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‘CREED II’ a Heartfelt but Inferior Second Round  

The Cold War didn’t officially end until the early-90s with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and in that 40-odd years of looming nuclear holocaust, many a film has used this intercontentional tension to deliver quality motion pictures – see Dr. Strangelove, The Hunt for Red October, and The Lives of Others. And – of course – Rocky IV. In light of Trump’s presidential-defining ties to Russian interference and a newly ignited political rivalry with Putin’s Russia, the idea of a Creed sequel that played off USA/Russian relations seemed not only narratively apt but also incredibly timely; a fine point of entry for any inevitable sequel and one that could have more on its mind than a couple of meatheads whacking at each other for two-ish hours. Instead the movie is just a couple of meatheads whacking at each other for two-ish hours. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘BLACK PANTHER’

Heavy hangs the crown in Black Panther, a Marvel movie whose real-life cultural and societal implications overshadow its storytelling prowess. The import and impact of Black Panther as a chapter in film history cannot be overstated. Although this isn’t Hollywood’s first attempt to turn a historically black superhero into the main event, headlining their own tentpole film – consider Wesley Snipes run as the vampire-hunter Blade, Halle Berry’s turn as Catwoman, Will Smith’s alcoholic anti-hero Hancock or even Shaquille O’Neal’s turn as Steel – this feels like a first in part because of how much effort has been poured into its making and, more importantly, how readily it embraces its fundamental blackness, from its colorful African settings to its tribally-influenced makeup, hairstyle, and costumes to its predominately black cast and crew, a verifiable assemblage of talent that’ll turn even the most skeptical of heads. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘CREED’

The Rocky series has a long and storied history that I will cautiously admit that I’m not too familiar with. I know Dolph Lundgren played a Russian adversary at the height of the Gorbachev-era Cold War. Sylvester Stallone’s wolf-like howl for Adrian after his first heavy-weight fight is as burned into my eardrums as Marlon Brando’s wailing “Stella!!!” in the sleepy French Quarter streets. The poster-worthy shot of Rocky’s fists pumped victorious above his head atop the Philadelphia Museum of Arts stairs (today known as the “Rocky Steps”) is as iconic to me as Sgt. Elias’ Hail Mary death throes in Platoon. I know the name Apollo Creed and have a vague recollection of his relative importance within the Rocky franchise but I couldn’t tell you much aside from the fact that he was played by Carl Weathers at the height of his beefiness and that he died in the ring. That is to say, I know the iconography of Rocky, but very little else. Read More

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Out in Theaters: FANTASTIC FOUR

My feelings for Fox’s rebooted Fantastic Four property, much like the film itself, are all over the place. With director Josh Trank squaring the focus on the men and women (or, in this case, boys and girls) behind the powers, Fantastic Four had the opportunity to be, at the very least,  something different from the crop of annual superhero movies, those with their quick quips and even quicker action beats hogging the entirety of the run time. If they got it right, you leave the theater wide-eyed and sugar rushing, “When’s the next one?” Fantastic Four is not that movie…until it is. And then it tries so hard to be just that that it ends up cutting its nose to spite its face. Read More

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FANTASTIC FOUR Reboot Casts Four Rising Stars

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Castings for the upcoming 2015 FOX-produced reboot Fantastic Four were released Friday last week and look very promising. Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller are teaming up again after their recent collaboration in Tom Gormican‘s misogynistic mess That Awkward MomentFortunately for Fantastic Four fans and moviegoers alike, Teller and Jordan were just hyper-talented victims of Gormican’s hyper-awful script. 

 
Joining them are Kate Mara (127 Hours) and British actor Jamie Bell (Billy ElliotJane Eyre). This reboot also represents a reunion for Jordan, Mara and director Josh Trank, who worked together on 2010 UK success Chronicle
 
Jordan, who has been burning his way into the public eye as of late, will play “The Human Torch” while Teller will have to flex his acting muscles as the elastic “Mr. Fantastic.” Bell will do a lot of CGI work as “The Thing,” and it remains to be seen how his plié and coup-de-pied work  in Billy Elliot will carry over in his portrayal of the orange rock-man. Mara, the oldest main casting at 30 years old, will try not to be too invisible as “Sue Storm.”
 
This latest announcement comes on the heels of Marvel’s first trailer release for Guardians of the Galaxy last week, as Marvel is loading their plate for the upcoming year. The Fantastic Four‘s cast of young actors represents a much different direction and tone for the series than the original Jessica Alba and Chris Evans-led F4 series. The cast is notably younger than the 2005 cast, continuing Marvel’s recent trend in shifting to a youthful, less serious, more dynamic culture, as seen in recent reboots like The Amazing Spiderman and X-Men: First Class or in more unconventional billings like the aforementioned Guardians of the Galaxy.
 
Things are looking good for the comic world and 2015 looks to be action-packed with Age of UltronAnt-Man and now The Fantastic Four all billed for release.

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Out in Theaters: THAT AWKWARD MOMENT

“That Awkward Moment”
Directed by Tom Gormican
Starring Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller, Imogen Poots, Mackenzie Davis, Jessica Lucas
Comedy, Romance
94 Mins
R

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A butt ugly rom-com masquerading as a dude’s night out, That Awkward Moment sees women fawning over tools and douchebags for their tooliness and douchebaggery. After all, ain’t women just the dumbest?!

This farce of a comedy is so tone deaf to the complex intricacies of gender that it’s so ruthlessly trying to break down that audiences on either side of the genitalia fence will find themselves scoffing in affronted disbelief. I mean, this is a movie that presumes that all guys live for the next one night stand and find commitment on the same level as getting capped in the knee. Women, no matter how beautiful and talented, on the other hand find themselves lucky just to be in the presence of these idols of douche. No matter how many times their needs are forgotten, ignored or actively trampled, they’ll always come running back because… guys are hot. AMIRIGHT?

After stunning breakout performances last year, it’s a certifiable shame to see Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan’s considerable talent put to absolute waste in this turd sandwich of a film. Teller manages to slide in the only few chuckles but even his jesting persona is overcast with a torrent of sleaze, the main ingredient this film has served up. Even though he’s the only one actually committing here, Michael B. Jordan might as well have been phased in from another brand of C-grade rom-com as his super-sized cheesy, level 11 cliché romantic subplot butts heads with the should-be elbow nudging plot line going on with the other fellas.

This rehashed bro dramedy, or bramedy, is at it’s core a collection of defunct disparate pieces blended together in a distasteful stock of familiar genre truisms. There’s the heavily muscled front man (Efron), a chick-bangin’ machine who drinks whiskey and dresses like every day is a frat party; the wingman best friend (Teller), another go-getter of epic lady-scoring potential; and the heartbroken third (Jordan) trying to get the wind back beneath his cuckolded wings.

Efron’s leading lady and central foil, Imogen Poots, though undeniably adorable, is as intellectually and emotionally stagnant as the picture itself. But let’s give credit where credit is due, she is gorgeous. Even beyond that orbit of eye makeup, she is simply stunning. Unfortunately for her, her looks can only carry her so far and when her performance isn’t even able to keep her American accent in check, there’s signs of a serious breakdown. She plays cute fine but I’m not convinced she’s trying. It’s one thing to be natural, it’s quite another to just stand in front of a camera acting like yourself and riding into the sunset on your looks.

Speaking of capitalizing in the old looks department, Zac Efron here has the depth of a hair gel commercial. Arrogant, dimwitted and cocky, with a bad and flagrantly sexist attitude to boot, Efron’s brand of bro ho is the epitome of how Americans ought not self-represent. That Awkward Moment tells us early on that this is the generation lead by the selfish. It then goes on to cram that point down our throats for the next grueling 95 minutes. No one is more of a shining beacon of selfish oaf than Efron. And though he’s not to blame for the heinously unpleasant script (that comes courtesy of debut director Tom Gormican) he fails to bring an ounce of humanity to the picture. Frankly, I could never see him on the screen again and be all the happier for it. Unlike his co-stars, Efron is a dying star; he’s burned bright and will soon fizzle out.

Hateful and misogynist dreck that The Awkward Moment is all just boils down to a less clever modern retelling of Josh Harnett‘s 40 Days and 40 Nights, tone deaf to how distasteful its message is and blind to the unblinking plagiarism of a thousand different rom coms. Basically devoid of comedy, this is a strange beast that really has no audience and chastises the audience it does have. While comedies tend to be more male-centric and rom-coms most certainly female-centric, this is a film that guys will find repugnant and girls will be insulted by. It must be hoping to find its audience amongst the pea-brained and unscrupulous. As for the title, I’m not sure exactly which awkward moment the film is referring to as there were so many jokes left hanging in the air, waiting for the other shoe to drop, that the whole affair is one long, half-wincing awkward moment. At least they hit the nail on the head somewhere.

D

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