in low tones about a place that sounds like “Doggledoor.” And there's someone referred to as “Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror.” I love that geekorama stuff more than most. It's hilarious, and I'll probably refer to my cat as “Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror” for the next week. But this movie doesn't cohere – there's no forward momentum, no character development, no story happening. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a fibber.

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