In Theaters: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Baywatch, Everything, Everything, Diary of A Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, Alien: Covenant, Snatched, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, The Circle, Born in China, Pheonix Forgotten, Unforgettable, Colossal, The Fate of the Furious
Coming Soon: Wonder Woman, Captain Underpants, The Mummy, Megan Leavey, It Comes At Night, Cars 3, Rough Night, All Eyez on Me, 47 Meters Down, Transformers 5, Despicable Me 3, Amityville: The Awakening, The House, Baby Driver, Spider-Man: Homecoming, War for the Planet of the Apes, Wish Upon
★★★½: Very 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
Image: The worst case of cutting yourself while shaving.
Fourteen years! This franchise is the same age as my younger sister. I was only starting Middle School when it all started. Hell, we've had three presidents since then. The original 2003 film (Or "The Curse of the Black Pearl" as it was called) was and to some degree still is, one of my personal favorite films. It was fun, exciting, quotable, memorable, just like the Disneyworld ride it was based on. However, unlike the ride, this wasn't meant to be ridden over and over again.
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" starts with young "Henry Turner" (Brenton Thwaites), son of the cursed current captain of "The Flying Dutchman", "Will Turner" (Orlando Bloom) and "Elizabeth Swann" (Keira Knightley), hoping to find the fabled "Trident of Poseidon" to release his father from his curse. Henry first has to track down legendary, drunken, buffoonish pirate, "Jack Sparrow" (Johnny Depp). His search also leads him to work on a British Navy ship, which is attacked by a crew of ghosts, led by the dreaded, maniacal pirate hunter, "Armando Salazar" (Javier Bardem).
Salazar wants revenge on the pirate who caused his cursed death, which surprise surprise, is Jack Sparrow. Salazar sends Henry to find Jack and to tell him that he intends to finally track him down and kill him. Henry eventually finds Jack, along with a feisty astronomer, "Carina" (Kaya Scodelario), who is also searching for the Trident for her own reasons. The three of them plan out their search for the Trident, with Salazar forcing Jack's old rival, "Hector Barbossa" (Geoffrey Rush), to help him find Jack before he gets his hands on the Trident.
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" sadly doesn't take the series anywhere new, once again having some big bad guy coming back to kill Jack Sparrow, so he and a few other people have to go find some kind of mystical artifact while Barbossa finds his way into the story somehow. I've never found this franchise to ever really be bad. Honestly, I kinda enjoy the second and third films ("Dead Man's Chest" and "At World's End") despite their glaring flaws, but that's where it all should of originally stopped. Then after 2012's pretty forgettable "On Stranger Tides", the series has continued regardless of how necessary it needs to be, and unlike the "Fast & Furious" franchise, they've never really found anything new to justify it's existence.
"Dead Men Tell No Tales" looks great in terms of visuals and cinematography, with Directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandbergwith providing some cool actions scenes and some really impressive special effects. (If you look past the jumping Zombie Shark). Salazar and his ghostly crew in particular are a rather amazing effect, with enough little amusing details to add to the film's tone. In general, the series always had the look of a Pirates life down, dirty, yet large in scope. Despite it's excellent look and feel, this fifth installment is by far the weakest one yet, due to it's lackluster script, which is so convoluted, yet so underwritten, that the film's big reveals and the fates of certain characters leave little to no impact.
Johnny Depp gave us Jack Sparrow years ago, who has become as beloved as any other major Disney character, and while he still has his moments, the shtick just got old after a while. Brenton Thwaites and the rather adorable Kaya Scodelario aren't so much bad in the film, their characters aren't given much more development other than what is presented in their opening scenes. Geoffrey Rush doesn't need to be here again, but he chews the scenery like the pro he is. Luckily, even this film continues the series' trend of excellent baddies, and Javier Bardem just oozes villainy and is having a blast doing it.
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" suffers from too many, unnecessary subplots, whether it be with returning characters like Jack's BFF, "Gibbs" (Kevin McNally), or newly added characters like evil British officer, "Scarfield" (David Wenham), who literally does nothing but make the film longer. Even other characters who have importance don't really feel like they need to be here and the film has trouble trying to give them all enough attention to warrant their focus in the film.
Though its been billed as the "Final Adventure", that's hands down the biggest lie Disney has ever told us considering the film's post credit scene that only implies not just a continuation, but some really confusing plot lines in the future. (The mythology in these films are starting to go all over the place by this point.) "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" has it's moments, like all the film's do, it still doesn't feel like we absolutely needed this. 2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Scary Images And Drunken Johnny Depp (A little unsettling in hindsight don't you think?)
Image: The cast of "Baywatch" flees from it's own movie as fast as they can.
This is starting to become it's own genre now isn't it? The whole "Take an old, cheesy TV series and turn it into a raunchy, R rated comedy" genre. Sadly, instead of a charmingly self aware "21 Jump Street" type (Or "22 Jump Street"), we basically get another "CHiPs" and considering the star power involved, its a shocking waste of time.
"Baywatch" starts with cocky former Olympic athlete, "Matt Brody" (Zac Efron) being forced to perform community service by becoming a lifeguard for an elite lifeguarding division, "Baywatch", which is led by the beloved, massively musclebound "Mitch Buchannon" (Dwayne Johnson). Brody is also forced to endure tryouts, along with his pretty love interest, "Summer" (Alexandra Daddario) and chubby dork, "Ronnie" (Jon Bass), who is only there because he has the hots for one of the lifeguards, "C.J." (Kelly Rohrbach). But when Mitch discovers drugs and a dead body, he connects it all to evil businesswoman, "Victoria Leeds" (Priyanka Chopra), and believes its up to Baywatch to solve the case, despite the fact literally nobody wants them involved. Nobody.
"Baywatch" is another one of those comedies that settles for the easy joke, which usually revolves around some kind of lower, lengthy appendage or some random swear repeated, but this time it commits possibly the worst crime a comedy can make. Taking competent people, making them unfunny, and putting them in a movie that is just ungodly boring. With a running time reaching nearly two hours, the film's lack of laughs only further damn a silly, over the top, yet somehow blandly generic plot.
From Director Seth Gordon ("Horrible Bosses", "Identity Thief"), "Baywatch" never really goes far enough with it's premise, nor does it ever truly embrace the campiness of it's own source material. Its like it wants to be taken seriously at the wrong parts, and aside from the occasional chuckle, just provides jokes that fall flat. Hard. Like when you hit the water face first hard. It doesn't help that most of the jokes are pretty bottom of the barrel, usually going for easy and lazy, rather than clever or smart.
Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron do what they can with what is given, mostly providing the film's most amusing moments, while the lovely Alexandra Daddario's hypnotic blue eyes are worth it enough. Priyanka Chopra's villainous role is nothing but typical, never being funny or threatening, Ilfenesh Hadera (as "Stephanie", Mitch's love interest, I think) doesn't really say or do anything. And Jon Bass is nowhere near as funny or as lovable as this film seems to continuously suggest. Also, he and Kelly Rohrbach? No. Just no. Not even here. No.
Despite being overlong enough as it is, "Baywatch" still feels like some scenes are missing, making me wonder how long the final cut originally was. Its choppy and tonally all over the place, especially with it's characters and plot, and since it's like it forgot to be funny, it's just a waste of something that really could of worked. Not to mention some rather horrendous CGI work, which is not something I thought I would bring up in a review for "Baywatch" of all things.
"Baywatch" could of been fun, but its a slow, dull chore to sit through. It could of been amusing if it committed to either being a parody or a satire, especially when you compare it to it's goofy source material. Really, you should just watch that instead. It's got a shorter runtime, less dick jokes, and way more Hasselhoff. 1 star. Rated R For Bouncy Bouncy And Jiggle Jiggle.
Image: "Lets piss off a bunch of old, white people and kiss."
Is it possible for a perfectly decent, sweet, well made, if not a little cheesy, love story to be ruined completely by a nonsensical, outlandish and completely out of nowhere plot twist? ....... Yep, pretty much.
"Everything, Everything" follows "Maddy" (Amandla Stenberg), a young girl suffering from a disease that prevents her from ever leaving her home, with her only real interaction being between her doctor mother, "Pauline" (Anika Noni Rose) and her nurse, "Carla" (Ana de la Reguera). Maddy takes an interest in the new neighbors, in particular, the new guy next door, "Olly" (Nick Robinson), who Maddy thinks is totally adorbs. Only being able to speak with him through text messages and the occasional cute smile to each other from their windows, Carla allows Olly, behind Pauline's back, to come over where he and Maddy start to fall in love. But Pauline isn't having any of it, especially after Maddy becomes ill after going outside for a minute. Maddy is determined to live her own life and see the outside world, planning to run away with Olly to see the ocean, even if it kills her.
"Everything, Everything" is not the kind of movie that was made for me. It's more for sensitive teenage girls who want a dose of death with their romances. Similar to other films in this genre (The romance/drama/death genre?), it can't help occasional moments of melodrama and cheesy lines of dialogue. With that said, the film is competently made, and Director Stella Meghie does a solid job, especially when it comes to the focus on the two main characters and their interactions, which are (And I will gladly admit this), cute.
Amandla Stenberg (Rue from "The Hunger Games") is a good young actress, with charm to spare, and she actually has good chemistry with Nick Robinson. Both actors are surprisingly a delight to watch together, injecting humor, likability, and some professionalism to a fine, but not perfect script. Anika Noni Rose does good work as well, despite some "Things" involving a little twist that happens later on. (I Can't spoil it for you. Even though I want to. Sorry.)
"Everything, Everything" is a well made, well acted, fairly charming romance for about the first 70 minutes or so. It's in the last 20 where the movie collapses on itself. Somewhat like earlier this year's "The Space Between Us" (Though this film is slightly better made), the film leads to a rather bizarre plot twist that would normally raise questions in the real world. It's beyond stupid, it makes zero sense, and it destroys any form of logic that the film had set up from the beginning.
I was even considering giving "Everything, Everything" are fairly positive review up until the ludicrous ending. A genuinely heartwarming and at times effective movie is nearly ruined by it's soap opera-style plotting. Which is a bit of a shame. When I awkwardly go into these movies all by myself, I don't need the experience to be made even more awkward than necessary. Think about MY feelings for a change. 2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Poor And Seriously Improper Medical Practices.
Image: "Dear Diary: Nobody asked for a reboot."
You know a franchise has outstayed it's welcome when your little sister, and the main reason you really saw these movies in the first place, is at the age where she has no interest in the newest film whatsoever, and declares that "You're on your own" for it. Not to mention the fact that this series has been going on since I first began reviewing movies way back when. Greg Heffley is almost in his 20s now! Man I'm feeling my age.
"Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul" starts with well, the wimpy kid, "Greg Heffley" (Jason Drucker) being forced against his will by his caring, cute, but overbearing mother, "Susan" (Alicia Silverstone) to go on a family road trip with his rather gooberish father, "Frank" (Tom Everett Scott), his idiotic, wannabe rockstar brother "Rodrick" (Charlie Wright), and baby brother "Manny" (Wyatt and Dylan Walters), to go see his grandma for her 90th birthday.
Greg, having accidentally become an embarrassing internet sensation (Involving him with a diaper stuck on his hand), plans to manipulate the trip into taking a detour to a gaming convention so he can do something that's kinda....Well, kind of hard to explain really. Anyways, shenanigans ensue, involving a baby pig, some psycho bearded fat guy who really wants to kill Greg, and constant family bickering that will eventually lead to some valuable lesson about family and overcoming your inner wimp.
The "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" franchise has never really been much to talk about in terms of quality, but they were generally fine kids movies that at least didn't annoy the parents who were dragged to see them. Granted, "The Long Haul" really isn't that much different. It's just a weaker, and more unnecessary version of it. The story follows the same beats from the other films, complete with gross out humor and goofy antics. It feels like it was all cobbled together at the last second because all the kids from the original series had the nerve to grow up, and while it's technically a reboot of the franchise, it somehow manages to be a sequel at the same time. It's a paradox of wimpy proportions!
"Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul" does provide a positive message, and offers an occasional couple of amusing gags, all while doing so as inoffensively as possible. It just lacks a bit more of the effort (And feels somewhat cheaper) than the other films before it. In terms of performances, Alicia Silverstone and Tom Everett Scott are not bad choices for their characters, and they do seem like they're having a lot of fun. Jason Drucker and Charlie Wright are okay enough, but they clearly aren't really actors yet, and lack the necessary comic timing Also, Greg's chubby best friend, "Rowley" (Owen Asztalos) pops up for about 5 minutes and vanishes, never to be seen again.
I've noticed that "The Long Haul" has hit a sour note with fans of the franchise, mostly due to the complete recast of all the characters. (#NotMyRodrick). It really isn't much different than the others. The kids may enjoy it, but it just doesn't feel like it needs to be here, offering less laughs and the sort of charm that the franchise used to provide. Honestly, I wish it was worse. Then I could say something like, "It should have been called "Diary of a Weaker Kid". Nope, Doesn't make me feel any better. 2 stars. Rated PG For CGI Vomit, And a "Psycho" Reference (Okay. That was kind of funny funny.)
Image: "Stop. Not so fast y'all. You think you can just up and run away, you're crazy. I like to eat people from other planets. Especially y'all."
I think I just watched "Prometheus" again. Except this time it was called "Alien Covenant". You can interpret that as you want. In the end, it's the same thing. It just depends on if you're okay with that or not, and if it's well made. And since I actually had a good time with "Prometheus" regardless of the understandable arguments against it, there is plenty of chest bursting (And back bursting) enjoyment to be had here. That never gets old.
"Alien: Covenant" begins in the year 2104, with the colony ship "Covenant" transporting thousands of sleeping colonists in stasis pods and frozen embryos to a new inhabitable planet to start a new life. Things take a dark turn when a "Space Storm" hits the ship, and, despite the efforts of synthetic Android, "Walter" (Michael Fassbender), the storm results in the deaths of a few colonists and the ship's captain, "Jacob Branson" (A barbecued James Franco cameo). The rest of the crew is awakened, including Branson's now widowed wife "Daniels" (Katherine Waterson), former first mate turned new captain "Christopher Oram" (Billy Crudup), lovable pilot "Tennesse" (Danny McBride), security officer "Lope" (Demián Bichir), and all the other future Alien chow. The crew intercepts a strange human transmission directing them to a nearby mysterious, unknown planet.
Against Daniels' objections, Oram decides it's totally a good idea and changes the ship's course to land on the planet. Once they arrive, the crew discovers a seemingly inhabitable, but pretty much lifeless planet, with a downed Alien ship and a pair of Dog Tags belonging to "Elizabeth Shaw" (Noomi Rapace), who the crew remembers being a member of the doomed "Prometheus" exhibition a few years earlier. After 20 minutes investigating the planet, everything goes to hell, with squishy monster Aliens bursting out of people's backs and throats, and the arrival of another android, "David" (Also Michael Fassbender), who claims he wants to get the crew to safety. Little does anyone know, something more horrifying than they could possibly imagine is starting to form, all leading to the creation of those terrifying dildo like Aliens we've all come to fear, "The Xenomorphs".
The comparing of "Alien Covenant" to "Prometheus" is an easy one. Both films suffer from the same exact faults, but excel in terms of their strengths. Mostly, that's thanks to Director Ridley Scott, who has pretty much defined this style of Science-Fiction/Horror, while bringing up some interesting philosophical concepts. The film goes through familiar territory, yet still finds a way to make you feel the suspense and atmosphere. Not to mention it's top notch visuals, which are both stunning and yes, beautifully, grotesquely horrifying. (Body horror at it's finest)
"Alien Covenant" has all of the same stuff that probably annoyed you in "Prometheus". There are more questions raised than answers, and especially considering the last movie ended on one big question, you feel don't feel much closer to the original series as you did when it began (Even if you do get the Xenomorph origins at long last.) Characters, who are clearly meant to be intelligent, act like total morons. Sure, stick your head inside that big, gooey egg pod. There might be presents in there, like the ones who latch onto your face! Sure, why don't we have shower sex after an alien attack? That always ends well in these kinds of movies! This all could of been avoided if you guys just kept on flying past the damn planet you knew nothing about.
Once again, it feels like a small amount of backstory is missing from "Alien: Covenant". I'm betting this is intentional, considering that the film basically skips what was meant to happen after "Prometheus". Its meant to build up the mystery of the situation and the suspense does still work quite well. Again comparing this to "Prometheus" (Which I am doing to both make a point and knowing it will piss some of you guys off at the same time), despite it's flaws, it still succeeds at what it sets out to do. It's most apparent with it's actors and characters who, even when they do something stupid, are still very memorable.
Katherine Waterson is truly wonderful as the one sane person, who really gets put through the ringer throughout the film, and turns into a believable badass by the end. Danny McBride is also excellent. He's not just in the film to provide comic relief, coming across as endearing in the more serious scenes. Billy Crudup gets to bring some complexity to the film, as a genuinely decent guy who is trying to find a way to make his crew happy (And you know, screws them over unintentionally). In the end, these characters (At least the main ones), do feel like people. Then there's Michael Fassbender, who is nothing short of amazing in this film, not just with his new character, "Walter", but with his returning character, "David". He isn't just acting against himself, with different accents, and personalities. He has created fascinating characters that are at times creepy, at times a little humorous, and thoroughly compelling.
The action and horror come together seamlessly in "Alien: Covenant", and the eventual reveal of the classic alien is nothing short of brilliant, with a few extra freaky creatures thrown in just for some blood splattering fun. While the film can feel a bit sloppy at times, trying too hard to please everyone), the film retains it's genuine terror and excitement from start to finish. Briskly paced, undeniably cool, and with an interesting mythology that only expands, "Alien:Covenant" is basically more of the same from the first five in the series. But hey, if you didn't mind that too much before, you're bound to find plenty to enjoy here. Credit to the competent filmmakers, who can still find freshness with in something old fashioned. God bless those lovable Aliens! 3 stars. Rated R For Gore, Gore , Gore... And More Gore.
Image: "Are you telling me that the name of this movie is nothing but a dirty joke?"
Amy Schumer will say whatever she wants, whenever she wants. She'll sprinkle in with a few vagina jokes for good measure. She's both undeniably funny and too much at the same time. I get it. She has no problem making you or I uncomfortable. It's also undeniable that there's a double standard for an edgy female comedian. So it doesn't surprise me that the haters are all over her new film, especially since Paul Feig and Katie Dippold (Director and Writer of the last year's "Ghostbusters") produced and wrote it. Internet Trolls unite!
"Snatched" starts with self-centered loser, "Emily" (Amy Schumer), planning out a vacation to Ecuador with her boyfriend (Randall Park), who breaks up with her before the trip. Since Emily can't refund the tickets, she convinced her recluse, cat obsessed mother, "Linda" (Goldie Hawn) to come with her on the vacation. Against Linda's protests, along with the protests form special-ops trained vacationers, "Ruth" (Wanda Sykes) and her tongue-less friend, "Barb" (Joan Cusack), Emily decides nothing could go wrong and parties it out with some hunky guy named (And I assure you, all guys with this name are hunky) "James" (Tom Bateman).
But as it turns out, James is only there to lure Emily and Linda into a scheme involving an evil crime boss, "Morgado" (Óscar Jaenada), who plans to hold them captive for ransom somewhere in Columbia. Emily and Linda manage to escape and are now on the run from the kidnappers, forced to rely on their lack of skills to survive, while growing closer as mother and daughter.
"Snatched" offers moments of humor here and there throughout, but its never enough to make a film critic truly recommend it to anyone, other than the many, many, older women I saw this movie with. (They apparently loved it, by the way. Naughty ladies.) It's not a particularly original idea, sort of going through the standard motions and beats you would see in a film like this.
Director Jonathan Levine ("50/50", "Warm Bodies") is competent at what he's doing, and everyone involved isn't necessarily sleepwalking through the film. But "Snatched" doesn't really have much else going for it. It's a goofy comedy that is attempting to inject some heart and say an important message (It's Mother's Day. Call your mother.) The film is genuine, yet it just doesn't really click.
Amy Schumer is a little all over the place lately, and I do get how that can annoy some people. She does show here (Much like she did in 2015's much better "Trainwreck") that she is a talented comedian, who also can actually act. She is essentially playing the same character she always plays here, and while she does it well, it does make you worry she could eventually go down the Sandler route and get a little too used to doing that. Schumer does thankfully have solid chemistry with Goldie Hawn, who despite not having been in a film in years does have a decent amount of charm.
Their mother daughter relationship in "Snatched" is a high point, coming across as actually cute and you see the point the film is trying to make. The best laughs come from the supporting cast, including Wanda Sykes, Joan Cusack, Ike Barinholtz (as "Jeffrey", Emily's mama's boy brother), and the very underrated Christoper Meloni (as "Roger", a wannabe Indiana Jones type), who appears briefly, but leaves an impression. And as usual with these kinds of movies, the less I say about the unimpressionable villains the better.
"Snatched" is not the disaster I think everyone was really expecting, but it doesn't really have much reason to be here. By the end, there's very little to write home about, other than getting to see talented comedians at work. Everyone involved is much more talented than this, so let's hope Amy Schumer takes advantage of her new film career and stretches herself further in the future. Beware the cautionary tale of the Sandler. 2 stars. Rated R For F-Bombs, Vagina Jokes Galore and Tape Worm.
Image: King Arthur finally disposes of his nemesis, a moss covered coconut.
What more can you do with a legend when it's already been beat to death? Tarzan. Hercules. Dracula. King Arthur. But Guy Richie hasn't gotten his hands on one. Short of "Michael Bay's Dracula", I can't imagine this in worse hands.
"King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" begins with "Uther Pendragon" (Eric Bana), armed with his magic sword, Excalibur, leading his armies against the evil "Mordred" and his army of giant war Elephants, and obliterating them with the power of the sword. But Uther's evil brother, "Scar", er, "Vortigern" (Jude Law) is revealed to have been manipulating all these events from the shadows with help from Ursula the Sea Witch. (Seriously, I don't know what that thing was!) Uther is able to get his son to safety before Vortigern murders him and takes over the kingdom, ruling it with an iron fist. Years later during Vorgitern's rule, Uther's now adult son, "Arthur" (Charlie Hunnam), having been raised in a brothel, has become known for his good deeds, helpful personality, and the fact that he's ripped as sh*t.
Around this time, Excalibur makes it's return, lodged inside a large stone. Fearing that he may lose his power, Vortigen sends his forces to find Uther's son, eventually tracking down Arthur. Before Arthur can executed, he is rescued by a group of rebels, including a woman only known as "The Mage" (Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey), one of Uther's former captains "Sir Bedivere" (Djimon Hounsou), and "Goosefat Bill Wilson" (Aidan Gillen). The group intends to help Arthur hone his skills with the magical sword, so he can kill Vortigen and reclaim his throne, despite the fact he clearly has no idea what the Hell he's doing.
"King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" is basically what you get when you let Director Guy Ritchie run around without adult supervision. Taking all of the many quirks, artistic choices, and oddly sophisticated, but sometimes charmingly bombastic that you've grown accustomed to in his films, and simply lets it all run wild. Sadly, it's all to the point where the film just feels too in your face, loud,and kind of obnoxious in terms of testosterone. Lots and lots of testosterone.
Despite Guy Ritchie's outrageous abuse of his style, the film doesn't look bad. The cinematography is solid, the sets and costumes look good, and as usual, he brings some visual flair. But some of the effects are questionable at best and laughable at worst, with some pretty lame CGI used on a variety of over the top creatures. Speaking of CGI, this film's over reliance on it is a constant distraction, especially once we get to the boisterous climax, that comes across as a video game right down to the "Kingdom Hearts" style final boss. (You know. I should go play that right now. It's significantly more fun that this movie.)
The dialogue in "King Arthur" wants to come across as intelligent with a sense of humor about itself, but rarely lands due to the (Intentionally?) choppy editing and lack of any real character development. That's disappointing since Charlie Hunnam is honestly not a bad choice to play the King Arthur character. He's got the look down, and a decent amount charm where you could of seen it work in a much better movie. Jude Law brings plenty of hammy sliminess, making him easily the most enjoyable part of the film. Djimon Hounsou and Aidan Gillen basically play....Djimon Hounsou and Aidan Gillen. They do it well, mostly to make up for the lack of substance. Yet Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey doesn't really do anything other than serve as the Deus ex machina character and soft of, but not really, love interest. .
"King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" is Guy Ritchie on "Bro" overload. It's the definition of style over substance. But here, the style is more annoying than adrenaline pumping, while adding nothing new to the classic legend. Honestly, just read the book. Read any book, really. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Loud Action And, Oh So Much Bromance.
Image: "Ooooh. What does this button do?"
Madness!. Madness I tell you! When Marvel Studios said that they would be bringing "The Guardians of the Galaxy" to the big screen, what with it's talking space raccoon and his big tree buddy who only says "I Am Groot", people said that the studio had jumped the shark and finally lost their mind. But not only did the film make a whole lotta' money, and get shockingly high critical and fan acclaim, it also has become one of the studio's biggest, and most beloved franchises. So, yeah. Marvel wins. Just let them do whatever they want already.
"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2" starts with the Guardians of the Galaxy, well, guarding the galaxy. (For money of course). Earthling/former smuggler "Peter Quill/Star-Lord" (Chris Pratt), former stepdaughter of Thanos "Gamora" (Zoe Saldana), musclebound brute "Drax" (Dave Bautista), gun toting raccoon "Rocket" (Voiced by Bradley Cooper), and everyone's favorite lovable tree "Baby Groot" (Voiced by Vin Diesel), have just finished protecting some powerful, priceless "Space Batteries" for a bunch of golden uptight jerks, known as "The Sovereign", led by the conceited high priestess "Ayesha" (Elizabeth Debicki) in exchange for the capture of Gamora's violent, criminal step-sister "Nebula" (Karen Gillan). Rocket decides to be a dick and steals some of the batteries for the hell of it, resulting in the Sovereign declaring war on the Guardians.
The Guardians wind up on a strange planet, meeting "Ego" (Kurt Russell), who claims to be Star-Lord's real father, and his cute green assistant, "Mantis" (Pom Klementieff). Ego tells Star-Lord that he too is a godlike being (And also happens to be a living planet. Don't ask) and the two start to bond, putting a bit of a strain on his relationship with the rest of the Guardians. Meanwhile, The Sovereign remains determined to kill the Guardians, sending "The Ravagers", led by Peter's former mentor, "Yondu" (Michael Rooker), who is having a little trouble of his own with one of his group members, "Taserface" (Chris Sullivan), who just can't seem to find anyone to take him seriously.
"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" obviously was going to have trouble replicating the same success of the first film, at least in terms of quality. But the sequel is a complete blast of wacky, quirky, space filled fun, that does still remember to take time to make us care for it's characters. Director and Writer James Gunn piles on the sarcastic and occasionally offbeat humor, but never forgets to develop the characters, providing them with genuine heart and emotion.
Visually, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" is stunning to look at, with so many various colors popping all over the screen, that it looks like you're watching candy explode on screen. You'll never want to take your eyes off it. In terms of plot, it becomes a little more convoluted than before, but our charming cast makes up for the film's shortcomings. Chris Pratt just owns his role, bringing in good laughs and an emotional core that affects the rest of the film and it's characters. Zoe Saldana acts as the straight one to all of the goofiness of the Guardians, while also sharing some really well done scenes with Karen Gillan, who gets more development here to the point where she becomes a much more complex character then before. Dave Bautista is a complete riot (And honestly, my favorite character of the group), and of course, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel's characters are a delight. (Yes. Baby Groot is just so damn adorable)
"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2" also brings best out of it's terrific supporting cast, with the wonderful Michael Rooker stealing the film at times from everyone else. Sean Gunn (as "Kraglin, Yondu's most loyal Ravager) gets a larger role this time around, and the movie benefits from it. Pom Klementieff is a great new addition to the team, and while Elizabeth Debicki and Chris Sullivan aren't exactly the most memorable of villains, they are suitably amusing throughout. And Kurt Russel is perfectly cast, clearly having the time of his life with his unbridled enthusiasm (I'm kind of wondering if he even knew he was being filmed.)
Despite the wackiness of the plot and it's characters, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" does get a little darker than you would expect, even finding a way to tug at your heartstrings, much like the first film found a way to do so. The film can feel a little messy at times, but its still is a labor of love, with it's likable characters, laugh out loud sense of humor, and a surprising amount of heart. It shows that the "Marvel Cinematic Universe" is still nowhere close to slipping up anytime soon. Be sure to stick around for probably the best end credits sequence you'll ever see. I Don't know why people still leave the theaters so early. Haven't they watched these movies before? It's Marvel. You stick around for the end credits. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Space Action, Scrotumheads, And Baby Groot Adorableness.
Image: How could you not trust this man?
You had all the ingredients right in front of you. You had Tom Hanks, who also just so happens to be the producer. A timely subject matter. You had Hermione. When it all goes wrong, it doesn't matter who's involved.
"The Circle" starts with "Mae" (Emma Watson), a young woman struggling through her job and her life. She lives with her mom, "Bonnie" (Glenne Headly) and her MS diagnosed dad, "Vinnie" (Bill Paxton). Things change when Mae's friend, "Annie" (Karen Gillan) tells Mae that she has gotten her a job at "The Circle", a large internet corporation that specializes in community and surveillance, run by "Eamon Bailey" (Tom Hanks) and "Tom Stenton" (Patton Oswalt).
Mae eventually starts to rise through the ranks of the organization, gaining Bailey's favor. She becomes part of The Circle's newest security venture, involving little glass eyeballs being placed all around the world, so they can watch everyone at anytime from anywhere. Mae befriends a loner in the corporation, "Ty" (John Boyega), who warns her that The Circle is likely up to no good, but Mae just can't seem to help herself and starts to become part of the sickeningly close, always smiling community (Basically this movie should of been called "Hermione joins a Tech Cult".)
"The Circle" has some fascinating ideas, full of so much potential that it makes the final product all the more depressing. The film never really expands on any of it's own ideas, never going any further than simply stating them. One of the film's main problems that likely led to this would be the messy, inconsistent story that takes itself far too seriously, making the attempts at satire come across as goofy, over the top, and not very realistic.
It's just so shocking that so much talent can be involved in something that comes across as amateurish. Emma Watson tries her damnest, but she can't seem to avoid her slipping accent and her character's erratic behavior, going from wary of the organization's methods to fully on board within minutes. John Boyega is hardly even in the film, which either looks like the filmmakers had no idea what to do with him, or more likely most of his scenes got cut. (I saw the trailer a dozen times over the last few months. Something is missing). We don't get much of Karen Gillan or Ellar Coltrane (as "Mercer", Mae's ex boyfriend), who just randomly pops up once or twice in the movie.
Not surprisingly, the highlights easily would be Tom Hanks (Who long ago passed the point of having to explain and justify his choices to all of us who are not worthy), who plays the role with so much charm and charisma that you kind of buy why people are being sucked into his "Questionable" plans, while Patton Oswalt, though he rarely shows it, gives us just enough of the hidden sliminess of his character. It is also bittersweet to see the late Bill Paxton in this film, especially considering his character's illness.
"The Circle" asks questions about security and privacy, about how much can people really be trusted with it, or if it's really worth it in the end considering what possible good you can do with it? It's undeniably an interesting concept. But director James Ponsoldt just speeds through it all so fast that you rarely have any time to catch up. The audience never gets much detail into what The Circle is really doing, which ends up forcing you to ask other questions that only shatter the film's logic. Like, how would the American government allow a place like this to even form without anyone questioning it? Who the Hell is placing all those cameras all over the place? How in God's name is the company responsible for a guy driving his truck off a bridge to his death avoiding a freakin' lawsuit? The ACLU is going to question these things!
It's not that "The Circle" is incompetent, and it's clearly made by competent people. But with a lack of a sense of humor, the film's satirical elements fall flat, and by the time we reach the climax (If you would even call it that), it comes across as jarring much like the rather confusing ending itself. I's a waste of talent, and by the end, a waste of your time. Just wait for "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" and stay home this weekend. Tom Hanks will. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Peeping Toms (Get it?) and Dick Pumps.
Image: "Kung Fu Panda 4: The Cuteness"
Every year or two, at about the same time, around Earth Day, Disney's nature documentary centered film unit, "Disneynature" will release a film to the general public, aimed to educate as well as entertain children and adults of all ages......And every time, the public refuses to go see it. I guess because they don't have big explosions, grand special effects, or Kevin James falling down and going boom. Disney goes to all this trouble, with their crew risking life and limb from Panda attacks, and no one seems to appreciate it.
Narrated by John Krasinski, "Born in China" follows the lives and adventures of a mother Panda, "Ya Ya", trying to raise her curious little furball daughter, "Mei Mei", a mother Snow Leopard, "Dawa", struggling to raise her two cubs against the harsh climate and rival Leopards, a young Golden Snub-Nosed Monkey, "Tao Tao", who is yearning for attention due to the recent birth of a little sister, and a herd of Chiru, while they all try to survive in the mountains of China.
"Born in China" continues Disneynature's winning streak (At least in terms of quality), with another well put together, gorgeously filmed, and thoroughly heartwarming adventure. It brings us spectacular, almost unreal footage that you likely wont see anywhere else. (Unless you go to that part of China. But that's cheating). The shots of the landscapes, the constant changes in weather, and the interactions among the diverse communities of animals make for a beautiful experience.
Despite some probable minor manipulation, at least term's of the film's storytelling, it is fascinating, and almost kind of eerie, how full of personality these animals are. They all have their own stories, goals, and hardships that make you want to see them survive the hardships of the rather horrifying "Circle of Life", with the pandas in particular, stealing the whole film. (I could watch that little ball of fur all day)
While the film is aimed at a young audience, "Born in China" doesn't shy away from some of the more realistic outcomes to some of it's stories which, while a little hard to watch, show that it is taking it's audience seriously, hoping they are mature enough to handle it. The narration from John Krasnski might be one of the film's weaker points. While he isn't doing a bad job, injecting some humor and charm to the film, it just feels like there might of been a better choice for the job, especially considering how good the narrators for these films can be.
"Born in China" doesn't quite match up to some of Disneynature's much more superior work, such as 2014's "Bears" or 2011's "African Cats", but it's still a wonderful, and oddly relaxingly calm family film, that is sure to delight anyone of any age.....You know, if you actually SEE it! Please don't piss Disney off.We don't know what they're capable of. 3 1/2 stars. Rated G.
Image: Meth is a Hell of a drug.
They just don't listen to me.. The "Found Footage" genre is dead. It just isn't something that needs to stick around anymore. Especially the Horror ones. There's nothing original left to do with them, and there's only so many scares you can muster before audiences get the picture. "Unfriended" and "The Visit" were good. That's about it. If anyone has a clever new twist on the idea, please contact Hollywood immediately.
"Phoenix Forgotten" starts with a young filmmaker, "Sophie" (Florence Hartigan), who has returned to her hometown in Phoenix, Arizona. She is making a documentary about the unexplainable disappearance of her brother, "Josh" (Luke Spencer Roberts), and his two friends, "Ashley" (Chelsea Lopez) and "Mark" (Justin Matthews), who vanished twenty years prior while investigating the mysterious "Phoenix Lights". Many believed the vanishings to be UFOs, so Sophie begins her investigation by speaking to family members and local people, slowly discovering the truth. The film is interspersed with the found footage of the three teens, and what horrors eventually became of them.
By this point, the Found Footage genre has become so overdone that they're not even really promoting them all that much anymore (It's not like these films cost much of anything to make.) Even if "Phoenix Forgotten" is at least trying to put a bit of a twist in the genre. The film is basically two fake documentaries in one, the frame story with Sophie being shot with a modern day HD camera, complete with interviews with the local people, and the "found footage" having the look of being shot with an old, glitchy camera, which makes the footage actually look authentic.
"Phoenix Forgotten" does have moments of cleverness and parts where you actually feel some investment in what's going on. The film shows the reactions from the townspeople, how the disappearance of the teens affects them, and the personalities of the teens themselves. They characters come across as actual people, which makes it kind of tragic what eventually becomes of them. The fact that the film occasionally uses real footage from actual news reports and events adds genuine atmosphere.
With all that said, the execution is occasionally sloppy, with the framing story pretty much vanishing in the last half hour of the film's already short runtime. "Phoenix Forgotten" is never scary or even very suspenseful since you already know exactly whats going to happen, and the film doesn't provide any answers to the questions that you were already asking when the film starts. By the film's abrupt end, you don't feel anything was really accomplished. All of the actors are solid enough, with Florence Hartigan making for a likable presence,
"Phoenix Forgotten" is is a better made film than it really has any right to be, thanks in part to Director Justin Barber's attempts to change up the formula, but the "Found Footage" genre just isn't something that can really work anymore, at least in terms of theatrical release. But if any of you have a video camera and a freaky imagination, somebody might give you a couple million bucks to let them put it in theaters. 2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Scary Images And Snot Bubbles.
Image: Does that make her CRAZY!!!???
I knew it. As soon as I saw the trailer for "Unforgettable", I knew it wouldn't let me down. Feel the laughter. Feel the love. Feel the hate. Feel an odd amount of respect for just how bad a movie can get, and yet remain so thoroughly entertaining at the same time. This would be the movie that you just sit back and smile the whole way through, especially at the scenes you know damn well the filmmakers weren't planning at you to laugh at. And that's a thing of beauty right here.
"Unforgettable" begins with "Julia" (Rosario Dawson), starting a new life with her fiance, "David" (Geoff Stults) and his daughter, "Lily" (Isabella Rice). Julia's arrival makes things awkward around David's ex-wife, "Tessa" (Katherine Heigl), who is a bit mentally unstable, to say the least. Tessa plans out an elaborate, scary, and hilarious scheme to force herself back into David's life and destroy Julia.
By hacking into Julia's phone, and creating a fake Facebook account, Tess fakes messages to Julia's sadistic ex, "Michael" (Simon Kassianides), who Julia previously had a restraining order on, all while Tessa touches herself because this is also a sexual thriller. Of course this is all going to lead to betrayals, revelations, someone smacking another person with either a golf club, baseball bat, or fire poker, (Its always one of those in these kinds of movies) and the big bad catfight you all paid the same amount of money to see as I did (I would have gladly paid more.)
"Unforgettable" is everything I wanted and more. It's terrible of course. Just straight up the stupidest, most over the top, soap opera-ish movie you will find in theaters and eventually in the $5 bin at Wal-Mart. And unlike films like "When the Bough Breaks" or "The Boy Next Door", it gets right to the point in the first minute. It is trashy through and through, which is what it was always meant to be.
To give "Unforgettable" credit, it's not an incompetently made film. Director Denise Di Novi (Whose name you might recognize as the producer of a ton of Tim Burton movies), is at least trying to make the film work. The film was still destined to fail in a spectacular manner, due to the hilarious script, the constant stupid actions of it's characters, and such bizarre plot twists that none of it can be taken particularly seriously.
Despite it's entertaining horribleness, "Unforgettable" does get a couple decent performances out of it. Rosario Dawson doesn't sleepwalk through her performance, with her natural charm coming through to the point you really have no choice but to care about what happens to her. Katherine Heigl surprisingly sells her insane character. She has a pretty unsettling death glare, and at least some sense of humanity. (Its still stupid. But at least you tried).
We do also get an amusingly strange performance out of Cheryl Ladd (As Tessa's Sith Lord Mother). But Geoff Stutts is painfully bland, boring, and oblivious to the whole situation, while Simon Kassianides (Who you might remember from "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.") apparently thinks he's still on that show because he sneers his way through the movie like a supervillain. Also, Whitney Cummings pops up (as "Ali", Julia sassy friend) to deliver the film's only intentionally funny lines.
We get outrageously dumb scenarios and plot points, with characters who are said to be smart making idiotic decisions all throughout the movie. But the big selling point to "Unforrgettable" is the final, down and dirty fight, with people getting their heads smashed into mirrors and smacked around like an MMA fight. It all leads to the final twist at the end, which had the audience I saw it with burst out laughing. We all bonded. It was beautiful.
I don't just live for the great movies. I live for the blissfully bad movies too. Yeah, I'm almost giving it a positive review, but when a film is at least entertaining, even when it's atrocious, well that's still entertainment right there. Bring your friends. Preferably the loud ones who talk throughout every movie, and have a good time. It will bring you closer together. 2 1/2 stars. Rated R For Sexual Content, Violence, Evil Haircuts, And Devious Silverware Polishing.
Image: Don't do it, Brie. We mean too much to each other.
And now a film guaranteed to get completely lost in the summer movie shuffle, and have absolutely no chance against fast or furious.
"Free Fire" starts with a meeting between two members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, "Chris" (Cillian Murphy) and "Frank" (Michael Smiley), along with their dimwitted partners, "Stevo" (Sam Riley) and "Bernie" (Enzo Cilenti), an intermediary "Justine" (Brie Larson), a eccentric arms dealer "Vernon" (Sharlto Copley), and his associates, "Martin" (Babou Ceesay), "Harry" (Jack Reynor), and "Gordon" (Noah Taylor), along with their representative, "Ord" (Armie Hammer). What could go wrong?
The deal starts off a bit shaky with everyone acting either passive aggressive, or just straight up being a dick, to each other. Chris keeps insulting Vernon, Vernon takes the insults poorly, Ord just stands there and makes jackass comments about everyone, while everyone hides their motivations. Suddenly, a fight breaks out between Stevo and Harry, due to an incident some time earlier, and before they realize it, everyone starts shooting at each other for the entire film's runtime.
"Free Fire" comes across at times as more of an experiment than an actual film, though for what it's intentions are, it's just an immense amount of bloody insane fun. You don't exactly get much depth here or characterization, outside of what is presented to you in the first 20 minutes. Yet the film is just enjoyable enough to make you invested and want to see what they'll do next. Plus, since none of the characters are particularly likable, or even good people, it kind of makes it all right for them to shoot each other up. And yet somehow they keep surviving all the constant bullet wounds like it was a freakin Looney Tunes cartoon.
Director Ben Wheatley commits to the odd setup, only taking occasional moments in the constant, but always darkly humorous bloodbath (Most of the dialogue consists of the characters bickering and arguing, about who killed who.) "Free Fire" is basically an R rated version of a playground fight, and all of the actors are clearly having a ball doing it. The highlights in the film are the terrific Cillian Murphy, the always wonderful (And always adorable, even when she's packing heat) Brie Larson, a hilarious Sharlto Copley, a perfectly smarmy Armie Hammer, and the delightfully bizarre Sam Riley, who spends most of the movie high off something.
"Free Fire" doesn't really have much to it, other than a clever premise that the film executes very well. Its a briskly paced, simple, funny film that isn't taking itself too seriously. It just doesn't have a Rock or a Diesel, or really fast cars. 3 stars. Rated R For Constant Swearing And Constant Violence In Between The Constant Swearing.
Image: The haters were right. Anne Hathaway IS a monster.
Sometimes it's best a film doesn't tell you what its really about. This isn't like "Collateral Beauty" or "Passengers", where they are hiding the rather horrific reality of the film's plot. There are certain films in which the less you know, the better. So that when you do get to the film's true intention, it makes the shock all the more effective. And yet I still feel I have to tell you that "Colossal" is not a goofy, feel good, monster comedy.
"Colossal" starts with the unemployed, struggling alcoholic "Gloria" (Anne Hathaway) going through a breakup with her boyfriend, "Tim" (Dan Stevens), who also kicks her out of their apartment. Gloria is forced to return to her old, small hometown, where she is greeted by her childhood friend, "Oscar" (Jason Sudeikis), who offers her a job at his bar. Oscar invites her over for drunken get-togethers with his friends, "Joel" (Austin Stowell), who Gloria has an attraction to, and "Garth" (Tim Blake Nelson), who is weird because he's played by Tim Blake Nelson.
While roaming the town in a drunken haze, Gloria wanders through a playground before passing out. The next day, she is horrified to see reports of a giant monster randomly appearing in Seoul, South Korea, causing tons of damage and casualties. Gloria realizes that she is in fact the monster, who happens to appear every time she walks through the same playground at a specific time.Things only get worse with the arrival of a giant robot in Seoul, leading to things that the trailer didn't show you and I think is best not to spoil.
From Director Nacho Vigalondo (That's quite a name you got there, Nacho), "Colossal" is actually a much darker film than advertised. Not that there still isn't humor in the film. In fact, there is still plenty of laugh out loud moments, thanks to some of the quirky characters and the reactions that the average citizens have to the monsters, which go from terrified to glorified in a matter of days (And lets be honest, that's probably pretty accurate.)
However, "Colossal" does go into some darker, much heavier subjects, such as alcoholism, abusive relationships, and self-hatred, just with a couple of giant monsters. It's difficult to explain it all, and it's best to discover it for yourself anyway, but the film comes across as very clever with the rather weird scenario making complete sense by the end thanks to the oddball script from Vigalondo.
Anne Hathaway is drunk and disheveled (Yet still cute as a button), is excellent, retaining some likability despite her character's many faults and complications. She is flawed, but also human, and you do start to care for her as the film progresses. Jason Sudeikis is absolutely brilliant in a role that gets significantly more complex as it goes. "Colossal" is aided by solid supporting work from Austin Stowell, Dan Stevens, and especially the always entertaining Tim Blake Nelsen.
Now "Colossal" is certainly not for everyone. The tone shifts from quirky to somewhat disturbing at times in the same scene. The film makes you uncomfortable, but it's kind of supposed to. There is a point to the film and an actual message behind it. Its just hiding behind a giant Kaiju. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Language And Powerful Metaphors.
Image: Beauty and the bald.
How in the Hell did The "Fast and Furious" franchise become "Critically Acclaimed" (Or at the least) "Critically Approved"? Somehow, these entertaining (And completely preposterous) films have pretty much proven that you can make a profit, while accumulating a fanbase, and even garner critical approval with films that (And I hope even it's biggest fans would admit) revel in it's ridiculousness. They also have an undeniable charm and heart. And since the "Fast" train doesn't seem to be stopping anytime soon, I'm glad that it is at least attempting to mature.
"The Fate of the Furious" begins with former convict, professional street racer, and occasional special agent "Dominic Toretto" (Vin Diesel) living the sweet retirement life with his wife, "Letty Ortiz" (Michelle Rodriguez). Dom is confronted by infamous cyberterrorist "Cipher" (Charlize Theron), who has something on Dom important enough to force him into betraying his friends and family.
While on a mission to steal en EMP device in Berlin, with help from DSS agent "Luke Hopps" (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), former criminal "Roman Pearce" (Tyrese Gibson), mechanic "Tej Parker" (Chris "Ludicrous" Bridges), and hacker "Ramsey" (Nathalie Emmanuel), Dom turns on his team, stealing the EMP device, and causing an international incident which results in Hopps' arrest. Covert agent "Mr. Nobody" (Kurt Russell) arranges for Hopps' release along with rogue assassin/rival to Dom and Hopps, "Deckard Shaw" (Jason Statham) to gather the team back together to take down Dom and Cipher, despite Letty's protests that Dom can be saved.
"The Fate of the Furious", much like it's predecessors, knows it's silly, and embraces it. It knows that the laws of physics are dead in this universe and that anything goes (It's basically reenacting those awesomely sick fantasies you would play out with your Hot Wheels as a child.) However, this time around, it seems that this franchise has realized that at some point, things need to get a little more serious. And it surprisingly works. Not that the "Fast and Furious" franchise is going to be doing Shakespeare anytime soon, but this movie does at least acknowledge that there are consequences to all the absurdity.
As before with the previous entries, "Fast and Furious 8" does still retains it's sense of humor and comradery among it's characters, which makes you care when something serious does happen. Vin Diesel has developed his character into a very likable presence, and when you get to the reason for his seemingly change of heart, you do understand it and it adds a bit of complexity. The shocking death of Paul Walker is still felt, and the film handles his loss (As they did beautifully in his last film) with genuine grace
The rest of the endearing cast, including Michelle Rodriguez, Nathalie Emmanuel, with fun back and forth between Tyrese Gibson, and Chris Bridges works extremely well, and the interactions between Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham is such a delight that you really want a spin-off with just the two of them (Plus I can watch them beating the crap out of prison guards and convicts all day. I got issues.) Kurt Russel and Scott Eastwood (as "Little Nobody", Mr. Nobody's constantly mocked assistant) are great additions to the cast, and Charlize Theron is so deliciously evil (and yes, pretty hot too) that she really adds a little extra something to film.
Now of course, the action scenes in "The Fate of the Furious" are a huge selling point. and they are incredibly well constructed, and, of course, undeniably cool, thanks in part to veteran director F. Gary Gray ("Straight Outta Compton"). As long as we can all admit that the whole premise is still pretty dumb, especially with certain plot points that pretty much ignore the laws of international politics and gravity, I'm no expert, but a submarine battle with a bunch of cars on ice is just not something that could exist. (Also, a bunch of cars can't block a wall of fire. That's just....No)
"The Fate of the Furious" can't avoid the silliness and the downright absurdness of it's plot and action scenes, but the film does notice that you just can't do the same thing over and over with a franchise already on it's way into a ninth film. It's like this little franchise is growing up, while still remembering to keep a good sense of humor and a good heart. Quite frankly, I'd say this is the best film they've done yet. I know, right? I didn't see that coming either. 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For 'Splosions And Scantily Clad Street Girls.
Image: "When we kill and eat all of the humans, you can wallow in all the mud you want!"
I kinda feel bad for animated films like this. Everything and everyone seemed to lack faith in it. The studio distributing it, the writers, the animator. Pretty much all five film critics who actually saw it. It really never had a shot from the start, much like any alternative animated film these days not from one of the major animation studios. (Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, etc.). But the fact that it's still not very good really doesn't help.
"Spark: A Space Tail" starts with an evil, diminutive warlord "General Zhong" (Alan C.Peterson), unleashing the Space Kraken onto the peaceful, monkey world of "Bana". The Kraken's gooey stuff that comes out of it's butt, when unleashed, causes the formation of a black hole, or a wormhole (Or some kind of hole) that consumes most of Bana, leaving the rest to be conquered by Zhong, and stranding many of it's inhabitants on some of the planet's remaining pieces. Years later, orphan monkey, "Spark" (Jace Norman), dreams of adventure and has been raised by foxy fox, "Vix" (Jessica Biel), dirty, overweight pig, "Chunk" (Rob deLeeuw), and his pun-named nanny robot, "Bananny" (Susan Sarandon).
A series of events results in Spark, and his little roach buddy, "Floyd", stumbling upon the Kraken, accidentally letting Zhong get his hands on it a second time. Zhong, planning to destroy another planet just for sh*ts and giggles, banishes Spark and his friends through the Kraken goo wormhole thingy, where they come across an old military captain named , er, "The Captain" (Patrick Stewart). The Captain reveals to Spark that he is the long lost son of the royal family and it is his destiny to defeat Zhong, restore peace to their planet, and rescue Spark's queenly mother named, er, "The Queen" (Hilary Swank).
Distributed by "Open Road Films" and "ToonBox Entertainment" (Who previously gave us "The Nut Job", and we can blame them for giving us it's sequel later this year), "Spark: A Space Tail" is one of those movies that really could of used a dose of confidence in itself, and a lot less laziness. There probably could of been something here. Sort of "Star Wars" like space adventure, with monkeys, and with a quirky sense of humor, it's own mythology, and the occasional dark subtext. But the film never really commits to anything, instead giving us little humor or charm, and providing a rather convoluted story.
The animation itself is inconsistent. Sometimes it actually looks decent, with some solid character and art designs, but most of the time it just looks like something you'd see on Nickelodeon in the afternoon. (Why does everyone's hair look like Play-Doh?) Most of the film's humor relies on bad puns and goofy slapstick. While none of it is particularly harmful, its just so damn lackluster and doesn't seem to have any faith in itself or it's likely small audience.
The voice cast is a bit baffling. Jace Norman and Jessica Biel, while not exactly bad in the film, play characters with dialogue so bland, that it's hard to really care of remember them. I have no idea what Hilary Swank is even doing here, and Susan Sarandon still seems to have taken that Bernie defeat harder than we thought, which would be the only real explanation I have for her role in this. The only real amusement in the film comes from Alan C. Peterson, whose villain's height sensitivity is an old, but still mildly funny joke, and from Sir Patrick Stewart who does a Scottish for no apparent reason other than it sounds funny hearing Patrick Stewart do a Scottish accent. Laddie!
"Spark: A Space Tail" is probably fine for the little ones, but due to the lack of effort put into it, and the fact that there are much better movies to show them, it's destined only to be a massive flop that will fade from existence a week later. Good thing young kids have short term memory anyway. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG For Magic Kraken Goo And Heaving Gorilla Bosoms.
Image: "This says we one yet ANOTHER Academy Award. How many does that make?"
Old people are the greatest. They're wise. They're worldly. They might on occasion say something that your parents will cause your parents to tell you "It was a different time". It's possible they'll say something accidentally racist or homophobic. But these three "Old" folks certainly know how to take a sleight premise and turn it into a relatively fun time.
"Going in Style" follows three old coots, "Joe" (Michael Caine), "Willie" (Morgan Freeman), and "Albert" (Alan Arkin), who are all experiencing severe money problems after the loss of their pensions due to the company they've worked at for years being bought out. Joe, who is also being taken advantage of by his bank, witnesses an elaborate and successful bank robbery, which gives him the idea that maybe he and his buddies could do the same (How hard could it be?)
Albert and Willie at first find the idea to be completely ridiculous, but after realizing that their situation isn't going to get any better and they really don't have much to lose anyway, agree to go along with Joe's little scheme. So now the trio have to find a way to pull off the heist successfully without getting caught.
"Going in Style" is a remake of an old 1979 film that I've never seen. (Though I doubt it really has that much to do with this new version.), This film isn't much in terms of it's own plot and aspirations. Its a simple caper/comedy that hardly ever does anything too original or risky. With that said, its clear that director Zach Braff is trying to make a point (And it's a good one) about how the elderly are unfairly treated, often being ignored or taken advantage of, especially in a system that sees them as nothing but a number.
The script and the jokes in "Going in Style" are simple and unremarkable, but are elevated by the tremendous actors on screen. Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin are all nothing short of terrific. They're funny, likable, easy to root for, and as always, a joy to watch. And there's solid work from the supporting cast, with some funny scenes from Ann-Margaret (as "Annie", Albert's love interest), Matt Dillon (as "Agent Hamer", the smarmy FBI agent after the trio), and Christopher Lloyd (as "Milton", a bizarre, and senile old timer).
This is another one of those easy ones. and not exactly a critical challenge. "Going in Style" isn't much for substance. We're just here to see great, older actors have fun for an hour and a half, making something out of almost nothing. I can't say that you need to rush out and see "Going in Style". But we do need to appreciate these three wise, old actors for the joy they still bring us. For that reason alone, I'd like to see them in a sequel, maybe ten years from now. They have plenty more to offer. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Old Guys Firing Blanks.
Image: We only specialize in the "Alternative Facts" at this newspaper.
From Pure Flix Entertainment, the studio that brought us such open minded, totally non-biased Christian classics such as "God's Not Dead" and "God's Not Dead 2" comes.......Something that's fairly competent ? That's not me rooting against faith based films. I'm always and only rooting for competence.
"The Case for Christ" tells the true story of an atheist journalist, "Lee Strobel" (Mike Vogel), whose wife "Leslie" (Erika Christensen) becomes a devout Christian after their daughter, "Alison" (Haley Rosenwasser) is rescued from choking from a nurse, "Alfie" (L. Scott Caldwell), who claims that their meeting was the work of "Jesus". Lee just can't seem to understand his wife's new behavior, nor can he understand Christianity as a whole. So he sets out to disprove the entire religion, using whatever journalist legal way he can, which causes his marriage, his family life, and even his work life, to falter. But don't worry. He'll eventually see the light. That's how these movies work.
"The Case for Christ", unlike many previous films from Pure Flix, actually looks like it was made by people who knew what they were doing. The film is shot well and doesn't feel cheaply made, and to it's credit, it's at least attempting to bring humanization to it's characters. Sadly, it just can't seem to help itself. It's not entirely the film's fault, but for the devout audience it's meant for, it can't be too complex or else it risks losing them.
The film seems to be trying to add a bit of complexity, and it does make some pretty solid points about absolutism and how faith is something you are not meant to see, but instead believe. The problem is that sometimes it feels like the filmmakers forgot their own message when it applies to themselves. In the end, "The Case for Christ" is overly absolute to be believed, and the message of faith is contradicted by the film constantly trying to prove itself as completely right and that everyone else is completely wrong.
One of the saving graces for "The Case for Christ" is Mike Vogel, who, despite his character's occasional sporadic behavior, retains some likability, with a sense of humor, and actual genuine emotion. He's not portrayed as a bad guy really. Just a little too self absorbed and caught up in his own (Wrong) belief system that he refuses to acknowledge anything else (Which is much more complex than any other atheist character in any of these other films. To be fair, other films have the same, cynical, one note view of Christians.) We also get a solid performance out of Erika Christensen, whose character at least shows that she is really asking a bit too much from her husband to suddenly just jump at the chance of Christianity. On the downside, we get L. Scott Caldwell and her constant smiling throughout the entire film (Because she's got Jesus on her side), and that comes across as more creepy than endearing.
"The Case for Christ" addresses the points that certain non-believers and skeptics will make, and also provides it's own solid points to idea of Christianity as a whole. The message is good and important, but it can't help but come across as hypocritical considering the film's need to preach to the already converted. It's still a case that wouldn't hold up in court. 2 stars. Rated PG For Adult Content And Porn Staches.
Image: "The mushrooms, man....They're smurfin' me out!"
"The Smurfs" just won't die. They used to be well known, well beloved cartoon characters, having originated from a comic book, then a cartoon series, and all of those figurines of all those characters you see 30 year old men collecting. (We don't judge here.). But after the critically panned live-action "Smurfs" films, people lately sort of cringe whenever they hear the name Smurfs. So let's just reboot the whole dang thing, and animate it this time. Can't they just let a sleeping smurf lie?
"Smurfs: The Lost Village" follows the possibly socialist community of little blue people known as "The Smurfs", led by "Papa Smurf" (Mandy Patinkin), who are always hiding from the evil, but not exactly competent wizard, "Gargamel" (Rainn Wilson) and his cat minion, "Azrael" (Frank Welker). All of the Smurfs have their own character traits and names that resemble those traits, with the exception of the only female Smurf, "Smurfette" (Demi Lovato), who was in reality, was created by Gargamel.
Smurfette, feeling that she doesn't belong with the other Smurfs, stumbles upon a strange blue creature, who bears a resemblance to the other Smurfs. Against Papa's orders, she, "Brainy" (Danny Pudi), "Hefty" (Joe Manganiello), and "Clumsy" (Jack McBrayer) set off to the find the lost village of Smurfs, with Gargamel in hot pursuit. But they discover that, since the trailers and TV spots all spoil this anyway, the lost village is made up of nothing but female Smurfs, led by "Smurf Willow" (Julia Roberts).
I never really hated the live-action "Smurfs" films, but they sure weren't good, and they certainly outstayed their welcome very quickly. They were just silly, overlong, but harmless kiddie films that offered very little to any adults. But despite "Smurfs: The Lost Village" this time being fully animated, and not taking place in the real world, it's really just more of the same.
The biggest bright side this time at least is that now the Smurfs don't look anywhere near as revolting as their overly realistic, slightly fuzzy, live-action counterparts. The characters are bouncy and stretchy, much like an old cartoon, which blends well with the plenty solid, and at times imaginative animation. Though, because it is from "Sony Pictures Animation", it does at times veer into "Hotel Transylvania" territory, with too much freneticism, and the constant need to throw stuff at the screen out of fear of the kiddies getting bored.
The story in "Smurfs: The Lost Village" is serviceable enough and easy for the younger viewers to follow, but its pretty generic stuff, especially considering how it basically repeats the whole Smurfette plotline from the second "Smurfs" movie. None of it is really helped by the lack of any real laughs, aside from simple slapstick and cartoonish silliness.
The solid cast do make up for the unremarkable script, with the adorable Demi Lovato providing a likable presence, along with Mandy Patinkin bringing some warmth to the lovable Papa Smurf. Easily the best laughs come from the villains (Much like in the original cartoon really), with Rain Wilson and Frank Welker's characters' complete incompetence being hard not to enjoy.
The biggest downside is that the whole "Female Smurf" aspect really doesn't get introduced into almost the third act, and with voice talents such as Julia Roberts, Ariel Winter, Ellie Kemper, Michelle Rodriguez, and Meghan Trainor (Who all voice the female Smurfs), it's a bit wasteful to leave them with really nothing to say or do. This is a pretty easy one. If you enjoyed the other "Smurfs" films, or are just a big fan of the original series or comics, then you'll probably find something to enjoy here. But the film doesn't really offer anything except mild amusement for little kids, which is perfectly fine considering they are the demographic. My demographic? "The Lego Batman Movie" thank you. 2 stars. Rated PG For Graphic, Excessive, Hardcore Smurfing.
Image: Its gonna be yuuuuuuge!
This really seemed to be the point where people were starting to question the recent choices of the beloved animation studio, DreamWorks Animation. After being plagued by countless setbacks, movies being either pushed back years later or dropped entirely from existence. So their solution is to give us "The Boss Baby"? That's it. DreamWorks is dead. A film that looks like a bunch of poop and fart jokes mixed in with baby humor without any real plot to it. And yet, to this movie's credit, it may be that there's just a little bit more to baby poop after all.
"The Boss Baby" is told through narration by "Tim Templeton" (Tobey Maguire), recounting a strange little tale of when he was a young, imaginative, seven year-old boy (Miles Christopher Bakshi), living a happy life with his parents (Lisa Kudrow and Jimmy Kimmel), who work for a pet corporation known as "Puppy Co.".
Everything changes with the arrival of a new baby, who is for some reason dressed in a business suit and clearly has a hidden agenda. Tim, upset that his parents no longer have time for him, is determined to find out the baby's secret, soon discovering that he is.....wait for it....."The Boss Baby" (Alec Baldwin), a sophisticated, workaholic, talking baby, who was sent by his company, "Baby Corp.", which is where all babies, and I'm assuming all life, comes from.
The Boss Baby has been sent to find out why babies are no longer getting as much love as they used to, seeing that puppies are the likely cause of it all (That part is completely accurate.) The Boss Baby convinces Tim to help him sneak into Puppy Co. to find out what their big project is, not knowing that the deranged, evil CEO, "Francis E. Francis" (Steve Buscemi), with motivations of his own, plans to reveal the big project to the world.
Compared to how the rest of the internet was reacting, I was more uninterested in "The Boss Baby" than pissed off at it. But not even I was prepared for just how bizarre this movie truly was. Once you get past the predictable story line, you get a strange explanation for where babies come from and how they're made (It's how I'm going to explain it all to my kids), an evil plan to unleash an immortal puppy to make adults ignore babies, and a chase scene with the villain's henchmen chasing the heroes on a skateboard while dressed as Mary Poppins. This is some weird ass sh*t. But its kind of commendable in how balls to the wall insane it really gets.
"The Boss Baby" does in fact have some imagination to it, which is shown through the bouncy and colorful animation that occasionally shifts back and forth from CG animation to hand drawn 2D animation. But it is held down by a rather by the book story, with the whole two characters who don't like each other, but learn to get along bit, which has been done to death. Some plot points are easy to see coming and, despite the occasional funny gag, most of them are clearly aimed at the very young. Which is fine, with it being a kids movie, but we have come to demand a little more.
We do get some solid voice work, with Alec Baldwin getting the best laughs, basically playing an animated, man-baby version of Donald Trump (Wait. Is there a difference?). Miles Christopher Bakshi, does an excellent job carrying the film. You get an occasional laugh out of Steve Buscemi, but Jimmy Kimmel and Lisa Kudrow are sadly underutilized.
Aside from the glaring flaws, "The Boss Baby" gets way more out of it's limited premise than you would expect. It's silly and unsurprising with it's story, and the joke does eventually get old. With that said, there are a few decent enough laughs, there's clearly good intentions behind it, and the pure insanity that finds it's way onto the screen makes the film kind of hard not to recommend a little. So go suck on a pacifier. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG For Baby Butts.