Eagan at the Movies

Reviewing movies because we care.

Reviews for Current Films, Classics, Video Games and Lots of Other Cool Stuff For Parents and Children

In Theaters: Boo 2! A Madea Halloween, Only the Brave, The Snowman, The Foreigner, Happy Death Day, My Little Pony: The Movie, The Mountain Between Us, Blade Runner 2049, Flatliners, American Made, Friend Request, The Lego Ninjago Movie, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, American Assassin, Mother, 9/11, Home Again, It

Coming Soon: Geostorm, Jigsaw, Suburbicon, Thank You for Your Service, A Bad Moms Christmas, Thor: Ragnarok, Daddy's Home 2, Murder on the Orient Express, Justice League, The Star, Wonder, Coco, Polaroid, The Disaster Artist

Rating system:

★★★★: Classic  

★★★½: Very Good   

★★★: Good  

★★½ : Eh

★★: Could've Been Worse, Could've Been Better  

★½: Is It Too Late To Get A Refund?  

: Hope You Have A Good Date  

½: Little To No Redeeming Value

No Stars: Rethink Your Life Choices

Boo 2! A Madea Halloween                                by James Eagan                                         No Stars out of ★★★★


Image result for boo 2 a madea halloween movie imagesImage: Please lock the up and throw away the key.

 How do you spell out the sound of just one long, exasperated groan? It's the only feeling you can have during this hour and forty minute long, giant fart of a movie. And, much like a fart, you know it's coming. And there's still nothing you can do about it.

 "Boo 2! A Madea Halloween" starts almost a year after the first one, on the day before Halloween, where spoiled little twerp, "Tiffany" (Diamond White) is apparently having her 18th birthday (Didn't mention that in the last one, did ya?) and once again isn't happy, mostly because her dad, "Brian" (Tyler Perry) is a stupid moron. Tiffany wants a car, Brian says she isn't responsible for one, but Brian's ex-wife/Tiffany's mom, "Deborah" (Taja V Simpson) just lets Tiffany do whatever and just straight up buys her a new car. Brian is upset because, well, he's a pathetic dork, who can't control his daughter. And once again, they have to deal with the arrival of the horrific monstrosity known as his Aunt "Madea" (Tyler Perry, Again), and her vile minions, "Hattie" (Patrice Lovely), "Aunt Bam" (Cassi Davis), and the perverted (And possibly dangerous), "Uncle Joe" (Tyler Perry. ONCE AGAIN!).

 Tiffany wants to have a do over with the fraternity from the last movie, led by "Johnathan" (Yousef Erakat), who are going to have a Halloween party at a lake where people were all brutally murdered years before. Brian says "No", Tiffany says "Screw Him" and asked Deborah, who says "Eh, Go Ahead", Tiffany, along with her friends, the constantly whining "Gabriella" (Inanna Sarkis) and the always twerking "Leah" (Lexy Panterra) go off to the party. Brian is once again upset that he isn't getting his way and decides to just let them do whatever. Which is good because some crazy killers and demon children are on the loose, going around terrorizing everyone, and Madea shows up with her buddies to do their stuff. And that was way too much for a movie that literally has no plot. 

 "Boo 2! A Madea Halloween" is basically the same damn movie all over again. So little is actually different, yet somehow Director Tyler "I know you know you are better than this" Perry (Who also wrote and produced it) found new and inventive ways to make it even worse. Everything is cheaper and lazier than ever, going for the lowest form of comedy, while also just plain not making any sense. The entire situation (And even some of the jokes) are completely nonsensical, seemingly just made up on the fly, with little connection to anything else. 

 Much like the first one, "Boo 2!" comes across as so unlikable and mean spirited, in which basically every character is a piece of crap in their own unique way. It doesn't help that the acting all feels like it was done in the first take. Diamond White's character has become increasingly grating since the last movie, seemingly having learned nothing from the supposed "Lesson" from before. Cassi Davis and Patrice Lovely speak in such an over the top manner that I honestly have no idea what they're saying most of the time. (Doesn't make them any less annoying). The less I say about the uncomfortableness of Tito Ortiz (as "Victor", Brain's buddy/Gabriella's dad) the better.

 Then we get to Tyler Perry himself, who I know can act and can even be funny from time to time. But here, once again, it makes me question ever giving him credit for anything. Madea is as obnoxiously, grotesquely, cruel as ever, Uncle Joe is just steps away from becoming a possible rapist (You really don't want to know), and Brian, who especially comes across as the worst this time around once we get to a so called plot twist, is constantly whining about how he just isn't getting his way. (Apparently everything is everyone else's fault but his. You share blame in the fact your daughter is a horrible person too, you know,)

 It's weird how I'm not at all shocked that "Boo 2! A Madea Halloween" is horrible beyond reason, yet I'm still furious that is. The filmmakers could probably make the argument that the movie is nothing to be taken seriously and that it's meant to be one giant joke. The bad news is that the joke just isn't funny. Its the equivalent of being held hostage in which you don't know when it's going to end, and the moment you know it might be, it just keeps going. By this point with these movies, it's not even safe to just assume the worst. No stars. (It's my website. I can give as little stars as I please.) Rated PG-13 For Bad Dubbing Over Swears, Horrible Make Up, And Lots Of Round Booties. (Seriously,. Like A Lot.)

Only the Brave                                                         by James Eagan                                 ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for only the brave movie imagesImage: Heroic first responders....Or "Madea"....You decide.

 We do seem to have a bit of a disconnect with certain film based on real life tragedies, especially ones that are fairly recent. More than half the time, they end up being well intentioned, but overall just kind of pointless, lacking the real amount of drama, emotion, and most importantly, the humanity of such a story. Then sometimes you get something like "Only the Brave" which actually finds a way to balance out all of that, and make it stick with you.  

 "Only the Brave" tells the true story of a crew of firefighters known as "The Granite Mountain Hotshots", which includes crew leader "Eric Marsh" (Josh Brolin), his second in command "Jesse Steed" (James Badge Dale), the cocky, but well intentioned "Chris MacKenzie" (Taylor Kitsch), struggling rookie recruit "Brendan McDonough" (Miles Teller) and many others. The film follows the crew working hard to finally get approval to become an official hotshot crew that confronts wildfires, while showing most of their personal lives, such as Marsh's difficulty balancing his commitment to the job and his wife "Amanda" (Jennifer Connelly). This all leads up to the fateful (And later tragic) fight against the "Yarnell Hill Fire" in 2013. 

 "Only the Brave" takes an admittedly tired genre, and fully commits to it. With only the occasional overdone cliché sneaking in, the film somehow finds a way to make it work, thanks to the obvious amount of heart that's been put into the film. Director Joseph Kosinski ("Tron Legacy", "Oblivion") shows a lot of directorial range, balancing out the drama, some humor that helps develop the characters, and a strong focus on how scary the job of a firefighter can be. (Fire never looked so terrifying.)

 The script is smart and compelling, and the characters come across as entirely human, thanks in part to the actors portraying them. Josh Brolin is wonderful, as is his chemistry with Jennifer Connelly, who might be giving one of her best performances here. Miles Teller is flawed, but likable and easy to root for, along with Taylor Kitsch (Who has moved past the days of "Battleship" very quickly.). And lets give a little more credit to James Badge Dale, who is becoming a consistently reliable actor, and is excellent here. 

 "Only the Brave" is just a well done movie that honors the memories of the true life heroes, treating them as people in a way that's complex, making the film's heartbreaking finale all the more emotional. (Its actually a bit of a gut punch really.) I honestly feel bad that I actually knew little about this story, and hope it becomes something a bit more well known to other people. Too bad it isn't gonna make a profit compared to "Boo 2! A Madea Halloween". Priorities, people. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Terrifying Real Life Drama.

The Snowman                                                             by James Eagan                                        ★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "Do You Wanna Build A Snowman?"

 You know it's a bad sign when a movie's own director gives it a negative review. Director Tomas Alfredson ("Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy") admitted that 10-15% of the screenplay for "The Snowman" was not shot during filming. But while that's certainly played a part in what happened here, that can't be the only problem. It was probably already a bit of a mess before it just became a total disaster.

"The Snowman" follows washed up, drunken crime squad detective "Harry Hole" (Michael Fassbender) in Oslo, Norway during the winter. He ends up involved in a missing person's investigation with new recruit, "Katrine Bratt" (Rebecca Ferguson), who seems really invested in the case. The missing person is a cheating wife and mother, which is a bit like most other women who have vanished during snowfalls like this.

 Harry learns that the person responsible is a serial killer, known as "The Snowman", who targets women like this, leaving snowmen at the crime scene. The Snowman has also taken in interest in Harry, leaving notes and clues to taunt him. Harry and Katrine team up (Kind of. It's weirdly complicated.) to track down this killer before the next snowfall, while the filmmakers themselves try their best to piece together the tragic remains of their brutally murdered movie. 

 Much like the titular killer, "The Snowman" is just wrong on so many levels. Even with the knowledge of a troubled production, the film is all over the place, feeling stitched together in a desperate attempt to have it all make sense. In the end, we're stuck with something that feels constantly distracted with many out of nowhere subplots and scenes that rarely come together. While Tomas Alfredson can film a pretty shot or two (Especially of the mountainous landscape), he can't save what little of the film actually remains. 

 I doubt troubled production is all that was really the problem with "The Snowman" (Although it sure as Hell didn't help). The film follows a standard, predictable route, with very few surprises aside from some nonsensical reveals (Twins? Why are there twins?) and baffling editing choices (Quick two seconds of guy getting his head blown off. Was that supposed to be a scene?) Michael Fassbender is usually a terrific actor, but here he looks bored and out of it, seemingly just trying to get through his performance quickly so he can return home to Alicia Vikander. (At least he's got his priorities straight.) Rebecca Ferguson is plenty lovely and is trying her absolute damnedest to make this movie work, despite the fact you know very well where her abruptly short story arc is gonna lead.

 Too many actors are wasted like Charlotte Gainsbourg (as "Rakel", Harry's ex girlfriend, who does nothing), Toby Jones (as "Svenson", an inspector who appears for a couple minutes) and the great J.K. Simmons (as "Arve Støp", perverted businessman who seemingly plays a big part, then vanishes from the movie entirely.) Then we have poor Val Kilmer (as "Gert Rafto", another washed up detective who only appears in flashback),in the film's most bizarre bit. Seeing and hearing an obviously dubbed over voice, poorly synced to Val Kilmer's moving lips is something that's going to be mocked for a long time. 

 A good murder mystery is meant to be complex, but cohesive, so the audience can actually follow what's going on and what's leading up to the big reveal. However, "The Snowman" has so many loose ends and scenes missing, that it just doesn't make any sense. Neither does the reveal as to who the real killer is, which is just as inconsistent as everyone and everything else. (It's like he's intentionally trying to get himself caught.)This could of been something grim, but kind of cool, but instead just ends up being as silly (And shockingly boring) as the over the top dramatic music that plays every time we see a snowman. The filmmakers probably think Olaf from "Frozen" is the most terrifying thing ever. 1 star. Rated R For Gory Images And Terrifyingly Poor Sound Editing. 

The Foreigner                                                            by James Eagan                                       ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "Hey, you're Jackie Chan....AAAHHH!"

 I can't be the only one who thinks this, but I just can't see Jackie Chan being sad. I'm used to the more lovable, always happy Jackie Chan. And when he puts on a sad face, it's the biggest, most depressing sad face you will ever see. Still, sad Jackie Chan will kick the crap out of you if he wants to. So don't push him.

 "The Foreigner" starts with loving father, "Ngoc Minh Quan" (Jackie Chan) witnessing the death of his daughter, "Fan" (Katie Leung) in a horrific bombing caused by a group calling themselves "The Authentic IRA". Quan is a lonely man and former Vietnam special forces veteran, so with no other remaining loved, he sets out to find out who the names of the bombers are himself, targeting Irish deputy minister, "Liam Hennessy" (Pierce Brosnan).

 Quan knows Hennessy was once an IRA member in the past. Though Hennessy claims to know nothing about what happened and really isn't doing much about it, Quan eventually gets tired of Hennessy's sh*t and proceeds to go after him personally. He forces the names of the bombers out of Henessy, while becoming involved in some dirty, sleazy, and dangerous political intrigue, which proves to be much more complicated than you would expect.  

 "The Foreigner" is not exactly what you would imagine it would be, due to it actually being more of a political thriller than a full on action movie (Though there are plenty of sequences of well choreographed action). The movie really takes it's time, with a complicated story that has many subplots that do eventually all come together by the end (For the most part anyway.) There are a couple threads that probably could of been left out.

 Despite a bit too much going on and a few admittedly unavoidable clichés, "The Foreigner" does a solid job nonetheless.The story is undoubtedly fascinating, with some unexpected twists and turns that at times feel convoluted, but exciting enough to keep you invested and interested in where this is all going to lead. Jackie Chan, (Who is known for more lighthearted action roles in the US), gives an excellent and emotional performance. (And his sad face, man. It's just so heartbreaking.) Pierce Brosnan is complexly slimy, coming across as human, but remaining a dirtbag nonetheless. There is a pretty decently sized cast, with many characters and the actors doing a good job playing them, but it's Chan and Brosnan's show, and they are certainly worth the ticket price on their own.

 "The Foreigner" is nothing too original, and probably will more unsettle viewers with how dark and grim it is than entertain them. But Director Martin Campbell ("Casino Royale") keeps the pace moving, with some believable action scenes, some interesting topics, and for at least trying to do something new with the genre. Its nothing all too special, but you do get to see some good actors try out something new, and dominate the screen with their presence alone. And I hope that puts a smile back on Jackie Chan's face. 3 stars. Rated R For Hardcore Violence, Language, And The Most Despicable Form Of Politics.

Happy Death Day                                                      by James Eagan                                        ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for happy death day movie imagesImage: "It's like deja vu, all over again."

 Sorry my reviews are a bit behind lately. I've been too sick to do much of anything this weekend. Mix that in with work, and a big ass Deer destroying my only form of transportation, and you got yourself a constant cycle of complications. Not too much unlike our main character in "Happy Death Day"....You know, except for all the dying. 

 "Happy Death Day" starts with college student, "Tree Gelbman" (Jessica Rothe) waking up in the dorm room of a nice guy she met the night before, "Carter" (Israel Broussard). It just so happens to be her birthday, which she wants nothing to do with, so Tree goes about her day, being a jerk to most people around her, including her roommate, "Lori" (Ruby Modine), and her equally jerkish sorority leader, "Danielle" (Rachel Matthews). She fools around with her married teacher, "Gregory" (Charles Aitken), and proceeds to get herself murdered by some unknown killer, wearing a mask of the college mascot (Those mascot's always have a smile on their face. But they're evil.)

 Suddenly, Tree wakes up back in Carter's room, starting the day over again, up until she gets killed a second time, which starts the day over once again. Tree, with help from Carter, decides to use her constant revivals to find out who her killer is, which she realizes really could be anyone that she's wronged in the past, all while learning to become a better person in the process. 

 "Happy Death Day" knows this whole "Groundhog Day" scenario has been done many times before, and while it doesn't exactly do anything new with it, the movie just so happens to have a ball with it and does an excellent job with it. The film knows it's silly, but is smart about it, using it's premise in a way that's clever and funny. It's really more of a comedy than a horror movie. 

 Directed by Christopher B. Landon ("Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse" and....one of those "Paranormal Activity" movies), "Happy Death Day" wisely plays up more of the humor than the scares, which makes the movie safe, but also leaves room for a surprisingly likable story to come out, with even a few moments of heart. We also get a fun cast of characters, whose committed actors give better performances than you would expect a movie like this to provide. 

 Jessica Rothe (Who I just know as one of Emma Stone's friends in "La La Land") is utterly perfect in the movie, full of personality and charm, even with her character's less embraceable moments. She does a great job in the more horror based moments, the comedic aspects, and even some of the more emotional moments, retaining likability and a reason to root for her. She also has great chemistry with Israel Broussard, who comes across as a very likable character. Everyone in the movie really does a better job than what was probably asked of them. The only downside is that it can be seen as pretty obvious who the killer ends up being revealed to be. (I see a lot of movies, so it's a bit hard for something like that to shock me these days.My innocence is gone.)

 Hands down the sweetest slasher flick I've ever seen, "Happy Death Day" has a great emotional core to it that's unexpected, but works to the benefit of the movie. It's combined very well with a smart script that acknowledges it's silliness, and never acts stupid about it. It's one of those nice little surprises that I look forward to, and personally, I kind of see it having a bit of a fanbase in the future. Because I can sense what;s going to happen tomorrow. It's looking like it's going to be a lot like today. Your welcome. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Jumpy Scares, Language, And Killer Baby Faces. 

My Little Pony: The Movie                                 by James Eagan                                      ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for my little pony movie imagesImage: Furry Con 2017 .

 Here's something I never thought I would have to talk about. Bronies. That just came out of nowhere didn't it?. A group of adult men who happen to like a show that was clearly meant for little girls. (At least, that's the basic way to describe it.) I can't get too into on how good the show is because I've seen very little. (I do remember thinking it was much better than it had any right to be, with some occasional funny moments and cute characters.) It's one of those things that can seem weird in the eyes of other people, but if you really think about it, it's just another geeky fanbase. I mean, I know more "Star Wars" knowledge than actual history, I still collect "Transformers", and I am currently watching the new "DuckTales" cartoon because it's clever and funny. The whole Brony craze is different, but I feel like I understand it. Maybe we all have Brony tendencies. Live and let live.

 "My Little Pony: The Movie" begins in the magical (And insanely colorful) kingdom of Equestria, where all the little ponies live in harmony, having parties and learning morals about friendship. "Princess Twilight Sparkle" (Tara Strong) is put in charge of organizing a festival to celebrate the power of friendship, with help from her many friends, the tough pony "Rainbow Dash" (Ashleigh Ball), the farmer pony "Applejack" (Ashleigh Ball. Again.), the insane pony "Pinkie Pie" (Andrea Libman), the shy pony "Fluttershy" (Andrea Libman. Again.), the beauty obsessed pony "Rarity" (Tabitha St. Germain), and their little dragon buddy "Spike" (Cathy Weseluck). But trouble arrived in the form of "Tempest Shadow" (Emily Blunt), a hornless unicorn acting on orders of the dreaded "Storm King" (Liev Schreiber), who wants the magic of all the princesses all to himself because he hates friendship and magic.

 Twilight and her friends are forced to flee Equestria when it is taken over. Now on the run from Tempest and her soldiers, the little ponies set out to find the legendary "Hippogriffs" (Who have transformed themselves into seaponies to escape the Storm King) to help save the day, while coming across a bunch of strange characters, including a band of parrots, er, I mean, pirates, led by "Celaeno" (Zoe Saldana), and a suave con artist cat, "Capper" (Taye Diggs) (Who is definitely going to be the subject of a ton of furry art.) The ponies learn their lessons about, well, friendship and stuff, while looking cute and bouncy doing it. 

 Based on the hit rebooted (And oddly popular, especially in the geek community) animated series, "My Little Pony: The Movie" is....well...exactly what I would expect a movie based around little magical ponies would look like. It's colorful to the point of blinding, ridiculously cute, and full of so much sweetness that plenty of the uninitiated will just hate it's guts for just how sugary it is. The movie is basically candy on screen for an hour and forty minutes. But regardless of what any of us critics think, there are people who are gonna gobble it all up. Luckily the film simply embraces what it is from the start. 

 "My Little Pony: The Movie" borrows all the basic plot points from your average Disney movie, following a rather predictable path, complete with forgettable songs, with the exception of one by Sia (Also voicing "Songbird Serenade", who is basically just the pony version of Sia) leaving an impression. There are cutesy jokes galore, with a few nice self aware ones and an occasional so bad its funny pun. (Hungry, Hungry Hippos. Ha!) The animation is undeniably pretty to look at and is certainly creatively sparkly to say the least.

 The film also utilizes it's excellent vocal talent to their best abilities, with the wonderful Tara Strong getting the limelight, and the other cast members from the show, including Ashleigh Ball, Andrea Libman, Tabitha St. Germain, and Cath Weseluck showing that they are pros when it comes to voice work. We also get good work out of the celebrity cast with an excellent Emily Blunt and some occasional funny lines from Taye Diggs and Michael Peña (as "Grubber", Tempest's always hungry hedgehog minion), the adorable Kristen Chenoweth (as "Princess Skystar" a perky hippogriff), and a hilariously out of control, hammy performance from Liev Schreiber, who doesn't get anywhere near enough screentime, but was certainly worth the price of admission. 

 Good natured and almost disgustingly cute, "My Little Pony: The Movie" gives you exactly what is advertised. It's not something really for me (And I might just be going a little easy on it), but unlike something like "The Emoji Movie", this one has an actual heart to it and some genuinely charming moments. It knows what it is and who it's for, and has no problems showing it. The little girls (And yes, so will the Bronnies) will of course love it regardless of what I have to say. And you know what, that's fine. So ya got some Brony tendencies. I understand you....Now if you find yourself physically attracted to a pony, I can't help you there. 3 stars. Rated PG For Pony Puns. Lots And Lots Of Pony Puns. (Really, This Could Of Been An Easy G Rating.) 

The Mountain Between Us                                by James Eagan                                         ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: Well, this will be a lovely trip.

 Movies such as this are pretty much a dime a dozen. Despite the marketing and advertisements, "The Mountain Between Us" is less survival movie, but more like one of those romance movies that throw in a little tragedy to up the drama factor, such as "Everything, Everything", "The Space Between Us" (Everything is "Between Us" these days), and basically anything based on a Nicholas Sparks novel. Which is fine, since there is an audience for them. But writing reviews for movies like these just make me look like a bit of another jackass dude. I've got nothing against cheesy romance movies. Just.....Could you make them less boring? 

 "The Mountain Between Us" opens with hunky neurosurgeon, "Ben Bass" (Idris Elba), who gets his flight to perform an important surgery cancelled due to bad weather. At this same time, lovely photojournalist, "Alex Martin" (Kate Winslet) is also unable to get her flight in time for her wedding to her fiancé, "Mark" (Dylan McDermott, er, I mean, Dermot Mulroney). Alex has an idea so that both she and Ben can arrive to where they want to go in time by hiring pilot, "Walter" (Beau Bridges) to fly them in a charter plane, along with his cute doggy.

 But then Walter goes and has a stroke, resulting in the plan crashing high up in the cold mountains. Alex is injured, and Ben is having trouble trying to control the situation, with little food or water to survive. (But the doggy is ok. So that's good.) Ben and Alex realize they need to work together to survive the harsh wilderness, eventually realizing that they are both very attractive people who, while lost in the middle of nowhere, find what is most important. Each other. Or something like that. (Also, Poor Mark. Never stood a chance.) 

 "The Mountain Between Us" has little surprises to it, following the romantic rulebook from start to finish, complete with awkward dialogue and in your face chessiness. On the bright side, this one just so happens to be better made than most of them. Director Hany Abu-Assad does know how to film a shot, especially a long one of the mountainous landscape, which is beautiful to look at and oddly terrifying at the same time. The situations the characters are put in are certainly forced and probably not very realistic, but the setting is utilized just enough to make you understand how harsh this environment really would be if you were stranded in it.

 The romance itself is also forced, but saved by the talents of Idris Elba and Kate Winslet, who are both terrific in the film. If fact, they are better than the movie deserves, using their natural charm and screen presence to carry the entire film. They're pros and they aren't just sleepwalking through it. Dylan Mc.....Ugh....I mean, Dermot Mulroney (Who is only a long, glorified cameo that appears in the last act) on the other hand looks bored, tired, and somewhat hungry, just seemingly wanting to get this role over with. But the real star of the movie is that dog, man. It's just insanely cute, full of personality, and just gives you something to really care about. (If that dog died, boy would this of been a hard one to watch.)

 "The Mountain Between Us" is just the kind of movie that I couldn't recommend to anyone except the audience that usually eats this stuff up, but the movie falters in how it just refuses to end. It's like the filmmakers couldn't figure out how to properly end their movie, and needlessly keep it going for 15 to 20 minutes longer than necessary, ending in the most stupidly, cheesy, and in your face way as possible, while still claiming to be set in the real world. I can't hate the movie due to sheer competence, but I can say it makes for a good nap. 2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Pretty People In Danger, Pretty People Getting It On, And Preposterously Pretty People Problems.

Blade Runner 2049                                                 by James Eagan                                    ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for blade runner 2049Image: Yeah, I think they know they're cool.

 Usually this is the part where I tell you about how, despite being a film critic with a decent amount of movie knowledge, that I haven't actually seen the original to the film I'm reviewing. (In this case, the original 1982 cult Science-Fiction "Blade Runner") However, this time I could make the argument that going in completely blind was probably the best thing someone like me could do for a movie like this, for no other reason than to say that it stands completely on it's own as just damn good, intelligent Sci-Fi. I made a judgement call.

 "Blade Runner 2049" takes place in the year 2049, where an incident 30 years prior led to the idea of bioengneered humans, known as "Replicants", to be prohibited until eccentric scientist, "Niander Wallace" (Jared Leto) vows to create new, perfected and obedient replicants. Now a "Blade Runner", called "K" (Ryan Gosling) is sent to hunt down rogue older model replicants. After a confrontation with one of the rogue replicants, "Sapper Morton" (Dave Bautista), K discovers the remains of a female replicant that has somehow given birth.

 His superior, "Lieutenant Joshi" (Robin Wright) orders K to ensure that this information doesn't get out and that everything connected to it has to be destroyed, including the likely now full grown child. Through a series of events, K finds himself connected to the case, and along with his pretty hologram girlfriend, "Joi" (Ana de Armas), sets out to find out what is going on, while Wallace, hellbent on creating the perfect slave labor workforce, wants the child found, so he sends his henchwoman, "Luv" (Sylvia Hoeks) to follow K on his mission. This all eventually leads to K's fateful meeting with famed, former blade runner, "Rick Deckard" (Harrison Ford).

 Despite never having seen the original "Blade Runner", even I understand what significance it has had on modern Science Fiction in terms of film, books, comics, video games, etc. I also understand how ahead of it's time it truly was and how it has impacted film and pop culture as a whole. It's hard to determine if "Blade Runner 2049" will quite match that, but as a standalone film, it certainly leaves an impression. 

 Director Denis Villeneuve ("Arrival", "Prisoners", "Sicario") is possibly one of the best (And most consistent) directors working today. With plenty attention to detail, and the trust that the audience will be able to follow and understand the slow, but atmospheric pace, Villenueve has made for some of the most artistic blockbusters in recent memory. Not to mention the breathtaking visuals and cinematography from the constantly Academy Award nominated Roger Deakins make for an unsettling, but still beautiful theater going experience. 

 The look of "Blade Runner 2049" (Which continues the shiny, but still dirty and broken down future that the original pretty much set the standard for) is amazing, and the characters within the world that's been created are complex in the way they are portrayed. Ryan Gosling is brilliant in a role I was being intentionally vague about, Ana de Armas is perfectly cast and instantly lovable, Jared Leto is the right amount of creepy, Sylvia Hoeks is suitably menacing, and Robin Wright is as excellent as she generally tends to be. Then we have the awesomeness that is Harrison Ford, who doesn't show up till late in the film, but is absolutely terrific once he finally does, making the wait worth it. (Special mention to Dave Bautista, who is only in the film for a bit, but still gives a wonderful, emotional performance). 

 At times it can be a bit hard to follow (Though I could probably chalk it up to never having seen the first one) "Blade Runner 2049" is the kind of movie I can see resonating with many moviegoers, while still leaving a few confused. It's the kind of movie that could warrant a second viewing (Which is not a bad thing at all.) It's smart, stunning to look at, and even though the messages of what it means to be human have been done plenty, it still finds a way to make it feel fresh and powerful. It's also got a fist fight with a holographic Elvis in the background. You're gonna' get your money's worth. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Bloody Violence, Holographic Nudity, And Disturbing Images. 

Flatliners            by James Eagan          ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "I feel so funky!" 

 When a movie leaves so little of an impact, it's hard to talk in length about the positives and negatives in it. But I am committed to what I do, and I always see to it that I do the absolute best I can when it comes to my writing. I intend to make sure all points are covered so that the basic gist of the film is easy to comprehend to the reader. Basically, if I can talk about "Transformers: The Last Knight" for 10 paragraphs, I can talk about something as forgettable as "Flatliners  for at least 4. Seems fair. 

 "Flatliners" follows a group of medical students, beginning with "Courtney" (Ellen Page) getting the idea that perhaps through experimentation on near death experiences can help people come to the truth of where we go when we die, which she is only trying to figure out in hopes of making amends for being responsible for her little sister's death years earlier. (Don't text and drive. Seriously. Could of saved everyone a lot of trouble.) She begins to partake in the inconsequential pastime, "Flatlining", along with her colleagues, which include the horny one "Jamie" (James Norton). the hot one "Marlo" (Nina Dobrev), the innocent one "Sophia" (Kiersey Clemons), and the guy who thinks this is all really, really stupid "Ray" (Diego Luna). At first, everything starts out pretty cool, with everyone getting their own uniquely, psychedelic experiences and showing strange side effects such as heightened intelligence and skills. Too bad the movie realizes it wants to be a horror movie and the friends start to become haunted (And hunted) by their own personal demons, which have the intention of driving them crazy and killing them. 

 "Flatliners" is a remake of an earlier 90s movie, but doesn't feel very important despite the admittedly fascinating premise. The idea itself is something that could make for some good Sci-Fi or even some good horror. Sadly the movie, while at competently made (Unlike last week's "Friend Request"), does everything in the easiest, tamest way possible that it just comes across as generic and boring. Not exactly bad enough to warrant that 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, but lacking in any sense of identity or a real reason to justify it's 110 minute runtime. 

 To her credit, Ellen Page gives a very committed and heartfelt performance, carrying the film on her own easily, and she makes even the sillier moments work just through sheer personality. Meanwhile, James Norton, Nina Dobrev, Kiersey Clemons, and Diego Luna (Who does at least get an amusing line or two) aren't so much bad, but they don't leave much of an impression. Also, Kiefer Sutherland (as "Dr. Wolfson", the medical students' superior) is just here because he was in the original. 

 After a plot twist that attempts to be clever, but only makes the rest of the film even less interesting, "Flatliners" er, falls flat (I had to come up with a pun. It's mandatory.), setting for jump scares, obvious reveals, and never realizing what it could do with the idea it actually set up. With all that said, there's nothing outright horrible here. It's just an unnecessary experience for everyone involved, including the audience. On the bright side, I actually got to 5 paragraphs. Damn, I'm good! 2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Creepy Things Going Boo!

American Made                                                        by James Eagan                                           ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "Why are you here?" "Drugs."

 Movies based on True Stories are particularly hard to trust, mostly due to constant changes for either the sake of drama, or just because the filmmakers want to do their own thing. But then there are certain ones that are so freakin' nuts that they just have to be true. So when it comes to the morality of the characters, we kind of go back and forth in that department. But it's okay if you're doing it for the good guys.   

 "American Made" tells the true story (We can only hope not all of it is) of "Barry Seal" (Tom Cruise),a skilled airline pilot that gets the attention of CIA agent, "Monty Schafer" (Domhnall Gleeson), who sees that Barry's talents can be better utilized for Uncle Sam. Schafer first has Barry fly over South America and take pictures, then ends up having him serve as a courier between the CIA and allies in Panama. Barry later crosses paths with the Medellin Cartel, which includes drug smuggler, "Jorge Ochoa" (Alejandro Edda), who want Barry to deliver their cocaine to the US in exchange for extra money on the side. Barry says "What's the worst that could happen?", and so begins an even further downward spiral for Barry, his wife "Lucy" (Sarah Wright), and his kids. The CIA turns a blind eye, and there's more involvement of other government officials (Including the White House itself), the Contras, more drugs, and lots and lots of money. 

 "American Made" takes it's wild story and just has a ball with it. Director Doug Liman (Who previously worked with Cruise on "Edge of Tomorrow") manages to balance a somewhat comedic tone with the film's unavoidable truths that do result in occasional dark moments. It's told entirely from the main character's perspective, and considering just how bizarre the story is, it's hard not to get a laugh out of it. It's all thanks to a smart script that knows how to properly find it's footing in reality, even with the many moments that will likely have you shout "What the Hell? Did that actually happen?"

 Tom Cruise may be a bit of a looney in real life (A bit of one. Lets go with that.), but he is certainly reliable as an actor and he is at his best here. Complex, snarky, likable, yet he remains full of crap throughout. Cruise just brings an amount of energy that not many actors could pull off with as much success. Sarah Wright gives a stronger performance than necessary, having a few great moments with Cruise, and Domhnall Gleeson steals the spotlight every chance he gets. 

 There is a lot of story to tell with "American Made" in only a limited amount of time. So on occasion the film just sort of skims through a few details for pacing reasons. It makes the film feel fast paced and constantly moving, but it does feel like that sometimes something important might of been left out and just needed a bit more time dedicated to it. "American Made" does also bring up a few rather interesting moments in politics (Mostly around the hypocrisy when it came to the war on drugs.) that will likely rile a few people up (Just try to deny it. You really can't.)

 "American Made" revels in it's absurdity. While a few moments don't quite mesh well, the film is a ton of fun, providing some insight on a strange situation, while remaining gleefully preposterous at the same time. It takes a lot of talent to make light of something that's so unsettlingly unfunny, that it's actually pretty funny. 3 stars. Rated R For Load Of Adult Content And Tom Cruise's Crazy Ass. 

Friend Request                                                         by James Eagan                                             ½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "James gave us only 1/2 a star?!"

 Due to my admitted horror movie bias, which is why I rarely review them because my first assumption would be that they will end up being complete crap. But over the recent years, I've been giving more of them a chance, and I can totally see where someone can have fun with them. I can also see how the horror genre can make for good filmmaking with clever ways of making you scared. (Ex. "It", "The Conjuring", etc.) With all that said, it's nice to have a movie that reminds me why I had that bias in the first place. 

 "Friend Request" follows popular college girl, "Laura" (Alycia Debnam-Carey), who has a thing for making friends on Facebook (Or I think it's Facebook. The logo is always mysteriously hidden.) She ends up adding the lonely, weird goth girl, "Marina" (Liesl Ahlers), who takes this sort of act of friendship to a somewhat disturbing degree. Marina ends up constantly trying to contact Laura and is seemingly stalking her. Not to mention the fact that aside from having no other added friends aside from Laura, her page is filled with all kinds of freaky, disturbing images. After an argument, Laura ends up deciding to unfriend Marina. A completely heartbroken Marina loses it and proceeds to commit suicide.

 The next day, the video of her death is mysteriously added online, and somehow ends up being shared by Laura, who hasn't the slightest idea how it happened. Things turn horrific when Laura's closest friends start getting picked off one by one, with their horrific, suicide-like deaths ending up becoming posted online. Laura is shunned by everyone around her, who all believe she is intentionally sharing these videos because they are all very stupid. Same goes for the police who find Laura to be the suspicious one, despite the fact that there is no way for her to get these videos and that by this point, with all the random, gruesome deaths, and weird occurrences going about, its pretty obvious that the demonic, witchy spirit of Marina is going around screwing with everyone. Just kind of obvious, don't you think?

  A German made film, that was made in South Africa, but also set in America with American actors (Try to figure that one out), "Friend Request" is exactly the kind of movie I would think of every time a horror movie came out. Its a strange, cheap looking mix of different ideas that never culminate in anything original. It finds a way to take the worst aspects of two types of horror movies (The excessive, gross out gore of an R rated one and the excessive, lazy use of jump scares of a PG-13 one), and never feels scary in the slightest. 

 Another reason for the lack of actual scares in "Friend Request" is clearly because the entire movie is beyond stupid to the point where the many, many plot holes just plain make the movie kind of confusing to follow. What are Marina's powers exactly? She isn't limited to just appearing on the computer and can use killer wasps that fly out of her decomposing body to kill people. She can just appear and reappear whenever she wants, and despite the fact that the deaths in the film are portrayed as suicides (Be it very aggressive ones), and everyone thinks Laura is somehow responsible. How could she possibly commit these murders, and still have the time to upload them online herself? The film is constantly writing itself into corners, that it eventually just says "Screw it" and just does whatever it wants. 

 The performances are mostly limited to screaming and yelling in dark settings so that a scary face can pop out and go "Rawr!". But to the credit of Alycia Debnam-Cary, she is trying her best. It's not her fault that the movie has no idea how to really portray any of it's characters. Liesl Ahlers actually comes across as more creepy before she becomes all gross and demon looking, mostly because in the first part of the movie, she at least seems like a real person you could see existing. (At least until we get into her backstory, that just ends up turning her into a monster from the start.) The rest of the cast isn't really worth mentioning since nobody here is allowed to do much of anything except die gruesomely.

 It doesn't help that none of the characters are really developed, to the point where you wonder why all this is happening to them in the first place. Yeah, they're all really shallow people, but they aren't ever shown to be cruel or bad people. It seems that the mentality of "Friend Request" is that so long as people die in horror movie fashion, that's all you need to fill up the 92 minute runtime. A movie, even a scary one, needs characterization. It needs atmosphere and a reason to make you give a damn. This is something your drunk friend would pick up from the straight to DVD $5 bin and laugh at for the entire length of the movie. It's as lazy and pointless as you can possibly get. (Just call Facebook tech support! Its that easy!) 1/2 star. Rated R For Gore And Grotesque Images And Girls Acting Witchy.. 

The Lego Ninjago Movie                                      by James Eagan                                         ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image: Easily the most terrifying evil you'll see on screen this year.

 One of the motives for getting into the reviewing business is because sometimes, on occasion, those professional critics can, at times, once in a while, come across as needlessly harsh and cynical. All right, kind of snotty. Once in a while. Sometimes there isn't some secret meaning to a downgrade in quality. Sometimes a film studio just doesn't bring their A game. Remember when "Cars 2" was meant to be the end of Pixar? The same goes here. Despite clearly much weaker than previous installments, this new Lego film franchise isn't going anywhere anytime soon. And that is a good thing. Critics are so dang...Critical. Just chill out. 

 "The Lego Ninjago Movie" starts with a young boy wandering into a shop, where the owner (Jackie Chan) tells him the Lego tale of "Ninjago", a city of Legos. The story follows a teen named "Lloyd" (Dave Franco), who is rejected and hated by most people around him, solely due to the fact that his dad is the evil warlord, "Lord Garmadon" (Justin Theroux) (I mean, c'mon!) Garmadon always comes up with schemes to conquer the city, and is generally destroying most of it in the process. But luckily, Lloyd is secretly the beloved hero, "The Green Ninja", who along with his fellow, elemental ninja friends, including the red ninja of fire "Kai"(Michael Peña), the blue ninja of lightning "Jay" (Kumail Najiani), the silver ninja of water "Nya" (Abbi Jacobson), the black ninja of Earth "Cole" (Fred Armisen) and the robotic, white ninja of ice "Zane" (Zach Woods), use their giant mech suits to stop Garmadon's many attempts at conquering Ninjago.

 Their master, "Master Wu" (Jackie Chan, obviously), who just so happens to be Garmadon's brother, disproves of the ninjas relying on their mech suits inside of actually using their natural gifts. Tired of being picked on, Lloyd decides to unleash the "Ultimate Weapon" (A laser pointer) in a desperate attempt to take down Garmadon, which also just so happens to unleash the unstoppable beast of destruction, "Meowthra" (Who is just a giant cat that likes to knock things over.) While Garmadon takes over the city during the chaos, Master Wu instructs Lloyd and the others to seek out the "Ultimate, Ultimate Weapon" to stop Meowthra's reign of terror. Meanwhile, Garmadon, feeling more remorseful than he lets on, eventually teams up with the ninjas to find the weapon, all while he and Lloyd start to bond as father and son. 

 Everyone was shocked at how great both "The Lego Movie" and "The Lego Batman Movie" really were. People were just expecting an overlong commercial to sell toys, but instead we got two hilarious, heartfelt, and insanely clever family movies that adults could enjoy just as much as kids could. "The Lego Ninjago Movie" is really no different, other than the fact it's just nowhere near as good as the other two. The film (Which has three directors and seven writers), just feels a bit messier and random in terms of it's plot compared to the others. Some elements don't quite add up or feel unnecessary to the overall film. (Such as a live action framing device that's cute, but adds nothing to the story.)

 "The Lego Ninjago Movie" plays it safe and mostly just does what it's predecessors have done, but it does it well. Despite others claiming that this is the end of the Lego franchise (And that it's all just a pointless cash grab), there is still far too much effort and heart put into this. It lacks a lot of the cleverness from the other movies, but it's hard not to get a laugh or two that kids and adults will both get a kick out of. The animation, which utilizes CGI to give the impression of stop motion with the Lego characters and buildings is as beautiful as ever, providing plenty of animated chaos, yet still taking time to show some genuine heart in terms of it's story.

 Dave Franco is perfectly cast, and has great back and forth dialogue with Justin Theroux, who is absolutely hilarious and dominates whatever scene he's in with his over the top villainy. Jackie Chan sounds like (And looks like) he's having a total blast. Michael Peña, Kumail Nanjiani, Abbi Jacobson, Zach Woods, Fred Armisen, and Olivia Munn (as "Koko", Lloyd's mother) all do fine and are plenty likable, but don't add much as actual characters, another issue with how much is stuffed into the movie. 

 "The Lego Ninjago Movie" was clearly a gamble after how successful the start of the franchise was. And though it never quite lives up to the high standard that's been set, that doesn't make the movie bad at all. The message of not judging people by how they look or where they come from is a positive one, there are still plenty of good gags from the writing to whatever is in the background (Although the giant cat bit by far gets the best laughs), and the sense of imagination is still there. Sometimes being just good is enough. You would think. 3 stars. Rated PG For Wanton, Lego Destruction And Cat On Lego Violence. 

Kingsman: The Golden Circle                       by James Eagan                                           ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image: "I know, I thought my character was dead too!".  

 Sequels bruv. They have a tendency to end up with a bit of a bad wrap, especially if the first movie is great. On rare occasions, they can actually be better than the original. But we've just kind of gotten used a lesser version of what we've seen before. All you can really hope it's done well and that it at least retains the same sense of fun that you experienced the first time. Or you can get "Speed 2", "Son of the Mask", and "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" (And with that one, the original wasn't all that great anyway.) Either way, don't get your hopes up.

 "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" starts a year after the first film, with former Kingsman rookie agent, "Eggsy/Galahad" (Taron Egerton) being ambushed by former Kingsman trainee turned traitor, "Charlie" (Edward Holcroft). (Who also has him a robot arm), while on the way home to his see his girlfriend, "Tilde" (Hanna Alström). Charlie as it turns out, now works for cheerful drug lord, "Poppy" (Julianne Moore) who has formed a new organization known as "The Golden Circle". As part of Poppy's evil (And bizarre) plan to legalize drugs (Seriously), she has Charlie arrange for the deaths of all Kingsman agents, including Eggsy's best friend, "Roxy/Lancelot" (Sophie Cookson), leaving only Eggsy and the tech savvy, "Merlin" (Mark Strong) as all that remains of Kingsman.

 With nowhere else to turn, Eggsy and Merlin head over to the good ol' USA, to join forces with the secret American organization, "Statesman". Working alongside Statesman leader "Champagne" (Jeff Bridges), tech support "Ginger Ale" (Halle Berry), lasso carrying agent "Whisky" (Pedro Pascal), and dickish agent "Tequila" (Channing Tatum), Eggsy and Merlin also discover that their thought to be deceased friend/Eggsy's mentor, "Harry/The Former Galahad" (Colin Firth) is still alive and suffers from amnesia. The new team searches for Poppy's secret hideaway and putting a stop to her evil plan, which will just so happen to endanger the lives of millions. 

 With "Kingsman: The Golden Circle", expectations were high considering how liked the first "Kingsman" was. (Especially since it was such a unique surprise.) The sequel goes for the "Bigger is Better" mindset, while also trying to replicate what worked so well the first time. Luckily the movie does it well enough that so you can overlook it's glaring flaws, and it still serves as a solid continuation. Despite the admittedly overlong runtime, returning Director Matthew Vaughn never runs out of crazy ideas, going for broke with it's stylized, over the top action that is always filled with pure ridiculousness (But intentionally so.) Think of it as a superhero movie on several different, psychedelic drugs at once.

 With the madcap action and cartoonish violence, "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" keeps it's sense of humor intact, with all the weird gadgets, preposterous plot points, and of course, plenty of shock value that is bound to offend someone somewhere. (He had to place that tracking device where now?) Luckily, much like the first film, we have a cast that plays the film straight, giving much better performances than you would expect a live action cartoon to have.

 While you do wonder if the return of Colin Firth is mostly fanservice (Since everyone loved him in the first movie), he does serve his purpose and just so happens to be totally awesome whenever he's onscreen. Taron Egerton is still a likable hero, who has great chemistry with Firth and Mark Strong (It's great seeing him be been able to let loose). Some of the new cast doesn't get to much to do really, but they do have a point to the plot, with Halle Berry looking typically adorable, Channing Tatum clearly having fun despite how little he's actually in the movie, and Jeff Bridges doing what Jeff Bridges does best.

 The real scene stealers would be Julianne Moore as our overly happy villainess and Pedro Pascal as hands down the most memorable new character. It's also a delight to see Elton John (as er, "Elton John", a prisoner of Poppy's, who is forced to play private concerts for her constantly) swear up a storm and even engage in an action scene or two. The random death of Sophie Cookson doesn't serve much purpose, and seems like a waste of a cool character from the previous film, while the subplot with Bruce Greenwood (as the uncaring "President") doesn't need to be here.

 The 141 runtime can feel bloated, with a few unnecessary bits of plot, "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" does suffer from a bit of sequelitis, trying to do way too much and repeats much of the most recognized parts from the film film mostly because they were popular. (We do get 3 action sequences like the church scene from the first). But unlike other sequels, this one does continue threads from the previous one in a way that is pretty cool, and it's still a jolly good time, that should at least give fans what they want. (I being one of them). 3 stars. Rated R For Language, Bloody Violence, Channing Tatum's Crotch, And.....You Stuck That Tracking Device Where? 

American Assassin                                                  by James Eagan                                        ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for american assassin movie imagesImage: The new Maze Runner movie is getting pretty hardcore. 

  And here I thought "Mother!" was going to be the only disturbing movie I saw today. Gotta' give this movie credit for one thing.  It went full blown cartoonish in terms of how damn violent it gets. People just splatter all over the screen in unimaginable ways, with casualties all over the damn place. Unexpected for sure. It's too bad that's the only thing that sets it apart from every other generic action flick. 

 "American Assassin" starts with young lovers, "Mitch Rapp" (Dylan O'Brien) and "Katrina" (Charlotte Vega) becoming engaged on a beach, that ends up being attacked by a group of radical Islamic Jihadists, who slaughter tons of people, including Katrina. Mitch swears vengeance, dedicating his life to killing the people responsible. He tracks down Katrina's murderers a few months later, only for his revenge to be taken away by the arrival U.S. Special Forces, who proceeds to kill the group and take Mitch in. CIA Director "Irene Kennedy" (Sanaa Lathan) sees something in Mitch, giving him a chance to do some real good, sending him to be trained by former war veteran, "Stan Hurley" (Michael Keaton).

 Hurley puts Mitch through harsh training, while around this time a crap ton of plutonium has been stolen and has wound up in the hands of one of Hurley's former pupils turned sadistic terrorist, simply called "Ghost" (Taylor Kitsch). Mitch, along with another agent, "Annika" (Shiva Negar), goes along with Hurley to track down the plutonium and stop the terrorists before they start doing what terrorists usually do with a lot of plutonium. 

 "American Assassin" is a by the numbers action movie that despite the absurd amount of violence in the film, never quite figures out if it's meant to be set in the real world or not. One minute the film is trying to sell the drama of the situation and how high the stakes are, but then drifts into superhero territory with James Bond-eque villains and cheesy one liners. Its a shame because this had potential, with some ideas that could of been the start of a pretty cool franchise. 

 The dialogue is weak and takes itself more seriously than it probably should. And while there is some originality in some of the action scenes, "American Assassin" doesn't really do anything you've never seen before. Dylan O'Brien is not exactly a bad choice for this role, the real issue is that his character is a complete and utter prick. He's immensely unlikable to everyone around him and comes across as needlessly cruel, even with his backstory. I'm all for flawed heroes, but the film never addresses these as flaws, (Seemingly saying he is completely in the right all the time) even when it benefits nobody in the situation. On the bright side, we have Michael Keaton, who is just fantastic in the movie, injecting actual humor, oodles of charisma, and the ability to still kick ass at 66 is more badass than anything in this movie. Taylor Kitsch is thoroughly menacing, particularly in a torture scene towards the end of the movie, which makes for the most memorable sequence. 

 With a ridiculous plot, and an unlikable hero, whose stupid actions are interpreted as badass and cool for some reason, "American Assassin" leads to a nonsensical conclusion that only raises questions that the film likely has no intention of answering. It thinks it's cooler than it actually is, but just feels forgettable, lame, and brings little new to a genre that already has too many movies as it is. 1 1/2 stars. Rated R For Strong Language And People Getting Shot Up Real Good. 

Mother!                                                                         by James Eagan                                  ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for mother 2017 movie imagesImage: The average moviegoer reaction to this movie. 

 Ohhhhh boy. Movies like this are what film critics live for, that just tear what we know to shreds in the most brutal way possible, to the point where critics and audiences are all over the place in their opinion of it. It's love it or hate it making you question if you should even be watching it. Makes you feel kind of dirty.....Its kind of remarkable that way. Do I now question my own existence? All right, that was a stretch.

 "Mother!" follows a woman simply called "Mother" (Jennifer Lawrence) living in the middle of nowhere in an old house with her poet husband, simply known as "Him" (Javier Bardem). They leave a peaceful, quiet life, that gets turned upside down due to the arrival of a sickly man, called er, "Man" (Ed Harris). Despite Mother's pleas, Him decides to let Man stay over, especially after he finds out that Man is a fan of his work. Then things get more strange when Man's wife, named "Woman" (Michelle Pfeiffer) also shows up.....Then Man and Woman's bickering sons (Brian Gleeson and Domhall Gleeson) show up....Then even more people show up, all coming to see Him and all kinds of weird sh*t starts to go down. Mother's whole world starts to come crashing down, all while most audiences will struggle to figure out where any of this is going. 

 Prepare for the most vague review ever. The less you know about "Mother!" before you see it, the better. The film is secretly insane, using surreal and disturbing imagery as an allegory for something that you really never would of thought of associating such images with. Yet, the more I think about it, the more fitting it becomes. (Be honest, the story the film is basing itself on lends itself to unsettling imagery like this.) The suspense is constant, as are the many questions that are raised throughout. 

 Director Darren "Guy who is somehow dating Jennifer Lawrence" Aronofsky is a bit of a sick bastard, but he's also kind of brilliant in a strange way. The movie is filmed beautifully, and how certain metaphors are presented, sometimes merely through visuals is completely original, thought provoking, and will occasionally make you feel uneasy about the whole experience. Its an experience that not everyone will get (Or some just straight up wont like), but its one that will stick with you regardless of how you feel about it.

 Jennifer Lawrence is nothing short of terrific in the film (And yeah. She's super pretty too. But that's secondary.) Her character is easy to side with, and she brings a powerful and emotional performance that matches up with Javier Bardem, who is also wonderful. Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer (Who will never be anything less than smoking hot) have a few memorably, discomforting performances. Every character has a purpose and a meaning, and even though the film never seemingly presents them as fully developed, the intention is pretty clear. 

 "Mother!" is obviously not for everyone, and I get why. It's slow, very little is straight up explained (Although the metaphors the film is trying to get across aren't too difficult to see), and the film's occasionally grotesque images will just turn people off in an instant, especially once you figure out the point the film is trying to get across once you reached the completely deranged last act. But I don't see how anyone can declare it to be the worst thing to ever exist, and that there is nothing at all well made about it. (Blasphemous maybe. Hey, if you weren't a fan of Aronofsky's interpretation of "Noah", you sure as Hell ain't gonna like this.) 

 As for me, I found "Mother!" to be excellent filmmaking, though maybe a bit of too much. It's gonna have it's fanbase and it's detractors (And I do understand the points of both sides). Either way, like it or not, the movie will remain in your head long after you see it, and will certainly leave a bigger impact (Whether it be positive or negative) than most movies you will see this year. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For.....Ohhhh Mother. What Isn't It Rated R For? 

9/11            by James Eagan           ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "Ask them why they cast Charlie Sheen in a film about 9/11".

 A question for the filmmakers, what did you think was going to happen? You make a movie based on a tragedy that hits so close to home for so many people, that also still happens to feel somewhat recent, release the film days before the anniversary of the disaster, cast a guy who has made accusations about the tragedy being an inside job by the US government, and not expect to get any form of backlash? The film has already been ridiculed by it's trailer alone, calling it offensive, gross, and the worst thing to ever exist. Having been one of the only people in the world to see this movie, I can vouch that I honestly think that the filmmakers were trying to make a legit, heartfelt drama based around such a horrifying day. The only offensive part is that it isn't any good. 

 "9/11" starts on the morning right before the 2001, September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, following a small group of characters who just so happen to end up stuck in an elevator just as the entire tragedy starts to go down. They include a rich guy, "Jeffery Cage" (Charlie Sheen) and his wife, "Eve" (Gina Gershon), who are going through a divorce, a random maintenance man, "Eddie" (Luis Guzmán), a bike messenger, "Michael" (Wood Harris), and a lovely young Russian girl, "Tina" (Olga Fonda). All five of the passengers all have personal baggage that they are forced to work through as they receive help through elevator operator, "Metzie" (Whoopi Goldberg), as they try to find a way out of the elevator before building eventually collapses.  

 "9/11" is based on an apparently award winning 2011 play called "Elevator", which does make me see how Director Martin Guigui, at least on paper, thought this would be a good idea. The film doesn't really commit to it's premise of a group of characters being stuck in an enclosed place during the act of terrorism, constantly cutting around to random people reacting to actual 9/11 footage. This makes the movie look cheap and it just comes across as a glorified TV movie that somehow found it's way to theaters.   

 Despite the fact that this is a 9/11 film starring Charlie Sheen, the film is nothing outright horrible. It is just so incredibly standard, to the point in which the whole situation comes across as melodramatic. The acting overall isn't terrible, but nothing really to write home about. Everyone has their job and they do what they're told to do. Whoopi Goldberg is fine, I suppose, for what's given, and as for Charlie Sheen, he's just too miscast. It's hard to take such seriousness coming from him in this role, and a movie like this really would of benefited from someone who wasn't Charlie Sheen.

 The most powerful moment in the film comes at the end when a random firefighter decides its better to sacrifice his own life just to stay and attempt to save someone knowing that its likely going to end up getting both killed, but stays anyway to comfort that person in their final moments. That is more of what this should of been. Overall, "9/11" is just kind of pointless. I genuinely believe the movie had the best of intentions and I can see where someone would get the idea that it would even work, but it just feels so misguided to a moronic degree. Next time, maybe those involved should try listening to, you know, everybody else. 1 1/2 stars. Rated R For Language And Horrifying Footage That Should Still Make You Sick To Your Stomach.  

Home Again             by James Eagan            ★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for home again movie imagesImage: You sure are cute when you're hungover.

 You all know romantic comedies of any sort aren't always my particular cup of tea. ("The Big Sick" being an exception for many reasons.) Movies like this aren't made for me, and are only geared to the specific audience that generally gives them money. But since it's just as likely that audience also went to see "It" this weekend, it's better to assume this movie is just really bad other than it just not being for me. Sounds logical to me. It's missing more than just an evil Clown.

 "Home Again" follows "Alice Kinney" (Reese Witherspoon), a daughter of a deceased, famous film director. Having recently split up from her husband, "Austen" (Michael Sheen), she now lives with her daughter and has moved into her dad's old house, where she ends up hanging out with three young wannabe filmmakers, "Teddy" (Nat "I'm apparently in every film" Wolff), "George" (Jon Rudnitsky), and "Harry" (Pico Alexander), who Alice really takes a shine too. Long story short, they end up crashing at Alice's place and Alice ends up in bed with Harry. Deciding not to kick them out into the streets, Alice agrees to let the three young men stay with her, causing all kinds of problems including their career goals, Harry's attraction to Alice, and the sudden arrival of Austen. Really, this could all be fixed pretty easily, but everyone decides to act like morons and make it as complicated as they possibly can. 

 Directed by Hallie Meyers-Shyer (Daughter of Director Nancy Meyers) in her directorial debut, "Home Again" is a goofy little movie that feels like an episode of a bad sitcom (Or maybe more like a cartoon) than an actual movie. While the situations that the characters put themselves in do make for actual problems, the characters rarely react or solve them in a way that an actual human being would. It doesn't feel like the real world, and mostly just seems that characters act this way for the sake of weak, bland comedy. Most of the time, it seems to just want to imitate better movies, but to a ridiculous degree.

 At least some of the cast is really trying their best, with Reese Witherspoon (Who will always be absolutely adorable) retains her natural likability, even with all the stupidity, and Michael Sheen is well, Michael Sheen at his Michael Sheeniest. Nat Wolff, Pico Alexander, and Jon Rudnitsky come across as rather annoying, though I blame the script's desperate attempts at faking charm than that of the actual actors. And Candice Bergen (as "Lillian", Alice's mother) pops up two or three times to give a funny line or two. 

 Thoroughly predictable, with little actual conflict when you think about it, "Home Again" is, worst of all, just soooo damn white! When the most emotional moment in the movie revolves around a much younger boyfriend not arriving at his girlfriend's dinner party, all these problems have easy, rational solutions. I saw a movie the other day that had kids being eaten by a killer clown. That's an epidemic you need to worry about. It's more realistic. 1 star. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Predominately Preposterous Predicaments. 

It                     by James Eagan              ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for pennywise 2017Image: After finally devouring The Hamburglar, Mayor McCheese and Grimace, Ronald McDonald sets his sights on The Fry Kids.

 Based on Stephen King's beloved (And massive) horror story, "It", which was published in 1986. It's kind of a beloved story. So much that it spawned an even more well known miniseries in 1990, that starred Tim Curry as the playfully, psychopathic killer clown. And it terrified people, scaring them for life. Here's the thing, that old miniseries is really stupid and Tim Curry is more hilarious (Freakin' hilarious actually) than scary. Yeah, it was kind of creepy and it's certainly a cool story that would work great for a movie, but the execution made it look just silly. This really did need a reimagining. And not only did they make it better, they actually made it terrifying. Like legit. 

 "It" takes place in the horrible town of Derry, Maine in 1988, where stuttering young boy, "Bill Denbrough" (Jaden Lieberher) makes a paper sailboat for his little brother, "George" (Jackson Robert Scott), who runs out in the rain to see it sail. Little Georgie accidentally lets it fall into down a gutter. He comes across a strange, freaky looking clown, "Pennywise" (Bill Skarsgård), who offers Georgie his boat back.....Then proceeds to rip off his arm and drag him into the sewer to eat him. Cut to almost a year later, where Bill has not gotten over the disappearance of his little brother. Turns out that the old town has had a history of people (Especially children) vanishing without a trace and it's all connected to the mysterious Pennywise, who is merely a form taken by monstrous, hungry entity known as "It".

 Bill, along with his friends and classmates have all had experiences with the creature, including bullied chubby new kid "Ben" (Jeremy Ray Taylor), foul mouthed smart ass "Ritchie" (Finn Wolfhard), the skeptic "Stan" (Wyatt Oleff), African American orphan "Mike" (Chosen Jacobs), the hypochondriac "Eddie" (Jack Dylan Grazer), and the one female "Bev" (Sophia Lillis), who is sexually abused by her father. Forming "The Losers' Club", the group works together to discover where "It" is hiding, while dealing with horrible adults, a sadistic gang of bullies, led by the homicidal "Henry" (Nicholas Hamilton), and facing their own personal fears while they set out to avenge all that "It" has killed over the years. 

 The story behind "It" (Along with it's titular villain) have become a staple for the horror genre, and was one I always thought there was a way to make this work as an actual film. Thanks to the skilled direction from Andrés Muschietti and a talented team of writers, this not only makes for one of the best horror movies I've seen in some time, but it also makes for probably the best horror movie I've ever seen in theaters. Its dark, twisted, and thoroughly horrifying, relying more on atmosphere and imagery, and most importantly, has characters you can root for. 

 Wisely only adapting the first half of the original 1,138 page novel (Basically the best part that focuses only on the kids), the screenplay for "It" is smart, with great dialogue between it's characters that manages to be scary, while also injecting a lot of humor and emotion that makes the film's overall themes much stronger. The killer clown is not the only frightening thing about the movie, and the film never shies away from the horrible situations that these kids have to deal with in their own lives, which makes the message of friendship, loyalty, overcoming your fears, and growing up so effective. 

 None of this would work if it wasn't for the wonderful cast, whose chemistry makes this movie. Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wayatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, and Jack Dylan Grazer are all perfectly cast in their roles, each with their own story arc to complete by the film's end. With standouts being Lieberher and Lillis (In her breakout performance), and Finn Wolfhard stealing whatever scene he's in, serving as the comic relief, while Nicholas Hamilton is a suitably unhinged piece of sh*t,

 And then we have Bill Skarsgård as the villainous clown. While Tim Curry was always a funny monster in the original, he was rarely actually scary. Here though, Skarsgård is downright delightfully creepy, shifting into the stuff of nightmares on a dime, with his movements and mannerisms (Which seem unhuman at times), making for a memorable creature that will scare future generations way more than that miniseries ever did. 

 Beautifully filmed, some impressive effects work, and somewhat whimsical at times (Think old Spielberg. With a demonic killer clown.), "It" is how you do terror, while also incorporating genuine heart and emotions that enhance the powerful messages. (First horror movie I've seen where the audience was actually shedding some tears. Amazing.). You probably wont sleep for days, but you're bound to relate to the film in some shape or form. Let's be honest, the most frightening thing about being a kid is growing up. Well, that and a clown with monster teeth. Who wouldn't be afraid of that? But please keep in mind, most real life clowns do NOT eat children....The more you know. 4 stars. Rated R For Gruesome, Gory Imagery, Strong Language, Emotional Horror. (All Involving Children), And For The Possible Financial Ruin Of The Clown Industry. 

Tulip Fever                                                                   by James Eagan                                           ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for tulip fever movie images Image: "Say cheese!"

 I have a simple question to ask this movie. (You know, as if it were a person) What are you exactly? Are you a period drama? Are you a romance just set during a real life time period? Are you a sexual thriller? That's what your new poster calls yourself. Are you a comedy? Because you're downright goofy at times. What are you trying to accomplish? Other than give all these good actors a new movie to replace their lowest Rotten Tomatoes score.

 Let's make a feeble attempt to really describe this plot. "Tulip Fever" takes place in the 17th Century, during the "Tulip Mania" (Long story short, everyone loved them some tulips) and follows the orphaned "Sophia" (Alicia Vikander), who has been arranged and sold into a marriage to the wealthy, widowed "Cornelius Sandvoort" (Christoph Waltz), who is determined to conceive an heir. Sadly, despite Cornelius trying (A lot), he constantly fails. Cornelius decides to have a portrait painted by a young, poor artist, "Jan van Loos" (Dane DeHaan), who falls hopelessly in love with Sophia (Because she looks like Alicia Vikander. What did you expect to happen?)

 Soon, both Sophia and Jan start begin an affair that Cornelius remains blissfully unaware of. Then things start to get.....complicated. There's a situation with Cornelius' pregnant housemaid/the narrator of the story, "Maria" (Holliday Grainger), who just so happens to have recently misplaced her fishmonger lover, "William" (Jack O'Connell). Feeling sympathy for Cornelius (And sees this as a way out of her marriage so she can be with Jan), Sophia pretends she is the one who is pregnant and apparently everyone in this movie is moronic enough to buy it. While all this is going on, Jan just so happens to get involved in the Tulip business that's pretty much become pure insanity by this point. Meanwhile, a young film critic is confused for nearly an hour as to what the Hell is going on. 

 "Tulip Fever" was filmed back in 2014, and is only now seeing a release date after being delayed numerously since 2015. Starting to wonder how worth it this whole debacle really was. The film has no idea what it's intentions are and what it has set out to be. The plot is all over the place and overly complicated, with the tone changing often from completely serious to whimsical to buffoonish and silly. The setting and look of the film are solid, but Director Justin Chadwick can't seem to grasp what to do with any of it and just tosses all these plot lines together into a cluttered mess of a movie.

 Alicia Vikander has become an Oscar winner since this movie was filmed, and this is by far her weakest work. But it's not exactly her fault. The same goes for Dane DeHaan (Who I'm starting to wonder if Hollywood really knows what to do with him). It's just a weak, uninspired script that doesn't develop either of these characters or their relationship. It doesn't feel like an actual romance, rather than it feels more like these two characters just wanna' bang (Just Sayin'). Because of their  poor characterization, the most sympathetic character ends up being Christoph Waltz, who despite the film obviously trying to humanize him, is not meant to be (He bought her, for God sake) . Waltz does still give a solid performance with a character who is very much flawed (To the point you could consider him the antagonist of the film), but you see some redemption in him, and by the end, he has the strongest, most emotional arc out of any of the characters. Everyone else just come across as selfish (And horny), which was obviously not the intention.

 The subplots involving Holiday Grainger (Who also being the film's narrator serves little purpose) and Jack O'Connell only further muddles the plot, and the appearances of Zach Galifianakis (as "Gerrit", Jan's drunken assistant) and Cara Delevinge (as Random Pretty Girl #3) serve as distractions rather than characters. We do get Tom Hollander (as "Dr. Sorgh", a pervy doctor), who might of been one of the more enjoyably weird additions to the film, I almost forgot to mention Dame Judi Dench (as "The Abbess of St. Ursula". Now that's a name right there.) was in this. But I wouldn't blame her if she forgot she was in this too. 

 By the end, your sympathy and attention is directed to the wrong character, with our main lovers leaving little impact. "Tulip Fever" is a nonsensical, naughty, over the top, confused jumble that wastes the talent involved and some really pretty plants. 1 1/2 stars. Rated R For Nudity And "Little Soldiers". Ew.....


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