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Monday, July 28, 2014

Inside the Bucket Podcast #24

This week's episode of Inside the Bucket is online! Revel in the digital mastery!

This week's edition of Inside the Bucketis filled with the magic voices of Matt and Brandon, as the two celebrate not having to witness the human misery that is San Diego Comc-Con 2014. Instead, the two bring you all the best news and reviews of films they've seen this week. They tackle comic and movie news from the Con, as well other items which can be found on our site SANDWICHJOHNFILMS.COM.

Later, they get into a Rants & Raves segment that includes 13 2013 films worth a second look, as well as a review of A MOST WANTED MAN, featuring Phillip Seymour Hoffman in his last starring role. After a discussion of the weekend's box office winners/losers, they review LUCY, starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman, and HERCULES, starring Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, and John Hurt. Please check out all the links to the stories we covered in today's podcast.

Finally, we welcome a Con-weary Zak Sousa as he shares his thoughts about his experiences during the week.

If you haven't had a chance to donate to the Kickstarter documentary The Nomadic Family, we hope you will do so today!

We hope you laugh as much as we do bringing the show to you. As always, thanks to everyone for your continued support, and we'll see you at one of our screenings.

Please make sure to check out our website SANDWICHJOHNFILMS.COM and make sure to like us on Facebookand follow us on Twitter!

  • Wonder Woman Photo Released

  • B v S Trailer Description

  • Marvel Claims ASM4's date in 2018

  • 13 Films from 2013 Worth a Second Look

  • Mad Max: Fury Road Trailer

  • Guardians of the Galaxy discussion: What we know so far!

  • Who won this week at the box office?

  • Kickstarter Project: The Nomadic Family 

  • REVIEW: A Most Wanted Man

  • REVIEW: Lucy

  • REVIEW: Hercules
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    Sunday, July 27, 2014

    Captain America’s Cracked Shield Image From #AVENGERSAGEOFULTRON

    If you saw the teaser trailer during Comic-Con for AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, you’d know that at the end of that trailer, Cap’s shield cracked, probably because of the villain Ultron. Marvel’s Comic-Con booth now has that cracked Cap’s shield on display.

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    Mad Max: Fury Road - Comic-Con First Look

    Mad Max: Fury Road - Comic-Con First Look



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    Channing Tatum & Biz Markie Rap At Comic Con.

    Biz Markie and Channing Tatum breaking it down at ComicCon 2014 for the upcoming animated adventure 'The Book of Life'!



    From producer Guillermo del Toro and director Jorge Gutierrez comes an animated comedy with a unique visual style. THE BOOK OF LIFE is the journey of Manolo, a young man who is torn between fulfilling the expectations of his family and following his heart. Before choosing which path to follow, he embarks on an incredible adventure that spans three fantastical worlds where he must face his greatest fears. Rich with a fresh take on pop music favorites, THE BOOK OF LIFE encourages us to celebrate the past while looking forward to the future.

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    #OUTLANDER Opening Sequence

    FIRST LOOK: STARZ Releases Opening Title Sequence from OUTLANDER Debuted at the San Diego Comic-Con World Premiere

    STARZ releases a first look at the opening title song and sequence of its highly anticipated original series “Outlander.” The opening showcases never-before-seen footage from the series, along with an arrangement of the “Skye Boat Song” by Emmy-award winning composer Bear McCreary featuring the vocals of songstress Raya Yarbrough (below). The network first shared the main sequence upon over 1,500 enthusiastic fans at the Comic-Con world premiere screening of “Outlander” at San Diego’s historic Spreckels Theatre on Friday night. “Outlander” premieres on Saturday, August 9th at 9pm ET/PT on STARZ

    Watch the video after the Jump...



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    #TheoJames & #ShaileneWoodley #Insurgent Comic Con Signing

    THE DIVERGENT SERIES: INSURGENT's Shailene Woodley [Tris] and Theo James [Four] signed autographs for fans at the Lionsgate / Summit Entertainment Booth today during Comic Con 2014.

    See all images after the Jump...







    INSURGENT, the next gripping action-adventure in the blockbuster DIVERGENT franchise, raises the stakes for Tris as she searches for allies and answers in the dystopian ruins of a futuristic Chicago.
    Tris (Woodley) and Four (James) are now fugitives on the run, hunted by Jeanine (Winslet), the leader of the power-hungry Erudite elite. Racing against time, they must find out what Tris’s family sacrificed their lives to protect, and why the Erudite leaders will do anything to stop them. Haunted by her past choices but desperate to protect the ones she loves, Tris, with Four at her side, faces one impossible challenge after another as they unlock the truth about the past and ultimately the future of their world.
    The Divergent Series: Insurgent will be released in the US on March 20, 2015

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    Marvel Comic Con Images. ANT-MAN & AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON

    Images from yesterday’s Marvel Comic-Con Hall H panel and press line, including both ANT-MAN and AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON

    See all the images after the Jump...








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    A Most Wanted Man Review: Dark and Brooding Bow for Hoffman

    Read on to learn whether this spy thriller is a slow burn or a flame out.
    Chances are you never would have seen or heard of A Most Wanted Man, had its lead Phillip Seymour Hoffman not tragically died of an overdose earlier in the year. While those details and later worse news about his supplier status went public, there's been a dark cloud hanging over its release. But, that doesn't mean you shouldn't see the last leading performance by one of the best Hollywood ever produced.

    In the world of post-9/11 spycraft, the German Gunter (Hoffman) runs a secret team to root out terrorist groups throughout Germany. Although he's been effective in the field, a recent op has left his reputation stained with few answers from his bosses. But he doesn't have time to dwell, as news surfaces of a new source of Islamic charitable contributions that are linked to a terrorist organization based in Hamburg. At the center is the Chechin Muslim Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin), who wants to use his father's ill-gotten gains to give to those same Islamic charities. While tracking Issa, Gunter comes in contact with American Embassy official Martha Sullivan (Robin Wright) and Issa's human rights lawyer (Rachel McAdams) whose protection instantly puts her in the crosshairs. But it's Gunter who will soon learn the dangers of working in the shadows, as his past comes back to haunt him and threatens the progress he's made.

    Director Anton Corbijn creates a world of dreary spy networks and shifting loyalties, each one seemingly ready to pounce on the other. He portrays Hamburg as a desperate city, ready to accommodate any and all who wish to populate it. He makes no effort to clean up the mess which the city has apparently become, and throws his stars right into its center; the effect is a gritty tale that never turns bright or cheerful, leaving many of the characters hugely affected by their involvement.

    If any of this sounds sounds like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy that's because Man is based on a novel by John le Carré who also wrote The Constant Gardener. Writer Andrew Bovell turns Carré's book into a slow burn, and audiences are better for the experience. le Carré is the master of understatement, his books serving as a bookend to the wild times and fast women of Ian Fleming's Bond novels. Man adds a new chapter to a growing volume of work that shows spycraft as it is, rather as we'd imagined it.

    It's a topnotch cast and the audience must work to figure out who will side with whom and why. There's the powerful banker Willem Dafoe, whose bank has a history funding terrorist groups, and the Islamic philanthropist Abdulla (Homayoun Ershadi) who puts that money in all the wrong places. These are pitted against Gunter's help in Daniel Bruhl and Nia Hoss, but all of these could have been played by anyone. It's Hoffman who steals the show each time he graces the screen, portraying Gunter with an understated effort that sacrifices none of the intensity of a James Bond or Jack Ryan. In many ways, Gunter is a pawn for a much more serious game that's levels above him or his team. When that moment of betrayal arrives, it's all the more stinging because Director Corbijn has imbued him with such subtly that his fall is all the more stunning Man is filled with such performances, such as the American Wright, her dark short hair and pale features matching the misery and grittiness of Hamburg. The one who seems out of place here is McAdams - while I'm not ready to call her unsuited for such dark ensembles, her style is too Hollywood and suffers alongside Hoffman and others.

    A Most Wanted Man succeeds in the way Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy or Zero Dark Thirty does, by making spycraft feel tedious and frustrating, rather than filled with explosions or scantily clad women. Hoffman might get another Oscar nom based solely on his sorted death, but his performance is terrific and would have deserved serious consideration regardless. Regardless, it's a fitting end to a career filled with amazing performances and should be at the top of your To-Do List once other Summer fare have been explored.

    A Most Wanted Man is rated R for language and has a runtime of 121 minutes.

    Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.
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    Saturday, July 26, 2014

    Comic-Con 2014: Batman v Superman Teaser Trailer Description

    The trailer has been released to an enthusiastic response by Hall H attendees.
    We expected Warner Bros. to bring some sweet reveals for their 2016 release of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice to Comic-Con, and they certainly did not disappoint. In addition to releasing the first image of Wonder Woman, Director Zack Snyder also presented material from the movie. He was accompanied by cast members Henry Cavill (Superman), Ben Affleck (Batman), and Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman).

    This is the summary as told by Screenrant.com:

    "The Batman V Superman teaser footage shown at the event began with Affleck’s Caped Crusader standing atop a Gotham rooftop on a rainy night; his eyes then light up solid white, before he removes a tarp and reveals the Batsignal underneath. Following that, the camera track up towards the sky, revealing Cavill’s Superman hovering in the spotlight; he looks extremely angry, as his eyes light up red, preparing to fire his heat vision. Cue the film’s official logo."

    As such, we can now confirm that Batman has multiple costumes in the movie, as the armor he was wearing in the Batman V Superman teaser was the full Frank Miller Dark Knight Returns-inspired outfit (read: much heavier-looking and thicker armor than in the image that had been previously released by Snyder)."


    Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice opens in theaters on May 6th, 2016.

    Discuss this story with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.
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    Comic-Con 2014: Wonder Woman Pic Released!

    We've got the story (and the picture) right after the jump!
    For awhile now, we've been reporting on the steady stream of news surrounding Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. First came Ben Affleck and the Batmobile, then Superman standing in what looked like a rainy Gotham. But, we hadn't seen Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman, leaving some to wonder whether she could play the part.

    Until now.

    On his Twitter account, Director Zak Snyder released this image of the Amazonian princess just a few minutes ago:


    At first glance, it's hard to tell where Wonder Woman is, except that she's standing on top of wreckage, definitely something made of concrete. Could this Metropolis, Gotham, or a new location? Her uniform is darker - probably for the best - looking more like Xena than Linda Carter.

    Either way, we now have the Trinity assembled and we're sure to get more today ad Comic-Con 2014 hits its stride.

    What do you think of the new image? Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice arrives in theaters 6th, 2016.

    Join the discussion!

    Discuss this story with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.
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    Top Domestic Movies of 2014 - Q2 Report

    Who's made the most box dough so far in 2014? Read on to find out!
    In April, we reported on the health of the domestic box office, reporting that while revenues had dropped 10%, we were already gifted with two $100m pictures: Ride Along and The LEGO Movie. And while we worried that the overall health of the market had declined - with fewer films being expected to carry heavier loads - we hoped that Q2 would right that ship.

    Note: The Spring Season is defined as the first Friday in March through the Thursday before the first Friday in May.

    According to our friends at BoxOfficeMojo.com, Quarter 2 of 2014 took in an estimated $1474.1 billion, as compared to 2013's take of $1.4184 billion. That's an improvement of 3.9%, but does that mean we have a healthier overall market? Possibly. Here's a breakdown of the top films as of May 1, 2014 (with reviews included):
    1. The LEGO Movie $252,877,964
    2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier $229,381,211
    3. Divergent $140,486,726
    4. Ride Along $134,202,565
    5. Mr. Peabody & Sherman $108,145,101
    6. 300: Rise of An Empire $105,915,135
    7. Rio 2 $98,870,276
    8. Noah $98,124,749
    9. Non-Stop $90,563,670
    10. The Monuments Men $77,732,967

    Let's look at how 2013 was performing by the same date:
    1. Oz The Great and Powerful $226,745,932
    2. The Croods $164,518,159
    3. Identity Thief $133,250,395
    4. G.I. Joe: Retaliation $117,482,316
    5. Olympus Has Fallen $94,179,879
    6. 42 $72,125,770
    7. Mama $71,628,180
    8. Safe Haven $71,134,566
    9. Oblivion $70,171,915
    10. A Good Day to Die Hard $67,252,596

    We see that the top $200m picture in 2014 beat out the top from 2013, and that there are more titles that have $100m by May 1. Even the bottom of the top 10 looks better, with the under-$100m crowd higher than they were last year. Even when you compare the number of $100m pictures in the quarter alone - as opposed to taking the entire year for comparison - that number is higher (3 in 2013, 6 in 2014). That 3.9% increase might seem small, but Hollywood will take it.

    There are still Q2 stinkers out there which have surprised even us: Muppets Most Wanted and Transcendence didn't even finish in the top 10 for the quarter, and never saw the light of day. If those had even made their budgets back, we would be talking about one addition to the $100m club and another close to it.

    An Interesting Summer Approaches
    With the market seemingly better off, Summer will be interesting to document: will a period known for long lines at the popcorn stand and jammed theaters push Hollywood into even better territory? With films like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Godzilla, The Amazing Spider-man 2, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Transformers: Age of Extinction on the way, we could be seeing a very nice period for Hollywood. We'll be watching the highly lucrative foreign market as well, which has now overtaken the American one and seeks to establish itself in the long-term plans of many future Hollywood productions.

    Stick with us as we wait to see if Summer 2014 is actually better than we originally thought - read our original 2014 preview story.
    Discuss this story with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.
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    See a Clip from The Penguins of Madagascar!

    See the clip after the jump.


    With the first trailer already released, we've now been given a clip from the November release.



    Discover the secrets of the most entertaining and mysterious birds in the global espionage game: Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private now must join forces with the chic spy organization, the North Wind, led by Agent Classified (we could tell you his name, but then Š you know), voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch to stop the villainous Dr. Octavius Brine, voiced by John Malkovich, from taking over the world.

    The Penguins of Madagascar opens November 25, 2014.
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    Hot Tub Time Machine 2 Trailer

    Check out the red band trailer from the December release.
    What do Adam Scott and The Terminator have in common? They're all a part of the red-band trailer for Hot Tub Time Machine 2, the follow-up to the 2010 comedy. Starring Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, and Clark Duke the guys are back and living the life before Lou (Corddry) gets shot (in a very sensitive place) but an unknown assailant. Faced with a life without Lou, the trio return to the time machine, only to go forward in time to 2024. From there, we get a Terminator reference, a little Adam Scott, and the team's characteristic hijinks.

    Whether John Cusak Check out the trailer below:

    Hot Tub Time Machine 2 opens December 25, 2014.
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    Friday, July 25, 2014

    Hercules Review: Solidly Entertaining Summer Fare

    Dwayne Johnson's Hercules is simply enjoyable, but check your expectations at the door.

    Director Brett Ratner gets so little respect these days, and who can blame us? After the disastrous X-Men: The Last Stand sent the franchise to ground until 2011, he hasn't exactly won us over with other tripe like Tower Heist. So, it's with a great sigh of relief that I can say Hercules is a highly entertaining, suitably grand, and a well-paced historical action piece, so long as you check expectations at the door.

    The son of Zeus, Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) has made a name for himself, completing the Seven Labors set forth by a jealous Hera and attaining the title of demi-god. But his achievements hide a deep secret. One of them is that he had help in his labors - among them the warrior Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), the seer Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), and the Amazon Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal). His travels eventually take him to the kingdom of Thrace where King Cotys (John Hurt) and Princess Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson) implore him to save their lands from a barbarous warlord; but only the promise of his weight in gold will be enough. Hercules also harbors deep secrets about the death of his family, which forced him into exile and his current mercenary status. Soon, a deep betrayal will force him to rethink everything he knows about the kingdom he's sworn to protect.

    We're never quite sure if Hercules really is the son of a god, or some yoked-up, adrenaline-lace dude with incredible strength. Ratner and Writer Ryan Condral keep that one pretty close to the vest even to the end, allowing narrator McShane to tie up an important loose end. There's lots of comedic gems between the action including the repeated theme of one of Hercules rescuing women in "exciting bondage." This line goes over well with the princess' young son, to which Hercules intervenes with a gentle, "Do you even know what that means?" But the strength of Hercules lies not in the large action set pieces or in the umpteenth re-telling of the Greek tale, but of its humanizing of the demi-god - and the necessity of a team to help him - that works the best. This gives the characters something to fight for, standing together as more of a family than cold-killing mercs. Yes, Hercules is massive and Johnson looks the part, but it's clear that his Seven Labors could not have been accomplished without the team. McShane and Sewell enjoy the best-drawn characters, with lots of tasty one-liners to utter while slicing and dicing the competition. Although he keeps seeing his own death, Amphiaraus's wish (and continual denial through luck) is played up here just enough for it to be enjoyable. The others - including Berdal - aren't just there to sport their good looks, but enjoy singular moments with just enough background on them before some meet untimely ends.

    Ratner mixes the epic fight scenes with plenty of political intrigue, allowing us to learn more about the ancient world without feeling we're getting a dolled-up history lesson. The scale is epic without looking too cheap, even if some of the baddies are not quite drawn out as well as they should. Joseph Fiennes' performance as Hercules' former king feels like it was shot in two days, as he's literally in the film for all of five minutes. It's Hurt who enjoys far more time to craft his character, making his deception a but more enjoyable when it's finally unleashed. But none of this is worthwhile unless you check your expectations at the door. This is more Clash of the Titans, less Gladiator, and so long as you're ready to be entertained by a giant of a man in Johnson and some lightly-coated historical action, you should do just fine.

    For all the classically-trained British actors yelling out orders, Johnson has slowly cultivated his persona - and skills - into one of the most affable personalities in film. He may have been born with a great smile, but his hulking figure also gives way to scenes of pure humanity as he's taunted by nightmares of his fallen family. This couldn't have been the Johnson we knew in Scorpion King, and it's good to see his growth demonstrated in such fine form. He might never win an Oscar, but in terms of pure enjoyability, you can't go wrong with him. The score by relative newcomer Fernando Velázquez is epic and will keep you marching to Ratner's beat - it's one of my favorite of the year.

    Hercules might find box office success, but it will be a hard slog as its lack of marketing and competition from Lucy means it has one week to make an impression before Guardians of the Galaxy unleashes its savory goodness. In that time, see Hercules and get the big popcorn and soda too - they're the perfect addition to this Summer stunner.

    Hercules is rated PG-13 for epic battle sequences, violence, suggestive comments, brief strong language and partial nudity and has a runtime of 98 minutes.

    Please leave a comment.

    Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.
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    Open Forum Friday: July 25, 2014

    Here's your chance to connect with the SJF community.
    While you're welcome to comment on any movie or television thoughts you might have, here's a brief rundown of the movies released this week and Blu-rays to be released next Tuesday:

    Movies
    - Hercules
    - Lucy
    - Magic in the Moonlight

    Blu-rays
    - Noah
    - The Other Woman

    Also, don't forget to listen to our weekly podcast, where we break down the major news of the week and do our giveaways.

    No matter what you choose to talk about, a few ground rules: keep it nice, no ads, and no flaming.

    Other than that, sound off on any movie or television thoughts you have.

    Feel free to comment on any of the following:

    1. What are you watching on television?
    2. What's the last film you saw?
    3. How can we make the podcast better?

    These are just some of the questions, but again pick something movie or TV related.

    Happy posting!
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    Thursday, July 24, 2014

    And So It Goes Review

    Review by Brandon Wolfe

    Oren Little (Michael Douglas) is a real estate legend who prides himself on being able to sell anything. Looking to unload the majestic home where he raised his family as his final big score before heading off into the sunset, Oren shows a remarkable insensitivity toward his ethnically diverse potential buyers, transparently decorating the house with photographs of people from the same racial backgrounds as themselves (and even getting that wrong, as when he presents a Korean couple with pictures of Chinese people). And this is after we see him shoot a dog with a paintball gun to shoo it off of the property. For Oren, you see, is a huge jerk, a man who lost his wife some years back and has opted to wash his hands of all good graces ever since. He lives in a charming fourplex that he owns called Little Shangri-La, which he seems to love in spite of the fact that it’s a close-quarters property populated by a friendly, tight-knit community that Oren seems to loathe and can’t resist any opportunity to frustrate and belittle. His next-door neighbor Leah (Diane Keaton), a loopy, good-natured aspiring singer, frequently trades barbs with Oren, whose crusty disposition seems unfathomable to her. But one day, Oren’s life is upended by the arrival of his troubled son, who is headed off to jail for about six months and wants Oren to care for the granddaughter he never knew he had while he’s away. Oren, a man unaccustomed to doing favors for anyone regardless of blood relation, refuses, but his son’s persistence and Leah’s welcoming nature place the little girl into his orbit regardless.

    Based on what I’ve described thus far, I’m pretty sure you could ascertain where ‘And So It Goes’ ends up going. The film is as sunshiny and fizzy as all get out. Oren, that nasty old cuss, can only hold out for so long before that adorable little girl melts his icy heart. He also forms a kind of fractured family unit with Leah, who initially does almost all of the heavy lifting taking care of Sarah (Sterling Jerins), to the point where the girl takes to calling this unrelated stranger “grandma”. Having each lost their spouses, Oren and Leah start a tentative relationship that keeps getting off-track because of Oren being a heel. Eventually Leah and Sarah restore so much of Oren’s lapsed humanity that he even helps to deliver the baby of the neighbor (Yaya DaCosta) with whom he previously wouldn’t bother to share a parking space.

    Douglas is really all that ‘And So It Goes’ has going for it. The character is basically a sitcom version of Jack Nicholson’s Melvin Udall from the similarly titled ‘As Good As It Gets’, but Douglas is clearly having fun playing a jerk. Oren’s misanthropy never has any real bite because the movie is so Nerf-coated with lightweight pleasantness, but Douglas brings a sly-dog charm to his cornball putdowns. Keaton doesn’t fare quite as well. It’s a bit unsettling to watch her play the same mode of girly flibbertigibbet from her ‘Annie Hall’ days this deep into her sixties. The only other person in the cast who makes any kind of impression is a shockingly still-alive Frances Sternhagen as Oren’s salty office assistant. Her lines aren’t that great, either, but she delivers them with moxie.

    But the film is a limp noodle, so bland and manufactured that it’s like a Hallmark Channel movie given a theatrical release with name actors. That Douglas will be redeemed is clear from the start, and there are really no bumps in the road on the path to that redemption. He doesn’t start to care about Sarah until he sees her biological mother, whom the movie presents as the most hilariously filthy and drugged-up wretch you ever did see, after which he drives the girl directly to an amusement park and everything is hunky-dory between the two from there on out. And his relationship with Leah suffers some minor personality conflicts, as well as Oren’s decision to make a hasty post-coital exit, but there are no surprises there, either. And it makes no sense why Oren, a man with no apparent need or desire for human contact, would choose to live amongst this hap-hap-happy bunch of loving neighbors. He shares a front porch with Leah and the children of his upstairs neighbors play with their Slip-N-Slide about six feet from his front door. Why would such a man put himself into an environment that practically demands that he be connected to the lives of others? Could he get that much joy from blocking the driveway and making snide insults?

    Directed by Rob Reiner, ‘And So It Goes’ is a film by the hottest cast and crew of 1986. It’s obviously made to appeal to an older, more mature audience, and to act as counterprogramming against the more youth-oriented summer-movie offerings filling multiplexes. But for as much as the film would like to posit itself as a smarter, more adult alternative, it has a script as shoddy and dim as anything else playing in the neighboring auditoriums that this audience would look down their nose at. The film is essentially something you could envision Sandler and Barrymore making 15 years down the road. Reiner (who, by the way, puts in a cameo as a guy in a toupee who slips and falls on that Slip-N-Slide) might think he’s giving older crowds an antidote to youthful drivel, but this is still a movie that tries to squeeze a laugh out of a dog humping a giant teddy bear.
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    Lucy Review: Transcendence Meets Black Widow in a Dark Alley

    The well-intentioned but disappointing Lucy goes all weird on us and never looks back. Lately, there's been a lot of talk in films about humans only using 10% of their brain. We've heard this for years, and while this has been proven flatly untrue, Luc Besson's Lucy forms 90 minutes of this pseudo-science into an uneven mess.

    Lucy (Scarlet Johansson) is a party girl living the fast life in Taipei when she's forced to become a drug mule by the sinister villain Mr. Jang (Choi Min-Sik). Tucked in her lower abdomen is a bag of CPH4, which is eventually broken and begins to leak. As a result, this drug that pregnant women excrete begins to fill ScarJo, increasing her brain power and gifting her with powers such a telekinesis, immunity to pain, and the ability to travel through data streams and electronics. Desperate for what to do with her newfound powers, she reaches out to Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman), who encourages her to further humanity before she disappears altogether. Needing more of the drug to continue her transcendence, she enlists the help of a French police captain to arrest the other mules, while Mr. Jang gives chase. But will his help be enough to keep Jang away long enough for her journey to conclude?

    Besson earned early street cred for The Fifth Element, but since then he's settled into a series of forgettable Euro-action pieces. Here, he makes a genuine attempt for something deeper, mixing psychedelic elements of 2001: A Space Odyssey, existential themes from The Fountain, and action sequences from The Matrix. The result is something less inspired. Meant to open dialogue about man's existence and his newfound love for all things fast and iPhone, Besson only scratches the surface, surrounding us with visual elements that are one minute eye-popping and the next poorly conceived and executed.

    When Johansson is not on screen, the scene dies almost instantly, lost in a mix of pseudo-science and somewhat enjoyable action that never places our heroine in any real danger once she's exposed to the drug. True, the idea is to follow Lucy through her transformation, but the story does suffer once it's clearly established that no one and nothing can hurt her. That leaves audiences with one of two scenarios: enjoy the transformation or hope Besson shifts the emphasis somewhere else. Not only does the latter not happen, but Besson keeps changing the rules regarding her powers. There are points throughout where she seems as human as Professor Norman or any of the other goons and nerd-heads that overpopulate the screen. Even though the rules have been established of her growing omnipotence, Lucy can't seem to stop a gun or protect herself on a consistent basis.

    One of my rules for cinema centers on maintaining a clear and concise set of rules for the audience, as it provides a needed anchor. Besson breaks his own rules when it suits him, convinced the scene will be better for it. Whether it's the pivotal transformation sequence or the ' all fall down' sizzle from the trailer, Lucy seems less powerful later in the film than she does the moment her body takes on the drug. His script also misses out on practical issues, like why Lucy needs to use a keyboard to type, when it's clear that her rapidly expanding mind can control electric impulses and human biology.

    But the story by Besson also assumes that those who are forced to witness her transformation are actually ok with it. Sure, we get the whole "pass on what you have learned" request by Norman, but beyond that there is no declaration of acceptance (or worry) from anyone. Apparently, these 5%-ers never watched Transcendence. The moment she can harness such powers should fundamentally change the story, yet all it does is get lost in a minutia of long-winded speeches by Freeman and Johansson about life and seeking a higher purpose to it, while needless action set pieces occur around them.. And still, no one is worried about what this transformation can mean, either for mankind or for people's ability to not have Lucy infiltrating their systems. The only thing about Transcendence that did work was generating real worry that a being connected to everything represented a danger ala Skynet. Here, Norman and his boys actually encourage it because they want her data. What a waste.

    Don't get me wrong, there are things here which do work. Besson neither flinches from ending Lucy's corporeal existence, nor does he deny her from a satisfying revenge sequence. ScarJo does her best Black Widow without the leather and tall boots, battling to retain her humanity in the process, all while Besson puts together a satisfying car chase as Jang as the cops descend on her. Composer Eric Serra's mix of electronic beats and orchestrated score serves the movie well, and Choi is a pretty entertaining bad guy. With another 10 minutes of exposition, all the Matrix-like shenanigans and ScarJo's irresistible features would have had a deeper meaning.

    Some audiences will no doubt feel misled by the trailers, which depict Lucy as a stylized Summer action flick. What we get instead is a film that tries very hard to tackle hidden messages about capitalism vs socialism and pseudo-science, while showing nature shots of animals humping (no, I'm not kidding). Although ambitious like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Lucy doesn't crack open the larger implications of transcendence, denying both the action types the mindlessness they require and the serious filmgoer by failing to push the barrier beyond a pretty time travel sequence at the end. Lucy could have been so much more, but I found myself asking all the wrong questions (as did most of the audience) as the lights came up.

    Lucy is rated R for strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality and has a runtime of 90 minutes.

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