Eagan at the Movies

Reviewing movies because we care.

The Revenant 

Image: No DiCaprios were raped by bears during the production of this film.


Whatever else you think about "The Revenant" when you see it, I think you'll admit that it has got to be the most absolutely cold, stark, harsh, tough, gritty and brutal film you may ever see. Just watching it in the theater made me cold. And made me look over my shoulder for Tom Hardy and Bear.

"The Revenant" is inspired by a True Story/Legend, set in the American wilderness in the winter of 1823. "Hugh Glass" (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an experienced hunter on a hunting and fur trading expedition, with his half Native American son, "Hawk" (Forrest Goodluck). Glass is working with "Captain Henry" (Domhnall Gleeson), the hunting party leader, as the party struggles to avoid an attack from a Native American tribe.

The hunters lose most of their men (And all of their pelts) to an attack, and the rest begin to head home, witch pisses off "John Fitzgerald" (Tom Hardy), a rogue trader. Glass is soon mauled by a Bear, somehow surviving the attack. The Captain orders the group to carry Glass with them, but the difficulties force them to leave Glass and his son with Fitzgerald and "Jim Bridger" (Will Poulter). That's a bad idea, because Fitzgerald is a heartless bastard who attempts to kill Glass, killing Hawk in the process, and leaves Glass for dead. But Glass doesn't die easy. His incredible will to live leads him on an incredible journey towards vengeance and redemption.

Alejandro G. Iñárritu has become one of my favorite Directors, and he is as innovative a film maker around. "The Revenant" is filmed using only natural light, taking advantage of the natural elements to create a movie that looks like no other. The landscape and cinematography is a special achievement, playing as important a role (Or more) as the characters themselves. 

The story is haunting and horrifying, yet "The Revenant" is incredibly compelling and beautifully told. It shows humanity at it's worst, yet following Glass on his quest is life affirming. The film has long moments with zero dialogue, but, somehow, it's also incredibly poetic. "The Revenant" is truly a work of art.

Let's make it official right now and give Leonardo DiCaprio the Oscar right now. In a year with many great performances, DiCaprio somehow stands out, giving the performance of a career. He is beyond committed to his role, to the point where you actually fear for his safety (Seriously, would you have been surprised if you'd heard that DiCaprio had died during the filming?) If this doesn't get him the Oscar, nothing will. Tom Hardy is wonderful as well, and scary as hell, Domhnall Gleeson is also terrific, as is Will Poulter.

As difficult a film as "The Revenant" is, I'm actually looking forward to seeing it again. The film, at it's core, is the ultimate adventure tale, both for the film's hero, and the audience. It all depends on if you are courageous enough to handle it. "The Revenant" is nothing short of a masterpiece. 4 Stars. Rated R For Gruesome Violence And Dark Subject Matter.

The Hateful Eight 

 Image: Santa's black....And he's really pissed.


There is one glaring negative about a Tarantino film. If you've seen even one of his film's, and you're not a fan, then you will (Or should) never see another one. It's that simple. As for me, I'm hooked.

"The Hateful Eight" is a complicated tale, so bear with me. Soon after the Civil War, "Major Marquis Warren-The Bounty Hunter" (Samuel L. Jackson) hitches a ride on a stagecoach, with "John Ruth-The Hangman" (Kurt Russell), who is transporting "Daisy Domergue-The Prisoner" (Jennifer Jason Leigh) on her way to hang in the town of Red Rock.

Along the way they meet "Chris Mannix-The Sheriff" (Walton Goggins), who claims to be Red Rock's new Sheriff. A winter storm forces them to stop at "Minnie's Haberdashery", a stagecoach lodge where a group of other colorful characters are holding out. "Oswaldo Mobray-The Little Man" (Tim Roth) claims to be the town's hangman, "Joe Gage-The Cowpuncher" (Michael Madsen) is strange and mostly silent, "General Sandy Smithers-The Confederate" (Bruce Dern), who isn't taking the South's Civil War loss very well, and "Bob-The Mexican" (Demian Bichir), who claims to be running the lodge in Minnie's absence.

There's an awful lot of claiming going on here and Ruth senses something isn't quite right. It's only a matter of time before the blood starts spilling and the secrets revealed.

"The Hateful Eight" is Quentin Tarantino's first "Mystery" and the buildup delivers great tension. Most of the action is really just conversation, but nobody does conversation better than Tarantino, who delivers another whip smart script, with characters that all have remarkable personalities and specific traits. The gory violence is inevitable, but when it happens, it's strangely beautiful. Or, at the least, artful.

Samuel L. Jackson gives one of his best performances (That's saying a lot, considering he's made about 500 movies. And that's just this year!) Kurt Russell is grizzled and compelling as the, uh, good guy? Jennifer Jason Leigh is Oscar worthy, playing grotesquely psycho as well as anybody I've seen Walton Goggins is terrific and complex and weirdly sympathetic, Bruce Dern makes the most of his screen time, Tim Roth chews the scenery, Michael Madsen is menacing, Dimian Birchir gets some of the best lines, and James Parks (As the stagecoach driver) has some oddly funny moments.

"The Hateful Eight" is another Tarantino film that depends on your personal taste (Or stomach) for violence, language, gore, the "N' word, abuse of women, and so on. Personally, if I thought Tarantino was justifying these behaviors, I would hope I would see through it. The man is clearly an artist, and "Eight" is just his latest example. Indelible characters, pitch black comedy, profound dialogue, and some of the most beautiful cinematography you will ever see on screen (I saw it in the 70mm "Road Show". Try not not to miss this version). "The Hateful Eight" is completely exhausting. And totally worth it. 4 Stars. Rated R For Everything Previously Mentioned, And More.

Concussion 

 Image: "My attitude is: Don't start nothing, won't BE nothing!"


You have to admit. It's still a little odd to see Will Smith on the big screen not killing Aliens, or Robots, inevitably saving the world in the end. But give him credit. Now he's saving Football players from themselves.

"Concussion" stars Will Smith in the fact based tale, as "Dr. Bennet Omalu", a Nigerian living his dream in America as a Forensic Pathologist. He performs the autopsy on pro football hall of famer "Mike Webster" (David Morse), who had recently committed suicide..Dr. Omalu finds that Webster had severe brain trauma , likely caused by the repeated blows to the head he suffered while playing football.

When Dr. Omalu publishes his findings, he meets a stunning amount of resistance from the football community, who deny that there is any cause and effect. Some pressure, and others threaten the Doctor, who pushes on until he is finally vindicated when more former players are proven to have suffered the same damage.

While "Concussion" feels too much like a "Hollywood" idealized version of a true story, the film is undeniably powerful, thanks in no small part to Will Smith's powerhouse performance. Smith (As always) is impossible not to like, and he brings real gravitas and believability to a difficult role. Alec Baldwin (As a former sports Doctor) is terrific as well, as is Albert Brooks (As a County Coroner, and friend of Omalu), who supplies some much needed humor.

"Concussion" is less effective when it focuses on Dr. Omalu's personal life with his Wife, "Prema" (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), slowing the main plot down to a crawl. The drama is plenty compelling enough, even if you understand football even less than I do. Anyone can sympathize with an underdog, fighting against the powers that be who want to keep the status quo, and are gambling with others lives. We have way to many true stories like that, lately. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Disturbing Subject Matter, And OH MY GOD, IT'S MIDNIGHT! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Daddy's Home

 Image: One Dad was in "Anchorman". The other, "Transformers 4".


So you've got Will Ferrell. Nice. And Mark Wahlberg. Good so far. Then add water. And a little more water. Then more and more water, until you've got a harmless, but completely watered down comedy.

"Daddy's Home" stars Will Ferrell as "Brad", a nice dork, who has just married "Sara" (Linda Cardellini), a single mother with two kids (Scarlett Estevez and Owen Vaccaro). Brad is trying to be a doting step father, but things get complicated when the kids father, "Dusty" (Mark Wahlberg) shows up, wanting to be part of their lives.The two try to one up each other as they vie for the kid's affections. They both make things worse, until they learn the true meaning of fatherhood.

"Daddy's Home" is so watered down, it's downright squishy (Much like Will Ferrell's body. He "Shows it off" again! It's breathtakingly squishy). With a fine cast, the film is bound to have it's moments, so there are a few inspired scenes, and a handful of sweet moments. "Daddy's Home" is thoroughly inoffensive (Other than a little male potty humor), and has a nice message about putting your children first. It's just completely and utterly unremarkable.

Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg work well together, and their chemistry helps keep "Daddy's Home" afloat. Linda Cardellini is completely adorable, but deserves a better part. The kids are fine, and the supporting cast, including Thomas Haden Church (Brad's boss) and Hannibal Buress ( A snarky houseguest) help liven things up a little.

I'm kind of grasping at straws to add anything else, here. "Daddy's Home" ends predictably. In fact, the entire movie goes exactly as predicted, right up to the finale. In a year of unpredictable films, "Daddy's Home" plays it safe. 2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For A Little Penis Fondling, And For Will Ferrell's "Moobs".

The Big Short

 Image: Doesn't look like there is a funny bone in this man's body.


We're supposed to learn lessons from history, right? Like, for instance, the financial meltdown of 2008 (Not 2009. The details are important.) We can only hope that the financial institutions who make these important decisions won't repeat the same greedy mistakes that were made, that led us to the point of economic meltdown....Forget that. We're screwed.

"The Big Short" tells the story. "Michael Burry" (Christian Bale) is a Hedge Fund Manager (And an odd duck), who discovers that the market is about to crash. He discovers that many of the financial institutions have been cooking their books (Most of it was legal. God help us), so he devises an idea to bet against the market, and make a killing for himself, and to take care of his investors. 

Investors "Jared Vennett" (Ryan Gosling) and "Mark Baum" (Steve Carell) see what's coming, and jump on the bandwagon. Mark is angry, believing the system has been screwing the little guy, and wants to make a point, but Jared is honest about just making a fortune. Two young investors (John Magaro and Finn Whitrock) soon discover the market problems, and decide to join in on the fun, receiving help from a cynical retired Banker (Brad Pitt), who guides them through the inevitable economic collapse.

"The Big Short" sounds complicated and depressing. Surprisingly, it's not only easy to follow, it's also hilarious. The film takes it's time explaining the complexities of economics in a surprisingly funny way, thanks to a sharp script, and clever direction from Adam McKay (He directed and wrote "Anchorman", so he knows funny). Yet the drama is real, as are the consequences, and the film helps you to sympathize with those who were hurt, and to get pissed off that it actually happened.

Christian Bale has already proven he's as good as there is, and he's terrific here, showing the right blend of likability and eccentricity. Steve Carell is a revelation, showing the same depth as he did in "Foxcatcher". And I actually liked Ryan Gosling for once (Sorry, I never really got him). He's gets the funniest lines in the film, and plays the Hell out of smarmy. Brad Pitt (In a small part) is excellent (And unrecognizable), as is the rest of the talented cast.

Being such a long and involving movie, "The Big Short" does kind of peter out by the end, leaving me a bit exhausted. Yet It's great to see such a fine movie take on the true tale of economic disaster, and make it both entertaining and educational for the viewer. Unfortunately, it also makes you question humanity. Maybe we all need to be a little cynical. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Strong Language, And For Margot Robbie In A Bath Tub.

Point Break

 Image: "Righteous! Righteous!"


"Hell Week" continues. I'm wearing out. But, like an extreme athlete, I must, like, totally persevere, and, like, center myself, to achieve, like, total Nirvana and stuff. Dude.

"Point Break" is a remake of the "Classic?" 90's film, and stars Luke Bracey as "Johnny Utah" (What! Johnny Utah! Are you f*cking kidding me!). He is an F.B.I. Agent, who had given up his Extreme Motocross Racing career after the death of a friend. 

When bizarre robberies begin taking place, a group of Extreme Athletes are suspected. Johnny Utah convinces his bosses to let him infiltrate the gang, let by "Bodhi" (Edgar Ramirez), who are using the crimes to give the money away, while following a fabled path to spiritual enlightenment, called "The Osaki 8". Heavy. It's all a bunch of bull sh*t. 

No, I haven't seen the Patrick Swayze/Keanu Reeves original. I don't have to. As soon as I heard that Luke Bracey was starring in a remake of "Point Break", I knew I was in for a treat. This film is dumber than a sack of potatoes, trying to convince the audience of it's coolness, but it only succeeds in showing off a couple of nice action sequences and stunts. That's not enough reason for a remake..

If you're looking for memorable characters and performances, "Point Break" gives you bupkis. A guy named "Johnny Utah", infiltrating a group of Bank Robbers/Extreme Athletes? At least the original had Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves. What do we get? Luke Bracey? I'm sorry, but the dude has zero personality, and isn't believable in the slightest, with or without his shirt. Edgar Ramirez lacks the charisma to pull off a role that's supposed to be charismatic enough to be looked at as a "Robin Hood" type,

At least the lovely Teresa Palmer (As the love interest) gets to keep her adorable Australian accent, but she gets nothing to do in the film. And speaking of awesome accents, Ray Winstone (Johnny Utah's partner) gets to say "Sh*t" a lot.

"Point Break" has no sense of pace, speeding from scene to scene, and eventually getting nowhere. It ends as silly and pointless as it began. With no real reason to even exist. You want an extreme sport? Try reviewing seven films in one week. And one of them stars Luke Bracey! 1/2 A Star. Rated PG-13 For Extreme Action, And Extreme Scenes Of Shirtless Dudes Achieving Enlightenment.

Joy

 Image: Jennifer Lawrence gives me joy. Lots and lots of joy.


Christmas is the best time of the year. But for a film critic, it's also the busiest, also known as "Hell Week". I have at least six or seven films I need to get to over the rest of the week, and still find time to spend all my Christmas money. I don't really need presents anymore. Just cash.

"Joy" is based on the true story of "Joy Mangano" (Jennifer Lawrence), who always had big dreams as a child, but now finds herself dealing with her divorced and unhappy parents (Robert De Niro and Virginia Madsen), her jealous sister (Elisabeth Rohm), and her struggling ex husband, "Tony" (Edgar Ramirez).

Joy knows she must make some changes, and cleverly comes up with the idea for the "Miracle Mop". She risks everything she has to make her invention a reality, and teams up with her dad's new girlfriend (Isabella Rossellini), and.a T.V. Exec at "QVC" (Bradley Cooper) to make her dreams come true.

Writer/Director David O. Russell has made some great films lately, though "Joy" is a bit of an offbeat choice for him. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but "Joy" is a little slight in comparison. It's a smaller story, and much of it is told in flash backs and flash forwards, and that story structure feels unnecessary.(The tale would have been more powerful told straight). 

Still, It's a David O. Russell film, so it's guaranteed to be intelligent, funny, and quirky, and Russell always gets great performances out of his actors. My (Probably unhealthy) feelings for Jennifer Lawrence are well known by now, and I don't mind saying that my future Wife deserves yet another Oscar nomination for "Joy". She is wonderful once again, giving an incredibly warm and likable performance. Robert De Niro has enough Oscar nomination already, but he's Robert freakin' De Niro, so, he's awesome, and Bradley Cooper has a small but memorable role, as well.

"Joy" has the usual great "Russell" characters and dialogue, and the film tells an inspiring story about a young mother pursuing the American dream. "Joy" is easy to root for and easy to watch, even if it never reaches greatness. In the end, it's a fine Christmas movie. Especially if you're finally sick of "The Force Awakens". And if I ever get caught up on all of the other movies, I'll be glad to see it another five or six times to test that theory. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content, And For Rekindling My Unhealthy Feelings For Jennifer Lawrence.

Sisters

 Image: Sisters are doin' it for themselves.


I love cute women. I love funny women. I really love cute, funny women. And they're is something about cute, funny women saying naughty things that makes me want to go out with them. Yet not be sure if I should take them home to meet Mama.

"Sisters" stars the equally awesome Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as "Kate" and "Maura", two sisters who are wildly different. Kate is wild and irresponsible, while Maura is reserved, divorced and bored. When they find out that their parents (James Brolin and Dianne Wiest) are selling their childhood home, Kate convinces Maura that the two of them should throw one last party, inviting their old high school friends.

Maura wants to let loose for once, and convinces Kate to guide her through her new phase of reckless behavior and debauchery. And that's going to go exactly as well as it ever does in a comedy.

I guess the idea is to put Tina and Amy in any familiar comedy situation, and then sit back and watch them make it hilarious. And "Sisters" is undeniably funny, at times. The film itself, though, is too simplistic a story to really dive in to (All of there "Problems" could be solved too easily), so some of the situations come across as forced. When it does work, it's mostly because of the sheer talent and chemistry of it's two incredibly talented actresses.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are a predictably perfect team, making every funny scene hilarious, and every "Meh" moment bearable (Every scene is at least 50% better because they're in it). And Fellow SNL alumni Maya Rudolph (As Kate's rival) and Bobby Moynihan (As their high school friend) have some funny moments, and help breathe life into the film.

If you really love Tina and Amy, then "Sisters" will be funny enough for you. At the least, you can guarantee they have mined every laugh out of it they could get. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Cute, Funny Women Doing And Saying Dirty, Naughty Stuff.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip

 Image: They're driving me nuts!


I still can't believe that I got the chance to review a new "Star Wars" film for this website. Talk about a dream come true. Believe it or not, they're is only one other thing as a film critic that comes even close to that kind of joy....Getting to destroy a total piece of crap, already on it's third sequel. God, I love this job!

"Alvin and the Chipmunks:The Road Chip" (Yup, THAT was the title they stuck with. Don't get me started) opens with our talking chipmunk heroes "Alvin" (Justin Long), "Simon" (Mathew Gray Gubler), and "Theodore" (Jesse McCartney) dealing with change in their lives. Their Owner/Dad "Dave" (Jason Lee) has gone and gotten himself a pretty girlfriend, "Samantha" (Kimberly Williams-Paisley), who has a rebel son, "Miles" (Josh Green). Not to mention, "The Chipettes" (All voiced by Christina Applegate, Anna Faris, and Kaley Cuoco) have left to be judges on "American Idol" (Guess people stopped caring since the "Real" Simon left). 

When Alvin gets the idea that Dave wants to ask Samantha to marry him on their trip to Miami, those "lovable" chipmunks go on a "Road Chip" (HAHA! HA!) to ruin Dave's chances of happiness forever, for completely selfish reasons. All while being chased by a crazed Air Marshal (Tony "David Cross Said There Would Be A Good Paycheck" Hale), with a personal (And understandable) vendetta against the rodents.

As I said. Total piece of crap. "The Road Chip" (And the whole franchise for that matter) does the complete opposite of what the great "Kids" films from Disney and Pixar and such do. It talks down to it's young audience, assuming that they are too dumb to appreciate even an ounce of quality film making. And if that's the case, then we're just spending an hour and twenty minutes watching snot nosed little CGI varmints race around the screen like they they've got rabies, only slowing down occasionally for some karaoke.

And I still haven't figured out why the folks behind the "Chipmunk" films even bother with getting celebrity voices in the first place. (They could all be voiced by James Earl Jones, or Adele, and you wouldn't know it anyway). So all it does is give the three adorable actresses who play "The Chippettes" some Christmas spending money. As far as the human characters, Jason Lee looks like he's given up on life (It's genuinely as if they just pulled him off the street. At least we're donating to his retirement fund). Tony Hale yells and flails a lot. The only saving grace is Kimberly Williams-Paisley (Quite sweet and pretty), and Bella Thorne (As a famous pop star), who makes me uncomfortable, because now she's 18, and I'm 21, and I first saw her when she was 13, and, Holy Hell! (Can only imagine how the dads who got dragged to this feel.)

I have to give "The Road Chip" credit for at least letting the Chipmunks actually sing (Even "Baby Got Back"). "Chipwrecked" (Oh, God) left out the music, and "The Chipmunks" had some top 40 hits back in the day, so, let them get back to their roots. And may the force beat the chip out of them at the box office. 1 Star. Rated PG For Inoffensive Potty Humor.

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

 Image: "Chewie....We're home." Damn right!


I don't believe I'm actually typing these words right now. I'M REVIEWING A "STAR WARS" MOVIE!!!!! SOMEONE MAY BE READING MY REVIEW OF A "STAR WARS" MOVIE!!!! Alright, calm down, James.... Remember your training....

"Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens" begins 30 years after "Return of the Jedi". From the ashes of the fallen Galactic Empire, a new military force called "The First Order" has risen and waged war with the "New Republic" and their military force, "The Resistance". When the last Jedi, "Luke Skywalker" (Mark Hammil) vanishes from the galaxy, the now-General "Leia" (Carrie Fisher) sends her best pilot "Poe Dameron" (Oscar Isaac) to retrieve a map to his location. 

But when Poe is captured by The First Order's evil force wielding commander/Darth Vader fanboy "Kylo Ren" (Adam Driver), he leaves the map inside a small droid named "BB-8", who finds friendship in a scavenger named "Rey" (Daisy Ridley). Poe is saved by a stormtrooper looking to get away from the First Order, "Finn" (John Boyega). When they end up separated, Finn meets Rey and joins with her to get BB-8 over to The Resistance and find the location of Luke with the help of fan favorites, "Han Solo" (Harrison Ford) and "Chewbacca" (Peter Mayhew) with Kylo Ren and "General Hux" (Domhnall Gleeson) hot on their trail. 

Obviously, I can't say any more about the plot of "The Force Awakens" (J.J.Abrams and the Disney Overlords know where I live). And being as big a "Star Wars" fan as there is (I still love even the prequels), I wouldn't want to anyway. "The Force Awakens" has to be experienced for yourself. And I highly recommend you drop everything you're doing and go see it....Now!

Being completely unbiased, "The Force Awakens" is everything we could have hoped for, and more. Director J.J. Abrams has pulled it off, creating a new "Star Wars" with everything you have ever loved about the franchise, and continues the story properly and faithfully (This isn't the expanded universe comics we had before. And that's for the better). The visuals and look of the film is nothing short of stunning, the cinematography is beautiful, and has the perfect blend of CGI and old fashioned practical effects.

"Star Wars" isn't "Star Wars" without Composer John Williams, and his new score is pitch perfect, "Star Wars" to the hilt. The new characters are instantly memorable, and work flawlessly with the beloved classic characters. It wouldn't have been worth it without everyone you know and love, and they all have at least a small, but important role to play (Even "Admiral Ackbar"! Hot damn!)

First, the newcomers. Daisy Ridley is an instant star, giving a heartfelt and appealing performance (Her smile and personality alone won me over). John Boyega has the right blend of humor and guts, and has great chemistry with Ridley. Adam Driver is menacing, and completely compelling as the main villain (One of the best of the franchise), Oscar Issac is sheer likability, and Domhnall Gleeson is a nice blend of smarmy and psychotic. Lupita Nyong'o (As "Maz Kanata", a former Pirate) and Andy Serkis (As "Snoke", the evil Supreme Leader of The First Order) are excellent in roles that should expand with the sequels.

Now to the REALLY good stuff. Harrison Ford IS "Han Solo". He became the biggest star on the planet 38 years ago in the first "Star Wars", and the man's still clearly got it, playing everyone's favorite Smuggler. His role is the biggest and most important of the original cast, and he's complete perfection. Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, and Anthony Daniels (As the lovable coward, "C-3PO) all have terrific and heartfelt moments. And, of course, Mark Hamill is back as "Luke". But, again, the less said, the better.

Yes, there are plot points that are too familiar. But that's clearly intentional (And reverential). "The Force Awakens" is a "Star Wars" film, created by "Star Wars" fans, created for all of us who have love the franchise, the Original Trilogy, Prequels, or television shows. This was created for us, and I'm not let down in the least. 4 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Sci-Fi Violence, And For Making Any Real Star Wars Geek Cry.

In the Heart of the Sea

 Image: That's a big Dick.


We all know we're just biding time until "Star Wars", right? I'm not sure it was worth releasing a $100 million movie the week before. And I'm really not sure why they would release "Alvin and the F*cking Chipmunks" on the same day. Let alone, ever.

"In the Heart of the Sea" begins with "Herman Melville" (Ben Whishaw) talking with "Thomas Nickerson" (Brendan Gleeson), the last survivor of a Whaling ship called the "Essex". Years ago, young Thomas (Tom Holland) was part of the crew, led by the inexperienced "Captain Pollard" (Benjamin Walker), and the very experienced First Mate, "Owen Chase" (Chris Hemsworth).

The ship is hunting for Whales (Not cool), and they stumble on a large group of them, including the largest Whale in history (Played by Moby Dick). Moby isn't too pleased about the butchering of his family and friends, so he lets them have it, destroying the ship, leaving the crew stranded on lifeboats. It's up to Owen to take charge, and up to us as to who we're supposed to root for (I mean, I don't want the crew to die, but come on!)

The scope of "In the Heart of the Sea" is huge. But the film isn't exactly as advertised. It looked to be a grand adventure and crowd pleaser. Instead, It's a dark, depressing and slow paced drama about what lengths humans will go to to survive. Add in the fact that the crew is slaughtering God's most majestic creatures, and you've got a full blown dilemma here. "Sea" feels more like a prestige film, disguised as box office bait (Looks like It didn't work).

"In the Heart of the Sea" still packs plenty of punch in it's visuals and direction alone. Director Ron Howard creates an impressive spectacle (The big, bad Whale is stunning), and the (Too few) action scenes are pretty breathtaking. And though the framing device disrupts the narrative, "Sea" has a fascinating story and top notch performances.

Chris Hemsworth is fully committed to his role, giving it all he's got (He's not far off from award worthy roles). Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy (As the Second Mate) and the rest of the ship's crew are all terrific (Aided by some first class makeup). And Ben Whishaw and Brendan Gleeson are both fine actors, but their roles are roles are a diversion from the rest of the film.

So now that you know how heavy "In the Heart of the Sea", you can decide if you're in the mood for a film about animal abuse, starvation, cannibalism, and long, slow boat rides....Popcorn, anyone? 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Gruesome Subject Matter, And For Swallowing Seamen....Yes, I Just Made That Joke....I Had To.

Room

 Image: This isn't "Star Wars". But you should see it anyway.


7 DAYS To "STAR WARS"!!!! Well, 6 days for me. I'm going Thursday night. 6 DAYS TO "STAR WARS"!!!! OH MY GOD!!! OH MY GOD!!! OH MY GOD!!!

But now, to this movie about abduction, abuse, torture and pain.

"Room" stars Brie Larson as "Joy", a young woman who has been held captive in a small room by a lunatic (Sean Bridges) who abducted her when she was seventeen. He sexually and physically abuses her for years, and Joy gives birth to "Jack" (Jacob Tremblay). Nick knows nothing of the outside world, so Joy has to convince him that they must escape, despite the mental torture they have endured. And that's only half the story.

I can't explain much more about "Room", other than that it's such an intense, personal story, that it's better you experience it for yourself. If you can handle it. I hope that you can, because "Room" is a truly wonderful (And quite experimental) film. The first half takes place in the one room, and the room becomes it's own character (It makes you feel their predicament even more). The script is deep, painful and heartbreaking. Yet the story inevitably is uplifting, thanks to the incredibly compelling characters, and it's two remarkable leads.

Brie Larson is Oscar worthy in a career making performance. She is sensational in a role as difficult as any actress could take on this year. Yet "Room" truly hinges on the performance of the young boy, and Jacob Tremblay gives a performance as good as any child actor I have ever seen. The film is told through his eyes, and Tremblay is convincing throughout.

"Room" is a small film, but it's painful honesty is gut wrenching, and I almost guarantee it will stick with you. It may make you cry. It may make you question humanity. It's also life affirming. And that's not an easy trick to pull off. Man, that was heavy! I need to go see "Star Wars". 4 Stars. Rated R For Language And Subject Matter.

Krampus

 Image: Have a holly, jolly Christmas. In HELL!!!!!!


"Krampus" is proof of the "War on Christmas". Children will stop obeying their parents. The dead shall rise from the grave. That guy at Walmart will only wish you a "Happy Holiday". Or, maybe, it's just a movie.

"Krampus" is set during a family holiday, where a young boy named "Max" (Emjay Anthony), is unhappy with his parents, "Tom" (Adam Scott) and "Sarah" (Toni Collette), who aren't getting along. Making things worse are Sarah's redneck family, her sister "Linda" (Allison Tolman) and "Howard" (David Koechner), and Sarah's "Aunt Dorthy" (Conchata Ferrell), whom they all hate.

After his cousins mock Max after reading his letter to Santa, he rips it up, declaring his hatred for Christmas, and his family altogether. And that's when all Hell breaks loose. The power is knocked out, they're covered in snow, and Max's sister, "Beth" (Stefania LaVie Owen) vanishes. When strange creatures begin to appear, Max's German Grandma (Krista Stadler) explains that this is the work of "Krampus", a vengeful Christmas spirit, here to make the family suffer for their lack of holiday cheer. 

"Krampus" takes a little time to get moving, but once the Krampus hits the fan, the film really takes off. It has surprising creativity, and a fun sense of humor (Think "Gremlins" meets "The Nightmare Before Christmas"). Director Michael Dougherty has clearly taken inspiration from these, and other old school films, and the script keeps that strange sense of charm. "Krampus" could be a bit scary for some, but it's almost always funny.

Adam Scott shows perfect deadpan humor and likability, and Toni Collette is always excellent. Emjay Anthony is terrific for a young actor carrying the film, while the rest of the cast all have a chance to shine. But the real star of "Krampus" is, of course, "Krampus" and his many minions, including a monstrous "Jack in the Box", a demonic "Teddy Bear", and killer (Yet kind of adorable) "Gingerbread Men". They're creepy, yet playful (Like Clowns. Or Bill Cosby).

"Krampus" moves in the direction you'd expect, but it's that rare holiday horror film that's both cheeky, and has a positive message. It certainly won't end anyone's belief in Christmas, or bring about the apocalypse. But it may make keep you from being a complete prick to your family. At least until after New Year's. Krampus can't get us then. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Frighting Images And Murderous Festive Holiday Treats.

Brooklyn

 Image: An innocent looking purse snatcher waits for her moment.


It's so simple. Make a film about a young Irish girl who has just arrived in America. Then add great writing, great directing and great acting. It's not very complicated.

"Brooklyn" stars Saoirse Ronan as "Ellis". She is preparing to leave Ireland to move to America, though the locals chastise her for leaving her poor Mother (Jane Brennan) and Sister (Fiona Glascott). But the local Priest (Jim Broadbent) encourages and arranges for Ellis to emigrate to Brooklyn (Luckily, she's not a Syrian refugee....Well?)

Once there, Ellis struggles to adjust, until she meets "Tony" (Emory Cohen), who takes a liking to her. They fall in love, but, when tragedy strikes, she is forced to return to Ireland. Everyone there tries to convince Ellis to stay, while her Mother insists on her being courted by "Jim" (Domhnall Gleeson). Ellis must decide whether to stay with her family and new suitor, or return to Tony and Brooklyn, which she now considers home.

Sweet and simple. And absolutely terrific. "Brooklyn" is is an understated masterpiece, and a brilliant piece of film making. The story is old fashioned, yet wholly original. It feels completely original, thanks to a beautifully written script, that fleshes out it's very human characters. The look is authentic and gorgeous (I think I would have liked it there), all the way down to the sets and costumes.

Saoirse Ronan is simply wonderful, as appealing as any actress or character I've seen this year. She is both adorable and incredibly strong, giving an award worthy performance. Emory Cohen is excellent, showing likability and chemistry with Ronan, and Domhnall Gleeson is very good, in a very well written role (The "Other Guy" is usually terribly written). 

The most amazing aspect of "Brooklyn" for me is how intelligent and winning the romance is (I hate romantic movies!) But this is one that's believable and well told, and, most importantly, deep. Yet the film is even more about finding your home, and yourself. And that makes it a classic. 4 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Mature Content....But no Leprechauns (It's OK. I'm 25% Irish)..

Victor Frankenstein

 Image: "Igor, not even I can bring this movie to life!"


Happy Thanksgiving! Of the many things I'm thankful for, one of them is that I have now seen 100 movies this year. I...I don't know who to thank.....God, of course....my Agent, who also doubles as both my Father and "Cash Cow". My Mom for having me. And, most of all, Hollywood,, from where all great films are possible. And, to celebrate, here's a review of a film nobody saw.

"Victor Frankenstein" is yet another retelling of the classic tale about the mad genius (James McAvoy), who rescues a deformed, hunchbacked man named Igor (Daniel Radcliffe) from the circus. After curing his deformity, Dr. Frankenstein makes Igor his assistant.

The Doctor is intent on creating life out of dead body parts, much to the dismay of, "Turpin" (Andrew Scott), the town's Religious Inspector. As the experiments continue, Igor feels conflicted between his loyalty to his friend, and the fact that the Doctor is out of his freaking mind.

There are no surprises from "Victor Frankenstein". Even the new plot points introduced are not very important. So....Why? What's the point? Though it's not a terrible film, it doesn't have any reason to exist. The script is bland, lacking any life or punch to it, and the finale throws in an odd tonal shift. That leaves it up to the stars to desperately attempt to salvage things.

James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliff are very good together, providing "Frankenstein" with it's only real personality (The two actors would be great together in some sort of "X-Men/ Harry Potter" spin off). But Andrew Scott is a pretty predictable and dull villain, and Jessica Brown Findlay (As Igor's love interest) only gets to be the love interest.

Visually, "Victor Frankenstein" is nice to look at, and the costumes have a genuine feel to it. That doesn't make a film special, though. And this new "Frankenstein" isn't special, or new, in any way. If you're going to play God and creator of a movie, you'd better have a great script Doctor. 2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Gruesome Monsters, And Doctor's Operating Without A Licence.

The Good Dinosaur

 Image: "I wonder if that kid's white meat or dark meat?"


Two Pixar movies in one year? Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!

"The Good Dinosaur" is set in a universe where that meteor that killed off all of the Dino's never happened. A Mama (Frances McDormand) and Papa (Jeffery Wright) Apatosaurus have become Farmers, raising three children. The smallest, "Arlo" (Raymond Ochoa), is afraid of his own shadow, so Papa enlists Arlo to help him stop a creature from stealing their crops, to teach him to overcome his fear.

That creature turns out to be a human Caveman/Child (Jack Bright), but while they're searching for him, a flood washes Papa away (Damn, Disney! Why you always gotta' be killin'?) Arlo is separated from his family, but finds the young child, who he names "Spot". Arlo and Spot must make their journey back home, while avoiding all sorts of dangers.

This may be a fairly typical theme, but it's Pixar, so it's far better than typical. "The Good Dinosaur" has the usual humor and heart, along with some of the most stunning animation you will ever see. The film is gorgeous to look at, and incredibly detailed (The scenery is astonishingly realistic), and the characters are colorful and charming, though some reported production problems are a little noticeable early on. 

Raymond Ochoa is likable, as is Jack Bright (Though he really just grunts and growls. But he does it well). Jeffery Wright, Frances McDormand, Sam Elliot (As a cowboy T-Rex. Of course), and Steve Zahn (As a vicious and crazy Pterodactyl) are predictably great as well.

You know "The Good Dinosaur" is going to try and tug at your heartstrings. And it does, shamelessly. The film has it's dark moments (A couple of them are a little hard core. I mean, they're Dinosaurs), but it's mostly acceptable to the little ones (My 12 Year old sister loved it), and it has yet another fine message about facing your fears. I've gotten almost all of my life lessons from Disney. About growing up. That it's ok to be sad. That a great artist can come from anywhere. To find your inner Super Hero. Don't turn your mother into a Bear. Old people can fly houses. Rats are great around the kitchen. There ARE monsters in your closet.....3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG For Children In Peril, And Dinosaurs Getting Half Baked.

Creed

 Image: "Stick with me, kid, and everybody will forget about "Fantastic Four".


All right. I SWEAR this is really the last time I tell you "I know nothing about a franchise, or the original". But I really don't know much about the "Rocky" films, other than, "Da da da da da, da da da da da da".

"Creed", or "Rocky VII" follows "Adonis Creed" (Michael B. Jordan), son of Apollo Creed, who was killed by that giant, Russian, steroid freak in "Rocky IIII". Adonis has some temperament issues (Dad had an affair, resulting in Adonis) and ended up in jail, when he was taken in by Apollo's wife, "Mary Anne" (Phylicia Rashad).

Now an adult, Adonis's problems continue. He wants to become a Boxer, so he tracks down former champion (And Apollo's friend), "Rocky Balboa" (Sylvester Stallone). Adonis convinces Rocky to train him, leading him toward a chance at the current champion, "Pretty Ricky Conlan" (Tony Bellew)

I don't think it matters if you aren't up on the "Rocky" series to enjoy "Creed". It's an uplifting story, well written, well told and well acted, with thrilling boxing and training sequences (Particularly the climactic fight. I was ready to jump up and hit somebody). Even without the boxing theme, "Creed" is a fine drama, especially in the relationship between Adonis and Rocky.

Michael B. Jordan has already shown himself to be a terrific young actor, and "Creed" should make him a star. And I never thought I'd here these words come out of my mouth, but, here goes: Sylvester Stallone gives an amazing performance. Quite possibly "Eagan Oscar" nomination worthy (Hey, If I can do it for Tyler Perry and Taylor Kitsch, I can do it for Stallone). Their scenes together make a good film very good, and their personal rapport is a lot of fun to watch.

"Creed" is a crowd pleaser, following the typical sports flick formula, but does so in an appealing way, though Adonis's romantic subplot with "Bianca" (Tessa Thompson) feels mandatory. But though It's the kind of film where you know the characters will find their redemption, you root for them the entire way. At least I now get the "Rocky" appeal through the years, and why so many have tried to imitate it. And I now know what music to workout to. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Drama And Fisticuffs.

Spotlight

 Image: "Batman", "Sabretooth", "Hulk", and "Cute Girl".


How in the Hell did this go on as long as it did? There aren't many films that I've reviewed that had as much real word repercussions as "Spotlight" does. A good film about the true story of the Catholic Church's sexual abuse of children would make you think. A great film should make everyone of us genuinely sick to our stomachs.

"Spotlight" follows the Boston Globe's investigation into the scandal. New Editor "Marty Baron" (Liev Schreiber) wants to dig deeper into a case involving Catholic Priests molesting children. His "Spotlight" team of investigative reporters include "Michael Rezendes" (Mark Ruffalo), "Robby Robinson" (Michael Keaton), "Sacha Pfeiffer" (Rachel McAdams), "Ben Bradlee Jr." (John Slattery), and "Matt Carroll" (Brian d'Arcy James).

As the investigation moves forward, the team discovers that one suspected Priest turns into thirteen. Then ninety. It only gets worse from there, as the team follows how high up the scandal goes, while fighting against the cowards who don't want the investigation to go forward. 

I may not speak for the Catholic Church, here, but I'm very thankful that "Spotlight" is as great as it is. The subject matter deserves to be told (Though some may want to remember) , and the film tells it wonderfully. The story focuses on the process of those seeking to find the truth, in a very realistic way (Typing, paperwork filing, and interviews have never been more exciting) The script is tense, and the reporters humanized. They tell you everything you need to know about the atrocities, in a way that is respectful, and yet still undeniably unsettling. 

Good luck to the Oscar voters as they try to decide which actors to nominate this year, because they are all worthy. Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d'Arcy James, and Stanley Tucci (As a helpful attorney) are all magnificent, and yet each performance is simple and understated. Like the film itself, they (And Writer/Director Thomas McCarthy) all serve this incredible story, none outshining the other.

"Spotlight" does just that. It shines a spotlight on a subject matter that can't get too much attention, and, I hope, does justice to the many, many victims of the Church. If you weren't pissed off enough about what happened before, you will be after this movie. Not enough people were. 4 Stars. Rated R For Language, And Disturbing Subject Matter.

The Night Before

 Image: "Santa gave me a special gift! From his special greenhouse!"


What better way to get into the Christmas spirit, then watch Seth Rogen get higher than a kite, consuming more drugs than Charlie Sheen on an average Tuesday (What, too soon?) I guess we all celebrate the holidays in our own, special way.

"The Night Before" stars Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie as "Issac", "Ethan" and "Chris". Ever since Ethan's parents passed away on Christmas Eve fourteen years ago, the best friends have spent each night before Christmas together out on the town. This year, Chris has become a football star, and isn't sure he will have the time anymore, while Issac is about to become a new Dad.

So Issac's Wife (Jillian Bell) does what any good Wife would do. She gives Issac as many illicit drugs as he's ever wanted, telling him to go out with his friends one more time. So the three buddies celebrate the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ by getting sh*t faced, learning valuable lessons about life, love, and how to score drugs on "Craigslist".

I would definitely advise against seeing "the Night Before" if you are either devoutly religious, easily offended, or have no sense of humor (Mike Huckabee, you should stay home). And though I personally never partake of the Devil's drugs, I can't help but laugh at "The Night Before". Well done is well done, funny is funny. And this sh*t is funny! The film is told in an old fashioned, "A Christmas Carol"/"It's a Wonderful Life" kind of warped, twisted way, and remarkably maintains it's sweetness and good cheer. The characters are likable, despite their immature actions, and they all learn requisite lessons in the end.

Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie have perfect chemistry. Thank goodness, because "The Night Before" hinges on their relationship. And I'm not sure the humor and camaraderie would have worked with actors who weren't as close as these three seem to be. And, like in all "Rogen/Levitt/Franco/Hill/McBride/Baruchel/Segal" films (You get the point), the women in their films all get a chance to shine. Jillian Bell, Lizzy Caplan (As Ethan's love interest) and Mindy Kaling (As her friend) are all adorably funny, and a real asset to the main characters. But maybe most surprisingly, Michael Shannon (As a Pot Dealer) is a frickin' riot in a bizarre, but inspired role.

There are zero surprises in the plot, and the ending is exactly what you'd expect. And, clearly, "The Night Before" isn't for everyone. But if you like your Christmas humor a little on the naughty side, and you've been a good boy or girl this year, then I don't think Santa is going to begrudge you laughing your ass off. My guess is, Mrs. Claus is baking him some special brownies as we speak. 3 stars. Rated R For Everything That Would Keep You Off The Nice List.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

 Image: Jennifer Lawrence. And a whole bunch of people I care nothing about.


Yet another great film franchise has come to an end. Three books have been stretched out into four films. And though there's been talk of prequels and spin offs, I think that "The Hunger Games" tale is finished. If it is, then what a wild, exciting and grim way of ending it.

"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2" finds "Katniss" (Jennifer Eagan...I mean, Lawrence. Dang it, I swear I'll stop someday) is still leading the revolt, and she has had it up to here with the evil "President Snow" (Donald Sutherland). Katniss goes against the revolution President, "Coin" (Julianne Moore), and stands with a group sneaking into the capital with Love Interest Number One, "Gale" (Liam Hemsworth) and "Finnick" (Sam Clafin), and her brainwashed Love Interest Number Two, "Peeta" (Josh Hutcherson).
Katniss and her friends must avoid traps that President Snow has set for them and get into the city, leading to the final, epic confrontation. The vengeful Katniss now only has one goal in mind.: Kill President Snow (To be fair, if anybody's got it coming....)

I admit that it wasn't particularly necessary to stretch one book into two films (So did "Harry Potter" and "Twilight"), and this does mess with the story structure. But "Mockingjay" is still a fitting finale, finding a way to wrap up it's incredibly complex plot in a satisfying way. Director Francis Lawrence brings true professionalism to the action scenes, and, though some returning characters only get a little screen time, the main characters are truly fleshed out (I think fans of the series will be satisfied with the conclusion).

Jennifer Lawrence is perfection in my eyes, and is totally committed to the role. Josh Hutcherson is plenty likable, and Liam Hemsworth has improved quite a bit (Thankfully, the love triangle is still not the film's main focus). Donald Sutherland once again owns being a total slimeball, and is clearly enjoying every second of it, Julianne Moore acts like the Oscar winner she is, Woody Harrelson is fun once again as "Haymitch", (and the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman (As former Gamemaker "Heavansbee") shows how much he will be missed.

I wish certain moments had received more focus, but it's hard to complain about a film that gives as much as "The Hunger Games: Mockinjay Part 2", especially in the film's shocking finale. It's dark and mature, maybe more so than you would expect. And that's the kind of intelligence fans have come to expect from the series (My twelve year old sister LOVED it). Unless you were in it just for the love triangle. If so, I think you missed the point, big time. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For REALLY Heavy Themes, And Vicious Lizard Monsters.

Secret In Their Eyes

 Image: I'm guessing the're not making small talk. 


What, you were expecting "The Hunger Games" review? Well, I can't yet, because I'm taking Mom and Sister to see it on Saturday. Family first. Then work. Then women. And I only seem to have time right now for family and work.

"Secret in Their Eyes" is a remake of a classic foreign film, and stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as "Ray", an FBI investigator, and Julia Roberts as "Jess", his partner. Their world is turned upside down when Jess's daughter is brutally murdered, and the alleged killer (Joe Cole) gets away with it when their higher ups drop the case, because the killer is an FBI snitch.

Flash forward 13 years later, and Ray is unable to let it go, finally believing he has caught up with the killer. He wants the case reopened, but is told by his new supervisor/love interest "Claire" (Nicole Kidman) that is little they can do. Ray decides to press forward anyway, leading to shocking twist and turns. And another shock. And another turn.

"Secret in Their Eyes" is told through flashbacks and flash forwards exactly 13 tears between back and forth. This structure makes the flaws of the film more noticeable (The characters don't age convincingly at all. It takes more than a haircut to make someone look older). The fairly generic script doesn't help, and no amount of shocking twist and turns or tonal inconsistencies can overcome it's weakness.

With 3 Oscar nominees in the main cast, "Secret in Their Eyes" isn't going to fail because of the performances. Chiwetel Ejiofor is a wonderful actor, and he's very impressive here. Nicole Kidman (She looks stunning) is terrific as well, and Julia Roberts is absolutely terrific in a very emotional role.

"Secret" is professionally made, but the film wastes a great cast and interesting premise, instead relying on convoluted surprises. By the end, it's all too much to take in. It's just a film that never gets close to being as clever as it thinks it is. And the final twist is the final nail in the coffin. Too much I've made this point before about wanting to embrace a film that may be smarter than me, but "The Secret in Their Eyes" keeps on insisting it to the point to where I begin to question it. Overwhelming. But not in a good way. 2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Serious Adult Themes, Mostly Off-Screen.

The 33

 Image: "It is getting hot in here, no?"


The true story behind "The 33" is an incredibly compelling one. The kind of uplifting story where it would be easy to root for the film. So I fully acknowledge that I might be a tiny bit generous in my review. You know why? Compassion....I have too much....Compassion.

"The 33" is based on that amazing story of the 2010 mine collapse in Chile, that trapped 33 Miners far below ground for more than 2 months. When the mine collapses, the Miners find refuge in a rescue chamber. "Mario" (Antonio Banderas) becomes their unofficial leader, rationing the food, and helping keep the calm.

Chile's Minister of Mining, (Rodrigo Santoro), takes charge above ground, helping organize the rescue effort. It's a race against time to save the Miners, as the world, and the Miners families, watch and wait helplessly.

How do you root against a film like this? You really don't with "The 33", though the film lacks the focus an important story like this should have. There are too many unnecessary moments here, and they dilute the power the film should have. When the focus stays on the Miners, "The 33" works far better, showing off the embraceable characters and fine actors.

Antonio Banderas may give the best performance of his career, and would be Oscar nomination worthy in a better, more complete film. Rodrigo Santoro is excellent as well, as is Lou Diamond Phillips (As a fellow Miner), and the rest of the mostly foreign cast.

But again, back to the lack of focus. "The 33" loses it's way with side stories, wasting too much time the goofy antics of one Miner's Wife/Mistress Issues, and other groan worthy plot points that just don't feel near as important as to what's happening down in the mine. When he film keeps it's, uh, focus, on the Miners, "The 33" does it's best to be worthy of their harrowing tale.

Maybe I should be harsher, but I came away from "The 33" feeling like I got a pretty inspiring movie. But my focus is slowly drifting, so....3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Situations And Other Miner Infractions.

Love the Coopers

 Imagine: All I want for Christmas is Olivia Wilde and Amanda Seyfried.


Merry Christmas! Didn't you know it's Christmas yet? It is in Hollywood, even if we're not really ready for it. Anyway, I'm opening my Christmas present December 18th (Well, 17th. "The Force Awakens". Proof Jesus exists).

"Love the Coopers" is a Christmas themed film with a large, ensemble cast. "Mom" (Dianne Keaton) and "Dad" (John Goodman) are having marital problems, but want to have at least one more Christmas get together with the family. "Daughter" (Olivia Wilde) needs a man in her life, but won't admit it. She meets a Military man (Jake Lacy), and convinces him to pretend to be her boyfriend (I'll pretend!) for the holidays.

"Son" (Ed Helms) is newly divorced from "Lois From Family Guy" (Alex Borstein), and lost his job, but is avoiding telling his folks. "Grandpa" (Alan Arkin) spends his days at a diner with the prettiest waitress in the history of the world (Amanda Seyfried). And "Mom's Sister" (Marisa Tomei) gets arrested for shoplifting by "Officer Anthony Mackie" (Anthony Mackie). But the Christmas spirit will bring them all together.

"Love the Coopers" is 100% PRECISELY what you expect it will be. Yes, it's a holiday family comedy. Thing is, they forgot most of the comedy, and added some awkward drama instead. It's the lack of tonal consistency that dooms "Coopers", wasting the charms of it's excellent cast, who give everything they have to the lousy script. The story (Or stories) are predictable, and leads to a sweet, but sappy conclusion.

Dianne Keaton and John Goodman should have been in a better movie years ago, Ed Helms and Alan Arkin make the most of their scenes together, as do Arkin and Amanda Seyfried (Who is absolutely adorable). Speaking of adorable, Olivia Wilde has nice chemistry with Jake Lacy (Their plot works the best), though the film doesn't give Marisa Tomei (Also adorable) and Anthony Mackie much of a chance.

"Love the Coopers" has a shot at mediocrity, but the film's narration (By Steve Martin) is wildly unnecessary, seemingly existing to explain everything we already can see for ourselves (Mom and Dad aren't happy. Thanks for the constant updates), and the narrator's big reveal is groaningly kitschy and bizarre.

In fact, for a holiday family film, "Love the Coopers" is pretty bizarre throughout. Sometimes a film is just off, and "Cooper" never does find it's consistency. It means well, but so do I. My Christmas Present is constructive criticism. 1 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Language And Cloying Family Strife.

The Peanuts Movie

 Image: Happiness is a warm Beagle.


God help you, Blue Sky, if you had screwed this up.

"The Peanuts Movie" brings back all of the lovable characters from what is probably the most famous Comic Strip in history (Sorry, "Marmaduke"), and brings back our favorite blockhead, "Charlie Brown" (Noah Schnapp), and the coolest dog in the world, his Beagle, "Snoopy" (Bill Melendez, his voice taken from archival recordings).

Charlie Brown is thrilled when a "Little Red Haired Girl" (Francesca Angelucci Capaldi) moves into town, and he falls madly in love with her. He seeks help from the world's worst Psychiatrist, "Lucy" (Hadley Belle Miller), who tells him that he won't win the Little Red Haired Girl's heart until he stops being a total and utter failure. So with the help of his best friend, ":Linus" (Alex Garfin), Charlie Brown decides he'll do what it takes to overcome his male pattern baldness. And, do what it takes to be a winner.

Meanwhile, Snoopy and his little bird buddy, "Woodstock" (Melendez), are writing a story about Snoopy's adventures rescuing "Fifi" (Kristen Chenowith), a female Beagle, from Snoopy's arch nemesis, "The Red Baron".

So what if there really is no plot to "The Peanuts Movie"? Any fan of "Peanuts" knows that it's joys are in the small and seemingly mundane moments. It's all about the characters, and "The Peanuts Movie" keeps them as embraceable as ever. Every favorite character, from Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus, Sally, Peppermint Patty, Marcie, Brian, Stewie and Meg are here, and fans of the classic cartoons and comics will not be disappointed.

The voice work from the mostly child cast is perfect, and the Blue Sky animation is beautiful. It's made to look hand drawn 2-D style, though it's actually in 3-D, and it's amazingly colorful, making "The Peanuts Movie" a unique viewing experience.

"The Peanuts Movie" is light, without being slight. The film's only purpose is to give kids and parents alike a sweet, funny and nostalgic time, and it succeeds effortlessly (Thankfully, no texting, computer, or pop culture references). I guess there was no need to worry in the first place. But God help you, J.J. Abrams, if you screw up "Star Wars"! 3 1/2 Stars. Rated G.

Spectre

 Image: James Bond has a licence. To CHILL!


I don't think I'm giving anything away in saying that "Spectre" may be Daniel Craig's last go round as James Bond. So here's a few good choices to take over for Craig, in case he'd understandably rather stay home with Rachel Weisz. Idris Elba (Rush Limbaugh's worst nightmare. Seriously, he threw a hissy fit, because James Bond is supposed to be "White". Stay classy, Rush ). Maybe Benedict Cumberbatch. Jason Statham would be out of the box..... Is Sean Connery still alive? Point being, it's going to be almost impossible....Ricky Gervais?

This is going to take at least two paragraphs. "Spectre" finds "James Bond" (Daniel Craig) in Mexico. He's there to kill some bad dude, causing an international incident, and pissing off the new "M" (Ralph Fiennes) in the process. M takes Bond off Duty, but, of course, that doesn't stop him. Bond enlists "Monneypenny" (Naomie Harris) and "Q" (Ben Whishaw), who help Bond track down the evil organization known as "SPECTRE".

Bond discovers that SPECTRE is run by the mysterious "Franz Oberhauser" (Christoph Waltz), who was thought to be dead. This leads Bond to his dying old enemy, "Mr. White" (Jesper Christensen), whose last request is for Bond to protect his daughter, "Dr. Madeliene Swann" ( Léa Seydoux), whom SPECTRE is on the hunt for. As always, it's up to James Bond to take down an evil villain, one who may share a personal connection with 007.

Daniel Craig and Director Sam Mendes have got this 007 thing down pat, so there was little doubt that "Spectre" was going to be a wild success. If anything, the film aims too high, with it's long, involving plot that almost feels just a little bit messy at times. "Spectre" aims for epic, and hits it's mark for the most part. The action is spectacular (The opening sequence in Mexico is memorable), and it's visual style is unsurpassed. "Spectre" isn't perfect, but at no time do you feel you the slightest letdown.

Daniel Craig is not replaceable, so I'm not quite ready to let go just yet. He has great chemistry with the very lovely and charming Léa Seydoux, who continues the recent strong run of "Bond Girls". Ralph Fiennes is awesome because Ralph Fiennes is awesome, as are Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw. Dave Bautista (As an indestructible SPECTRE henchman) is perfectly menacing. And, obviously, when God created Christoph Waltz, it was with the specific instructions to be a Bond villain. He steals every moment of his too short screen time.

Some of the subplot is overly familiar, and the film doesn't explore enough of it's hinted backstory (We've all heard of the film's script issues). Still, "Spectre" is extremely enjoyable and relentless. Craig and Bond are as good as it gets. I assume James Bond will return. He may be black. He may be a woman. He may be American....Okay, that's going to far. Oh, the nerd rage! 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 Bond-Age.

Scouts Guide to the Zombie APOCALYPSE 

 Image: For God sake, save the hot chick!


I'm sick of Zombies!!!!! Before, I was sick of Vampires, but now, it's those damn Zombies!!!! Zombie culture is everywhere. T.V. Movies. Books... Porn? People on the streets, preparing for the oncoming Zombie apocalypse (For the record, unless it's Zombie ISIS, I'm not losing any sleep over it). Can't Zombies just die already?

"Scouts Guide to the Apocalypse" is a story about three teen Boy Scouts. "Ben" (Tye Sheridan) is the lovable hero, "Carter" (Logan Miller) is the jerk, and "Augie" (Joey Morgan) is the fat one. They're considered lame by the rest of the crowd, though Ben has a crush on Carter's drop dead gorgeous sister, "Kendall" (Halston Sage. Seriously. Have you seen her?)

And just when they get a big invitation to a party, the Zombie apocalypse begins.The Scouts, along with a waitress (Sarah Dumont), must warn the survivors and save the gorgeous sister, before the oncoming military onslaught on the Zombies.

It sounds like a fun premise, for an internet skit. But for an hour and a half movie, "Scouts Guide to the Apocalypse", is a stretch. The script is far too slight to push into a film, and the idea gets old, quick. There are a few funny moments and one liners. But the Zombie gore is over used, the Zombie premise wears thin, and in the end, the film ends up like every other Zombie story, parody or otherwise (It's no "Shaun of the Dead").

The four main actors are all fine, and David Koechner (As their Zombified Scout Leader) has the funniest moments, but, really, the only good reason for me to see "Scouts" ever again is to watch Halston Sage, who is just so dang beautiful, that I'm worried I'm coming across as slightly creepy (Don't tell Jennifer Lawrence I said any of this).

This is it, right? No more Zombie movies Wait...."Pride and Prejudice and Zombies"? Are you sh*ttin' me!!! 2 Stars. Rated R For Graphic Zombie Violence And Graphic Zombie Nudity.

Burnt

 Image: "Cooking is like sex: You never know what you're going to get. Except herpes. Now, you've got herpes."


You probably saw the previews and commercials for "Burnt" as many times as I did. Did you find them as pretentious as I did? The whole "Cooking as a metaphor for life and love" theme? Did they make you rush to theater to see it? No? No one else did, either.

"Burnt" stars Bradley Cooper as "Adam Jones", a bad ass Chef with stubble, a leather jacket, and a Harley. His drug use and overall shi*tty behavior sent him in a spiral downward. Now, he's back in London, looking for a new start at a new restaurant, in the hopes of moving back to Paris and cooking glory.

His old gay friend "Tony" (Daniel Brühl), who is totally gay for him, hires Adam to take over Tony's restaurant. Adam hires a new team, including "Helene" (Sienna Miller), who looks past the fact that Adam is clearly mentally erratic and unstable, instead finding his dickish behavior sexy and charming (Only in the movies. And in real life).

"Burnt" is exactly as pretentious as the previews suggested. Though the film has some visual flair (The food looks scrumptious), the script is, strangely, both self indulgent and lazy. The film attempts to say important things about how "Cooking is life", or "Life is cooking", or "Cooking is like sex", yet everything about the script is simplistic. The characters don't feel remotely real, and their backstories are lamely told in exposition, serving to do nothing but waste the talent of a lot of likable actors.

Bradley Cooper was on such a great roll (He has three deserved Oscar nominations in the last three years), that's it's difficult to believe he could choose his roles so poorly in 2015. Like in "Aloha" his character is beyond unlikable, and written so poorly, that, instead of rooting for him to get the girl, you keep rooting for him to get his ass kicked. The rest of the cast, including Sienna Miller, Alicia Vikander and the great Emma Thompson, have thankless roles, though Daniel Brühl finds a way to give a nice performance. 

With this cast, I wasn't looking to hate on "Burnt", but I'd rather work for Gordon Ramsey for two days then spend two hours watching this movie again. Everyone involved has been better before, and they will again. I had a bad meal, I'll get it out of my system, and I'll be hungry again in a minute. And I've got another movie to see. 1 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Bad Language And Food Porn.

Our Brand is Crisis

 Image: She would make the 2016 elections a heck of a lot more enjoyable to watch.


It's been impossible to get away from politics lately. It's non-stop Trump and Hillary and the old guy. And that Doctor who mumbles. It's not easy to watch. So now that I think about it, things really would be a lot more watchable if Sandra Bullock was part of it all.

"Our Brand is Crisis" is inspired by a true story (Meaning they can make some crap up), and stars Sandra Bullock as "Jane Bodine", a Political Strategist, who is brought in to manage a Bolivian Presidential Candidate (Joaquim de Almeida). She once more finds herself pitted against her arch nemesis, Political Consultant "Pat Candy" (Billy Bob Thornton). An underdog once again, Jane uses every political trick to get her candidate into office, because there is no morality in losing.

Everything about "Our Brand is Crisis" sounds like it should be great, but saying I'm a little disappointed doesn't mean it's not a solid film. The idea is pretty inspired, there's some truthfulness to it's theme, and the performances are all stand out. What's missing is the right amount of substance and depth. The screenplay feels simple, and the story follows too familiar a path. I kept expecting the film to be more powerful, but "Crisis" is too often frivolous, and lacking in memorability.

Any faults do not lie with Sandra Bullock, who gives a powerhouse performance (In a better film, she's Oscar worthy). She lights up the screen, and carries the film effortlessly. Billy Bob Thornton matches her step by step, and their chemistry and back and forth is the film's highlight. Anthony Mackie (As another Political Consultant) is excellent in a non super hero role, Zoe Kazan is terrific and adorable (As a political "Dirt Digger" ), and Joaquim de Almeida is very compelling and complex as the candidate (The entire supporting cast give splendid performances as well).

With this cast and idea, "Our Brand is Crisis" is an award film that doesn't live up to it's ideal. Take out the performances, and there's just not enough special qualities to passionately defend it. Though I wish our election cycle lasted only two hours or so. One more year to go....Great. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Language, And Sandra Bullock Gettin' High.

Rock the Kasbah

Image: I swear she looked a lot different last night.

We all love Bill Murray. And as much as I....As we would love to give him a pass, as a film critic, who has such an appreciate for Murray, I realize that would only be enabling him. And that's exactly how we got "Rock the Kasbah".

In "Rock the Kasbah" Murray stars as "Richie Lanz", a rock n' roll manager down on his luck. He takes his last remaining star, "Ronnie" (Zooey Deschanel) on a USO of Afghanistan. When she bails on him (And the movie), a stranded Richie meets "Nick" (Danny McBride) and "Jake" (Scott Caan), who agree to help him if Richie delivers some weapons to locals defending their village from Warlords.

There, Richie discovers "Salima" (Leem Lubany), a beautiful young girl with an angelic singing voice. Since a woman singing is frowned upon in Afghanistan (As well as dancing, driving, learning, showing their face, etc.), he arranges for Salima to perform on "Afghan Star" (Hosted by Mohammad Seacrest). This upsets the entire country, as the entire situation dissolves into chaos, and the movie dissolves into awkwardness.

A very odd premise to make a goofy comedy (With out of place drama), "Rock the Kasbah" seems to exist only to give the great Bill Murray his own starring vehicle. The film gives him free rain to be wacky, but there are so many long gaps where nothing happens, mixed around a preposterous plot, that what you get is an unstructured, unprofessional mess.

Murray is interesting, even if his film isn't working. It's not like he phones it in. If anything, he's trying desperately to salvage it, but there's just not near enough to work with. Zooey Deschenel is as adorable as anyone on the planet, but she's just a temporary add on (As is everyone else). Bruce Willis (As some kind of Soldier of Fortune) is in and out periodically, and Danny McBride and Scott Caan vanish into thin air, while Kate Hudson is just around to be a quick love interest. At least newcomer Leem Lubany stands out with a lovely and talented performance.

I'm guessing the Director and Writer slacked off, and just left things up to Bill Murray. But besides being lazy, the only thing "Rock the Kasbah" does is depress me. Maybe I'll just throw on "Ghostbusters" to cheer me up....."Mother Puss Bucket"! 1 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Language And Incoherent Nonsense. 

Jem and the Holograms

 Image: Even on the slight chance our movie flops, at least we still have our music.


Geez, people! I had no idea how many of you actually cared so much about the historical legacy of "Jem and the Holograms". I hardly remember anything about the 80's animated series, but it seems they have a very loyal fan base. And then I started hearing about the outrage toward the film's trailer, and even death threats to the Director! Just goes to show you not to piss off 12 year old girls. Or lonely older men, pretending to be 12 year old girls.

"Jem and the Holograms" follows the basic idea of the show (Minus the really weird stuff). " Jerrica" (Aubrey Peeples) is living with her sister, "Kimber" (Stefanie Scott), "Aja" (Hayley Kiyoko), "Shana" (Aurora Perrineau) and "Aunt Bailey" (Molly Ringwald), who has kind of adopted them all. Jerrica is shy and quiet, so Kimber uploads a video of Jerrica, singing in a pink wig as "Jem", and it becomes an overnight sensation.

A big time Manager (Juliette Lewis) signs the girls as "Jem and the Holograms", and helps take them to the big time. The band rises, argues, breaks up, and reconcile. And they have a Robot, named "Synergy". Girl power forever!

Let me stand up for "Jem and the Holograms". Lord knows somebody has to. Remember, it's just a movie based on a silly 1980's cartoon, so they're just literally trying to make something out of nothing. And at least "Jem" made the best from what they had. Yeah, the plot and story are unoriginal (You can predict the dialogue before it's spoken), but the cast is talented, and the young girls are halfway believable as pop stars. I've seen "These" kind of movies, and "Jem" isn't all that bad in comparison.

Aubrey Peeples, Stefanie Scott, Halyley Kiyoko and Aurora Perrineau are all undeniably charming, and the songs are unremarkable, but cute. And their characters have an empowering message that should resonate with the YouTube generation. Juliette Lewis chews up and spits out the scenery with abandon, but even she can't make up for the fact that we have another film that shoves the unbearable Ryan Guzman (As Jerrica's love interest) in my face (Do you remember Taylor Lautner, Ryan? He couldn't keep his damn shirt on either and where is he now?!)

"Jem and the Holograms" is beyond slight, and the whole thing with the Robot adds 20 unnecessary minutes to a film way too long to begin with. But I'm not the audience for this, and I do see why pre-teen girls will embrace the film (Much like over grown film critics might embrace "Transformers". Not the movies.) "Jem" is more competent than that, and Director Jon M. Chu clearly put some heart into it. It's not that good, and I don't see the need for it, but, I get it. 2 Stars. Rated PG For Slight Language, And For Emotional Girly Stuff.
 

The Last Witch Hunter

 Image: After brutally and savagely mutilating and dismembering Hansel and Gretal, Vin Diesel is now, "The Last Witch Hunter".


I understand that "The Last Witch Hunter" couldn't possibly be the kind of film a critic could like. And you may respond with, "James, It's not meant to be a GOOD movie!". So I then say, "You're right! It's not supposed to be good." So, anyway, "The Last Witch Hunter" isn't any good.

"The Last Witch Hunter" is Vin Diesel as "Kaulder", who long ago killed the "Witch Queen" (Julie Engelbrecht). But, before she died, she gave him the curse of immortality. Centuries later, Kaulder and a Secret Order of Priests hunt down bad Witches (Witches be crazy!). Now, in the present, Kaulder has been working with the "36th Dolan" (Michael Caine), but like all the Dolan's before him, wants to retire, only to be found dead the next day.

Kaulder and his new assistant, "Frodo Baggins" (Elijah Wood) discover that he was killed by one of the Witch Queen's minions (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson). So Kaulder and Frodo team up with "Chloe" (Rose Leslie) to find the killer, and resurrect the 36th Dolan, before the killer resurrects the Witch Queen.

Did anyone really expect this to be any good? "The Last Witch Hunter" is incredibly stupid. Do I have to explain why? I just told you the plot. If the film was exciting I could forgive it, but It's almost entirely bland and boring. The script doesn't make sense, and there are too many contradictions to get any clarity. I can handle stupid, just not dull and stupid.

The creatures look kind of cool (Though not very real), and the idea of "The Last Witch Hunter" sounds like it could have been an interesting idea (Could have made a neat comic book). And the actors at least give it their all. Vin Diesel is throwing everything he's got at it, Elijah Wood gets to be the comedy relief (Though the script doesn't know how to use him consistently), Rose Leslie is cute and has a lot of personality, and Sir Michael Caine makes even crappy films better. But the villains are neither threatening nor memorable, spouting typical "End of the World" dialogue.

By the final act, "The Last Witch Hunter" becomes your usual CGI fest, and the effects themselves don't look all that spectacular. The film finishes off with a last minute plot twist that is ridiculously unnecessary. I enjoy a big, explosive finale as much as anybody, but this ends up just being an eyesore. I was open to some dumb fun. Then again, this could be one of those bad movies that become a future cult classic. What do I know? 1 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Having 99 Problems, But A Witch Ain't One.

Bridge of Spies

 Image: "I'm mad! MAAAAADDD!


Steve Jobs was a dick. I already figured that out after watching "Jobs". But now I at least think I have a real idea of how complex this tortured genius really was. Complicated people have a complicated story to tell, and it shouldn't be a by the book Wikipedia listing of his life.

Michael Fassbender stars as "Steve Jobs". The story is told in three acts, during specific (And very important) conversations. "Joanna Hoffman" (Kate Winslet) is Jobs trusted assistant, "Steve Wozniack" (Seth Rogan) is "The Great and Powerful Woz", "John Sculley" (Jeff Daniels) is the CEO of "Apple", "Crissann Brennan" (Katherine Waterson) is Jobs ex girlfriend and mother of the daughter he denies is his, and "Andy Hertzfeld" (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a member of the "Mac" team. The conversations take place during the launches of seminal moments in electronics history: The "Macintosh", the "NeXT" and the "iMac".

Whether these events happened exactly how they are portrayed (Chronologically or otherwise) isn't really the point. "Steve Jobs" is told as if it's a Shakespearean play. And whether or not that's your "Thing", this film is undeniably genius. The story and writing are unlike anything I've ever seen. Director Danny Boyle structures the film seamlessly, and nothing feels out of place, while Writer Aaron Sorkin's dialogue is literally breathtaking, both in it's speed and power.

The performances in "Steve Jobs" are the reason we give out awards in the first place. I'm not sure it's possible for an actor this year to be any better than Michael Fassbender is as Jobs. He hits every emotion perfectly, high or low, and brings out the humanity that many never saw. Kate Winslet is one of the best actresses in the business, and she is flawless here. Jeff Daniels will get that long over due Oscar nomination (His big scene with Fassbender is total acting perfection for both actors), and how about Seth Rogan showing some real dramatic talent, along with his much needed humor ("Steve Jobs" is not a happy film). And both Katherine Waterson and Michael Stuhlbarg are both extremely impressive (The entire cast will be nominated for Best Ensamble Cast at the Golden Globes, guaranteed).

"Steve Jobs" isn't for everybody, but that doesn't make it flawed. It's far too unique and brilliant to complain about being too "Stagey", or some such nonsense. And I don't think any issues with it's accuracy about exactly how much of a jackass Steve Jobs was is really the point. Many people who knew him had many different perspectives about the man, and he probably didn't do himself any favors. But his inarguable brilliance is well displayed in a film that a brilliant man would probably approve of. 4 Stars. Rated R For Language

Crimson Peak

 Image: Don't go in there, girlfriend! Aw, he gonna' get you!!


Full disclosure. "Crimson Peak" is NOT a horror movie. I'm not sure why it's been advertised that way. Yeah, it's got ghosts and blood and whatnot. The film is more "Gothic Romance/Love Triangle-Square With Ghosts and Blood and Whatnot". We here at "Eagan Reviews" believe in Hollywood being fully transparent Contact our legal department with any questions/complaints.

From visionary Director Guillermo del Toro, "Crimson Peak" is story about "Edith" (Mia Wasikowska), an aspiring author. Edith is warned by her Mother's ghost to avoid a creepy place, called "Crimson Peak". But she soon meets "Sir Thomas" (Tom Hiddleston), a business man (And hunky eligible bachelor), and falls for him quickly, despite the objections of her Father (Jim Beaver).

Unfortunately, Dad croaks under mysterious circumstances but Edith marries Sir Thomas, and moves away to a large mansion in the middle of nowhere. They move in with Thomas's Sister, "Lady Lucille" (Jessica Chastain), and it doesn't take long for Edith to see decomposing and mutilated ghosts. She is now not only in deep sh*t, but is inside the "Crimson Peak" that her Mom was not nearly specific enough about.

Disappointed isn't exactly the word I would use for how I feel about "Crimson Peak". But I was expecting something more from a film with this much talent involved. The visuals are as amazing as you would expect from Guillermo del Toro (This has to be the most of the color red I've ever seen on film), and the set and production design is absolutely stunning. It's the cliched story that disappoints. The story is full of holes that kept me questioning the characters actions, and those actions are always predictable.

Mia Wasikowska is terrific once again, adding depth to a character that is, at times, quite stupid. Tom Hiddleston plays his debonair, make the the young girls "Squee", role extremely well. And Jessica Chastain devours her role with glee. But Charlie Hunnam (As Edith's friend, who wants more, but can't have it. You know, every guy at some point) is just....There.

In fact, it's the romantic aspect of "Crimson Peak" that is the most uninteresting. It's far too telegraphed, and leads to a twist that has been done before. "Peak" is supposed to be shocking, but it turns out to be anything but. It's the ghosts, effects and designs that make the film interesting. Guillermo del Toro should instead make a "Haunted Mansion" ride for adults. I would never get off that ride. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Buckets And Buckets Of Blood, And Loki's Bare Buttocks.

Bridge of Spies

 Image: Tom Hanks, always Russian into trouble.


Spielberg....Hanks....4 Stars....As predictable as anything you can get in Hollywood. Can you imagine anything more shocking if it turned out that "Bridge of Spies" was anything other than excellent?

Based on a true story, "Spies" is set at the height of the cold war in 1957, and stars Tom Hanks as "James Donovan", a lawyer who is pushed into defending "Rudolph Abel" (Mark Rylance), a Russian spy arrested by the FBI. James defends the Spy to the best of his ability, despite the anger and pressure of those who want the Russian to fry.

Though Abel is convicted, Donovan successfully argues against the death penalty, instead convincing the Judge that the spy may be needed later to bargain with the enemy. Sure enough, "Francis Gary Powers" (Austin Stowell),an American Pilot/Spy, is caught by the Russians, so Donovan is asked to broker a swap of the two spies.

Things become more complicated when another American is captured and charged as a spy. Despite pressure from the American government to only negotiate for Powers, Donovan takes the risk and tries to negotiate for both Americans, as the two superpowers near the brink of nuclear confrontation.

Though one could argue that "Bridge of Spies" is too "Hollywood" a telling of such an important story, Steven Spielberg brings his usual expertise and heart to the tale. The story is fascinating and compelling throughout, with scenes that literally crackle with suspense. The script (Co-Written by the Coen Brothers) has the right amount of humor and detail, and the setting captures the look, feel and paranoia of the cold war.

Tom Hanks is as good as there is, in everything he does, and in "Spies" he is top notch, once again creating an incredibly compelling and embraceable character. And since Spielberg always gets memorable performances out of actors you may not recognize, it shouldn't surprise that he gets an award worthy performance from Mark Rylance, who is brilliant as the Russian Spy (He is strangely likable and creepy at the same time.) The rest of the cast fit in seamlessly, all playing characters that have important meaning to the plot.

This may Spielberg's unique version of a true story than reality, but "Bridge of Spies" is just too expertly filmed, written and acted to nit pick about ("Lincoln" felt that way, too, and it's still a flawless movie.) The film has everything an audience could want, with all the heart, drama and humor you could ask for. When Spielberg and Hanks stop delivering, you know it's all over. The Commies' have won. 4 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Dramatic Suspense And 1950's Style Language.

Goosebumps

 Image: "Would you like a ride? I'll pay the $20 up front."


The "Goosebumps" T.V. show was pretty cheesy, as I recall. I mean, it was for kids, so it was never particularly scary, just a little creepy. So, short of being the next Eli Roth film, a "Goosebumps" movie was bound to be a little tame.

"Goosebumps" begins with "Zach" (Dylan Minnette), a teen who has moved with his Mom (Amy Ryan), to a small town in Delaware. He meets and likes his next door neighbor, "Hannah" (Odeya Rush), but is prevented from seeing her by Hannah's creepy Dad (Jack Black), who even keeps Hannah from leaving the house.

So Zach and his new best friend, "Champ" (Ryan Lee) break into Hannah's house (Wouldn't you? Wimps.) They discover that Hannah's Dad is none other than "R.L Stine", the famous author of "Goosebumps", who has a bookshelf full of Goosebumps manuscripts with locks on them. Once opened, they begin releasing all of the Goosebumps monsters, including "Slappy" (Voiced by Jack Black), the living Ventriloquist Dummy, who is intent on finally killing Stine once and for all. It's up to the kids to capture the monsters before all is destroyed.

"Goosebumps" isn't very original, but it works primarily because of the charm and likability of it's main characters, who make an enjoyable team. Jack Black is a given to be lively and funny, but it's the younger cast who really shine. The film's monsters and effects don't look particularly real, but the tone and it's characters mesh well, making "Goosebumps" fun to watch.

Dylan Minnette is appealing as the team leader, and he has great chemistry with Odeya Rush (Their budding romance feels genuine) and Ryan Lee shows great comedic timing. Jack Black wisely lets the kids take center stage, and he gives a neat performance in dual roles. Amy Ryan and Jillian Bell (As Zach's Aunt) have small but funny roles, and though Halston Sage (As the popular, hot girl) only has a couple of scenes, I want to talk about her, because she's, like, very, very, very, VERY pretty.

While there are some surprising moments of depth, "Goosebumps" mostly breezes by (A bit too frenetically). The plot is rushed, and you wished they would have slowed things down. But it's a kids film, and kids little brains like things fast and loose (Hey, I used to be a kid. Long ago.) None of the monsters are very scary, but Slappy himself is quite the creep. It's probably just enough to keep "Goosebumps" fans happy. About the right blend of cheesy and spooky. So, parents, expect to be dragged to the theater more than once. 3 Stars. Rated PG For Minor Spookiness, Mildly Suggestive Jokes, And A Character Acting Like A Complete Dummy.

The Walk

 Image: Yeah, I could do that.


First of all, I can't "Do That". Second, "The Walk" does accomplish something amazing in technical achievement. Unfortunately, technical achievement doesn't pay the bills. I've seen the box office. Ouch!

"The Walk" stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt , in the true story of Philippe Petit, a French Street Performer. Philippe dreams of becoming the world's most accomplished High Wire Walker. But when Philippe sees a picture of the Twin Towers in New York City, he is inspired to walk the high wire between the two, much to the chagrin of his girlfriend, "Annie" (Charlotte Le Bon), and his mentor, "Papa Rudy" (Sir Ben Kingsley).

Just a simple story of a man risking his life hovering thousands of feet in the air for a stunt, "The Walk" is clearly more than that. Whatever you may think about how "Courageous" it is, it is a well told story of inspiration, and the script does a fine job of explaining Petit's motivations. It's helped by the the character's narration, which matches the film's optimistic tone.

The first half of "The Walk" is the weakest, following many standard bio's (Boy has dream, boy meets girl, boy breaks countless laws for glory, etc.). Yet the film comes to life in the second half, thanks to the incredible special effects as Petit prepares for and takes his "Walk" (It really is a technical marvel.).And the sheer likability of it's protagonist makes "The Walk" easy to root for.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues to impress, in his most difficult role yet. His accent may be a bit "Frenchy", but you get used to it early, and he is so dang likable that it doesn't matter once you involve yourself in his character's dream. Sir Ben Kingsley is Sir Frickin' Awesome, as always, and Charlotte Le Bon is both lovely and charming.

"The Walk" truly is an experience movie, and it's visuals a sight to behold (The film really is a loving tribute to the Twin Towers, and it gets to you.). Of course, you have to actually show up at the movie theater to experience it all. Only $3.6 Million this weekend. I've reviewed it for you. Do I have to come and pick you all up myself? 3 Stars. Rated PG For Intensity, And Joseph Gordon-Levitt Loses It, Goes A Little Crazy, And Gets Naked

Pan

 Image: "HUG IT OUT, BITCHES!"


"Pan" reminds me of a gifted child, with his heart set on accomplishing so ingenious, so magical, that future generations will revere it, holding it up as an example of the finest art of the 21st century. And then I have to explain to this child that, though his attempt was noble, ultimately, he has failed. Miserably.

This version of the Peter Pan story is a prequel. "Pan" stars Levi Miller as Peter, who was a lonely boy in an orphanage. He is kidnapped by Pirates, and taken with a bunch of other boys to Neverland. They are are forced to mine for Pixie Dust/Crystals/Meth by "Blackbeard" (Hugh Jackman). Blackbeard discovers that (As foretold in prophecies) Peter may eventually be able to kill him, and end his tyrannical rule.

Peter escapes with "James Hook" (Garrett Hedlund) , a Miner who helps him escape, and meet up with a group of white Indians, who also believe in the prophecy. They team up with "Tiger Lily" (Rooney Mara), who helps lead them into a final epic battle with Blackbeard.

"Pan" follows a fairly generic origin story, complete with the hero, and prophecy, and what not. (Think "Oz: The Great and Powerful", without the charm or Disney professionalism.) The story feels bland and predictable, and the characters just aren't very interesting. The story arcs go exactly where you think it will, constantly failing to surprise.

Visually, "Pan" has moments of charm. Though not exactly realistic looking, it does match the tone of the film, leading to a few clever sequences. Director Joe Wright strives for artistic brilliance, but the film too often comes across as pretentious, and, at times, confusing (Why the Hell are the Pirates singing "Smells Like Teen Spirit"? And why do the Pirates guns turn people into colorful smoke?) "Pan" has too many choices gone wrong. Some work. Most don't.

Levi Miller is foreign, so you know he's going to turn into into a fine young actor. And naturally, Hugh Jackman easily steals the film, playing the role straight, and finding the balance between humor and menace. Rooney Mara is plenty cute (Though not at all "Indian". Seriously though, it's not worth it, but it's not racist.). But Garrett Hedlund comes off as a bit cartoonish, and his character really has no where to go (The character is too much of a contradiction too "Hook" as we know him.)

"Pan" isn't helped along by it's choppy editing (Though that may have been another of the Director's odd artistic choices.) And that's what "Pan" is. It's a noble, artistic choice gone awry. There's nothing harmful for the kids, and maybe it's colorful and exciting enough for them. But anyone can see the film is too familiar. Even kids know that a noble failure is still a failure. 2 Stars. Rated PG For Intense Action, And Because Hugh Jackman Snorts Some Fairy Dust.

Sicario

 Image: You're bringing drugs....You're rapists....I assume some of you are good people.


Do you remember that nice, warm feeling you had after you saw "The Martian"? That feeling of optimism, and wanting to work together for a noble cause. Well that feeling has gone straight down the crapper.

"Sicario" stars Emily Blunt as "Kate", an F.B.I. Agent who is involved in a raid in Arizona, near the Mexican border. The raid goes down horribly, resulting in the death of a couple of Agents. She is given a chance by "Matt" (Josh Brolin), a Government Adviser leading a special team out to get those responsible, and Kate desperately wants in.

Matt brings in "Alejandro" (Benicio del Toro), a "Special" partner. And by special, I mean he is a trained killer. Kate has a bad feeling about Alejandro, as they go across the Mexican border into Juarez. She slowly discovers that there is a lot more to the story then she is being told. And the less you know from here, the better.

"Sicario" has a lot to say, about the Drug Lords, the Mexican people, and how America's "War on Drugs" is operated. Thankfully, the film is smart and completely engrossing, leaving you in complete suspense. It's also completely terrifying, both in the reality of the story, and, especially from the viewpoint of the main character. "Sicario" puts the viewer in Kate's shoes, leaving the viewer unsettled throughout. The film forces you to think about what you are seeing and feeling (And I'm not sure we want to.)

The action sequences are haunting, and realistically violent, and the cinematography beautiful. "Sicario" is grim but poetic, aided by a film score that is unlike anything I've ever heard. Everything about "Sicario" is original, from the script, to it's unique storytelling.

Emily Blunt is award worthy, believable, and totally gorgeous in an incredibly difficult role. Josh Brolin is as reliable as any actor out there (Seriously, he's excellent in everything). And the only way to describe Benicio del Toro's performance is memorable, in a way that may resonate for years. He is as cool, complex and terrifying as any character in my memory.

If you candle handle it, "Sicario" is just as necessary to see as "The Martian". Completely different, they both hit on every emotion. Just as importantly, both films are brilliant film making. The great ones always make you feel and think, if you got the cojones for it. 4 Stars. Rated R For Gruesome Violence And Harsh Reality.

The Martian

 Image: "Oh goody! I'm going to blow up the Earth with my Space Modulatoooorrrr!"


Been a little down lately? Yeah, me too. Just too much crap going on in the world. And great movies are supposed to take you away from some of the harsher realities of the world. Like "Sicario". (No, not "Sicario". More on that later.)

"The Martian" stars Matt Damon as "Mark Watney", an Astronaut and Botanist, who is on a Mars expedition. When a storm hits, Mark is blown away from his shipmates. With the rest of the crew believing him dead, he is left behind. Mark must now find a way to communicate back to Earth, and somehow sustain himself by sciencing the sh*t out of things. Meanwhile, back on Earth, NASA has gotten his messages, and they must race against time to get him supplies, and, eventually, hopefully, rescue him before it's too late.

"The Martian" is a welcome return to form for Director Ridley Scott ("Exodus" and "The Counselor" were odd), and he's given us an inspiring crowd-pleaser here. It's the type of story that every audience can get behind, with a hero that anyone can root for. In fact, all of the characters are memorable, thanks to the best cast in any film so far this year. 

Ridley Scott knows special effects, and "The Martian" looks seamless. The entire setting looks entirely real, and the 3-D is eye popping. Everything about the film feels authentic, and everything the characters say and do feels right. The script is very intelligent (Or at least makes me feel intelligent), and is filled with a surprising amount of humor for a story with so much at stake. It only serves to make "The Martian" more human.

It's a guaranteed Oscar nomination for Matt Damon, who gives probably the performance of his career. He and his character are extremely likable, and he hits every note asked of him perfectly. The flawless supporting cast includes Jessica Chastain (One of my possible future wives), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Another possible Oscar nomination), Jeff Daniels (Rock solid as ever), Kristen Wiig (Clearly can play any role), Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Donald Glover, Aksel Hennie and everybody else are complete perfection.

"The Martian" is the kind of inspiring film that maybe we all needed right now. There isn't much going on right now that can bring people together, or something that we can all agree on. So if you're looking to put a smile on your face and be happy for a couple of hours, then turn off the news for a bit and see "The Martian". It will all be there when you get back. 4 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Language, And For Matt Damon. MATT DEYMMEN!!!
 

Everest

 Image: Damn Global Cooling.


It can't be easy to make a movie about a fact based story, in which half the main characters died. And we know they died, which makes it even more uncomfortable. But just in case you didn't know all of this, well, then I better not say anything more.

"Everest" is about that giant, really cold mountain, and the true story of a brave (Or crazy) group of climbers, who were caught in a massive storm after reaching the summit. "Rob" (Jason Clarke) is the expedition leader, with an expectant wife (Keira Knightley), while "Scott" (Jake Gyllenhaal) leads a separate group. Veteran climber "Beck" (Josh Brolin), "Doug" (John Hawkes) a Mailman just following his dream, Journalist "Jon Krakauer" (Michael Kelly), "Yasuko" (Naoki Mori), and many other foreigners whose names are too difficult to type round out the expedition. Suffice to say, disaster strikes, and the group must fight for survival.

"Everest" tells it's tale in typical Hollywood fashion, but it's impossible not to become engrossed in the story. The characters are vivid, and their stories heartfelt, especially when you add in the reality of their nightmare circumstances. The cinematography is stunning, with the mountain itself deserving star billing (It's both beautiful and terrifying. Like Kate Upton.) It's also both cold and forbidding (Like Hillary Clinton.) The massive storm sequence is breathtaking to behold (And scary enough to keep my ass at sea level.)

"Everest" has an all-star cast, led by Jason Clarke (Who is both underrated, and a star), and both Jake Gyllenhaal and Josh Brolin continue to be excellent in everything. "Everest" has strong female characters as well, with Keira Knightly, Robin Wright (As Brolin's wife) and Emily Watson (As head of a base camp) giving terrific performances as well. Their emotional scenes help raise the film above some of the more generic plot points.

Even if you don't know the story going in, you can pretty much see who is doomed from the way "Everest" is told, and that flaw keeps the film from reaching the heights it should. Yet it's a testament to the story and the actors that it still packs plenty of punch, and keeps you at the edge of your seat.

It's not for me to say if all or most of "Everest" is "True", but their story is well-intentioned and undeniably compelling. But in my version, it would have been a happy ending, and they all would have lived. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Scenes Intense Enough To Make A Grown Film Critic Tinkle.

The Intern

 Image: Hey De Niro! Quit hitting on my lady!


Have you seen "The Intern" yet? Or, have you at least seen the preview? Then you get the gist. Hey, it's O.K. to know exactly what you're going to get, as long as what you're getting is good.

"The Intern" stars Robert De Niro as "Ben", a 70 year old widower, who signs up as an Intern for "Jules" (Anne Hathaway), who runs a start up fashion company. She's a workaholic. He's a wise but lonely soul. They may seem like opposites, but they bond nevertheless, as Ben shows he still has value, and Jules learns to prioritize her life.

You got all that from the previews, right. So did I, but "The Intern" still works on it's effortless sheer likability. The charm of the two stars is obvious, and the movie itself so warm and likable, that....Well, who cares that it's so predictable. The humor is lighthearted and fun, and meshes well with it's gooey emotional core (It's like eating a candy bar. Filled with delicious, delicious Anne Hathaway.)

Speaking of Anne Hathaway, she and Robert De Niro are absolutely wonderful together. De Niro is lovable, in a nice, relaxed performance. And Hathaway is both terrific and luminous (I melt when she smiles. I'm a sucker.) Rene Russo (As a massage therapist) is still pretty darn luminous at age 61, and the rest of the cast blends in nicely.

What you see is what you get. You knew De NIro and Hathaway would knock this out of the park. "The Intern" isn't everybody's cup of tea, and the ending may turn some viewers off, but the movie works if you don't overthink it. And nobody has ever accused me of overthinking uh.......3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For A Little Adult Humor, And De Niro Getting A De "Boner"

Hotel Transylvania 2

 Image: You're right, Dracula. This sucks.


What is it with you people? And by, "You People", I mean, any of you who loved the first "Hotel Transylvania"? Yeah, the animation was great. And, no, it is NOT more Sandler hating on my part ( I mean, yeah, I still hate him.) But I found "Transylvania" with no character personality outside of the actor playing them. The bland and unoriginal story didn't help, and neither did the lame "Kiddie" humor, or overly frenetic pace. But most of you liked it, so, maybe I just missed something. The hidden brilliance of Sandler, rapping about his "Zing".

"Hotel Transylvania 2" returns Sandler as Dracula, whose daughter, "Mavis" (Selena Gomez), has married "Jonathan" (Andy Samberg). Some time later, Johnny must have "Zinged" the crap out of Mavis, because she is now pregnant. They name their son, "Dennis" (Asher Blinkoff), but Mavis is convinced that Dennis is a human, and believes they should move to a more human environment.

Dracula is upset, believing Dennis to be full Vampire, and enlists his friends, including "Frankenstein" (Kevin James), "Werewolf" (Steve Buscemi), "Invisible Man" (David Spade), and "Mummy" (Keegan-Michael Key), to help prove that Dennis is a Vampire. Complicating matters is the arrival of Dracula's bigoted father, "Vlad" (Mel Brooks), who doesn't believe that human lives matter.

The plot may be slightly different, but "Hotel Transylvania 2" follows the same general theme. Like most sequels, the film is by the book, rehashing many of the same, unfunny jokes from the first movie. Director Genndy Tartakovsky once again supplies his trademark lively animation, but that can't overcome the frenetically told story. And it's juvenile humor once again isn't near funny enough to overcome it's flaws.

Oh, Sandler....As usual, making millions off of a silly voice (God help us). At least Selena Gomez sounds cute, but her subplot is absurd, while the rest of the cast is either annoying, or have no reason to be here. And it's downright criminal to waste the great Mel Brooks, who doesn't appear until the last 20 minutes of the film.

The final act is of "Hotel Transylvania 2" is the most irritating. The film spirals out of control, as we're introduced to both Brook's character, and to the film's villain (A "Bat Monster", voiced by Rob Riggle, who screams all of his lines). Again, all in the last 20 minutes, with no mention up until that point that we're getting a villain, which the damn movie doesn't need in the first place. We then dissolve into a nonsensical fight sequence, followed by a dance party finale. It's all noise and flashy lights. Like jiggling your keys in front of a baby to keep him happy. And then slapping him in the face with it.

"Hotel Transylvania 2" started off about on par with the first film, but I don't remember getting this big of a headache last time. That's just poor storytelling, and everyone should agree on that. People griped at Pixar for "Cars 2", but at least that had a coherent story throughout. "Hotel Transylvania 2" gave up halfway through. So tell me, what am I missing here? 1 Star. Rated PG For Pee, Pee Jokes, Butt Jokes, And, I Think, A Fart Joke.

The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

 Image: "It's not torture if it's justified!"


Another "Maze Runner" film. Better than "Divergent". Not as good as "The Hunger Games". There. Young adults know everything they really need to know about the genre. One franchise is great. One sucks. One is perfectly mediocre. And the sequels will all follow sort. The end.

"The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials" continues the journey of "Thomas" (Dylan O' Brien), who has escaped the "Maze" with his friends, "Newt" (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), "Minho" (Ki Hong Lee), "Teresa" (Kaya Scodelario), "Frypan" (Dexter Darden), and "Winston" (Alexander Flores).

They are rescued by "Mr. Janson" (Aidan Gillen), who is actually working for "WCKD", and their hot, middle aged leader, "Ava" (Patricia Clarkson). When Thomas discovers this, he and the others escape into "The Scorch", a generic, apocalyptic world. They are searching for the "Right Hand", a resistance group, while they avoid "WCKD" and infected Zombies.

Yes, infected Zombies. Evil organizations, convinced they are good guys, even though their name is "WCKD". We've seen it before, but "The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials" is at least well made, and entertaining enough. Their world itself isn't very original, but it looks good (Although the Zombies look a little weird). And there's enough action to keep it interesting.

Not much character development in "The Scorch Trials", but the performances are all solid. Dylan O' Brien is very good again, Kaya Scodelario is very beautiful again (She's a good actress, too. You girls do the same thing with the actors. We're all shallow), while Patricia Clarkson and Aidan Gillen make for menacing villains. And Giancarlo Esposito (As a leader of scavengers) provides much needed humor.

Despite a few solid twists and turns, "The Maze Runner 2" is too repetitive and predictable, in a genre that is generally too predictable and repetitive (Except for "The Hunger Games". I love you, Jennifer!) So if you're were a fan of the first film, have at it. And, hey, I'm not dreading the next sequel. I'm just not looking forward to it. See, a positive-ish review! 2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Young Adult Violence And Zombie Body Horror.
 

Black Mass

 Image: It's always Whitey's fault.


Johnny Depp has been in a bunch of crappy movies lately. We all know it. Johnny Depp knows it. But, despite that, we never lost faith in him....Except me. I lost faith. You didn't see "Mortdecai".

"Black Mass" tells the warped (And, unfortunately, true) tale of James "Whitey" Bulger (Johnny Depp). Whitey was a big shot local crime lord in Boston, beloved by everyone in his community, except the rival gangs dealing against him.

Whitey catches a break when "John" (Joel Edgerton), an F.B.I. Agent, and old friend of Whitey's, offers him the deal of a lifetime. John wants to put away Whitey's rivals, and convinces him to become informant, on the condition that Whitey will be a nice, ruthless thug (No killing, drugs, etc.) So Whitey gets the best of both worlds, ramping up his murderous ways for years, until his inevitable downfall. 

Do you believe this crap actually happened? "Black Mass" is disturbing, both in subject matter, and on screen. The direction is top-notch, and the film feels authentically gritty and grim, dealing with both of the seedier sides of crime and law. The story is fascinating, and the film does a thorough job detailing how this all happened, and why. The characters are incredibly interesting, though some of the character arcs (And the film itself, at times) feel trimmed down.

Everybody has seen Johnny Depp give a great performance (Been a while, though), and "Black Mass" is one of his best. The supporting cast is one of the finest you'll see on film this year. Joel Edgerton continues his great year, Benedict Cumberbatch (As Whitey's Politician Brother) is fascinating (Effortlessly changing his accent), Corey Stoll (As the only F.B.I.Agent with the balls to go after Whitey) is superb, and...You know what, there's too many, so here they all are. Kevin Bacon (As John's boss), Dakota Johnson (As Whitey's girl), Peter Sarsgaard (As a doomed, unstable, and whiney "Rat"), Rory Cochrane (Whitey's right-hand man), Julianne Nicholson (John's wife), and Jesse Plemons (Another Whitey's stooges) are all top notch. As good a cast as you can get.

"Black Mass" is not even remotely uplifting. In fact, it's a total downer. By the end, not a lot of good has come out of the actions of it's characters (No moral victories here). But if you can get past that, "Black Mass" is too compelling to pass up. To paraphrase Whitey: You have a choice to see it. Just don't make the wrong one. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated R For All Of The Violence And Language You Think You're Going To Get And More

The Visit

 Image: "Would you like to try one of Granny's special brownies?"


3 Stars? For an M. Night Shyamalan movie? That's all I've been hearing since I posted my consensus. But trust me on this. This is what you hired me for.

"The Visit" is a "Found Footage" film, about a brother and sister, "Tyler" (Ed Oxenbould) and "Rebecca" (Olivia DeJonge), who are sent by their mother (Kathryn Hahn) to her estranged elderly parents (Peter McRobbie and Deanna Dunagan), to visit for a week.

But Nana and Pop Pop are acting a bit peculiar. Telling the kids not to come out of their room after 9:30. Finding Nana scratching walls like a cat that hasn't been neutered. Pop Pop cleaning guns.with his mouth (Not even the N.R.A. gets off on that). Nana asking Rebecca to clean the oven, from the inside (Like Thanksgiving at my Nana and Pop Pop's).

Has there been any film maker in recent memory that has pissed off more people than M. Night Shyamalan? Thankfully, "The Visit" is a pleasant return to form for the Writer/Director. The story is simplistic, but smart. The plot takes it's time to build up the tension, leading to genuine suspense. The surprise here is that it also leads to genuine laughs. The balance between humor and suspense is refreshing (Though Horror film fans may be disappointed). "The Visit" is more creepy than scary.

There are a few annoying jump scares, but everything else about "The Visit" feels fresh. The actors are pretty recognizable (A bit odd for a found footage movie), but the performances are excellent. Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould are terrific young actors, Peter McRobbie and Deanna Dunagan are wonderfully disturbing as the Grandparents, and Kathryn Hahn is excellent (Isn't she usually the wacky supporting character?)

The final found footage genre has nearly been played out, but "The Visit" gives it a fresh spin. A good story with clever twist and turns (And good heart) will never go out of style. M. Night Shyamalan has redeemed himself for "After Earth". And "The Last Airbender". And "The Happening"...And "The Lady in the Water"......And.....3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For The Jump Scares, And For A Nude Grandma.

A Walk in the Woods

 Image: A Senior Alert has been issued for two Oscar Nominees. 


I may not have seen them in their best, or Oscar nominated roles, but I've seen enough of Robert Redford and Nick Nolte to know that "A Walk In The Woods" is not nearly the best thing either of them have ever done.

"Woods" stars Redford as "Bill", an Author who feels like he needs an adventure in his life. Bill gets the urge to hike the Appalachian Trail, despite the objections of his wife, "Catherine" (Emma Thompson), but she relents, as long as he gets a friend to take the hike with him. The only one who takes Bill up on his offer is "Stephen" (Nick Nolte), an old friend Bill hasn't seen in years. So Bill and Stephen go off to find themselves, only to discover that home really is where the heart is, after all (That's deep, man. Feel it.)

To say "A Walk In The Woods" is slight is an understatement. There's nothing more to the story that I didn't explain, and that you haven't seen before. It's selling point clearly are it's stars, and they easily have enough charm and talent to carry it's basic plot. The scenery and cinematography are beautifully shot, almost making me pretend to want to take on such a journey myself (If I can't hook up my computer and PlayStation, I'm out.)

Big shocker, here, but Robert Redford and Nick Nolte are wonderful together (However, the wonderful Emma Thompson is way underused). So I hate to complain much. It's just that "A Walk In The Woods" should have tried to do more with it's three screen legends. But if you accept it for what it is, "Woods" is an enjoyable lark. A film you can take your Grandma to. Especially if she's still hot for Robert Redford. Or Nick Nolte....Seriously, Sexiest Man Alive, sometime back in the last century. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated R For A Few F-Bombs, But "Transporter Refueled" Gets A PG-13?

The Transporter: Refueled

 Image: Because Jason Statham wanted too much money.


The crap fest continues. Think about it. Jason Statham makes ten movies a year. And even he didn't want to do another "Transporter" movie.

"The Transporter Refueled" stars Ed Skrein as "Frank Martin", (Or, not Jason Statham), the same guy Statham played in the three other "Transporter" movies. Frank is still just your typical glorified Taxi Driver, living the boring life. Until he is forced to drive the getaway car for four Prostitutes (Loan Chabanol, Wenxia Yu, Gabriella Wright and Tatjana Pajkovic), who have kidnapped Frank's Dad, "Frank Sr." (Ray Stevenson).

The Prostitutes are actually good Prostitutes. They're just trying to get back at their Pimp (Radivoje Bukvic). He is not one of those nice or funny Pimps you see in the movies, so Frank decides to help the good Prostitutes get their revenge, and stop the Pimp and his minions before he Pimps again.

Though it may be one of the greatest "Prostitutes Get Revenge" flicks in recent memory, "The Transporter Refueled" merely sucks. The plot is ridiculously convoluted, with characters that aren't even remotely believable. Everything about "The Non Statham Transporter" is preposterous, from the idiotic villains, to the nonsensical, non believable action sequences.

Ed Skrein and Ray Stevenson are actually quite watchable, and have enough personality to have deserved a better film (Watching them have a conversation was way more enjoyable than anything else in the movie). But the rest of the performances are wooden, and though the Director seems to be trying to make a point about the harshness and realities of prostitution, it comes across as laughable in such a dumb action movie. Even the "Empowered" women are scantily clad, and throwing themselves at men. The contradiction is breathtaking.

The worst part of "The Transporter: Refueled" is how incredibly boring it is. Even the action is boring, and isn't nearly interesting enough to take my focus away from the fact that I'm in a dirty movie theater with three other people, with someone who can't work the damn projector. I don't know....Maybe the post summer movie glut is starting to get on my nerves. Just show up on time, and fix the damn projector! 1/2 a Star. Rated PG-13 For Violence, And For Clearly Gearing This Film Toward Douche Bags.

We Are Your Friends

 Image: I got two turntables and a microphone.


I don't like to disrespect anyone's artistic choices, but what is so profound exactly about becoming a DJ? That's great if it's what your passion is, and it's want you want to do for a living. But making a movie about the intellectual meaningfulness of how deep EDM music really is?

"We Are Your Friends" stars Zac Efron as "Cole", a hunky young DJ, who showers constantly when not chilling with his best friends, "Ollie" (Shiloh Fernandez), "Dustin" (Johhny Weston), and "Squirrel" (Alex Shaffer) (Yep. "Squirrel". It's that kind of movie).

Cole is discovered by "James" (Wes Bentey), a famous but past his prime (And alcoholic) DJ, who takes him under his wing. Life becomes complicated for Cole on his way to the top, as he drifts away from his friends, and begins to fall for James's astonishingly hot girlfriend, "Sophie" (Emily Ratajkowski).

Sound familiar? "We Are Your Friends" borrows from so many other films, it's a caricature of itself. The dialogue attempts to be profound, and then is hammered home even deeper by the self important direction. The film thinks it is waxing philosophical, when I hear is "Blah, blah, blah, blah, follow your dreams, blah, blah, blah, blah". It's as pretentious as the film title.

Zac Efron has shown he can act before, so he's fine, I guess. Emily Ratajowski does all right, and....Well, let's just say she is a very attractive woman. The "Entourage" is pretty lame and annoying, but Wes Bentley shines as, by far, the most realistic character in the movie.

The EDM throughout "We Are Your Friends" is not really my style, but I didn't really connect with the hard core rap in "Straight Outta Compton" either. The problem is the movie itself. "Friends" is sloppy and choppily edited, and lacks so much structure that, by the end of the movie, it stops in it's tracks, as if there was nowhere else to go.

I honestly don't know if "We Are Your Friends" is trying too hard, or not trying at all. It may be well intentioned, but it's just too pretentious to care. But that girl from the "Blurred Lines" video is SO pretty! 1 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Drug Use. Mine, After If I Ever Have To Watch This Movie Again.

No Escape

 Image: "Do you wanna' hear my James Bond impression?"


Summer is over, so movies suck again. All of the films that couldn't hack it get dumped into theaters when the kids go back to school. As a critic, I know it's coming. I know not to get my hopes up. But is there hope? Owen Wilson and Pierce Brosnan and....Nope. Sadly. there is no escape 

"No Escape" stars Wilson as "Jack", just an ordinary, white businessman, with his ordinary white wife, "Annie" (Lake Bell), and their precocious white daughters, "Lucy" (Sterling Jerins) and "Beeze" (Claire Geare) (I'll get to the whole "White" thing in a minute).

Jack is offered a job in the country of "Asia Land" (I really have no idea where), where he runs smack dab into a revolution, even though they a'int done nothin' to antagonize nobody. He and his family's only chance of surviving all of the nameless Asian people trying to kill and rape them, is to escape across the border illegally, to a county that isn't quite as dangerously Asian.

You may have heard about the accusations of racism from some who have seen "No Escape", and let me be the next to say that....Well? There seems to be some, at the least, unintentional insensitivity. The film is so overly simplistic in it's characterizations of the "Locals", to the point of being uncomfortable. Couldn't there be at least a couple of "Non Honkys" who could be useful for anything other than exploding in anger (Or, literally, exploding).

The plot is predictable, but "No Escape" is suitably tense and exciting enough. It's idea could have worked in better hands, with better writing, and the cast of "Crackers" does a fine job. Owen Wilson, Lake Bell, and both kids do very well, and make a believable family. But the best part of the film is easily Pierce Brosnan (As a mysterious, grizzled stanger), who once again shows how much he deserves way better parts in way better movies.

I really don't mean to kick a film when it's down (And I'm running out of white, racial slurs), but clearly "No Escape" needed far more complexity than it was willing to offer. I'm not sure how well it will be received in America. But I'm pretty sure it won't be well received in the country of "Asia Land". 2 Stars. Rated R For Asian Violence And Attempted Asian Rape.

American Ultra

 Image: "Wow! All flannel shirts 50% off!"


I admit it, it took me way too long to get to my review of "American Ultra". But it's taken you all too long to go see it. So, we're even.

"American Ultra" stars Jesse Eisenberg as "Mike", a pot head who lives with "Phoebe", (Kristen Stewart), his pot head girlfriend. Little does he know, he's actually a "Sleeper" Agent, programmed by the Government as an ultimate killing machine. Mike is activated by a sympathetic C.I.A. Agent (Connie Britton), when she finds out he is targeted for termination by her rival (Topher Grace), who wants to end any trace of the program. Mike now has to use his Jason Statham like skills as he and Phoebe go on the run to survive.

Yep, there's not much more to "American Ultra" than that, but the film has some real moments of intelligence, and even a moment of brilliance here and there. The plot is ripe for comedy, and the characters are fun and interesting. Though it's tone is uneven, "Ultra" has enough laughs (Uncomfortable as they can be) to carry it through the fairly absurd action.

Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart are great together (I think we're all past hating on her at this point. She's proven herself), showing a nice, easy chemistry. Topher Grace is entertainingly over the top as the probably clinically insane Agent, Connie Britton is both pretty and smart, and Walter Goggins (As an assassin) is funny, and even more insane than Topher Grace.

The plot of "American Ultra" is just too ordinary too be special, yet too odd to be taken seriously (I know what I mean). But the cast pulls it through, and it's ending is satisfying. "Ultra" is a fine rainy day movie. Or, if you're high. Or, if you've ever suspected that you may be a sleeper agent. Which means, you're probably high. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Being A Violent Stoner Movie.

Hitman: Agent 47

 Image: I would saw off my hand to get out of this movie.


And now, the continuing adventures of absolutely terrible Video Game based movies.

"Hitman: Agent 47" begins with a brief (more like rushed) backstory, explaining that a scientist (Ciaran Hinds) has helped create super-powered "God-Modders", called "Agents". But he realized how asinine idea that was, and, thus, vanished off the face of the earth. Many years later, "Agent 47" (Rupert Friend) is currently hunting down the scientist's daughter ,"Katia" (Hannah Ware), who is under the protection of "Spock" (Zachary Quinto), who, it turns out, is actually working for the chairman (Thomas Kretschmann) of an evil organization (Hydra?).

The organization intends to create an army of "Agents" to take over the world, or something like that. Katia discovers that she is also an agent with psychic powers (I'm guessing) and teams up with Agent 47 in a mission to find her father, shoot up all the bad guys, and show me that "Mortdecai" was not the last horrendous piece of crap I would be seeing this year.

Seriously, how difficult can it be to make a decent film based on video games? For example, have you ever played the "Batman: Arkham" games? How about "The Last of Us"? How well written are they? The detail. The care. I'm guessing even the "Hitman" series has a far more engrossing story than this audacity to movies. The plot is near non-existent, instead relying on overblown action, preposterous explosions, and personality free dialogue.

"Hitman: Agent 47" has zero personality, filled with characters who aren't even interesting enough to be considered bland. And I hate to say this, but the acting is atrocious. Rupert Friend will not be my friend after reading this review (Can you imagine seeing that quote for a film review on T.V.?). Hannah Ware doesn't fare much better, and her character makes no sense, while Zachary Quinto is little more than a glorified henchman with normal ears.

The worst aspect of "Hitman" is the total lack of thought put into the Hitman, or the villains. The "Hero" is so unstoppable, it takes away any sense of danger the film has. The villains never had a chance, so there's no drama to be had. The film has no clue as to why we expect our heroes to get their asses kicked once in a while, by villains who are more than capable of actually succeeding. In "Hitman", they never stand a chance, or pose even a threat.

"Hitman: Agent 47" is nothing more than one super human Man/Machine, wasting a bunch of hapless ninnies, using cheap CGI effects, to the tune of obnoxiously loud action sequences, resulting in a finale that's meant to be a cliffhanger and sequel bait, but is instead a slap to the face to the audience. My face and my brain still hurt. Binge playing the "Hitman" video games is better for your health. 0 Stars. Rated R For Gruesome Violence And Countless Unnecessary F-Bombs.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

 Image: "Say Uncle! Say Uncle!".


You never really know how the Box Office is going to go. You have the choice between a cool, stylish action thriller, with beautiful people, set in exotic world locales. Or, you get a film based on a true story, about hard core Rappers from the harsh and violent inner cities, who tell the Police to go have sexual intercourse with themselves. I guess people want a dose of heavy reality this week.

"The Man From U.N.C.L.E." is based on the 1960's T.V. show (My Grandma was in an episode. I swear!). "Napoleon Solo" (Henry Cavill) is a suave American Secret Agent, who is forced to team with Russian Agent Illya Kuryakin" (Armie Hammer). to protect "Gabby" (Alicia Vikander), the daughter of a missing Nazi Scientist who working for the U.S. Government.

Solo's boss (Jared Harris) sends them through East and West Berlin, as they race against time to find the Scientist, before a dangerous "Femme Fatale" (Elizabeth Debicki) forces him to finish the creation of a nuclear bomb.

"The Man From U.N.C.L.E." is a homage to 60's spy movies, and a fairly generic one at that. It's not for it's lack of style. As always, Director Guy Ritchie know how to make a film look spectacular, and "U.N.C.L.E." has wonderful scenery, costumes and sets. But the story and plot seems too unimportant for a film about trying to avoid nuclear war. It's a strange combination of a plot being both too big and too slight.

Henry Cavill shows some charm as the "American James Bond" like Agent, though Armie Hammer's character gets a bit annoying at times, and their rhythm together never quite comes together. The supporting characters fare better, with Alicia Vikander (Absolutely adorable), Jared Harris (Great again, in much too small a part), and Elizabeth Debicki making the most of their roles. And Hugh Grant (Appearing randomly as a mysterious figure) steals every scene he's in, making it strange that they never made this film earlier with him as the lead.

"The Man From U.N.C.L.E" may have been saving something for the sequel, that will now probably never happen (Only made $13 Million). It's too bad, because the film is enjoyable enough, and had even more potential. It was just missing that certain magic that a spy movie has to have. I guess that was an impossible mission. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult 60's Content.

Straight Outta Compton

 Image: Asking the Police calmly for respect.


This is an interesting time for "Straight Outta Compton" to come out. With the obvious social issues in many of our inner cities, some involving conflict between African -Americans and the Police/Justice system (And there is a pretty inarguable problem. Just sayin'), the time may be about right for the story of a Rap group, and it's brutally harsh lyrics about the "Man". Just a conversation....Or, ignore it, and hope it all goes away.

"Straight Outta Compton" is based on the true story of America's most controversial Rap group. "Ice Cube" (O'Shea Jackson", "Dr. Dre" (Corey Hawkins), "Eazy E" (Jason Mitchell), "MC Ren" (Aldis Hodge) and "DJ Yella" (Neil Brown Jr.) rise from the harsh streets of Los Angeles to form "N.W.A.", before their inevitable group conflict and solo careers. The film charts their meteoric rise as their brutal lyrics strike a nerve, at a time when problems in the inner cities were at it's peak.

Regardless of what you think of their music (Or point of view), "Straight Outta Compton" is a powerful film, putting the viewer directly in the middle of N.W.A.'s remarkable success. Told from the point of view primarily of Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and the late Eazy E, the story may gloss over some disputed details, but "Compton" does a great job of helping anyone (Like me) who has never heard an N.W.A. song to understand their power, and why they remain relevant today.

The performances are all terrific in "Compton". O'Shea Jackson is the spitting image of Ice Cube (Probably because he's his son), and absolutely nails his Father (I mean in the good acting way). Corey Hawkins is a very believable Dre, and Jason Mitchell is terrific as the charismatic Eazy E. And you know Paul Giamatti (As their Manager) is going to be thoroughly convincing.

"Straight Outta Compton" excels when showing the early camaraderie and talent of the group, and how they were influenced by the struggles around them. Though not all of their story feels completely authentic, it's hard to dilute the power of it's smart script, and top notch direction from F. Gary Gray. There is an undeniable importance to "Compton", an maybe a bit of an education as well. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Some Hard Core Sh*t, Fool!

Ricki and the Flash

 Image: Taylor Swift, at the 2045 Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame Ceremony. 


Sometimes you get a film that's, just.....Fine. Nice. Pleasant. Predictable. Inoffensive. You know.....Just fine. So here's your perfectly fine, nice, pleasant and inoffensive film review.

"Ricky and the Flash" stars a fine, nice and pleasant actress named Meryl Streep as Linda. She's also "Ricky", a singer in a rock band called "The Flash", who long ago put her career in front of her husband and kids (Which means she's just like all male rock stars).

When her daughter, "Julie" (Mamie Gummer), is dumped by her husband, Linda is asked by her ex-husband, "Pete" (Kevin Kline) to reconnect with Julie, and help her get past it. This helps Linda come to terms with her life choices, making her and everyone realize what a horrible mother she really is.

"Ricky and the Flash" really is just.....Fine. And nice. And predictable. And inoffensive. The kind of film that you know exactly where it's going to go, and the characters say exactly what you think they're going to say. And it ends EXACTLY how you know it's going to end. I'm not really complaining. If you saw the preview and thought, "Hey, that's just.....Fine!" Well, that's "Ricky and the Flash".

At least now I get to talk about how great Meryl Streep is. She is perfectly believable as a rock star, and is of course wonderful in the more serious moments. Kevin Kline is predictably great as well, Rick Springfield (As Streep's Boyfriend/Guitarist) is very good, and Mamie Gunner (Meryl's real life daughter) is absolutely wonderful, though she doesn't get as much screen time as she should.

The musical scenes are done quite well, but the overall story of "Ricky and the Flash" isn't up to par with the actors. I mean, it's not bad. It's just.....Fine. You know what I mean? 2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Perfectly Fine, Pleasant And Inoffensive Language.

The Gift

 Image: Well this isn't creepy at all.


Maybe this would be a good time to check with everyone you went to high school with, to make sure you weren't terrible to them. They just might not be so understanding when they grow up to be raging psychos.

"The Gift" is produced, written and directed by Joel Edgerton, who stars as "Gordo", who mysteriously comes into the life of "Simon" (Jason Bateman) and his wife, "Robyn" (Rebecca Hall). Gordo was a high school classmate of Simon's, and tries to befriend the couple, by sending them gifts and inviting them to dinner.

The more Gordo inserts himself into their lives, the more creeped out the couple become. But all is not as it seems, as Robyn discovers that their may be more to Gordo's and Simon's story than meets the eye. And that's when the weird sh*t starts.

"The Gift" starts off as your typical thriller. At least, it seems that way. As the film moves along, the plot takes unpredictable and intelligent turns, in a way that really gets under your skin. The characters motivations become very complex, leading to a finale that's not only clever, but genuinely disturbing as well.

Jason Bateman is absolutely terrific, playing a character you wouldn't expect him to see him portray. Rebecca Hall is wonderful in a well written role that is as complex as Bateman's. And major props to Joel Edgerton, who not only wrote this surprisingly thought provoking script, but is Oscar worthy as an oddly sympathetic (To a point), and complex "Villain".

"The Gift" has a few minor horror story cliches, and annoying jump scares, but the film mostly relies on suspense and buildup, moving toward a climax that's jaw dropping, to say the least. So, currently I'm facebook-ing my old classmates, just in case I may have accidentally, and not on purposely, pissed them off. I'm so sorry, for, you know, whatever. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Incredibly Disturbing Themes Involving Monkey Masks.

Shaun the Sheep Movie

 Image: Guess which one of them is on the lamb?


Why don't enough people appreciate stop-motion? Yeah, we all love everything Disney, from the perfect animation, to the fun stories, to the deep, soul searching emotion that can make a grown man weep. But enough about me. Look, all I'm saying is, if "Hotel Transylvania 2" makes more than "Shaun the Sheep", I'm gonna' be pissed.

"Shaun the Sheep Movie" is based on the British TV Series that most Americans have never heard of. "Shaun" (Justin Fletcher) is a Sheep, who has grown tired of the schedule that his owner, "The Farmer" (John Sparkes) has Shaun and the rest of the flock on. So Shaun decides that he wants a day off, so he and his fellow Sheep lull the Farmer to sleep.

Their plan goes horribly wrong when they lose the Farmer somewhere in the big city, with a case of amnesia. It's left up to Shaun, the Framer's Dog, "Blitzer" (John Sparkes, again), and the rest of the flock to find the Farmer, and avoid the evil "Trumper" (Omid Djalili), an animal Control Officer who wants the critters put away.

"Shaun the Sheep Movie" is simple, and pretty much dialogue free (Just animal noises and grunts). It's also bloody brilliant , with wonderful cheeky humor that amazingly doesn't need the dialogue to generate belly laughs, for both kids and adults (Maybe even more for adults). The story is told through the animation, music, and character expressions flawlessly, giving it's characters even more depth and emotion.

The characters themselves are completely lovable and memorable. You know, the kind of cute and cuddly critters that children would hug and squeeze and never let go of, if only their stupid parents would actually take their kids to see "Shaun the Sheep Movie". I'm sorry, but I'm quite emotional about the fact that this instant classic is being slighted at the box office, while "Paul Freakin' Blart 2" made over $100 million. Way to go, America's parents! 

The stop-motion animation is unbelievable, with incredible attention to detail that makes "Shaun the Sheep Movie" a constant joy to watch. Add in that it's the funniest (And, maybe, the most heart warming) film of the year, and It's an absolute crime that nobody is going to see it. If I have any influence at all, than please rush to see this, before it's pushed out of theaters in a a week or two. If I don't have any influence, than why am I rambling on so much? Hello?????........4 Stars. Rated PG For Baaaaad Flocking Language, Sheer Audacity And Sheepish Behavior.

Fantastic Four

 Image: Even God can't save this film.


You've all heard the negativity surrounding the new "Fantastic Four" movie. I'm not sure I've ever seen such a barrage of criticism.. How can you not feel a little for a film with this much hate surrounding it. No, it's not all that good, but the hate started long before the cameras even began rolling. If you are a fan of a source material, aren't you supposed to want it to succeed, regardless of whose making it? Maybe, you're not really a true fan, after all.

Now, for the autopsy. "Fantastic Four" begins with young super genius "Reed Richards" succeeding at creating a teleporter. Years later, Reed (Miles Teller) has perfected the device, leading "Doctor Storm" (Reg E. Cathy) to bring Reed aboard his team, who are working on their own. With the help of the Doctor's protege, "Victor von Doom" (Toby Kebbell), they finish the teleporter, leading them to another Dimension/Planet.

Of course, things go horribly wrong, resulting in Victor being lost on the planet, while Reed's best friend, "Ben" (Jaime Bell), and the Doctor's son, "Johnny" (Michael B. Jordan), and adopted daughter, "Sue" (Kate Mara), develop freakish abilities. Such as strechyness, invisibility, being really hot, and getting really, really stoned (You know what I mean). 

Soon, The Government wants to use their new powers, Victor starts becoming more "Von Doom", and the movie completely collapses as the Fantastic Four come together to save the planet, and humanity, but not 20th Century Fox.

I have to defend "Fantastic Four", to an extent. The film starts off decently, taking time to build up the characters, and gives a good idea where the plot is going. So, for the first half hour, things are looking pretty good. And when the superpowers are introduced (Kind of cleverly), the characters are less amazed, and more horrified (As would anyone) by the changes, and it gives the story some added depth.

And then, inexplicably, the story flashes forward a year. And that's when "Fantastic Four" goes to sh*t. The obvious plot holes and re-shoots kick in, and scenes shown in the advertising and previews are completely missing (I'm talking straight up gone! Seriously, I've never seen anything like it!). The story becomes rushed, scenes get jumpy, and the climax comes straight out of nowhere. By the ending, it feels like a completely different movie. Literally, nearly a half an hour is missing.

Seeing as how the production of "Fantastic Four" was reportedly a living Hell, it stands to reason where many of the problems lie. Director Josh Trank has distanced himself from the movie, and has implied that 20th Century Fox ruined the film by releasing a completely different film (After seeing it, I believe him. But he's being kind of prick about it). But studios have messed with films before, but most don't turn out to be as messy as it does in "Fantastic Four". And this film definitely is a mess.

The fault is not with actors. In fact, there are signs of excellent performances from Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan and Jaime Bell (I can't think of anybody better for the roles). It's that the editing of "Fantastic Four" that gets in the way of the performances, and wastes all of the actors involved. Toby Kebbell has to play a guy named "Victor von Doom", yet plays his role interestingly, until his character dissolves into a villainous psycho (Though watching him blow up people's heads was kind of cool). And Tim Blake Nelson (As "Slimy Government Guy") literally chews through the scenery.

Even the special effects in "Fantastic Four" are a mixed bag. "Dr. Doom" and "The Thing" look pretty good, but other effects are not so effective ("Mr. Fantastic" had weird looking stretchy arms). Like the rest of the film, somebody may have dropped the ball, here. Was it the studio? Was it the Director? Was it the fan outrage and pressure? No. I know the reason. Some of you may not like this....It's the source material. They've now failed three times at this (Though this is actually the best), maybe because the "Fantastic Four" story elements can't help but get in the way. If this had been any other sci-fi film, no one would have pre-judged it. And it may have turned out pretty decent, because there are some fascinating ideas here. Adding the "Fantastic" element may have just led it off the rails. For those who were expecting me to rip "Fantastic Four" a new one, I just can't condemn something so incomplete. It's not bad. Just unfinished. Where's the rest of it? 2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Body Image Issues, And Exploding Noggins.

Vacation

 Image: "Metallic Pea???!!!" My Dad says to see the original.


I know you must be tired of me saying this, but, NO I have not seen the original. Not the original "Vacation". Or "Terminator"...."Mad Max", "Pitch Perfect", "Dumb and Dumber", "Think Like A Man", "Entourage" (The Show). The list goes on. But a film critic with my experience wouldn't allow themselves to be influenced, anyway. I've decided it's better to watch every film with my brain completely empty. That's why I'm a pro.

"Vacation" stars Ed Helms as "Rusty Griswold", whose parents, "Clark" (Chevy Chase) and "Ellen" (Beverly D'Angelo), had taken Rusty and his sister on an epic cross-country vacation to "Walley World" some 30 years before. Rusty convinces his Wife, "Debbie", (Christina Applegate), and their two little sh*t's for sons (Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins) to repeat the same adventure. Like in the original, they family wades through every disaster imaginable, before learning....Well, I'm not sure they learned anything.

I hear the original "Vacation" had it's charms, but they are too few and far between in the Sequel/Reboot. This version feels mean spirited, as are most of the characters. It makes it very hard to care about the family trip, or believe any life lessons learned by them along the way. The Griswold's aren't fun or funny enough to spend a vacation with.

Ed Helms and Christina Applegate are fine together, but are too goofy to be taken seriously as loving parents. The 2 kids are especially snotty and annoying (Even sadistic. I would have ditched them halfway to Walley World). The supporting cast are all interspersed throughout, but none of the scenes are particularly clever, though Charlie Day (As a suicidal Tour Guide) livens things up for a bit.

I seriously doubt seeing the original "Vacation" would have made any difference. This "Vacation" stands on it's own as an unpleasant trip. Who wants to take a trip across the country with a bunch of people you can't wait to get away from? I can take a lousy vacation all by myself. Without the Sh*tty kids. 1 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Unnecessarily Vulgar Language And Disturbing Violence Towards Siblings.

Southpaw

 Image: Body By Eagan.


Good Lord! The last time I saw Jake Gyllenhaal, he was bug eyed and emaciated (And got an "Eagan Oscar Nomination") in "Nightcrawler". De Niro, Chris Pratt, Paul Rudd all got buff for a role....Kevin James SAID he got ripped for "Here Comes the Boom". But Kevin James was lying.

"Southpaw" stars Gyllenhaal as "Billy Hope", a Boxing champion with his beautiful wife, "Maureen" (Rachael McAdams), "Leila" (Oona Laurence), his adorable daughter, and quite the bad temper. Ready to retire, he is taunted by a young rival, "Miguel Escobar" (Victor Ortiz), leading to a violent confrontation, and to Maureen's death.

Billy spirals out of control, losing custody of Leila, before hitting rock bottom. A chance at redemption comes when he meets "Tick" (Forest Whitaker), a veteran Boxer, who agrees to train Billy as he gets his last chance to reclaim the title, and his daughter.

"Southpaw" is a fairly standard boxing movie plot, and the script certainly doesn't mind beating you over the head with it. But despite It's predictability , "Southpaw" lands plenty of punches (Yeah, that's lame, but what are you gonna' do? It's a boxing movie). The film has emotional power and great performances, filled with amazing and believable fight scenes.

Jake Gyllenhaal has proved to be one of the best actors of his generation, and he's fearless in "Southpaw". His transformation isn't just physical. It's mental and emotional. Forest Whitaker is wonderful as well (Their scenes together are the best and most believable). Rachael McAdams (Despite her character getting killed off early) is wonderfully sweet and appealing, and the driving force of "Southpaw". And thank God little Oona Laurence is very good as the daughter (Because nothing is worse than an over-matched young actor in an emotional role).

Some supporting characters are too standard, as are many plot points (How many bad things can happen to someone in a movie?), but the power of "Southpaw" keeps it from veering off rails. It's hard not to get a little inspired by the redemptive story. And hard not to want to go into the gym, and hit some other guys. Well, only if we can't resolve our differences, using only our words and intellect. But just in case, I'm gettin' ripped. 3 Stars. Rated R For Language, Violence, And Emotional Whallop.

Pixels

 Image: Pac-Man's reign of terror nears It's end.


You know the drill. This is the moment that I get to go off on Sandler. You realize, It's not me. It's him! We both have proven track records. You be the judge. Just ask Tyler Perry and Taylor Kitch. THEY know I'm a reasonable man. When they put forth the effort, they get an "Eagan Oscar Nomination". I am glad to admit I can be wrong....But Sandler! He just doesn't care! He just won't stop! Please, somebody....Make....Him....Stop....

"Pixels" (Or, "Wreck-It Ralph:If It Sucked Balls") begins back in the 80's, where I guess we sent a capsule into Outer Space, to show Aliens how awesome a species we are. Everything that made us who we were, including Video Games, Clothes, a Rubik's Cube, "Prince" and "Yoda".

But there are Aliens out there, and they take the gift as an act of war. Years later, they send their Armies to Earth, in the form of Video Games. So President Cooper (Kevin James. Swear to God) gets the idea is to defeat the threat with a bunch of nerds. Earth's only hope are "Sam" (Adam Sandler), "Ludlow" (Josh Gad), and "Eddie" (Peter Dinklage), apparently the only Video Game experts available on the planet (I guess no one else ever played Video Games in the 80's).

The special effects in "Pixels" are good. And Josh Gad has a couple funny moments....That's it. What more do you want me to say? I'm sorry, but It's not even that much fun anymore to pick on Sandler, because I clearly give more of a sh*t than he does. "Pixels" is uninspired and unoriginal, just more of the same old shtick. Inappropriate gross-out gags. Juvenile humor. Unattractive, schlubby men romancing beautiful women. Yep, That's Sandler. Half-assed.

Sandler is boring. Kevin James is predictable. Josh Gad's better than this. Peter Dinklage is WAY better than this. Brian Cox (The usual arrogant Military man) must demand a new Agent. And Michelle Monaghan (A Military Specialist) seems to be here only as a reward for Sandler. Typical, bull-sh*t Sandler!

"Wreck-it Ralph". "Futurama". They've done this idea light years better than "Pixels". But that's Sandler for you. No effort. Just show up, make off-putting jokes, get the pretty girl, collect the paycheck. Hey, did I mention that "Pixels" is directed by the guy who did the first "Harry Potter"? Just drag everybody down the Sandler toilet. 1 Star. Rated PG-13 For Highly Inappropriate Sandler Humor Geared Toward Kids.

Paper Towns

 Image: "Ok, my pants are full. How many things can you stuff in you bra?".


My sister, Julia, is the biggest fan of Author John Greene, and loved "The Fault in Our Stars", book and film. Now, most 21 year old men wouldn't intimidated by their 12 year old sister, but, since you haven't met Julia, you'll have to take my word for it. So there was a lot of pressure from her, and from teenage girls in general, for me to like "Paper Towns".

The story follows "Quentin" (Nat Wolff), a High School senior in need of adventure. One night, "Margo" (Cara Dele vingne), a girl he's been crushing on for years, sneaks into his room, telling him to follow her on a madcap night, full of teen shenanigans and eyebrow waxing.

The next day, Margo mysteriously disappears, leaving clues to her whereabouts. Quentin and his friends, "Ben" (Austin Abrams),"Radar" (Justice Smith), "Lacey" (Halston Sage) and "Angela" (Jaz Sinclair) go on the road trip of their young lives, following the clues that will hopefully lead them to Margo.

"Paper Towns" doesn't quite compare to "Fault" or "Me and Earl and The Dying Girl" as far as depth and storytelling. Yet it still has likable, relatable characters, and intelligent characters (Which is happily, a new trend in films geared toward teens and young adults). The plot is lighter in tone, and thin in story, but still feels genuinely heartfelt and funny as well.

Nat Wolff is excellent in the lead role, almost guaranteed to lead him to even bigger roles. Cara Delevinge dominates the film with her engaging presence, even though her character is really more talked about than shown. Austin Abrams and Justice Smith are funny comic relief, and Halston Sage is fine....And FINE! Seriously, she's really good and really pretty.

The best part of John Greene's stories is how interesting and respectful the young characters are, and how maturely they handle their decisions, right or wrong. I understand completely why teen girls connect especially with these books and films. My sister has proven her good and sound judgement. She will now be making all of my decisions for me, including films, voting and dating. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Typical Teenage Behavior.

Trainwreck

 Image: A sweet, romantic comedy for all ages.


"Trainwreck" is NOT a sweet, romantic comedy for all ages. It is an adult, graphic, somewhat cynical, and probably more realistic romantic comedy. Meaning, It's a romantic comedy for me.

"Trainwreck" stars Amy Schumer as a "Loose" (In every way) version of herself. Amy drinks, smokes pot, parties, sleeps around. You know, like a dude. Anyway, she writes for a men's magazine, and is given a story to write about "Aaron", a Sports Doctor, who happens to be best friends with THE Lebron James (I've never watched a whole basketball game in my life, but everybody knows Lebron).

Amy is a commitment-phobe, but begins dating Aaron, against her nature. She has no clue how to be in a relationship, and has to learn through her mistakes before finding true love with Lebron James's best friend.

"Trianwreck" is nothing like the traditional rom-coms I know and hate. The script is sincerely smarter, and way more clever than what we usually get. The relationship isn't forced and overly cute. In fact, it drags the main character kicking and screaming, yet leads to a satisfying romantic conclusion. It's sweet ending feels earned.

Let's get inside Amy Schumer (Hey, that's her T.V.Show, so, HA!) She is literally something else, and unlike any comedic actress I've ever seen. She is always willing to "Go There" for a laugh, and pulls it off effortlessly. She's also surprisingly wonderful in the film's more dramatic moments.She and Bill Hader have great chemistry (Even making ME root for them. I never root for the couple in a rom-com).

The supporting cast is eclectic, but completely believable. Brie Larson (As Amy's Sister) is cute and endearing, Tilda Swinton (As Amy's boss) is surprisingly hilarious, and Colin Quinn (As Amy's Dad) is funny and authentic. But It's the best Basketball player on the planet who nearly steals "Trainwreck". Whoever thought of casting Lebron James (I'm guessing Director Judd Apatow) is a frickin' genius. James is a riot, showing he's clearly a natural at whatever he wants to do.

Being a romantic comedy, you know where the story is going, but "Trainwreck" is constantly entertaining getting there. The humor is abrasive, but Schumer isn't afraid to show her character's flaws, making her strangely charming and endearing. What's wrong with me that I'm attracted to pretty girls with potty mouths? I hope my Mom would approve. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Oh, Boy, Where Do I Start.

Ant-Man

 Image: "A Bug's Life 2:The Invasion".


That's it. Marvel has jumped the shark. Yeah, there was the God of Thunder. A talking Raccoon with a big gun. But a Superhero film about a guy who can shrink into the size of an Ant? Whoa, slow down the freaky, guys! Marvel has lost It's marbles.

"Ant-Man" stars Paul Rudd as "Scott Lang", a small time (But misunderstood) thief, just released from prison. Scott wants to get out of the thievin' business, and reconnect with his adorable little daughter, "Cassie" (Abby Ryder Fortson). Short on cash, he is convinced to steal one more time, coming away with a special "Suit", giving him the super strength, super speed, and super lack of size of the common household Ant.

Turns out, the heist was organized by "Hank Pym" (Michael Douglas), the original "Ant-Man" who has been secretly stalking....Uh, watching, Scott. Hank needs someone with a particular set of skills to break in to his old company, which has been taken over by his former protege, "Darren Cross" (Corey Stoll), to steal a similar suit, called the "Yellowjacket). Scott must become the Ant-Man, and commit yet another felony in order to save the world.

We all have to start trusting Marvel by now, right? "Ant-Man" may sound silly, but it's a typically smart and funny film, like every other Marvel movie. The action is great, and It's knowing sense of humor keeps things fresh, despite It's clunky opening. Once the film gets moving, "Ant-Man" is non-stop fun. The special effects are excellent, especially in the shrinking sequences.

Marvel is always fantastic when it comes to casting, and choosing Paul Rudd (In an action movie?) is nothing short of genius. He makes a very likable hero, and is a fantastic addition to the Marvel cinematic universe. Evangeline Lily (As "Hope", Pym's Daughter) is wonderful as yet another impressive female Marvel character, and has great chemistry with Rudd. Michael Douglas is classy as heck, Corey Stoll gets the job done (Though he's a pretty standard villain), and Michael Pena is hilarious as Rudd's best friend.

Despite some production issues, "Ant-Man" has all of the fun you expect from a Marvel movie (We even get a cool cameo from an "Avenger"), and, as always, stick around for the end credits, or you're not a true fan, and I don't want to talk to you. "Ant-Man" is definitely a solid end to "Phase 2" of Marvel's movie plan. And we all trust the plan now, right? 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13, But Could Have Been An Easy PG.

Minions

 Image: I swear I have that same expression in every picture.


Maybe having an actual plot in a movie isn't really necessary after all.

"Minions" is the origin story of the little yellow creatures (Voiced by Director Pierre Coffin) from the "Despicable Me" films. They've been on Earth since the dawn of time, serving various evildoers throughout history. And, because they are incredibly stupid, they caused the death of every single one of them (Even Hitler!) They soon retire from the Minion business, getting fat and lazy, when "Kevin" the Minion decides to find the biggest, baddest villain of all.

Kevin, "Stuart" (The one with one eye), and "Bob" (The short, stubby one) arrive in New York in 1968, where they hitch a ride with a family of bank robbers (Michael Keaton and Allison Janney), who take them to "Villian-Con" (In Orlando, of course.) There, they are hired by "Scarlet Overkill" (Sandra Bullock), a Super Villain who wants them to steal the Queen of England's (Jennifer Saunders) crown. Being Minions, it's not going to go according to plan.

"Minions" is as nonsensical as the gibberish they speak, full of little more than wacky cartoon shenanigans. The film has a premise more than a plot, and what little plot there is pretty much just an excuse for the Minions to fart around in silly situations, surrounded by other kooky characters. But so the Hell what! "Minions" is nothing but fun, with no more intent than to entertain your kids, and make everyone else laugh in spite of themselves (You say you won't, but you will.) The Minions are undeniably cute, obviously, and their voices and, uh, words (Or whatever it is that comes out of their mouth) can't help but amuse.

Sandra Bullock sounds like she's having the time of her life, and Jon Hamm (As her husband) is a total riot. Michael Keaton and Allison Janney are hilarious in small roles, and Jennifer Saunders is kind of brilliant as the Queen. But "Minions" real star is the animation, which is amazing considering the incredibly hectic pace of the film. The animation flows beautifully, and the action never lets up (To the point of exhaustion.) The film is ALWAYS moving, and so random as to be somewhat incoherent. It's all up to your own personal tolerance level.

I've got a headache now, but it's not from "Minions". It's fun and frivolous. I just need a banana. OOOHHH, BANANA! Why am I thinking bout a banana? 3 Stars. Rated PG For Minion Butt Cheeks And Foul Minion Language.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

 Image: Maybe she's just dying metaphorically.


Consider this a freebie. Everybody was saying how good and interesting this quirky little film called "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl", and my little sister had been begging me to see it. And that gives me cool Big Brother points, which I can redeem when I meet her friend's older sisters.

"Me" is "Greg" (Thomas Mann), the definition of a socially awkward High School teen, who only really interacts with "Earl" (RJ Cyler). Greg's Mom (Connie Britton) pressures him to talk to "Rachel" (Olivia Cooke), a student with Leukemia. As the school year progresses, they bond through Greg and Earl's home made movies, and her strength and grace help Greg to learn to stop wallowing in self pity, and embrace life.

"Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" is a sweet surprise. It is a sentimental film, with a difficult subject, yet it's smart and effortlessly funny, with well written, intelligent characters. "Girl" is not at all cloying. In fact, it plays with the clichés of the "Tearjerker", instead focusing on it's three likable young leads.

That's the real surprise of "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl". I usually find Thomas Mann a bit annoying ("Project X" and "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunter" will ruin any actor), but he's a pleasant surprise here. RJ Cyler is excellent in his first film as well, but Olivia Cooke is a true revelation (I'm thinking Oscar nomination here. She's that good.) The supporting cast of veterans is top notch, with great performances from Connie Britton, Nick Offerman (As Greg's odd Dad), Molly Shannon (Rachel's struggling Mom), and Jon Bernthal (The cool Teacher.)

I went with my (Sister's) instincts, and once again, I (She) has been proven right. "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" is sweet, funny and realistically heartfelt, in a way that will appeal to young and intelligent audiences. Yes, young AND intelligent. Not a contradiction. 4 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Deep Subject Matter, And Accidental And Not On Purpose Drug Use.

Terminator: Genysis

 Image: "It's not a dumor!"


I know I'm a rookie when it comes to the "Terminator" franchise, but why ya'll gotta' be hatin' an AHNOLD like that? Is "Genisys" really that bad? Sure, they can't spell worth a damn, but what were you expecting from a 4th sequel? Or, "Re-Boot". Or, "RE-gurgitation"?

Granted, "Terminator Genisys" is not an easy plot to comprehend . In the future, "Skynet" has taken over the world, using their army of Terminators to run roughshod over the planet. The human resistance, led by "John Connor" (Jason Clarke) discover a time machine. But they also discover that Skynet has sent a Terminator back in time to kill his mother, and keep him from being born (Because that's a lot easier than killing him in person and present time.)

John sends his buddy, "Kyle" (Jai Courtney) back in time to stop the Terminator, and stop "Judgement Day" from ever happening. If that weren't crazy enough, the timeline he arrives in is not the timeline he's supposed to be in.....But due to time travel stuff, in his new timeline, John Connor's Mom, "Sarah" (Emilia Clarke) has teamed up with the Terminator we all know and love (Arnold Schwarzenegger), and has taken out the bad Terminator sent to kill her.

But....they are now being hunted down by "Korean Terminator" (Lee Byung-hun), so they decide to jump forward in time, changing the timeline once again. Now, Skynet is called "Genysis" (Think "Apple", but slightly less evil.) And since the movie trailer has spoiled this part already, John Connor is in this timeline as well, but has become a Terminator himself...Wait...Let me catch my breath....

To wrap it up, the good guys must now stop Genysis, which is actually Skynet, from starting Judgement Day, which is now on a different day, before John Connor, who is now a bad guy Terminator, terminates the sh*t out of everyone (Paramount should give me an award for explaining all of that.)

Yes, it's overly convoluted and stupid (The last "X-Men" film was equally convoluted, but intelligent.) But "Terminator Genysis" is enjoyably stupid, and the convoluted plot isn't really supposed to make any more sense than the previous "Terminator" films (I'm guessing here, but they all looked nonsensical to me, anyway.) The fun is in the production. Despite a few iffy special effects, the action is generally good, and the story is entertaining enough (I kind of got a sick kick out of deconstructing the plot.) 

Arnold is Arnold. Which means he's a national treasure (Seriously, he's actually really good in his iconic role.) Emilia Clarke is pretty believable (Though the character predictable), and is an absolute cutie. Jason Clarke is always good, and makes an effective villain. But, God help me, Jai Courtney is so frickin' boring! I'm convinced White Bread has more personality. Fortunately, Eagan Oscar Winner J.K. Simmons (As a Cop who gets more involved than he should)livens things up, though I'm sure he realizes "Genysis" is a waste of his talents.

Arnold has always been big, dumb fun, and that's what "Terminator Genysis" is. And, like Arnold's vocabulary, is completely incomprehensible. It's almost enjoyable enough to make me watch the rest of the franchise. But....Probably not. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Violence, And Headache Inducing Paradoxes.
 

Max

 Image: "Mad Max: Furry Road".


It would be wonderful if Hollywood would make a film about a heroic Marine, and his relationship with his equally heroic Dog. One that not only shows the inseparable bond between man and pet, but also shows the incredible heroism of our best and bravest, as they fight to defend our country. Or, they can give us this piece of sh*t.

"Max" is a loyal Marine Dog, lovingly protecting "Kyle" (Robbie Amell), who is serving in Afghanistan, until Kyle is tragically killed in combat. Kyle's Mom and Dad (Thomas Haden Church and Lauren Graham) bring Max home, to see if Max can help their other son, "Justin" (Josh Wiggins), to stop being such a little dick.

Max slowly wins Justin over, of course. In the first 30 minutes or so. That's when a subplot involving Kyle's Military friend (Luke Klientank) starts. A subplot involving selling illegal weapons to evil Mexicans, because they are drug dealers and rapists, but some of them are O.K. (Donald Trump really said that. President Trump. Could happen.)

"Max" seems to have noble intentions, but why they decided that a story about 2 of our best and bravest needed to be dumbed down with such an asinine idea of gun runners and evil Mexicans is beyond me. And that is literally the last hour of the movie. "Max" completely dissolves into an "Air Bud" film. $20 million on what is basically a cheap T.V. movie.

It's probably not his fault, but the teenage kid just comes across as petulant, though Thomas Haden Church does predictably well, and Lauren Graham is too good for this crap. The dog is amazing, but deserved a better script. Nothing about "Max" rings true after about the first 15 minutes, leaving us with the lazy and insulting crap that is to follow.

"Max" had the makings of an interesting movie about war and sacrifice. Unfortunately, Clint Eastwood wasn't around to direct it. The dog, and America, deserve better. 1 Star. Rated PG For Pretending To Be Something Important.

Ted 2

 Image: Rick Santorum's worst nightmare. Woman/Teddy Bear marriage.


Seth MacFarlane makes it easy for you. You either think he's funny, or you don't. If you're easily offended, or have a moral objection to foul mouthed, pot smoking Teddy Bears, odds are you don't find Ted as adorable as I do.

"Ted 2" returns Seth MacFarlane as the talking Teddy, who is still "Thunder Buddies" with his best friend, "John" (Mark Wahlberg). John is newly divorced from Mila Kunis (Gotta' be his fault), but Ted is newly married to "Tami-Lynn" (Jessica Barth). Like all new marriages, ever, Ted and Tami-Lynn bicker about everything. They decide that everything will be better if they have a baby (Which always turns out to be true.) And then they attempt to steal Tom Brady's sperm (Doesn't seem altogether unreasonable.)

When that surprisingly fails, they decide to adopt, but are told that the law will not allow it, due to the fact that Ted is a Teddy Bear full of stuffing, not sperm. So Ted and John attempt to sue the Government, and hire a beautiful lawyer (Amanda Seyfried) to fight for Ted's right to humanity.

"Ted 2" does suffer from "Sequel-itis" (That seems to be a real term these days), with some of the same repeated jokes and themes, It also unwisely writes out Mila Kunis (A real plus in the first film), making that film feel less important. The surprising thing about "Ted" is how much the audience cared about the characters, and the absence of Kunis, to be honest, kind of pisses me off.

Fortunately, "Ted 2" is still incredibly funny, and it's best moments downright inspired (A dance number featuring Ted during the opening credits are spectacular.) Ted himself is still an amazing computer generated marvel, and his outrageously funny potty mouth makes him even cuter (I have my own "Ted" in my room!) The plot once again aspires to be more than a juvenile comedy. In fact, there's too much plot (115 minutes) for movie about a talking Teddy Bear.

Seth MacFarlane and Mark Wahlberg are terrific together, showing the same great and effortless rapport they did in "Ted". Amanda Seyfried's character may not be exactly necessary, but she shows great humor, her character is well written, and she is all kinds of adorable. Morgan "Freakin" Freeman (As a Civil Rights Attorney ) is Morgan "Freakin" Freeman, so he's freakin' awesome. But Giovanni Ribisi (As the creepy bad guy from the last film) doesn't fit well here at all.

Some jokes hit, some fall flat, but "Ted 2" still has genuine laughs, heart, and even sweetness to it to justify the sequel. But as much as the world needs laughter, the "Ted" franchise is not for everyone. Or, anyone, who could ever be offended by anything. Ever. A low 3 Stars. Rated R For....Do You Have To Ask?

Dope

 Image: "Drugs are bad. M'kay?


As a Film Critic, I can be influenced by word of mouth, and be encouraged to see a film I had no intention of seeing. When I start hearing the buzz, and when I start seeing 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, then it would be a dereliction of duty to ignore it.

"Dope" stars newcomer Shameik Moore as "Malcolm", a young nerd who hangs out with his nerdy friends, "Diggy" (Kiersey Clemons), and "Jib" (Tony Revolori). They go to a party, where they accidentally get a backpack full of illegal drugs. Determined to get rid of it, they are forced to sell the stuff, and make sure that no one can tie them to it.

"Dope" is not your typical "Drug" movie. Aside from it's originality, the film has a lot of heart and depth. The film's main characters are unwilling participants, making them far more sympathetic, and a lot more likable than many films with "Drug" themes. The script is clever and humorous, though it's plot does get a little convoluted and jumbled, with sequences that have little importance to it's resolution.

Shameik Moore is excellent in a tough role, and carries the film in his first major role. Kiersey Simons and Tony Revolori have great chemistry with Moore, and their relationship is the highlight of "Dope". Blake Anderson (As a friendly Hacker) has some hilarious moments, and Zoe Kravitz (As the love interest) is plenty cute, though her subplot is fairly basic.

The subject matter is handled responsibly, and the intelligent (If complex) plot leads to a smart and satisfying conclusion. I still like to be surprised once in a while, and "Dope" certainly is a surprise. And if films about illegal narcotics can pleasantly surprise me, than I'm open to anything. Well, not the illegal narcotics part. I'm still clean. 3 Stars. Rated R For Language, Nudity, And For All Them Drugs.
 

Inside Out

 Image: "What do you mean Trump's running for President?"


I'm not one to brag, but I had the special privilege of seeing an advance screening of "Inside Out", complete with behind the scenes footage, an interview with Director Pete Docter and the adorable Amy Poehler.... And you didn't....Suck It! 

The newest classic in a long line of Pixar masterpieces, "Inside Out" focuses on the mind of a young girl named "Riley" (Kaitlyn Dias), and her emotions, "Joy" (Amy Poehler), "Fear" (Bill Hader), "Sadness" (Phyllis Smith), "Anger" (Lewis Black), and "Disgust" (Mindy Kaling).

Riley's parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan) decide to move to San Francisco for business, putting Riley in a cruddy new apartment and a new school. Joy tries to keep things in order, but when Sadness messes with Riley's important memories, both Joy and Sadness accidentally get sucked out of "Headquarters".

With only Anger, Fear and Disgust left, Riley's already fragile emotions become even more frayed. Joy and Sadness must get the help of Riley's forgotten imaginary friend, "Bing Bong" (Richard Kind), to navigate through her subconscious, get back to Headquarters, and put things back in order.

Everything about "Inside Out" works perfectly. The script is Pixar at it's most hilarious, heartfelt and thought provoking best. It's a wonderful premise, showcasing it's lovable emotions that are as enjoyable as any of Pixar's greatest characters. All of the characters ring true and real, written with so much intelligence, that the film may affect adults as much as it does kids.

God I missed Pixar Animation! (It's been almost 2 years.) "Inside Out" looks as beautiful as ever, filled with so much originality and imagination, that it's really unlike anything ever seen before. The score (By Michael Giacchino, the guy who did the score for "Up") is instantly memorable, and the perfect compliment for such a whimsical film.

The voice work is total perfection. As I said before, Amy Poehler is adorable and terrific, Phyllis Smith brings real emotional depth, Mindy Kaling is plenty cute, Lewis Black is perfectly cast, Bill Hader steals every scene he's in, Richard Kind is unforgettable, and the rest of the cast is top notch, continuing Pixar's flawless record of casting (Give "Cars 2" a break.)

I am always astonished when a "Kids" film treats it's audience with respect, and "Inside Out" rivals Pixar's best in that respect. I fact, the film may rival "Toy Story 3" (I almost cried during both. Yeah, that's right. Almost. Got a problem with that! Sorry. "Anger"). And, as always, Pixar's Short, "Lava", is terrific. Once again, Pixar has inspired me to go to work for them, if they can handle my knack for harsh criticism. 4 Stars. Rated PG For Emotional Turmoil.

Jurassic World

 Image: Hey! Hey! We're cool! We're cool!


In the movies, you can do anything. Create your own Dinosaurs, using whatever you can find laying around. Build an amusement park, and put your cute little Dinos inside. Devise an evil plan to use the Dinosaurs for military purposes. And just assume that the Dinosaurs will cooperate, and assume that everything will go according to plan. Foolproof.

"Jurassic World" completely ignores the last two sequels, taking place about 20 years after the original. The Dinosaur park is up and running, and everything is running smoothly. Instead of Shamu, they have a T-Rex, Velociraptors, and a "Mosasaurus" (Think Shamu, if he liked human flesh). But the people want more. So the owner of the park (Irrfan Khan) pushes for bigger and better, and his Scientists interpret that as more dangerous and terrifying.

Meanwhile, the park's Operations Manager, "Claire" (Bryce Dallas Howard), is supposed to be entertaining her nephews (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins), but is too busy for them. She has to enlist the help of "Star Lord" (Chris Pratt), who has trained the Raptors, and is now their "Alpha-Male". They discover that the park's new creation, an "Indominus Rex", may be smart enough to cause a bit of a problem. Soon, it's on the loose, the Dinosaurs take over, brothers bond, love blooms, and yet another government asshole (Vincent D'onofrio) f*cks things up even more.

"Jurassic World" is exhausting. It really is like spending at an amusement park, only where many people have little chance of surviving (There was that one day I spent at Disney World.) It's a thrill ride, and total crowd-pleaser, the kind where you don't think or care about the flaws until it's over. The plot is ridiculous (Though so was the original, to be fair). It pushes things pretty far, but then it gets exciting, and then thrilling, and then, breathtaking. It's so fun, you forgive.

The special effects are spectacular, making the Dinosaurs as amazingly realistic as possible ("Jurassic World" is downright scary, at times.) Once the action gets going, it rarely slows down, though the lack of logic is always rearing it's head. It's Military Contractor subplot is unnecessary (Though not as aggravating as "Avatar"), but still hits you over the head in ways we've seen before (Yeah, yeah. Humanity sucks, blah, blah, blah.)

If you didn't think Chris Pratt was a star after "Guardians of the Galaxy", you'll be pretty convinced after "Jurassic World" (Sign him up as "Indiana Jones".) Bryce Dallas Howard is adorable as well (I didn't mean that Chris Pratt is.... Well, O.K.). The kids are fine, too, and Judy Greer (As the kids Mom) is always good, but the stars are the Dinosaurs, and they give the performance of a lifetime. The film knows to give them enough screen time, and they actually have more personality than many do in Hollywood.

"Jurassic World" has a finale that is so stupid, so over the top, that it's completely beautiful. It fit the film perfectly, and gives the crowd exactly what it came for. It's the kind of film that you don't mind paying 6 bucks for a tub of popcorn. It's not nearly a perfect movie, unless you just want to sit on the edge of your seat, and clap your hands when it's over. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Dinosaur Crimes Against Humanity.
 

Spy

 Image: "Hey, wassa' matta' for you!"


Great. Yet another crappy Spy comedy....Wait, this is really funny! Maybe that new "Ghostbusters" won't suck, either.

"Spy" stars Melissa McCarthy as "Susan Cooper", a C.I.A. analyst, who sits safely behind a desk as she helps guide "Agent Fine", (Jude Law) battle nefarious foes. But when a "Super Weapon" falls into the hands into the arms of a arms dealer's daughter, "Rayna" (Rose Byrne), Agent Fine goes after her, only to appear to be taken out by her. (I mean, "Taken". "Out".)

Since Rayna somehow knows the names and faces of every C.I.A. Agent, they decide to send in Cooper, who infiltrates an arms dealer (Bobby Cannavale), and ends up having to protect Rayna from all of the hit men who are trying to kill her. Meanwhile, Cooper must deal with "Agent Ford" (Jason Statham), who threatens to ruin everything with his obsessive need to always save the day.

That's a lot of ridiculous plot, and "Spy" is a ridiculous movie. It's also laugh out loud funny. As wild as the script is, it's also supremely intelligent, and expertly performed. Director and Writer Paul Feig may be just the guy to reboot "Ghostbusters", because he has rejuvenated the "Spy Comedy" genre. How all of this nonsense works as well as it does is astonishing.

Melissa McCarthy has not always pleased me with her choice in roles, but she is superb here, showing enormous skill and heart in "Spy". She is evenly matched with Jason Statham, who is so riotously funny here, that he can feel free to give up making anymore repetitive action movies. Rose Byrne continues to show how super funny and super pretty she is, Jude Law proves he would make an amusing James Bond, Allison Janney (As McCarthy's boss) is superb, and Bobby Cannavale is top notch as well (Though I'm upset that he is dating Rose Byrne, and I'm not.)

"Spy" is so convoluted, it's impossible not to nit pick here and there. But it's so consistently funny, you don't really think about any flaws until after the movie. That's how these kind of movies are, and I was too busy laughing too care, anyway. Remember that, Hollywood. If "Mortdecai" was funny, I wouldn't have given it 0 Stars. "Spy" cracked me up, so, 3 1/2 Stars. Rated R For F-Bombs Galore, And A Surprising Amount Of Violence.
 

Entourage

 Image: Sorry, guys. Not gonna' win any awards this time.


Me telling you that I didn't see the T.V. show, or movie, or prequel, or whatever to whatever film I need to review, doesn't make me feel any better than it does you. No, I never saw "Entourage" on HBO. But I'm confident enough to know that if you liked the show, you'll like the movie. If you didn't like the show, you won't like the movie. And, if like me, you're seeing all of this for the first time, then....Yeah, it's fine.

"Entourage: The Movie" follows movie star, "Vince" (Adrian Grenier), and his buddies, "Eric" (Kevin Connoly) and "Turtle" (Jerry Ferrara), and Vincent's brother, "Drama" (Kevin Dillon). Vince gets an offer from his former Agent, "Ari" (Jeremy Piven), who now runs a film studio, to star in a huge, futuristic blockbuster.

Several months later, the film has run into money issues, Eric's ex girlfriend (Emmanuelle Chriqui) is having his baby, and Turtle is trying to hookup with Ronda Rousey (You know, that kinda' hot, Ultimate Fighter chick....Oh, God. She's going to break my arm, too.) Ari is still dealing with his anger management issues. And Drama is just being good ol' Drama (I'm just guessing here. I've got no clue.)

Judging from a "Entourage" novice, the film is entertaining enough, with plenty of laughs to go around. It also feels kind of pointless, with shenanigans that feel familiar, even if I didn't know who these people were. "Entourage" is also overloaded with cameos, most of which don't really add anything to the story (Though the dead kid from "The Sixth Sense" is a riot. And the girl from that Robin Thicke video is incredibly cute.) But too much of "Entourage" feels unnecessary.

"Entourage" has a lot of story to tell, but not much of it is resolved. Any fun here is just going along for the ride. It's the characters friendship that makes the film worth while. The actors clearly connect well, and their story is just interesting enough to make a movie worthwhile. Jeremy Piven is hilarious, Kevin Dillon has some funny moments, and Kevin Connolly has the most depth, though Adrian Grenier's character isn't particularly interesting. And Ronda Rousey may have a career after she's through killing people with her bare hands.

I guess it's hard to tell for someone who didn't know what "Entourage" was, but it's an O.K. summer diversion on it's own. Who knows what T.V. show they'll turn into a movie next. I better start watching "Game of Thrones". 2 1/2 Stars. Rated R For All Of The Perverted, Disgusting Things Movie Stars Do In Real Life.

Aloha

 Image: Emma Stone is the cutest Asian/Hawaiian I've ever seen.


My Film Critic instincts can usually tell when a movie is going to be f*cked up beyond all recognition before it comes to theaters. But one with Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachael McAdams and Bill Murray?! Speechless.

"Aloha" stars Bradley Cooper as "Brian", a Defense Contractor who is sent to Hawaii by "The Worst Person In The World" (Bill Murray), to get the blessing of Native Hawaiians to launch a satellite into space. He is partnered there with "Allison Ng" (Emma Stone. Yep. "Ng". She's Asian. Emma Stone is Asian. ) 

Complicating matters is Brian's ex-girlfriend, "Tracy" (Rachael McAdams), who lives in Hawaii with her husband, "Woody" (John Krasinski). Brian still has feelings for Tracy, but is developing feelings for Emily.The evil Bill Murray is up to some nefarious plan. And "Aloha" can't for the life of it ever decide what kind of film it wants to be.

"Aloha" is totally bizarre. One thing went wrong. Then another. Then another, until pretty much everything goes down the crapper. The entire film is not as advertised. It sure as hell isn't a romantic comedy, but it thinks it plenty charming. The story is awkward and perplexing, with so many mixed up plot points, the script must have been thrown in a blender.

How such a great cast could be so utterly wasted is a complete mystery. Bradley Cooper has been so great lately, you wonder if he even read the script for "Aloha". He and Emma Stone have no chemistry, clearly because the script and nonsensical dialogue won't allow for it (And seriously, Emma Stone is adorable, but an Asian/Hawaiian?). Rachael McAdams is lovely but wasted, Bill Murray's character makes zero sense, and Alec Baldwin only shows up to scream at everyone.

"Aloha" is such a strange brew of ideas, it literally becomes incomprehensible, and it's editing is choppy throughout. I'm not sure if "Aloha" is the worst film I've seen this year, but it is the strangest. "Aloha" has a total lack of professionalism, yet I hear this Cameron Crowe guy who wrote and directed it is supposed to be pretty good. Worst of all, the film doesn't show off Hawaii as a selling point (I hear It's quite lovely.) I'm still baffled by "Aloha". I'd love to pick Emma Stone's brain sometime. I'm always here for her. 1 Star. Rated PG-13 For Forced Adult Situations And Overly Convoluted Misunderstandings.

San Andreas

 Image: "The Rock" isn't concussion proof.


You all knew EXACTLY what "San Andreas" was. I knew. "The Rock" knew. It's a disaster movie, following everything in the disaster movie handbook. The only questions are how much destruction, how much death, and how much cheese you can handle.

"San Andreas" stars Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Rescue Chief Ray Gains, a helicopter pilot in California, who is separated from his wife, "Emma" (Carla Gugino). Ray was planning to take his daughter, "Blake" (Alexandra Daddario) on a trip to San Francisco, when Emma's new boyfriend, "Mr. Fantastic" (Ioan Gruffuud) shows up and volunteers to take her himself.

At the same time, a Seismologist (Paul Giamatti) is warning everyone of the "Big One", a massive earthquake that will destroy everything around the San Andreas fault. Since he's only a Scientist (Or, as Fox News would call him, a "Socialist"), no one listens to him. When the Earthquake hits, The Rock must save his daughter, reconcile with his wife, and win back the WWE Wrestling Title, before the entire state of California finally crumbles into the ocean.

If the big one ever does hit, I hope our dialogue won't be as ridiculous as it is in "San Andreas". Most of the lines are typically silly, as they are in most disaster films. The plot is absurd, and the scientific details probably questionable at best. But that's not what you came for. "San Andreas" has beautiful people trying to survive the impossible. And lots of stuff breaking, collapsing and blowing up real good.

Dwayne Johnson always brings likability and star power, single handedly saving hundreds of people using only the bulging veins in his neck. He and Carla Gugino have real chemistry (They should. It's their 3rd film together), Alexandra Daddario is very lovely (Her eyes. Oh God!), Ioan Gruffudd is enjoyably stereotypical (As, "The Douche"), and Paul Giamatti makes even predictable disaster movies better.

It's the special effects that make "San Andreas" the most entertaining. The money seems well spent on the surprisingly believable disaster sequences (Kind of terrifying, actually), and the action scenes are pretty spectacular. Despite the silly dialogue and side plots, "San Andreas" accomplishes what it is trying to do.

I'd like to think that I could be as brave and tough as "The Rock" would be during a disaster. But I think we all know that I would be throwing Granny out of the last lifeboat. Women, children, and Movie Critics first! 2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Disaster Porn.

Tomorrowland

 Image: It's a small Clooney after all.


Based on almost every film about the future that I've ever seen, the general view is that the world is going to Hell in a hand basket. Nuclear War. Aliens. Purging. Bad weather....President Donald Sutherland. "Tomorrowland" makes me want to believe that maybe it doesn't have to be so bad. Unless we get President Donald Trump.

"Tomorrowland" begins with a young boy named "Frank" (Thomas Robinson), arriving in a place known as Tomorrowland, where the world's greatest geniuses, inventors, geeks, and nerds come together to create the future. Yet some time later, something bad happens, resulting in Frank getting kicked out.

Years later, a cute, spunky heroine named "Casey" (Britt Robertson), is given a Tomorrowland pin by a little robot girl, "Athena" (Raffey Cassidy), and becomes determined to find the place. Casey soon finds Frank (Now a grouchy old man played by grouchy old George Clooney), and they work together to get to Tomorrowland before the evil Governor of Tomorrowland, "Nix" ( I think you know who plays him. Who else would it be?) and his robot enforcers track them down and disintegrate them. 

As most critics have said, "Tomorrowland" doesn't quite reach the heights we may have expected from Disney, Director Brad Bird, and from the previews. That in no way makes it disappointing.

"Tomorrowland" is still an accomplished film, filled with a sense of wonder, and an overall message that resonates in a far more positive way than, say, "Mad Max" does ("Mad Max" is better, just more depressing.)

The special effects are Disney stunning ($190 Million? O.K.), and the overall look of the film is exactly as I would expect Disney's version of Tomorrowland to be (For those of you who have never been to Disney or Epcot, get your butts over there ASAP. It will change your life.) The story is mostly buildup for the arrival to Tomorrowland, which works both for and against the film. When you do get there, it just doesn't quite have the payoff you'd hope for. Almost, though.

We forgave George Clooney long ago for killing Batman, because he's been great ever since, and he never phones it in. In "Tomorrowland", he graciously takes a backseat to Britt Robertson, who really gets to show some acting talent (In the way she couldn't in that damn Nicholas Sparks movie.) Raffey Cassidy is a real find as the little Robot girl, and Hugh Laurie is excellent as the guy who I'm not saying is the bad guy....but you know is probably the bad guy. 

Despite the final, clever plot twist, the final act of "Tomorrowland" is pretty standard, with a climax that feels familiar. But the movie is expertly made, and the power of it's message so well delivered (Don't fear the future. Change it) that "Tomorrowland" is impossible not to like. Great for kids, and for anyone who just sits around complaining about how doomed we are. Get off your ass and do something about it. 3 Stars. Rated PG.
 

Pitch Perfect 2

 Image: "The Barden Bellas" sing a love song to "Bullwinkle".


I didn't see the original "Pitch Perfect". But it was because I listened to my Dad. I remember him saying, "C'mon! A girl musical? No one is gonna' see it, and no one is gonna like it." (My Dad has terrible instincts about movies. And girls.) Anyway, moral of the story: Never listen to your Father. 

"Pitch Perfect 2" starts off where I assume the last one ended. The college A Capella team, "The Barden Bellas", "Beca" (Anna Kendrick), "Chloe" (Brittany Snow), "Fat Amy" (Rebel Wilson), and the all of the rest who's names I can't remember (Ester Dean, Alexis Knapp, Hana Mae Lee, Chrissie Fit, Shelly Regner, and Kelly Jake), are suspended from performing. Only because Fat Amy ripped her pants and mooned President Obama during a national competition. (Fox News blamed Obama.) They are told that if they win the upcoming world a capella competition they will be allowed to perform again. So they bring in a new member (Hailee Steinfeld) and band together once again for a shot at redemption.

I am guessing "Pitch Perfect 2" is probably at least equal to the first one. The plot is standard and predictable, but It's consistently funny and cute. The camaraderie between the girls is excellent, and that is really the heart of the movie (And is probably a reason why so many young girls enjoy these movies.) And though I never watched one episode of "Glee" I surprisingly enjoyed the musical moments (I wish Anna Kendrick was in my high school Glee club.) 

Anna Kendrick is flat out adorable, and I could listen to her sing all day. Brittany Snow is nearly as good, Rebel Wilson is undeniably funny, and the supporting cast is excellent, but It's Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins (as the competition hosts) who steal the movie. (I insist they host every reality or awards show.)

Nothing earth shattering about "Pitch Perfect 2". It's a little slight, and not particularly believable. But who cares? It's a bunch of cute, talented girls making me laugh. It is what it is. Doesn't take much to please me. I'm cheap and easy. 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Crude Humor and Slight Naughtiness.

Mad Max: Fury Road

 Image: Charlize Theron is armed and dangerous. 


Who is this "Mad Max"? Where did he come from? How come nobody ever told me how awesome he is? The original "Mad Max" was a little before my time, so I never got around to seeing it. While this new one slipped right under my radar. And my radar is usually fool proof. I just didn't give this movie much thought. I wasn't just pleasantly surprised, "Mad Max: Fury Road" literally blew away my eardrums.

"Mad Max: Fury Road" stars Tom Hardy as "Max", in a post apocalyptic world, fleeing from his unpleasant past and a bunch of skinny, pale psychos called "War Boys", who capture him and use him as a literal blood bag. Their grotesque tyrannical leader, "Immortan Joe" (Hugh Keays-Byrne) orders a hunt for his former lieutenant "Furiosa" (Charlize Theron), who has just freed all of his "Wives/Sex Slaves" and is making her way to a fabled promise land. One of Joe's War Boys, "Nux" (Nicholas Hoult), desiring to prove himself, takes Max with him to hunt them down, only to fail miserably. Max eventually joins Furiosa and the freed slaves in their journey through the desert wasteland to escape Joe and his forces of souped up cars, heavy fire power, and deformed minions. 

Director George Miller (The director of the original films......And "Happy Feat"!) is either an absolute genius or completely bonkers. Its rare these days that films use practical effects, and "Mad Max: Fury Road" uses it brilliantly. Everything in this movie is down and dirty. From the characters, to the machines, to the weapons and costumes. Everything not only looks real, It feels real. (It's the kind of futuristic apocalyptic world that you REALLY don't want to be in.). The film is a visual feast for the eyes.

The action is pulsing and nearly constant. Yet, Somehow "Mad Max: Fury Road" finds a way to create fascinating characters. The heroes and the villains are brilliantly written, despite the fact there is very little dialogue. (And the little dialogue there is feels almost Shakespearean.)

Tom Hardy is excellent, portraying a likable, but mysterious character you can root for. But It's Charlize Theron's character who is the real heroine of the movie, and she gives the performance of her career. Her character is empowering and a total bad ass to boot. In fact, all of the female characters in "Mad Max" are strong and well written. Hugh Keays-Byrne makes for a terrifying villain, and a hardly recognizable Nicholas Hoult shocks the world with a terrific performance, making for one of most memorable characters you will see this year.

The score is pounding (My seat was literally shaking) and "Mad Max:Fury Road" is incredible imaginative. I know It's a reboot of an old franchise, yet it still feels very original. A big, bad action movie with powerful emotional depth. I think I am willing to trust this psychotic, demented, lunatic of a director with anything. And in the end, It was a lovely day. 4 stars. Rated R for Violence and Dirt Galore.

Hot Pursuit

 Image: "My God! We just ran over comedy!"


Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara are too cute for this sh*t.

"Hot Pursuit", or, "The Official Ripoff of Every Female Buddy Comedy Ever Made", stars Reese Witherspoon as "Rose", an inept Police Officer, who is sent by her superiors to protect "Daniella" (Sofia Vergara), the wife of a drug dealer about to testify against his drug lord boss.

The drug lord surprisingly overreacts, and kills Daniella's husband, putting her and Rose on the run back to Dallas, so Daniella can testify. They deal with henchman, crooked cops, and, most glaringly, forced chemistry, but still find a way to set back "Girl Power" back to the 1980's.

I know everyone is hating on "Hot Pursuit", and I hate to pile on two actresses as adorable as Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara... Wait, that sounds amazing! What I mean is, "Hot Pursuit" is pretty awful. It is the epitome of generic and lazy, going through the checklist of every bad buddy comedy you can think of. The situations are forced, as are the two main characters, who are completely unbelievable together.

As far as Reese and Sofia....Ladies, this hurts me more than it hurts you. It's not their fault, really, but it's such a terrible script, it constantly lets them down, and makes them look silly. I've seen them both be very funny, so I'm perfectly fine with blaming everyone else involved.

The plot of "Hot Pursuit" is astonishingly inept, from the goofy misunderstandings, to the obligatory love interest, all the way to the stock villain (For God sake, WHY do these films insist on adding out of place bad guys?) By the final act, it becomes a incomprehensibly different film. Worst of all, this comedy just isn't funny.

There isn't anything else to say about "Hot Pursuit", other than that it's just a mistake. And you can't get on me for not wanting to like it. I mean, Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara in fake Lesbian make out/catfight scenes! C'mon! 1 Star. Rated PG-13 For Adult Humor And Booby Jiggling.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron

 Image: "Ultron" about to flip off Tony Stark.


There are certain things that every geek dreams about. Bringing back "Star Wars", with Han and Chewie. Batman battling Superman (Although I am still a little iffy on that one). And for the epic Avengers movie we have all been waiting for. And when I say epic, I mean EPIC! (Apparently it was meant to be even more epic-er. Over three hours long epic-er!)

"The Avengers: Age of Ultron" begins where "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." left off (Seriously, Why are you not watching that show?), With all of the Avengers, "Tony Stark/Iron Man" (Robert Downey Jr.), "Thor" (Chris Hemsworth), "Bruce Banner/Hulk" (Mark Ruffalo), "Steve Rodgers/Captain America" (Chris Evans), "Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow" (Scarlett Johansson), and "Clint Barton/Hawkeye" (Jeremy Renner), taking on evil Nazi organization "Hydra". They capture their leader, "Strucker" (Thomas Kretschmann), and take back "Loki's" Staff. The mission goes swimmingly, despite Strucker's "Experiments", "Quicksilver" (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and "Scarlet Witch" (Elizabeth Olsen) escaping. 

After having a vision of everyone around him dying, Tony Stark gets the idea that creating Artificial Intelligence is a good thing, despite all movies saying otherwise. Enter "Ultron" (James Spader), who plans to create a better, more peaceful world. Bad news is that means eradicating all human life. So the Avengers must team up again to stop him while they all deal with personal demons, including the realization that they actually might not be able to save the day this time. 

I couldn't stop thinking as I was watching "Age of Ultron" about how HUGE this film is. Everything about it is on a grand scale, and Director Joss Whedon somehow manages to weave everything together coherently. Even plot points (And there are a lot of them) that aren't resolved have purpose, and clearly will be resolved in the long run. The special effects are stunning, seamlessly blending into the action. The action is spectacular, but doesn't overly rely on it, taking plenty of time for it's wonderful characters to develop.

In all of the Marvel films, it's the characters that matter, and "The Avengers: Age of Ultron" succeeds perfectly, somehow giving everyone a chance to shine. Seriously, everybody has a great moment or two, and the actors may as well be these characters at this point, they are so good. Robert Downey Jr. may be the coolest dude on the planet, and leads the way again. Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Scarlett "How DARE someone other than me impregnate her!" Johansson, and Mark Ruffalo are impeccable, and Jeremy Renner thankfully gets more screen time here, and dang near steals the movie.

The new additions are very welcome here. Elizabeth Olsen is terrific and really cute, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson is appealing. The voice of James Spader is smarmy, terrifying, and, yet, oddly likeable, and both Linda Cardellini and Paul Bettany give probably their best performances in roles best left as surprises. And to top it off, "Age of Ultron" throws in Samuel L. Jackson, Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smolders, Idris Elba, Stellan Skarsgard and Hayley Atwell to prove how incredibly epic the whole thing is. Again, somehow, it all works.

This was supposed to be over 3 hours long, so "Age of Ultron" was whittled down to a trim 2 1/2 hours. But it's hard to fault a film so intent on pleasing it's massive audience. For a film this huge, I don't think you could ask for anymore than what "The Avengers" has given us. It's a Super Hero movie, but with heart and depth. Lives and humanity matter to them. And I don't know if it's possible to have more fun at the movies. But I guarantee "The Avengers" will keep trying to up the ante. And they do it all for us. 4 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Comic Book Violence And Real World Emotion.

Unfriended

 Image: "Uh...How about World of Warcraft?"


The Internet is a terrible place. Teenagers are awful people. That's not my opinion, but it seems to be the theme of "Unfriended".

"Unfriended" begins on the happy note of a teenage girl named "Laura" committing suicide, due to an embarrassing video that was uploaded online, and the harsh, cruel comments that followed. Exactly 1 year later, 6 of her "Friends" have gathered online via skype to chat about the nonsense that teenagers chat about. But an anonymous person using "Laura's" account begins talking with them, demanding to know who uploaded the video, and slowly starts to pick them off one by one in the most gruesome ways possible, till the uploader's identity is revealed. Basically, payback is a beeyatch!

Despite my earlier statement, "Unfriended" does a good job of pointing out the kind of reckless behavior that goes unchecked on the internet and the consequences of it. Unfortunately, in "Unfriended", the consequences involve the pissed off undead coming back for violent revenge. (The movie is basically a lesson in Cyber bulling) It's another "Found Footage" film, but it cleverly allows the viewer to watch from the perspective of the main female character. The whole film is literally told through her computer screen. The audio is louder and the video is distorted, making scenes of implied violence more suspenseful. (Though the film is still plenty gory)

The characters in "Unfriended" are pretty much your typical horror movie teenage jackasses. But the film does a good job showing the characters' motivations. What the film does best is build suspense, and it keeps building till the finale, which falters a bit because of of a lazy final jump scare. (Damn it. You had a good thing going here.)

Sorry for the delay in the review, but its been a wild couple of weeks, but I seem to be getting back on track. Short review for a short movie. Long story short. Its good. Go see it. I'm saving my best material for "The Avengers: Age of Ultron". 3 stars. Rated R for Gory Violence and Immoral Use of the Internet.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop

 Image: Kevin James flees from that 0% on Rotten Tomatoes.


Alright! Who's the son of a BITCH who insisted on a "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" sequel? It wasn't me. It wasn't you. "Hey, Sure hope we get that Paul Blart sequel.." said no human being ever. 

"Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2" starts off like most bad sequels by cruelly destroying subplots from the first film. Starting with everyone's "favorite" fat imbecile "Paul Blart" (Kevin James) getting cruelly divorced from the cute girl from Glee, having his mother get cruelly run over by a milk truck, and with his daughter "Maya" (Raini Rodriguez) possibly going to college so that she may leave him to die alone....and cruelly. 

In a poor excuse to focus the film's plot in Las Vegas, Blart gets invited to a security officers convention (Wouldn't be surprised if that is a real thing) being held in a hotel/mall. But an evil stock villain (Neal McDonough) and his minions plot to steal all the priceless artwork from the hotel and only Paul Blart can save the day. God help us all. 

Yeah, This was completely necessary, "Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2" is not even as funny as the first! How the Hell do you not reach that already low bar. The most obvious is that its exactly the same movie all over again. Except this time it has a case of "Sequel-itis" meaning its bigger, more convoluted, and just because change locations doesn't mean its a different movie. (22 Jump Street made fun of this kind of movie brilliantly)

The Kevin James fat guy shtick is an insult to fat people everywhere. It was never that funny to begin with. And hes the one making fun of fat people. Not me. I'm not laughing. The performances are phoned in. Kevin James is as unoriginal and bland before. Only Neal McDonough manages to get a laugh here and there. Hes doing the best with nothing. 

"Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2" is uninspired and stupid. Relying on recycled jokes from the first movie that weren't even that funny to begin with. The script is by the book leading to very little surprises, and even less reasons to exist. "Paul Blart 2" doesn't really need to be here taking up perfectly good theater space. They be need to be saved for "The Avengers". 1 star. Rates PG. for Fat Shaming.

Monkey Kingdom

 Image: Who wants to see Macaque?


If there's anything that Disney has taught me with their "Disney Nature" films, it's that I don't ever actually have to go out into nature to experience it. I don't have to risk being mauled by Lions or Bears or Monkeys. It could happen.

Disney's "Monkey Kingdom" is narrated by Tina Fey (The only downside is I don't get to look at her. Hey, she's cute, O.K.?), and follows a group of Socialist Monkeys (Called "Toque Macaque's") who live in the ancient ruins of Sri Lanka.

"Maya" is the lowest macaque in the kingdom's hierarchy, who is struggling with her newborn son, "Kip". They must compete with other rival Monkeys, vicious predators, and the outside world, in order to survive, and even flourish by using their wits creativity.

Disney's Documentary footage is sheer perfection by now. "Monkey Kingdom" has astonishing footage, and I'm still amazed at how the filmmakers get so close to their subjects. The Monkeys are fascinating and adorable, and clearly smarter than most people I know. Tina Fey is sweet and funny, and her tone fits the film perfectly.

"Monkey Kingdom" doesn't quite reach the emotional heights as "Bears" (I really wasn't sure those Bears were gonna' make it!), but these little Monkeys are easy to embrace, and young audiences will eat these little critters up....I mean, they will grow as attached to them as I did.

They don't cost much, and they don't make much (C'mon, America!), but Disney is the best there is, so "Monkey Kingdom" was a cinch to be great. And Disney will get the new "Star Wars" right, too. You saw the trailer, right! 3 1/2 Stars. Rated G.

The Longest Ride

 Image: Do you feel lucky? Well, do you, PUNK!


Usually, a Nicholas Sparks movie is even worse than the experience of actually having to stand in line to purchase a ticket to see a Nicholas Sparks movie. But, as bad as "The Longest Ride" was to watch, my film going experience was more headache inducing and nauseating. Besides having no one of the female persuasion to see it with me, I was forced near to the front of the theater, because of all of the happy couples packed inside. I stepped out to clear my head (Due to the blurry and almost unidentifiable previews), and returned only to be forced even closer to the screen, making my headache completely debilitating, and genuinely pissing me off in the process....Oh, by the way, the movie sucked.

"The Longest Ride" stars Britt Robertson as "Sophia", a college student who is going to start a new career in New York. She meets "Luke", (Scott Eastwood) a hunky Bull Rider, who decides he would rather ride her than a 2000 pound drooling animal. Of course, they meet cute at a rodeo and fall in love.

They develop a bond with the usual Nicholas Sparks Old Guy, "Ira", (Alan Alda), after he is involved in a car crash. Sophia continues to visit Ira in the Hospital, where he tells Sophia about his life. Young Ira (Jack Huston) and his wife, "Ruth" (Oona Chaplin) had that special Nicholas Sparks kind of love. The kind that makes the young girls cry, and makes young guys squirm in their seats and beg for mercy.

Did I mention that this is a Nicholas Sparks film? You can guess where "The Longest Ride" is going, and it has all of the typical Nicholas Sparks trademarks, with a few exceptions. No ghosts here, and no unnecessary villains, so, there's two positives. However, there's still death, if you're into that kind of thing (Nicholas Sparks loves to kill people!) "The Longest Ride" is typically cloying, forcing you to "Feel" with it's schmaltzy heavy handedness.

"The Longest Ride" feels fake and manipulative, with nothing genuine about it. It overdoes it's own importance, to compensate for it's lazy writing, and the dialogue is cheap (Anyone could come up with this crap. I could come up with this crap!) Britt Robertson is really cute, but her character isn't really meant to give a real performance. And the same goes for Scott Eastwood (Not the cute part), though he seems to only be here for the young girls to swoon over. Alan Alda brings some class at least, though we know his character isn't long for this world.

"The Longest Ride" is way too long, yet somehow the film isn't nearly as atrocious as the other Sparks films I've seen. If you love his stuff, then by all means, shell out you're ten bucks for it. If (Like me) you think these films are cheesy schlock, than the fact that the film fails on it's own merits isn't going to help. Poorly made, badly written, and lacking structure, "The Longest Ride" is terrible, even without a horrible film going experience like I had. Next time, I will not suffer alone. I'm setting up an "E-Harmony" account right now as we speak. 1 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Suggestively Boring Content.

Furious 7

 Image: *Sigh*.... Life really sucks sometimes. R.I.P. Paul.


Who says Film Critics don't know how to lighten up? "Furious 7" has gotten great reviews, so....Maybe, the next time they put down a stupid action movie, it just might not be very good. And for a stupid action movie, "Furious 7" is as good as it gets. 

"Furious 7" is even more furious-er, because "Deckard Shaw" (Jason Statham) is slightly peeved because his brother (Luke Evans) is recovering from mild injuries, due to "Dom" (Vin Diesel) throwing him out of an airplane. Deckard Shaw swears vengeance, and somehow beats up "The Rock" (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), before killing their token Asian friend (Sung Kang).

Dom, "Brian" (Paul Walker), "Letty" (Michelle Rodriguez), "Roman" (Tyrese Gibson), and "Tej" (Ludacris) get prepared to track Deckard Shaw down, but they can't find him (Because he's some kind of Super Villain/Super Genius). Luckily, a Secret Agent Guy named "Mr. Nobody" (Kurt Russell) needs help tracking down a Hacker (Nathalie Emmanuel), who was kidnapped by a Terrorist (Djimon Hounsou).

The Hacker has a "Super Chip" that can track down anyone. And, though absolutely none of this plot makes any sense, this leads to the Furious 7 to confront Deckard Shaw, get their revenge, and spend $250 Million of their Movie Studios dough.

It's not the plot that matters, right? It's the sheer speed and furious adrenaline that "Furious" are waiting for. And, by that standard, "Furious 7" is the best of the franchise. It's still totally ridiculous. But it's extremely well made ridiculous. The action is bigger and better, and the humor and camaraderie feels genuine. The characters are all very likable by this point. (I want to hang out with these guys. As long as I have a Stuntman).

Obviously, it's hard to deal with the death of Paul Walker (For both the filmmakers and the audience), but "Furious 7" does a wonderful job of working around the tragedy. Walker and Vin Diesel always felt like great friends, and it makes "Furious 7" all the more poignant. The whole cast works great together, and Jason Statham makes a believable and menacing villain.

The "Furious" movies are all live action cartoons, but we all know and accept that, and everyone involved knows it, so no one really has a right to nitpick about any of it's obvious silliness. But it's the genuinely touching finale and tribute to Paul Walker that gets you at the end (My theater was crying. And, yeah, it got to me, too). It fit the tone of "Furious 7". Friendship and loyalty is what the franchise is really about. It isn't always necessary to be a great movie to be an important one. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For All That Furious Stuff. And Booty. Lots Of Booty.
 

Get Hard

 Image: Kevin Hart takes Will Ferrell to see what life is really like in Ferguson.


Attention! Anyone expecting me to participate in making any dirt jokes and sexual puns concerning the title of this film will be sorely disappointed. As hard, er, as difficult as it will be, it would be below the belt. Damn it! This going to be a long review......Damn it!

"Get Hard" stars Will Ferrell as "James King", a super rich dweeb who has everything we wish we all had. Money, fancy cars, a luxurious house, and Alison Brie. But everything comes crashing down as he is arrested and found guilty for fraud and embezzlement. James is given 30 days to get all of his affairs in order before he is taken to prison.He meets his car washer "Darnell" (Kevin Hart) and because he assumes most black people have done jail time, hires Darnell to help him...."Get Hard" so that no one rapes him in prison. 

Yes, "Get Hard" has a stupid premise and Kevin Hart hasn't quite won me over yet with his manic style of comedy. But I still felt like, at least from the previews a laugh out loud gut buster. It does have it's moments, but the the film relies way too much on the racial and gay stereotypical. Ease up on the gay jokes guys. (The Governor of Indiana supports this film.) 

Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart are throwing in literally everything they can into this and at times "Get Hard" rises to the occasion. (Not a penis joke) Still "Get Hard" really just wastes the talents of it's cast. Will Ferrell is enjoyably stupid as he usually is. Kevin Hart surprisingly works better as a straight man to the jokes. But in the end they just can't keep it up. (Not a penis joke) Alison Brie is jaw droppingly adorable, but her character goes exactly where you think its gonna go. With all of these dumb comedies the villains in "Get Hard" are unnecessary and unfunny leading to a predictable and unfulfilling climax. (Not a penis joke)

"Get Hard" really comes off the rails in the last act where it starts to drag and feels too long. (Not a penis joke) "Get Hard" is one of those movies that should be so much funnier than it is. I was looking for hilarious and inspired. Instead I got limp and spent. (And that was penis joke.) 2 stars. Rated R for Foul Language and Uncomfortable Homophobic Humor.
 

The Gunman

 Image: Sean Penn threatens yet another photographer.


Many trailers for films are misleading. I honestly thought "The Gunman was going to be a completely different film. With Sean Penn going up against Javier Bardem in an intelligent action packed thriller full of suspense and Idris Elba. Instead, "The Gunman" is an unintelligent film about a mopey old guy with big muscles complaining about his ex-girlfriend, who discovers he doesn't love killing as much as he thought he did. And not enough Idris Elba or Javier Bardem. 

"The Gunman" stars Sean Penn as "Jim Terrier", a Soldier, who, after assassinating an important politician in the Democratic Republic of Congo, leaves his girlfriend "Annie" (Jasmine Trinca), and just lets everything go to pot. 8 years later, some random people try to kill him, leading Jim to go on a hunt to find out who hired him. This leads him back to Annie, now married to an alcoholic Javier Bardem. Things go bad quickly, and now Jim and Annie are on the run from whoever is trying to kill them. 

Due to spoilers very early on, I can't describe much more of the plot. But judging by the box office, most of you don't give a damn, anyway. "The Gunman" is a dull, predictable, romantic drama shamefully posing as an action movie. The story is self important and is hardly exciting at all. The viewer will piece everything together really easily. There are hardly any twists or turns that are surprising or interesting. Though the script sure tries to make you believe that its important.

There is a lot of nonsensical politics that don't mesh well with it's action movie creed. Some of the action scenes are overshadowed by Sean Penn showing off his guns and six pack throughout. His presence just feels too in your face. (It's almost as if he wrote and produced this movie.......) His performance is serviceable enough, but It's just such an unlikable character. (Everything bad thing that happens is his fault anyway.) 

Sean Penn and Jasmine Trinca have no chemistry with each other, which is a huge problem considering she's his character's primary motivation throughout the entire movie. Idris Elba is criminally underused in his 10 minutes of screen time, but Javier Bardem shows his usual flair for flamboyant characters, and is the highlight of the movie. (Too bad he's gone after half an hour in.)

Everything about "The Gunman" is a waste. A waste of talent, waste of ammunition, and a waste of time. The finale is borderline ridiculous and feels like a completely different movie. (Plays more like a dumb "Arnold" movie than an intelligent action thriller.) Sean Penn, Idris Elba, and Javier Bardem in an action thriller sounds amazing. But "The Gunman" wouldn't know it. 1 star. Rated for Graphic Violence and Death by Bull.
 

The Divergent Series: Insurgent

 Image: Wow, they look SO contractually obligated.


Everyone knows that the "Divergent" series was supposed to be a "Hunger Games" wannabe. With "Insurgent", it has become it's own franchise, separating itself from just being a "Hunger Games" clone. And it has now found a way to suck on it's own merits.

"The Divergent Series: Insurgent" returns Shailene Woodley as "Tris", who is on the run from the "Dauntless Faction", led by "Jeanine" (Kate Winslet). Tris, her boyfriend, "Four" (Theo James), her brother, "Caleb" (Ansel James), and the guy who clearly has better things to do than be in this movie (Miles Teller) are trying to develop a plan to stop the evil Jeanine from taking over their bleak, dystopian world.

Meanwhile, Jeanine has a box that has something important inside of it, that only a "Divergent" can open, so she sends her goons out to find the lucky Divergent to "Volunteer". And take a wild guess who that Divergent is?

Like the first "Divergent" film, "Insurgent" suffers from way too much plot, story, and excess characters. Seriously, how am I supposed to remember everything these films seem to want me to remember, let alone care about it, or the characters? "Insurgent" is a confused mess, and, at times, seemingly pointless. Characters new and old appear and disappear, leading to a finale that is way too loud, and way too reliant on special effects.

God bless her, Shailene Woodley is trying her heart out to make "Insurgent" watchable, but the rest of the cast either has no logical reason to be here, or look like they would rather be anywhere else but here (I'm talking to you, Miles Teller!) Theo James was good, and had real chemistry with Woodley in the first film, but he is wasted along with the countless other fine actors crammed into it (Kate Winslet? Octavia Spencer? Ashley Judd? Naomi Watts? How do you waste them?) Winslet is lovely, but her character has no villainous presence or intimidation.

The special effects are impressive, but the film relies on them too heavily to tell the story, and the script is too weak to compensate. But the biggest problem is that there is still two more damn movies to go, and there's not nearly enough to "Insurgent" to fulfill or demand such a commitment. "Divergent/Insurgent" will never be in the league as "The Hunger Games", no matter how badly it tries to convince itself. It's too late to convince me now. 1 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Violence And Wasting Talent.

Run All Night

 Image: "You know, after my eighth drink, you look kind of good".


If James Eagan could decide the Box office....Do I dare to even dream? "Birdman" and "Boyhood" would have been mainstream hits. Adam Sandler and Michael Bay wouldn't have careers. Kevin James would be back on television where he belongs. And "Run All Night" would have been a close second to "Cinderella" last weekend.

"Run All Night" stars Liam Neeson as "Jimmy Conlon", a retired Hit Man, who had worked for Crime Boss (And BFF) "Shawn Maguire" (Ed Harris). When Jimmy's son "Mike" (Joel Kinnaman) witnesses a murder by Shawn's son "Danny" (Boyd Holbrook), Danny decides he must try to silence Mike before he squeals, but is killed by Jimmy before he succeeds.

Shawn is now looking for revenge, telling Jimmy that he intends to kill Mike, and let him suffer first, so that Jimmy can watch him die. Now that the friendship is over, Jimmy and Mike must survive the night, avoiding henchman, corrupt Cops, not Corrupt Cops, and "Thug Rapper" Common.

It's a shame "Run All Night" didn't make much dent at the Box office, because It's yet another effective Liam Neeson thriller (You went to see "Taken 3" instead of this?). The film is intense and exciting, taking place in a condensed 16 hour time frame, and has very little down time. The action scenes are very original, and the setting appropriately gritty and dark.

Liam Neeson and Ed Harris are two of the best actors there are, and they are truly great in "Run all Night" (Their big scene in the restaurant is as good as expected). Joel Kinnaman gets to show a lot more range here than he could as "Robocop", Vincent D'Onofrio (As the only good Cop in the film) is good, and Common makes for a very cold blooded and scary Hit Man.

Nick Nolte shows up unexpectedly for an exposition scene that feels rushed and out of place. It stops the drama right in it's tracks, though It's really my only major complaint of the film. "Run All Night" is a taut thriller that leads to an edge of your seat climax. So what if you missed it on it's opening weekend? I know you were waiting for my review. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Violence, Language, And Common Misperceptions.

Cinderella

 Image: Does this dress make my butt look big?


Does anyone really need me to explain the story of "Cinderella"? I mean, I'm going to do it anyway, but it's not really necessary.

For those of you with terrible parents, here's the basic idea. "Ella" (Lily James) has moved in with her evil Stepsisters (Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera), and her wicked Stepmother (Cate Blanchett, who I hear is a fine actress). They won't let her go to the ball, but Ella gets some help from her Fairy Godmaother (Helena Bonham Carter), who makes Ella a Princess for a day. At the Royal Ball, she sees her Prince (Richard Madden), a guy with a serious foot fetish. She forgets her slipper, he fondles some feet, and they live happily ever after.

You could say that Disney has taken some liberties with this new version. In the new "Cinderella", they have already met once, the Grand Duke (Stellan Skarsgard) is a Dick, the mice don't talk, and both the wicked Stepmother and the Fairy Godmother are kind of hot.

Yet Disney still keeps the more traditional parts of the story, and again gets the feel of it just right. "Cinderella" looks phenomenal, as Director Kenneth Branagh shows tremendous visual flair. The film looks like a painting, with so much color, it practically sparkles. (Seeing it in IMAX enhances it even more).

The story is by the book, but "Cinderella" is a timeless story, and the film's simplicity works in it's favor. Lily James is lovely, and shows real star power. Richard Madden could have been just another bland Prince, but they show good chemistry. Cate Blanchett is a given, and completely steals the show, while Helena Bonham Carter makes a very fetching Fairy Godmother.

"Cinderella" isn't surprising in the least, but it clearly still resonates with young girls (My 12 year old sister thoroughly enjoyed it). And the "Frozen" short at the start of the movie is cute, and beautifully animated. There will never be anything wrong with a good fairytale, especially one with great morals about kindness, forgiveness and optimism. It's meant to make even the most hardened, cynical, sexy and incredibly single Film Critic smile. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG For Foot Fondling.

Chappie

 Image: Chappie is one crazy mofo. He had to pop a cop, cuz he didn't get his props in Oaktown.


Happy Anniversary to Me! Time has been going by so quickly, I hadn't noticed its been 5 years since I began reviewing movies for this website. (Also its "International Women's Day". Why can't we celebrate both?) I would like to thank my loyal readers who have put up with me for the last 5 years. My patience will be rewarded.....When I startgetting payed for this. 

In "Chappie", It's the year 2016, and South Africa's crime rate will drop drastically due to the new robot police force called "Scouts". The designer of the robots, "Deon" (Dev Patel) wishes to create a robot that can think and feel. He is kidnapped by a pair of rappers.....er...Gangsters (Ninja and Yolandi Visser), who have him build the robot for their own use.

They name the robot "Chappie" (Sharlto Copley), and intend to use him to pull off a heist to make them lots of moolah. Chappie however is pretty much just a child and needs to be taught. Meanwhile, Deon's co-worker "Vincent" (Hugh Jackman, and his mullet of evil), is looking for an excuse to unleash his new massive militarized robot to replace the Scouts, intending to find and destroy Chappie and his lovable gangster, drug dealing friends. 

Be to honest, I thought "Chappie" would of been a bit more interesting than it ended up being. Much of the potential is still there, but the story feels inconsistent, and some the characters aren't as interesting (or as likable) as they should be. Chappie himself is great, and well played by Sharlto Copley through motion capture. He is a lovable character, surrounded by other characters you really don't want to spend any time with. 

Dev Patel does fine, as does the predictably good Hugh Jackman (Despite the fact his character is as generic as you can get.). But Sigourney Weaver (As head of the robot making company) is criminally underused. The rest of the cast ranges from way too over the top to just completely bland. 

The special effects in "Chappie" are stunning, blending seamlessly into the world Director Neil Blomkamp has created. The score by Hans Zimmer is of course great, and the action scenes are exciting enough. "Chappie" gave us a robot to care about, but no human characters to give a damn about. Maybe that was the point. (Humanity is evil, Blah Blah).

The ending of "Chappie" makes this mixed message even more confusing, and a bit heavy handed. And honestly, just plain stupid. "Chappie" is the perfect example of a mixed bag. It's too bad, because there are many things that really work here. Chappie himself deserves better. And only a professional veteran film critic would know that. 2 1/2 stars. Rated R for Extreme Violence, Extreme Language, And Extreme Mullets.

Unfinished Business

 Image: "Gotham's" version of Anarky is alot lamer than I thought he would be. 


What the Hell, Vince Vaughn? I mean, I never really was much of a fan of his movies in the first place. But for a while he seemed pretty edgy and funny (At times). Then he decided to go all conservative (and watered down) on us. Thanks Vince, but we don't need life lessons and a moral to a movie about donating your sperm, or how great "Google" is. Kind of out of place. Sorry, but "The Internship" still pisses me off. 

"Unfinished Business" stars Vince Vaughn as "Dan", who, after getting fired from his old job, decides to start up his own company. Recruiting the token Old Fart (Tom Wilkinson) and their mentally challenged friend (Dave Franco), they go on a business trip to Europe. They need to close some deal or whatever with a business guy (James Mardsen) who does some kind of business I don't have any interest in understanding. To complicate things, Dan's previous boss (Sienna Miller) is also there, intending to close the deal thingy for herself.

Look, I can tell you are already bored and confused just reading my explanation for this movie. So I will just stop there. "Unfinished Business" is an uninteresting comedy, done in by the fact it is hardly funny at all. It tries to be more serious than it should be by forcing down our throat a feeling of importance. When in reality it is just an uninspired idea. Its not near as funny to be taken as a comedy and not responsible or competent enough to be taken seriously as anything else. 

At least the main cast of "Unfinished Business" means well. Vince Vaughn can still be a funny guy and has his moments. Tom Wilkinson is a great actor, so I gave him a pass since he seems to be having fun. (Never thought I would see him smoking pot on screen.) Dave Franco has the funniest lines in the movie, but his character is such an idiot, Its hard to take him seriously. Sienna Miller, James Mardsen, and Nick Frost (As Mardsen's assistant) are all completely wasted. 

"Unfinished Business" is just like business itself, It's just not interesting. Does anybody think the business world is funny enough to be worth an hour and a half or so your time? I don't even know what the supposed big deal is all about, anyway. Sure they mention what it is, but its not explained enough to make you care. 
"Unfinished Business" just feels like yet another watered down Vince Vaughn movie. The kind he has been making for the last 10 years or so. Sorry, Vince. Nothing personal. Just business.1 1/2 stars. Rated R for Drug Use, Language, and For Taking Advantage Of The Mentally Challenged.

Focus

 Image: "So, Margot. Would you like to see my "Hancock"?


"Focus" is really two movies. The first half, then the second half. I really liked the first movie. The sequel, not so much.

"Focus" stars Will Smith as "Nicky", a Con Man who becomes involved with "Jess" (Margot Robbie), a smoking hot young woman who wants to learn the tricks of the trade. Nick trains her in the ways of the force, er, con, but soon feels that they are getting to close to each other. So, like a complete and utter idiot, he breaks things off with her.

Three years later, Nicky is working a con for a Billionaire Race Car Owner (Rodrigo Santoro), when he finds that Jess is involved somehow with the rich dude. This complicates things for Nicky, who once again begins to lose his focus.

The first half of "Focus" is strong and clever. It's premise is intriguing, and the script does a good job of showing how a con works. The main characters are interesting, with Will Smith and Margot Robbie giving fine performances. "Focus" had me looking forward to how it would all play out.

And then the second half "Focus" begins, and the film quickly loses steam . The film starts trying to be more clever than it needs to be, leading to predictable plot points as it twists and turns towards the climax. In the end, it becomes nothing that we haven't all seen before.

It's nice to see Will Smith back in a film where he's not playing Satan, Margot Robbie is way more than just stunningly beautiful, and they have decent chemistry together. Rodrigo Santoro doesn't leave much of an impression, but B.D. Wong (As an overly excitable millionaire) nearly steals the movie in his only scene.

Everything about "Focus" looks good, and it has moments of genuine cleverness, but sets it's bar too high. At least now Will Smith can put his focus toward that supposed "Men in Black/ 21 Jump Street" crossover. No, seriously! 2 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Violence, Language, And For A Glimpse Of Margot's Robbie.

McFarland, USA

 Image: "Look, even that guy runs faster than Kevin Costner!"


It's kind of a boring time of year for movies. So....how about them Oscars? Did you see Neil Patrick Harris's "Thang"? (Again? Remember, in "Gone Girl"?) Nothing too surprising, except for "Birdman" winning Best picture. I thought it should have been "Boyhood", but I'm still happy with it. I agreed with Julianne Moore, Patricia Arquette, and J.K. Simmons winning, but leaned toward Michael Keaton. Still, everyone who was nominated deserved it. Lady Gaga was surprisingly appropriate. And John Travolta was completely inappropriate.

Anyway, "McFarland USA" is another patented Disney fact-based story, and another patented Kevin Costner sports movie, all rolled into one. Costner plays Jim White, a former High School Football Coach, who had been fired fromhis previous job. He and his family head to California, where he gets hired as a Coach a small High School.

Jim notices that the mostly Latino students are pretty damn fast, so he gathers a group of students (Carlos Pratts, Johnny Ortiz, Hector Duran, Sergio Avelar, Michael Aguero, Rafael Martinez, and Ramiro Rodriguez) and creates a championship winning Cross-Dressing team. I mean, Cross-Country.

Disney wins again. "McFarland USA" is that standard, feel-good story that they do so well. The inspirational story is very well told, and the characters are all incredibly likable. It's an easy film to root for, with a balanced script that doesn't pander to schmaltzier instincts.
Kevin Costner is on a roll, lately, giving yet another excellent performance. The talented young actors match him, help create a simple, yet deep film. "McFarland USA" has great humor, and genuine emotion, with a nice pace and beautiful cinematography.

Disney Films can be...ok......Are, predictable, but be glad they don't mess with the formula. "McFarland USA" is a winning formula that doesn't need the typical Hollywood tweak. Disney should keep the Hollywood machine as far away as possible. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG For Dramatic Disney Situations.

The Duff

 Image: "So, you wanna' go see '50 Shades of Grey?'"


"The Duff" is continuing a recent Hollywood trend. Instead of making films geared toward young people partying and celebrating immature behavior, they instead are making films that treat their subjects with complexity and maturity. "The Duff" is like that. It's like "The Perks of Being a Wallflower", without the Mental Illness. Or, "The Fault in our Stars", minus the Cancer.

"The Duff" (It's not about the beer, from "The Simpsons") stars Mae Whitman as "Bianca", a teenager who discovers that she has been labeled as a "Duff" (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) in her group of friends. Bianca decides to change everyone's perception, with the help of her neighbor, "Wesley" (Robbie Amell). Bianca tries to get the attention of a guy she likes, but discovers that your High School status means nothing in the real world, and that inner beauty is the only beauty worth having (Yes, I am that deep.) 

"The Duff" hits the same notes as your typical teen film, but it has a sweet and smart script, and terrific performances that make it worthwhile. The humor is mostly intelligent, with Mae Whitman (Who everyone has seen, or heard in something) showing great personalty and potential. She has real chemistry with Robbie Amell, who is very funny as well.

The supporting cast are top notch, with Allison Janney (As Bianca's Mom), Romany Malco (As the paranoid Principal), and, surprisingly, Ken Jeong (As Bianca's Teacher) giving "The Duff" extra depth. Bella Thorne, however, gets the thankless role of the evil, popular girl.

Other secondary characters are underwritten, and the story doesn't offer any real surprises, but "The Duff" is well made and well-intentioned. It's message has been told before, but it clearly still resonates with many young girls who deal with the same kind of pressures. God help anyone who ever treats my sister that way....Because I'll kill you. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Teenage Content And Hormones.

Fifty Shades of Grey

Image: "I promise. They're just blisters."


II would first like to thank my friends "Kendra the Great" and "Nicole the Magnificent" for making sure I didn't have to face the embarrassment of having to see "Fifty Shades of Grey" by myself. The thought of having to go to the ticket counter guy, alone, and say, "1 ticket for "Fifty Shades of Grey", please" was just unbearable.

Just for those of you who don't know, don't have Internet, or don't read kinky books, "50 Shades of Grey" is about a shy young girl, named "Anastasia Steel" (Dakota Johnson), who, as a favor to a friend, agrees to interview a rich Millionaire named "Christian Grey" (Jaime Dornan), for her friend's College Newspaper.

Ana immediately intrigued by Christian. What with his come hither eyes, and penis and money. He explains to her that he's a really kinky boy. The kind you don't take home to mother. She is intrigued, finally agrees to sign his contract, laying out the ground rules for their good old fashioned, wholesome fun. What with the spanking and all. Mostly, though, it's 2 hours of your typical relationship problems, with two people who aren't compatible at all.

Really, ladies? THIS is the "World Wide Phenomenon"! You broke box office pre-sale records for this! Guys won't even do that for "The Hobbit" or the new "Star Wars" movie!!!! For This!!!! 

As far as all of the supposed dirty, naughty sex stuff, "Fifty Shades of Grey" doesn't really offer that much of it. Instead, they play it maybe even a bit too safe. At least then the film would have shown some balls (Literally) Instead, we get maybe ten minutes of mild bondage, surrounded by almost two hours of painful dialogue.

I kind of feel bad for the two leads of "Fifty Shades of Grey". I mean, this is their big break. Like "Harry Potter", only with Harry handcuffing Hermoine to the bed, and spanking her bare ass. Dakota Johnson is trying her heart out, but the awful script holds her act. But it looks like Jaime Dornan looks like he'd rather be in a real porno. At least he'd have had a little more fun in the porno.

The worst thing about "Fifty Shades of Grey" is the character of Christian Grey himself. The guy's a total creep, constantly contradicting himself in every scene. The story claims to make him complex, but it's really just sh*tty writing. Many girls seem to find him irresistible. I think he's just a douche.

To me, "Fifty Shades of Grey" sends woman mixed messages. I sure as Hell don't know what to make of it all. But I guess I wasn't the intended audience. I'm just not a LONELY, unfulfilled, horny woman with terrible choices in men. 1/2 A Star. Rated R Because It's "Fifty Shades of Grey"

Kingsman: The Secret service

 Image: Colin Firth ruins yet another religious revival.


Thank God January is over! Yet another beginning of the movie year, where we have to scrape off the crap off of our shoes that Hollywood has plopped down for us. Now things start to get interesting.

Based on a Comic Book Series, "Kingsman: The Secret Service" is about "Eggsy", (Taron Egerton), a troubled young British kid. He is recruited by "Harry a.k.a. Galahad" (Colin Firth), a member of a secret spy group, called "Kingsman". "Kingsman" is led by "Arthur" (Michael Caine), who puts Eggsy through a series of initiations to test if he is worthy to be a Kingsman.

Meanwhile, a demented technology king named "Valentine" (Samuel L. Jackson) has a crazy plan that involves kidnapping or recruiting anyone in the world with fame, power or influence, and using them to destroy the world. With the fate of the world in their hands, only Kingsman can stop Valentine's dastardly plan.

"Kingsman" really comes at you out of nowhere, and never lets up. It's a non-stop wild combination of action, humor and violence .The violence at least is extremely well choreographed, and it's dark (And a bit twisted) sense of humor keeps it from feeling too graphic. The action sequences are fantastic, and incredibly inventive, with one particular fight scene in a Church downright memorable.

Colin Firth is a bad-ass (Who knew!) He maintains his charm and wit, all while beating the crap out of the bad guys. Taron Egerton is an appealing young lead, Sir Michael Caine is perfect again in a small role, and Mark Strong (As Eggsy's Trainer) is great (And he finally gets to have some fun for a change).
Sofia Boutella (As Valentine's bloodthirsty henchwoman) is cute and deadly, and Samuel L "Motha-F*ckin" Jackson is Motha-F*ckin hilarious as the whacked out villain (It fact, it may be my favorite role of his).

Now realize, "Kingsman" is insane, and not for everybody. It gets crazier as it hurdles toward a finale that is so BONKERS, it's beyond impossible to explain. But it's funny and smart enough to find the right balance between it's genuinely dramatic and moving moments, and total and complete insanity. "Kingsman" is just fun. And demented. But mostly fun. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Graphic Language, Violence....The Works!

Seventh Son

 Image: "Hand me my Oscar, please."


I'm going to try not to talk about how my Grandma "Babysat" Jeff Bridges a couple of times. Because after this review, I'm not sure I wan't Jeff Bridges to know who I am, or anything about me.

"Seventh Son" stars Bridges as "Master Gregory", the last of an Order of Knights, who had been imprisoning "Mother Malkin", (Julianne Moore), a hot Witch (Or, W.I.L.F.) who escapes and kills Gregory's Apprentice (Kit Harrington).

Gregory picks a new Apprentice , "Tom" (Ben Ward). Tom is the "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son", which sounds really, really important (Not that the film explains it). Tom must confront Mother Malkin and her Army of Monster Guys (Led by Djimon Hounsou), and put an end to her plot to take over whatever the Hell world they're in.

Painfully dull, "Seventh Son" had it's release moved back since last January (Think about it. This wasn't even good enough for January!) It's incredibly boring, and though there's a plot, I guess, the film feels like there's no real story. There's a beginning and an end, with no real middle to it.

The dialogue in "Seventh Son" is generic, and it's not helped by some surprisingly embarrassing performances from two usually great actors. I don't know what Jeff Bridges was going for here, with his ridiculous voice and accent, and Julianne Moore doesn't fare any better (Though she gets a pass for looking great). Ben Barnes is bland, as is his forced relationship with a young Witch (Alicia Vikander). And Djimon Hounsou rivals Eddie Redmayne in "Jupiter Ascending" for most ridiculous villain of 2015.

The scenery is nice, and the effects are decent (At times), but "Seventh Son" has no character development, and is too loud and in your face to be able to take any of it in. And too preposterous. And too by the book. And too much everything. Even too much Jeff Bridges. 1 Star. Rated PG-13 For Monster Violence, And 'Cuz I Couldn't Understand A Word Jeff Bridges Said.

Jupiter Ascending

 Image: Shut up Meg. 


I've always felt that if you are going to fail at something, at least fail with some style. If you're the Wachowskis, and you fail, then you go down in a damn the torpedoes, fire in the hole, apocalyptic blaze of glory.

"Jupiter Ascending" is about....Well, It's interesting. "Jupiter" (Mila Kunis) is a pretty little Earthling, who cleans toilets for a living (And is clearly the hottest toilet bowl cleaner in recent memory). She is attacked by alien assassins, but is rescued by "Magic Mike/Caine" (Channing Tatum), who explains to her that she is the reincarnation of the Queen of a rich Alien dynasty, called "The House of Abrasax".

Her descendants have been at war with one another for generations, fighting over Earth as their inheritance. The eldest,"Balem" (Eddie Redmayne) wants her dead, having sent the assassins after Jupiter. Caine takes Jupiter into the Galaxy, to reclaim her title, and save Earth from destruction.

The look of "Jupiter Ascending" is breathtakingly beautiful (And I'm not just talking about Mila Kunis). The cinematography is gorgeous, and the Directing Wachowski Brother...oops....I mean Brother/Sister team has real visual flair, and have created some cool looking creatures in their fantasy world (I really liked the Winged Lizard Monster. Pretty sweet).

None of this quite save "Jupiter" from being an overall weak movie. The script is just too silly to be taken seriously, and way more convoluted for it's own good. The characters are a bit baffling, and there are just too many of them, especially when most of them aren't remotely interesting. A film this big needs characters that are memorable, and, other than that Winged Lizard Monster (Voiced by Ariyon Bakare), that's pretty much it.

Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum are trying, but they don't have real characters to play with here (At least Kunis is drop dead gorgeous). Sean Bean (As Caine's old partner) is underused, and, though he just received an "Eagan Movie Award" nomination for the way better "The Theory of Everything", Eddie Redmayne is spectacularly bad. Like the Wachowskis, he believes in going down in flames. In fact, all of the main villains here are flat out weak.

"Jupiter Ascending" does have some good action scenes, and the final battle looks cool, but this film needs much more than the occasional interesting action sequence. The entire film should have been re-edited. There's potential in "Jupiter", but not enough substance. For $160 Million, that's a pretty expensive noble failure. 2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Sci-Fi Violence And For Eddie Redmayne's Hissing And Screeching Every Line.

The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water

 Image: "There. I just signed my last will and testament. BAA BAA BAABA!"


I always knew Spongebob was weird. But "The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water" is trippin' balls, man! That little, lovable Sponge has always been a little on the kooky side, and just edgy enough for even adults to embrace. So this film is for anyone who likes their their movies a bit on the bonkers side.

In "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water", the town of Bikini Bottom sure loves them some delicious Krabby Patties, and "Spongebob" (Tom Kenny) sure loves to cook them. But "Plankton" (Mr. Lawrence) is up to his old tricks again, trying to steal the Krabby Patty formula from "Mr. Krabs" (Clancy Brown).

Somehow, a Pirate (Antonio Banderas) is able to steal the formula first, leading to pretty much the apocalypse in Bikini Bottom. So Spongebob and Plankton must team up to get the formula back, and bring peace back to their world. (And there's so much more I haven't mentioned, like the magical time traveling Dolphin, etc.)

Like so many others my age, I grew up with, and love Spongebob (Though the last several years of the T.V. show have been pretty weak). So I'm perfectly willing to go along with a little bit of insanity from Spongebob, Mr. Krabs, Plankton, Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke), Sandy (Carolyn Lawrence), and Squidward (Roger Bumpass). But "Sponge Out of Water" is trippin' on acid crazy.

There are psychedelic sequences galore, with random bits and jokes thrown about. And that magical time traveling Dolphin I mentioned before. "Sponge Out of Water" may not work for anyone who never "Got" Spongebob before. It seems more like a present for those of us who have stuck with him for so long.

I'm sure many fans were worried about the 3-D CGI Spongebob, but that's only for the last third of "Sponge Out of Water". Most of the film is in the traditional 2-D animation, which is so rare these days, that it's something we should hold on to as long as possible (We'll miss it when it's gone). The animation here is very well done, and looks like it belongs in theaters.

Sponge Bob has always had classic voice work, so it's great to hear Tom Kenny, Clancy Brown, Bill Fagerbakke, Roger Bumpass, Carolyn Lawrence and Mr. Lawrence (Yes, that's MR. Lawrence to us) on the big screen. And Antonio Banderas is really into the zany spirit of things, and looks genuinely happy to be a part of this.

No, "The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water" doesn't make any sense. But neither did the "Graveyard Shift" episode. Or "Sailor Mouth". And "Pizza Delivery". Or "Chocolate With Nuts". So even though It's not up to par with "The Sponge Bob Square Pants Movie" from ten years ago (Feeling Old?), it's still a good time for family movie night. And for those of us unwilling to let go of our childhood just yet.....So, sing with me now! "A Krusty Krab Pizza, Is a Pizza For You and Me!" 3 Stars. Rated PG For Crude Humor, And For Giving You The Sensation Of Being High.

The Loft

 Image: "Why do I always get blamed for every dead Hooker in the bed?"


Did you know "The Loft" was filmed about 3 1/2 years ago? I was still in High School. Johnny Depp was still bankable. Obama was still a Muslim. Tom Brady's balls were still inflated. 3 1/2 years is never a good sign to wait for a movie.

"The Loft" is about five randy, horny, but married friends (Karl Urban, James Marsden, Wentworth Miller, Eric Stonestreet, and Matthias Schoenaerts), who are renting a "Loft" together, so they can have unprotected sex with as many girls as they can.

One morning, they all arrive to find a dead girl in the bed (There's only one bed?! Please tell me they cleaned the sheets!) Since they're the only ones with keys, they figure that even though all of them are total douche bags, only one of them must be the murderer. The rest of the film tries to explain itself through flashbacks. To no avail.

"The Loft" should have stayed locked up at the Movie Studio. Unnecessarily complicated, it's trying way to hard to be a "Hitchcock" like thriller. It doesn't have the confidence to pull it off, especially when the mystery itself isn't very interesting. "The Loft" only gets stupider the more it unravels. The big twist is dumb, and gets dumber and dumber as the secrets are revealed. By the end, the film makes absolutely no sense (I may watch it again sometime, just to reaffirm how little sense it makes).

With the exception of Karl Urban, the acting is pretty atrocious (Especially the poor, young actresses). But the biggest problem with "The Loft" is it's terrible script, with cheesy and over dramatic dialogue, most of which is delivered poorly. "The Loft" is painful to listen to.

"The Loft" is a trashy movie that doesn't know it's trashy. Consider this it's eviction notice. 1/2 Star. Rated R For Debauchery, Sexual Content, And For Showing Karl Urban's Everything.

Project Almanac 

 Image: " This looks nothing like a Hot Tub Time Machine!"

I think "Final Footage" has run it's course. There's nothing unique about it anymore. And, with "Project Almanac", it actually detracts from the movie.

"Project Almanac" follows "David" (Johhny Weston), his sister, "Christina" (Virginia Gardner), and their friends, "Adam", (Adam Evangelista), "Quinn" (Sam Lerner), and "Jessie" (Sofia Black D'Ella). They find a video recording of him as a 7 year old, where he literally sees his current self in it.

They figure out that David's late Dad was developing a time machine for the military, but that the machine was never completed. They find the time machine blueprints, and, being super nerd genius types, they decide to build their own device. (And use it to do what I would do if I could go back in time. Just dick around with it.) But every decision ends up causing consequences that may be irreversible.

Surprisingly, "Project Almanac" has some positive things going for it. The premise is clever, the characters use the time machine in ways that we would all be tempted to do, and the plot has some intelligence to it. The young actors are actually very good, but "Almanac" is limited badly by it's found footage structure (Why are they filming absolutely everything they're doing? And who the Hell is holding the camera in some scenes?)

"Project Almanac" has the right idea going for it, but every scene ends with unfilled potential, strictly due to the fact of this unnatural idea of a hand-held camera following them everywhere they go back and forth through time. So instead of me being genuinely curious about the adventure, I ended up getting completely taken out of the story. And incredibly dizzy.

There are some great ideas here, but the found footage genre should be put to rest. There's nothing left to do with it, so they'll have to come up with some other gimmick. Because I won't be so generous next time. Don't push me, Hollywood. You have no idea what I'm capable of. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Young People Reveling In Reckless And Unacceptable Behavior.
 

Strange Magic

 Image: "My God! "Mortdecai" is even worse than we thought".


"LucasFilm" hasn't made any movies in I don't know how long. They've had all this time, and all that talent. And all that money. And the best they can come up with is "Strange Magic"?

Let me try to summarize the "Strange Magic" plot. There's two kingdoms. One is with pretty, with Fairies and Elves. The other is a dark forest, with Goblins and other Monsters. "Marianne" (Evan Rachel Wood) is a Fairy Princesses, who is set to marry her Prince (Sam Palladio). But the Prince is a two timing, no good man, and only wants one thing from a girl! Marianne decides that she hates love, and men. Rough Hairy Beasts! And Hands!

"Sunny" the Elf (Elijah Kelly) is in love with Marianne's sister, "Dawn" (Meredith Anne Bull), and is convinced by Marianne's ex to find the "Sugar Plum Fairy" (Kristin Chenoweth). She can make love potions (Bill Cosby got some), but is being held captive by "Bog King" (Alan Cumming), who also hates love, and everything pretty.

Sunny steals the love potion, Bog King tracks him down, kidnaps Dawn (Who has fallen in love with him, due to the love potion). Marianne goes to save her, gets to know Bog King, and God help me, it's turned into "Beauty and the Beast", without the charm or competence.

You get all that? I'm going to have a quiz after this! "Strange Magic" is just too much plot for a kids movie (And there's even more to it, if I weren't so tired). And none of it's interesting or memorable. The film is incredibly annoying early, getting only slightly better as it goes on. Once it stops to take a breath, "Strange Magic" becomes a little watchable.

At least "LucasFilm" made some beautiful animation (Though they may have cheaped out on the Fairies and Elves). The dark forest creatures have some unique designs, and the overall look of "Strange Magic" is fine. In fact, if the characters hadn't talked, or sang, it may have worked.

The music feels unnecessary, and does nothing but stop "Strange Magic" dead in it's tracks. The voice work is surprisingly weak, save for Alan Cumming (Who brings much needed theatricality), Kristin Chenoweth and Peter Stormare (As Bog King's henchman).

"Strange Magic" is a harmless kids film, but save your money and take them to "Paddington", a movie so much smarter and better in every way. Family movies are for everyone, but "Magic" is just for the little kids. I love and respect George Lucas too much to bash him, but we have to expect a little more from the guys who gave us "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones". 1 1/2 Stars. Rated PG For Crude Humor And Rape Potions.

The Boy Next Door

 Image: "Hey baby, you wanna' be my next American Idol?"


On the night of January 23rd, 2015, a film reviewer suffered through something so traumatic, so tortuous, that after fulfilling his obligations to his public, he suffered a mental meltdown, vowing never again to put himself through such agony.....And that was just the first movie of the day.

"The Boy Next Door" stars Jennifer Lopez as the hottest teacher in the history of the world. She has left her cheatin' husband (John Corbett), and is longing to be touched, in that special way that only a 27 year old but pretending to be a 20 year old terrible actor (Ryan Guzman) can do it.

Long story short, he does touch her. Repeatedly. Several times, in a heated, rhythmic motion. But he's also a deranged psychopath, who doesn't take kindly to her breaking things off. He then begins to make her life (And ours) unbearable.

"The Boy Next Door" is nothing more than a "Lifetime" movie, with a little nudity added to it (And it's mostly not even Jennifer Lopez.) 

Director Rob Cohen has butchered yet another film. poorly shot and poorly edited, "The Boy Next Door" is one of the most poorly made films in recent memory (The guy's been doing this for a while. You'd think he'd get the hang of this.)

The film itself is silly, but not fun enough to be a guilty pleasure. The characters act idiotically, and in ways that contradict their dialogue. Jennifer Lopez is beautiful, but cast in an unbelievable role. But she fares way better than Ryan Guzman, who is so bad, it's more embarrassing than laughable.

The script is corny and obnoxious, with a bizarre and abrupt ending that just stops 30 seconds after the finale. "The Boy Next Door" is pointless, other than to see Jennifer Lopez in steamy, suggestive scenes. And strangely, that's not even worth it. 0 Stars. Rated R For Sexual Stuff.

Mortdecai

 Image: Johnny "What the Hell is wrong with you, lately" Depp.


When I saw the previews of "Mortdecai", I figured this was either going to be outrageously hilarious, or a complete and utter train wreck. It turned out to be neither. Because "Mortdecai" is worse than a train wreck. It's a train wreck full of Nuns, crashing into a building full of Orphans and Puppies.

"Mortdecai" is played by Johnny "Seriously, what the Hell is wrong with you, lately" Depp. Mortdecai is a supposedly debonair Art Dealer, who is hired by an Inspector (Ewan McGregor-Kenobi) to find a priceless painting, which has a bank code inside worth millions.

Mortdacai, and his Manservant (Paul Bettany), go on incredibly wacky and unfunny adventures, while Mortdecai's Wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) does most of the real investigating. This leads to wild and convoluted plot points, and somehow make an hour and forty five minutes seem like an eternity.

"Mortdecai" is not funny. If anything, it's hilariously unfunny. The film viciously attacks comedy like few others before, stabbing it in the heart, head and groin, and make you question if you'll ever laugh again (Seriously, my audience didn't laugh once). You can literally see, about halfway through, everyone involved just give up (I hope they had to return their paychecks. I want a refund.)

Johnny Depp is astonishingly annoying as "Mortdecai". I, along with the rest of the world, am beginning to question his judgement, sanity, or drug use. Either way, get some help, dude! The rest of the usually talented cast must have stopped caring at some point. "Mortdecai" isn't just unfunny, it's nonsensical. The movie is all over the place, with no direction and little structure, almost like a demented cartoon at times, and set in the "Real World" at others.

The end of "Mortdecai" comes crashing down on itself, leading to one of the worst, and most baffling finales I've ever seen. Too much plot, too many characters, too much mugging at the screen. And no comedy. It's dead. "Mortdecai" killed it. And f*cked it's corpse. 0 Stars. Rated R For Bad Language And For Making Me Nauseous At The Sight Of Mustaches.

Blackhat

 Image: Chris Hemsworth has to threaten us to go see "Blackhat".


Well, it didn't take long to get our first flop of 2015. I just wish it hadn't happened to Thor.

"Blackhat" stars Chris Hemsworth as "Nick", a Computer Hacker who is released from prison, in return for helping the Government catch another hacker, who has caused a Nuclear Plant in China to explode. Nick had helped create the computer code that the hacker used to destroy the Plant, and now Nick must race against time over 133 excruciating minutes to find the hacker before he strikes again, or before the audience dozes off.

"Blackhat" starts off interestingly enough, showing how the villain succeeds at blowing up the Power Plant. But the film slowly loses steam. Did I mention, slowly? "Blackhat's" biggest problem is it's lack of substance or interesting characters. Every character is boring, and not even remotely memorable. I mean, there was Chris Hemsworth and Viola Davis (As some sort of Government person). The Asian guy (Leehom Wang). The Asian Guy"s sister (Tang Wei, Hemsworth's love interest). Oh, and the other guy (Holt Mcallany). Seriously, I just don't care enough to remember who they were.

Chris Hemsworth is fine, but deserves better, as does Viola Davis (A former "Eagan Oscar Winner"), and Director Mann does show some visual flair, but the lack of execution in the lame script dooms it after it's promising start. The villain and his evil plan isn't particularly interesting, leading to an even bigger letdown in the end (That's it? That's what this was all about?)

Trust me. I enjoy writing longer reviews, but "Blackhat" doesn't give me anything to write about. I mean, I knew "The Wedding Ringer" would suck. And, to be fair, "Blackhat"is way more professional. But It's also a bore. A film that should have been more than it was. 1 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Brutal Violence And For Being A Hackjob.
 

The Wedding Ringer

 Image: Josh Gad and Kevin Hart hurry away, clearly revolted after watching the premiere of "The Wedding Ringer".


I get funny. I know what's funny. Is there something wrong with me that I just don't get Kevin Hart? Maybe it's because he's literally everywhere. And it feels like he's screaming at me, right up in my face. So, for "The Wedding Ringer", I tried sitting way in the back of the theater. But, thanks to IDX, there was a giant, Kevin Hart head, scaring the crap out of me.

In "The Wedding Ringer", Josh Gad is "Doug", a successful tax attorney, and one lucky bastard, because he's engaged to Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting. He enlists the help of "The Best Man Inc.", run by "Jimmy" (Kevin Hart), who provides "Best Man" services to those incapable of having any social skills, whatsoever (What an asinine idea).That's it. Since Doug has no friends, Jimmy provides them for him.

This is an impossibly stupid plot to use for a movie, but "The Wedding Ringer" pushes it for all it's worth. Seriously, with Facebook, Google....The Internet. Why somebody thought this would be believable is astonishing. But most importantly, It's not funny. "The Wedding Ringer" is a laugh less hour and forty five minutes.

To be fair to Kevin Hart, he and Josh Gad are the only saving grace of "The Wedding Ringer". At least they have some genuine chemistry (I could see a comedy working with them together), but there is no material here to work with. Most unforgivable of all is wasting the adorable Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, who is given nothing remotely funny to do in the slightest (Her character is exactly what you expect it to be).

You will predict everything that happens in "The Wedding Ringer", and it has to officially have set the record for the most "Gay" jokes in the history of cinema (Maybe a Sandler movie, or two).This one may not be Kevin Hart, or his giant head's fault. But no amount of energy or effort can make up for such an amateurish nightmare of a script. 1 Star. Rated R For Bad Language, And The Sight Of "Olaf's" Penis Being Bitten By A Dog.

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Paddington

Image: Wow, Paris Hilton sure got hairy. .

Well this is a pleasant surprise! Every January, you hear me piss and moan about how horrible the movies are to start off the new year. Fortunately, "Paddington" was pushed back from a late 2014 release, almost as if it was a birthday present for me. Since none of you all got me anything....No, no. It's O.K.

"Paddington" is based on the beloved British children's books, about a talking bear named "Paddington" (Voiced by Ben Winshaw). Paddington and his family are discovered in a South American jungle by a British explorer, who invites them to England, should they ever find a way to get a passport. Years after, when their jungle home is destroyed by an earthquake, Paddington's Aunt (Imelda Staunton) suggests he take a trip to London.
When Paddington arrives, things aren't quite what he expected. He had been told how welcomed he would be by the friendly and outgoing people, but everyone there is too busy to care that a talking South American bear with a British accent is walking among them. He is taken in by a family, whose Dad (Hugh Bonneville) is nervous about inviting a carnivore into his house. Meanwhile, a hot, but evil Taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) wants to stuff Paddington, and add him to her museum collection.

"Paddington" really came out of nowhere for me. I knew of the books, but didn't realize what a big deal the movie would be, or how charming and clever it is. "Paddington" is also surprisingly deep and thoughtful, and not at all just a simple children's story. There are important themes, and some genuinely interesting moments, mixed in with some hilarity and undeniable cuteness.

I was a little "Weirded Out" at first by the animated bear's look, but he won me over early. "Paddington" himself is so dang lovable, and such a great character, and is wonderfully voiced by Ben Whitshaw. Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins (As Bonneville's Wife) are terrific, and Nicole Kidman is surprisingly hilarious, genuinely menacing, and downright gorgeous (Seriously, she's moving way up on my list. I got a thing for hot, evil Taxidermists).

"Paddington" is beautifully filmed. It's color and look fit the tone of the movie, giving it a very original quality (Kind of a Wes Anderson vibe to it). This is the kind of film Hollywood would have butchered, but, as is, it's lovingly British, with class to spare. If you like cheeky, British humor, and your kids like cute and cuddly talking Bear movies, than "Paddington" deserves to be a classic. 4 Stars. Rated PG For A Few Adult Jokes, and For Paddington "Bear-ing" His Ass.
 Image: Wow, Paris Hilton sure got hairy. .

Well this is a pleasant surprise! Every January, you hear me piss and moan about how horrible the movies are to start off the new year. Fortunately, "Paddington" was pushed back from a late 2014 release, almost as if it was a birthday present for me. Since none of you all got me anything....No, no. It's O.K.

"Paddington" is based on the beloved British children's books, about a talking bear named "Paddington" (Voiced by Ben Winshaw). Paddington and his family are discovered in a South American jungle by a British explorer, who invites them to England, should they ever find a way to get a passport. Years after, when their jungle home is destroyed by an earthquake, Paddington's Aunt (Imelda Staunton) suggests he take a trip to London.
When Paddington arrives, things aren't quite what he expected. He had been told how welcomed he would be by the friendly and outgoing people, but everyone there is too busy to care that a talking South American bear with a British accent is walking among them. He is taken in by a family, whose Dad (Hugh Bonneville) is nervous about inviting a carnivore into his house. Meanwhile, a hot, but evil Taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) wants to stuff Paddington, and add him to her museum collection.

"Paddington" really came out of nowhere for me. I knew of the books, but didn't realize what a big deal the movie would be, or how charming and clever it is. "Paddington" is also surprisingly deep and thoughtful, and not at all just a simple children's story. There are important themes, and some genuinely interesting moments, mixed in with some hilarity and undeniable cuteness.

I was a little "Weirded Out" at first by the animated bear's look, but he won me over early. "Paddington" himself is so dang lovable, and such a great character, and is wonderfully voiced by Ben Whitshaw. Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins (As Bonneville's Wife) are terrific, and Nicole Kidman is surprisingly hilarious, genuinely menacing, and downright gorgeous (Seriously, she's moving way up on my list. I got a thing for hot, evil Taxidermists).

"Paddington" is beautifully filmed. It's color and look fit the tone of the movie, giving it a very original quality (Kind of a Wes Anderson vibe to it). This is the kind of film Hollywood would have butchered, but, as is, it's lovingly British, with class to spare. If you like cheeky, British humor, and your kids like cute and cuddly talking Bear movies, than "Paddington" deserves to be a classic. 4 Stars. Rated PG For A Few Adult Jokes, and For Paddington "Bear-ing" His Ass.

  

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