The Hampton Roads Show

The LEGO Movie: ‘Everything is Awesome!’

February 11th, 2014 at 1:57 pm by under The Hampton Roads Show, THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for The LEGO Movie.

Now playing in theaters across Hampton Roads.

the-lego-movie-prize-posterAnd then there’s THE LEGO MOVIE!  I took the boys — the 17-year old and the 9-year old — to see this, and I was prepared to take a nap.  But there was none to be had.

Chris Pratt (Parks and Rec) is the voice of Emmet — he’s the standard LEGO construction man who soon finds himself in the middle of a huge situation.  Apparently, he is special — the SPECIAL ONE, which he doesn’t believe.  There’s a group of misfits who think Emmet has come to save their world from the likes of President Business — aka Will Ferrell.  The cast of characters is just awesome!!  (As is ‘EVERYTHING‘ in this movie.)  You’ve got — Batman (Will Arnett), Superman (Channing Tatum), Abraham Lincoln (Will Forte), the love interest LEGO named Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and the Yoda-esque Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman).
Defeating the evil President Business is no small task — unless the gang can get Emmitt to believe in himself.  The crazy adventure that follows is fun, funny, and funtastic.  There are some really neat special effects at work here.  We get a mix between stop-motion animation and some really cool CG stuff that makes for the perfect blend for this story.
As for the story  — it twists and turns and not even the most grown up of grown ups would see the ending coming.  Couple that with some sarcastic, ironic, and compelling dialogue and you’ve got a real winner.
The LEGO Movie is written and directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and 2“).  The writing is punchy, and very funny!  But, it also has a simple feeling that appeals to every heart.

It was six thumbs up from the Cooke Clan… We’re going back.  We’re buying it when it comes out.  (And who does that anymore?)

Seriously — moms and dads, beg your kids to take you to see The LEGO Movie.



12 Years a Slave destined for date with Oscar

November 4th, 2013 at 5:01 pm by under The Hampton Roads Show, THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the official trailer for 12 Years a Slave.

12 Years a Slave is now playing across Hampton Roads.

12yearsaslavePosterBy now you have surely heard the buzz about 12 Years a Slave. You’ve probably heard that it’s brutal, that it’s emotional, that it’s disturbing, and you may have heard that it’s fantastic. Well, all of that is absolutely true.

Writer John Ridley adapted the true story for the screen from Solomon Northrup’s 1853 autobiography, and British director Steve McQueen brings it to life.

12 Years a Slave is the story of Solomon Northrup (Chewetel Ejiofor) a free man, an educated man, who is also a talented violin player. It begins with him living with his wife and two children in the North pre-Civil War.  He is soon tricked and sold into slavery and shipped off to the deep South.  Unable to prove his freedom, he is given the name Platt and spends the next 12 years under various masters and enduring some unbelievable circumstances.

Solomon/Platt is confronted time and again with threats and beatings, while watching as other slaves are raped, beaten and killed in front of him.  The last master he serves is Mr. Epps (Michael Fassbender). Epps is a psychopath and his wife is not much better. A young slave girl named Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o in her film debut) is the object of both their attention for different reasons; I’m sure you can decipher. Patsey also endures the wrath of both of them.  Her scenes of desparation are heartbreaking.  I cannot say enough good things about Nyong’o's performance — it was a breakthrough career-making performance. I just can’t.

Chiwetel Ejiofor (Amistad, 2012) gives an Oscar-calibur performance as Solomon. He plays Solomon with utter commitment in every scene, with an understated despair, and with a tinge of hope that is simply amazing.  And coming off the horrible turn in The Counsleor, Michael Fassbender redeems himself.  His take on the slave owner Epps embodies great acting.

I am going to give John Ridley some kudos — he did the story and co-wrote the screenplay for Red Tails, which I was less than happy with.  He has certainly proven his ability with this screenplay… The only flaw I had was the developmnt and forced dialogue of Brad Pitt’s character. But it hardly hurts the film.  Congrats to Ridley on a fine script.

McQueen bites off a lot here, and he does an excellent job of doing an unimaginable story justice.  There are scenes that resonate and scenes that haunt. He doesn’t take the ugly mark of slavery on American history and tie it up with a pretty presentable bow for an audience that might not be ready to see the harsh brutality of real slavery endurance. He does it justice, something many Hollywood attempts have fallen short of.  But be prepared, this film sugarcoats nothing, and should be seen by everyone.

12 Years a Slave is destined to be named over and over again at the Oscar nomination announcements.  Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Score… all should be locked in.  And moreover — the film should be destined for cinematic history as well.


Rated R for violence/cruelty, some nudity and brief sexuality. 

Gravity is heavy on thrills

October 21st, 2013 at 5:01 pm by under The Hampton Roads Show, THRS Movie Reviews, Uncategorized

CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for GRAVITY.

Gravity-2013-Movie-PosterWhen Gravity first starts you sit there totally awe struck. You are floating towards a tiny dot high above earth in space that comes closer and closer — it feels like you are there.  The static radio conversation that’s happening around you and the dot itself comes clearer.

The space shuttle and its team of astronauts are working on a spacewalk mission on the Hubble telescope. Academy Award winners Sandra Bullock as Dr. Ryan Stone and George Clooney as Mission commander Matt Kowalsky are among them. Kowalsky on his final mission, Stone on her first.

It’s an every day space walk for all intents and purposes. Kowalsky spends this early time sharing stories and lamenting that he won’t end his career with the most spacewalks.   Stone spends this early time just breathing heavily and unsuccessfully working on her assignment.  The team soon finds themselves amid a storm of Russian satellite debris.  And so begins a series of obstacles for our two characters: small successes, massive failures, and along the way — life lessons during their attempt to survive space.

The script itself was a little underwhelming to me. Co-written by Alfonso Cuaron and his son Jonas, it has a cast of Hollywood formula about it. Backstory for the sake of backstory isn’t necessary. Dialogue seems forced and often cliche. What is right about it — the timing. It clocks in right at 90 minutes. And it’s a good thing. You need to catch your breath!

The acting is fairly on point considering the script. Bullock truly brought the panic and anxiety of the situation to life. But there are moments still where I thought to myself: come on Clooney. You can do better.  It matters little for the most part — the real star of this film is the director: Oscar nominee Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men).  The opening sequence alone worth the price of 3D admission – approximately 13 minutes of stunning, fluid filmmaking with nary a cut — that will likely be talked about in film classes for years to come.

Forgive the tie in — but Cuaron has boldly gone where no director has gone before…  Gravity is mesmerizing, heart-pounding and visually stunning. It’s simply a dazzlingly film.


 Rated PG-13 for intense perilous sequences, some disturbing images and brief strong language.

Planes soars… kind of.

August 12th, 2013 at 10:37 am by under The Hampton Roads Show, THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for PLANES!

planes posterjpgTake the incredibly popular film Cars, add some wings and you have Planes –  the latest animated offering from Walt Disney Studios.

Planes takes a crop dusting plane with a dream (named what else? but Dusty Cropduster voiced by Dane Cook) and gives him the chance to race around the world and prove himself.

It’s a chance to follow his dream.  A dream only he could think was possible… In face, the thought that a crop duster could NEVER attempt, let alone complete, this globe-trotting flight occurred to everyone in the Planes world EXCEPT DUSTY.

Once Dusty convinces the key people around him that this plan could fly, the movie starts to take off.  Those key people include: Dottie (voiced by Teri Hatcher), Chug (voiced by Brad Garrett), and Skipper (voiced by Stacy Keach).

The race around the world pits dusty against some of the top flying machines from all over the world.  And the rest of the cast reads like a celebrity who’s who.  Characters are voiced by Val Kilmer, Sinbad, Anthony Edwards, John Cleese, Cedric the entertainer, Gabriel Iglesias,  Brent Musburger, and Collin Cowherd.

And the streak stays alive: you just can’t have a Disney animated film without John Ratzenberger showing up.  He’s in there!

The color and animation of the film are, of course, spectacular. It’s on par with its predecessor CARS in that regard. But for All of its star power, Planes just can’t seem to stay in the air.  The story is a little flat, tired, and played.  And then there’s the humor — it falls short and comes across corny.

The kids in my screening seemed to enjoy it, but none were on the edge of their seats loving it.  I personally like to judge an animated film on a scale of “how many times could I actually stand having my kids play this over and over and over again on the DVD player.”

I’m giving this two times before I take off myself.


Rated PG for some mild action and rude humor.


Take me back to The Way, Way Back!

July 22nd, 2013 at 2:08 pm by under The Hampton Roads Show, THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the official trailer for The Way, Way Back!

Now playing in select theaters in Hampton Roads.

The-Way-Way-Back-Movie-PosterThe Way, Way Back is loaded with great acting talent. It is the coming of age story of Duncan (Liam James, 2012) and his mother Pam (Toni Collette) spending the summer with her boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) at his beach house.

Duncan is struggling to find his way as a teenager post parents divorce. Lucky for Duncan he happens to run into Owen (Sam Rockwell), the manager of a local water park.   Before long Duncan finds himself working at the park, building confidence, getting a nickname, and… there’s even a girl!

There are so many stars in this film including the fantastic Allison Janney as Trent’s next-door neighbor/divorcee/alcoholic/generally crazy woman, as well as Rob Corddry and Amanda Peet as a couple Trent has a long history with; I’ll just leave it at that.

Nat Faxon (FOX’s recently canceled Ben and Kate) plays Roddy –  And Jim Rash (NBC’s Community) plays Lewis.  Roddy and Lewis both work at the park.  I bring that up only because these two guys co-wrote and co-directed the movie (also known as Academy Award winners for best adapted screenplay, The Descendants).

The Way, Way Back is full of nostalgia despite being set in the present day.  It is smartly written — full of jokes that, at times, could seem hokey, but fit right into the nostalgia of it all.

Despite some of the story lines being relatively predictable, the overall film is fresh and enjoyable. The characters are believable, and they are people you want to remember.

If you are looking for a break from the summer blockbusters that are chock full of special effects, but devoid of any real story, if you’re looking for the total opposite: great story, characters and no explosions, this is a great choice.  The Way, Way Back is a must see for casual and discriminating movie-goers alike.

It’s mid-July, and this is easily one of my favorite two films of the year so far.


Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, language, some sexual content and brief drug material.

Despicable Me 2 far from despicable

July 8th, 2013 at 6:18 pm by under The Hampton Roads Show, THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for Despicable Me 2!

Now playing in 2D and 3D in theaters across Hampton Roads.

despicable-me-2-posterSteve Carell and Russell Brand and a host of other celebrities are back as the voices in Despicable Me 2

When last we left them in the 2010 Blockbuster animated feature, Gru (Steve Carell) a notable bad guy had decided to go good.   Now we find Gru living the happy life with Elise Agnes and Margo. But Dr. Nafario (Russell Brand) isn’t so happy with a happy life. He really misses being evil. Meanwhile there is evil lurking out there and the agency needs Gru’s help to find the villain. He has to go to work in a mall and he has a partner — and that’s Lucy (Kristen Wiig).

Then there’s Gru’s minions who soon fall victim to the evil villain El Macho (Benjamin Bratt). That sets the stage for the climax of the film and the test of Gru’s goodness. Along the way we get a taste of Gru the father as Margo (Miranda Cosgrove) begins going out with a boy.

All the storylines are linked and they play so well together, which is such a relief! I mean my biggest concern about the possibility of a Despicable Me 2: how do you make a sequel about an evil villain who is no longer evil? Universal Pictures manages to do that and more providing an entertaining fun family animated film.  I laughed out loud on quite a few occasions!!! No small feat for me.

And quickly – you know I like to weigh in on 3-D… For this one, if your nine-year-old asks why it was in 3-D, its probably okay to not spend the money on the 3D. There were a couple of places where things shot out at you but for me the entertainment value does not equal the amount of money spent.  Aside from THAT, Despicable Me 2 is far from Despicable!  


Despicable Me 2 is Rated PG for rude humor and mild action.

Movie Review: The Lone Ranger

July 8th, 2013 at 6:15 pm by under The Hampton Roads Show, THRS Movie Reviews, Uncategorized

CLICK HERE to watch the official trailer for The Lone Ranger.

Now playing in theaters across Hampton Roads.

The-Lone-Ranger-Movie-PosterThis new incarnation of The Lone Ranger stars Armie Hammer as the masked one and Johnny Depp as his faithful sidekick Tonto.

We get the whole backstory here and then some!  We learn how Tonto and the Lone Ranger came to be partners and why he wears a mask and why Tonto was crazy, but we never find out why there are so many chase scenes, shoot outs, and explosions in the wild West in this film. Ugh.

There are a ton of  subplots and characters shoved into this film.  Gore Verbinski directed this and guess what else he directed?  Pirates of the Caribbean!  All of them.

Armie Hammer does an adequate job here, but for me Johnny Depp is just Jack Sparrow reincarnated with make up on speaking broken English to make us buy into him being an old Indian.  The Sparrow-ish dry wit and Depp-esque timing on the humor make it hard for us to forget he’s Johnny Depp.

This is a Disney film, and for the life of me, I just don’t get it. I expected to be much more entertained and feel something through the story. Plus there’s this weird mingling of ancient Tonto pretending to be a statue in a traveling sideshow who comes to life and tells the old story of the Lone Ranger and Tonto to a passing kid. This inner-cutting between old Tonto and young Tonto is really distracting and makes the movie a lot longer than it needs to be — like an hour longer than it needs to be!  Seems more like a ploy to make little kids interested in a film they probably wouldn’t otherwise be interested in.

If you’re askin’…skip this one Tonto!  I mean PRONTO.


Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence, and some suggestive material.


White House Down: Not as bad as it looks

July 1st, 2013 at 1:46 pm by under The Hampton Roads Show, THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for White House Down.

Now playing in theaters across Hampton Roads.


If you are like me, when you saw previews for White House Down, you thought… That looks terrible.  I’m here to tell you; it’s not that bad.

Here’s the jist of the story:  Channing Tatum plays divorced dad John Cale, a one-time Iraq-War vet now serving on the security detail for the Speaker of the House.

He’s had a rough patch being able to be there for his 11-year-old daughter Emily (Joey King) – whose personal hero is the President of the United States.  Cale lands an interview for the President’s security detail and decides to take Emily with him for a tour after the interview.

Little do they know an elaborate plan to take over the White House and blow up (essentially) the world is underway.  Before long Cale is working along side the President (Jamie Foxx) to save him (and them) all.

I’m not a fan of Channing Tatum; I am a fan of Jamie Foxx (when he puts on the I-can-act hat).  Neither of these actors are particularly great in this film, but they do give enough to make them believable although the characters themselves remain rather thin throughout.  Not surprisingly, little Emily is repeatedly the hero.  She’s not scared of the terrorists.

Director Roland Emmerich is no stranger to blowing things up that mean something to Americans.  From Independence Day to the end-of-the-world flick 2012, he manages to destroy all that is sacred.  In White House Down, he blows the U.S. Capitol Rotunda to bits in the first 15 minutes (something you’ve no doubt seen a million times in the trailer) before proceeding to take out room after room of historic significance in the White House.

The story itself is preposterous, but somehow plausible.  The fact that Cale and the President survive in scene after scene is preposterous, but somehow believable.  The explosions and shoot-em-up scenes are larger than life, but somehow we buy it.  And, despite the fact that I thought this was going to be tremendously unbearable based on the trailer, I was pleasantly surprised that I found myself able to sit through the entire film, and come out on the other side fairly entertained.

White House Down is not the best film of the summer by any stretch, but you won’t ask for your money back.  In fact, you may just look forward to the day it permeates cable channels on Sunday afternoons so you can catch the explosions and one-liners whenever you want.


Rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action and violence including intense gunfire and explosions, some language and a brief sexual image. 

Didn’t want This is the End to end

June 17th, 2013 at 1:22 pm by under The Hampton Roads Show, THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for This Is the End.


In This is the End, Seth Rogan, James Franko, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride and a host of other celebrities play themselves in this Hollywood blockbuster wanna-be film complete with a science-fiction/religious end-of-the-world plot — coupled with true comedy and absolute horror and fright!

When the world starts going to heck during a party at James Franko’s house, a handful of celebrities hole up in Franko’s spectacular Hollywood home.  But dwindling supplies and giant egos are making things quite difficult for these actors.

The entire film is filled with fantastic cameos of real actors playing themselves and poking fun at what we think they do with their lives… all while this doomsday story is playing out.

This is a fantastically fresh concept, and I loved just about everything  about it.  What didn’t I Iove?  Much of the acting is weak, and, I believe, it’s done on purpose; so no harm, no foul (even though it can be distracting).  And also… well, it is extremely Rated R and at times it is wholly inappropriate.   But, it’s always hilarious.  If you are easily offended with very bad words or talk of graphic sexual situations, this is not the film for you.  But, if you loved Pineapple Express and believed that those characters must be “just like that in real life”, you are going to be very satisfied!  Because they are!! Who knew?!?  *Wink, Wink*

Seth Rogen and his Superbad writing partner, Evan Goldberg teamed up to do this script and its directed by the duo too… A directing debut for both that looks anything but!  They manage to maintain momentum, flip off the entertainment business while entertaining us and showing that even these actors can have a heart.  Really Shocking stuff!!

You believe that the dialogue coming out of their mouths is actually leaving their brains as original thought. The conversations are brilliant — It’s simply believe-able on every level.  I laughed until my sides hurt.  I was so bummed when I looked up and realized THIS IS THE END!?!?!  I didn’t want it to end.  In fact,  I can’t wait to see it again!


Rated R for crude and sexual content throughout, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence. 

Man of Steel takes off; lands with a thud

June 17th, 2013 at 1:09 pm by under The Hampton Roads Show, THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the MAN OF STEELE trailer.

Man of Steel is now playing in 2D and 3D and iMax at various locations across Hampton Roads!

man-of-steel-poster-2Man of Steel is not a re-telling of the story of superman, it’s a whole re-imagining of the story.  Changing things up and shaking up characters is the order of the day.

We get the back story of Kal El – son of Jor El (Russell Crowe) sent from an imploding Krypton to live on Earth and carry on the Krypton DNA (and help the people of Earth).  Of course, on Earth he’s taken in by the couple who finds him – the Kents (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) where he is named Clarke (Henry Cavill is the grown version).  We see his childhood and coming of age told in fits and starts as flashbacks along Clarke’s journey to find himself. 

It’s not long before General Zod (Michael Shannon) from his home planet comes looking for him so he can get the DNA and take over earth.  Clarke now the Man of Steel will have none of that. And so begins a series of long, loud, and at times boring crash/bash/explosion scenes. 

Along the way Clarke meets Lois Lane (Amy Adams) a reporter for the Daily Planet.  I’m stopping short here because this storyline is one of my problems with the film.  As a lover of the superman stories of old – I loved the quirky secret love for Lois that Clarke had and her funny hard nose journalist sense that there was something more to this Clarke Kent guy.  That’s not in here!

Batman’s Christopher Nolan produced and helped Dark Knight writer David Goyer with the story – which I really did not enjoy.  For me – Director Zack Snyder managed to take both the humor and the heart out of Superman. 

And at 2hours 28minutes long it was too long!  If you go, skip shelling out the extra cash for 3D – noway is it worth it to me.  And if you are one of those people like me who waits through all the credits for a bonus scene (known as an Easter egg scene) — none here.  But do keep an eye out during the film… There are some Easter eggs teasing the next villain.  Watch for key logos on some buildings.  

Here’s what’s worse!  We only see Cavill shirtless once.  This film was disappointing on so many levels!  *wink*

Three out of Five cookies

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language.