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Capsule Thoughts: Recent 2015 Releases

Updated on November 6, 2015
I had the same reaction watching this movie! :P
I had the same reaction watching this movie! :P

Director: Paul Tibbit
Cast: Antonio Banderas Voice Acting: Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Jill Talley, Mr. Lawrence, Clancy Brown, Carolyn Lawrence, Dee Bradley Baker

I'm going to be honest with you: I love Spongebob Squarepants. I love the TV show; I love the first feature length movie they made back in 2004; and more to the point, I love Spongebob Squarepants: Sponge Out of Water. It's such a wacky and cheerful experience that I found myself smiling from the first frame to the last. The story this time involves Spongebob (Tom Kenny) and his friends trying to get back the Krabby Patty formula after it's stolen by a fiendish pirate (Antonio Banderas) with a magical book. It's a straight-forward premise that's given an admittedly cluttered treatment, as the movie throws in everything from time travel to super magical space dolphins to boxing skeletons to Spongebob getting framed for helping Plankton (Mr. Lawrence) to steal the Krabby Patty formula (the two of them actually team up to clear their good names). Did I forget to mention that everyone in Bikini Bottom goes insane after the formula is stolen? Yes, there's a lot going on in this movie, but that's just one of its charms. You don't know where the movie's going, but it's always delightful to see where it goes to next. The climax of the movie -- which involves Spongebob and his friends battling the evil pirate on land -- is a rollicking treat, but the film's best scene happens early on, when Plankton and the Krusty Krab crew (and Patrick Star) engage in a hilariously creative food fight. Funny and beautifully animated to boot, Spongebob Squarepants: Sponge Out of Water is a treat for the show's young and old fans, and just a good ol' time at the theaters. I can't wait to see it again.

Rated PG for some rude humor

Final Grade: *** ½ (out of ****)

He's so adorable! :D
He's so adorable! :D

Director: Paul King
Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Nicole Kidman, Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin Voice Acting: Ben Whishah, Imelda Staunton, and Michael Gambon

When it was announced that Paddington's release date was being moved from December to January, I had my doubts. The month of January is considered a cinematic dumping ground, and usually, most films with a January release date are either mediocre or just plain awful. What a delightful surprise Paddington turned out to be. Based on the series of books written by Michael Bond (the first of which was published back in 1958), the title refers to a friendly, marmalade-loving, talking bear (played to perfection by Ben Whishah) from darkest Peru. After a terrible earthquake destroys his home, the young bear's aunt (Imelda Staunton) sneaks him onto a ship headed for London in hopes that he will find a family to take him in. Not too long after his arrival, he is found in Paddington Station by the dysfunctional Brown family (Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin ), who offer him a temporary place to stay. Nicole Kidman seems to be having the time of her life as the villainess of the piece, a taxidermist who has her own personal reasons for wanting to stuff and display Paddington. Directed with illimitable energy and creativity by Paul King (just watch how he introduces the Brown family by using an old doll house; it's quite brilliant), the movie is both fast paced and tightly-structured, and features a number of very amusing moments of slapstick comedy (such as the scene where Paddington inadvertently floods the Brown family's bathroom). More than that, Paddington offers the audience such a warm and feel-good experience that it's downright impossible to dislike it. If there are any parents who don't feel comfortable taking their kids to see the new Spongebob movie, this is a nice alternative.

Rated PG for nothing objectionable that I recall

Final Grade: *** (out of ****)

Meh. :/
Meh. :/

Director: David Burris
Cast: Jeremy Irvine, Noah Wyle, Steve Earle, Minka Kelly, Adelaide Clemens, Haley Joel Osment


Based on the novel by Ron Rash, The World Made Straight tells the story of a rebellious young man named Travis Shelton (Jeremy Irvine), who befriends an ex-teacher (Noah Wyle's Leonard Schuler) currently making a living by selling weed for a malicious pot farmer named Carlton Toomey (Steve Earle). The acting is certainly very good (Noah Wyle is especially strong as the friendly Leonard) and the movie is competently made (the cinematography by Tim Orr is incredibly beautiful at times), but the movie is so cluttered and unfocused that it's hard to tell what it's supposed to be about. Into this story, screenwriter Shane Danielson adds in a romantic subplot between Travis and a kind young nurse named Lori (Adelaide Clemens) that goes nowhere; another subplot involving Travis trying to earn his GED (which receives very little attention); another subplot involving Travis learning his family's history during the Civil War (and him harboring hatred for those who wronged his kin over 100 years ago); and yet another subplot involving Leonard's drug using girlfriend Dena (Minka Kelly), who gets into a world of trouble with Carlton later on in the movie. All of these elements may have played out more smoothly in the novel, but the movie feels unfocused and unevenly paced, and it reaches a conclusion that you'll be able to see coming well in advance. The World Made Straight isn't so much a bad movie as it is a flimsy and forgettable one.

Rated R for violence, drug content, language, some sexual references

Final Grade: ** ½ (out of ****)

Attractive teens in a stupid movie. What else is new?
Attractive teens in a stupid movie. What else is new?

Director: Dean Israelite
Cast: Jonny Weston, Sofia Black-D'Elia, Sam Lerner, Virginia Gardener, Allen Evangelista, Amy Landecker, Gary Weeks

What an annoying movie this is. Project Almanac takes a potentially very fun premise -- a group of (ahem) "intelligent" high school students build a time machine after discovering the blue prints for it -- and botches it in more ways than one. For starters, the decision to make this a "found-footage" movie was a mistake. Like most films of this genre, the camera work shakes so much that it's bound to induce nausea, and the movie is filled with scenes where the characters film themselves doing things that no one would ever film themselves doing (the scene where the kids steal hydrogen canisters from their school's storage room is a prime example of this). Some of the shots in the movie are also quite odd, such as when one young girl films her brother in a tight, low-angle shot as he's working on the time machine (What, was she planning to submit this footage to a film festival or something?) What's more, the movie tries to justify the whole found-footage approach with a twist in the end that makes absolutely no sense in retrospect (it involves the discovery of a second camera which, if you think about it, shouldn't even exist). The screenplay by Jason Harry Pagan and Andrew Deutschman seems to be making itself up as it plods along, and while the young cast is certainly likable and attractive, they're stuck playing one-dimensional and boring characters. The set-up is certainly promising (one of the kids sees his 17 year old self in a video of his seventh birthday), but the filmmakers don't seem to know where to go once the set-up has been established. The movie marks the directorial debut of Dean Israelite. Here's hoping he has better luck with his next movie.

Rated PG-13 for some profanity and sexual content

Final Grade: * ½ (out of ****)

Oh, Jeff Bridges. What were you thinking when you decided to star in this thing? :(
Oh, Jeff Bridges. What were you thinking when you decided to star in this thing? :(

Director: Sergey Bodrov
Cast:
Jeff Bridges, Ben Barnes, Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander, Djimon Honsou, Jason Scott Lee, Antje Traue, Olivia Williams

I love the medieval fantasy genre. I love stories about brave knights, beautiful damsels, good wizards, evil witches, fearsome dragons, four armed swordsmen, dwarves, elves, ogres, etc. I love reading books about them, and I especially love seeing movies about them. When a movie of the genre is done right, we get such gems like Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the underrated 1988 movie Willow. When it's done wrong, we get something like Seventh Son. Based on the novel The Spook's Apprentice by Joseph Delaney, Bridges stars as Master Gregory, a warrior sworn to protect the lands against the forces of evil (he's known as a "spook"). He recruits a young pig farmer named Tom Ward (Ben Barnes), the seventh son of a seventh son, to help him defeat the evil Mother Malkin before the rise of the blood moon (although I'm not entirely sure how he manages to find the young lad as quickly as he does). The movie's budget was said to be somewhere around $95 million dollars. I don't know what that money was spent on, but it certainly wasn't on the film's look. This is a dreary looking movie, with muddy sets and grimy costumes, and all of it is filmed as though the director fogged up the lens before every shot. To top it off, the acting is atrocious across the board, with Bridges turning in what is easily his worst performance to date (he speaks in a voice that sounds like a cross between his Rooster Cogburn from 2010s True Grit and Tom Hardy's Bane from The Dark Knight Rises; it's painful to listen to). Filled with contrived subplots (apparently, Gregory and Malkin were lovers at one time), an insanely unconvincing romantic subplot between Tom and Malkin's niece Alice (Alicia Vikander), pointless action scenes, and CGI effects that looks as though they didn't make it past the storyboard stage, Seventh Son is stupid, boring, and ugly as sin, and one of the very worst movies of 2015.

Rated PG-13 for violence and an unnecessary use of the "F" word

Final Grade: ½* (out of ****)

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