MEEK AT THE MOVIES : “AFTER EARTH” FAILS THE TEST — 1 STAR

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Sure, I like Will Smith. I do. Still, I can’t say I am liking his choice of films as of late. Sure, the upcoming “Winter Tale” has a ton of fire power to it, but purportedly, Mr. Smith turned down the role of Django because he felt the role wasn’t a lead. Then there’s that rumored remake of “The Wild Bunch” that has the Peckinpah faithful hearing fingernails on the chalkboard. Now comes this ill-advised project with M. Night Shyamalan, who’s made exactly one quality film, a few intriguing follow ups and done a disastrous slide ever since.
If you’re wondering why the actor, who holds an obvious penchant for sci-fi, would jump into water with a man on his last breath, the answer is likely “his son.” “After Earth” is not a Will Smith movie but a Jaden Smith movie. The young thespian held his own with Dad in…

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MEEK AT THE MOVIES : THIS IS THE END (rating : 3 ***)

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“This is the End” may be the most meta-vanity project ever to come out of Hollywood, where things meta usually don’t fly unless Charlie Kaufman is involved. The film co-written and co-directed by Seth Rogen has Rogen playing Seth Rogen — the asshole extrapolation of himself.  James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill and Danny McBride all do the same. Baruchel is the one out of towner visiting Rogen in Los Angeles. Baruchel despises LA and just wants to hangout and smoke weed and watch 3D TV, but Rogen pries him off the couch and drags him to a house party at Franco’s manse.
Pot humor and pop up party guests like Rihanna keep the slow moving premise (Baruchel also hates Hill and is a bit of whining wet noodle to boot) alive, though there are nuggets of WTF humor that snap you out of the stupor :…

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MEEK AT THE MOVIES : WORLD WAR Z ( Rating : 2 1/2 stars )

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Zombie apocalypse and anything vampire seems to be the hot ticket out of Hollywood these days. The subtext, that we prey on each other and that life is a precious and fragile thing, is a piquant notion that gets magnified to its fullest when examining how man comports himself as civilization crumbles.
Sans rules and with limited resources, what would you do? Snatch and grab, help out or hole up doomsday prepper style?
That’s the special sauce that makes any apocalypse-cum-horror flick grip the road. Real people, super natural horror, deep shit. George Romero’s seminal “Night of the Living Dead” was more about the dynamics and dissent amongst a band of survivors barricaded in a farm house than it was about the throng of shambling flesh scratching at the walls. Decades later, guys like Danny Boyle (“28 Days Later”) and Zack Snyder (the 2004 remake of Romero’s “Dawn of the…

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MEEK AT THE MOVIES : MAN OF STEEL ( Rating 2 ** )

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Zach Snyder’s always been big on bluster and pizazz but a bit lacking when it comes to the essentials of storytelling. Take “300” or “Sucker Punch,” which made for titillating trailers set to edgy, esoteric rock (Nine Inch Nails’ “Just as you Imagined” layered on clips of the Spartans battling Xerxes in “300” may be the greatest music video/movie trailer of all time); but when it came to holding an audience’s attention for 90 minutes, only fanboys and cultists who dug Gerard Butler’s CGI-enhanced abs and righteous barking, or Babydoll and her bustier-wearing ilk beating down misogynistic ogres, could go the distance – because that was all there was: alluring visuals and sound bites, sans the bite.

One major early steppingstone was his 2004 remake of George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead,” which featured an eclectic cast (Ving Rhames and Sarah Polley) and zombies that could run at full tilt…

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MEEK AT THE MOVIES : THE HEAT ( 2 1/2 **)

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“The Heat” is funnier than it should be. Part of that’s because director Paul Feig has a way of taking flimsy ideas and strong comedic actors and creating lightning in a bottle. He did it with Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig in “Bridesmaids” and does so again here. If there’s any doubt that it’s more the actors than Feig, I’ll simply point to McCarthy’s recent woeful outing in “Identity Theft.” It’s not so much what he does with the material but the chemistry he educes between his stars and how they build something infectious from thin setups.
The premise behind “The Heat,” which was shot in in our glorious city of Boston — though it doesn’t look so much like the Boston that you and I know — is pretty much the same old comedic cop-buddy story that was popularized by Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte in “48hrs,” and, later…

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MEEK AT THE MOVIES : THE WAY, WAY BACK ( 2.5 stars)

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“The Way, Way Back” is the kind of summer comedy that throws enough curve balls at you to make what’s old, new again. A tad dark around the edges and sophomoric in the middle, it’s a sweetly affecting coming of age drama with flourishes of Wes Anderson and even the Farrelly brothers: which should be as no surprise, as it’s co-written and co-directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, the pair, who along with (director) Alexander Payne, received an Oscar for penning the effectively droll George Clooney comedy, “The Descendants.”

The surprise here is Steve Carell who plays against his usual big screen persona as a feckless nice guy and is more like his irritable jerkwater boss on the NBC’s hit series “The Office.” His Trent, a middle-aged divorcee, decides to bring his new girlfriend Pam (Toni Collette) down to his summer house on the shore of some idyllic and…

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MEEK AT THE MOVIES : PACIFIC RIM ( 3 stars )

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With Guillermo del Toro’s 3-D visual artistry and the care he’s imbued into every frame of this spectacular homage to the Japanese rubber-suit movies of the ’60s and ‘70s – not to mention a ready and salivating fan-boy base – “Pacific Rim” is a $185 million monster mayhem royale that has a fighting chance of winning at the box office and in the hearts of moviegoers.

Del Toro has always been an intricate craftsman. The signs were evident in his quirky first outing, “Cronos” and best showcased in his Spanish Civil War-era films “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “The Devil’s Backbone.” His ventures into larger, more mainstream projects such as “Mimic” never took flight or, like “Hellboy” and its sequel, never forged an audience the way less articulate hero fare such as “The Avengers” have – truly the audience’s loss. This time, though, the Mexican-born auteur with a penchant for horror and…

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MEEK AT THE MOVIES : ONLY GOD FORGIVES ( Rating ; 2.5 stars )

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( photo courtesy aceshowbiz.com )
Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling team up for their second bloody go round after finding success and lauds for their 2011 car chase noir “Drive.” The teaming of the pair is a good one, a director with a hyper-stylized eye and a penchant for flourishes of quick bloody violence that would make Sam Peckinpah nod in appreciation; and a laconic actor, enigmatic and bristling, a brooding baby-faced brute if you will, capable of unspeakable savagery.

In “Drive,” the story was rooted in a true anti-hero, who comes to the aid of the hapless family next door. A simple set-up that plyed the darkest recesses of the black and white spectrum. Here though, there’s no true right and just corner, as those who seemingly mete out justice by disemboweling others later prove to be morally ambiguous and as the page turns, perhaps even the face…

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MEEK AT THE MOVIES —- The Hunt (2.5 STARS)

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If you’ve seen Sam Peckinpah’s masterfully macabre “Straw Dogs” (let’s all please agree to forget the far inferior recent remake) then you’re already up to speed on what happens in “The Hunt” : quiet European hamlet; a mindful and reserved intellect with a complex past; slow constant simmer; sexual tension; strong reactions based on false assumptions; and a gentlemanly hunt in the woods serving as a ruse for a deeper more perverse game at hand.

Though the arc, ambiance and elements of the two films bear many acute similarities, the context and articulation could not be further apart. Mads Mikkelsen — whom most US viewers know as Hannibal in the self-titled NBC TV series, or as the European bad-ass who bashed in Bond’s balls in “Casino Royale” — plays Lucas, a quiet man trying to gain some degree of custody of his teen son in the aftermath of a bitter…

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MEEK AT THE MOVIES : THE WOLVERINE ( 2.5 STARS )

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^ Hugh Jackman as The Wolverine in film of same name

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The Wolverine onscreen always was the more intriguing of the X-Men lot. As an enigmatic outsider with a tortured past and tacit persona, he had character and depth, something few of the skimpily sketched circus anomalies in Dr. Xavier’s menagerie could offer. If you draped a poncho across his back and put a six shooter in his hand he’d not be unlike a young Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone’s ‘Man with No Name’ trilogy. And now that I come to think of it, the man who plays Logan, (a.k.a the Wolverine), Hugh Jackman, and Eastwood, if of a similar age, look and sound somewhat alike. I’m not sure if their politics or tastes in furniture are akin, but that’s beside the point.

Given the “cool” factor, it’s no surprise that the immortal mutant with a metal reinforced…

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