craiger'scinemacorner©

Full-length reviews of contemporary and classic films by

one of Western Canada's leading online film critics

c r a i g   j.   k o b a n

 

 

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CHARLTON HESTON

 

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1956

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CrAiGeR's

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THE MAZE RUNNER (PG-13)

jjj

 "It's a well crafted plot and premise-centered sci-fi film..."

 

 
 

 

 
 

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My Top 5 Favorite Video Games of All-Time!

September 19, 2014

 

James Gunn: The Guardian of Science Fiction's Future - Why his 'Guardian of the Galaxy' is the most surprising - and unlikely - hit of 2014..

August 15, 2014

 

LATEST POSTS:

CrAiGeR's Cinema Corner Turns 10 - And I'm getting by with a little help from my friends as we discuss our favorite films of the last ten years..

July 19, 2014

 

Shannon Hollander: Truthful Storyteller - The leader of the 'GEEKS' reflects on her academic career, performing on stage and on screen, and what the future holds..

April 29, 2014

 

 
     
 

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Monday, December 8, 2014

The WORST films of 2014.

 

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The BEST films of 2014

 

Previous appearances:

Monday, November 24, 2014

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 1 Discussion

 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

TBT: Top 3 Films of the 1960s

 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

TBT: Top 3 Films of the 1970s

 

Thursday, October 30, 2014 

TBT: Top 3 Films of the 1980's

 

Thursday, October 16, 2014 

TBT: Top 3 Films of the 1990's

 

Thursday, October 16, 2014 

GONE GIRL discussion

 

Wednesday, September 29, 2014 

Movies Based on TV Shows

 

Wednesday, September 15, 2014 

INDIE FILM TRIBUTE:

Richard Linklater's BOYHOOD

 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014 

Fall Movie Preview

 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Robin Williams Tribute

(video unavailable...sorry)

 

Friday, August 8, 2014 

Guardians of the Galaxy discussion 

 

Monday, July 21, 2014 

San Diego Comic Con

 

Monday, July 7, 2014 

Reflecting on my site's 10th Anniversary 

 

Wednesday, June 23, 2014 

2014 Midterm Movie Report Card

(video unavailable)

 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014 

Edge of Tomorrow Discussion

 

Friday, May 23, 2014 

Memorable Monster Films

 

Friday, May 9, 2014 

Amazing Spider-man 2 Discussion 

 

Friday, April 25, 2014 

Summer Film Season Preview 

 

Friday, April 11, 2014 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Discussion 

 

Friday, March 28, 2014 

DIVERGENT

 

Friday, March 14, 2014 

Great Graphic Novel Film Adaptations 

 

Friday, February 14, 2014 

Unconventional Romance/Date Films

 

Friday, January 31, 2014 

Great Frankenstein Films 

 

Friday, January 17, 2014 

BEST FILMS of 2013

 

Friday, January 3, 2014 

Biggest Movie News Stories of 2013 

 

Friday, December 20, 2013 

Tribute to director Al White / GEEKS 

 

 

CrAiGeR's SELF-IMPOSED RATING SCALE:

 

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DR. FILMLOVE

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FAQ's of CrAiGeR

Answers to all those nail biting questions

 

 

CrAiGeR's REVIEW ARCHIVES

All of CrAiGeR's full-length reviews of contemporary films since Jan 2004

 

 

CrAiGeR's FOUR STAR REVIEWS

Listing of every FOUR STAR review that CrAiGeR has ever written (excludes retro-reviews)

 

 

CrAiGeR's WORST REVIEWS

Listing of every one and a half star or lower review that CrAiGeR has ever written

 

 

CrAiGeR's RETROSPECTIVE REVIEW ARCHIVES

CrAiGeR revisits classic films from

the past

 

 

CrAiGeR's YEARLY BEST/WORST LISTS

CrAiGeR dishes out his TEN BEST and TEN WORST films for every year since 2000

 

 

CrAiGeR's SO BAD, THEY'RE GOOD!

CrAiGeR looks at 25 films that he knows are stinkers, but still finds that they are actually kind of good

 

 

CrAiGeR's TEN MOST OVER-RATED FILMS OF ALL-TIME

CrAiGeR unleashes his list of ten films that he felt did not deserve universal fan accolades and critical praise.

 

 

CrAiGeR's TEN MOST INFLUENTIAL FILMS OF THE LAST 25 YEARS 

CrAiGeR ruminates on ten films he feels most directly influenced the business and making of movies since 1986.

 

 

 

CrAiGeR's TEN BEST FILMS of the 2000's

 

CrAiGeR's TEN BEST FILMS of the 1990's

 

CrAiGeR's TEN BEST FILMS of the 1980's

 

CrAiGeR's TEN BEST FILMS of the 1970's

 

CrAiGeR's TEN BEST FILMS of the 1960's

 

CrAiGeR's TEN BEST FILMS of the 1950's

 

CrAiGeR's TEN BEST FILMS of the 1940's

 

 

 

EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS

(PG-13) jj

The story of Moses...GLADIATORIZED

With visionary director Ridley Scott at the helm returning to the sword and sandal epic genre (which he re-popularized with his Oscar winning GLADIATOR and the underrated KINGDOM OF HEAVEN), you’d think that him taking on the Biblical story of Moses’ journey from Egyptian prince to Hebrew leader and liberator would have been a relative win-win proposition for all involved...

Posted December 20, 2014

WHIPLASH (R) jjjj

The cerebral battlefield between mentor and protégé 

WHIPLASH, at face value, is about jazz music, but deep at its core it’s more about fanatical obsession and a battle of egos and wills between two artists constantly vying for supremacy.  There’s the student that’s willing to go to any extreme to achieve musical excellence, but then there’s his mentor/instructor that’s equally willing to painfully make a mockery of his protégé at every waking moment...

Posted December 14, 2014

THE GIVER (PG-13) jj

A post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller of the been-there/done-that variety

As a cautionary piece of futuristic sci-fi, THE GIVER has so much going for it that it’s a real shame when far too many of its other elements fall flat.  Based on the Newbery Medal winning 1994 young adult book of the same name by Lois Lowry, the film tells an Orwellian tale of a society of tomorrow that has creepily eradicated emotion and memories to create a utopian civilization that, deep beneath its façade, subverts individuality...

Posted December 14, 2014

HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 (R) jjj

Workplace revenge is far less funny this go around

About half way through HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 I was left contemplating whether it was an unnecessary sequel or a horrible one.  By the time the film ended I was leaning a bit towards the former.  There are certainly some solid laughs sprinkled through this follow-up to 2011’s HORRIBLE BOSSES...

Posted December 5, 2014

BIG HERO 6 (PG) jjj

A Disney animated adventure with a Marvel Comics slant

Where Disney’s BIG HERO 6 (their 54th animated film) lacks in originality it more than makes up for it in terms of energy and a fairly amusing and heart-warming story that preaches a noble anti-violence message.  Directed with great exuberance for the underlining material by Don Hall (WINNIE THE POOH) and Chris Williams (BOLT)...

Posted December 5, 2014

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY - PART 1

(PG-13) jjj    

Katniss strikes back!

I was a rather reluctant fan of THE HUNGER GAMES right from the beginning.  The first film – based on Suzanne Collins’ massively popular novels - felt like it borrowed a bit too heavily from the standard troupes of other better post-apocalyptic, dystopian sci-fi genre efforts.  It also seemed to adhere to the obligatory conventions of young adult fiction...

Posted November 29, 2014

ATARI: GAME OVER

(no MPAA rating) jjj1/2

Hitting the reset button on one of the great video game urban legends

ATARI: GAME OVER is a thoroughly enthralling new documentary that's not only about a fascinating bit of video game history, but it also manages to be a cautionary tale of business and corporate hubris left largely unchecked.  The first film project made under the Xbox Entertainment Studios banner (which has unfortunately now closed shop) was written and directed with great enthusiasm by Zak Penn...

Posted November 25, 2014

DUMB AND DUMBER TO

(PG-13) jj1/2   

As advertised

DUMB AND DUMBER TO (no, that’s not a typo) is, to be fair, a spectacularly, predictably, and aggressively dumb movie.  How could it not be?  It’s a film that celebrates nincompoopery, much like its 1994 predecessor DUMB AND DUMBER, the Farrelly Brothers’ first film that showcased the highly unlikely – but enjoyable – pairing of the then rocketing to superstardom Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels...

Posted November 21, 2014

BIRDMAN  (R) jjjj      

Michael Keaton dons the cape and cowl again...sort of 

BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) is a masterpiece of directorial choreography.  It just might be one of the most audaciously envisioned and executed films that I’ve seen in an awfully long time.  Not only is it a bravura showpiece of remarkable filmmaking ingenuity (more on that later), but BIRDMAN also is a deeply intimate and insular look the daily grind of the New York theater scene...

Posted November 21, 2014

INTERSTELLAR  (PG-13) jjj   

A mind-bending space odyssey unlike any other

Christopher Nolan’s INTERSTELLAR is the most fearlessly ambitious and thought-provoking films about space exploration since Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (which served, by Nolan’s admission, as a huge source of inspiration in the making of his film).  Nolan's film dares – as far too few sci-fi films do these days – to interweave an emotionally harrowing tale of human struggle with that of remarkable speculative science that pushes our deep-seeded understanding of how time, space and relativity works...

Posted November 15, 2014

THE ZERO THEOREM  (R) jj

Gilliam returns to his old bag of dystopian sci-fi tricks

Terry Gilliam’s THE ZERO THEOREM is a film of sublimely offbeat visual hubris that only he can muster, but as an example of contemplative and involving science fiction...his film leaves a lot to be desired.  His first attempt at the genre since 1996’s TWELVE MONKEYS (and a pseudo third chapter in his dystopian sci-fi trifecta that includes that film and 1985’s BRAZIL before it)...

Posted November 15, 2014

NIGHTCRAWLER (R) jjjj   

Gyllenhaal channels his inner Travis Bickle

Dan Gilroy’s NIGHTCRAWLER is like a nightmarish cocktail of the most alarming elements of TAXI DRIVER and NETWORK further crossed with the cold and unnerving aesthetic of a Michael Mann.  Much like Martin Scorsese’s lauded 1976 film, NIGHTCRAWLER is an unflinching and unnerving portrait of a methodical minded sociopath that finds a sick purpose in life while exploring the seedy underbelly of society...

Posted November 9, 2014

VIDEO GAMES: THE MOVIE

(No MPAA rating) jj1/2     

This documentary needs an extra life

 

I’m going to preface my review of VIDEO GAMES: THE MOVIE by saying that (1) yes, I do indeed feel that video games are an artform and (2) I’ve been a lifelong gamer as long as I’ve been able to hold a controller in my hand.  I’ve played on multiple generations of home consoles (including archaic relics of the past like the Atari 2600, the Intellivision, the original Nintendo, and all the way up to current gen consoles made by Sony and Playstation)...

 

Posted November 9, 2014

WISH I WAS HERE (R) jj1/2      

Wish this film was as good as GARDEN STATE

 

It has been ten years since writer/director/actor Zach Braff burst onto the movie scene with his novice directorial effort GARDEN STATE, I film that I admired so much that I placed it on my list for the Ten Best Films of 2004.  I found that the film intimately spoke to me and towards the general malaise of uncertainty that people of my generation were experiencing at the time…and perhaps still do...

 

Posted November 9, 2014

JOHN WICK (R) jjjj   

WHOA!

I have all but given up on modern Hollywood action films in terms of their ability to infuse some much needed vitality and novelty back into the genre.  Well, along comes the rough, rugged, frequently brutal, deliriously stylish, and intensely entertaining JOHN WICK to wake the genre – and audience members, for that matter – up out of apathy...

Posted October 31, 2014

ST. VINCENT (PG-13) jj1/2   

He ain't no saint...trust me

ST. VINCENT is a deeply manipulative film about deeply endearing characters.  It tells a story that has been served up, in one form or another, countless times before in other films – a cantankerous ol’ bastard of a drunk gets reformed into a better, less self-loathing individual via the aid of a sweet and innocent kid from the block...

Posted October 31, 2014

THE PURGE: ANARCHY (R) jjj   

Let the cleansing begin!

THE PURGE: ANARCHY is, of course, a sequel to last year’s THE PURGE, but it feels more like a subtle reboot than it does a follow-up entry in the series…and that’s kind of a good thing.  Writer/director James DeMonaco is back at the helm, attempting to carry forward the somewhat involving and fascinating premise of his introductory film, which, more or less, never materialized as a fully developed entity to my satisfaction...

Posted October 31, 2014

FURY (R) jjj1/2   

Band of tank brothers

The war genre has become such a prevalent one for so many decades that finding a new and refreshing spin on it must be a daunting challenge for modern filmmakers.  Writer/director David Ayer (who wrote TRAINING DAY and recently directed END OF WATCH and the very underrated SABOTAGE from earlier this year) opts to shed light on a very seldom seen facet of WWII on the silver screen: tank warfare...

Posted October 24, 2014

VAMPIRE ACADEMY (PG-13) 1/2j     

No higher learning was involved in the making of this film

Okay…here’s one for you:  How could a film from the director of MEAN GIRLS and the writer of HEATHERS be not only one of the worst films of 2014, but is also the single worst young adult themed movie of recent memory?  Well, VAMPIRE ACADEMY is a rare breed of multiple cinematic sinner...

Posted October 24, 2014

DRACULA: UNTOLD (PG-13) jj1/2  

Dracula Begins

At this point in my life, films about vampires have to work some serious overtime to get me invested in them.  There have been so many innumerable adaptations and interpretations of Bram Stoker’s iconic literary creation over the last century that I’ve nearly lost my – ahem! – thirst for any new film that wishes to re-imagine the most infamous undead bloodsucker in history...

Posted October 18, 2014

THE JUDGE (R)  jjj  

'Two Roberts' at the top of their game

There is very little territory that THE JUDGE covers that has not already been shown in numerous other legal thrillers or family melodramas.  The film builds to a obligatory “big” courtroom climax ala John Grisham and, along the way, tells a fairly predictable tale of a father and son that have been estranged for years, but are brought back together over the death and funeral of a mutual loved one and are then forced to come to grips with their respective differences...

Posted October 18, 2014

ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY (PG)  jjj  

Worst. Day. Ever!

Everyone has bad days.  Alas, for poor Alexander Cooper…he and his family suffer from a relative tsunami of embarrassing social indiscretions in – to quote its full title (deep breath!) – ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY.  The film – based on Judith Viorst’s 1972 book of the same name, which was also previously adapted into a an HBO animated musical...

Posted October 18, 2014

GONE GIRL (R) jjjj

Chasing "Amazing Amy"

David Fincher’s GONE GIRL is a brilliantly macabre and intoxicating film with such a labyrinthine narrative and thematic complexity that writing about it at any length without engaging in massive story spoilers is daunting.  The best thing I could possible recommend to viewers is to go in as cold as I did, which means having never read the source material that the film is based on, Gillian Flynn’s 2012 thriller novel of the same name...

Posted October 12, 2014

LEFT BEHIND (PG-13) 1/2j  

Please, dear God...save us all from this movie

LEFT BEHIND is one of the funniest films that I’ve ever seen.  The fact that it’s not a comedy is ultimately telling.  Only an omnipotent deity in the heavens above could explain how a film so inexcusably and laughably mediocre like this exists.  LEFT BEHIND is so monumentally ill conceived and amateurishly shot and acted that you’re left thinking that the makers behind the scenes had no real idea just how terrible their final product was going to be...

Posted October 12, 2014

SPACE STATION (No MPAA rating) jjj

The future has never looked so...grooooovy

SPACE STATION 76 is one of the most peculiar science fiction films - and comedies - that I’ve ever seen.  Yet, it’s the film’s audacious level of peculiarity that makes it kind of oddly infectious.  Directed and co-written by Jack Plotnick, SPACE STATION 76 is an adaptation of a Los Angeles based stage play that was apparently developed through a series of improvisational sessions with the writers and actors...

Posted October 12, 2014

THE TRIP TO ITALY (R) jjj1/2  

Coogan + Brydon + dueling Michael Caine Impersonations = a trip worth savoring

 

There’s a very sly scene in THE TRIP TO ITALY – Michael Winterbottom’s sequel (his first one…ever!) to 2010’s THE TRIP – during which time stars Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon (playing versions of themselves) are at a posh restaurant in Italy ruminating about movies in general...

 

Posted October 3, 2014

THE EQUALIZER (R) jjj

Not your typical retail store stock boy

THE EQUALIZER opens with an unintentionally hilarious and pretentious Mark Twain quote regarding the nature of man, which tries, I think, to set up this action thriller as one of utmost solemnity.  The resulting film, though, is so unrelentingly silly that you kind of have to do a reflective double take on the inclusion of that title card quote...

Posted October 3, 2014

A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES

(R) jjj1/2  

Not your typical Liam Neeson shoot first, ask questions later thriller

Scott Frank's A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES – adapted from the 1992 novel the same name by Lawrence Block – is the kind of white knuckled detective crime noir that’s just not made in any abundance anymore.  The central character – an ex-cop and recovering alcoholic now turned unlicensed private detective – has seen the light of day in multiple books and I can certainly see why this character and material appealed to Liam Neeson...

Posted September 26, 2014

THE MAZE RUNNER (PG-13) jjj  

A young-adult sci-fi thriller that doesn't completely pander down to its audience

There have been relatively so many young-adult fantasy novels adapted to the silver screen lately that I’ve frankly lost count.  Some have been exceptional (THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE), some have been mediocre (DIVERGENT), and some have been downright cruddy (THE HOST, I AM NUMBER FOUR, any TWILIGHT film of your choosing).  As a result, it was with great reluctance that I screened THE MAZE RUNNER...

Posted September 26, 2014

THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU

(R) jjj

Shiva at its most stressful

THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU does absolutely nothing different than what the countless other estranged family reunion dramedies have done before.  You know the type of genre I’m talking about: The one involving cranky and irritable siblings – all in stages of a respective mid-life crisis – returning to their childhood home to reconnect with one another and their parents – via a marriage, funeral, etc. – to eventually sort out and deal with all of their nagging insecurities with each other and themselves...

Posted September 26, 2014

THE DROP  (R) jjj1/2  

A tale of lost mob money and abused puppies...but it miraculously works

THE DROP is a mob movie of a decidedly different breed.  It’s concerned more with the behind-the-scenes lowlife bit players that play small, but significant roles in the larger food chain of the mafia.  The film places great emphasis on characterizing these bottom-feeders, some of which are aging crewmembers whose best days are long behind them, whereas others are relatively young and honor bound workers that harbor deep secrets from the past...

Posted September 21, 2014

PALO ALTO  (R) jj1/2  

These teens are on a road to nowhere

PALO ALTO is a drama that tries to attain a level of profundity regarding its exploration into its adolescent characters.  Regrettably, the film’s noble ambitions are somewhat stunted by how aimless and meandering its overall narrative is, which created more listlessness in me than genuine interest in the material...

Posted September 21, 2014

BOYHOOD  (R) )jjjj

This boy's life

Richard Linklater’s BOYHOOD is the very reason I go to the movies.  It’s a remarkably intimate, awe-inspiring, and touching celebration of human life, which is all the more special considering that all too many modern films seem to take great relish in glamorizing the taking of it.  To simply label the film as a “coming of age drama” almost doesn’t do it any justice at all...

Posted September 13, 2014

A MOST WANTED MAN  (R) jjjj

An uncommonly effective and slow-burning post-9/11 spy thriller

I’m a real sucker for a good espionage thriller with real world ties.  This makes it all the more easy for me to fall hard for spy game films like A MOST WANTED MAN, which manages to fully and triumphantly elevate itself far above the recent crop of similar genre films.  What’s so intrinsically intoxicating about Anton Corbijn’s (THE AMERICAN) film is in how well it captures the grungier and aspects of covert life...

Posted September 13, 2014

BLENDED  (PG-13) j 

Let's go to Africa with Adam Sandler!  Uh...pass.

BLENDED is twice as good as the last batch of witless and puerile Adam Sandler comedic ventures.  Alas, seeing as I have given a majority of them – like GROWN UPS 2, JUST GO WITH IT, and JACK AND JILL - the dreaded zero star rating…that’s not entirely saying much.  BLENDED is a bit softer on the edges than most of Sandler’s previous raunchfests (it contains very few gags regarding popping, farting, peeing – actually, there’s one gag with the latter – and other bodily functions)...

Posted September 13, 2014

THE NOVEMBER MAN  (R) jj

James Bond For Dummies

I’m not quite sure what kind of film THE NOVEMBER MAN is trying to be.  A James Bond-ian spy thriller?  A gritty, rough and tough action flick in the Jason Bourne mould?  What ultimately emerges is a spy espionage thriller that dutifully – and rather mechanically – feels like its lazily cherry picking from the discarded and recycled conventions of other countless genre films...

Posted September 5, 2014

TO BE TAKEI (no MPAA rating) jjj

OH MY!  What a surprising and revealing documentary!

I think that many people will already have an impression of George Takei before they venture into seeing TO BE TAKEI.  He most famously played Sulu in the original STAR TREK TV series and subsequent film franchise.  What many perhaps don’t know about the iconic 77-year-old actor is that he's also a staunch and deeply proud civil rights activist and a true survivor of past social-political horrors...

Posted September 5, 2014

NIGHT MOVES (R) jjj1/2

When does the activist ends justify the means?

NIGHT MOVES is an uncommonly effective eco-themed psychological thriller that gets by considerably on its less-is-more aesthetic.  Directed by Kelly Reichardt (MEEK’S CUTOFF and WENDY & LUCY), the film deals with the plot of a trio of radical environmentalists that wish to blow up a hydroelectric dam, but NIGHT MOVES is not just about the acts of these eco-terrorists. ..

Posted September 5, 2014

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR 

(R) jjj

"Sin City is where you go in with your eyes open...or you don't come out at all."

To say that SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR simply offers up more of the same that the previous film in the series offered is not only a bit obvious, but also a bit unfair.  2005’s SIN CITY – based on the graphic novels of the same name by Frank Miller – was a trailblazing original when it premiered...

Posted August 29, 2014

WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL

(PG) jj

When an unbeatable team becomes...beatable

WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL is a rare football drama that’s more compellingly about the nature of losing than it is about winning.  The reality based sports drama – based on the 2003 book of the same name by Neil Harris – concerns the improbably astounding winning streak of the De La Salle Spartans of Concord, California, a team that managed – over the course of a decade – to amass a winning streak of…no bull151-0.  That’s right.  151 wins without a loss... 

Posted August 29, 2014

THE EXPENDABLES 3  (PG-13) jj1/2

"How hard can it be to kill ten men?!"

 

I'm not altogether sure what a third EXPENDABLES film could already show me that the two other previous films in the franchise didn’t already.  The premise for the overall series – let’s dig up action film royalty from the 1980’s and populate as many of them as possible in one film that pays loving homage to such intellectually vacant, wantonly violent, and innocuously enjoyable films – offers up ample promises, which the first EXPENDABLES film somewhat catered to... 

 

Posted August 22, 2014

LET'S BE COPS (R) jjj

What's the worst that could happen...right?

LET’S BE COPS has a premise that is preposterous and never once feels credible on any level whatsoever.  It’s the kind of film that seems to take place in some kind of beyond-obvious fictional fantasyland where rules, regulations, and, most importantly, consequences for ill-conceived actions barely exist.  Yet, LET’S BE COPS is a frequently hysterical buddy comedy that gets by considerably on the effortless comedic charm of its two main actors. .. 

Posted August 22, 2014

 

 

 

 

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