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What would you do during an annual 12-hour period in which all crime is legal?

As a premise, this is such an interesting jumping off point—or at least it should be in the right person’s hands. For two straight movies, writer/director James DeMonaco has missed the mark. The Purge was an abject disaster that almost took pleasure in wasting a great cast (notably Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey) and a promising idea with the events unfolding solely within one family’s house.

However, at least DeMonaco listened to and addressed the criticisms of the first movie because The Purge: Anarchy is the complete inverse with several stories intertwining in the inner city of Los Angeles. Exactly a year after the original, The Purge: Anarchy switches its primary focus from the rich to the poor. While it’s interesting to delve into the psyche of how a nation deals with this period of consequence-free crime spree, the heavy-handed nature of the rich versus poor dynamic reveals DeMonaco’s shortcomings.

God

Apparently, the only crime that people are interested in committing is murder. The Purge: Anarchy isn’t so much about anarchy as it is random, roving groups of marauders seeking to quench their thirst for blood. Who becomes the easiest target? The poor, of course. The rich can afford expensive security systems for protection (as showcased in the first film) while the poor must simply try to survive the night.

The intertwined stories of The Purge: Anarchy revolve around a quarreling couple stupidly caught out in the open after experiencing car trouble, a mother and daughter fleeing for their lives after their apartment complex is attacked, and a man known only as Sergeant venturing out in the chaos for revenge on the man who killed his son. Everyone is unremarkable and replaceable except Frank Gillo as Sergeant Leo Barnes. In fact, all of these flat, one-dimensional characters would have died within an hour if not for Sarge.

Despite its downfalls, The Purge: Anarchy provides some mindless entertainment. In fact, everything leading up to sequence that’s eerily reminiscent of The Running Man is rather enjoyable. But then it all falls to shit. Most of the third act is just unforgivably bad with some maniac named Big Daddy who acts as the de facto villain by shooting everything and everyone to shit. Why? Because it’s his time to purge!

Big Daddy

Throughout the movie, an anti-Purge revolution is teased with Michael K. Williams playing the leader Carmelo. Unfortunately, that whole arc seemed like an afterthought designed primarily to provide a nice bow to end one scene. So much more could have been done with this character. But again, a great actor was wasted. With Michael K. Williams aboard, ripping off The Wire and creating a bastardized version of Omar (arguably the greatest TV character) would’ve infused incredible life back into the third act.

Something, anything should have been done to save this movie from itself.

While the sequel is an improvement, there’s still a lot left to be desired due to a largely unexplored landscape. Still working with a relatively low budget (compared to other summer movies), The Purge: Anarchy gives you enough of a glimpse to provide hope that an expanded pocketbook could truly deliver on this unfulfilled promise in a third attempt. If the scope is expanded, just think of the ramifications.

What the fuck happens to air travel during the purge? How does the entire country contend with the annual aftermath? Unfortunately, this movie still creates more questions than answers, and I don’t see much hope that a sequel in the hands of the same creative mind will result in a substantially better product.

Carmelo

2.5 out of 5 stars

Bud Hawking

Bud Selig | Stephen Hawking

Pulp Fiction

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Sailing Sunset

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a perfect movie in tone and spirit.

Whether it ends up being the best this summer depends on James Gunn and Guardians of the Galaxy. Even so, these are entirely two different movies. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a much more realistic, grounded depiction of a rather unrealistic, ridiculous premise. While I hoped for a James Franco cameo, it’s probably better that his appearance is relegated to that of a picture and short video snippet.

If you’re waiting to watch this movie, stop and go directly to the theater.

It’s truly amazing how far our technology has come. Interestingly enough, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a story with humans on the cusp of extinction because the simian flu (a man-made disease released 10 years prior) has wiped out nearly everyone else, and the remaining survivors are attempting to reconnect to technology in order to rebuild civilization. The only thing standing in their way is an army of genetically enhanced apes who don’t have any reason to be particularly nice to humans based on their experiences.

Caesar

Our computer-generated apes look fantastic and frighteningly real. But the true credit goes to Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell for bringing Caesar and Koba to life. At this point, Andy Serkis should be recognized as a seriously talented actor instead of just a motion capture monkey or greedy goblin.

Although Rise of the Planet of the Apes focused primarily on James Franco and his relationship with Caesar, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes places the attention on Caesar and the apes from the start. Like the new world they now live in, the humans are few and far between on the outskirts of the apes’ forest near San Francisco. It’s unconfirmed as to whether there even are any more humans outside this area.

Our four main featured characters are the aforementioned Caesar (played by Andy Serkis) and Koba (played by Toby Kebbell) on the ape side with Malcolm (played by Jason Clarke) and Dreyfus (played by Gary Oldman) on the human side. Despite the differences between the apes and humans, the dynamics between each respective leader and right-hand man/ape are rather similar. Malcolm and Caesar hope to establish a truce while Dreyfus and Koba are prepared to go to war to be the dominant species.

Oldman

Gary Oldman is fucking awesome as usual. Not much is asked from him in terms of effort, but he delivers as a stern yet sympathetic character that gives impeccable, impassioned speeches like the one below.

“We’ve been through hell together! We spent four years, FOUR YEARS fighting that virus, and then another four fighting each other! It was chaos!… But you all know what we’re up against! And I want you to know, it’s not just about power! It’s about giving us the hope to rebuild, to reclaim the world we lost!” — Dreyfus

I don’t know if Jason Clarke is necessarily a good actor, but his performance in this movie is rock solid. For the most part, Jason Clarke has been a bona fide “that guy” for the last 10 years in the sense that you’ve seen him before but probably don’t know his name. However, his movie career has definitely started to pick up steam during the last few years—most notably with a prime role in Zero Dark Thirty.

Unfortunately, the rest of the supporting cast isn’t noteworthy. Keri Russell doesn’t do much besides standing there and looking sad. I don’t even remember her name or that of the kid (Malcolm’s son). But I was thrilled to see character actor Kirk Acevedo (Miguel Alvarez for HBO’s Oz) playing the role of trigger-happy Carver. Acevedo has been doing the rounds on television, but I’ve always enjoyed his acting. Hopefully this surprisingly pivotal role is parlayed into more movies in the near future.

Remember that kid I mentioned above? Some may recognize him as Owen from Let Me In, but he’s also Boy from The Road. For me, Kodi Smit-McPhee will resonate and rattle around in my brain for being the common link between two miserable movie-going experiences. I loved Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Everyone should watch this movie…except the jackass drunken teenagers that were sitting behind us.

I don’t know what would possess someone to talk in a theater during the movie. It is not your fucking living room. The worst experience I can recall was also due to a gaggle of stupid kids when trying to watch The Road. I must not be meant to watch any Kodi Smit-McPhee movie around other people.

Fortunately, there was nothing that could spoil Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. This movie is an unstoppable force. A lot of parallels can be found between Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and The Lion King—with more mature tones in the former though the latter is more likely to induce tears.

Peace

A major feat for an epic summer blockbuster is the ability to make the audience emotionally invested. I wanted to know what would happen to these characters and I actually cared when those events unfolded. This is an example of everything that can good about summer movies. And the execution is perfect. As a result, the bar has been raised to expect a flawless film for the third leg of this trilogy.

Anything less would be uncivilized. Like those damn, dirty apes.

Go

5 out of 5 stars

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I don’t know why I allow myself to get sucked into watching these shitty horror movies. I can’t keep subjecting my brain to this awful, watered down bullshit. Deliver Us from Evil is so fucking bad that it’s not even comical. And there are people out there that tolerate this putrid product, let alone those who like it.

This goofy glob of dog shit could not be saved from itself. I actually feel bad for Eric Bana being forced to shoulder the burden of this terrible script and even worse direction. There was simply nothing he could do. With only 15 to 20 minutes into the first act, I was slumped over in my chair waiting for this excruciatingly slow movie to unfold. Referring to the pace of Deliver Us from Evil as measured or calculated would be a drastic understatement. Instead, this movie moves at a snail’s pace stuck in super glue with no end in sight.

Like any typical commercially successful contemporary horror movie, the marketing campaign for Deliver Us from Evil highlighted the handful of moderately tense moments, and showed them over and over in every preview. Although I was dragged to this by my wife, I was admittedly duped into thinking there might be something worthwhile within this tired old premise (demonic possession). At the very least, I was hoping for some interesting deaths—something along the lines of The Happening.

No such luck.

Joel McHale

Without Joel McHale, I would have walked out of the theater…and I would have waiting by myself since I went with 3 other people. Joel McHale is the single redeeming quality about this movie as Eric Bana’s police partner, Butler. Delivering his lines perfectly with just the right amount of comic relief, Joel McHale is the only thing I’ll remember from this movie. Unfortunately, this makes two astonishingly awful movies on McHale’s resume for 2014—joining Blended, which would garner a 0 out of 5 stars if I ever feel like punishing myself by deciding to write a review of Adam Sandler’s latest bowel movement.

Exorcism

Deliver Us from Evil plays out like the nonsensical ramblings recounted from a former NYPD officer. And that’s because it is. This is neither scary nor novel, which is the death knell of any horror movie. Stay away from this movie at all costs. Don’t get me started on The fuckin’ Doors either. I can’t wait to move past this traumatic experience, and it doesn’t deserve any more of my precious words.

In a nutshell: Deliver Us from Evil delivers nothing but yawns of boredom. Just walk away.

Walk Away

1 out of 5 stars

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Captain America has made Chris Evans a superstar. But has he truly had an opportunity to spread his wings as an actor? For the most part, everything in Evans’ catalog comes off as cloyingly sweet. Quick: name his most memorable role. The first thing that comes to mind for me is Not Another Teen Movie, which is a sad indication of his limited range–self-inflicted by his choice of roles or not.

If Snowpiercer is a harbinger, his time with Marvel is robbing us of some quality Chris Evans performances.

Chris Evans

Despite its faults, Snowpiercer could certainly sneak up on people and find itself on top ten lists at the end of the year. I knew next to nothing about Snowpiercer when I stumbled upon this movie about a month and a half ago. Knowing as little as possible about this movie will maximize your enjoyment and its entertainment value so I’ll carefully attempt to keep anything important close to the vest.

In terms of sci-fi dystopian futures, you’re hard-pressed to find a more bleak depiction of the coming apocalypse. After humanity created a global warming disaster that froze the world, the only remaining humans survive on a never-ending train ride aboard the Snowpiercer, which is powered by a perpetual motion engine controlled by the mysterious Wilford. The inevitable reveal of Wilford is exceptional, and it’s perhaps the most enjoyable sequence in Snowpiercer. Per usual, Chris Evans is playing our hero—albeit in a bit different fashion than we’ve grown accustomed to from Captain America.

Train

A distinct class system exists on the Snowpiercer with the lowest rung at the ass end of the train while the rich and well-off reside near the front of the train. This delicate balance between abject poverty and absolute wealth is not so harmonious as there always seems to be a rebellion brewing. Unsurprisingly, Curtis (played by Chris Evans) fulfills the role of reluctant leader of this potential uprising.

 

The story unfolds with a calculated pace that keeps you intrigued and on the edge of your seat.

Foot

Each reveal of additional information provides another piece of the puzzle. Thanks to some fantastic performances in supporting roles, Snowpiercer is elevated into a more interesting stratosphere of recent sci-fi movies. In addition to Jamie Bell as Edgar and Octavia Spencer as Tanya, two other acting standouts are Kang-ho Song as Namgoong Minsoo and John Hurt as Gilliam. In particular, I hope to see more from Kang-ho Song, who was the lead from The Host in 2006—a fantastic foreign film and one of my all-time favorite creature features. Without Kang-ho Song, the second act of Snowpiercer could have meandered and remained within the cookie cutter confines of most standard sci-fi movies.

John Hurt

Regardless of Chris Evans and the rest of this impressive supporting cast mentioned above, I would argue that Tilda Swinton makes this movie. You can’t even recognize her in the character makeup of Mason, everyone’s least favorite bureaucrat in charge of communicating with the back of the train and maintaining tight control. I only found out that it was actually Tilda Swinton after researching the cast afterwards.

If you think her performance in Snowpiercer was impressive, then I suggest watching We Need to Talk About Kevin for a peak into her impeccable acting range. Although Tilda Swinton isn’t the highest paid actress or the biggest celebrity, she is deservedly among the most respected due to her acting ability.

Chris Evans should be paying attention because he could certainly learn something from her choice of roles and execution each and every time. Hopefully Snowpiercer will earn enough of a cult following that we’ll see fewer roles like Captain America and more performances like Curtis—a complicated, conflicted character that moves beyond a flat, one-dimensional portrayal of a hero. Charisma like that shouldn’t be wasted on movies targeted towards making millions from children’s piggy banks.

Chris Evans needs to know his place. He needs to keep his place.

Shoe

4.5 out of 5 stars