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A rundown of the biggest films to hit so far this summer…
            A great improvement on the first Captain America film in 2011. Brothers Anthony and Joe Russo have honed their craft shooting parody action scenes on NBC’s Community and Winter Solider greatly benefits from this. Possibly the first film in the Marvel extended universe to have any actual stakes, this will hold us over nicely until Guardians of the Galaxy/Ant-Man/Dr. Strange hit theaters in the coming years.

FilmFire review:
4.25/5 forms

            Another fun but non consequential romp from Marc Webb and Andrew Garfield. Ridiculous and cringe worthy coincidences litter this film all the way through but it doesn’t stop it from being very entertaining. A lot of universe building stuff à la Iron Man 2. Paul Giamatti is wasted in a sea of third act villains.

FilmFire review:
3.25/5 forms

            A total joy to watch. Intense slow burn through the beginning stages of the film until we get what we’ve been waiting for. Bryan Cranston shines but is the only relatable character in the movie. The lead actors are terribly written and given less than nothing to do, but it doesn’t stop the film from being wildy enjoyable. Insane ending climax that is brutally satisfying.

FilmFire review:
4/5 forms

            A return to form for Bryan Singer, his first time directing an X-Men film since 2003. Fast paced and much more enjoyable than any of the X-Men movies from the last decade, Days of Future Past is a a ton of fun to watch. It manages to successfully combine the old and young casts into one film without seeming bloated with characters, something Sony should learn to do with their rambling Spider-Man franchise. The interesting take on time travel mechanics makes it a joy to watch.

FilmFire review:
4.5/5 forms

            A complete butchering of the original fairy tale, there’s almost nothing of merit here besides Angelina Jolie chewing scenery. Completely takes the evil out of the witch and sanitizes all of the dark and broodiness from the original. She doesn’t even turn into the dragon. Maybe fun for families with little kids, but this is another case of Disney cashing in.

FilmFire review:
2/5 forms


A superhero in film is only as good as his villain. And that’s a critical problem for Iron Man 3.
-Kirk Baird, Toledo Blade

At times reaches “Avengers” level of intensity, fun and exhilaration, which makes it all the more frustrating that a few missteps result in it simply being a good movie and not the post-Avengers game changer it could have been.
-Jeffrey Lyles, Lyles’ Movie Files

This movie isn’t very good. As the highly anticipated follow-up to director Shane Black’s first film, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3 is pretty hollow. It promises a look into the life of Tony Stark after the events of The Avengers. Iron Man with panic attacks and PTSD: not that interesting. Sometimes, comic book movies should just remain cartoonish and fun. This is one of those times.

Things are different now, I have to protect the one thing that I can’t live without. That’s you.

5 Major Issues I had with Iron Man 3

1. This entire film is just a series of disconnected set pieces. First, Tony’s in Switzerland, then back at his house in Malibu where he is attacked. He flies to Tennessee for a while then investigates a lead in Miami. Finally, the film ends with an enormous oil rig set piece off of some coast who knows where. It’s all very disjointed.

2. The villains in this movie are disappointing to say the least. Iron Man 3 absolutely ruins The Mandarin. Ben Kinglsey does his usual great work with the character but the choices the screenwriters make kill off all the momentum built in the first act of the movie. Guy Pearce does an ok job with an evil scientist type but just becomes silly towards the end of the film. The most important aspect of a comic book movie is the villain and Iron Man 3 swings and misses.

This guy? Not as scary as you might think

3. The effects of Extremis look really stupid. A popular story arc from the comics, Exremis is a “super soldier solution that hacks the brain, rewriting the blueprint of it’s repair center to heal injuries.” Obviously. Probably a cool concept in the comics, it doesn’t translate to the screen here at all. Glowing red and breathing fire makes for lame evil powers.

4. Gwyneth Paltrow is terrible. It’s clear she has never seen a comic book in her life and has no idea how to play this character without being a one dimensional target for Tony to interact with and occassioanlly hinder plot advancement. There was actually a scene at the end of the movie involving Pepper Potts that made me cheer, but unfortunately didn’t play out as I wanted.

Gwyneth Paltrow, trying to act in a comic book movie

5. This film really tries to shoehorn how the events from the Avengers are affecting Tony. He has random panic attacks at the mere mention of the words “New York” and complains about his psyche and his sleeplessness. Hey Tony? Not a great time for some post traumatic stress disorder. This is a comic book movie, it shouldn’t be necessary to convey realistic psychological shortcomings on a hero who flies around in a super charged iron suit.

Tony’s suit, as empty as his heart

I had a fun enough time with the movie, but I didn’t care for a lot of the creative choices. There are some funny moments and some decent enough action sequences, but the film as a whole is a pretty big disappointment.

I’m Tony Stark. I build neat stuff, got a great girl, occasionally save the world. So why can’t I sleep?

FilmFire review:
2.75/5 forms

Full of great performances, and, sometimes, is amazingly compelling.
-Willie Waffle,

an R-rated, steroid-fueled Looney Tunes cartoon
-Pete Hammond, 7M Pictures

This is the first movie directed by Michael Bay to not feature giant killer robots since 2005’s The Island. In fact, Pain & Gain is so different from Bay’s recent work that it has a total of just one explosion. Even though it still suffers from the disease of Cool Guys Don’t Look At Explosions, it’s probably a new personal record for him.

My name is Daniel Lugo, and I believe in fitness. All this began because it was time to push myself harder, otherwise I was looking at another forty years wearing sweatpants to work

If we are to believe the tagline, Pain & Gain isn’t just based on a true story, it IS a true story. That’s most likely a huge exaggeration but the movie is a lot of fun regardless. Castoonishly violent and mean-spirited, none of the brutality is taken too seriously here. It’s essentially a really slick and dark comedy about bad people doing bad things to other bad people in Miami.

No, man! We snatch him, we grab him, forge his signature, and our profit’s set! He won’t even know it happened! I’ve watched a lot of movies, I know what I’m doing…

Easily the smallest-scale film of Bay’s career, Pain & Gain doesn’t lack his typical sleazy style and expensive film-making technique. Still enamored with slow motion, Bay uses it to great comedic effect here, often hovering uncomfortably long on gnarled facial expressions or random scenes of brutal violence. Another one of Bay’s signature moves is to let the camera linger on pretty things like the excesses of luxury or beautifully toned bodies. As one can imagine, he has an absolute field day with a movie about body builders set on Miami Beach.

Nothing too consequential, Pain & Gain offers quite a few laughs and some decent action sequences. Michael Bay has a great eye for these types of films and it’s good to see him temporarily move on from the Transformers franchise. With a runtime of 2 hours and 10 minutes, it is on the long side and eventually becomes tiresome but if action movies are your thing, it’s worth a watch.

I’m hot! I’m big! Oh no! NO!

FilmFire review:
3.5/5 forms

A terrific supporting cast, especially the non A-list actors, make the dramatic license taken justified and redeem Affleck for miscasting himself in the hero’s role.
-Bruce Bennett, Mad About Movies

Let’s face it, Ben Affleck is a better director than an actor. Argo is an amazing story hindered only by the lead actor’s performance, and it’s a shame because casting a different actor could have brought much more to the role.

Let’s weigh the pros and cons of Argo :


  • A large supporting cast that is excellent
    Bryan Cranston. Alan Arkin. John Goodman. Victor Garber. Kyle Chandler. Zeljko Ivanek. Titus Welliver. Richard Kind.
    All these actors round out the supporting cast and really elevate the believability of the events on screen.
  • Very tight editing
    From scene to scene, Argo never misses a beat. Every shot has a purpose and the film flows nicely, never allowing the audience to lose interest. The tension is at a perfect level throughout and does a great job keeping one invested in the events that play out.
  • Jack O’Donnell: They’ve got revolutionary guards going door to door. These people die, they die badly.

  • An intense and horrifying opening sequence
    To kick this movie off, Iranian citizens overthrow the U.S. Embassy in a violent and brutal manner. It is a heart-stopping scene of terrorism and very effective at setting up the crisis that plays out during the rest of the film.
  • It successfully depicts a historical event while satirizing Hollywood
    Argo maintains a humorous almost light-hearted take on the Hollywood system while the serious events of the main plot are taking place. And it manages to take nothing away from the grimness and severity of the situation, which adds a nice light undertone to the film. Also, it takes a pretty big shot at the legitimacy of film journalism.


  • Ben Affleck isn’t a good actor and is miscast. That’s it. Everything else about this movie is great.

FilmFire review:
4/5 forms

For all its good intentions and spurts of innovation, it never really comes alive as living, breathing history. Instead, it too often plays like an audio reading of the Congressional Record, with some unwieldy domestic scenes tossed in for good measure.
-Matt Brunson , Creative Loafing

I was disappointed with Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln. After last year’s very mediocre and overly sappyWar Horse, I expected somewhat of a comeback film for Spielberg and I had been anticipating Lincoln greatly. Then the awful trailer was released and I lost a lot of interest. The film is fine if expectations are kept low, but don’t expect a monumental piece of film-making that changes the way history is viewed.

Here is the basic outline of the story: politicians on opposing sides of the aisle argue vehemently over some topic and are so divided there is no hope for any resolution. Enter Abraham Lincoln who proceeds to tell a whimsical story that relates to the issue at hand that makes everyone laugh and smile and forget their differences. Rinse and repeat until the movie’s over.

I wasn’t enamored with Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance as Lincoln, it was played very low key and I didn’t feel it had enough gravitas for a movie centered around this character. Strangely, I think Lincoln himelself was probably my least favorite character in the movie. Tommy Lee Jones actually has the best scenes in the film, playing outspoken House representative Thaddeus Stevens:

Thaddeus Stevens: How can I hold that all men are created equal when here before me stands stinking the moral carcass of the gentleman from Ohio? Proof that some men are inferior. Endowed by their maker with dim wits, impermeable to reason, with cold pallid slime in their veins instead of hot red blood. You are more reptile than man George, so low and flat that the foot of man is incapable of crushing you.

The scenes of courtroom-esque drama and political maneuvering are done well and are very entertaining, but Spielberg for some reason tries to shoehorn terribly done family drama into the narrative that just doesn’t work at all. Joseph Gordon-Levitt shows up out of nowhere as Lincoln’s son Robert in a poorly executed plot that goes nowhere. Sally Field does great work as Mary Todd but she is given virtually nothing to do other than whine and cry about the war.

There is probably enough historically interesting about Lincoln to warrant a watch but it is a definite disappointment. The politics are a lot of fun but that’s about it.

FilmFire review:
2.75/5 forms

“Skyfall” is a different kind of Bond movie, one that works just fine on its own terms, but a steady diet of this might kill the franchise. One “Skyfall” is enough.
-Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

The new 007 adventure reaches for the sky but falls short. This does not prevent Skyfall from being a good Bond film, but it does flatten the film’s higher aspiration – which is to be more than just a good Bond film.
-Steve Biodrowski, Cinefantastique

Skyfall is a film about James Bond going back to his roots, of sorts. The success of which is open to interpretation. Avoiding some sort of wide-scale crisis for Bond to solve, this film is very self contained, attempting to paint a more intimate portrait of 007 and just what makes him tick. The result is a moodier and slightly darker version of Bond as a character, which is interesting to a point but doesn’t do the screenplay many favors.

James Bond

Youth is not a guarantee of innovation.

Bond: 007 reporting for duty.
M: Where the hell have you been?
Bond: Enjoying death.

Bond: Everyone needs a hobby…
Silva: So what’s yours?
Bond: Resurrection.

Javier Bardem, continuing his run of playing crazy evil villains with bad haircuts, plays Raoul Silva, a disgruntled former member of MI6 who has it out for agency head, M. The story is triggered when Silva steals a hard drive full of agents names and aliases (think the noclist from the first Mission: Impossible film) to use as bait. Bond is tasked with finding the hard drive and saving the day, as he usually is.

In terms of the Bond Villain, Bardem should receive some Oscar consideration for his role as Silva. It was that good. He doesn’t show up until maybe a third of way through the film, which is effective for the slow burn type of build up to his reveal in a fantastic one-on-one scene with Bond. Parts of the character’s back story are absolutely chilling and Bardem makes the most of it.

This is one creepy bad guy
Raoul Silva

She sent you after me, knowing you’re not ready, knowing you would likely die. Mommy was very bad.

Life clung to me like a disease.

We are the two rats left. We can either eat each other…or eat everyone else.

This all sounds like a great setup for a typical action flick, but instead Skyfall almost turns into a James Bond character study:

  • Is he getting too old to be a spy?
  • Does he still have what it takes?
  • What was his childhood like?
  • What happened to his parents?
  • How does he really feel about M?
  • Just what is Skyfall and why is it the title of this movie?

Interesting, sure, but is that what we want in our escapist action films? Very light on action until a semi-ridiculous final set piece over does it a bit, Skyfall could have used a bit more fun throughout. It also loses points for the awkward way it name drops a few classic characters in the final moments to set up future installments.

Although leagues more entertaining/satisfying than any of the Pierce Brosnan series of Bond films, Skyfall doesn’t quite live up to the hype. It aims for a darker and more introspective version of Bond that doesn’t completely work. But there is some fun to be had (a fantastic villain, great secondary characters, gorgeously shot photography) and it’s definitely worth checking out.

FilmFire review:
3.25/5 forms

The movie’s subversive sensibility and old-school/new-school feel are a total kick.
-Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times

It’s impossible not to feel a strong sense of nostalgic amusement, if not sheer delight, at the comings and goings of all these characters.
-Dave McGinn, Globe and Mail

Wreck-It Ralph tells the story of how one video game villain became fed up with being the bad guy and quit his job. Fix-It Felix Jr. (presumably a take on the retro Donkey Kong Jr. arcade game) is the game that Ralph calls home, where his job is to “wreck” a skyscraper whenever a quarter is played in the machine. When Ralph realizes the characters of the game don’t like or appreciate him, he decides to quit and embarks on an unfamiliar journey.

Having the potential to be a truly different kind of animated film, after this initial setup, there isn’t a whole lot of new ground broken. A very unique beginning to the story kind of turns into a series of sugar coated (literally) takes on bullying, greed, acceptance, jealousy and other tropes that we have become somewhat accustomed to in animation from everyone not named Pixar.

Ralph: It’s hard to love your job, when no one else seems to like you for doing it…

Although gorgeously animated with top-notch voice acting (John C. Reilly was born to play the voice of Ralph), Wreck-It Ralph fails to break out and live up to it’s potential, instead relying on playing it safe after the first act and sticking to a very traditional story line.

There isn’t a whole lot more I have to say about Wreck-It Ralph, it’s an above average animated movie but really doesn’t hold a candle to the recent offerings of Pixar. It’s worth checking out if only for the beautiful job on the animation as well as the gallery of really cool retro video game characters (see above) that make appearances throughout.

FilmFire review:
3.5/5 forms

The script is episodic by nature as it blurs fantasy and reality, with some vignettes more amusing or compelling than others.
-Todd Jorgenson, Cinemalogue

Engagingly off-centre, like Charlie Kaufman taking down Quentin Tarantino, this sunbaked shaggy-dog story is a place-holder film for McDonagh, and often closer to chaos than it is to genius.
-Matt Glasby, Total Film

I give Seven Psychopaths a lot of credit for being a truly original film in a time where sequels, prequels and reboots have completely taken over. Not really following any sort of typical narrative structure, this dark comedy by playwright/filmmaker Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) bounces us around a series of beautiful “SoCal” locations not typically seen on film. Constantly flying in and out of fantasy and reality, the narrative is at times difficult to keep up with and doesn’t exactly mesh into a satisfying whole by the films final set piece.

As far as plot goes, Colin Farrell plays Martin, a struggling screenwriter who hangs around with his best friend and dog kidnapper, Billy (Sam Rockwell). When Billy and partner Hans (Christopher Walken) unknowingly kidnap the beloved dog of a gangster (Woody Harrelson), Martin becomes mixed up in a scheme that just may be the inspiration to his screenplay he has been waiting for.

Although not exactly laugh out loud funny, Seven Psychopaths has some of the wittiest and most intelligent dialogue I’ve heard in a film in quite some time. It is a great time just listening to Walken and Rockwell talk circles around each other as an exasperated Farrell listens on. Speaking of Walken, he plays such a lunatic in this movie it’s almost as if he’s doing his own take on a Christopher Walken impression. I find myself liking Farrell’s work a lot more lately, and this may be my favorite performance of his so far, equal parts alcoholic beachbum and straight man to the rest of the cast. And of course Woody is great as always, playing the ultra violent but equally patheic gangster, Charlie.

As fantastic as the cast is, the real gem of this film is Sam Rockwell’s Billy. Rockwell brings a real heart to what could have been a completely one dimensional character and it really adds depth to the movie, in more ways than one. Billy gives a monologue towards the climax of the film that is a real showcase for how great of an actor Rockwell can be. Here’s a peek at the type of dialogue you can expect from Billy:

Hans: As Gandhi said…’An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind’. I believe that whole heartedly.

Billy: No it doesn’t. There’ll be one guy left with one eye. How’s the last blind guy going to take out the eye of the last guy left whose still got one eye left? All that guy has to do is run away and hide behind a bush. Ghandi was wrong. It’s just that nobody’s got the balls to come out and say it.

This movie starts out fantastic and has some real momentum for about the first 2/3’s of the film. The final act, however, takes place almost entirely in a desert and parts of it slow down significantly. The flow of some of the plot elements essentially come to a standstill and the film loses itself narratively a bit, with an almost anti-climactic ending and final few scenes.

Seven Psychopaths is nothing if not unique and I can really appreciate the complete originality it brings to the table. Although it stumbles a bit towards the end, it is a very entertaining time at the movies and worth checking out.

FilmFire review:
3.25/5 forms