Movie Review

the campaign

When two comedic geniuses join forces, you know the product will be nothing short of amazing. The Campaign is a hilarious take on the political world, especially as this is an election year.

The comedy tells the story of a North Carolina Congressional election between two rivals: Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) and Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis). Although not an accurate depiction of an election process, the movie can be seen as a satire of sorts towards the way politics runs in the United States.

Cam Brady is a Democrat who believes he had a safe congressional seat with his unique slogan, “America. Jesus. Freedom.” Cam and his campaign manager, Mitch (Jason Sudeikis), are confident that he will receive the position as there is no one competing against him. This is where his rival Marty Huggins appears, a former tourism director and tour bus announcer.

There are numerous scenes that are just plain silly, but will have audiences laughing continuously anyways. Thus is the charm of Ferrell as he can make a fool out of himself, yet gain the respect of viewers for his comedic abilities. It’s a similar character type to his previous roles and has a striking resemblance to his George Bush impersonation he did so well while on Saturday Night Live. Galifianakis, on the other hand, plays a character unlike any he has ever portrayed before. His character demeanor by itself is extremely funny and makes The Campaign a movie worth watching.

A truly funny scene is when Marty asks his family at the dinner table if they have any secrets that could be used against him if found out during the campaign. The answers he receives are definitely unexpected and an iconic moment in the movie. The humor relies on crazy situations and odd characters, but if you are able to not take the movie’s political spin seriously, then you will truly enjoy this comedy.

Trust ME: If you’re a fan of Ferrell’s previous works like Anchorman, then The Campaign will become a favorite.

-Ivetta Babadjanian

celeste and jesse forever

Lately, romantic comedies all seem the same—No Strings Attached and Friends with Benefits being a clear example. Celeste and Jesse Forever is a film unlike any other. It’s a new kind of romantic comedy that avoids typical cliché scenarios and avoids a predictable ending. Moviegoers will feel like they’re peeking into a real relationship.

The movie introduces us to Celeste (Rashida Jones) and husband Jesse (Andy Samberg), who have been separated for six months, but their divorce has yet to be finalized. Unlike most separated couples, Celeste and Jesse remain close, leaving mutual friends feeling perplexed by their tight-knit relationship. The two genuinely care for one another and are constantly acting silly and making jokes. A sweet gesture of theirs is making a heart shape with their hands whenever one of them is leaving.

The couple is in a state of limbo as they aren’t moving on by seeing other people, yet their relationship remains platonic. Jesse makes the first step when he announces that he has a new girlfriend (Rebecca Dayan), which comes as a bit of a shock to Celeste.

The movie focuses mainly on Celeste’s point of view and how she deals with conflicting emotions of being happy for Jesse, while still resenting him. The film makes it clear, though, that no one is at fault for the relationship’s failures. Sometimes in life, the boy meets the girl and then loses her because things don’t always pan out.

Samberg gives a surprising performance in this film as he steers clear of his normally goofy self on Saturday Night Live. He is believable in his portrayal of a man who truly cares about his former love, but finds the means to move on. Jones and co-writer Will McCormack did what most romantic comedies nowadays neglect to do by delving into the deep and complicated emotions that come along with falling in love.

Samberg and Jones have genuine chemistry that will make the audience root for them to try and make their relationship work, although at times it seems like a separation should be the ideal plan of action. With laugh-out-loud scenes as well as scenes of heartbreak, Celeste and Jesse Forever is a definite must-watch this summer.

Tell ME: Will you be watching this movie?

Ivetta Babadjanian

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Dania Ramirez in "Premium Rush"

 

Just think of Premium Rush as a 90-minute public service announcement for helmets. Who knew a movie about bike messengers could be so intense? Hot off his starring role in The Dark Knight Rises with Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt keeps it high-energy as Wilee, the law school grad who would rather get hit by a bus (literally) than to suit up for a desk job every day. With his trusty bike— no gears, no brakes— he works hard as a bike messenger with his love interest Vanessa (Dania Ramirez

) and cocky nemesis Manny (Wole Parks), all for a few bucks a day. When Wilee gets a pick up order from Vanessa’s roommate, Nima (Jamie Chung) he ends up with more than he bargained for as and agressive detective, Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon), chases him throughout the city to get what is in that envelope.

Premium Rush is a simple story set within the complicated maze of New York City. It keeps you on your toes as the story operates on different timelines, they are welcome shifts to give your heart a break from the pounding intensity (They make a week of spin class seem easy!). Director David Koepp keeps you at the edge of your seat, twisting and turning as Gordon-Levitt makes his way through traffic lanes and contemplating bone-crushing alternate realities. The entire cast delivers high octane energy even a couple laughs. We recommend calling up your crush or cool guy friend, this is probably the only movie you both would enjoy seeing.

Whitney Houston and Jordin Sparks in "Sparkle"

Sparkle (Jordin Sparks) can sing, she has the look and the songwriting skills that Taylor Swift would envy, yet she hasn’t found her voice. Her life and the lives of her sisters change the instant she meets Stix (Derek Luke), but do they change for the better? The gorgeous Carmen Ejogo smoulders as Tammy, a.k.a “Sister,”  the sultry older sister and lead singer of Sparkle’s girl group, Sister and Her Sisters. Tika Sumpter brings life and strength to Dolores, the independent sister with her heart set on medical school. 

Set in the 1960s, “Sparkle” fills the screen with fun wigs, amazing fashion and a toe-tapping, organic music experience. Initially the plot appears cliché and shallow, but the film progresses with twists, turns and a climactic payoff. The peppered civil rights context comes across as an obligation rather than an issue tied to their identities and well-being. Perhaps this is because the writers didn’t want that tone to overpower the film, but the flashes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and dinner talk about riots seemed a bit disingenuous.
 
“Sparkle’s” high note is Jordin Sparks’ performance as she (eventually) transforms from a timid church mouse to the dazzling diva. Though this is Jordin’s theatrical debut, we don’t doubt her tenure on the Broadway smash “In the Heights” (and who knows, maybe those “American Idol” Ford commercials)  gave her a head start on her acting chops. The true commander of every scene is the legendary, late Whitney Houston who plays their mother, Emma. Her overbearing approach to parenting suffocates the sisters, yet Houston’s character knows the dangers of the music business and just wants to protect them. The quote “Was my life not enough of a cautionary tale for you?” used in the trailer and the film takes on a different meaning since Houston’s passing.  Nevertheless, the joy is in hearing her sing again. Even though her voice had a different texture to it, her belts and vocal runs exclaimed her trademark essence that is undeniably Whitney Houston. “Sparkle” delivers a range of emotions almost as impressive as Sparks’ range: Expect to chuckle, gasp, sigh and shed a tear or twelve. It’s a movie that has you cheering to the very end, hoping for an encore.

Katy Perry performing

What’s behind those whipped cream jets and equally sweet pop songs? “Katy Perry: Part of Me” gives us that chance to take a glimpse behind the scenes where true character is shown.

The 3-D concert documentary follows pop-sensation Katy Perry’s international tour for her 2010 album “Teenage Dream” and takes us along for an exciting ride. The movie is exhilarating as the camera follows Katy from behind the curtains to the moment she steps onto the stage in front of thousands of screaming fans.


During the movie, the audience is shown the transition of how the girl named Katheryn Hudson became the iconic woman, Katy Perry. Many will be surprised to hear of her religious upbringing as shots of a 5-year-old Katy performs various gospel songs. Even as a child Katy was charismatic and eager to step out of her boundaries at every chance she could. Her desire to perform was awakened when she would watch her Pentecostal dad deliver sermons in strip mall churches.

Katy was 13 when she first asked for a guitar and soon after began singing her own music in front of church groups. The 15-year-old Katy is unrecognizable with her blonde spiky hair, tomboy nature and her songs about Jesus. Her family, friends, mangers and Katy herself give commentary of the various stages in the pop star’s life and the difficulties she had to attain in order to become a success.

Even die-hard fans will learn more about Katy in this one movie than they could by researching her for hours via the Internet. She allows the camera to capture truly vulnerable moments in her life as stress increases and her marriage with comedian Russell Brand slowly crumbles. It gives the world the chance to understand the true aspects of fame without all its glitz and glamor.

The confident and sexy Katy Perry makes herself up to be a true role model as she refuses to allow Hollywood to change who she is and how she depicts herself. She pursued her dreams, despite being let down time and time again, and did so with humor and passion throughout the journey. “Thank you for believing in my weirdness,” Katy says to her fans. It is that weirdness we fell in love with when we first heard “I Kissed a Girl,” and it is that weirdness we will continue to enjoy as she spreads happiness through her music.

—Ivetta Babadjanian

abraham lincoln vampire hunter

Author, and now screenwriter, Seth Grahame-Smith, is well-known for his odd mashups of horror with classical tales such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and the newly released Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is no different.

The movie does stay true to certain aspects of our 16th president’s life—excluding the killing of fictitious creatures—and history buffs won’t cringe as the historical facts of Lincoln are still intact.

Benjamin Walker manages to play a very solemn president as he tries to avenge the death of his mother, which was caused by none other than a vampire, Jack Barts (Marton Csokas). The film revolves around Lincoln’s secret diary that includes his political and supernatural encounters. Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper) trains the president and teaches him the ways of a vampire hunter as well as showing off some impressive axe wielding. As Lincoln becomes skilled in the art of slaying, he becomes an abolitionist when he learns that slaves are being used as a source of food in the South by vampires. Thus, the Civil War begins.

This movie takes itself extremely seriously and makes it difficult for the audience to engage in the movie as it isn’t scary enough to be a horror film, and its serious ambiance won’t let you get a laugh in either. The fight scenes, however, are well-choreographed and may be the high point of this film.

It seems director Timur Bekmambetov is trying so hard to create a horror flick that he forgets to allow a pause between the vampire killings in order to connect with the characters and make them well-rounded instead of one-dimensional. The emotional factor is missing in this movie, disallowing the audience a reason to care about Lincoln or any of his comrades.

There are some impressive visual effects that will catch the audience’s eye, but the makeup and wigs for some of the characters were unrealistic, and simply tragic. If you can manage to take this movie’s plot seriously, and you don’t mind the lack of character development, then head to theaters to watch Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to get your fix of some presidential vampire slaying.

Ivetta Babadjanian

seeking a friend for the end of the world

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World opened on Friday and is a definite must-see. The film, written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, tells the story of how different people react in an apocalyptic scenario. The results range from the hilarious to the tragic, which leads to the following prompt:  A meteor is racing towards Earth and you have three weeks left to live. How do you choose to spend that time?
       
Steve Carell and Keira Knightley star as Dodge Petersen and Penny, strangers who have lived in the same apartment building for years and have only just decided to get to know each other. Penny, a free spirited and slightly unstable young woman, takes it upon herself to lead Dodge, a numb and lonely man with nothing but regrets, on a road trip, along with an abandoned dog named Sorry, to find his high school sweetheart, Olivia, before the end of the world, with the hopes that Dodge will return the favor and find a way to get to her family across the ocean.
       
It was refreshing to see Carell in this type of tranquil role. He certainly proved that he has the talent to portray a dramatic character as well as the comedic roles that made his career. However, it was Knightley’s breath-taking performance that will really move the viewers. Her acting was honest and soulful. She opened up to the audience in a way that really allowed for them to feel for her.
       
This film will intrigue audiences from the beginning. It takes a dramatic situation, like Armageddon, and gives it a dark humor and a truthful study. The end of the world has been the subject of a lot of talk recently, but this film takes a unique approach and gives almost a feeling of optimism to something quite terrifying. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World has nothing but heart and will make you leave the theatre seeing things a bit differently. Overall, it’s a very inspirational film that still somehow manages to be entertaining, a very rare feat to accomplish.

-Amy Lauren

chernobyl diaries

Chernobyl Diaries was released on Friday to less than thunderous applause.  The story follows six 20-somethings, the most well-known of which being Jesse McCartney, who are embarking on a great European adventure. While in Russia, they decide to give “extreme tourism” a try by exploring the abandoned town of Pripyat, where the families of the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor lived.

The basis of the film is historically accurate. The guide, Uri, played by Dimitri Diatchenko, explains to the other characters about the dangerous levels of radiation that forced immediate evacuation from the town of Pripyat in 1986. To add a little bit more of authenticity to the project, the movie was actually filmed in parts of Europe and on location in Pripyat, Russia.

However, that’s where the positive points come to an abrupt halt.The entire movie was painfully predictable, with the single exception of a random brown bear. Confused? Basically, if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the movie. It’s all fun and games until the cables to the van are cut and the naïve tourists are trapped with no cell phone service. What was that noise? I’ll go investigate! Cue the screams and hello there, victim number one. More will be joining you shortly.

This movie is basically like any other “we are not alone type of horror film,” just set in a different location. We got to see a lot of the town of Pripyat during the constant blind running of the protagonists who spent half of their time racing away and hiding from the mutant creatures that were after them, and the other half running towards them in order to make absolutely sure their friends were completely dead before leaving them behind.

Most of the dialogue consisted of “Oh, my God’s,” startled curses, crying, and screaming. The camera work was intentionally shaky, to give the effect that we, as audience members, are there with the actors on the screen in that situation. However, it produced more of a headache effect than anything else. There were, of course, the obligatory moments that caused viewers to jump, but that was mainly due to a spark in the music, because the mysteriously distorted beings that were hunting the group in Pripyat were never clearly displayed for the audience.

The one moment when these characters really caused emotions to stir was SPOILER ALERT when Jesse McCartney’s character, Chris, proposed to his girlfriend, Natalie, played by Olivia Taylor Dudley, in a moment of desperation about halfway through the film. He knew they weren’t going to make it to the end credits, so then was as good a time as any, right?

The ending of the film was a feeble attempt at a twist that anyone could see coming. If anything could have saved this film, a deeper development of the proposed conspiracy would have done the trick, but alas, that was just a burst of an actual story after 80 minutes of blandness. Maybe that’s the reasoning behind the short running time length—lack of a plot. Overall, Chernobyl Diaries isn’t a movie worth racing towards.

-Amy Lauren

prometheus

Fans of the Alien series and of director Ridley Scott eagerly awaited the release of sci-fi thriller, Prometheus. Fans will not be disappointed as this is Scott going back to his roots and creating a new world for us to explore.

The premise of the story goes like this: scientist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and boyfriend Dr. Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) set out on an expedition with their colleagues to answer the ultimate questions, who is our maker and why were we created? The movie is set during the end of the 21st Century as the characters venture out into space on the spaceship Prometheus to an alien planet to meet the creators of humankind.

 See the trailer here:


Along for the ride is David (Michael Fassbender), an android who seems friendly but as the story progresses we are constantly reminded that he is in fact not human and incapable of any range of emotion. Corporate head Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) overlooks the project and makes sure that everyone on board the spacecraft is doing their duties.

Visually, Scott did an impeccable job of creating a time period we have yet to experience and into a world we have never discovered. The movie starts off a bit slowly and gradually the suspense grows and grows until you’re cringing in your seat, expecting the unexpected. What made the movie so successful was the strong cast that was instated for each role. Theron is an amazing actress who plays an intimidating woman, as she did in Snow White and the Huntsman, and is able to create an authoritative character that demands control.

Fassbender stood out in his role as an android; he was able to replicate the idea that his character was human in body yet not in mind through his mannerisms and body language. Last but not least, Rapace proved her outstanding acting abilities time and time again in Prometheus. There are many scenes where she harnesses emotions out of the audience, be it fear, sadness, or triumph.

Overall, Prometheus is tied in certain ways to the Alien franchise, but creates a new life form from a past idea. This movie does require patience as the anticipation is slowly built throughout the first hour of the movie, but the last hour deems itself worthy of the wait. So if you’re a fan of Alien, or merely a fan of science fiction and thrillers, Prometheus is a fantastic experience that shouldn’t be missed.

Ivetta Babadjanian

The DictatorOh, Sacha Baron Cohen, how I applaud you for finding a way to make even the not so funny absolutely hilarious. The Dictator, Cohen’s third starring role, is not as funny as his breakout role Borat, but provided few laughs that were quite memorable.

Starring as a General Aladeen, dictator of the Republic of Wadiya, Sacha is forced into coming to America to make a speech at the United Nations regarding his nuclear weapons idea. While in the streets of New York City he goes through problems that ultimately leave him homeless and working to become the dictator again while working at a vegetarian café with leading lady Anna Faris. It’s quite entertaining to see what he goes through, as well as enjoying a funny cameo from a famous action movie actress.

His dry, crass humor can easily offend almost anyone, as he makes lewd, racist and sexist comments throughout the movie.  It’s definitely not something a parent would want their child to see, as a movie of this nature is one only an adult could find humorous and understand (hence the R rating).

As much as I loved Borat and cried watching Bruno, you can see that Cohen is trying much harder in this movie than the others.  With an unconvincing relationship with Ms. Faris and forced, scripted jokes, The Dictator falls short of its previous Oscar-nominated successor but is still worth the money to go see in theaters. Again, the older crowd will enjoy, but the little kids should stay at home and stick with Disney.

-Kairi Coe

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