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January 2016 Quick Reviews

Sometimes it’s hard to keep up during Super Bowl week, but here are a few recent films worth checking out (or staying away from).

THE 5TH WAVE Former Kick Ass star Chloe Grace Moretz stars as Cassie, a teenage girl whose life is turned upside down when aliens invade the planet. First, the aliens disable the entire world’s electronics then signal a string of natural disasters, before a plague wipes out nearly all of humanity. With the aliens, or “Others” as they’re called, now infiltrating the human race, a military colonel (Live Schrieber) looks to turn the world’s remaining children into an army to combat them.

The film, which is based on a book series by Rick Yancey, has a decent enough premise. The problem is that it is filled with too many young adult novel clichés, from characters that are quirky for the sake of being quirky, to a sappy romance that is as gag-inducing as something out of Twilight. And while there are a few plot twists, none of them are original enough to not see coming. A few likable sequences are sprinkled throughout to keep the film from being a complete bore, but at the end of it all there’s nothing that manages to make the movie memorable. FINAL GRADE: C

KUNG FU PANDA 3 A sequel to Kung Fu Panda 2 was imminent when at its conclusion it was revealed that the father of bumbling, lovable series hero, Po the Panda (Jack Black), was alive and living amongst a secret village of pandas. In this follow up, Po’s father (Bryan Cranston) seeks to reunite with his son, much to the dismay of Po’s adoptive goose father (James Hong). Meanwhile, an ancient warrior (J.K. Simmons) returns to exact his revenge and steal the life energy of the world’s greatest kung fu masters.

I admittedly went into this movie thinking it was going to be as bland as most sequels to successful movies. Too much screen time is spent with panda slapstick instead of kung fu action sequences and many of the new characters (Kate Hudson’s Mei-Mei) fall flat, but overall I was pleasantly surprised by how solid the story was. Kung Fu Panda 3 certainly doesn’t have the exhilarating plot of its predecessors, but it makes up for it with a solid dose of heart and a great family message. Combined with another formidable villain, the movie isn’t great but pretty good, and that’s enough to make for one of the finest animated trilogies since Toy Story. FINAL GRADE: B

THE FINEST HOURS Titanic may be a classic, but anyone more interested in a disaster film than a romance had nearly two hours to fast forward through before things got interesting. For those people, The Finest Hours is the perfect film for you. The movie stars Chris Pine as real life Boston Coast Guard, Bernie Webber who is sent out amidst a dangerous storm to rescue a crew of a severed oil tanker. Casey Affleck costars as the crewmen charged with keeping the other survivors alive until they can be rescued and Holliday Grainger portrays Weber’s spunky fiancé Miriam.

The movie wastes little time getting into its suspense and unlike most films based on true stories it doesn’t drag on with an unruly run time. It is filled with fine performances and likable characters and also manages to be concise as well as exciting. The film also manages to deliver the other necessary elements, such as an endearing romance, that will entice a multitude of audiences.  While it does dip into a few genre clichés toward the end, The Finest Hours manages to be hours well spent. FINAL GRADE: B+

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