On Twitter: @JamesEpplerRating Guide*
"Barf" - Don't bother.**
"Meh" - Not quite good enough to recommend***
"Yup" - enjoyable effort.****
"Nice!" - Definitely see it*****
"Wow!" - Among the best of the year.
The following are movies now playing in Lubbock theaters that I have seen. I'm usually running behind, but gimme a break - I have other responsibilities at work and a baby on the way.THE CONJURING * * *
"The Conjuring" isn't breaking any new ground or doing something we haven't seen many times before, but it's made with a lot of skill and style.
Director James Wan made the first and best "Saw" movie, and while there's very little blood in "The Conjuring," it delivers plenty of scares by building tension to a fever pitch, and often using your imagination against you.FAST AND FURIOUS 6 * * *
This entry in the "Fast and Furious" saga is one of the three best, and features some of the most impressive action set pieces and stunt work I've seen in recent memory. I also love the homo-erotic tension between Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel. Don't kid yourself - it's there. This is mindless fun - totally what I wanted in a popcorn movie.
FRUITVALE STATION * * * *
A heartbreaking true story that deserves to be seen. Michael B. Jordan is sensational as Oscar, a 22-year-old father who was murdered in cold blood by officers on a subway. The movie is overly manipulative at times, but it never paints Oscar as a saint or martyr. It's writer/director Ryan Coogler's first movie, and the emotion he put into it radiates off the screen.
THE HEAT * *
I think we've reached the point where Melissa McCarthy is wearing out her welcome. Don't get me wrong - she's talented, and I'd like to see her do other things. She keeps playing these crude characters that are supposed to shock us into laughter with their vulgarity. It didn't work here, despite a few laughs peppered throughout. I still like Sandra Bullock, though.
THE LONE RANGER * *
You can definitely see where the $250 million went. This is a gorgeous production saddled with a pretty bad script, and Johnny Depp mugging for the camera as Tonto. I really wanted to like this, but it's a mess - and not in a good way.
MAN OF STEEL * * * 1/2
This is the first Superman movie that I've really enjoyed. I never connected with the character, his story, or the Christopher Reeve movies. But here, director Zack Snyder and producer Christopher Nolan have tweaked the mythology enough to feel very of-the-moment. Despite all that, the action overload in the final quarter gets a bit tiring.
MONSTERS UNIVERSITY * * *
A decent bounce-back for Pixar after the dreadful "Cars 2" and the forgettable "Brave." Revisiting the "Monsters Inc." characters in college in this prequel is a fine idea, but it's merely a cute, fun movie. It's never poignant or moving like so many better Pixar movies.
PACIFIC RIM * * * 1/2
This is groundbreaking stuff visually - a movie I watched with my mouth agape for most of it. While the story and character arcs are predictable and tiring, the world director Guillermo del Toro has created feels lived-in and palpable. The sheer massiveness of this movie on the IMAX screen is something truly amazing to behold.
THIS IS THE END * * * *
The funniest movie of the summer - no question. Having actors like Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill and others play trumped-up versions of themselves in an apocalyptic scenario is a stroke of comic genius. I laughed loud, hard and often. THE TO DO LIST * * *
It's rare to get a comedy about women that isn't a cheesy rom-com. You can't accuse "The To Do List" of being that, as an uptight bookworm (Aubrey Plaza, a delight) decides to knock out a list of sexual experiences before going to college. The movie tries too hard at zany raunch at times, but Plaza, supporting work by Bill Hader, and a script that cares about its characters make this comedy worth seeing.
WORLD WAR Z * * * 1/2There's not a lot of originality in "World War Z," but there are more than a few jump-out-of-your-seat moments. It's easily the most intense movie of the summer so far.
Based on the book by Max Brooks, Brad Pitt is a former UN problem solver called back in to find solutions when a virus spreads, turning people into zombies. The sheer panic and mob mentality are terrifically captured on screen with some amazing visuals. These are no walking dead - they're fast, and so's the movie.THE WOLVERINE ** * 1/2
The second effort at a stand-alone movie for Wolverine is much better than "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." Jackman gives his best performance yet in the role, mainly because the material is better. Comic book movies are the new westerns, and this plays like one. Director James Mangold stages some terrific action sequences.