Image: The Boys from Beantown are wicked awesome.
I have to admit, I never thought that the guy who directed "Battleship" would become the kind of guy who could bring us such powerful films as "Lone Survivor", "Deepwater Horizon" and, now, "Patriots Day". That makes it far less likely that "Monopoly: The Movie" will be headed to the big screen any time soon.
"Patriots Day" begins with the day of the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings, where Boston Police Sergeant "Tommy Saunders" (Mark Wahlberg) joins the hunt for the people responsible. The movie details the real life situations of various other people who were involved or took part in the manhunt, including Boston Police Commissioner "Ed Davis" (John Goodman), Watertown Police Sergeant "Jeffrey Pugliese" (J. K. Simmons), FBI Special Agent "Richard DesLauriers" (Kevin Bacon), Governor of Massachusetts "Deval Patrick" (Michael Beach), and many other citizens with ties to the situation.
The most important thing about "Patriots Day" is how respectful the film is, especially considering how recent the horrifying events were. The attention to detail feels legit, and the story is fascinating, focusing on the process of the manhunt as well as the bombing itself. The characters all have personality and serve a purpose. Even if Mark Wahlberg's character doesn't actually exist. I'll let it slide.
Speaking of Wahlberg, he continues to impress, giving another excellent performance in leading a perfect cast. John Goodman, J.K. Simmons, and Kevin Bacon are great as usual, while the rest of the supporting cast all play their small roles flawlessly.
Some critics have nitpicked on the idea of having a fictional character as the focus of a true and recent story, and I respect that argument, but it's been done before in Hollywood, and the film is truly a dedication to those lost and those who showed such bravery. (This is no "Pearl Harbor".) "Patriots Day" ends with interviews of the real life heroes and victims, and it truly hits home as you leave the theater.
"Patriots Day" isn't trying to do anything too complex in it's storytelling. The film gets to the point quickly, and it isn't focused on broader themes of terrorism. And that's perfectly fine. In the end, this is a story of heroism and the human spirit, and Peter Berg is becoming a go to director for these important stories. Let's hope he doesn't have to make another one anytime soon. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Strong Language And Gut Wrenching Images.
Image: "I Am Groot!".
I'm finally wrapping 2016, so just a reminder that after a few more films, all future reviews will be available only on this site. No more reviews on Facebook. Honestly, I'm genuinely hoping that the website takes off like a rocket this year, so please stick with me on our epic journey toward super stardom. Or, at the least, to get on "Rotten Tomatoes." You gotta' dream big!
"A Monster Calls" begins with a young boy, "Conor O'Mally" (Lewis MacDougal) desperately trying to cope with his terminally ill mother, "Lizzie" (Felicity Jones). His father (Toby Kebbell) is never around, and he's constantly being bullied in school, so he's now being forced to live with his strict grandmother (Sigourney Weaver).
But one night, just a few minutes before midnight, a tree-like monster (Voiced by Liam Neeson) arrives, demanding that Conor listen to three different tales then in return tell the monster his own story, all of which have deeper meanings and connections to what is currently going on in Conor's life while helping him deal with the inevitable.
"A Monster Calls" is told from the young boy's story, and that helps explain the film's narrative, which is basically a fable set in the real world. It's not an easy tale to sit through due to the subject matter, and to it's story structure. It's a family film with VERY heavy themes. But this is a truly strong and heartfelt film, treating it's complex themes of life and death with great respect.
In essence, "A Monster Calls" is about the complexity of humanity and emotions. Not everything is as it seems, so the film takes no shortcuts, leading the viewer through the same emotions as it's protagonist. Good luck not choking up.
The film is beautiful visually, both with the CGI monster which blends in seamlessly, and the other styles of animation that help tell the different stories. "A Monster Calls" is a bit like a moving painting, and as original a film viewing experience as you'll get in theaters.
Young Lewis McDougal has to carry almost the entire film, and he is absolutely terrific in an incredibly emotional role. Felicity Jones is absolutely lovely, giving a heartbreaking performance, Sigourney Weaver is tough but tender as a mother grieving in her own way, Toby Kebbell is very good as Conor's caring but weak father, and Liam Neeson is perfectly cast , with his commanding voice booming and bursting through the screen.
"A Monster Calls" is a difficult movie, and it's clearly being penalized for it. And though it's probably too intense foe young children, older kids should be intelligent enough to handle it's delicate subject matter. So we finally get a film that respectfully treats a young audience like they can handle challenging questions about life and death. And that film makes bupkis at the box office. I wonder how many parents talked to their kids about the important lessons learned from "Boo! A Madea Halloween." or "Norm of the North". 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For The Constant, Overwhelming Pall Of Death.
Image: "Dear Lord, please deliver me a very particular set of skills."
To the people behind the "God's Not Dead" movies, this film shows what religious persecution truly looks like. Not getting to preach in public school is not Christian persecution. Be grateful you don't have to go through any of this.
"Silence" begins in the seventeenth century, where Portuguese Jesuit Priests, "Sebastião Rodrigues" (Andrew Garfield) and "Francisco Garupe" (Adam Driver) fearing that their missing mentor, "Father Cristóvão Ferreira" (Liam Neeson), who was captured somewhere in Japan, has been tortured into renouncing his Christian beliefs. So the both of them head off to Japan where they are met by "Hidden Japanese Christians", who hope that the priests can help them overcome violent persecution. But Rodrigues and Garupe soon find themselves persecuted and tortured, forcing them to question their own beliefs and if they will be able to survive the nightmare that they have been thrown into.
Legendary Director Martin Scorsese has apparently been trying to get this film made for over 20 years (Since he read the novel the movie was based on), and clearly the guy could direct head on traffic with his eyes closed. "Silence" is yet another masterpiece, but one that has far more questions than answers (This is not the kind of film you'll pop into the DVD player with a tub of popcorn and a smile on your face.) "Silence" is brutal to watch, and not just because of it's intentionally slow pace. The viewer is forced to endure (To some degree) the pain and torture of the film's characters, and it's a gut punch you won't soon forget.
The cinematography is truly stunning, and remarkably beautiful considering the horror around it. The story is fascinating and (In an odd way) morally complex, and the script draws you in with incredibly detailed characters and dialogue. That's if you can sit through the horrifying (But necessary) violence. "Silence" resonates with anyone who is aware of any human atrocity (Religious or otherwise) that still happens in the world today.
Andrew Garfield had a Hell of a year, and he gives a spectacular performance in what had to be an exhausting role (Can you get two Oscar nominations in the same year?) Adam Driver is terrific as well, clearly fully committed to his role. Liam Neeson gives a vital and powerful performance in his limited screen time, while Yōsuke Kubozuka (as "Kichijiro", a hidden Christian, with a tendency to backstab his new friends) is remarkable, as is Issey Ogata (as "Inoue Masashige", the Inquisitor who hunts the hidden Christians.)
There are no easy answers to "Silence". I fact, there are no answers at all. Just complex questions of faith and humanity, and Martin Scorsese refuses to go easy on us Seriously, how can he go from the over the top brilliance of "Wolf of Wall Street" to the deep thoughtfulness of this? Appropriately, I left the theater in silence. Fitting. 4 Stars. Rated R For The Darkest Parts Of Humanity.
Image: I could see Natalie Portman as my First Lady.
This week has been too much. I can't take another death of beloved Hollywood stars. Carrie Fisher AND Debbie Reynolds? Daughter AND Mother? I can't watch "Star War" and "Singing in the Rain" without sadness for quite a while. So I went to see a new film about a woman dealing with the ultimate sadness.
"Jackie" follows "Jackie Kennedy" (Natalie Portman), recounting what happened during her final days in the White House to "Theodore H. White" (Billy Crudup) in a "Life" magazine interview, following the assassination of her husband, "President John F. Kennedy" (Caspar Phillipson).
"Jackie" is an intimate story about one of the most shocking events in our nations history, and this almost documentary like film allows us to connect deeply with the struggle and pain of an incredibly brave woman. The film's short length and narrow focus does limit it's dramatic power slightly, (The world around Jackie O is given little attention) and the film's narrative is purposely out of order, so it isn't the straight version of her life you might be expecting.
Still, "Jackie" is powerful stuff, in part to a mesmerizing performance from Natalie Portman, who may deserve another Oscar for her touching and emotional performance. It's impossible not to connect with both Portman and her despondent real life character. Peter Sarsgaard is terrific once again showing that the guy has impressive range, and Billy Crudup is fine as well, as is the rest of small cast.
Director Pablo Larraín clearly connects with Jackie Kennedy as much as the audience does, and this shows in his very personal direction style. The film and dialogue is very artistic and quite original, with clear focus on the subject matter. "Jackie" is important viewing for anyone who knows or thinks they know about what maybe our most famous first lady. And we all will feel her agony of losing a loved one. 2016 was a tough year. 1963 wasn't such a good year either. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Language, And For One Horribly Disturbing Image.
Image: Not the best "Creed" movie I've seen recently.
So in what was meant to be the year that would rectify the curse of the video game movie, only "The Angry Birds Movie" came out decent enough while "Ratchet and Clank" and "Warcraft" weren't anything more than disappointments. But it was nice of them to save the worst one for last.
"Assassin's Creed" begins with criminal, "Callum Lynch" (Michael Fassbender) being sentenced to his execution. But his death is faked and he is rescued by "Abstergo Industries", where the leading scientist, "Sophia" (Marion Cotillard) has him take part in the "Animus Project".
Callum will be strapped into a machine that will force him to relive the memories of his deceased assassin ancestor, "Aguilar de Nerha" (also Michael Fassbender), who faced off against the evil Templars during the Spanish Inquisitiion, so that Abstergo and their shady CEO/Sophia's father, "Alan Rikkin" (Jeremy Irons) can locate the fabled "Apple of Eden", which is a little orb thing that can do stuff with the power of magic. At least I think it is. Honestly, this is just about the time I stopped being able to follow this nonsense.
As you can surmise, I'm not too familiar with the details of the "Assassins Creed" game franchise. But nothing could prepare anyone to comprehend what is happening on screen. Maybe it's just not possible to translate from game to movie since the plots to the video games seem complicated, but this movie is a complete mess nonetheless. Most of the film sticks to the present time, unlike the games, leaving the actual past adventures about fifteen minutes of screen time instead of hours of gameplay. Fans of the game are bound to be pissed and now, so are the film critics. Great job, guys!
The story itself could be fascinating, but the script doesn't take the time to explain any of it, and the present time story is a long slog to get to the action and adventure. The result leaves you more bored than anything, which is unforgivable for a wannabe film franchise with so much potential (You ain't getting three films now.)
To it's credit, "Assassins Creed" gives us plenty of high quality actors Michael Fassbender seems perfectly cast, looking and acting the part, and I doubt anyone could have done any better. Marion Cotillard is incredibly beautiful and a fine actress, but her character's motivations don't make a lick of sense. Jeremy Irons would be awesome reading the phone book (Even when he's bad, he's awesome), and Michael K. Williams (as "Moussa", a fellow Assassin) gives his limited role some extra personality.
There was plenty of effort put into the filmmaking The cinematography and action scenes look impressive, though the game's violence is diluted by choppy editing and a PG-13 rating, but the real problem should be obvious by now. Big screen video game adaptions don't work. "Assassins Creed" REALLY doesn't work. They just made a complicated but immensely popular video game more complicated and less fun. But we knew all along this wasn't going to work. It's all right. You can stop now. We have our PlayStations and Xboxes. 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Toned Down Video Game Violence.
Image: "If I don't make it back, I want you to start dating James Eagan immediately."
Didn't expect this to happen twice in one month. "Collateral Beauty" was not the only movie that desperately tried to advertise itself as something other than what it was. In reality, "Passengers" may be even weirder. But both movies are much darker and somewhat more twisted than you would ever expect anyone to get behind.
What "Passengers" is really about starts in the far future, where the Starship Avalon is transporting over 5000 people to a new planet to colonize over the course of a century while the passengers remain in hibernation pods. An accident involving an asteroid causes one passenger, "Jim" (Chris Pratt) to be awoken 90 years too early from his hibernation pod. Jim is left alone with nobody to talk to besides an android bartender, "Arthur" (Michael Sheen).
A year later, Jim starts to go a little crazy, even contemplating suicide. But then he becomes obsessed with a girl still in hibernation, "Aurora" (Jennifer Lawrence). And since she's totally smoking hot, Jim takes it upon himself to wake her up early, pretending that Aurora's awakening to be another accident. So Aurora eventually starts to fall in love with the creep that has secretly ruined her life all while the rest of the movie plays like a Romantic Comedy until it suddenly turns into a Science Fiction Thriller.
This is some messed up sh*t. At best, "Passengers" is has a very problematic premise that ruins the film entirely. Why don't the two charismatic actors have any chemistry? Why is the tone all over the map? Because the idea of a woman falling in love with a guy who pretty much lied his way into a relationship that guarantees dangerous consequences is pretty damn creepy. That's why! Because of this, nothing in the script works, and none of it ends up being remotely believable.
The romance is completely ruined because, well, because Chris Pratt's character is kind of a horrible (and possibly unhinged) person, but Jennifer Lawrence's character learns to love him anyway (Think this would happen if he didn't look like Chris Pratt? Woody Allen maybe?) "Passengers" is doomed from the moment you learn it's intent, which is a shame because the film has solid visuals, and a cast that should have had enough personality in their sleep.
Jennifer Lawrence is an angel sent from heaven, and gives a decent performance under the circumstances, but though it's not his fault, Chris Pratt is miscast in a role that needs less cute and quirky, and more dark and twisted (A darker version of "Passengers" would have been more interesting and made more sense.) At least the always dependable Michael Sheen gets to be the only fun character in the movie. But Lawrence Fishburne (as "Gus", the ship's Chief Deck Officer) is completely wasted, while Andy Garcia (as the ship's Admiral) gets the easiest paycheck of his career (He literally has thirty seconds of screen time).
I know there's a better movie in here somewhere, but "Passengers" fails because filmmakers were too lazy to follow through on it's basic idea. Instead, it's a mismash of cheesy romantic comedy, bizarre thriller, and something far more disturbing that anyone involved realize. I'm curious at what point someone involved suddenly came to the realization what lunacy they had on their hands? Someone did. And that's why they put out a trailer that hid every bit of it. You sneaky bastards. 1 Star. Rated PG-13 For Sexual Content And Enough "Star-Lord" Ass To Last A Lifetime.
Image: He was so excited, he went "WEE, WEE, WEE" all the way home
This is a serious message to "Illumination Animation", and I'm not the only one who feels this way. Stop constantly promoting your film so aggressively! Trailer, TV Spots, Ads, Posters, Billboards, Posters on Billboards, Trailers before the Trailer. This movie has literally been everywhere at all times of the day. You guys make perfectly good films. There really is no need for all that. You're wearing us out! People will still see your movie anyway.
"Sing" follows a Koala, "Buster Moon" (Matthew McConaughey), who is desperate to save his failing music theater from being shut down. So he comes up with a plan so original, no one else would possibly think of it. A singing competition. So with help from his Sheep buddy, "Eddie" (John C. Reilly), Buster is able to gather a group of talented animals to be a part of the competition and save the day.
The group including a Pig housewife named "Rosita" (Reese Witherspoon), who is actually a fine singer, despite her husband "Norman" (Nick Offerman) rarely paying any attention to her. She is teamed up with another more excitable Pig, "Gunter" (Nick Kroll). There's an egotistical Mouse, "Mike" (Seth MacFarlane), obsessed with winning the prize money, a Porcupine teen, "Ash" (Scarlett Johansson), who is offered a chance in the competition despite her jerky boyfriend, "Lance" (Beck Bennett) not wanting her to, a Gorilla, "Johnny" (Taron Egerton), who tries to balance out rehearsals and the plans of his criminal father, "Big Daddy" (Peter Serafinowicz), and a shy Elephant, "Meena" (Tori Kelly), who hides her incredible voice.
"Sing" is a predictable premise that has been done many times before, and you will easily figure out where all of these stories will go. But to it's credit, the film commits entirely by joyfully celebrating it's characters and good humor. The animation is undeniably bouncy and colorful, and though the film is no "Zootopia" in substance, it does a clever job in establishing the animal world it's created.
Matthew McConaughey actually does a terrific job with his voice work (I don't know why I was unsure if he could. "Allright, Allright, Allright!") Reese Witherspoon has an adorable voice and is very sweet in her role, Scarlett Johannson does a surprisingly fine job singing, while Tori Kelly shows off her astonishing vocal range (Damn, girl can sing!) Taron Egerton does a fine job as well, and we get plenty of comedy relief from Seth MacFarlane, John C. Reilly, NicK Kroll and Director Garth Jennings (as "Ms. Crawley", Buster's senile old lizard assistant)
"Sing" isn't really a musical (Or at least one of those "Jukebox" musicals. Not a fan,) and that works to it's benefit. The film uses modern songs only in the singing competition, and the songs they choose are actually pretty good. It also makes for a well done finale. (Even if you know exactly where its all going) This is a fine kids movie with good moral lessons, though it brings fairly little for adults in the audience. But they won't be annoyed. At least until you get in the car, and the kids are singing all the way home. 3 Stars. Rated PG For A Koala In A Speedo.
Image: Now dance for my amusement!
So I took my 13 year old sister, Julia to see "La La Land". We didn't say anything during the film. As soon as it ended, and she and I were leaving, we were mostly quiet because of how packed the theater was. And still kind of quiet as we got in the car and headed home. But about 10 minutes later, I turned to her and said "I pretty much loved everything about that movie". She agreed, and then we both just geeked out over it.
"La La Land" follows "Mia" (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress and "Sebastian" (Ryan Gosling), a struggling jazz pianist, both living in Las Angeles in hopes of achieving their dreams. They start off distant, but have a tendency to keep running into each other. They eventually start to realize a real connection between them and fall in love. But as time goes on, Mia and Sebastian's relationship becomes tested by their growing dreams that may require different paths. Because as we all know, Hollywood relationships never work out.
The fact that people these days rarely make musicals makes what "La La Land" does even more daring. It's a loving throwback to the old fashioned romantic musicals of Hollywood 's golden era. But the film is modernized to today's times, and the result is quite possibly the most fun you'll have at the movies this year. Writer and Director Damien Chazelle has made the year's most original film, yet brings a nostalgic sense that draws you in from the first musical number.
The music itself is stellar, and the musical numbers so joyful, that it's impossible not to be drawn in (Though there's always a few cynical bastards who won't be moved to dance.). "La La Land" wears it's heart on it's sleeve, and it shows in every musical moment, and in the more quiet, romantic moments.
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone aren't exactly who come to mind when it comes to musical talent, but not only do they give terrific and likable performances, (Their chemistry is off the charts) but they are surprisingly fine singers and dancers as well. They look and act like they're having as much fun as we are watching them, so go ahead and mark them both down for Oscar nominations already (Stone's final "Audition" scene may be her Oscar moment.)
The look of "La La Land" is a spectacle, and absolutely beautiful to watch, blinding us with an insane amount of color in both it's locations and costumes. But none of this would work if the story itself didn't work. "La La Land" in the end is a great love story, and a realistic one at that. The way it tells it's story may be old fashioned, but where it leads isn't exactly traditional. The movie is clearly designed to put a smile on your face, and keep it there long after you leave. I can't sing or dance worth a damn. But I can on the inside. We're still geeking out over it. 4 Stars. Rated PG-13 For A Little Adult Content And Language, Though You Can Still Take Your Grandma To See It .
Image: Those rebel scum are so dang adorable!
STAR WARS!!! STAR WARS!!! WHOO!!!.....I'm so sorry about that....NO I'M NOT!!! How freakin' awesome is it to have two Star Wars movies in a row. Not to mention another next year. And another the year after. And then another........Forever into a galaxy far, far away.
"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" is set between "Revenge of the Sith" and "A New Hope" (The sixth Star Wars and the first for those few who have lost track.) The story begins when a former scientist, "Galen Erso" (Mads Mikkelsen) is forced to work for the Galactic Empire to finish the construction on the dreaded "Death Star" by the evil "Director Orson Krennic" (Ben Mendelsohn). Years later, Galen's daughter, "Jyn" (Felicity Jones), who was at one point raised by Clone Wars veteran/rebel extremist, "Saw Gerrera" (Forest Whitaker), has pretty much gone about her life getting into trouble and not caring about anything.
That changes when an Imperial pilot, "Bodhi Rook" (Riz Ahmed), defects from the Empire, claiming that Galen sent him to deliver a message to Saw Gerrera involving secret plans to the Death Star and possibly how to destroy it. The Rebel Alliance learns of this and frees Jyn from Imperial custody where she teams up with "Cassian Andor" (Diego Luna) and his reprogrammed droid, "K-2SO" (Alan Tudyk) to find Gerrera, and to discover what message Jyn's father has for the rebellion. Eventually they find help from a blind warrior, "Chirrut Îmwe" (Donnie Yen) and his mercenary buddy, "Baze Malbus" (Jiang Wen), and the crew comes together to steal the Death Star plans, setting forth the major events that will come.
"Rogue One" is the first in a new series of standalone "Star Wars" films, and you sense the new direction early on. Aside from there no longer being an opening crawl, the tone and look of the film feels different. Which is precisely the point. Director Gareth Edwards gives the film a much darker, grittier, even dirtier feel than any previous Star Wars film before it. It also provides a little bit more realism where even some of the heroes do some pretty questionable acts. This is essentially a war film that just so happens to take place in the Star Wars universe (Imagine if Mel Gibson got his hands on it.)
Speaking of the characters, "Rogue One" does offer us a great new cast of them. Felicity Jones is a wonderful heroine who is easy to root for, while Diego Luna brings likability to his complex character. Alan Tudyk is hilarious, providing some much needed humor to the seriousness around him. And since you can't have a "Star Wars" film without an epic bad guy, Ben Mendelsohn is perfectly slimy and villainous in the best way possible. Its also cool to see Forest Whitaker playing a character that originated from the "Clone Wars" cartoon, even if there really isn't much point to it (The fanservice is still appreciated and awesome either way.) And speaking of fanservice, Darth Vader (Voiced once again by the great James Earl Jones) appears briefly, but offers a few more memorable moments. (Yeah yeah. I geeked out in the theater. I may have wet myself a little.)
But since this is a movie review and I have no choice but to be as honest (and unbiased) as possible, "Rogue One" does have a few noticeable flaws. With the controversy surrounding the apparent reshoots while filming, it does explain why the film appears a bit choppy (Mostly early on.) Not to mention that there are a ton of scenes from the trailers missing from the final film (Pretty inexplicable.) And while the special effects are still stunning and beyond belief, there are a few questionable choices that seem to already be stirring up some complaints (Can't really get into it too much because of spoilers. The Internet would rightly never forgive me.) I just found them more distracting than anything.
Despite the film's rocky start, "Rogue One" eventually becomes everything you could possibly want. The finale is where the film truly shines with a spectacular battle sequence that could rival even the best the series has already given us. Its thrilling, compelling, and pretty powerful. The situation and consequences feels real and incredibly important, and that's the movie's strongest point. It's the message of hope and the diversity of our heroes who, despite the odds (It's pretty obvious to all "Star Wars" fans where this will all go) come together to stand up against tyranny is classic lore. It may even be more relevant now than ever before. And though it may not be the best Star Wars movie we've ever gotten, but it has to be the most important. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 for Sci-Fi Violence and For Making My Inner Child Squee With Delight.
Image: Nope. Looks too cold. I'm out
They really do wait for December to bring out the great movies. Remember that long, cold stretch of mediocrity? The barren, damp wasteland of....All right, it wasn't that bad. But why do I have to wait to cram as many Oscar contenders in to about six weeks at the end of every year. I've got a life, you know. And I can't even see "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" until tomorrow....Damn it!
" Manchester by the Sea" follows "Lee Chandler" (Casey Affleck), a quiet and seemingly depressed janitor, who receives a call that his brother, "Joe" (Kyle Chandler) has died of a heart attack. Lee heads to Manchester, Massachusetts, where he learns that in Joe's will, he had entrusted Lee guardianship of his angsty teenage son, "Patrick" (Lucas Hedges), despite Lee's objections. Lee is forced to take care of Patrick while flashbacks show Lee's life with his family and friends before a horrible tragedy changed it all and turned him into the person he is now.
Just to clarify, this really does sum up "Manchester by the Sea". This is the epitome of a simple film, but it's also incredibly complex and detailed. The story and characters have great depth, and have strange little moments of realism that are difficult to explain. Director and Writer Kenneth Lonergan takes great pain to give every bit of drama, humor, heart and frustration from every scene, and the result is thoroughly unique and fascinating.
His characters range from typically human to tragically flawed (Or both at the same time.) Yet every on of them is embraceable in their own way. "Manchester by the Sea" is reminiscent of this year's "Moonlight" in that as hard as it is to watch at times, it is impossible to turn away.
Casey Affleck gives an astonishing and beautifully underplayed performance (Why was I not told how good he an actor he is? Ben? Hello?) It's a gut wrenching portrayal of complete sincerity. Michelle Williams (as "Randi", Lee's ex wife) breaks your heart as well, with both of them deserving of award consideration. Kyle Chandler gives yet another Co-MVP performance, while Lucas Hedges is terrific in a role that could easily have been annoying in lesser hands.
The cinematography is simple beautiful, full of images and slow, long shots that perfectly set the mood. And that sums up "Manchester by the Sea". Slow, long and moody, and completely haunting. I hope in order to find the audience it deserves that it isn't over hyped into something it isn't. This is a great film for different reasons than many may be expecting. Sometimes it's sad, sometimes it's funny, sometimes it rips your heart out. Life is hard. Maybe it gets better. It reaffirms why I treasure this job.Never would have seen it otherwise. I suppose "Star Wars" can wait just one more day. 4 Stars. Rated R For Language And Because Sh*t Happens.
Image: "Yes, I admit, I DID have relations with that awesome online film critic.
It's pretty dang obvious that "Miss Sloane" wears it's political beliefs on it's sleeve. And everyone seems to have already made up their mind on gun control issues. So i'm pretty confident that the only people who are headed to this movie already agreed with it's obvious point of view. Can we even debate anything anymore without consulting with our own political party anymore? It's just a movie, after all.
"Miss Sloane" follows "Elizabeth Sloane" (Jessica Chastain), one of the most sought after lobbyists in the country. She is known for her excellent track record and her diabolical desire to win no matter the cost. She is brought into the gun control debate, to pass a bill that will call for much stricter background checks due to recent gun related violence. (Or they're just trying to take away your guns. I don't know. People keep telling me different things). Sloane begins a political campaign against the "Gun Lobby", using whatever means she can to win, while also putting those around her at risk.
"Miss Sloane" is a solidly entertaining, but with a few glaring flaws that keep dragging it down. Fortunately, It's best aspects shine through. Director John Madden (Not that football guy. BOOM!) gets the look and feel befitting an exciting Hollywood political drama. The film's grey, murky look fits the dark side of what the dark side of Washington D.C. should look like. (You know, scummy.) The inside politics is surprisingly interesting and I had no idea lobbying was such an interesting subject.
The problem lies not only in the unnecessary subplots, but in the scope. "Miss Sloane" sets it's sights high, but too much is over the top and over dramatic (It may have been better as pure satire.) Instead, the film just takes itself too seriously, taking an incredibly important subject and it's political process, and overheating it to the point where it's tone feels way off.
The talented actors do their best and keep making it work. Jessica Chastain IS the movie, giving a powerhouse performance. Her complex character is fascinating (Her heroine is as cold and ruthless as her opponents. She's also tough, intimidating, and incredibly hot.) You certainly question if she truly even cares about issue she's fighting for. Mark Strong (as "Rodolfo Schmidt", Elizabeth's boss) gives a strong (Heh heh) performance as well, while Gugu Mbatha-Raw (as "Esme", a victim of gun violence) is very appealing. Michael Stulhbarg (as "Pat Connors", Elizabeth's rival) chews up the scenery like a pro (Though his character is overly sinister to be believed.)
It's obvious where "Miss Sloane" lies politically, but at least it does attempt on occasion to show complexity to the gun rights issue, and probably gets the bull crap of our political system right on the money (You might need a shower after dealing with these people.) The ending isn't realistic, wrapping up too neatly, but "Miss Sloane" is more fable than serious drama. And will do absolutely nothing to change our broken down political discourse. Not even the greatness of Jessica Chastain can change that. But she does make it way more interesting. 3 Stars. Rated R For Language And Political Sleaze.
Image: Santa Claus gets legal advice after yet another accidental Elf death at the annual Christmas party.
Easiest review ever. Is this movie funny?. In parts. Is it funny enough to warrant 1 hour and 45 minutes of your time? Probably not. Is it meaningful, important, or relevant in any way shape or form? Hell no. But I'll review it anyway.
"Office Christmas Party" focuses on some sort of business office where they do business stuff (Movies never really clarify). The branch manager, "Clay" (T. J. Miller) is threatened to be shut down by his uptight, CEO sister, "Carol" (Jennifer Anniston). Clay's friend and co-worker, "Josh" (Jason Bateman) agrees to help him land a major financial client, "Walter Davis" (Courtney B. Vance). Out of desperation, they invite him to their office Christmas party that obviously will spiral out of control before the night is over.
Most self explanatory movie title ever! "Office Christmas Party" isn't anything more than what the title tells you. There's little more to it than that, and that's the downside. The upside? There's nothing really more to it than that, And, it's got very funny actors who are guaranteed to provide enough laughs to get by. Nothing in the plot makes any sense, but I doubt anyone who saw the trailer and thought, "YEAH! OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY! WOOHOO!" are going to be disappointed.
Are any of the actors really acting? Jason Bateman is sarcastic, T.J.Miller is goofy, Olivia Munn (as "Tracey", Josh's love interest) is pretty, Kate McKinnon (as "Mary", the bizarre Head of Human Resources) is weird, Rob Corddry (as "Jeremy", the always angry Customer Service supervisor) is crazy, and Jennifer Aniston is Jennifer Aniston. But every one of them is very good at their roles, and each of them get their funny moments (As do the large supporting cast.) The highlight is the usually super serious Courtney B. Vance, who lets loose like a guy on a cocaine bender (I hope he's not a method actor.)
It's all predictable stuff, right down to the heartfelt lessons learned by all. None of it matters. "Office Christmas Party" doesn't matter. But it does have it's moments. How could this cast not? I just can't recommend you shell out your hard earned Christmas bonus for it. Though I am accepting movie theater gift cards in lieu of cash. There. Easiest. Review. Ever. 2 Stars. Rated R For Un-Santa Claus Like Language, And Un-Mrs. Claus Like Drug Use.
Image: Look at you, peering through Amy Adams window. Pervert!
This is a rarity. No movies are coming out this week (At least none to be taken seriously.) That means I get the week off, right? WRONG! I have to take advantage of every opportunity I have to reach films that are on the Oscar radar. And not at all because Amy Adams is in it. Though it's a Hell of a factor.
"Nocturnal Animals" begins with "Susan" (Amy Adams), an art gallery owner whose life has taken a more negative turn with her husband, "Hutton" (Armie Hammer) never being around or even bothering to try to work on their marriage. Susan receives a copy of a novel by her ex-husband, "Edward" (Jake Gyllenhaal) called "Nocturnal Animals", which is also dedicated to her. She begins to read the story, telling a disturbing tale of a man, "Tony" (also Jake Gyllenhaal) on a late night road trip with his wife "Laura" (Isla Fisher) and daughter "India" (Ellie Bamber), who are forced off the road by a bunch of violent rednecks, led by the psychopathic "Ray" (Aaron Taylor-Johnson).
Ray and his friends end up kidnapping Laura and India, abandoning Tony in the middle of nowhere. Eventually Tony finds his way to help with "Detective Andes" (Michael Shannon) being assigned to the case, which takes a horrific turn. While she reads the story, Susan begins to see parallels in Edward's story to their marriage and the way it ended.
"Nocturnal Animals" may be more intriguing than great. But it does have greatness in it. The story is not always a pleasant one to watch. A dark theme permeates throughout, and the film only truly begins to make sense as it goes along. The characters all have their own story to tell, and each of them are complex (They all have some serious baggage.) But it is beautifully filmed in a nightmarish way and the performances are stellar from top to bottom.
Amy Adams is as alluring as ever (Can any other actress veer from cute to beautiful to sexy as convincingly?) Adams is also one of the best actresses around, and she is terrific (If not very likable) as always. Jake Gyllenhaal does a wonderful job playing two characters, and both of his characters are compelling. Aaron Taylor-Johnson gives a shockingly good, and terrifying performance, while Michael Shannon has got to get Oscar consideration in his second great role of the year (Please check him out in "Midnight Special".)
There are times where all of the many allegories in "Nocturnal Animals" don't exactly mesh well with the story. It is a truly "Artsy" film so "Animals" is not for everyone, and it's not easy to sit through. But it is never less than interesting, and it is, at times, fascinating. When I look at art, I don't always have to get it to appreciate it. I'm like, cultured and all. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Very Disturbing Content.... I'm Talking Very Disturbing.... Oh, Yeah...And There Was That Large, Naked, Dancing Woman....Yep, Not Gonna' Forget That Any Time Soon.
Image: She makes me want to be a bad Santa.
The first "Bad Santa" clearly blazed the trail for other "Bad" films of the same genre, where once scared cows were now totally fair game. "Bad Teacher", "Bad Grandpa", "Dirty Grandpa", "Bad Moms". Wholesome images of a fat and jolly Santa were now tainted with the images of a vulgar, whisky soaked sex addict. What's next? "Bad, Dirty, Sexy Mee Maws"? Is nothing sacred?
"Bad Santa 2" takes place some time after the original with "Willie Soke" (Billy Bob Thorton), who is still a depressed, vulgar, dirty guy with a miserable life. He attempts but fails to kill himself, while avoiding the now fully grown man baby, "Thurman Merman" (Brett Kelly), who won't leave him alone,
But soon, Willie reunites with his forming thieving little buddy, "Marcus" (Tony Cox), who tells him about one last job to rob a Chicago charity run by "Diane" (Christina Hendricks) and her cheating husband, "Regent" (Ryan Hansen) on Christmas Eve. Willie is forced to team up with his abusive, nightmarish mother, "Sunny" (Kathy Bates) and once again get into a Santa suit, while Therman still decides to follow Willie around because he's, well, a fully grown man baby.
I didn't have to see the first "Bad Santa" to realize that the joke has been played out. This "Santa" provides little more than chuckles instead of belly laughs. Yeah, the idea is funny, but the shock value is gone, and the script isn't near clever or funny enough to overcome it's flaws. Hell, by this point, Willie isn't really all that bad, anyway. He's a depressed slob, but he's not THAT bad (He's more "Mildly Objectionable Santa".) So you know the plot will pull it's punches, leading to a heartfelt conclusion that isn't earned.
"Bad Santa 2" doesn't provide any of it's secondary characters and subplots any resolution, writing them off along the way. Too much feels added for padding without going anywhere or needing to exist at all. Even for a movie about a f*cked up Santa Claus, we should expect more plot cohesiveness.
To it's credit, we do get actors who are committed to their roles. Billy Bob Thornton wrings every bit of deadpan snarkiness he can muster pretty effortlessly. Tony Cox maintains his dignity beyond the constant "Dwarf" humor (Why can't he get a leading man role?) Kathy Bates is a great actress who makes the most out of the lame script, and the gorgeous Christina Hendricks wins you over with her winning personality alone. And while Brett Kelly is a good sport and gets some genuine laughs), Ryan Hansen can only try to work with his ridiculous villain subplot which is dropped by the end of the movie.
I'm sure it worked back in the day, but "Bad Santa 2" is another clearly unnecessary sequel. But it's more lame than offensive. Maybe we've just really seen it all at this point. Been there, done that. 2 stars. Rated R For Bad Language, Bad Behavior And Bad Sex.
Image: "God I hope Angelina doesn't find out."
Please forgive me, I'm suffering from a post Thanksgiving, turkey and mac n' cheese (It's a tradition!) hangover. I mean, between Black Friday and Castro's death, I've been pretty booked.
"Allied" begins in 1942, where Canadian Intelligence Officer, "Max Vatan" (Brad Pitt) meets super pretty French Resistance fighter, "Marianne Beausejour" (Marion Cotillard) while on a mission to assassinate a Nazi official. And because they, well, look like Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, they fall in love.
After the success of the mission, Max and Marianne move to England and get married, having a baby girl some time later. But Max is alerted by his superiors that Marianne may in fact be a double agent, demanding that if they discover this to be true, Max will be forced to execute her himself. Max then takes it upon herself to find the truth and hopefully prove his wife's innocence.
Director Robert Zemeckis nails the old fashioned feel of "Allied", giving the film the exactly the kind of look you'd expect from a 1940's era war film. The setting and costumes have enormous appeal, and the setting is romantically filmed, bringing to mind a more colorized take on such classics as "Casablanca" and "Notorious" (If you haven't seen these films, I'm not sure I can talk to you.)
Then why doesn't "Allied" completely work? Maybe these kind of old fashioned movies don't translate now as well as they used to. Or maybe it just doesn't hit it's target. "Allied" does have an awful lot of story to tell, and the first part of the story feels rushed as we jump into the relationship and love story. Once things settle down, the film becomes more of the tense thriller that was advertised, and the film works better on that level.
The reason why the romance works as well as it does is obviously do to the talents and chemistry of the two leads. Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard are perfectly cast, and make an undeniably charismatic pair. In fact, the film might not have worked at all without them. Jared Harris (As "Frank", Max's superior) is one of those rare actors who makes every role significantly better, though Lizzy Caplan (As "Bridget", Max's lesbian sister) is stuck in a completely underdeveloped role.
The main flaw of "Allied" is the that the script has too much to tell, leaving us wondering how we got to the ending, as suspenseful a sequence as it is. But the film has way too much talent to fail, and enough drama to make us wish it had been just that much better. It's all right to want more, right? I've got my appetite back. 3 Stars. Rated R For War Violence And Passionate Romantic Urges.
Image: Wow. The Rock has really let himself go.
I realize that no film is truly ever perfect. But it boggles my mind that there's always one critic who finds a way to dislike a film that is impossible not to like. That one sick, messed up son of a b*tch (Yeah yeah, family friendly review) who has to ruin the perfect "Rotten Tomatoes" percentage. I'm not saying "Moana", or any movie is perfect. But how can someone who claims to appreciate film come out and declare, "Nope, don't like it". Did your mother not love you?
"Moana" begins with some backstory, explaining an island Goddess, "Te Fiti", who created all life. But a shapeshifting Demigod, "Maui" (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), with a magic fishhook stole her jade stone heart. He is then attacked by a lava monster, "Te Ka", resulting in the heart being lost in the sea.
Thousands of years later, young "Moana" (Auli'i Cravalho), is fascinated by her "Gramma Tala's" tales of Maui and a she desires to go out in the ocean and explore, much against the wishes of her parents, "Chief Tui" (Temuera Morrison) and "Sina" (Nicole Scherzinger). As a child, Moana was chosen by the ocean to eventually return the heart to Te Fiti and save her dying island. She eventually gets her chance, tracking down Maui ,and along with the dumbest rooster you'll ever see, "Heihei" (Alan Tudyk), they set sail with the heart to return it where it belongs while avoiding the many dangers the sea has to offer, including killer pirate coconuts, a sadistic, shiny obsessed giant crab, "Tamatoa" (Jemaine Clement), and eventually Te Ka herself.
"Moana" is Disney magic personified. The film continues the ever growing maturity that Disney Studios churns out year after year. "Moana" tells an old time, classic story, yet connects with a modern audience, especially young girls. Moana herself is a smart, fearless and soulful heroine that anyone should identify with and root for, while the supporting characters bring Disney's usual "Buy our Merchandise at Toys "R" Us ASAP!" likability.
Calling the animation stunning is an understatement. "Moana" is breathlessly detailed with colorful character design and lush scenery. The ocean really has never looked so beautiful on screen. The detail is bold and incredible, bringing it's own character to the story (The ocean literally has personality.)
Newcomer Auli'i Cravalho is stunning in her film debut, giving a sensational performance on top of an enchanting singing voice (Her "How Far I'll Go" should rival "Let it Go" as the song sang endlessly by your daughters for the next year. And sons.) And how about Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson? Is there anything this guy can't do? Who the Hell does he think he is? Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson? He can sing too? God, I think I hate him (Seriously, he's awesome.)
Alan Tudyk (who only does rooster noises the entire movie) is Disney's new good luck charm and he's a riot as the dumb as bricks rooster. Rachel House gives a heartwarming performance, while Jemaine Clement is hilarious as always (His one song, "Shiny", is a show stopper.)
I know I'm a broken record, but Disney animation just can't go wrong these days. "Moana" is funny, sweet, dramatic tear-jerky and heart warming, blending every bit of it seamlessly. I know with Disney, whatever mood I'm in going in, I'm in a great one going out. 4 Stars. Rated PG For Disney Peril, And I was Going To Make One Rooster Joke But I Can't. Family Friendly Review.
Image: "LAVATE LAS MANOS!"
For those of you uninitiated into the world of "Harry Potter", "Fantastic Beats and Where to Find Them" is not a sequel. It is a prequel of sorts. It is based on a book within the book series. It is also a real book. But it's not Harry Potter. Though it does exist in the same universe....You know what? Just figure it out your damn self.
"Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" takes place in 1926, with the much feared Dark Wizard (Second only to He Who Should Not Be Named), "Gellert Grindelwald" (Played by some actor that everyone knows, but is supposed to be a surprise), wrecking havoc across America. This causes the Wizard world to grow paranoid about exposure to "No-Majs" (Non Wizard/American term for Muggles) and also sparks the rise of anti-magic group called "The Second Salemers" led by the fanatical and bigoted, "Mary Lou Barebone" (Samantha Morton).
So magical zoologist, "Newt Scamander" (Eddie Redmayne) decides this is the perfect time to visit America, bringing along his mysterious suitcase that houses all of the magical creatures he has found. Newt gets his suitcase mixed up with No-Naj (And aspiring Baker), "Jacob" (Dan Folger), who accidentally releases a few of Newt's creatures into New York. Newt and Jacob set off to find the escape creatures with help from determined witch, "Tina" (Katherine Waterston) and her sweet-natured, mind reading sister, "Queenie" (Allison Sudol). But they must avoid those trying to stop them, including high ranking magical security agent, "Percival Graves" (Colin Farrell), who along with Mary Loud's abused, awkward adopted son, "Credence" (Ezra Miller), are tracking down a mysterious and deadly force that's going around, destroying stuff, and killing people.
Produced and written by J.K Rowling, "Fantastic Beasts" is bound to be a faithful adaptation to her books, and she writes the film in the same way. And this generally works just fine. Except when it doesn't. "Beasts" suffers from an overabundance of characters and subplots. And while it all does come together neatly in the end, it makes you wonder if all of it was necessary
Still, "Fantastic Beasts" is plenty of fun, and a neat family adventure that is a sure solid start for a film franchise. The visual effects continue in the great tradition of the "Harry Potter" series. It's a wondrous world, yet stands on it's own with it's unique flair, and the different setting keeps the film's characters from being carbon copies of the "Potter" stories.
Eddie Redmayne is very enjoyable as a likable hero you want to follow on his future adventures. Dan Fogler provides the comic relief, and his relationship with Newt serves as the heart of the story. Katherine Waterston does well in a role that develops as the film goes along, Allison Sudol is kind of adorable, Ezra Miller has a compelling story arc, and Collin Farrell is predictably intimidating as the heavy.
But the real stars are the fantastic beasts themselves. They blend in seamlessly, are incredibly clever, and portrayed more as magical animals that are easy to sympathize with. "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" focuses so much on world building that it was bound to become cluttered, but you're all fans of "Harry Potter" anyway, so that's expected. But it also has much of the same charm, humor and heart. There's plenty of magic still there. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Scary Mystical Stuff.
Image: "No, F means you failed....You're a failure."
I don't know when this happened, but films about teenagers have have suddenly become far more intelligent and mature. Who knew that treating young adults like young adults would pay off?
"The Edge of Seventeen" follows "Nadine" (Hailee Steinfeld), an awkward 17 year old girl who's life gets even more awkward when her best (and only) friend, "Krista" (Haley Lu Richardson) begins dating her much loved older brother, "Darian" (Blake Jenner). Not to mention the fact her mother, "Mona" (Kyra Sedgwick) appears to favor Darian more and more over Nadine. Feeling alone, Nadine tries to find ways with what is changing around her, befriending the awkward"Erwin" (Hayden Szeto), who seems to have a crush on her, while getting mentoring advice from her teacher, "Mr. Bruner" (Woody Harrelson), whether he wants to or not.
Though it follows a common formula prevalent in many teen dramedies, "Edge of Seventeen" has a little something special that makes it standout. The script is smart enough to balance out the humor expertly with it's more serious undertones. The formula may be the same, but the writing, characters and performances are all on a different level, giving the film great depth.
Hailee Steinfeld is one of the best young actresses in the business, and she's is absolutely terrific here, bringing instant likability to a complicated, even troubled character. It shows that Nadine seems to bring a lot of the trouble on herself. Yet she remains sympathetic. Woody Harrelson is a riot as the sardonic teacher, Kyra Sedgwick is excellent as the oblivious mama, Blake Jenner does a fine job, as does the rest of the believable cast.
"Edge of Seventeen" is genuinely funny (The film drips with sarcasm), but it's the respect it gives it's young heroine that helps you connect with and care what happens to her. The film is genuine, and wears it's emotion on it's sleeve. Maybe someday, I'll want a teenager of my very own. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Strong Language And Grown Up Teenage Stuff.
Image: It's either a baptism, or he's just really good lifeguard.
This film isn't easy to review. On one hand. I'm excited to talk about a movie that is so uniquely different than anything else in theaters. On the the other hand, it is incredibly difficult to describe just how unique an experience it really is. So bear with me.
"Moonlight" tells it's story in three separate parts, following "Chiron" (Played by Alex Hibbert as a child, Ashton Sanders as a teen, and Trevante Rhodes as an adult), a young African American boy, who also goes by the nicknames "Little" and "Black". The story presents different parts of his life while highlighting specific relationships that will affect his life, personality, and sexuality while growing up in a rough neighborhood in Miami.
Chiron's has a somewhat abusive and drug addicted mother, "Paula" (Naomie Harris), a crack dealer, "Juan" (Mahershala Ali) and Juan's girlfriend, "Teresa" (Janelle Monáe), who both genuinely care for him, and a close friend, "Kevin" (Played by Jaden Piner as a child, Jharrel Jerome as a teen, and André Holland as an adult), who Chiron may have a sexual attraction to.
"Moonlight" is an astonishing piece of work. Thoroughly absorbing, intensely personal and always fascinating, the film is unlike anything I've ever seen. The way the story is structured isn't told traditionally in any sense. Yet it's three act structure (Or, more aptly, three specific moments in time) are beautifully told and filmed, yet difficult to watch at times The film is a gut punch of emotion and heavy realism. These are characters that are fully developed, allowing humanity to seep through it's characters who normally would be glossed over anywhere else.
The performances are as powerful as any you'll see this year. Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes all help flesh out the complex main character, as do Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome, and André Holland. Mahershala Ali continues a string of terrific performances, brilliantly showing his character's complexity. Janelle Monáe is wonderful and compassionate, while Naomie Harris is a revelation in an absolutely astonishing performance.
What sets "Moonlight" apart from other movies is the topics it bravely deals with. Director Barry Jenkins is fearless in providing a glimpse into lives rarely (Or never) represented on screen. Dealing with poverty, drugs and homosexuality in the African American community are subjects that many would like to avoid (Or look down upon), and "Moonlight" doesn't sugarcoat the pain and anguish of it's characters.
Yet, miraculously, the film finds hope within despair. That doesn't mean we get the easy, conventional ending we may want to see. I left the theater a bit awkwardly, and I suspect the audience I was with did as well. "Moonlight" is a challenging masterpiece, forcing you to question how you look at the art of filmmaking, and think about a slice of life you may turned away from before. I'm exhausted. But I'll never forget it. 4 Stars. Rated R For Pain, Anguish And Hope.
Image: "Please, take Trump with you!"
It kind of makes you wonder, doesn't it? I know, that's what everyone asks after seeing an "Alien" movie. But "Arrival" is a thinking persons Alien movie. What really would it be like if E.T. showed up. Would we freak our first, ask questions later?.Do we "Bomb the Sh*t out of Them?" Do we ask them out for drinks, talk things over? And what about the anal probes? I think about these things. The anal probes especially.
"Arrival" begins with the......Arrival of several mysterious extraterrestrial spacecrafts appearing across the globe. An elite team of professionals are assembled to help understand who or what the creatures within the spacecrafts are and what their purpose on Earth really is.
With linguist "Louise Banks" (Amy Adams) and theoretical Physicist "Ian Donnelly" (Jeremy Renner) working under the supervision of U.S. Army Colonel "Webber" (Forest Whitaker), they begin to learn more of the Aliens and how they communicate. Using strange symbols that appear to be the Aliens' language, Louise must find a way to understand what they are saying before somebody does something stupid and the entire situation escalates into all out war.
"Arrival" may be the most unique Alien film you'll ever see. The film isn't about an invasion at all. But more about attempting to find understanding, for Alien and human alike. The power of language is a major theme of the film, and the excellent script slowly reveals in pieces what the intentions are, and realistically deals with how humans react to the unknown. Maybe the Aliens should be more afraid of us.
The effects blend seamlessly, which helps bring a surreal quality to "Arrival", but it's important not to give away the complexity of this terrific film. Director Denis Villeneuve has now made three excellent films in a row ("Prisoners" and "Sicario"), and this time he shouldn't be overlooked by the Academy Awards. He brings artistic flair and intelligence in a way that a mainstream audience can relate. His characters are incredibly human (Which makes the contact with the Aliens even more powerful). It's an "Alien" film, but it's the importance of our humanity that matters most to the film.
The enchanting Amy Adams cannot possibly do wrong in my eyes, and she's absolutely perfect here once again. Jeremy Renner is also wonderful, while Forest Whitaker and Michael Stuhlbarg (as "Agent Halpern", a skeptic) do excellent work as well. The film focuses on these few characters, and that gives each actor a great opportunity to develop them.
Despite the fact that restraint is another major theme of the film, "Arrival" is incredibly exciting. This all leads to the "Big" moment, which is brilliant, heartfelt, and heartbreaking all at the same time. The miracle of "Arrival" is it's incredibly uplifting, despite not shying away from the darker realism of life. The movie takes no shortcuts, yet never loses it's optimism and sense of hope. Do we really need Aliens to help us realize that? Well, yeah. 4 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Strong Language, From Both Humans and Aliens.
Image: Am I the only one who's 'shroomin?
They made a film about Troll Dolls. Yep. Spent $135 million on it. Hey, it's your money. I suppose it's not the weirdest thing Hollywood has spent a fortune on.
"Trolls" starts off by explaining that theTrolls are colorful little balls of happiness that are widely desired by the "Bergens", large creatures who never feel happy and believe that if they eat the trolls, they will feel happiness (You are what you eat!). On a special day, the king of the Bergens, "Gristle" (John Cleese) plans for his son, "Gristle Jr." (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) to finally eat his first troll. But the trolls, led by their king, "Peppy" (Jeffrey Tambor) helps the other trolls escape into the forest. The Bergen king blames the scheming "Chef" (Christine Baranski) for the trolls escaping and banishes her into the wild.
Years later, the trolls now live in peace and harmony, with Peppy's cheerful daughter, "Poppy" (Anna Kendrick) throwing big parties to celebrate their escape every year, while always ignoring the warning of the cynical and grumpy "Branch" (Justin Timberlake). One of their parties attracts the attention of Chef, who captures many of the trolls in hopes of gaining higher power, leading Poppy to turn to Branch for help saving them. The duo make their way to Bergen Town where they must find a way to help the others escape, while getting involved with a scullery maid, "Bridget" (Zooey Deschanel), who is in love with the now King Gristle Jr.
"Trolls" is basic kids fare and the use of pop cover songs is tired and silly by now. But what helps make it work is how incredibly beautiful and inventive the film is. The animation is insanely colorful, full of life, and, kind of trippy. But that helps give it personality, and the characters are all very embraceable, though some are plenty interchangeable.
Anna Kendrick is impossibly adorable, and she is perfect for such an exuberant role, while Justin Timberlake brings likability to his cynical little troll. Zooey Deschanel is always cuteness personified (There is no such thing as too quirky if you're cute!), and she and Christopher Mintz-Plasse have the best and funniest story arc. Christine Baranski is having a blast, just oozing villainy, while Russell Brand (as, "Creek", a zen-like troll), James Corden (as "Biggie", a large, lovable troll) and Ron Funches (as "Cooper", a always happy, giraffe-like troll) all have humorous moments.
There's not much new about "Trolls", but it has a big heart, and it delivers it's message of optimism and happiness in such a joyous manner that it's almost impossible to dislike. You'd have to be a troll to dispute that. 3 Stars. Rated PG, Though It Could Have Been A Safe G.
Image: The real G.I. Joe.
The term, "Can't we all just get along" has become an overused joke for many years. But seriously, at the peak the rampant insanity currently surrounding us, can we all just take a couple of hours to embrace the best of us? We need it. Who knew it would take Mel Gibson to bring America together?
"Hacksaw Ridge" tells the true story of "Desmond Doss" (Andrew Garfield), who at a young age became a "Seventh-day Adventist", which means he cannot kill, fight, or pick up a weapon of any kind. During World War II, against the wishes of his drunken, angry at the world father, "Tom" (Hugo Weaving), Doss volunteers into the U.S. Army as a medic.
But his beliefs don't exactly bode well with his superiors, "Sergeant Howell" (Vince Vaughn) and "Captain Glover" (Sam Worthington). They, along with most of Doss' fellow soldiers see his beliefs as cowardice. Doss is nearly court-martialed, but is eventually allowed to go into battle without any weapons to protect himself. During the horrific battle at Hacksaw Ridge, Doss proceeds to become an American hero, rescuing over 75 wounded men all on his own, even while under constant fire from the Japanese forces.
The timing couldn't be any better for such a beautifully crafted film about an American hero. Especially one who my generation knew little to nothing about. (Damn history books.) "Hacksaw Ridge" is essentially two stories in one. The first half tells of Doss's backstory, reasoning and relationships that influenced his passionate beliefs, and which led to his conflict within his military duties. This story is told with ultimate respect, showing us his humanity and impossible likability.
The second half takes us into harrowing and grizzly battle. These battle scenes are gory and shocking, but incredibly important to see. Here, Gibson doesn't show us violence for violence sake. If anything, the film magnifies the horror and heroism are veterans went through and showed, and I can't imagine anyone not being completely moved by the experience. Gibson may have his issues, but he is genuinely talented film maker at his best and most passionate.
Andrew Garfield gives what may very well be an Oscar worthy performance. It's not possible to come across as more kind and endearing than he does in a role that should bring everyone to their feet. But he is certainly not the only revelation. Teresa Palmer is both beautiful and touching in her best role yet, and Hugo Weaving is brilliant and complex. Even more surprising is how good Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington and Luke Bracey (As "Smitty", an antagonistic fellow soldier) are. I have been pretty hard on these guys in recent years, so I'm thrilled to to say how genuinely terrific they all are in a film that clearly meant a great deal to all of the actors.
"Hacksaw Ridge" is a film I implore you to see, if you feel at all that you can handle it. War is Hell, and Gibson necessarily shows it all. But he also shows us the best of us, too, and for God's sake I think we all can stand to learn a lesson or two from it. Never forget. 4 Stars. Rated R For War.
Image: Doctor Strange, freaking out over the newest VR technology.
If even Marvel was afraid that "Doctor Strange" was impossible to include in their cinematic universe, then we should all have been worried. Then again, this is a studio that made a massive success out of a film with a talking, gun toting raccoon with a tree as a best buddy. And another about a superhero who becomes the size of a small insect. Those aren't easy sells.
"Doctor Strange" begins with "Stephen Strange" (Benedict Cumberbatch), a brilliant but arrogant neurosurgeon who gets in a car accident that results in the loss of his ability to use his hands. This leads to a downward spiral with Strange falling into depression and alienating everyone around him, including his ex-love interest, "Christine" (Rachel McAdams). After realizing that science can't help him, he meets "Jonathon Pangborn" (Benjamin Bratt), a former paraplegic man who mysterious learned to walk again. Pangborn sends Strange to "Kamar-Taj", the home to sorcerers who have mastered the mystic arts.
The Sorcerer Supreme, known only as "The Ancient One" (Tilda Swinton) agrees to train Strange in the mystic arts, with guidance from fellow student, "Karl Mordo" (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Strange begins to discover more about the universe (or universes) and it's many secrets and threats, which eventually leads into conflict with a former sorcerer turned bad, "Kaecilius" (Mads Mikkelsen), who now leads a group of Zealots, plotting to cause an apocalyptic event in hopes of gaining immortality.
Marvel has the "Superhero Origin Story" down to a science by this point, so it isn't strange at all that "Doctor Strange" is so much dang fun. The Marvel films excel at enjoyable and surprisingly relatable characters, and the patented Marvel humor. "Doctor Strange" has every bit of that, from the eccentric, aggravating, but charismatic lead character, to the astonishing (And downright bizarre) special effects, to the breathtaking action scenes. Director Scott Derrickson may have a small résumé, but he pulls together the trippy visuals and super natural story line into a film that makes quite a bit of sense (All things considered.)
Despite following the more typical "Origin" story, what's impressive about "Strange" is where they go with it. There are twists and turns that you don't expect. The script has plenty of depth, and the humor helps make the characters (With great help from the fantastic cast) very accessible.
Benedict Cumberbatch absolutely nails it, giving his Tony Stark like character his own unique spin. His evolution from prick to legend is believable, and Cumberbatch is incredibly likable in the role. Chiwetel Ejiofor is a marvelous actor giving yet another compelling performance with a character who will be expanded upon in the future films in the franchise. Rachel Mcadams adds her undeniable charm to her love interest role, and their relationship develops in a way you wouldn't expect. Benedict Wong's deadpan seriousness blends seamlessly with Cumberbatch's dry humor, Mads Mikkelsen is a pro at playing intimidating villains, and Tilda Swinton is just a terrific actress in a very appealing role.
"Doctor Strange" is an unpredictable film borne out of a predictable plot, but that's what Marvel does. They make terrific, enjoyable movies out of comic book characters that are so expertly made that even naysayers and skeptics claiming superhero fatigue don't have a leg to stand on. It's yet another fresh take on a genre that no other series can match. Strange, isn't it? 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Supernatural Violence And Hallucinogenic Sequences That Will Straight Up Freak You Out, Man!
Image: Maybe it's a disco inferno.
They just won't stop until they get it right. Tom Hanks and Ron Howard, two of the most beloved and trusted human beings on the planet, have been trying to get a hugely successful book series to translate into a film franchise respected a bit more than the "Transformers" films........Well, they failed.
"Inferno" begins with billionaire geneticist wacko, "Bertrand Zobrist" (Ben Foster) claiming that he's discovered a way to solve the world's overpopulation problem before killing himself. Days later, famed professor "Robert Langdon" (Tom Hanks) randomly wakes up in a hospital in Florence, Italy with no memories of how he got there in the first place. His doctor, "Sienna Brooks" (Felicity Jones) says he was suffering amnesia from a bullet wound, but Langdon now also suffers from frightening visions of a "Hell-like" place.
Now, Langdon and Dr. Brooks are on the run from assassins, discovering a connection to "Dante's Inferno", which results in a chase to solve a puzzle left behind by Zobrist before his death that would lead to the location of a deadly virus called "Inferno", capable of eradicating a large portion of the world's population. Langdon and Sienna work together to solve the puzzle and locate the virus with help from an Agent, "Chrisoph Bouchard" (Omar Sy), the "World Health Organization", headed by "Elizabeth Sinskey" (Sidse Babett Knudsen), and a secret company hired by Zobrist, "The Consortium", led by "Harry Sims" (Irrfan Khan), all after them for their own purposes.
This is just absurd. I wanted to like "Inferno", and I can see how this convoluted idea could work somehow, but the frenetic twists and turns, and surprisingly off putting direction leave the film a jumbled mess. Ron Howard has directed many great films, so maybe no one could get this franchise to work on screen. Even the greats have a bad day at the office. The script just throws too much at the wall, and what's left feels underwhelming. Things get more and more unbelievable as it gets to the big and ridiculous plot twist half way through.
Tom Hanks has never sucked a day in his life, so he clearly isn't the problem here, nor is Felicity Jones, who does an impressive job under the circumstances. Ben Foster is a fine actor who dies in the movie, but Irrfan Khan brings loads of personality in a film without any.
Most of the problems with "Inferno" arise in the second half, with an out of nowhere romantic subplot that takes up way too much time and importance (I don't know her. Who is she? Why are you here?) At this point any momentum is lost, and the final act of the film ends on a stupid note. The shocking thing about "Inferno" is that a film with such high pedigree can be so damn stupid.
It didn't need to be this way. Clearly, "Inferno" and the other two films in the series have their fan base, but I suspect even diehards will admit to the flaws. Maybe the books themselves are to blame. Maybe they don't translate to film. Maybe it's just good people making a bad movie. 1 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Disturbing Images, Some Violence, And Large Amounts Of Pseudo Babble.
Image: Such a nasty woman.
I'm sorry. I just.... I just can't.....I know I'm not the demographic for this. I know these films that are an abomination to everything holy is not meant to satisfy film critics. And I don't judge or have any problem with cross dressers. I only have a problem with crap. No free passes.
"Boo! A Madea Halloween" starts with "Brian" (Tyler Perry), worried that his bratty little sh*t of a daughter, "Tiffany" (Diamond White) will go out with her slutty friends to the Halloween party that's being held at a rowdy fraternity, led by the overly excitable (and incredibly horny), "Jonathan" (Yousef Erakat). Since Brain is too much of a weenie to even talk to his own daughter, he calls up his wacky/sadistic/dangerous Aunt "Madea" (Also Tyler Perry) to watch Tiffany for him while he works. She brings along her brother (and Brian's father), "Joe" (Tyler Perry Again!!!), and her friends, "Bam" (Cassi Davis) and "Hattie" (Patrice Lovely) just for the hell of it, but Tiffany pranks them into believing that the house is haunted so she can sneak out and go to the party.
Madea finds out quickly and goes after her, eventually shutting it all down. Now the fraternity is pissed and wants revenge. So they decide to prank Madea now by dressing up as clowns, zombies, and.......Okay. Look. The plot of this is just a series of random events that are meant to make out a narrative for about a 103 minutes. But all it does is irritate a film critic who doesn't have anything better to do than rant about a Madea movie. Basically the plot is a needlessly long, drawn out fart.
"Boo! A Madea Halloween" came to be because of one single joke in a much, much better Chris Rock film. One funny joke and Tyler Perry decided to make this monstrosity out of it. "Boo" has every single one of Tyler Perry's worst traits as a Director and Writer. Perry takes an incredibly limited premise and stretches it out to excruciating lengths. Not a lick of it is funny, though most of his "Characters" clearly think that they're a total riot. Just talk and yell with extremely annoying and goofy voices. Hilarious!
We will get to Madea (Herself) in a minute. First of all, Tyler Perry's "Brian" character is a doormat with no back bone who lets everyone trample over him, and his transformation at the end is embarrassing (I'm seriously considering revoking the Oscar nomination I gave Perry for "Gone Girl"). Perry's "Uncle Joe" is more abusive than charming. Diamond White's character comes across as unrealistically disrespectful and unappealing, while Cassi Davis and Patrice Lovely give frustratingly unfunny performances.
But the worst aspect, and most offensive trait in all Tyler Perry movies is the message, or "Lessons" he tries to teach to the audience. For "Boo! A Madea Halloween", the message is terrify your children into obedience. Its not your fault as parent in the slightest. Young people today just need a good whoopin' (At least they don't get AIDS in this one.)
Now we get to Madea (or Tyler Perry's Madea character), and I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. Madea is portrayed as a lovable and wise mischief maker with a heart of gold. When in reality, Madea is a terrible human being. Rude, cruel, obnoxious, and abusive, she points out and mocks everyone's flaws while claiming to be a mentor with answers about faith, life and family values. She's not only a hypocrite, she's a menace to society, and I wouldn't want her anywhere near my, or anybody's children.
Since Tyler Perry also wrote "Boo", he's solely to blame for the stupidity of the script that repeats the same damn jokes over and over. And since he directed the film, Perry is solely to blame for the cheap and shoddy filmmaking (A hallmark of all his films.) And yet the box office suggest that audiences disagree. So I wonder how much influence any critic really has. Or maybe the humor is above me. Maybe Madea is the voice of reason we need in these troubled times.....Or maybe people just like things that suck. 0 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Crude Humor And A Prison Rape Joke.
Image: Tom Cruise waits for his lawyer, L. Ron Hubbard.
A sequel? Really? For "Jack Reacher"? I know Tom Cruise has enough clout to green light "Top Gun: I Feel a Need For Speed". Or "Jerry Maguire: Show Me the Money". Or "Rain Man: 1 Minute to Wapner" (I had to look that one up.) But the Cruise and the book series sure have their fans, so what's one more unnecessary sequel?
"Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" once again stars Tom Cruise as "Jack Reacher", a former Army Major who tends to find himself in dangerous situations. Having been in touch with "Major Susan Turner" (Cobie Smulders) for a while now, he finally hopes to meet her (Definitely to ask her out on a very proper date of hand holding), only to find out she has been arrested and charged with espionage.
Reacher discovers that Turner was framed and busts her out of prison to help her find the people responsible. But the leader of the group that framed her, "General Harkness" (Robert Knepper) sends in a deadly assassin called "The Hunter" (Patrick Heusinger) to take them both out, while Reacher also brings along a young girl, "Samantha" (Danika Yarosh), who may or may not be his daughter.
Necessary or not, "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" is a completely ordinary action film. If you are titillated by the sight of 5"7 Tom Cruise pretending to be a 6"5 bad ass as he bashes peoples heads in, then this is your kind of movie. But we've all seen this kind of action film before. "Never Go Back" retreads better films, with the same basic plot told hundreds of times.
Tom Cruise and his character are the best part of the film. He's always good, but there's nothing special about the role. Cobie Smulders gets to do some ass kicking too, and she's quite impressive at it. But the "Daughter" subplot is completely forced in a desperate attempt to inject drama and heart into the film, so Danika Yarosh can only do what she can with a character that is only in the way, while both Patrick Heusinger and Robert Knepper make for generic villains with very little presence.
The action of "Jack Reacher 2" is appealing (If surprisingly brutal for a PG-13 rating. You can hear the arms cracking. Eeez!), but the movie drags on forever when the action stops, and when the "Father/Daughter" issues come up, the film limps to it's conclusion. It's a sequel that gives us exactly the same stuff as the first, except with less focus on it's appealing main character, weaker villains, and more inconsistent tonal shifts. There's one opponent Jack Reacher can't beat. A bad case of sequel-itis. 2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Harsh Violence, And The Harsh, Cruel World Of Being a Loner.
Image: Go Go Power Rangers!
What....What the Hell is this? Wasn't this a cartoon on Disney XD? So there was a toy line, too? This is the first I'm hearing of it. And probably the last.
"Max Steel" begins with awkward teen "Max McGrath" (Ben Winchell) and his mother, "Molly" (Maria Bello) moving to a new town sometime after the mysterious death of Max's scientist father (Mike Doyle). Under the suggestion of a family friend, "Dr. Miles Edwards" (Andy Garcia). Max begins to experience strange new abilities, leading to the reactivation of a quirky little alien drone, "Steel" (Voiced by Josh Brener), who reveals to Max that they are meant to be connected. Max becomes a superhero, uncovering the mystery of what happened to Max's father and protect the world against giant alien cloud monsters.
To be honest and fair, "Max Steel" almost works. It's generally a generic superhero origin story, but that's worked before. (Thank you, Marvel. I'm betting on "Doctor Strange" as well.) There is some genuine charm to the film, especially early on as Max'x story develops. But then the film collapses once we get to an incredibly loopy, dang near laughable finale.
The film's visuals don't look bad at all and and yet the film still feels cheap. There's barely a handful of characters and certain scenes inexplicably look like like they were shot in a warehouse or a back alley (Do extras cost that much?) "Max Steel" doesn't have the confidence or nerve to go all the way.
Ben Winchell (Who has been pretty honest about where his film's production went wrong) does what he can with a pretty bland character. Josh Brener borders on annoying, but does get a funny quip or two, and Maria Bello brings some much needed professionalism (It's great to see someone genuinely giving a crap when she didn't have to.) And that's where Andy Garcia comes in. I know the guy is a good actor when he's dedicated, but it's kind of shocking how bad his performance is here.
The plot is too simple, the reveal of the villain too obvious (Read the last paragraph. You'll figure it out.) The finale ruins anything positive. "Max Steel" had a chance. Until it never had a chance. On the bright side, at least it's better than the 'Transformers" movies. At half the length and one fifth the cost..........Michael Bay sucks. 2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Some Reason.
Image: Ben, I think you just discovered the formula for why "Batman V Superman" didn't work.
I think I've just found the movie that is going to split everyone right down the middle. I can genuinely see why some people are really going to love "The Accountant". And I can really, REALLY see why some people will hate this film's guts. It's bizarre for sure. Bizarre good? Bizarre bad?
"The Accountant" stars Ben Affleck as "Christian Wolff", an autistic small town accountant, who was forced at a young age by his father (Robert C. Treveiler) to train in various forms of fighting because it sounded like a cool idea at the time. Christian over the years has "cooked the books" for dangerous criminal groups and attracted the attention of Treasury agents, "Ray King" (J. K. Simmons) and "Marybeth Medina" (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) who intend to finally catch him.
Now Christian takes the CEO of a robotics company, "Lamar Black" (John Lithgow) as a client, discovering a situation that involves the loss of millions of dollars. With help of his cute, perky new friend, "Dana" (Anna Kendrick), he gets involved in a conspiracy with a Hit man (Jon Bernthal) now after the both of them.
The idea itself of "The Accountant" is weird enough. Whoever thought the idea of making an action thriller about an autistic accountant trained at a young age to be a lethal killer, clearly came up with something original. The plot does get increasingly preposterous as it moves along (The plot I described isn't one tenth as crazy as it really gets.) There are too many conveniences to be believed, and very little of the film makes any sense.
Then why did I like "The Accountant" so much? Because the film is gloriously absurd, and, honestly, is a complete blast. I just couldn't help be totally invested in where the plot is going. It has an intentionally warped sense of humor, and the action is thrilling and well filmed. The character of Christian Wolff is oddly fascinating, and even endearing. He's a peach as far as lethal killers go.
Ben Affleck has long ago proved himself as a very likable and capable actor, and he does an excellent job here. The totally adorable Anna Kendrick is lovable as always, J.K. Simmons always brings it, Jon Berntahl is an appealing bad ass, and both John Lithgow and Jeffery Tambor (as "Francis", Christian's mentor) are proven pros.
"The Accountant" is clearly too much for some critics, but for others like me, that's part of it's charm and the film luckily does attempt to treat those with autism with respect. I just couldn't help but like this movie. But I'm under no illusion that's it's a particularly good movie. It's just fun, damn it! I don't owe you an explanation! 2 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Intense Violence, And Bad Ass Tax Deductions.
Image: No, Junior High will be the worst years of your life....Bwahahahaha!!!
As I get older, it does become more difficult to relate to movies geared toward the "Tween" audience. Now that I think about it, I think I may have skipped the tween years, and went into maturity. There was that moment when I realized that you can't go home again, and that the Santa Claus whose lap you sat on at the mall was really the creepy pervert who lives down the street. Oh, sweet, blissful youth.
"Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life" follows an artistic kid, "Rafe" (Griffin Gluck), who has a slightly awkward life. He has a tendency to get expelled from school, and his mother, "Jules" (Lauren Graham) doesn't realize that her boyfriend, "Carl;" (Rob Riggle) is a complete prick who bullies Rafe and his younger sister, "Georgia" (Alexa Nisenson).
Hoping to get a fresh start at a new middle school, things get worse when he makes an enemy out of the overly strict and downright evil "Principal Dwight" (Andy Daly), who makes up absurd rules for no other reason other than to control the school. So Rafe and his best friend, "Leo" (Thomas Barbusca) bring it upon themselves to break every last one of Dwight's ridiculous rules, eventually inspiring others to fight the power. Kind of like "The Birth of a Nation". Except with less violence and racial injustice.
Much like the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" film series, "Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life" is perfectly decent entertainment. Though mostly pretty much just for kids, "Middle School" offers some positive messages and a few genuine laughs on top of some predictable silliness. The film even tackles more serious subjects, adding a plot twist that is fairly jarring and a bit depressing.
The animated sequences in the film are actually quite impressive, colorful and lively, though none of it really adds anything to the plot. The plot isn't exactly believable (None of these highjinks happened at my middle school. Would have been more fun.) But fans of the series will care less about the lack of reality. "Middle School" has enough zany fun to keep them happy.
Gliffin Gluck, Alexa Nisenson and Thomas Barbusca are all good young actors who give their characters personality. The adults in these kind of films are always written fairly broadly, so Rob Riggle is perfect for his loudmouth, jack ass character. But we do get a fine performance out of the always lovely Lauren Graham, and a surprisingly hilarious performance from Andy Daily (Even when the dialogue fails him, his physical expressions are a riot.)
"Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life" isn't objectionable in the slightest, though there are still plenty of better choices for kids and their parents. And if my middles school principal had been this much of a dipsh*t, I would have led the revolution myself. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG For Crude Jokes And A Morbidly Obese (But Adorable) Pug Dog.
Image: "But you were well fed!......And had decent lodgings!........"
And now for the film that is guaranteed to piss off a lot of people, for a lot of different reasons.
"The Birth of a Nation" is based on the true story of "Nat Turner" (Nate Parker), a slave who was taught to read so he could study the bible, becoming a preacher to all his fellow slaves. His master, "Samuel Turner" (Armie Hammer) is going through money troubles, and it's suggested he could take Nat across the country to preach to other slaves, the sermons themselves usually saying how the slaves should obey their masters. But Nat eventually begins to see the horror of the situation that he and his people are in. He starts to interpret his sermons a different way, convincing other slaves to use their own rhetoric against them, and Nat begins a bloody and violent, but short lived rebellion.
No offense to "The Birth of a Nation" and the inarguable power of the film, but it's no "12 Years a Slave". That film is close to a perfect film, from the storytelling to the direction to the acting and richness of characters. If they didn't move you and change you, even knowing the horrors of slavery, I'd be stunned. "Nation" is more of a straight biopic, and the narrative doesn't flow consistently to it's epic conclusion with Nat's revolution being a relatively short portion of the film.) While this flaw may be unavoidable, especially since the real rebellion was quick as well. But the movie feels disjointed at times, too quickly introducing us to aspects of Nat's life.
Nate Parker makes his directorial debut, and, despite the film's unevenness, he shows genuine skill. The film is visually epic, with astonishing cinematography and true flair for emotionally charged scenes. "Nation" is is undeniably deep and heartfelt. The goriest of the rebellion feels necessary and is a high point.
As an actor, Parker is excellent as well, convincingly portraying Turner's conversion from activist to rebel. Armie Hammer surprises with a very complex performance, while Jackie Earle Haley (As "Raymond Cobb", a particularly sadistic "Slave Hunter") is scary as Hell and easy to hate.
The elephant in the room (Nate Parker's 1999 rape charge) is hard to ignore, particularly when rape is a subject in the film. Any artist's alleged crimes (Woody Allen, Johnny Depp, Mel Gibson, etc.) inevitably casts a pall on their films, and I admit to it bothering me. These are fair questions that I wish I had the answers to, so I can only say as a critic that "Birth of a Nation" is a deeply flawed, but nonetheless impressive and powerful achievement. This film probably wouldn't have been green lit even five years ago consider the subject matter, and it's story is needed and worthwhile. At the very least, it's pretty ballsy. 3 Stars. Rated R For Brutality, Gore And Shame.
Image: Man do I want to catch a train with Emily Blunt.
This is lesser "Gone Girl". Seriously, there is no way "The Girl on a Train" can be seen without bringing to mind 2015's superior "Gone Girl". I;m not saying it's a rip off. It's just obviously the same feel and vibe, with the same hope to shock audiences in the same way, on the way to box office glory. Problem is, now we've seen it all before.
"The Girl on the Train" follows an alcoholic woman named "Rachel" (Emily Blunt), who divorced her husband "Tom" (Justin Theroux) when he cheated on her with another woman, "Anna" (Rebecca Ferguson). Now that he's married to Anna, Rachel becomes more depressed and slightly more unhinged, riding the train for no other reason than to occasionally see a seemingly loving couple, "Megan" (Haley Bennett) and "Scott" (Luke Evans).
Rachel obsesses over the couple and their lives and breaks down when she sees Megan with another man. Rachel gets drunk one night and wakes up the next morning, bruised, and covered in blood. She is confronted by "Detective Riley" (Allison Janney), who tells her that Megan has mysteriously vanished. Now Rachel takes it upon herself to solve the mystery while uncovering darker secrets about herself and those around her.
"Girl on the Train" is more clever than straight up brilliant. The story is interesting, but is oddly more predictable than I thought. There is some shock value in it's twists and turns, but none of it is particularly memorable. The film has plenty of style (It has that grayish, hazy look of "Gone Girl"). But it is missing the macabre sense of humor that made "Gone Girl" more palatable "Girl on the Train" feels more like a chore to sit through.
On the bright side, Emily Blunt is typically outstanding, in a performance that is award worthy in a better film (She's still breathtaking, even filmed with crazy and bloodshot eyes.) Haley Bennett (Whose scenes are mostly in flashback) continues to impress in her recent roles, and Rebecca Ferguson gives a fine performance as well.
Luke Evans is believable and intimidating, and Justin Theroux does a solid job, but Edgar Ramirez (As Megan's therapist) is given little to do. The film's little humor comes from the always reliable Allison Janney.
The mystery itself seemed too easy for me to figure out, ruining some of the suspense of "Girl on the Train", and this is the kind of film that desperately needs suspense in order to truly work. Otherwise, it's little more than a well made soap opera. My advice is just focus on the girl on the train herself, because Emily Blunt is reason enough to see this film, or anything for that matter. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Sexual Content, And One Hell Of A Corkscrew.
Image: He's literally shi*tting away 20 grand.
"Masterminds" never had a chance. Stuck in movie limbo since August of 2015, when the studio, "Relativity Media", pushed back the movie because of financial issues. So since everyone involved has suffered enough, I feel like going a little easy on it.
"Masterminds" follows "David Ghantt" (Zach Galifianakis), a bumbling buffoon engaged to an always smiling nutcase, "Jandice" (Kate McKinnon). David works as an armored truck driver for Loomis Fargo, where he meets and develops a crush on his new co-worker, "Kelly" (Kristen Wiig). Kelly's con artist friend, "Steve" (Owen Wilson) sees this as a chance to hit it big, using Kelly to trick David into helping them rob over $17 million.
The crooks have David flee to Mexico only for Steve to eventually turn on him and rat him out to keep focus off himself. When things go wrong, Steve hires a maniacal Hit Man, "Mike" (Jason Sudekis) to go after David, while the FBI tries their best to get the money back and catch the people responsible, not realizing that the entire situation behind it is much stupider than one could possibly imagine.
Based on an incredibly ridiculous true story (Nothing surprises me anymore), I see where they were going with "Masterminds" . It's shot like a crime drama, but with a scenario that's completely silly. The problem is that's it's little more than a funny idea, granted with a cast that usually provides huge laughs. The film is funny at times, but the execution is lacking. The script is too random, leading to moments in which I'm not sure if I was supposed to laugh or not.
Zach Galifinakis and Kristen Wiig both bring their "A" game and do what they can with a script not up to their par. Owen Wilson does decent work as well, while Jason Sudekis and Kate McKinnon provide the film's biggest laughs.
There's not much more to say about a throwaway film that was, literally, very nearly thrown away. "Masterminds" is not an embarrassment, but the overriding thought has to be how much better everyone involved deserved. On the bright side, no one with a straight face can say that "Ghostbusters" was the worst 2016 film starring Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. 2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Crude Humor And Offensive Hairstyles.
Image: The "X-Men" rejects.
Has there ever been a Director more nitpicked than Tim Burton? Many people love him or hate him. Many others love him and hate him at the same time (Personally, his obvious greatness makes his misfires all the more frustrating.) But at his best, his genius is undeniable. So when he takes another beloved young adult book series and adapts it to film, I hope he knows what he's getting into.
"Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" begins with ordinary teen,"Jake" (Asa Butterfield) dealing with the mysterious death of his grandfather, "Abraham" (Terrence Stamp). Jake had a close relationship with his Grandpa and he listened to the many strange stories Gramps would tell Jake, involving a home for children with peculiar abilities. Jake's psychiatrist, "Dr. Golan" (Allison Janney) suggests he go to the island in Wales where his Grandfather claimed the home was.
Leaving with his oblivious father (Chris O'Dowd), Jake discovers the home destroyed, but realizes its a trick done by the beloved headmistress of the home, "Miss Peregrine" (Eva Green), who has the ability to manipulate time, so that she and her children can live in an ongoing time loop that no normal human can enter. They must protect themselves from the outside world and the evil "Wights", led by the sadistic "Mr. Barron" (Samuel L. Jackson) and their monstrous "Hollows" (Big tentacle monsters that eat eyeballs.). Jake now must discover his own peculiarity, and protect the children before Mr. Barron finally tracks them down.
"Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children" may deviate from the novel (I don't know. I don't care. Don't criticize me.) But I'm guessing the book series is complex, because the film certainly is. The narrative sure has a lot to say for a two hour film (And that's never been Tim Burton's strong point.) But, as always, Burton's visuals and imagination are spectacular. "Miss Peregrine" is distinctive looking, not even remotely looking like any other film or film series (Burton is nothing if not unique.)
The film tries to explain it's mythology, but I'm guessing "Miss Peregrine" was better explained in the book series and that becomes more noticeable as you reach the end of the film. But the charming script, likable cast and an impressive finale (The final battle, involving the Hollows versus an Army of Skeletons, is a highlight) make the film plenty worthwhile.
Eva Green is always good (And underrated), and she brings warmth and toughness to her role. Asa Butterfield is another talented young actor who continues to be impressive, Terrance Stamp has some small but great moments, Ella Purnell (As "Emma", Jake's love interest with the peculiarity of air) does a fine job with the weak romantic subplot, while Samuel L. Jackson may be the actor who does more with little screen time as anyone around and he's clearly relishing his role here. The rest of the children are all plenty adorable, though as much as I love Dame Judi Dench (as "Miss Avocet", another headmistress), I'm not sure why she pops up for no more than five minutes.
I like that "Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children" feels like a return to form for Tim Burton, and yet I get the complaint of it's tonal inconsistencies (From family friendly and whimsical, to dark and kind of brutal. That's our Tim!) But his film has plenty of heart and fun to be worth any aggravation. When you love someone, you may as well embrace their peculiarity. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Intense, Scary Images, And A Scrumptious Looking Eyeball Buffet.
Image: "Now we're Seven."
The 1960 classic "The Magnificent Seven" is one of my favorite westerns and itself a remake of the Japanese classic "Seven Samurai". That puts even more pressure on Director Antoine Fuqua to deliver a new version at least almost the equal of it's predecessors. You've got Denzel and Chris Pratt. So don't screw it up.
2016's remake of "The Magnificent Seven" begins with a small western mining town being slaughtered and ruled mercilessly by corrupt and psychopathic industrialist, "Bartholomew Bogue" (Peter Sarsgaard). One of the wives of the men killed, "Emma" (Haley Bennett), goes in search of anyone who could possibly help.
She comes across Bounty Hunter, "Sam Chisolm" (Denzel Washington), who appears to have a personal grudge against Bogue. He agrees to help, recruiting drunken gambler "Josh Faraday" (Chris Pratt), legendary sharpshooter, "Goodnight Robicheaux" (Ethan Hawke), a knife wielding assassin, "Billy Rocks" (Byung-hun Lee), a skilled, but strange tracker, "Jack Horne" (Vincent D'Onofrio), Mexican outlaw, "Vasquez" (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and Comanche warrior "Red Harvest" (Martin Sensmeier), to band together and help defend the town before Bogue and his army returns.
This is a familiar and famous story, and, no, it is nowhere near as good as the American original (Or, I assume, the Japanese ORIGINAL original.) But the new "Seven" is still a fun popcorn flick and a rousing good time for those who still enjoy a good western. The plot is a little different, but the story structure the same, so you know where it's all headed. Seven hardened gunman begin to soften to help those in need. Classic.
The action may not be very realistic, but it's well filmed by Antoine Fuqua. The veteran Director knows his way around an action scene, so "Seven" has some thrilling gunfights. The film has plenty of humor and banter between the characters, and its clear the cast must have had a blast making the film.
Denzel Washington is one of the coolest people on the planet, and great in everything he does, so he is perfect for this role (He delivers his lines like no one else.) Chris Pratt is likable as Hell once again, and his moments with Denzel are a treat. Ethan Hawke gets the meatiest, emotional role and nails it, while Vincent D' Onofrio revels in a boisterous performance. Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier are all fine as well, helping make the "Seven" a thoroughly enjoyable team. Haley Bennett does a good job in a role with more depth than expected, and Peter Sarsgaard always know how to play unhinged with the best of them.
The new "The Magnificent Seven" doesn't have much meaty substance to it, and plays it pretty safe, but it's suitable fun for a modern audience. And if it then gets you to check out the classics before it, then we (Well, I) from "Eagan At The Movies" am not spending every last cent I have in vain. Seriously, I'm taking donations. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Gun Violence, And Seriously Intense Deep Male Bonding.
Image: "See where these numbers go way down? That's because of you. You're a loser. You're fired!"
Every year there's always that one movie that appears to get so much dislike or seems to just be dismissed by everyone. "Run All Night" in 2015, "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" in 2014, "Oz, The Great and Powerful" in 2013. The same thing with "Storks". It's a Looney Tunes inspired cartoon where storks deliver babies as if it were Amazon.com. How is that not automatically funny?
In "Storks", babies are not made the old fashioned way (Artificial insemination). Instead they're delivered by Storks. Or at least they used to be. Now the Storks have gotten out of the baby business and instead deliver packages for "Conerstore.com", where one young Stork, "Junior" (Andy Samberg) plans to hopefully take over for the diabolical CEO, "Hunter" (Kelsey Grammer) and all he needs to do is avoid any monumental screw ups. His first task is to fire orphaned human, "Tulip" (Katie Crown) who never found her home. Junior can't bring himself to fire Tulip and moves her to the mail room where he thinks she won't be able to cause any trouble.
Meanwhile, "Nate" (Anton Starkman) feels lonely due to his workaholic parents (Ty Burrell and Jennifer Aniston) never seeming to have any time for him. So Nate sends a letter to the storks requesting for a baby brother. The baby winds up in the hands of Tulip and Junior. Desperate to avoid losing his job, Junior agrees to accompany Tulip on delivering the baby to its new family while avoiding the dimwitted "Pigeon Toady" (Stephen Kramer Glickman), a pack of shape changing Wolves (Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele), and another giant Stork named "Jasper" (Danny Trejo), who has his sights set on Tulip.
Plot wise, none of it is really logical in the slightest (Yes. most of us know babies aren't made in factories by storks. But do you really want the movie to tell the kiddies the way it's really done?) "Storks" is total silliness, to be sure, but it's still a very enjoyable film. The characters are lively and funny, and the zany animation adds to the Looney Tunes like goofyness The film is from Warner Animation Group, ("The Lego Movie"), which makes perfect sense.
Andy Samberg is having a pretty funny year (We've all forgotten "That's My Boy"), and he is a riot in "Storks". Kelsey Grammer is perfectly over the top, Ty Burrell, Jennifer Aniston, and Anton Starkman mesh well in their secondary plot, while the hilarious comedy duo of Key and Peele playing an entire Wolf pack is as funny as it sounds. And in a film with so many well known actors, Katie Crown (who is instantly lovable) and Stephen Kramer Glickman (who is completely hilarious) end up as the scene stealers.
There's nothing more to the plot than the absurdity described above, but "Storks" is delightfully absurd . (Critics seem to penalize it for that reason). This is purely the kind of movie to take your kids to, relax, and laugh your @$$ off (This is a family review for a family film.) There's no need to over analyze these things. "Storks" is a sweet and funny film with a positive, inclusive message. And I finally learned where babies come from. They're delivered by ugly birds. it all makes sense now. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG For The Graphic Explanation Of Where Babies Come From.
Image: I don't think he's getting the Medal of Honor for this.
So how far can you go on reputation? This is the first film I am seeing from acclaimed (and controversial) Director Oliver Stone. So with knowledge of his filmography and the praise he has received in the past, Is it wrong for me to assume he could do much much better?
"Snowden" stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as "Edward Snowden", the American computer guy who leaked out all those NSA secrets back in 2013. The movie begins with Snowden explaining his story to Documentary Producer "Laura Poitras" (Melissa Leo), Journalist/Vulcan "Glenn Greenwald" (Zachary Quinto), and Journalist for The Guardian "Ewen MacAskill" (Tom Wilkinson). The story goes back to his Army days, to when he began to work for the CIA under the watch of his recruiter "Corbin O'Brian" (Rhys Ifans), his relationship with his hot hippie girlfriend "Lindsay Mills" (Shailene Woodley), and all of the events that lead up to his eventual discovery of what the American government is really up to when it comes to surveillance and security.
It's tough to leave the politics out when it comes to "Snowden" (Hero or Traitor? Complex at the least. Personally I think he's kind of a dick.) But, surprisingly, the film doesn't really bother discussing the positive or negative outcomes of his actions. From the Director's perspective, Edward Snowden is totally awesome and kind of dreamy. This narrative weakens the film, because we're only getting a simplified version of a complicated subject.
It doesn't help that "Snowden" is a by the numbers biopic. The story is told without much analysis, so the viewer isn't learning anything new. Oliver Stone's direction is flashy and the film certainly looks good, and the movie has it's moments, but I'm not seeing the innovative film making I thought I was expecting.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt overcomes the script's overly quirky handling of his character to give another very good performance (He's always as good, or better, than his films). Shailene Woodley turns what is usually the weakest part of most films (Romantic Subplots), and makes her character endearing. Rhys Ifans gives his character menace mixed with genuine nuance, while Tom Wikinson, Melissa Leo and Zachary Quinto all give fine performances in small but important.roles...Oh, and I almost forgot. Nicolas Cage pops up as, well, Nicolas Cage (At this point, he's just so Nicolas Cage, we have to accept it.)
"Snowden" rushes through the details toward the film's finale with his "Exile" in Russia simply glossed over, leaving us knowing no more than we did went we went into the theater. All I learned from the movie is that "Snowden" is just an adorkable, heroic young genius who deserves adoring adulation, but not enough reason why. But if you say so, Oliver. 2 Stars. Rated R For Strong Language, Adult Content, And Blind Hero Worship.
Image: "I can't believe we had the balls to make another sequel".
This film clearly wasn't made for me. Or anyone in my gender. Or age. But that's okay. "Bridget Jones" knows it's demographic. And if it makes the kind of film the fans want, well, God bless them. I have no bias. I can put myself in Bridget's position.
"Bridget Jones's Baby" opens with "Bridget Jones" (Renée Zellweger) now turning 43, still depressed over her breakup with her former love, "Mark Darcy" (Colin Firth), her stressful job, and her lack of a social life. Deciding to live a bit more on the edge, hooking up with McDreamy American, "Jack" (Patrick Dempsey). But not long after that, she and Mark once again hook up as well, sensing there might still be a connection there. Bridget learns that she is now pregnant, not knowing who the father is, and romantic comedy shenanigans ensue.
As I said, "Bridget Jones's Baby" is not my bag, baby. But there's absolutely nothing to complain about here. "Baby" is predictable from start to finish. Who do you really think she's going to end up with? But the film has that cheeky British charm and likable characters. Yeah, they act absurdly, but you do want them to get what they're looking for. The dialogue has enough humor and heart, and the actors are all experts,carrying the film with ease.
Renée Zellweger has been away for a while, but she provides the same appealing cuteness she became famous for. Colin Firth is effortless, as always (That's a compliment. Nobody does it better.) Patrick Dempsey is fine, clearly understanding his role, and Emma Thompson (as Bridget's gynecologist) was born perfect, and steals every scene. The supporting actors are all well cast and fun in small, passing roles.
"Bridget Jones 3" is slight and silly, but I can't say it isn't endearing. I would never just decide on my own, "Hey, you know what I feel like watching?" But I completely understand why this franchise meant so much to women in particular. The film and the main character are easy to embrace and root for. You could do so much worse, this time of year in particular. And if it it's increased my empathy for 43 year old single, pregnant women, well then I guess I feel like a natural....Man....Man. 3 Stars. Rated R For Naughty Language And Other Such Rubbish.
Image: Damn, Witches be crazy!
There's one thing I have to give credit to "Blair Witch" for. Secrecy. They somehow kept the film's entire existence a secret, with early advertising promoting it as "The Woods". It was only revealed a few months ago that this was a direct sequel to the original "The Blair Witch Project". It's amazing this day in age that Hollywood could keep anything secret. Like the secret that Adam Sandler hasn't been funny in at least fifteen years....Oops, I've said to much.
Taking place years after the original, "Blair Witch" begins with "James" (James Allen McCune) in hoping to find out what exactly happened to his sister, "Heather" (a.k.a. The girl who got Blair Witched in the last one). He gathers his friends, "Lisa" (Callie Hernandez), "Peter" (Brandon Scott), and "Ashley" (Corbin Reid), gather their equipment and head out into the woods with a couple of confederate Blair Witch enthusiasts, "Lane" (Wes Robinson) and "Talia" (Valorie Curry). Of course things start to get witchy pretty fast and something in the woods starts to pick them off one by one.
After all the buzz around this belated (And I hear, more faithful) sequel, "Blair Witch" feels a little disappointing. Though I didn't see the first film, I feel like I just did. The film follows a predictable path, with a script that's pretty by the book, relying on very loud noises and jump scares. It's standard issue horror schlock, which is a shame, because it looks like Director Adam Wingard had the right idea. He certainly has an eye for atmosphere, creating a frighting look for the film. But "Blair Witch" lacks any substance to be very memorable.
The young actors are all fine (Pretend to be terrified, scream a lot, lots of fluid coming from their eyes and noses). But the characters have all been seen before in most second rate horror movies. "Blair Witch" does have it's tense moments (Particularly late in the film). And I admit I got a sick pleasure out of one or two of the deaths (James, do you even listen to yourself? Get some help!)
The only thing that really startled me about "Blair Witch" was that I thought I was alone in an empty theater the whole time, only to discover there was a guy sitting behind me all along. Now I see him whenever I close my eyes. His presence will forever haunt me. 2 Stars. Rated R For Gore, And For Witches With Attitude.
I'm begging you to see "Hell or High Water". Once or twice a year, I see a limited release film because of the buzz and critical acclaim around it that I hadn't planned on seeing. And since you and I have such a great personal relationship, I feel like I can tell you anything. And you know I would do anything you want me to. Don't make me beg, baby.
"Hell or High Water" begins with "Toby" (Chris Pine) and his ex-con brother, "Tanner" (Ben Foster) robbing a series of bank branches to prevent a foreclosure on a property of land that was left to them by their recently deceased mother. Soon to be retired Texas Ranger "Marcus Hamilton" (Jeff Bridges) and his Comanche/Mexican partner, "Alberto" (Gil Birmingham) are sent to hunt them down. With Hamilton being able to deduce the brothers' motivations and overall endgame, both duos will eventually be forced into a final conflict that could go on to haunt them.
A modern day western is the best way to describe "Hell or High Water". It has a small, personal feel to it, but the depth and richness of the film makes it more of an epic. Director David Mackenzie and Writer Taylor Sheridan ("Sicario") have developed a beautiful movie, from the scenery and setting, to the absolutely perfect script (It may be the most quotable film of the year). The complex characters develop throughout the entire movie, and make you constantly question who you side with and root for.
Jeff Bridges had a bit of a bad stretch lately, but he's in top "McGruff the Crime Dog" form here. But we all know he's a great actor. The surprise here is how good Captain Kirk is. Chris Pine gives the best performance of his career in a very heartfelt and multi layered role. Ben Foster is every bit his equal, and the two of them make incredibly believable siblings. And Gil Birmingham is excellent as well, sharing wonderful banter and chemistry with Bridges.
"Hell or High Water" is supremely authentic, with it's Texas setting and the believability of it's secondary characters (This has got to be the most "Texas" movie I've ever seen. Everyone's packing heat.) But there are no caricatures in this remarkable film. This is a small film that deserves to be seen, especially by Oscar voters. If it takes me becoming one of them, then so be it. Get me my damn ballot! 4 Stars. Rated R For Strong Texas Language, And Tough Texas Violence.
Image: Ah, Hell No!
Is there a name for this film genre? The "Lifetime PG-13 Sexual September Thriller For Black People Movie Of The Week"? I'm just saying. Hey, the "Lifetime Made For TV Sexual Thriller For White People Movie Of The Week" isn't any better.
"When the Bough Breaks" begins with "John" (Morris Chestnut) and "Laura" (Regina Hall), a loving married couple who aren't able to have a baby. They eventually find a seemingly perfect young surrogate, "Anna" (Jaz Sinclair) and her boyfriend, "Mike" (Theo Rossi), who agree to go along with the idea. When it turns out Mike is an abusive psycho, Anna goes to live with John and Laura to have the baby. But in reality, Anna and Mike are actually just planning to scam some money out of the couple. But.... In REALLY reality, Anna is completely bonkers and just wants to get in John's pants.
If you can't tell where this is going from a mile away, then it wasn't going to change your mind about seeing it (You either are or you're not). "When the Bough Breaks" is just going to drop from the box office face of the earth next week anyway. The film is supposed to be trashy, but "Breaks" doesn't even succeed on that front. The plot takes forever to get anywhere, and when it does, it still isn't anything more than trash.
The plot exists solely for the characters to make inexplicable decisions. Of course, smart decisions by smart characters would leave us with no script, so the script goes predictably through every plot point you always get from these "Thrillers". PG-13 seductions. Out of nowhere character introductions and reveals. Dead pets (Thanks "Fatal Attraction"). Nothing even slightly new.
Morris Chestnut and Regina Hall are too likable to be cast in crap like this (This could be said of a lot of their films). They make an appealing couple, but their characters are far too stupid, and their dialogue far too cheesy. Jaz Sinclair gets her big break, I suppose. She's not bad, but the part is preposterous. And Theo Rossi hams it up like his last meal depends on it. The film also wastes fine actors like Romany Malco (as one of John's coworkers) and Michael K. Willimas (as some kind of investigator). Odds are this was just as a favor.
"When the Bough Breaks" doesn't know what it wants to be until the moment it descends into complete madness. Doesn't it know that we all knew what we were getting in the first place? It doesn't even get the trashiness right. 1 Star. Rated PG-13 For Almost, But Not Quite Going All The Way.
Image: These are the "Special" animals Noah left behind.
For those of you who have been desperately waiting for the next great Belgian/French animated classic, your patience has been rewarded. Bon Appétit!
"The Wild Life" begins on a tropical island in the middle of the ocean, where a community of animals live together in harmony. "Mak" (David Howard), a Parrot wanting to see the world, "Rosie" (Laila Berzins), a sassy fat Pig thingy, "Carmello" (Colin Metzger), a Chameleon with little to no personality, "Pango" (Jeff Doucette) the Armadillo, "Epi" (Sandy Fox), a tiny Hedgehog, "Kiki" (Marieve Herington), a sarcastic Woodpecker, and "Scrubby" (Joey Camen), a senile old Goat, who all live the peaceful life.
Then one day, a human, "Robinson Crusoe" (Yuri Lowenthal) winds up marooned on the island with them. Initially the islanders are terrified of Crusoe, with the exception of Mak, who wants to befriend him and hopefully see more of the outside world. Eventually everyone has to come together when an army of vicious cats, led by their blood thirsty mother, "May" (Debi Tinsley), intend to take the island for themselves.
Another first in movie history, "The Wild Life" tells the famous literary classic from the standpoint of the animals (Like "To Kill a Mockingbird" from the standpoint of the Mockingbird. Or, "Lord of the Flies" from....You get the picture.) It feels strange that this is getting a wide American release, but the animation is actually pretty solid. "Life" is fluid and colorful to look at (I'm curious how it would look in 3-D). For a bland, boring movie, at least the animation is lively.
The problem with "Life" is the sheer boredom. It's not that it sucks (I kind of wish it did. It'd make a more interesting review.) Its just that there isn't much to it. There's no purpose to the story other than to be flashy for the younger audiences. It's not funny or clever enough for anyone over seven or eight, but it's not offensive or stupid enough to object to. The script is just lame, with the only decent jokes coming from the animation (Maybe It's just the Belgian/French translation. A longstanding problem in Hollywood.)
The cast of characters aren't memorable, but the little known cast does a solid job. But "The Wild Life" is so nondescript, that I'm struggling to make this review long enough or interesting enough to remember. The only thing I'll remember "Life" is to wonder why they decided to put so much effort and make it a wide release film in the first place. I'll vaguely hear the film in the background when there's a family get together, and we're trying to keep the toddlers from running and screaming in the kitchen. 2 Stars. Rated PG For Animated Animal Mayhem.
Image: All right, so he can land a passenger jet on a river. Big whoop.
I know that all those "Based on the amazing true story" movies aren't really true in the true sense. There are always liberties taken, and maybe an embellishment or two. But at least with "Sully" I know that old white haired dude landed that plane on the water. I saw it! I swear I was watching TV a few years ago, and I'll be danged I watched that jet plop gently on the river. Passengers standing out on the wings, after they had just fallen from the sky. You can't make that sh*t up.
"Sully" stars Tom Hanks as "Captain Chelsey "Sully" Sullenberger", who in 2009, after a flock of geese flew into the engines of the aircraft he was piloting, successfully guided it into the Hudson River. All 155 passengers and crew members, including his co-pilot, "Jeff Skiles" (Aaron Eckhart),were saved, and Sully became an overnight hero. But soon afterwards, Sully is forced to deal with constant interviews, armies of reporters, and investigators looking to find the "truth" about what caused the plane to crash. (Or in this case, look for someone to blame), causing Sully to have difficulty getting past the incident.
Director Clint Eastwood has acted and directed too many classics to mention, many of them on a large, grand scale. "But "Sully" is more small and intentionally intimate. The story focuses not just on the short lived flight itself (Tense and captivating), but on Sully's struggles with the aftermath, making the film's theme of humanity more personal.Eastwood, with his experienced eye for visuals (and ear for sound), uses his expertise to enhance the experience.
I hear this Tom Hanks is quite good from time to time. Seriously, the man is awesome, and way overdue for another Oscar nomination. And as "Sully", he's as good as he's ever been. Laura Linney (As Sully's wife) provides great support, and Aaron Eckhart is terrific as well (His best performance in years.)
There is a compliant from some that the investigators in the film are portrayed harshly, but "Sully" focuses on the point of technology and computers versus the human element, and that the human element is too often forgotten. In the end, the film shows that our humanity is what is needed during crisis. So, whether he likes it or not, Sully was the hero we may have needed at the time.
"Sully" is lovely in it's simplicity and that's pretty refreshing for a film critic (It's little more than an hour and a half.) A great story with a great director and a great actor playing a great man is a fool proof night at the movies. Simple, right? 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Scary Airplane Stuff, Because We Need More Reasons To Be Afraid To Fly.
Image: "If we just send the baby back in the box, Fed Ex will have it back home tomorrow morning".
This is a fine piece of cinema. With a deep story full of emotion and terrific acting....I didn't like it.
"The Light Between Oceans" begins sometime after World War I in Western Australia with a depressed war veteran, "Tom Sherbourne" (Michael Fassbender) accepting a temporary job as a lighthouse keeper that eventually becomes permanent. He meets and falls in love with a young woman, "Isabel" (Alicia Vikander), and the two later marry, living together alone on the island. Isabel wants a baby, but suffers two miscarriages that cause her to slip into depression.
But the couple soon discovers a washed up rowboat with a dead body and a baby girl, who Isabel wishes to raise as her own. Desperate to make his wife happy, Tom agrees to allow Isabel to raise her while burying the body, naming the girl, "Lucy". As Lucy grows, Tom finds another woman named "Hannah" (Rachel Weisz), who just so happened to have lost her husband and baby girl at sea around the time he and Isabel adopted (Er, Stole?) Lucy. Guilt starts to eat away at Tom as everyone's happy lives come crashing down.
When I say I didn't like "The Light Between Oceans", that doesn't mean I don't respect the talent and professionalism involved. Director Derek Cianfrance films it beautifully, with great vision and use of scenery (Some of the shots are absolutely breathtaking).
The plot is interesting, but, God! "Oceans" is just too much. Too much pain and drama. The film is two hours of flawed, genuinely decent people suffering greatly, and man do they wallow in it. Some of the characters actions are understandable, though needlessly complicated. There isn't much light between oceans. Just sadness and despair.
Luckily, the film's acting is truly a saving grace. Michael Fassbender is excellent once again, and shares perfect chemistry with Alicia Vikander, who could be Oscar nomination worthy in a very emotional role. Rachel Weisz is wonderful as well, all of them bringing sympathy and understanding to their complex roles.
How could I not like "The Light Between Oceans"? I understand the film will appear to some, and I understand why, But as well made as this movie is, It's would be near impossible to see myself sitting through something that clearly wants to make it's audience as miserable as it's characters are. ("12 Years a Slave" had some moments of community, and even joy. Even thinking about the ending still gets me.) I'm very sensitive. I have to see light at the end of journey. It's pretty clear. This is a fine, fine film that I just didn't like. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Severe Adult Humorless Content.
Image: I can see right through this kid.
The movies have taught us many things and yet people still refuse to listen. For example, the next time scientists insist that they can create synthetic or artificial human life? Well stop. Just stop. You and most everyone around you are going to die.
"Morgan" centers in a hidden laboratory, where there are a group of scientists headed by "Dr. Simon Ziegler" (Toby Jones). They, after several tries, have successfully created a form of life they name "Morgan" (Anya Taylor-Joy), who grows at an accelerated rate, while showing super human abilities.
But an incident results in her attacking and stabbing the eye of one of the scientists, "Kathy" (Jennifer Jason Leigh). So the company funding the experiment sends in "Lee Weathers" (Kate Mara) to determine for them if Morgan should be terminated or not. But after another deadly incident involving a cocky therapist, "Alan Shapiro" (Paul Giamatti), everything goes down the crapper and the body count quickly starts to rise.
"Morgan" sounds like an interesting premise, and Director Luke Scott (Ridley's son) has his father's flair for atmosphere. There are some fascinating ideas in the story (Not every scientific discovery is inherently noble), but the script and characters feel underdeveloped (Especially Morgan herself), leaving every intriguing idea unfinished.
The film may be intense, but "Morgan" isn't exactly scary. The trailer indicated a horror movie, but this is more Sci-Fi thriller that seemingly is failing to attract much interest (My theater was completely empty. That didn't make it any scarier).
Though the characters are never fully realized, the cast does a game job, with Kate Mara doing a fine job as the matter of fact and capable Lee. Toby Jones is very good in a rare sympathetic role, but Jennifer Jason Leigh is woefully underutilized, as is Michelle Yeoh (As Morgan's surrogate Mother). At least Paul Giamatti gets one memorable sequence in his few minutes of screen time and Anya Taylor-Joy is suitably creepy as Morgan.
Everything leads up to a clever, if not easy to piece together twist. "Morgan" is too by the numbers to stand out in the Sci-Fi genre. It's not a bad film, but leaves you wondering where they could have gone with a better script. Screen Writers are like Scientists. Many ideas become important and wonderful contributions to society. Most should end up in the scrap heap. 2 Stars. Rated R For Bloody Violence By A Rampaging Sociopathic Adolescent.
Image: "Marco!" "Polo!"
I thought the horror film genre had been played out, but I've been surprised at how well received some of them have been this year. Maybe the ideas are getting fresher. Like two young people break into an old, blind guy's house, only to discover that he's a bad ass who turns the table on them and can sense their every move. Got to admit, that's pretty clever.
"Don't Breathe" follows "Rocky" (Jane Levy), a teenage girl with a crack head boyfriend, "Money" (Daniel Zovatto), and her best friend/guy who totally has a crush on her, "Alex" (Dylan Minnette). They break into houses to steal valuable items to sell, but Rocky hopes to make enough money to take her sister away from her neglectful, abusive mother to start a new life. Money (Yeah, that's really his name) learns that an old blind man (Stephen Lang) just so happens to have $300,00 in cash lying around his house and convinces Rocky and Alex, who really wants nothing to do with this, to break into the house in the middle of the night to steal it.
But it turns out the blind man, being a former Army veteran, is more deadly than anticipated. He offs Money (Not a spoiler, its in the trailer), and locks Rocky and Alex inside the dark house with him. Now Rocky and Alex must find a way to escape, while avoiding the blind man and discovering the horrifying secrets he is desperately trying to hide.
"Don't Breathe" is a different type of horror movie. It's really a suspense film filmed a like a horror film, and it does a terrific job of building up the suspense before the inevitable gore (And there is a lot of it). The plot is kind of brilliant, with Director Fede Alvarez turning the home invasion theme into his own unique house of horrors. The characters aren't very likable, obviously, but the film does give them each there own reasons for their actions.
Jane Levy brings as much sympathy to her role as possible, and she plays "Terrified Out Of Her Freakin' Mind" extremely well. Dylan Minnette is probably the most easy to root for (He's only doing it out of love), and Stephen "I'm Going To Overact The Crap Out Of Avatar" Lang actually gives a compelling, and thoroughly intimidating performance.
For a film that is supposed to be set in realism, there are some "Horror" film twists I could do without, but it's difficult to find much complaint. "Don't Breathe" is genuinely unsettling, and that's my kind of horror film. No jump scares, please. I don't scare easy. I'm looking for intensity, man. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Memorable Gruesomeness.
Image: I tried to find a picture of Jason Statham picking flowers or holding a puppy.
The sequel that had to be made. Though nobody asked. But the producers knew that we wanted what we didn't know we wanted.
"Mechanic: Resurrection" begins with "Mechanic" (which is slang for Hitman), "Arthur Bishop" (Jason Statham), who is attempting to retire from the job after narrowly surviving the first film. But Arthur is being tracked by people working for old rival, "Riah Crain" (Sam Hazeldine), who wants to force Bishop to work for him. Bishop escapes, only to run into "Gina" (Jessica Alba), who has also been forced to work for Crain.
Gina gets close to Bishop, and he vows to keep her safe, as they begin to fall in love (The bad guy's plan worked perfectly). Crain kidnaps her and forces Bishop back into his old job. He must assassinate three people, including delightfully quirky arms dealer, "Max Adams" (Tommy Lee Jones) in order to save her.
There's an awful lot of serious plot to "Mechanic:Resurrection" for what is essentially little more than a trashy action flick. The first half of the film focuses on the budding relationship between the two leads, which dulls any momentum the movie could possibly have. It's a romantic subplot that is needlessly convoluted, made worse by the bland script and writing, giving you very little reason to care about anyone involved.
There is a few clever moments in the action scenes and in the planning of the "Hits", and Jason Statham obviously fits the part (He'd probably make a Hell of an assassin). He beats up and kills a lot of people, miraculously keeping the same impressive scowl on his face the entire time (And he was so dang funny in "Spy". How about a smile, Jason? I ask very respectfully). Jessica Alba is incredibly cute and all, but there's not much reason for her to be here. At least Tommy Lee Jones brings some humor to his incredibly brief (About five minutes) time on screen.
The villains in "Mechanic 2" are kind of pathetic, honestly. Their plan makes even less sense once the reason is revealed, and nobody will doubt for a second that Statham is going to royally kick every one of their asses, ruining any hope of suspense.
There's moments of life here and there, but "Mechanic:Resurrection" is surprisingly short, boring, and gives no reason to make us understand why it was resurrected in the first place. Again, who did they resurrect this for? 1 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Blood, Violence, And Extreme Scowling.
Image: "You want my gun, Hillary....Come and take it....AAAAHHHH!!!!"
Clearly, the world is an insane place, and nothing should really shock us anymore. But the fact that "War Dogs" could have even any truth to it, that it could be that simple for two dipshits to become infamous international arms dealers may prove that the world has gone to Hell in a hand basket.
"War Dogs" tells the ridiculously true story (despite clear fictionalization) during the Iraq War, where massage therapist/failing bed sheet salesman, "David Packouz" (Miles Teller) runs into his old Junior High best friend, "Efraim Diveroli" (Jonah Hill), who has become an arms dealer for the U.S. government. Once David learns that his wife, "Iz" (Ana de Armas) is pregnant and in desperation for money decides to work for Efraim, thinking "What's the worst that could happen?" and eventually begin to expand their international gunrunning business right before everything inevitably goes crashing down in spectacular fashion.
This is a strange, macabre story, even with liberties taken (Most films take them), but "War Dogs" is both strangely fascinating and entertaining. The humor mostly comes from the preposterous situations, but the film is well made and well written. The tone can be uneven (Veering from "Bro Comedy" to dark, dangerous drama), but Director Todd Phillips keeps things as grounded as possible, thanks to focusing on the two humorous and complex characters.
Two time Oscar nominee Jonah Hill (Sounds strange, but can't say he doesn't deserve it) gives a delightfully out of his freakin' mind performance, treading the line between human decency and being a total piece of crap. Miles Teller matches Hill, playing it straight and sympathetic (At least by default). The two actors make a terrific, combative team. Ana de Armas is pretty, but stuck in a typical role and Bradley Cooper takes a small role (as "Henry Girad", a slimy arms dealer) and makes the most of it.
The unevenness of "War Dogs" gets in the way, as does the plot's predictable path. But the two leads and the solid writing carry the film through to it's fairly depressing conclusion. It's hard to feel bad for the characters. But it's easy to feel bad for our country if this was, and is, even remotely possible. You almost have to laugh. Right? 3 Stars. Rated R For Super Strong Language, Drug Use, And Enough Gun Use To Give Ted Nugent A Woody.
Image: "Well of course we're going to throw poo at him".
We don't talk about Laika Studios enough. I'm always giving love to Disney and Pixar, and on occasion, Dreamworks. But I refuse to continue to overlook this wonderful little studio that specializes in stop-motion animation. With "The Box Trolls", "ParaNorman, and the undeniable classic "Coraline", Laika Studios gets the critical acclaim and award nominations, yet the public refuses to make these the box office hits they deserve to be. So please, show "Kubo and the Two Strings" some love before Laika folds up tent and declares bankruptcy. Because of you.
"Kubo and the Two Strings" begins it's story with an eye patch wearing young boy named "Kubo" (Art Parkinson), who is taking care of his now frail mother. In the meantime, Kubo uses his magic abilities and his guitar to bring to life origami, to tell stories of a legendary warrior in search of a mystical armor, to the delight of all the villagers.
As it turns out, there is truth to the story, as it's really about Kubo's deceased father. It turns out Kubo and his mother are in hiding from Kubo's evil grandfather, "The Moon King" (Ralph Fiennes). But eventually The Moon King learns of their location, sending his sinister twin daughters known as "The Sisters" (Rooney Mara) to attack Kubo's village in an attempt to steal his remaining eye. Kubo's mother sacrifices herself to save Kubo, sending him on a quest with a talisman brought to life, the aptly named "Monkey" (Charlize Theron). They seek to find Kubo's father's armor to defeat The Moon King, along with a miniature origami version of his father and an amnesiac, cursed warrior, named "Beetle" (Matthew McConaughey).
"Kubo and the Two Strings" is a wonderfully complex (and mature) tale, yet with an old fashioned theme. In fact, storytelling itself is the main theme of "Kubo". The film's concept and look have a folktale feel, showing reverential respect for Japanese culture and it's lore. The plot is incredibly original, yet could be told as a bedtime story to a child (If your child can handle some pretty nightmarish themes. God I'd be a terrible parent).
The actors and characters are perfectly (and surprisingly) matched. Charlize Theron is the perfect blend of warm, tender and harsh, Art Parkinson shows enough likability and childhood resolve to carry the film, Sir Ralph Fiennes (He should be a Sir by now) and Rooney Mara ooze with villainy, and Matthew McConaughey plays nicely against type in an excellent performance. And it is nice to have actual Japanese actors in Japanese roles, with George Takei and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (among others) shining in important supporting roles.
"Kubo and the Two Strings" is visually alluring. It's stop-motion animation is truly groundbreaking, with incredible detail shown in every face, hair and article of clothing, and the wind and water movements are literally unbelievable (Honestly, I can't figure out how they can do it). "Kubo" is risky in both style and substance, and deeper and more unpredictable than you would ever expect to get from a family film.
The film ends in a way you would never expect, but It's completely enchanting nonetheless. "Kubo and the Two Strings" should be as satisfying for adults as it will be for kids. The film has plenty of humor, yet deals with life, death, love and loss, with a young hero forced to grow up fast. Think you can handle all of that emotion? You should. "Kubo" may rival "Zootopia" as the best film of the year so far. 4 Stars. Rated PG For The Feels.
Image: Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant on the way to pick up their Oscars.
Florence Foster Jenkins was terrible. Just terrible. Not the person. And not the movie. I mean the real Florence Foster Jenkins was an awful singer. One of those people that Simon Cowell would have told that they sounded like a cat being strangled while being violated by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. And yet, she was so darn lovable and true to herself that her singing was somehow endearing and downright brave. It almost inspired me to sing, until I remembered that my singing voice was ten times worse.
Meryl Streep stars in the true story of "Florence Foster Jenkins", a famous New York socialite who always dreamed of being a famous opera singer, in spite of the fact that she literally has a singing voice that may have brought down both the Hindenberg and the Titanic. Still, Florence believes that she can sing with the greatest sopranos.
Her platonic husband, "St. Clair Bayfield" (Hugh Grant) encourages Florence to follow her bliss, though he is having an affair with "Kathleen" (Rebecca Ferguson). With help from her newly hired penis-er, pianist, "Cosmé McMoon" (Simon "Howard Wolowitz" Helberg), Florence records an album, and finally takes a chance by agreeing to perform at New York's famous Carnegie Hall in front of a sold out audience.
Much like It's titular character, "Florence Foster Jenkins" is just too damn likable to criticize. The film is a little fluffy, so to speak, but it packs in plenty of heart and humor, with characters that are impossible not to like. Maybe the plot took some liberties for Hollywood's sake, but what matters more is the film's strong writing and terrific performances, leading to Florence's satisfying moment of triumph.
Hasn't Meryl Streep been nominated for enough Oscar's already? Well screw it, give her another one. Maybe they've been nominating her out of habit recently, but here Streep gives a knockout performance. Hugh Grant gets his best role in years as well, while showing his usual Hugh Grant charm. Simon Helberg is hilarious and instantly lovable, and the three of them make an incredibly appealing team.
"Florence Foster Jenkins" is actually quite moving. So what if she can't sing? As Florence said, "People may say I can't sing. But no one can ever say I didn't sing". But I still can't sing. And I never will. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Syphilis .
Image: Pete takes Elliot into the forest....For the last *sniff*.... Time.
If I could ever be accused of bias, obviously it would be for Disney. "Zootopia", "The Jungle Book", "Finding Dory", "The BFG". And that's just so far this year. My reviews for Disney films tend to be loving and glowing, as if I was expecting Disney to give me lifetime passes to every theme park and every movie. Nope, I will never sell my soul, so if I continue to point out the genius of everything Disney, you can rest assure that I am not being compensated in the slightest. Nope, not even with the last eighteen Disney Infinity 3.0 figurines that I don't have yet.....Disney? Hello?
"Pete's Dragon" begins with young "Pete" (Oakes Fegley) losing his parents in a car crash (Bummer of an opening, Disney). Pete winds up lost in the middle of the woods. but is rescued from a pack of wolves by a green, fuzzy, magical Dragon who he names "Elliott", who becomes Pete's guardian and best friend.
Cut ahead years later, Pete is discovered by America's most adorable park ranger, "Grace" (Bryce Dallas Howard) and her soon to be stepdaughter, "Natalie" (Oona Laurence) who take him home. Grace and Natalie begin to suspect that the old tales that Grace's father, "Mr. Meacham" (Robert Redford) has told of a magical dragon living in the woods are true.
Meanwhile, Natalie's desperate for attention uncle, "Gavin" (Karl Urban), having had a run in with Elliott, intends to hunt down the poor Dragon, leaving Pete and his new family to find a way to protect Elliott, while Pete starts to question where his real home should be.
I vaguely remember seeing the original "Pete's Dragon" years ago, but that was little more than a cute kids movie. The updated version is still an old fashioned story (Maybe to a fault). But the film works because it has all of that special Disney magic that they copyrighted since dang near one hundred years ago. It's a classically told story with likable characters, and plenty of the Disney feels and heart that always comes with the territory. Director David Lowery takes a small scale story and makes the scope look huge. The cinematography is breathtaking, and Lowery gives the film real artistic beauty.
Bryce Dallas Howard is getting better and better roles, and she's completely charming here. Oakes Fegley is a terrific young actor, as is Oona Laurence, who is a rising star. I completely get why Robert Redford was the biggest star in the world back in the day, and both Karl Urban and Wes Bentley (As "Jack", Grace's fiance and Natalie's father) are excellent actors who make the most of their underdeveloped characters.
But Elliot is the real star of "Pete's Dragon". He is an adorable character, and an absolute visual marvel. He blends in seamlessly with everything else on screen (He may very well be a real Dragon, who actually does chase his own tale. Disney can afford it). The relationship between Elliot and Pete is heartwarming to the point of making you tear up (Even all of you heartless pricks who swear they don't cry. Real men admit it).
"Pete's Dragon" is predictable, but it's a sweet and effortless family film, and works in that special way that all great Disney films do. And the only gift I receive is the joy of knowing that I've spread the word to the masses, and added even more profit to Disney's bottom line. But not mine. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG For Killing Off The Little Kid's Parents In The First Damn Scene.
Image: "No, not in Seth Rogan's mouth! NOOOOOO!"
How the Hell did "Sausage Party" ever get made? Unless you're Matt Stone and Trey Parker, I didn't think Hollywood would possibly green light a filthy R rated animated comedy about all of the terrible things that happen to our wieners. But they did...And it's beautiful.
In "Sausage Party", all food (among other inanimate objects) are all living beings, believing that humans are "Gods" who come into the supermarket to take them into "The Great Beyond". One sausage, "Frank" (Seth Rogen) dreams of finally getting able to up inside his hot dog bun girlfriend, "Brenda" (Kristen Wiig). They are "chosen" by a God, along with Frank's other sausage friends, "Carl" (Jonah Hill) and "Barry" (Michael Cera), only to be warned by a suicidal jar of "Honey Mustard" (Danny McBride) that everything they know is a lie and that Frank should see "Firewater" (Bill Hader), who may know the horrible truth.
Frank and Brenda are separated from their friends along with "Sammy Bagel Jr." (Edward Norton) and a middle eastern "Lavash" (David Krumholtz), leaving them stranded in the supermarket with the maniacal and vengeful "Douche" (Nick Kroll) in pursuit after them. When Frank learns from Firewater what happens to food when the gods take them home, he must find a way to warn everyone before its too late.
Yes, "Sausage Party" is completely offensive. And yes, "Sausage Party" is completely hilarious. And, aside from me laughing harder than I've ever laughed in a theater (Cleanup in auditorium 6!), "Sausage Party" is the best comedy of the year. Yeah, there's dick jokes and f-bombs in an animated movie (Automatically funny), but it's also deceptively smart with an actual point to it's plot. I swear, "Sausage Party" is more intelligent than most films today.
The film takes on religious absolutism, cultural relations and emotional repression. It just uses incredibly raunchy and perverted humor to make it's point. "Sausage Party" delights in going too far, so, if you offend easily, than it's too bad for you, because you'll miss out on a solid story, some colorful animation, and a great cast of characters.
The cast of "Sausage Party" is outright amazing. Seth Rogan leads the way in a likable and hilarious performance. Kristten Wiig is sweet, adorable and funny (As always), Michael Cera is a lovable riot, Bill Hader is blissfully innapropriate, Edward Norton and David Krumholtz have amazing rapport, Salma Hayek (As "Teresa", a taco) is the hottest lesbian taco I've ever seen, and Nick Kroll steals the movie as the villain. Throw in Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd (As a supermarket employee), James Franco (As a human druggie), Craig Robinson (As "Mr. Grits", a cracker hating box of grits), Danny McBride, Scott Underwood (As a Stephen Hawking like wad of gum) and more of the usual suspects help make "Sausage Party" the best comedy cast of the year.
I suppose your tolerance level for vulgarity will determine how much you like "Sausage Party". I loved the film , but even I wrestled with how high of a rating I could give a film this absurd. But the ending of the film is so brilliant (I can't reveal any of it), that it became a no-brainer. "Sausage Party" is right up there with "Team America: World Police" and "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut" as undeniable classic and crude R rated animated masterpieces. And I also learned that food have feelings too. #FoodLivesMatter. 4 Stars. Rated R For Language, Drugs, And Sexual Acts With Food So Shocking That I Dare Not Speak Of It At A Family Dinner.
Image: I swear I can't think of anything that isn't filthy.
There's always that one movie. That one that you'll question for years if it was even real. Did someone really approve of that? Was that actually released in theaters? Did an unpaid, amateur film critic really take time out of his day to see it and then spend an hour or two actually writing a full, detailed review of it?
"Nine Lives" begins with workaholic, cat-hating businessman, "Tom Brand" (Kevin Spacey) never having time for his wife, "Lara" (Jennifer Garner), his young daughter, "Rebecca" (Malina Weissman), and his son from another marriage, "David" (Robbie Amell). Tom still can't seem to balance out work with family, even on Rebecca's upcoming birthday. Rebecca really wants a kitty for her birthday, so Tom ends up buying one from a strange pet shop owned by the eccentric "Felix" (Christopher Walken), who warns of troubling events to come.
Tom then falls off a building thanks to his slimy rival, "Ian" (Mark Consuelos) and winds up trapped inside the body of the same cat he bought, while his real body is stuck in a coma like state. Felix warns Tom the cat (or Mr. Fuzzypants) that if he doesn't realize the error of his ways and reconcile with his family, he'll be trapped inside Mr. Fuzzypants forever.
Again, you're asking yourself "Is that real?". Well, I've got the movie ticket to prove it, paid for it with money, and sat down in a surprisingly busier than it should of been theater with families that all looked at me funny. "Nine Lives" is every bit as bizarre as it looked, if not more. It's not particularly charming, rarely funny, and somewhat disturbingly darker than you would expect.
I can see see vague hints of whatever 1990's movie vibe ("Men in Black" Director Barry Sonnenfeld inexplicably helms this one) they were going for. But most of those films were silly at best, and "Nine Lives" adds cheapness, with a high dose of creepiness thrown in. It's a family film about a talking cat, but with themes of death, suicide and peril, and the implication that all cats are trapped souls of humans who never redeemed themselves (I wonder what my cat must have done in her human life? I'm guessing mass murder at an all you can eat buffet).
Kevin Spacey is a terrific actor trapped in a cat's body. Enough said. "Nine Lives" is mostly Spacey riffing cat jokes, which is amusing for a minute or two. Jennifer Garner continues to give performances significantly better than her films deserve. Mark "Mr. Kelly Ripa" Consuelos is so over the top that his character isn't possible to be believed (Blame the Writers and Director), and national treasure Christopher Walken has perfected the art of being Christopher Walken, so he gets a pass.
I suppose "Nine Lives" is harmless enough. But it makes zero sense and it's not particularly pleasant to sit through Luckily It's less than an hour and a half, so I refuse to spend more time reviewing a film that will only be remembered as a strange, perplexing footnote in Hollywood lore. You're better off staying home and playing with your pussycat. 1 Star. Rated PG For Adult Themes And Cat-Astrophic Behavior.
Image: Okay....So, she's crazy. I can live with that.
So aren't I in a bit of a pickle here? We have possibly the most anticipated movie of the year right here. On top of that, this is the movie that is supposed to save the DC Extended Universe (Its like the Marvel universe, but not as good). If I give it a negative review, I'll be considered a partisan towards Marvel and will be branded as a snob who just doesn't know how to enjoy a movie. If I give it a positive review, I'll be considered too soft and partisan because I actually read (and really enjoy) plenty of DC Comics. So since I'm gonna piss off someone anyway, here goes nothing. I think we can all behave like civilized adults......Don't you, Mr. Poopypants?
"Suicide Squad" begins sometime after the death of Superman (Not a spoiler. You should know by now), where government official, "Amanda Waller" (Viola Davis) devises a plan to gather a team of the world's most dangerous criminals to combat future growing threats. "Task Force X" (or the "Suicide Squad)" consists of expert marksman/assassin for hire, "Floyd Lawton/Deadshot" (Will Smith), loudmouthed, boomerang throwing crook, "Digger Harkness/Captain Boomerang" (Jai Courtney), former gang member with the power of fire, "Chato Santana/El Diablo" (Jay Hernandez), cannibalistic, half-man, half-croc, "Waylon Jones/Killer Croc" (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), possessed archaeologist, "June Moone/Enchantress" (Cara Delevingne), some other guy, "Christopher Weiss/Slipknot" (Adam Beach), and of course, "Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn" (Margot Robbie), a former psychiatrist turned insane girlfriend of the Clown Prince of Crime, "The Joker" (Jared Leto).
But when Enchantress goes rogue, taking over a city, and plotting to bring upon the apocalypse with her monster brother, The Squad is put under the leadership of "Rick Flagg" (Joel Kinnaman) and his swordswoman bodyguard, "Tatsu Yamashiro/Katana" (Karen Fukuhara), who has a sword that can trap souls (Yeah, traps souls. They never explain.) They are sent into the city to either save the day and get no credit at all, or fail and receive full blame. Meanwhile, Joker pops up to win back his Harley in return for 15 to 20 minutes of screen time.
In all honesty, I hate that I only get to review films after professional critics have already given their opinions, and it flat out sucks that I inevitably have to respond to their reviews. "Suicide Squad" has been savaged by most of them, and, though I think they may be a little too harsh, there is still something seriously wrong with the film. I'm not even sure we even saw the whole movie. "Suicide Squad" feels overly edited and chopped up. I have to believe there are scenes missing that would have fully developed the film. The characters are not given introductions so much as they are given a quick exposition, telling us what their personalities and motivations are. That's a serious flaw for a film with so many major characters, most of them who primarily fade into the background.
I don't know if the problem lies more with studio meddling, or more with Writer and Director David Ayer. Either way the plot is choppy and too faced paced to absorb. The effects and style of "Suicide Squad" generally look good, and there is plenty of solid action, though I can't be the only person who thinks the film's finale is a strange hybrid of "Ghostbusters" meets "Gods of Egypt" (That may be the most bizarre thing I've ever written).
Not that there isn't occasional fun to be had with "Suicide Squad". There are genuine moments of brilliance sprinkled throughout. Much of that lies with some of the actors and characters. Will Smith is back to being the cool, awesome Will Smith we've been waiting for, somehow bringing incredible likability to his flawed character. And despite issues with her fluctuating accent, Margot Robbie is still perfectly cast as the strangely adorable Harley Quinn (Though the film glosses over her characters tragedy in favor of quirk). And Viola Davis is absolutely perfect as the morally suspect government official.
I realize that these words have never left my mouth before, but Jai Courtney is actually enjoyable as the most bonkers of the group. Jay Hernandez is fine (But his character's story arc goes exactly where you'd expect), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje certainly looks cool (Though his character pretty much just stands around), Karen Fukuhara sadly is just wasted potential, and Adam Beach's character has no real use. Most underutilized are Joel Kinnamen and Cara Delevingne (Whose relationship is mostly mentioned rather than shown), who aren't allowed to give us reasons to care about or to understand their characters.
Surprisingly, the main villains are what bother me the most about "Suicide Squad". I may not have liked Jesse Eisenberg in "Batman V Superman", but at least I'll remember him. These guys just aren't intimidating, interesting, or memorable in the slightest. And it may not be fair to ask Jared Leto to follow in the huge Joker footsteps of Heath Ledger. Or Jack Nicholson (Or an animated Mark Hamill for that matter). Leto does do a pretty good job of making the character his own. He's menacing and darkly humorous, and certainly leaves an impression. His scenes are a highlight for sure. Too bad he's hardly in the damn movie. And when he's not around, something is always missing, leaving the rest of the film feeling flat. The rumors of editing much of his role out must be true, and I'm guessing they left the best parts of the film on the floor.
The DC Extended Universe just can't seem to harness the limitless possibilities of these stories and characters. And as a fan of DC Comics, you must believe me when I say how badly I wanted to genuinely like "Suicide Squad", and now I'm losing faith in this film universe. There's things there to like and fun to be had. But the flaws are much too noticeable, making it all the more frustrating. Marvel and DC are on two different roads. Marvel may have a bump or two, but it's generally smooth, safe and satisfying. DC's road has some some pretty scenery. Otherwise, it's full of potholes and roadkill. And all it's starting to give me a headache. 2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Non Stop Action, And A Very Naughty Harley.
Image: MATT DAYMON!!!!
I am such a lying sack of sh*t! I swore that I was done seeing certain films with franchises or histories surrounding them, without seeing those particular films in question first. It makes it very awkward when I have to review the sequel or remake or reboot or whatever. I know what you're thinking. That's what Netflix is for. Yeah, well NOT EVERYTHING'S ON NETFLIX! I'm sorry. It's my bad, not yours. So, anyway, I never saw any of the "Bourne" movies. Moving on....
"Jason Bourne" takes place years after the previous "Bourne" movie (I'll take their word for it), following former brainwashed CIA assassin, "Jason Bourne" (Matt Damon). He's gone off the grid, disappearing from the rest of the world, including those after him. Bourne's old friend, "Nicky Parsons" (Julia Stiles), in an attempt to expose the CIA's evil doings, hacks into their mainframe server, discovering more on Bourne's past and goes to find him.
Unfortunately, Nicky accidentally alerts the attention of CIA Director, "Robert Dewey" (Tommy Lee Jones), who calls in a violent and efficient assassin only known as "The Asset" (Vincent Cassel). Bourne and Nicky's reunion is cut short when The Asset kills her, leaving Bourne to find out about his father's connection to the super evil CIA assassin program, and take down the mysterious government bureaucrats in suits while CIA agent "Heather Lee" (Alicia Vikander) leads the hunt to find him.
"Jason Bourne" is a fine film, but did I really miss anything (As far as plot) by not seeing the first three films? The shadowy government conspiracy is pretty vague and out there anyway, so I just went along for the ride. And though I doubt (Or at least hope) the CIA isn't this evil, "Jason Bourne" is still a heck of a ride. Director Paul Greengrass is a great Director, guiding "Bourne" past the crazier aspects of the plot by ratcheting up the level of excitement.
The action scenes are intense and well filmed (Though the finale is one of the craziest car chases you'll ever see), and the fight scenes are PG-13 brutal, but top notch. And thank God, because the story is predictable conspiracy nonsense (Though it will give conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones a raging stiffy).
Matt Damon is as reliable as you can get as an actor, and he's pretty awesome here (I'd assumed he was a bad ass in these films, but geez!) The great Tommy Lee Jones plays up the slime to the hilt, and looks like he's having a blast (Of course, his face always looks like he's overjoyed). Alicia Vikander is an excellent actress, and is probably the cutest CIA agent in film history. Vincent Cassel is nearly as intimidating as Damon is as the assassin. While Riz Ahmed's (As "Aaron Kalloor", CEO of a social media enterprise) entire subplot really doesn't have too much to do with the rest of the story.
Maybe it would have made a difference seeing the other films, but I found "Jason Bourne" to be pretty easy to follow. Ultimate Agent loses memory, slowly regains it, remembers government lied to him, beats up or kills every damn one of them on his way to the truth. Pretty basic stuff, and a bit overdone, made more memorable by a great movie star. Like I said, pretty basic stuff. But I should have seen the other three films. Sorry, my bad. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Intense Hand To Hand Action, And For Making Me Not Trust My Government!
Image: I volunteer to be the designated driver.
I'm not the internet. I can admit when I'm wrong. In fact, I embrace it. Because when I admit, for example, that I thought the "Ratchet and Clank" movie would work (Not quite), or that at least one minority would get an Oscar nomination last year (Oops), I then get to gloat when I said that Trump would win the Republican nomination (Lord forgive me! What have I wrought!) But I can't be the only one who thought "Bad Moms" would be a train wreck.
"Bad Moms" starts with stressed out mother, "Amy" (Mila Kunis) finally snapping due to her constantly demanding job, overly reliant kids (Oona Laurence and Emjay Anthony), the revelation that her husband (David Walton) has been cheating on her via Webcam, and pressure from condescending PTA leader, "Gwendolyn" (Christina Applegate).
Amy declares she's had enough. So, along with her new friends, the slightly awkward "Kiki" (Kristen Bell) and the super horny "Carla" (Kathryn Hahn), they decide to be "Bad Moms" (Both metaphorically and literally), indulging in wild n' out activity full of alcohol, guys, and lesbian experimentation (Yeah. Oh, yeah. That's hot.) But their new found freedom and confidence eventually brings the wrath of Gwendolyn and her posse.
This sounds like the same cliched idea as every other movie that starts with the word "Bad". But this "Bad" film has a bit more depth, and (Despite being written by a couple of the "Hangover" dudes), the film shows a surprising amount of respect for it's characters. "Bad Moms" isn't just a mom's gone wild film. There's an actual point it's trying to make about how overwhelmed every mother can get (I called my mom immediately and told her to go out, have a good time and get plastered. You deserve it, mom!)
The plot of "Bad Moms" is predictable and secondary. It's the execution that matters, and thanks the top notch cast, it delivers. Mila Kunis is not only drop dead gorgeous, she's easily a good enough actress to carry the material. Kristen Bell is always a total cutie pie, and Kathryn Hahn is scene stealingly hilarious, completely unafraid to say anything to get a laugh. Christina Applegate plays her stuck up character expertly, and Jada Pinkett Smith (As "Stacy", Gweendolyn's minion) does fine in a supporting role.
I wasn't the target of "Bad Moms" (As evidenced by me being the only guy in a theater with dozens of incredibly enthusiastic women. Lots of "Whooos!" and "Awwws") So kudos to the film for connecting with women who don't usually get this kind of attention from Hollywood. Most films of this sort don't get it, but "Bad Moms" just seems to genuinely understand that even moms need to get their raunch on once in a while. So to all you bad mama's out there, let me know if I can help. 3 Stars. Rated R For Naughty Language And Lots Of Female Debauchery.
Image: "Damn it! I'm gonna catch me that Pikachu!"
"Nerve" is old folks worst nightmare. Young people. Internet. The YouTube. Technology. Noise. Flashy lights. Loud music. Bernie Sanders supporters. This is not a film that's for anyone over the age of....Old.
"Nerve" stars Emma Roberts as "Vee", a high school senior who rarely takes risks. She is convinced by her popular, overly pushy best friend, "Sydney" (Emily Meade) to take part in an online reality video game version of "Truth or Dare" (without the truth) called "Nerve" where you play to be watched by millions and win money. Vee is eventually forced to team up with another player, "Ian" (Dave Franco), but they soon realize just how dangerous the game really is once it becomes clear that they won't be allowed to stop playing (Basically just like your average "Final Fantasy" game).
Maybe I'm getting too old, but I should have had more faith in "Nerve". My thirteen year old sister saw it with me and said it would be good, and I'll be dang that cute little sh*t was right. "Nerve" is honestly smarter than it sounds, providing more depth than the truth or daredevil premise would suggest. If anything, the film is more about the sordid underbelly of the internet, and the at times sick, twisted culture that spawns from it (Yeah' internet, you got it coming!) "Nerve" sticks it to the nameless faces hiding safe behind computer screens, and gives a surprisingly mature take on the subject.
Still, "Nerve" is slightly ridiculous, and (Hopefully) not very realistic. The plot pushes the credibility to an extreme, and the film becomes more and more predictable, though it does lead to a clever twist in the end. The style and direction is gimmicky but cool. "Nerve" certainly doesn't suffer from lack of flash.
Emma Roberts really shines in her first major lead role. She is very likable and sympathetic, as is Dave Franco. Their characters are easy to root for, and the two actors share a nice chemistry. The supporting cast are pretty much stock characters, and Juliette Lewis (As "Nancy", Vee's Mom) gets way too little to do.
"Nerve" isn't earth shattering, but at least the film is genuinely trying to say something socially relevant, and it still retains a sense of mischievous fun. It shows that it can be a positive to take a risk or two. Just don't take any advise from anyone on the internet you don't know....Except me. I'm your friend. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Suggestive Material And Incredibly Dangerous Half Naked Behavior.
Image: "Wait 'til they get a load of me!"
I knew as a film reviewer that there would be certain seminal nights that I would always remember. Now that I am pretty much officially living in Austin, Texas, I am now able to see every special theater event without all the usual complications. Now don't get too excited. This doesn't mean I'm going to review the next "Dragon Ball Z" movie or the next "Doctor Who" special. (I do plan on having a life) But this one felt more important. This one was for me.
Based on one of the most popular (and pretty much the definitive) Joker stories, "Batman: The Killing Joke" first begins with a prologue involving "Bruce Wayne/Batman" (Kevin Conroy) and his partner, "Barbara Gordon/Batgirl" (Tara Strong) who, despite outrage by internet nerds, have become intimate, emotionally and physically (Damn Bruce. Going for the barely legal ones.).
Batman is currently going after perverted gang leader, "Paris Franz" (Maury Sterling), who seems to have some kind of sick crush on Batgirl. Soon, the romantic relationship comes to an end with Barbara retiring from crime fighting. Not too long later, there is another horrifying murder, clearly committed by the Clown Prince of Crime, "The Joker" (Mark Hamill), despite him currently being held in Arkham Asylum.
When Batman arrives to see him, he discovers The Joker has already escaped and has begun his most disturbing plan yet. Joker pays a visit to Barbara's house where he shoots her in the abdomen, paralyzing her, and kidnaps her father "Commissioner James Gordon" (Ray Wise), taking him to an abandoned carnival where he plans to torture him into insanity while Batman desperately searches for him.
Being a huge Batman fan (Movies, Cartoons, Video Games, Comics. Full fledged Batman geek), I had to plan ahead for this special screening. I was so excited, I even dragged my cousin, Kaitlyn, who soon discovered that she was the only girl in a theater of about 100 male geeks. And, to her immense credit, she didn't even threaten to run out of the theater once!
Among true fans of the comics, "Batman: The Killing Joke" has been anticipated for years. But despite an impressive attention to detail and accuracy, the opening twenty minutes of the film disappoints by following Barbara's/Batgirl's solo story, deviating from the source material. I get why (The "Killing Joke" story is very short), but it comes across as sloppy, adding nothing to what is to follow, and should have been far shorter. The whole Batman/Batgirl relationship is designed to make you care about her, but their affair is a little weird, to be honest.
The Joker isn't even mentioned throughout the long first sequence, so "The Killing Joke" doesn't really begin until the prologue is finished. It's choppy storytelling that could have been cut from the film (I'm fine with changes to the story if it feels organic). But once the sequence ends, "The Killing Joke" begins in essence, almost shot for shot with the book.
That's when the film begins to meet expectations. "The Killing Joke" gets a knockout performance from Mark Hamill. For those who only know him as "Luke Skywalker", you may be shocked at what an accomplished voice actor he's become as "Joker" in Batman media for years. Hamill has perfected the role, adding a twisted sense of humor, genuine terror, and (In flashbacks) surprising sympathy in explaining his character's transformation.
Kevin Conroy has voiced Batman for years as well, and he has made the role his own. He adds the right amount of edge and intensity, meshing well with The Joker's insanity. Ray Wise is excellent as the put upon commissioner, and, despite her character's forced storyline, Tara Strong is a wonderful voice actress, and the lifelong crush of every male in "Geekdom", including me (The woman is absolutely adorable).
The animation is suitably dark and desperate, and, along with the film's score, make "Batman: The Killing Joke" feel more theatrical than the straight-to DVD movies and DC animated movies have been, helping make the theater experience justified. No, "The Killing Joke" is not the perfection we were hoping for. But, thanks to the killer performances and clear affection by the film makers, it gives us the best parts of the story that we love. And, it's the best "Batman" film this year (Yes, I stand by that statement). It's madness. But, as The Joker says, "Madness is the emergency exit!" 3 Stars. Rated R, But Really A Glorified PG-13 With Disturbing Material.
Image: In "Gravity", George Clooney floats away into space while holding his nuts.
The definition of unnecessary, "Ice Age: Collision Course" is the fifth film in a series that ran it's course years ago. At this point, after fourteen years, it only comes across as depressing. The fun and charm of the first film has given way to sequels that feel less and less justified as they go along. And the last thing a kids film should do is to leave you totally bummed out.
"Ice Age: Collision Course" starts off like any other "Ice Age" movie, with the lovably unlucky Saber-Toothed Squirrel, "Scrat" (Chris Wedge) trying desperately to protect his acorn, and screwing everything up in the process. This time Scrat finds a spaceship and accidentally activates it, sending him into space, creating the formation of the Solar System (As stated in the Bible), but also resulting in a massive asteroid going on a crash course for Earth.
Meanwhile, poofy Mammoth parents "Manny" (Ray Romano) and "Ellie" (Queen Latifah) are worried about their daughter "Peaches" (Keke Palmer) and her marriage to the overly enthusiastic "Julian" (Adam DeVine), "Sid" (John Leguizamo) the Sloth is depressed that he can't get a girlfriend (I feel you, Sid), Sid's granny named, uh, "Granny" (Wanda Sykes) is somehow still alive, Saber-Toothed Tigers "Diego" (Denis Leary) and "Shira" (Jennifer Lopez) are still shacking up, and nincompoop Opossums "Crash" (Sean William Scott) and "Eddie" (Josh Peck) are nincompoopier than ever.
But when everyone notices the asteroid heading for Earth, they are reunited with raving lunatic weasel, "Buck" (Simon Pegg) and go on an adventure to figure out a way to stop the asteroid while being chased by a family of Dromaeosaurs (Nick Offerman, Stephanie Beatriz, and Max Greenfield), eventually coming across a spiritual civilization led by the "Shangri Llama" (Jesse Tyler Ferguson).
"Ice Age: Collision Course" is less big sendoff, and more "Meh, we're done here". The story is pretty thin, and filled with way too many characters (Though other minor characters from previous films have disappeared in the apocalypse). Blue Sky still provides it's stunning animation, giving "Ice Age 5" a beautiful and colorful look, but that doesn't change the fact that this is nothing more than talented people just winging it as they go for profit.
Ray Romano, Dennis Leary and John Leguizamo are all very funny people and do just fine, though much of the needlessly huge cast (Including Queen Latifah, Keke Palmer, Adam DeVine, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Nick Offerman, Jessie J (As Sid's new love interest), and Jennifer Lopez, who doesn't even get ten lines of dialogue) don't have the time to make any impact. At least Simon Pegg (Who is never not funny) is a hoot, and Wanda Sykes makes me laugh at her voice alone
As I've been saying since the first "Ice Age", Scrat needs his own film. He once again gets the biggest laughs of the movie. But even he has to compete for screen time like he's fighting for his precious acorn. There's too many plot lines, and some of those aren't even introduced until the final act. Then you've got the villains who come out of nowhere, and don't really do anything anyway.
"Ice Age: Collision Course" has a dull finale, completing (We can only hope) a film series that sadly got lazier as it went along. That's a bit shocking for a major animation studio to let us down like that. Especially when some of us grew up with the original. When it's over, it's over. The apocalypse went out with a whimper. 1 1/2 Stars. Rated PG For Crude Jokes And Scrat's Nuts.
Image: Got acne? Try Proactiv!
I don't have to defend my geek credentials. But there was one necessary fandom that I admit slipped through my radar (No, not Anime. I'm on it.) It was "Star Trek". But I finally got to the awesome "Wrath of Khan". "Nemesis" looked pretty awful. And maybe my lack of "Trek" experience has affected how I've looked at the rebooted films, "Star Trek" and "Star Trek:Into Darkness". These are damn good movies on their own. (I repeat, On their own) And I'd be glad to debate this with all of the die hards, but I'm exhausted from dealing all the "Ghostbusters" crap. We all know we're not going to get anywhere.
"Star Trek Beyond" begins partway through the five year voyage of the"USS Enterprise" and everyone is going through a mid-life crisis. "Captain James T. Kirk" (Chris Pine) feels the missions are growing repetitive and is contemplating applying for a promotion to Vice Admiral, "Spock" (Zachary Quinto) and "Uhura" (Zoe Saldana) have broken up, "Sulu" (John Cho) has gone gay (Ohhhh, my!), "Scotty" (Simon Pegg) struggles to keep the ship running, "Bones" (Karl Urban) is grouchier than ever, and "Chekov" (The late Anton Yelchin. God bless you.) is pretty much just along for the ride.
The Enterprise's voyage eventually gets more exciting when they are attacked and separated on forest like planet by a swarm of ships led by "Krall" (Idris Elbra), who has a serious beef with "The Federation". With their ship destroyed, Sulu and Uhura are captured by Krall to be used a bait, Bones is stranded with Spock, who has a serious injury. Kirk and Chekov try to figure out a way to save their crew, and Scotty meets an alien scavenger, "Jaylah" (Sofia Boutella) who desperately wants to get off the planet.
"Star Trek:Beyond" does feel like a bit of a downgrade from the last "Trek" (KHAN!!!!) The story is smaller, and seems more like an adventure of the week than the bigger and more continuing previous films. That said, it's still a heck of an adventure. Director Justin Lin (From "Fast and Furious" fame) knows his way around an action scene, the script (Co-written by Simon Pegg) has depth and humor, and the cast chemistry is still perfection.
Chris Pine is light years better than Shatner...(I'm kidding! It's a joke! Love the Shat.) Seriously, Pine has made the role his own, Zachary Quinto (I wouldn't dare touch Nimoy) embodies Spock, Karl Urban again is my favorite character and my favorite grouch, Zoe Saldana is feisty and beautiful, Simon Pegg is hilarious, John Cho is gay...I mean, great (So Hulu's gay. Who cares?), and Anton Yelchin will be sorely missed. The great Idris Elba brings his usual compelling power to the villain and Sofia Boutella is a star in the making.
Visually, "Beyond " is beyond stunning, with top notch effects and action sequences, and the alien makeup is awesome ( "Krall" is downright freaky to look at). The film isn't much more than a summer diversion, and the story may be smaller, but "Beyond" still packs plenty of punch, giving all of us geeks more than enough story and character development to keep us pleased (Right down to the touching tribute to both Yelchin and Nimoy).. And, seriously, we geeks are not easy to please. We only demand perfection, or close to it. We're geeks. What else do we have in our lives? 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Sci-Fi Violence And, I don't Know...A Gay Sulu?
Image: The new Ghostbusters proceed to destroy your childhood.
In case you're one of the few people who hasn't heard about all the madness....The minute it was announced that Sony would be rebooting the beloved classic comedy "Ghostbusters" with all female leads, the internet went insane with rage. Fans and nerds responded to every little detail with needlessly harsh comments. Maybe it was due to nostalgia and fear of one of their favorite movies being ruined. (Okay, maybe there were hints of sexism...) It got worse when Director Paul Feig and other studio people poorly responded to the the backlash, calling the haters "Trump Supporters". This is apparently the worst insult you can call a person and resulted in the already pissed off internet dwellers to condemn literally everything about the movie and it's trailer (Which is now the most disliked video on YouTube). Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, and even Harold Ramis' own daughter have been thrown under the bus for daring to say people give the new movie a chance. It's madness! Dogs and cats living together! Mass Hysteria!
This new "Ghostbusters" starts with "Dr. Erin Gilbert" (Kristen Wiig) being forced to reconnect with her former colleague/former best friend "Abby Yates" (Melissa McCarthy) after a book they had previously written on the paranormal is published without Erin knowing. Erin, who has been trying to distance herself from her previous line of work, goes along with Abby and her new possibly insane partner, "Jillian Holtzmann" (Kate McKinnon) to investigate a ghost sighting.
Obviously, they find one, actually confronting a real ghost, and decide to continue their research. They hire MTA worker, "Patty Tolman" (Leslie Jones) and possibly mentally challenged receptionist, "Kevin" (Chris Hemsworth), forming "The Ghostbusters". The team tracks down various other spirits around the city and capture them, uncovering an insane plot by an evil YouTube commentator , "Rowan" (Neil Casey), to unleash an army of the undead onto New York City.
To everyone who spent so much time, for and against the reboot....Was this really worth it? The new "Ghostbusters" trailer was underwhelming, I admit. And the first fifteen minutes only made the concerns worse. The jokes weren't landing, the editing seemed choppy. It was starting to feel like a waste of time. But eventually, "Ghostbusters" hits it's stride and doesn't really stop, providing enough good laughs and enjoyable lead characters that, at the least, do nothing to tarnish the legacy of the original.
If anything, this "Ghostbusters" is too respectful of the original, relying on a few too many references and ideas in ways that keep it from being truly it's own film. It's almost as if it's afraid of offending any die hards or those just chomping at the bit to criticize. But despite it's flaws, the film as has plenty to enjoy, mostly due to the charms of the ghosts and the wonderful cast.
Melissa McCarthy plays it calm and strait, but is such an terrific comedic actress that she doesn't hit one false note. Kristen Wiig is completely adorable, also playing against type expertly in the film's biggest dramatic story arc. Kate McKinnon is outrageously over the top, but in a way that's pretty hard not to find entertaining. And though I admit I was a little worried about where they would go with Leslie Jones' character, she actually steals the movie with a character that is allowed to develop as a needed team member (One improvement on the original. I loved Ernie Hudson, but other than "That's a big Twinkie", he was under utilized.)
Chris Hemsworth gets to really let loose and have a ball, embracing the supporting role of the dimwitted moron, and Andy Garcia plays up the smarm to the hilt. Neil Casey is a perfectly amusing villain, though his character's evil plan makes no sense (Though neither did "Vigo the Carpathian's" plan, right? "Only a Carpathian!") And as awesome as it is to get cameos from Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Ernie Hudson and Annie Potts, it's probably not necessary.
The ghosts themselves are all CGI, but it all looks cool, and "Slimer" has never looked better ("Jurassic World" was all CGI, too, and everybody seemed to love it). "Ghostbusters" has a great look and the ghosts are kind of freaky. The film's massive finale is a battle royal and the annihilation of the ghosts is quite the spectacle.
Look, no matter what I say, I'm pissing off someone. If you're going in expecting to hate it, you're gonna hate it. "Ghostbusters" is not "Ghostbusters", meaning there's no way it could compare to the hilarious, classic original. But it is probably better than the second, and it's undeniably well made, well acted and well intentioned (The film's clearly geared toward a younger audience, and young girls are going to love it). So what harm has come to us now that that this supposedly awful plague has been unleashed upon us? Seriously, turn on the news and see what's really important. It's "Ghostbusters". What do ya' want? THE FLOWERS ARE STILL STANDING! 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Frightening Images, And So Called Man Bashing. Seriously, Guys. Man Up!
Image: I'm afraid they may have engaged in some sort of illicit behavior. Shame!
With a funny premise, it's a fine line to know just how far you can go these days. Yeah, "Mike and Dave" need dates for a wedding. But once you establish that, what are you going to do with it? And that's when you throw in the sex, nudity, drugs, booze, and all of the other things that have degraded our society and coarsened our culture. So if we're going there, it better at least make me laugh my ass off.
"Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates" is apparently based on a true story (Seriously. How?) where hooligan brothers, "Mike" (Adam DeVine) and "Dave" (Zac Efron), are known for ruining their family's gatherings, wedding, and other special events through constant girl chasing, wanton destruction, and excessive hedonism. They are forced by their father (Stephen Root) to bring dates to the wedding of their younger sister, "Jeanie" (Sugar Lyn Beard) in Hawaii, with a condition being that the girls are nice and classy.
So Mike and Dave go all out, advertising the trip online and on TV, catching the attention of two not exactly classy girls, "Tatiana" (Aubrey Plaza) and her recently dumped BFF, "Alice" (Anna Kendrick), who pretend to be more respectable to trick Mike and Dave into taking them to Hawaii resulting in behaviors that cannot be described on a family website.
This is "Central Intelligence", but with sluttier behavior. "Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates" has little more to the plot than I've described, meaning it's silly and completely absurd. The film is put together well enough (Though not necessarily well made). The only thing that matters is if you laugh at the absurdity of it all. And how can you not, at times. "Mike and Dave" has side splitting moments, mixed in with juvenile moments that fall flat, and it's that inconsistency that keeps the film from truly gelling.
The cast of "Mike and Dave" is nothing if not committed. Zac Efron and Adam DeVine are enjoyable and believable as the brothers, and Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza are cute and willing to do anything for a laugh. The four leads give their performances an ad-libbed feel, and the film works primarily (And only) because of their chemistry.
The raunchyness is non stop, and taken to every possible extreme, so "Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates" will turn off certain viewers, obviously. Yet the film's core is well meaning, and everyone looks like their having a lot of fun, so It's not exactly a bad time But it is a bit difficult for me to say it's a constructive way to spend your time and money. But if this was a "True" story? Now that would be something to remember. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated R For...Wait...What Are They Doing! No...No! Don't Put That There! That Doesn't Go There!
Image: "Just what I always wanted....A cute, evil, widdle bunny wabbit of my very own....And I shall call him George."
I have a theory about all of our pets, including mine. There all smarter than we think, capable of plotting something evil and nefarious. I adore my pets. But push comes to shove, they'll eat me. I would want them to. It's all part of the circle of life.
"The Secret Life of Pets" follows, uh, the secret life of pets. Set mostly in New York, a Terrier named "Max" (Louis C.K.) is living a happy life with his owner, "Katie" (Ellie Kemper). But Max is forced to accept change when Katie adopts a new larger dog, "Duke" (Eric Stonestreet), who had no intention of sharing his new home with Max. Max and Duke's rivalry eventually leads to them being lost in the city and being picked up by Animal Control to be rescued by a maniacal white rabbit, "Snowball" (Kevin Hart) who hates humanity and all domesticated pets, while he lives in a sewer with an army of abandoned animals.
Snowball eventually realizes Max and Duke are pets and leads his followers on a hunt to kill them, while Max and Duke set aside their differences to find their way home. Meanwhile, "Gidget" (Jenny Slate), a Pomeranian with an obsessive crush on Max, leads a team of other pets to find Max, including fat, lazy Cat "Chloe" (Lake Bell), Squirrel hating Pug, "Mel" (Bobby Moynihan), laid back Dachshund, "Buddy" (Hannibal Buress), "Pops" (Dana Carvey) a cranky old Basset Hound who's partially paralyzed, and "Tiberius" (Albert Brooks), a Hawk resisting the urge to just eat everyone.
We all realize that "The Secret Life of Pets" is clearly not Disney or Pixar. But that's all right (If they'd tried, they probably would have butchered it). In fact, give credit to Illumination Entertainment (The company behind "Despicable Me" and "Minions") for trying to branch out with a pretty clever idea. We've all thought the idea of what our pets do and think when we're not there would be funny, and "Pets" pretty much gets it right. The colorful, bouncy animation is entertaining and lively, even if geared more for kids than adults.
The plot is clearly "Toy Story With Animals", so "Pets" is fairly predictable. But the safe formula works, and kids will take some positive lessons from it. There are plenty of laughs and fun throughout, even with the impossibly frenetic action, but "Pets" is kind of hard to dislike. The jokes are fun and the humor genial.
"The Secret Life of Pets" has a huge cast. Maybe too huge. But the all are undeniably terrific, and play real characters.. Louis C.K. and Eric Stonestreet work great together, Kevin Hart (A real life cartoon) is a riot, getting the biggest laughs, Jenny Slate is adorable, and Albert Brooks always has perfect delivery. Bobby Moynihan, Hannibal Buress and Lake Bell all do good work, and it's great to see the hilarious Dana Carvey get a role worthy of his talents.
"The Secret Life of Pets" isn't really going for deep. It's going for cute laughs, and on that the film easily succeeds. And I can attest to the fact that "Pets" does accurately explain the secret life of our pets. I caught mine playing strip poker with some local strays, snorting up Kibbles n' Bits. 3 Stars. Rated PG For Occasional Potty Humor, And Hallucinations Of Sausages Singing That Final Song From "Grease".
Image: "Yes Jane....But look what you did to my clam digger!"
I have to give credit where it's do. When I heard about "The Legend of Tarzan", I immediately thought of "The Legend of Hercules", or something as equally appalling. Seriously, is there any film starting with the words "The Legend Of Popular Fictional Character" that didn't suck?
"The Legend of Tarzan" is more a sorta-sequel to the original story (The whole man raised by apes thing), taking place some time after it in 1984, where "John Clayton a.k.a. Tarzan" (Alexander Skarsgård) has left the jungle to live with his wife, "Jane" (Margot Robbie). But he is called back to the jungle by "George Washington Williams" (Samuel L. Jackson), who wants to expose a conspiracy involving the Belgian king and slave trading within the African Congo.
So Tarzan, Jane, and Williams make their way to the Congo and are immediately separated when Jane is taken, along with a group of the natives, by the evil "Captain Rom" (Christoph Waltz). Captain Rom has organized all of the events to bring Tarzan back to confront a rival tribe's leader, "Chief Mbonga" (Djimon Hounsou) The Chief has a personal grudge against Tarzan, and wants Tarzan in exchange for some very valuable diamonds. Tarzan and Williams must make their way through the jungle to rescue Jane and the natives while Tarzan confronts the past he left behind.
"The Legend of Tarzan" is better than it has any right to be. It's hard to take the "Tarzan" story seriously by this point, but Director David Yates competently makes a well made film with old fashioned, fun adventure elements. The film occasionally works on that level, and there are genuine moments throughout that are exciting and show promise.
"Tarzan" even attempts to tell a deeper, darker story about slavery that most films of it's sort wouldn't have touched (Give them some credit). It doesn't always succeed, but I don't quite understand the accusations of racism that have been thrown the film's way (The film maker's intent is plenty clear. Should count for something).
The plot is, unfortunately, pretty generic stuff. "The Legend of Tarzan" takes the predictable route (Think "Superman", just with Apes). The film takes pit stops along the way, using flashbacks to show Tarzan's origin, which slows down and chops up the story. The scenery is great, but the CGI (Particularly on the animals) is sub par ("The Jungle Book" spoiled me).
Alexander Skarsgård sure looks like Tarzan's is meant to look, but the role doesn't exactly allow for a lot of emoting or personality. Margot Robbie's Jane is given more than you'd expect from the character (She's way more than damsel in distress). She's smart, capable and spunky...Oh, and she's absolutely freaking gorgeous. Christoph Waltz is of course typecast, but there's none better at playing villains than he is. And Samuel L. "Motha-F&ckin" Jackson makes every single movie better.
It's the constant stops and starts that grind "The Legend of Tarzan" to a halt. It's actually a pretty entertaining movie....Except when it's boring. This "Tarzan" had potential, and it's definitely not a bad film. Just too many ideas that don't belong. I give them credit for attempting to go deeper, but maybe "Tarzan" just doesn't translate well these days. But I can't in good conscience give it a worse review than "The Purge: Election Year". I'll take old fashioned this time. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Intense Moments, And Animal On Human Violence.
Image: Protecting your second amendment rights.
Have you ever seen a more transparent film series as "The Purge"? Let's face it, the idea itself isn't for everyone, let alone the sheer amount of blood, violence, and intentional trashiness. Throw in the sociopolitical agenda, and you've got a massive divide between people who despise it, and those who can't wait for the next one. Me, I just accept it for what it is.
In "The Purge: Election Year", things begin after almost two decades since the evil and probably Republican group known as "The New Founding Fathers of America" began the one night annual event known as "The Purge" (Where all crime, particularly murder is legal). But most of the country has grown tired of it all, especially now that its become public knowledge that The Purge just exists to target the poor leaches and moochers on welfare, and to make all the already rich white people richer. Now its Election Year, with (Probably Democrat) nominee (and Sexy Hilary Clinton), "Senator Charlie Roan" (Elizabeth Mitchell) is sure to win the presidency, beating her religious zealot rival, "Edwidge Owens" (Kyle Secor).
But the NFFA doesn't like this, 'cuz no dirty liberal is gonna take away their Purge (Or their guns and "Jerbs"! So they decide to use this possibly final Purge to have Senator Roan killed. It's up to Roan's head of security, "Leo Barnes" (Frank Grillo) to protect her, fighting to survive the night in the crime filled city alongside a wacky deli owner (Mykelti Williamson) and his little Mexican buddy (Joseph Julian Soria), while dealing with a deadly Neo-Nazi Militia hot on their trail, who are determined to "Keep America Great".
In your face, conservative America! "The Purge: Election Year" wears it's opinion of a certain political demographic on it's sleeve. The film pushes it's narrative hard and doesn't let up for a second. Whether it's good or bad depends on the viewer. To me, "Election Year" is complete trash, just fairly entertaining trash. And how can you completely criticize a film for knowing exactly what it is? The action is constant (But brutally violent), and the humor weirdly funny, and it sure as Hell is never boring. For satire, it's not half bad. Yeah, the villains are stereotypes, but so is at least one of our Presidential nominees, and at least many of his supporters (Sorry, but it's true. This is nuts!)
Frank Grillo and Elizabeth Mitchell both give far better performances than "The Purge 3" deserves. Making the best of silly situations, they provide some gravitas, making you take the film a bit more seriously. Mykelti Williamson and Joseph Julian Soria at least provide a few cheap laughs, as do the WAY over the top cartoonish villains , who are all completely committed and laugh out load ridiculous.
The dialogue is horribly vulgar and, to be honest, complete garbage. But it does match the already unpleasant tone of "The Purge: Election Year". And I guess the film series gives us something to talk about. It's become a tradition of sorts to watch the senseless, mind numbing, gory violence nearly every year. And whatever I think of the films, many of you bloodthirsty maniacs have already seen it, while those who think America is going to Hell in a breadbasket believe these films are a sign of the oncoming apocalypse (This is Obama's America!)
In the end, my opinion of "The Purge: Election Year" doesn't mean that much (My opinion of "The BFG", now THAT matters!). There may not be a lot wrong with "The Purge" films as entertainment. There may be a lot wrong with "The Purge" in the grand scheme of things. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated R For....Did You Not Read The F*cking Review?
Image: Tell him anything. He's all ears.
Steven Spielberg directing a Disney movie, based on a beloved children's book by Roald Dahl, starring Academy Award winner Mark Rylance. It's a sure thing. 4 Stars!
"The BFG" begins with a young girl named "Sophie"(Ruby Barnhill) being taken away from an orphanage by a giant (Mark Rylance) known as "The Big Friendly Giant" (or BFG for short), who takes her away to Giant Country (It's not as creepy as it sounds). The BFG is a catcher of dreams but is constantly bullied by the much larger, crueler giants. Their leader "The Fleshlumpeater" (Jemaine Clement) likes to eat human beings (or "Beans", as they call them). Sophie soon befriends The Notorious BFG and vows to help him stop the other giants from continuing to invade the human world.
Well, maybe not 4 stars. But even "Lesser" Spielberg is pretty awesome, and "The BFG" has plenty of his usual magic. The CGI and special effects are insane, and the motion capture so lifelike, that the giants in particular look almost, well, lifelike. The BFG is cute, cuddly and lovable (Motion capture Mark Rylance looks like an older Abe Lincoln), and the blending in of live action is seamless, as if the greatest Director in the world was filming it.
Mark Rylance is superb as the endearing BFG (How come we never saw this guy until recently?) Jemaine Clement is always hilarious in villainous roles, and Ruby Barnhill is a wonderful surprise, giving a fine performance in a challenging role.
If there's any small flaw, "The BFG" has a plot a bit on the slight side. Though there are some dark tones and moments, the film is safe to a fault, focusing more on whimsy and heart. It's just the kind of film it is, and there's nothing wrong with that, but it certainly caters to a younger audience, and adults will appreciate it's heart and humor.
Despite a lull midway through, "The BFG" is mostly non stop fun, leading to a quirky finale that is intentionally silly, but plenty satisfying. So it may not be a classic, but Spielberg and Disney almost guarantee you leave with a smile on your face. Sweet and simple is enough for me. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG For Giant Peril, And The Most Intelligent Fart Joke In Movie History.
Image: "....So you're free to go.... But we're cool, right?"
No, the best of intentions is NOT worth ten bucks and two and a half hours of my time.
"Free State of Jones" tells the true story (Or at least a less interesting version of it) of "Newton Knight", (Mathew McConaughey), a poor Mississippi farmer during the Civil War who eventually gets tired of all the pointless deaths over a cause he doesn't even believe in. He attempts to desert the Confederacy, and returns home to his wife, "Serena" (Keri Russel), but is forced to retreat to live in a swamp with several runaway slaves, led by "Moses" (Mahershala Ali).
Newton eventually starts a revolution within Jones County with a small army of former slaves and other deserters, eventually marrying a formerly enslaved woman, "Rachel" (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), and temporarily creates a mixed race community.
"Free State of Jones" sounds like it should have been Oscar bait. But since it was released in June, we should have known something was off. It's a huge story to tell, maybe too big for the big screen. This means that certain scenes and events feel glossed over, making the film more like a series of footnotes than an actual story. There clearly is an important one to tell here, but the film's structure is uneven, not to mention the out of nowhere, eighty plus years flash forward scenes, involving a court case that has little or nothing to do with the crux of the story (It's completely tacked on, seemingly for an audience they assume can't figure things out on their own. Annoying and frustrating).
Matthew McConaughey has been on such a roll lately, that it's surprising to see him give such a forced performance. Yeah, he's committed. It just doesn't feel like he's playing anything more than Matthew McConaughey, circa 1864. Gugu Mbatha-Raw can't generate much chemistry with McConaughey, but fares better than Keri Russell, whose role is completely wasted. The script lets them all down , save for Mahershala Ali, who is terrific.
Director Gary Ross makes everything about "Free State of Jones" look interesting and authentic, but he can't control the pace of the film, or keep it from feeling like two films in one. "Jones" should have been a documentary or mini-series. Instead, it's all wasted potential. "Jones" is the kind of film we all wanted to like. At best, that's all it is. At least it could have been good, they'll say. 2 Stars. Rated R For For Shockingly Brutal Violence And Racial Slurs (And, No, White People Don't Get To Say It Just Because Black People Can!)
Image: Even "Deadpool" can't save her.
Sorry for the delay. Been through a crap storm of epic proportions (Stuck in a small town with a bad truck. Sounds like a bad country song). Think how awful it would then be to have to sit through a stupid Shark movie. But it turns out, the Shark movie wasn't half bad.
"The Shallows" stars Blake Lively as "Nancy", a medical student who, after the death of her mother, decides to go to a secluded beach that her mother had talked about before to get away from it all. While surfing, she discovers a dead whale that a massive Great White Shark happens to be feeding on. The Shark then takes attacks Nancy, taking a bite out of her sweet, juicy leg, stranding her on a small rock formation several yards from shore. Realizing she is on her own, Nancy must find a way to outsmart the shark and find a way back to safety before Jaws returns to feast on the rest of her succulent, delicious flesh (Maybe she tastes just like Robert Shaw).
Honestly, I thought from the previews that "The Shallows" was going to be a turd, and very simplistic stuff. Yet the film's simplicity works in it's favor. It's really just a well told survivor story (Think "Cast Away", if "Wilson" was a twenty foot volleyball trying to eat Tom Hanks). Director Jaume Collet-Serra has a unique method of filming, mixing the awe inspiring beauty of the tropical setting with the fear and dread of the horrific situation (The initial arrival of the Shark is pure nightmare fuel). The character's backstory is deep, adding a compelling element usually lacking in these kind of films.
The Director clearly appreciates Blake Lively's figure as much a we all do (Even the Shark thinks she's hot). But the long and drawn out close ups of her bikini clad body even made ME feel a little awkward. Having said that, Lively is terrific in the film, giving a gripping and emotional performance that I admittedly didn't see coming. As for the Shark, he is terrifying enough to make me declare my intent to never even look at the ocean ever again.
"The Shallows" throws in the typical horror film obligations (Though it's not really a horror film, and the film gets too hectic toward the end in it's effort to be a crowd pleaser. Maybe it was my low expectations, but, for the most part, "The Shallows" succeeds in being just that. I just wish that, with all the tension in the world, that Blake Lively and the Shark could have worked out their differences without bloodshed or violence. I could have used a happier ending. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Murderous Fish, Quite A Bit Of Blood, And For Causing Urine Stains In The Theater Seats.
Image: The Aliens unleash their dastardly plan, releasing harmful carbon into the atmosphere, slowly causing the Earth to warm, the sea levels to rise, and half the country to think it's a conspiracy.
Let's get real, here. The original "Independence Day" was just as stupid, just as uneven, and just as over the top as any other Roland Emmerich movie. But it did have Will Smith, Cool Aliens, and things 'splodin real good...."Independence Day: Resurgence" has everything but the Will Smithness.
"Independence Day: Resurgence" begins twenty years after the previous invasion from the first film. Humanity has upgraded their technology and weaponry. Will Smith be dead, but his stepson, "Dylan" (Jessie T Usher) has gone on to become a captain of the ESD (Earth Space Defense). "David Levinson" (Jeff Goldblum), who currently directs the ESD, is in Africa with a Warlord (DeObia Oparei), and discovers a downed alien ship that apparently sent out a distress signal. And overly excitable "Dr. Brakish Okun" (Brett Spiner) has awakened after being in a coma the entire time, starting to write mysterious alien symbols on the walls.
Meanwhile, former President "Whitmore" (Bill Pullman) has gone completely bonkers, seeing visions of the aliens returning, while his daughter "Patricia" (Maika Monroe) is engaged to cocky, rebelliously rebel without a cause, "Jake" (Liam Hemsworth). But the aliens are coming back, bigger, and badder than ever. (If only someone would build a wall. A great wall) Now its up for humanity to come together once again to whoop E.T.'s ass.
Yes, "Independence Day: Resurgence" is exactly what you think it will be (Do you know I actually heard a few people tell me how great the first film was? Entertaining? Maybe. Great? Please..It's barely even good). And I'm sorry, "Resurgence" is the same damn film! All the same hokeyness, flaws and overpopulation of characters. Just no Will Smith. Which means less charisma.
The plot and dialogue is just as cheesy, and the screenplay suffers from mood whiplash. Someone dies, followed by quirky joke... Followed by a million more people dying. Soon, you get another inappropriate one liner (Does the death of millions not matter to Roland Emmerich? Not if it looks cool!) At least the "Destruction Porn" is undeniably impressive (Nobody does it better than you, Roland!) The special effects are as well done as the first film, and the Aliens are once again neatly menacing.
The performances in "Independence Day: Resurgence" are uneven, with the returning veterans faring best. Jeff Goldblum brings his usual....Well how do we describe Jeff Goldblum as anything other than special? Bill Pullman does his usual great Jeff Daniels impersonation, Judd Hirsch (As David's Dad) is very Jewish, and has no real reason to be here, but he's a lot of fun, and Brent Spiner brings some actual intentional humor to the film.
As far as the new, young actors, Liam Hemsworth is no Will Smith. Jess T Usher is not Will Smith either. Seriously, Smith is missed greatly here, and none of the new actors have any real personality, and nothing that makes them interesting.
"Independence Day: Resurgence" really goes off the rails near the finale (With a clear intent of setting up a sequel), before grinding to a literal halt. But is this film really any different than the first film? It's fine, if that's what you want. You'll get exactly what's advertised. There are worse ways to spend your Independence Day. And better. Like Purging! Wait, that's next week. 2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Alien Violence And Not Having Will Smith.
Image: "It's all right, Kevin. Daddy will nurse you".
Remember, as a film critic, I can't just say "Hey, go see this movie. You'll get a few chuckles. You may even belly laugh once". But I can't have you spend ten to twenty bucks when you can wait a couple of months for the DVD. The point is, I can't, in good conscience, tell you a movie is genuinely good if, at best, I can only guarantee a few cheap, guilty laughs out of it. Your time is valuable. Mine isn't. So I make things simple. Good is good. Funny is funny. Isn't that funny? Good.
"Central Intelligence" opens in high school, where overweight blubber butt "Robbie Weirdicht" (Dwayne "Still the Rock" Johnson) is being constantly bullied and only comforted by the most popular (and most likely to succeed) kid in school, "Calvin" (Kevin Hart). Years later, Calvin has married his high school sweetheart, "Maggie" (Danielle Nicolet) and has gone to do work at a boring, uneventful job in accounting, no longer getting anywhere in life.
Calvin gets a friend request from Robbie (Who has now changed his name to "Bob Stone") and the two reminisce about high school. But it turns out Bob is actually a CIA agent on the run. Claiming he was framed by a traitor code-named "The Black Badger", Bob pretty much forces Calvin against his will to help him to clear his name and prevent some top secret government information from being sold to the highest bidder, while avoiding CIA superior, "Agent Harris" (Amy Ryan), who claims that Bob is actually the real traitor and a total raving lunatic.
At least for once the funniest scenes weren't in the trailer. "Central Intelligence" does have some extremely funny moments, and even a few inspired laughs. The secret spy premise is as silly as it looks, but at least some of the gags hit. Then miss. The film is pretty much hit and miss the rest of the way.
"Central Intelligence" works to a degree thanks to the big broad shoulders, and tiny little body of Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart. Wisely, the film switches the actors typical personas, letting Johnson rise to the occasion (See, that was funny) with the more broad comedy, and Hart reigning things in (A little bit). That premise helps the film stay just interesting enough to overcome the generic (And old) idea of the buddy action comedy.
But the laughs don't make "Central Intelligence" a good movie, especially when the script and plot are absurdly predictable. The double crosses are obvious, and the bad guy is easy to spot. And though there's a nice message about bullying and friendship, there's still clearly very little thought to this film that makes it anything more than a harmless comedic diversion. It's funny enough for DVD. And that's just fine. But good? 2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Violence, Dick Jokes, And The Terrifying Sight Of A Bloated And Pudgy Dwayne Johnson That Will Haunt My Dreams.
Image: "Hey, I bet you taste just like calamari!"
"Finding Nemo", for people of my age, holds a special place in our hearts. It's more than just a classic to us. Maybe because I was basically Nemo's age (At least in fish years), I related to it. All great Disney and Pixar films have that right mix of humor and drama, but "Nemo" had themes that were incredibly deep and unique. It's Pixar's epic, beginning with Nemo's Mama getting eaten by a Barracuda. It's got an overprotective Dad, a lost son, and an emotional reunion. We now expect (Demand) this level every time, and most complain when we don't. That's what you get when you set the bar that high....Righteous!!!! Righteous!!!!
"Finding Dory" this time follows the lovable, forgetful Blue Tang "Dory" (Ellen DeGeneres). The story begins with a flashback to when she was a baby living with her parents (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy), losing them, and eventually running into Clownfish "Marlin" (Albert Brooks) searching for his son, "Nemo" (Hayden Rolence), starting off the plot of the first film.
Cut to a year later, Dory starts having flashbacks of her parents, and a place called "The Jewel of Morro Bay". Nemo and Marlin decide to join her on her adventure to find them, resulting in Dory winding up in a Marine Institute, waiting to be moved to an aquarium. Learning that's where her parents are, she teams up on another adventure with a grouchy, seven limbed Octopus, "Hank" (Ed O'Neill). Along the way she meets "Destiny" (Kaitlin Olson), a Whale Shark who knew Dory when she was younger, and "Bailey" (Ty Burrell), a constantly paranoid Beluga Whale.Marlin and Nemo get separated from Dory, so they try to find a way into the institute with the help of two fat, lazy sea lions, "Fluke" (Idris Elba) and "Rudder" (Dominic West).
There was no way "Finding Dory" was going to be as great as "Nemo", but even taken on it's own we get a pretty flawless family film, with much of the same humor that made the first film so enjoyable for adults (There's an ongoing Sigourney Weaver joke that totally kills). "Dory" still has the depth and tear-jerker moments (Pixar profits off of our tears) that got to us the first time. The story seems a bit familiar at first, but ends up going in a different, interesting direction as it follows Dory and her new friends.
Ellen DeGeneres is proof that there should be an Oscar category for "Best Voice Work". She's once again funny, adorable, and completely lovable. She carries the film on her own with ease, and has the same great rapport with Albert Brooks (Who still sounds like every awesome Dad ever). Ed O' Neill is a terrific addition in all his glorious gruffness, TY Burrell and Kaitlin Olsen are hilarious newcomers, and scene-stealers Idris Elba and Dominic West take away the biggest laughs.
Director Andrew Stanton (Who also voices the Righteous Turtle "Crush") makes everything about "Finding Dory" look absolutely beautiful (Pixar don't fail). It's a breathtakingly epic film to watch, even if It's a bit smaller in scope of a film than "Nemo". "Dory" takes on some heavy themes, like Dory's memory loss. and still finds a way to laugh along, yet still treats the subject with understanding and depth.
For those of us around my age, who so revere "Nemo", "Dory" gives us what we expect and deserve. Another Disney Pixar heartfelt adventure that is impossible to forget, even with short term memory loss. I stubbornly refuse to give up my childhood. Bring on "Toy Story 4"!. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG For Marine Life Peril.
Image: "Shhhh! Marilyn Manson is right behind you!"
In case you've ever wondered why I skip reviewing certain horror movies, It's because I can predict which ones are schlock (Which are most of them), which ones are going to bomb, which are going to open well (But will be immediately forgotten). But, on rare occasions, there's going to be a horror film that scares the sh*t out of me.
"The Conjuring 2" is based on the allegedly true (It's entirely up to you) story. Back in 1977, husband and wife paranormal investigators, "Lorriane" and "Ed Warren" (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) have gained more notoriety after the "Amityville" case that ended with Lorriane receiving a strange vision of both a demonic, bluish nun and her husband dying. Dealing with the stress of constant skeptics accusing them of being frauds causes her to ask Ed to take some time off from all the Ghost Busting.
But around this time, a family in London begins to experience strange occurrences, with the youngest daughter "Janet" (Madison Wolfe) being haunted and possessed by the spirit of an old coot named "Bill Wilkins", who claims that the house is his and his alone. The hauntings become increasingly horrifying and violent, forcing the Warrens to come to London to help the poor girl, while confronting the ideas that the entire incident may be all made up, and that Lorriane's vision may be coming true.
"The Conjuring" was a pleasant surprise to me (Maybe because so many films of the genre had been little more than a joke). The film was the rare horror film that was a hit with both viewers and critics, providing consistent thrills and atmosphere, while (Thankfully) leaving out the cheap jump scares and constant gore. The film succeeded by being just a sincere ghost story.
"The Conjuring 2", shockingly, is just as good. Once again, It's an expertly told ghost story with genuine heart and characters who you care about. The tense mood of the film never lets up, relying on the buildup instead of pandering to the more sadistic violence we tend to get from the genre. Director James Wan has come a long way from the "Saw" franchise, giving his new franchise effective scares, without sacrificing dramatic heft.
Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson are both excellent once again. Their chemistry is perfect and their relationship is very believable (I actually wan't them to live. Not always true in horror films) and pivotal to the plot. Francis O'Connor (As "Peggy", Janet's Mother) and Simon McBurney (As "Maurice Grosse", a famed Paranormal Investigator) are both compelling, and Madison Wolfe is surprisingly believable as the possessed young girl, showing the ability to carry large parts of the film (Unless she is really possessed by an old dude in real life).
The demons and ghosts in "The Conjuring 2" are suitably terrifying (There's no blood or gore, but they're scary enough to justify the R rating). The finale leaves you on the edge of your seat and ends the film on a high note. There are a few predictable moments here and there, but "The Conjuring 2" deftly avoids most of those traps, giving us the rare sequel that is just as good as the first (Even more rare for a horror movie). I suggest watching both films together with your significant other and then enjoy watching them squirm like sissies. Rated R For Terrible Terrifying Terror.
Image: "Here comes the part where Hermoine gets totally naked".
Now, I didn't see "Now You See Me"....That is, I didn't think it was important enough to see it at the time, even though it turned out to be a big hit. Having said that, was anybody asking for a sequel? So now, you see, I have to see "Now You See Me". Too. I mean, 2. As well.
"Now You See Me 2" begins with the return of three of "The Four Horsemen", "Danny Atlas" (Jesse Eisenberg), "Merritt McKinney" (Woody Harrelson), and "Jack Wilder" (Dave Franco). Their leader, undercover FBI agent "Dylan Rhodes" (Mark Ruffalo) has brought in a cute new female member, "Lula" (Lizzy Caplan) to replace the cute one who's married to Borat
The Horsemen are still a step ahead of the FBI, who are attempting to stop their Robin-Hood like magic shows. But one of the acts goes horribly wrong, somehow teleporting the Horsemen to China, thanks to a scheme concocted by the deranged "Walter Mabry" (Daniel Radcliffe). Mabry forces them to steal some type of computer chip McGuffin thingy, while Dylan is forced to work with his imprisoned enemy "Thaddeus Bradley" (Morgan Freeman) to track down the other Horsemen, and find out the true, dastardly (And completely obvious) mastermind behind the entire plot.
See, I didn't have to see "Now You See Me" to know that "Now You See Me 2" is just more flashy lights and convoluted twists than substance. The film obviously thinks it's far more clever than it actually is. The constant twists and turns and big reveals are there just to hide the preposterous plot. For a film supposedly set in the real world, It's just plain odd that most of the magic is closer to straight up sorcery than anything you'd get from Chris Angel or David Blaine (Though I can think of a few people I'd like to teleport to China).
I doubt I'm wrong in saying that "Now You See Me 2" is retconning several plot points from the first film. The actions of every single character is only a set up for another "Clever" twist. Director John M. Chu has plenty of visual flair, but he and the admittedly terrific cast can't make up for the film's inconsistencies and self indulgence.
Mark Ruffalo carries the film best he can, and Jesse Eisenberg is all right, considering he's playing yet another character who's a complete dick. Woody Harrelson, also playing his evil twin brother (Don't ask) and Dave Franco are perfectly fine, and Lizzy Caplan is plenty cute and quirky. Daniel Radcliffe is a nice addition, clearly having a lot of fun playing deranged. And obviously Sir Michael Caine (Gee, I wonder what his role will be.) and Sir Morgan Freeman are going to bring it.
The magic all looks good (One involving one single playing card is pretty special), but I just kept questioning every trick "Now You See Me 2" throws at me. The ending is nothing short of asinine, literally jumping the shark in a fruitless attempt to explain it all away. The characters sound smart, but this is a film lacking real intelligence. Like the magicians themselves, It's all just an elaborate ruse to steal ten bucks from your wallet. 1 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Language And Death Defying, Harry Potter LIke Wizardry.
Image: "Layers! Ogres Have Layers!"
This was the one. The Video Game Movie that would be the new standard. The minute that it was announced that "Warcraft" would be coming to theaters, gamers the world over rejoiced. Celebrations were planned. Sequels were plotted....And It's not even as good as "The Angry Birds Movie"
Lord help me in explaining the plot of "Warcraft" as best I can (I'm a novice to all this). The movie opens on the dying Orc world where the sinister warlock, "Gul'dan" (Daniel Wu) has united all the musclebound Shreks to create "The Horde", using some kind of dark magic (fueled by the drained souls of the innocent) to open a portal to the beautiful world of "Azeroth", leading his strongest fighters through to take it over.
Meanwhile, military commander, "Lothar" (Travis Fimmel) learns about the Horde's arrival from a young mage named "Khadgar" (Ben Schnetzer). They are commanded by "King Llane Wrynn" (Dominic Cooper) to call upon the help of their guardian, "Medivh" (Ben Foster), who knows the evil big bad magic that Gul'dan is using could destroy their world. They find help from Gul'dan's half-human, half orc slave, "Garona" (Paula Patton), while another orc, "Durotan" (Toby Kebbell) comes to realize Gul'dan is a piece of sh*t. Durotan hopes to band together with the humans to stop the Horde from reopening the portal, that would allow the scary death magic to destroy yet another world.
As you can tell, I don't know jack crap about "Warcraft" (Or, for that matter, "World of Warcraft". I'm told there is a difference). Director Duncan Jones seems loyal to the source material, and that's fine. Except now I understand how lost non "Ratchet and Clank" fans must have felt. "Warcraft" is strictly made by fans, for fans, and that leaves the rest of us in the dark (Again, fine and dandy).
So all I can tell you is that the film feels somewhat incomplete. At only two hours of length, It clearly aspires to be the next "Lord of the Rings" (It's got just as many characters and worldbuilding) What the movie lacks is any real character development, or coherence of plot. So you've got way too much information to process crammed into a regular length movie. The film's awkward editing makes for uneven pacing (One minute, the plot flies by so you can't process it. The next, it slows to a boring crawl). A film with giant Orcs fighting over a portal to another world should never be boring.
Visually, "Warcraft" is spectacular. Yeah, It's a lot of CGI, but It's really good CGI, giving their world genuine beauty. The creatures that roam the world are impressive, and the Motion Capture effects perfectly capture the Orcs facial expressions and movements. They are also, by far, the most interesting characters in the movie.
Travis Fimmel is meant to be the film's charismatic lead, but neither the character nor the actor are particularly memorable. His awkward romance with Paula Patton is one of the more stranger aspects of "Warcraft". Ben Schnetzer is given too much to do with so little personality, while Dominic Cooper is given too little to do for someone who I know has plenty of personality. Ben Foster has his moments, but his story is just to stupid to care about.
Again, the real highlight of "Warcraft" is the Orcs. Toby Kebbell is the film's only truly likable character, and his story is the only one worth caring about. Robert Kazinski (As "Orgrim", Durotan's best friend) has a decent story arc, with Daniel Wu and Clancy "Mr. Krabs" Brown (As "Blackhand", Gul'dan's Number 2/ Puppet) making for some pretty badass villains.
"Warcraft" just has too many characters competing for plot and screen time. And instead of giving us personalities, we get backstory. Surprisingly, a lot of characters are killed off out of the blue. What makes it worse is not only did I not care, it seems like the movie didn't care much either. Seriously, "Warcraft" just moves right on tho the next scene. But just because I was bored doesn't mean you fans of "Warcraft" will be. I heard some of you talk about it in the theater and you seemed like you were just fine with it.
Critics are always too hard on video game adaptions. But I'm sorry, "Warcraft" gives us too much information, with too little explanation. The game may be exciting, but the film is choppy and incomplete. It certainly won't sway any naysayers. So, to the makers of "Assassins Creed", please, for the love of God, just focus on making a good film. We're not the heartless pricks you make us out to be. 2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Fantasy Violence And Mild Orcing.
Image: The enraptured audience connects emotionally to the stirring, moving lyrics of "Dick In a Box".
This had to happen at some point. A movie skewering the world of a spoiled pop star. There's so much material to choose from, ripe for the picking. Because, at some point, we've all said or thought of it anyway.
"Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping" is basically a fake music documentary (Think "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never", except intentionally hilarious) and stars Andy Samberg as "Conner4real", a famous pop star with a massive fan base, too much money, a bunch of idiots who follow him around and tell him how awesome he is, and a penchant for douchebag-like self importance. The film chronicles his "real life" story from his start in a boy band, "The Style Boyz" with his childhood friends "Lawrence" (Akiva Schaffer) and "Owen" (Jorma Taccone) and how his dickish behavior broke them up, follows the release of his new album (which begins to bomb massively), his tour with a possibly psychopathic rapper, "Hunter the Hungry" (Chris Redd), and his eventual painful fall from stardom.
It's honestly kind of scary how accurate "Popstar" feels like, especially for a film that doesn't seem like it's more than a joke. But It's an incredibly smart joke, maybe even more of an elaborate, hard hitting, hilarious satire. It's a mockumentary that that knows It's subject matter inside and out, and gives the overindulged, pampered twerp pop star the deserved ass kicking they deserve.
"Popstar" revels in sticking it to anyone in the business who has it coming, from the aggressively annoying 24/7 social media, to the future reality stars , to all the hanger-ons and yes men who coddle celebrities for their own gain. Even the songs perfectly parody the genre. We get deliciously over the top, but brilliant songs (All written by "The Lonely Island", featuring Samberg, Schaffer and Taccone), ranging from ridiculously over important, to the idiotically naughty, to the wannabee bad boy (Of course, It's all gleeful nonsense). Finally, we get the an epic take down of "TMZ" (Who has it coming even more).
Andy Samberg is funnier than he's ever been. He's totally committed to his pompous, but well meaning role, as are his buddies Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone (Who also Directed, and co-wrote along with Samberg). The film is obviously a labor of love, and their joy and commitment shine through. Chris Redd is delightfully insane, Tim Meadows (As Conner's Manager) and Sarah Silverman (As Conner's publicist) are both funny as hell, as are most of the onslaught of cameos. Bill Hader, Joan Cusack, Maya Rudoiph, Will Arnett (See how easy it is for him to be hilarious when he's not in a "Turtle" movie?), Seal, Adam Levine, Mariah Carey (I guess she does have a sense of humor. Good for her), and too many others to mention all enhance the film.
"Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping" is going to be limited because of the mockumentary style, but the film knows It's better to keep things short and fast (It's barely an hour and twenty minutes). Yet there's some surprising depth, and even lessons learned from "Popstar". There's nothing wrong with being famous and enjoying being a star. Just appreciate it. And don't be a dick about it. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Popstar Behavior, Popstar Language, And Popstar Nudity.
Image: "Well. look who came crawling back..."
Women, grab your tissues....And, men, boy are you gonna' get some
"Me Before You" begins with "Lousia" (Emilia Clarke) looking for a job, but without any real goal or direction. She is hired to help care for a disabled (and dreamy) man named "Will" (Sam Claflin). Will seems to want nothing to do with her, but as time goes on, Lousia and he starts to become closer as friends (And then, as passionate, yet gentle lovers). But when Lousia learns from Will's parents (Charles Dance and Janet McTeer) that Will had always intended to go to an "Assisted Suicide Organization" (There really is such a thing), she does everything to convince Will that his life is worth living.
"Me Before You" is no walk in the park or it will make stand up and cheer (I'm kidding. The first sentence was a mistake). Seriously though, the film takes a serious subject and does as good a job as any sentimental, romance novel- turned movie could probably do. It's schmaltzy and predictable (Gee, I wonder how this plot will unfold), but the film is well meaning and decently made, with two lead actors who are likable enough to embrace.
Emilia Clarke is quirky and instantly lovable, and has undeniable chemistry with Sam Claflin, who does a fine job in a difficult role. His character's cynicism is evened out by Clarke's charm, and it helps keep the movie fairly endearing. Charles Dance and Janet McTeer help nicely by adding some mature gravitas.
"Me Before You" has some much needed cheeky British humor, but nothing here covers up that this is still some pretty basic sad, romantic movie stuff. Oh, did I mention that this movie is sad? Really, really sad. Unfortunately, part of the film's problem is it's predictability. The path of the plot is laid out there so obviously, that there's no surprise, and not enough real drama.
The subject matter is delicate stuff, and other recent films have handled it a bit better ("The Fault in our Stars"). Or worse (Any Nicholas Sparks film. Take your pick). I'm just surprised that I'm giving a movie geared toward teenage girls a higher rating than one geared toward teenage boys about turtles who practice ninjutsu. Cloying or not, "Me Before You" will satisfy those looking for a tearjerker. So, guys, now that she's vulnerable....2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content, And The Cold, Harsh Reality Of Imminent Death.
Image: These Mutants were too ugly for "X-Men".
I suppose there are a few who people actually liked 2014's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles". Most critics vehemently disliked it and most fans of the beloved, long running franchise were severely disappointed. Since I'm one of both, I can attest to the fact that there was a lack of screen time for the Turtles themselves, too much screen time for "April O'Neil", and a messy, cobbled story structure that tried to please everybody, while pleasing pretty much nobody. At least for the sequel, the film makers seem to have listened to some of the nerdy outrage.
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows" opens with Mutant Ninja Turtle brothers (Who also happen to be teenagers) "Leonardo" (Pete Ploszek), "Donatello" (Jeremy Howard), "Raphael" (Alan Ritchson), and "Michelangelo" (Noel Fisher), continuing to protect New York City from the shadows (Because of how butt ugly they are). Their human ally, "April O'Neil" (Megan Fox), learns that mad scientist "Baxter Stockman" (Tyler Perry), is secretly working with "The Shredder" (Brian Tee), and is arranging to have him freed from prison.
The Turtles fail to prevent Shredder from escaping, thanks to a teleportation device that brings him to meet with a slimy pink Alien ballsack named "Krang" (Brad Garrett), who demands that Shredder collect some artifacts that will help open a bigger portal so he can come to Earth and dominate it. Shredder and Stockman use Krang's Alien goo to create two mutant henchmen, "Bebop" (Gary Anthony Williams) and "Rocksteady" (Sheamus), and sends them to collect the artifacts. The Turtles must put aside continuing family problems (Turtles have drama too) to stop them, while fan favorite "Casey Jones" (Stephen Amell) gets thrown into the plot too, just because.
The good news for "TMNT 2" is that the good stuff is actually quite good. That is to say, at least for the pure, unabashed fan service the film gives us. The Turtles this time are the main focus, and their more lovable characteristics shine through. Their story arc is more enjoyable, and more in line with the Turtles we grew up with (Yeah, I know that sounds weird, but I really did grow up with them. Cut me some slack!)
Pete Ploszek, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, and Jeremy Howard are pretty much real Ninja Turtles, as far as I'm concerned, and this time their characters are given time to develop. Beebop and Rocksteady are welcome character additions for diehards, and Gary Anthony Williams and Sheamus get the film's funniest lines.
The visuals for "Out of the Shadows" look more cartoonish, and that's actually a good thing, because it makes the characters look more, well, cuddly. For example, "Master Splinter" (Voiced by Master Tony Shalhoub) now looks more like a cute, stuffed plushy, instead of a moldy, hairy penis.
And now to the part where the tone of this review changes drastically. There is still too much BS in "Shadows" for me to get past. The human characters and actors are once again distracting and frustrating, adding little or nothing to the story. Megan Fox is still plenty cute, but if she has any range, we're not seeing it here. Stephen Amell adds nothing to the film, and lacks any chemistry with Fox. And how in the Hell can you STILL not make Will Arnett Funny? That's nothing short of a criminal waste of hilarity. Speaking of criminal wastes, three time Oscar nominee Laura Linney (as The Police Chief) is given the "Honor" of doing absolutely nothing but being in a film about teenage mutant ninja turtles.
Brian Tee helps makes Shredder somehow even lamer than the last film (He comes across as nothing more than a cheap punk than an all imposing threat. He and the Turtles never even meet!) But as shocking as this is for all of us to see these words in print, Tyler Perry gives the best performance (He dang near did in "Gone Girl", to be fair). He is the only actor who manages to play the goofy, villainous character exactly as it was meant to be played.
The plot of "TMNT 2" is plenty ridiculous, and shoddily put together. The biggest flaw here is the whole "Krang" problem. Yeah, he looks cool and Brad Garrett does a decent job with the voice. But the character and his plot literally comes out of nowhere and is never explained even slightly. So, unless you're a huge "Turtles" fan, you're going to wonder what in the world this is garbage is all about.
So, thank Michael Bay, for producing a fairly decent enough "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movie (Though not close to the best. The original 1990 movie is genuinely solid). But just getting the source material right does not guarantee a good movie. True fans will probably enjoy it enough, but once you get to the underwhelming finale, everyone else will have already long checked out. I guess we'll have to wait even longer for a truly classic film about four brothers who are Mutants. And Ninjas. And Turtles. Who like pizza. 2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Nonsensical Action, And Megan Fox's Slutty School Girl Outfit.
Image: "MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN"!
The great thing about the "X-Men" franchise (Other than being, generally, really good), is that they've pretty much rebooted things, without actually rebooting it. See, with "Days of Future Past" (The best in the series), they literally erased the the original timeline, mostly because of the "X-Men" films that nobody liked ("X-Men: The Last Stand". And "X-Men Origins: Wolverine). Stay with me here.
Now, we have ANOTHER separate time line. All of the crappier stuff is gone. Certain actors have been replaced with younger actors, who will still grow up to become the older characters we still love. And the moments that we did like, they still happened, BUT, don't exist in the current time line that we have now. This allows a film franchise that is sixteen years old to continue, theoretically, to go on infinitely! And we don't lose any of the cool stuff in the process. Just the stuff we don't like. So they can bring in new fans, and still keep the old ones.....Isn't that great?....God, I'm such a geek.
"X-Men: Apocalypse" first starts a thousand years ago in Egypt, where the first mutant "En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse" (Oscar Isaac) is betrayed by his worshipers, claiming him to be a false god, and they leave him to die trapped in a tomb.
Flash forward to 1983, "Professor Charles Xavier/Professor X" (James McAvoy) has expanded his school for mutants, bringing in more students, including "Scott Summers/Cyclops" (Tye Sheridan) and "Jean Grey/Pheonix" (Sophie Turner). "Raven Darkholme/Mystique" (Jennifer Lawrence), who has become a hero to young mutants, has gone into hiding, secretly rescuing other fellow mutants such as "Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler" (Kodi Smit-McPhee), while "Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto" (Michael Fassbender) has evaded capture, settling down for a happy life Poland with a new loving wife and adorable daughter. (So you know they're pretty much dead.)
Meanwhile, CIA agent "Moira MacTaggert" (Rose Byrne) has been researching into the legend of Apocalypse just around when he is accidentally awakened from his slumber. He then begins to gather his "Four Horsemen" including "Elizabeth Braddock/Psylocke" (Olivia Munn), "Ororo Munroe/Storm" (Alexandra Shipp), "Warren Worthington III/Archangel" (Ben Hardy), and eventually Magneto, in a plot to cleanse the world of those he deems unworthy. Its up to Mystique, with help from "Hank McCoy/Beast" (Nicholas Hoult), to lead a young team of X-Men to go to war against Apocalypse and his minions.
I do admit that, along with every other fan (And critic. And comic book nerd) that we may have set our expectations too high ("X-Men: Days of Future Past" really is fantastic). It would be too much to expect "X-Men: Apocalypse" to reach that level. Every "X-Men" film is loaded with characters and plot points, but "Apocalypse" is overloaded with both, and a lot of it doesn't leave much of an impact.
Director Bryan Singer (Who has directed the best films of the franchise) always has an eye for scope, so "Apocalypse" predictably looks huge and undeniably impressive. The visual effects and imagery are top notch, and the action is all good stuff. The problem is that the plot is way too familiar, with a generic "Doomsday" villain, followed by wanton destruction, war, and chaos to stop him. This "X-Men" drifts into "Batman V Superman" territory. It's just too many things going on at once, followed by a massive, bombastic ending.
At least we have another huge, yet talented cast. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are still completely compelling. And it goes without saying (But I'm going to say it anyway) that Jennifer Lawrence is God's gift to me for being a good person. She is, as always, terrific here. Rose Byrne is everywhere now days, and I'm really glad, and Nicholas Hoult is good once again. Newcomers Sophie Turner and Tye Sheridan are very welcome additions, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Evan Peters (As "Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver", Magneto's bastard son) bring much needed comic relief.
As for the villains, they are surprisingly underused. Olivia Munn looks lovely, but she (And the other Horseman) pretty much just stand around and make evil poses. Josh Helman (As "Colonel Stryker") just sort of appears out of nowhere, with a plot that serves little purpose (I think it sets up future films, and gives us a cool "Wolverine" cameo, though it feels pointless for the story). At though his character is a fairly standard villain, at least Oscar Issac is having a blast, oozing comic book menace.
The film's chaotic, climactic battle has nothing on "Captain America: Civil War", which had a surprisingly subtle and dramatic finale. That was small by comparison, but far more moving. We've seen the big, ex[plosive, destruction filled climax before, and it's getting tiresome, and a little boring. Bigger is not better, and "X-Men: Apocalypse" could have used less boom, and more story. Speaking of which, would you like me to explain the "X-Men" story again? I haven't even mentioned "Deadpool". 2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Destructive Action, And Jennifer Lawrence's Deliciously Blue Body.
Image: "Oh,no! Johnny Depp's on another coked up rampage!"
In 2010, a fledgling film critic, armed with nothing but a hope, a dream, and his Dad's credit card, took a chance and started a film review website, calling it "James and His Dad's Reviews" (Geez, what a dumbass!) Undeterred, he chose Disney's (And Tim Burton's) version of "Alice in Wonderland". Like my first review, the movie is no masterpiece, but a fine, 3 star family film. So It's understandable that I look back fondly upon my first time.
"Alice Through the Looking Glass" begins with "Alice" (Mia Wasikowska) returning to London after a few years away at sea. Once again she is forced do endure family troubles, and she's still dealing with the sexism of all the old farts she works for. She recognizes a butterfly, "Absolem" (Alan Rickman) who tells her it's imperative she return to Wonderland, so he leads her "through the looking glass", back into Wonderland. (Or "Underland", as they call it.)
She is told by "The White Queen" (Anne Hathaway) that "The Mad Hatter" (Johnny Depp) has gotten sick with depression, believing that his family is still alive after all these years. Upset that nobody (Not even Alice) believes him, along with the guilt of never reconciling with his father (Rhys Ifans), is literally killing him. (They might want to consult with an actual doctor to figure that one out.)
So The White Queen gets the "brilliant" idea for Alice to go see "Time" (Sacha Baron Cohen), the ruler over all time itself, and asks to use his "Chronosphere" to go back in time to find the Hatter's family. Time refuses to help due to the horrible consequences that would happen, and because he has a hot date with "The Red Queen" (Helena Bonham Carter), who is just using him to get to the Chronosphere. Alice steals it anyway, heads back in time and inadvertently causes all kinds of madness, while learning more about Wonderland's bizarre history.
There's nothing wrong with the presentation of "Alice Through the Looking Glass". It's visually spectacular, with a top notch cast that couldn't possibly fail. It's the sloppy storytelling that brings the film down and it's inherent problem so many sequels have (It's unnecessary). Much of the film repeats sequences too similar to the first movie, amplifying some of the same complaints many had originally (Characters getting expanded back stories) And though I think it kind of worked the first time, here it feels more forced.
"Alice" has amazing art direction and visual style (Director James Bobin shares Tim Burton's usual flair). It gets the spectacle of the "Alice" story right, but the thin story continually lets it down (The time travel element only leads to confusion and detours).
Mia Wasikowska is sweetness and charm personified, making a perfect Alice, and Johnny Depp is still suitably reliable as the Mad Hatter. The highlights of "Alice" are Helena Bonham Carter, who is still delightfully larger than life, and Sacha Baron Cohen, who is typically hilarious. Yet the weirdly structured plot leaves little room for the sublime Anne Hathaway, Rhys Ifans, Stephen Fry (The "Cheshire Cat"), Michael Sheen (The "White Rabbit"), Matt Lucas ("Tweedledum" and "Tweedledee"), Timothy Spall (The "Bloodhound"), Paul Whitehouse (The "March Hare") or the late, great Alan Rickman (But man, it's sure great to hear his voice).
"Alice Through the Looking Glass" is still perfectly suitable for kids, but compared to most recent Disney classics ("Zootopia", "The Jungle Book"), the sequel pales in comparison, and ends up a bit of a disappointment. It's just that, with Disney, we've come to expect more than just whimsical antics, pretty as they are. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG For Kooky Humor, And For Johnny Depp Ruining His Career And Our Goodwill Toward Him For Being A Coked Up Wife Abuser (Seriously, What the Hell, Johnny?)
Image: It's true what they say. "Nice Guys" finish fourth. At the box office.
Laurel and Hardy. Abbot and Costello. Martin and Lewis. Key and Peele....Crowe and Gosling?
"The Nice Guys" has so much plot, so many twists and turns, that the details would be a spoiler. So I'll just stick to the basic summary. It's 1977 in L.A. and things are really groovy. Piss poor Private Detective "Holland March" (Ryan Gosling) is looking for "Amelia" (Margaret Qualley), but she doesn't want to be found. So she hires "Jackson Healy" (Russell Crowe), who's the guy you hire to beat up the guy who's looking for you.
After Jackson breaks Holland's arm, Jackson is attacked by a couple of enforcers (Keith David and Beau Knapp), who demand to know where the girl is. Jackson and Holland decide to team together, and uncover a conspiracy involving the death of a porn star, a slew of murders, the auto industry, and smog (It's L.A. Have you been there?)
Writer and Director Shane Black (Iron Man 3) is a little warped, to be sure. But he has a great knack for humor, dialogue, and attention to detail. The 1970's setting looks flashy and feels authentic (How the hell would I know?). The film is bright and colorful, yet has a gritty and dirty look, that helps add to the Los Angeles atmosphere. The script has moments of randomness (Giant bee in a car), but it adds to the endearing quirkiness of the story.
Speaking of endearing quirkiness, who would have thought that Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling could be so dang funny together? Both actors obviously have star power, but the surprise is how wonderful a comedic team they make. They get huge laughs out of some pretty absurd situations. Angourie Rice (As Holland's daughter) somehow matches Crowe and Gosling's comedic timing. Matt Bomer (As a psycho killer) arrives late but leaves an impression, and Kim Bassinger (As Amelia's mother) has a purpose, though little to actually do .
"The Nice Guys" has a great buildup to the finale, but the payoff doesn't quite live up to the rest of the film. But it's a heck of a ride getting there. It's going to be too quirky and darkly humorous for some. But Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are just the kind of nice guys you can root for. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated R For All Of The Sex, Drugs, Violence And Terrible Fashion Choices That Ruined The 70's.
Image: Red reacts to the new "Ghostbusters" trailer.
"The Angry Birds Movie" is now officially the best reviewed video game movie in Hollywood history (Yeah, I know it's an app. It's still a video game) It's also official that our standards are so low that we may have to celebrate this fact as a historic moment in cinematic history.
"The Angry Birds Movie" tells the story of "Red" (Jason Sudeikis), a grumpy, anti-social flightless bird who lives on an island inhabited by other flightless birds. Red's temper and constant outbursts result in him being ordered by the pompous "Judge Peckinpah" (Keegan-Michael Key) to attend anger management classes. The class is taught by former angry bird "Matilda" (Maya Rudolph), along with the speedy (and constantly talking) "Chuck" (Josh Gad), the appropriately named "Bomb" (Danny McBride), and the large mostly silent "Terence" (Sean Penn, who does nothing but growl. Just like in real life).
When a boat arrives carrying a bunch of pigs, led by "Leonard" (Bill Hader), Red becomes suspicious of their intentions. But nobody (except Chuck and Bomb) believe him, and they once again shun him. As more and more pigs start to arrive, they appear to take great interest in the birds delicious, round, soft eggs. Red, Chuck, and Bomb journey to find "The Mighty Eagle" (Peter Dinklage), hoping to put an end to the evil pigs plan. This all leads up to the chaotic slingshot, building smashing action and destruction we've all been addicted to fiddling with on our phones.
My guess is that you are either going to mildly enjoy "The Angry Birds Movie", or find the whole thing insufferable. The film's plot is surprisingly thought out (Predictable as it is), providing an actual origin story explaining what we've all been wondering (Why are the Angry Birds blowing up those Green Pigs in the first place? Now we know). Nothing about the film is very original, but they've managed to give a real story structure to a game that really doesn't have one.
"Angry Birds" is full of jokes that fall flat, relying heavily on bad puns and potty humor. But for every bad joke, there's usually a good one to follow. The good humor works well with the "Looney Toons" like style and animation, and it's plenty fast (If maybe a bit too frenetic) for adults (But great for the kids).
Jason Sudekis is perfectly cast, playing sarcastic to perfection. Josh Gad is suitably silly, Danny McBride is kind of lovable, Maya Rudolph is adorable, Bill Hader always sounds like he's having a ball, Peter Dinklage is a riot, and the hilarity that is comedic genius Sean Penn is on full display (Yeah, his casting is a joke, but at least it's proof that he actually has a sense of humor).
"Angry Birds" shines in the final act. It's pure nonsense, but it's true to the game (The film is produced by "Rovio Entertainment", the team behind the game). The film's message seems to be rustling some feathers (Pun intended). Anger is a good thing? If used in the right circumstances? Seriously, I think the main character is justified, and everyone else is kind of mean and looks down on him, so a little righteous anger is needed when a bunch of fat pigs try to steal your eggs, right?
There's nothing mind blowing about "The Angry Birds Movie" (It ain't "Zootopia"). But for a movie based video game, It's a step in the right direction. There's certainly nothing to be angry about, unless you're looking to be. Yeah, It's just a commercial for more games and merchandise. But chill out. Or I'll give you the bird. 3 Stars. Rated PG For Farts, Poop, Pee, And Juicy, Succulent Eggs.
Image: The "Masked Fat Ass" strikes again.
If a sequel is basically just a variation of the first film, and is more than likely, completely unnecessary, is it still all right to like the sequel just as much, as long as it makes you laugh?
"Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising" begins with "Mac" (Seth Rogen) and "Kelly" (Rose Byrne) expecting their second baby (God I hope it looks like her), and they are preparing to sell their house, but have 30 days before the sale is final.
But history soon repeats itself when college newcomer "Shelby" (Chloë Grace Moretz) arrives. Shelby feels it's sexist that fraternities are allowed to throw parties, drink, and get schwifty all they want while sororities are not (Fight the power, girlfriend!) So she, along with her new friends ""Beth" (Kiersey Clemons) and "Nora" (Beanie Feldstein) create their own sorority "Kappa Nu", moving into the house next door to Mac and Kelly.
"Teddy" (Zac Efron), who is currently jobless, homeless, and alone since his best friend "Pete" (Dave Franco) went gay, decides to help Shelby grow her sorority as a way of getting back at Mac and Kelly, and so that he can feel needed. But the girls are too much even for him, things start to get out of control, and Teddy switches sides to help shut the sorority down before the 30 days are up.
Like most comedy sequels, "Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising" sticks to the same formula, and beats it into the ground. It's saving grace: It's still pretty damn funny. And there's nothing half-assed about everyone's commitment to getting a laugh. Yeah, it's dirty and raunchy. But "Neighbors 2" has enough clever gags and jokes, and still retains a surprising amount of character development and heart.
Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne still have plenty of chemistry (Seriously, who knew?). They make a likable and believable couple, and play off each other effortlessly. I'm still surprised at how funny Zac Efron can be. And though I'm still uncomfortable with the idea of the absolutely adorable Chloë Grace Moretz as, you know, as a foul mouthed, bikini wearing adult, she's more than up to the comedic challenge.
In between the dick jokes and feminine products used as weapons, "Neighbors 2" actually makes some pretty positive points about the double standards girls have to deal with. The message is well told, and has the best of intentions. Sometimes potty humor can be smart, and "Neighbors 2" is clever for a film with little plot, little originality, and no real purpose other than to give us some cheap yucks. It's simple. It made me laugh. 3 Stars. Rated R For Drugs, Alcohol, And For Seth Rogen's Jiggling Jubblies.
Image: "The Fed is going to be lowering, so get your money out of T-bills and put it all into....Waffles! Hot, tasty waffles!"
"Money Monster" is the kind of film that is sure to piss off the Wall Street fat cats and billionaires. And is guaranteed to give Bernie Sanders his first boner since Woodstock.
George Clooney stars as "Lee Gates", a financial expert, and host of a financial show called "Money Monster". His show and personality are a bit wild, abrasive and sarcastic, which bothers his show's Director, "Patty" (Julia Roberts), but Lee has a lot of influence with investors. One of the firms Lee had pushed had suddenly tanked, costing investors $800 million, so he plans an interview "Walt Camby" (Dominic West), the CEO of the company, but Walt bails at the last minute.
Things take a turn for the serious when Lee is confronted on air by "Kyle" (Jack O'Connell), who invested his entire life savings into the stock, and Kyle is seriously pissed. He demands answers, and takes Lee and his crew hostage, forcing Lee to wear a vest with a bomb in it. On live television, Lee and Kyle begin to discover the truth behind the financial meltdown, and confront those responsible....Which is, obviously, Walt Camby, the "Billionaire".
"Money Monster" is pretty obvious in which direction it's heading from the start, and that's the biggest problem with the film. We've seen the 1980's or 1990's "Conspiracy" genre before, and "Monster" doesn't do anything particularly new with it. Having said that, it's professionally made and directed by Oscar winner Jodie Foster, and what it lacks in suspense or originality (And, maybe, logic), the film easily makes up for in talent.
George Clooney flat out hasn't made a bad film since "Batman and Robin" (Seriously! Look it up!), and he brings his usual perfectness to "Monster". And since Julia Roberts can do no wrong, either, she and Clooney predictably make a great team once again. Jack O'Connell has trouble with his New York accent (Most actors do), but he is completely committed, and Dominic West is pretty standard and one note as the villain, but that's how he was written, so, good job.
"Money Monster" has some interesting commentary on the winners and losers in our financial system (Maybe a little preachy), though someday someone can explain how exactly this kind of scenario could actually happen exactly as it does in the film, but that's Hollywood. There is a message here, told by extremely talented people who give it their all. "Money Monster" isn't memorable, but is far more entertaining than those silly "Real" financial shows on TV. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Language And For Billionaires Who Won't Pay Their Fair Share.
Image: "We'll settle this old school....Rock, Paper, Scissors."
"Captain America: Civil War" was a given. It's only a matter of how great it was going to be. With the Marvel Cinematic Universe's track record ("Thor: The Dark World"?), it was bound to range somewhere between very, very good, and spectacular awesomeness.
"Civil War" begins with the "Avengers", led by "Steve Rogers/Captain America" (Chris Evans), "Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow" (Scarlett Johansson), "Sam Wilson/Falcon" (Anthony Mackie), and "Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch" (Elizabeth Olsen) who are on a mission to stop former "S.H.I.E.L.D/HYDRA" Agent, "Brock Rumlow/Crossbones" (Frank Grillo).
The mission appears to be a success, but many civilians are killed in the crossfire. leading Secretary of State "Thaddeus Ross" (William Hurt) to inform the Avengers that the United Nations plan to pass the Sokovia Accords, in order to limit the power of the Avengers and give the UN full control over their actions. "Tony Stark/Iron Man" (Robert Downey Jr.) agrees with the decision, while Captain America doesn't trust it at all, dividing the team.
After a devastating bombing in Vienna kills the King of Wakanda (John Kani), his son, "T'Challa/Black Panther" (Chadwick Boseman) vows revenge on the person supposedly responsible, "Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier" (Sebastian Stan). With Captain America defending his formerly brainwashed friend, Bucky, the rest of the Avengers must choose sides, with Falcon, Scarlet Witch, "Clint Barton/Hawkeye" (Jeremy Renner), and "Scott Lang/Ant Man" (Paul Rudd) siding with the Captain, and Black Widow, Black Panther, "Rhodey Rhodes/War Machine" (Don Cheadle), "Vision" (Paul Bettany), and surprise newcomer, "Peter Parker/Spiderman" (Tom Holland), side with Iron Man.
And manipulating both sides from the shadows, "Helmut Zemo" (Daniel Brühl) sets forth a plan that leads the Avengers to battle each other in a freakin' awesome battle royal, that threatens to tear the superheroes apart.
I hope I've left you as exhausted and exhilarated as I was after "Captain America/Civil War". This may be the biggest Marvel Epic yet, but Directors Anthony and Joe Russo find a way to bring this complicated plot together perfectly (Maybe even more so than "Age of Ultron). They've done the impossible in developing so many characters, old and new, and making them all as memorable as you'd hope they would be.
What's amazing about "Civil War" is that the quest to stop the villain isn't the film's focus. Instead, it's the complex relationships and dilemmas the characters find themselves in. These aren't just superheroes. They are full fledged people, who just happen to be larger, cooler and more heroic than the rest of it. They're also stubborn and flawed, and capable of being self righteous, and even of causing serious damage. The consequences of their actions is debated, and it's fascinating to watch.
The action sequences and special effects are astonishing, and the usual Marvel humor still shines. The relationship and rapport between the characters has always been the best part of these films, and the impossibly great cast has never been better.
Chris Evans must be Captain America in real life (We all need this to be true), Robert Downey Jr. is just the best there is at everything (His darker moments here are Oscar worthy. I'm serious. He deserves an Oscar for a superhero movie. Don't be a snob.) Scarlett Johansson is heaven, Sebastian Stan gets his best moments yet, Chadwick Boseman is completely terrific, and Tom Holland is the Spider-Man everyone's been waiting for (Even if he is the third one in ten years).
Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Paul Bettany, the adorable Elizabeth Olsen, and the hilarious Paul Rudd round out the best damn superhero cast in the history of film (Top this, Justice League!) It's great to see William Hurt again, Emily VanCamp (As "Sharon Carter", Peggy Carter's niece) has nice moments as the Captain's love interest, and Daniel Brühl makes for an interesting (And surprisingly capable villain).
"Captain America:Civil War" is the superhero movie for those who aren't superhero movie fans. This is an exciting drama, with humor and developed characters, just like any award worthy film. You don't have to be artsy to be great, and "Civil War" is truly great, maybe my favorite in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And I've set the bar very, very high. 4 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Being Better Than "Batman V Superman" In Every Way (Hey, Every Critic Has Taken A Shot At It).
Image: Holy Mother's Day!
Taking your Mother to see "Mother's Day" is a not a Mother's Day present. Taking your Mother to see "Captain America: Civil War", now THAT'S a Mother's Day present! I'm such a great son.
"Mother's Day" is the third film in Director Garry Marshall's ensemble romantic comedy series based around specific holidays ( "Valentine's Day" and "New Year's Day", soon to be followed by "Teacher Appreciation Day"). The film follows several subplots involving mothers and daughters.
"Sandy" (Jennifer Antiston) is a divorced mama with two sons, who is thrown for a loop when her ex "Henry"(Timothy Olyphant) remarries a much younger girl "Tina" (Shay Mitchell). "Jesse" (Kate Hudson) doesn't want to tell her parents, "Flo" (Margo Martindale) and "Earl" (Robert Pine) that she's married to an East Indian (Aasif Mandvi), or that her sister (Sarah Chalke) is a raging lesbian. And a cute young mother "Kristin" (Britt Robertson) discovers her long lost mother, "White Oprah" (Julia Roberts). For the guys, we get a grieving widower "Bradley" (Jason Sudekis), who questions if he should celebrate mother's day with his young daughters (There had to be a downer story, right?)
Do you like these movies? Then "Mother's Day" is perfect for you. Don't like these movies? Then stay the Hell away from "Mother's Day". It's predictable and cloying to the max, with forced situations that are forced and cartoonish (Like a sitcom. Without the laughs). But I really can't find anything to be angry at, other than putting so many talented actors in such a silly film.
The cast are all way better than "Mother's Day" deserves, and they mostly give it their all, the highlight being Jason Sudekis (Whose character is at least going through what feels like a real situation). Britt Robertson is adorable, as is Kate Hudson (Though her plot is absurd). But Jennifer Antiston gets little to do but yell (Though she still looks great), as does Julia Roberts (Through her character is very odd, to say the least).
"Mother's Day" is lame. It's cheesy. It's boring. It's completely harmless, so have at it if this floats your boat. You won't remember it come next Mother's Day. In fact, you won't remember it come THIS Mother's Day. Captain America is what Mama really wants. 2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Contrived Adult Situations And Attempted Bawdy Humor.
Image: Ratchet contemplates uses for his new Japanese "Toy".
All right, that's it. I've been waiting and waiting for a video game adaption to make for a genuinely good film. I admit, I opened myself up for "Ratchet and Clank", and got my hopes up a little too high. It can't be done. So, "Assassins Creed", "Warcraft" and "The Angry Birds Movie"? You can't let me down. I've already given up hope.
Based on the wildly successful, wildly beloved (And one of my personal favorites) video game series, "Ratchet and Clank" is pretty much a reboot of the original game. "Ratchet" (James Arnold Taylor) is a "Lombax" (Like an Alien Cat/Raccoon), who dreams of being a Galactic Ranger, like his hero, "Captain Qwark" (Jim Ward), but Ratchet is turned away from Galactic Rangers, thinking he is puny and weak.
Meanwhile, the leader of the "Blarg", "Chairman Drek" (Paul Giamatti), is destroying planets with a new super weapon, "The Deplanetizer", with hopes of creating a new perfect planet for his people (and wiping out the Galactic Rangers), with help from his evil buddy, "Dr. Nefarious" (Armin Shimerman). The evil Doctor gives Drek an army of "War-Bots", one of which becomes defective, ending up in the hands of Ratchet, who names him "Clank" (David Kaye).
Ratchet and Clank decide to team up and tell the rest of the Rangers of Drek's plan, including "Cora" (Bella Thorne), "Elaris" (Rosario Dawson) and "Brax" (Vincent Tong), who help Ratchet and Clank become famous galactic heroes, stealing the limelight from a jealous Qwark.
"Ratchet and Clank" is certainly and devoted to it's fan base. The film has one of the original writers of the games, the backing of "Insomniac Games" and "PlayStation Originals" studios, the return of many of the voice actors, and the Directors (Jericca Cleland and Kevin Munroe), who are all clearly devoted to the franchise. Yet somehow that's still not enough to turn the story into a fully developed, 90 minute film. Really, the film is one long compilation of cutscenes, helping make even the action strangely weak, and makes for some awkward pacing.
The film's plot is basic, but if you're not a fan of the video game, "Ratchet and Clank" offers little to anyone uninitiated (Unlike a total Expert/Geek, like myself), and only we would get the numerous references and fanservice the film offers.
It is a blast for us fans to see and hear the "Ratchet and Clank" characters on the big screen, and James Arnold Taylor and David Kaye are as lovable as ever (Though their characters are sidelined a bit at times for newer characters). Jim Ward is always a riot as the idiotic Qwark, and Armin Shimerman is as committed as ever (One of the best video games villains ever). Watching and hearing these four together is a personal joy for me (And to hear professional voice actors in their original roles, in general).
The celebrity voices are more of a mixed bag, save for the great Paul Giamatti (Who can do no wrong). John Goodman (As "Grimroth", Ratchet's mentor), Bella Thorne, Rosario Dawson and Sylvester Stallone (As "Victor", Drek's enforcer) all do fine work, but their characters have little to do, and actually distract from what should be the main focus of the film.
"Ratchet and Clank" is colorful, and looks exactly like the game in terms of animation. Nowhere near Pixar/DreamWorks level, but it's serviceable. And the while the critics have been a bit too harsh (Mostly because its a Video Game Movie), but I have to admit that's there's not much to recommend to anyone outside of the devoted. For the fans, the film is perfectly fun and enjoyable. The humor and style is intact, the characters are embraceable, and there's clearly a lot of love put into it (It took four years to make). But, dang it, I just needed a little bit more (Fortunately, I just finished the awesome new PS4 game!) So, as a film critic, 2 Stars. As a fan, 3 Stars. So mathematically, for reader, I have to go with 2 1/2 Stars. I just can't go any higher. It's a video game film. They just can't do any better. Rated PG For Animated Violence, Skin tight Uniforms, And God Like Pectorals.
Image: "All right! Where's the Motha-F*cker who neutered me!"
There are way too many movies that are one joke films, that would have been way better off as nothing more than a skit on SNL, or a You Tube joke. And "Keanu" is essentially like a skit from Key and Peel's T.V. show. So how they pulled off as funny a movie as this over an hour and forty minutes is kind of a small miracle.
"Keanu" stars Keegan Michael-Key and Jordan Peele as cousins and best friends, "Clarence" and "Rell". Rell has suffered a bad breakup, and is depressed until a cute little kitten ends up at his front door. Rell names him "Keanu" and he becomes very attached to the the fur ball. While Clarence's wife "Hannah" (Nia Long) is away, he and Rell decide to have a bro weekend, but, while away, someone breaks into Dell's house and steals Keanu.
They learn from Rell's drug dealer "Hulka" (Will Forte) that a gang that wasn't quite good enough to be "Crips" or Bloods" may have taken Keanu (He was just too darn cute). Clarence and Rell meet the "Blips" leader, "Cheddar" (Method Man), who mistakes them assassins called the "Allentown Boys" (Also played by Key and Peele). Cheddaragrees to let Clarence and Rell have Keanu back, so long as they help push a new drug out in the streets. So for the love of a cat, Clarence and Rell make their way through the sordid drug underworld, pretending to be the vicious killers.
The entire premise of "Keanu" is truly nothing more than one long joke, but the joke is laugh out loud hilarious. As bizarre as it sounds, the film somehow works, with wonderfully funny dialogue and intentionally over the top scenes that are surprisingly clever. Yeah, it's idiotic, but blissfully so, and the two main characters (Or three, I should say) are likable enough to carry the thin plot.
Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele have the undeniable chemistry earned through years of working together. But the real star of the film is Keanu the cat, himself. He's a bonafide movie star and completely adorable (I think he's the next Matthew McConaughey). Seriously, the way he's filmed, and the situations he's put in just add to his cuteness (Despite some of the violent situations). The rest of the cast of "Keanu" all have funny moments as well, including Method Man, Will Forte and Tiffany Haddish (As one of the gang members/Rell's love interest).
"Keanu" has the obvious flaw of being nothing more than a long, one joke skit, and Director Peter Atencio's lack of experience shows (Especially towards the frenetic finale). But what's important is that "Keanu" is gut bustingly funny all the way through, thanks to it's two talented comedians, and a shining, bright new star in Keanu the cat. He may be sensitive, but he's no pussy. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Very Strong Language, And A Surprising Amount Of Violence.
Image: "If we kiss, at least the guys will watch the movie."
If you've seen the preview for "The Huntsman:Winter's War", than you've seen the two to three minute version of this movie. If I've saved you $10 or so, you're welcome.
"Winters War" is nearly impossible to explain without spoilers. In a story before "Snow White and the Huntsman", the evil Queen, "Ravenna" (Charlize Theron), learns her sister, "Freya" (Emily Blunt) is having an affair with a soon to be married member of royalty, and is preggers with his baby. Ravenna warns Freya that he will betray her, as all men do (She's probably right...."Men! Rough, hairy beasts!!! With eight hands!! And all they want is just one thing from a girl!! ")
After Freya gives birth, the baby is found dead (Who did it isn't a shocker. Spoiler No.1). That's when Freya unleashes her inner ice powers, becoming the "Snow Queen". She raises an army of child warriors, including the young "Eric" and "Sara". Once full grown, Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain) fall in love, despite specific orders not to (It's Jessica Chastain! He's only human!)
Fraya seemingly has both Sara and Eric killed, but Eric survives, leading to his epic role in "Snow White and the Huntsman". Years later after Ravenna's death at the hands of "Snow White" (NOT played by Kristen Stewart). it is learned that Ravenna's magic mirror still has a little magic left in it, so Eric and his little Dwarf buddies (Nick Frost and Rob Brydon) embark on a journey to destroy the mirror. They discover Sara is still alive (Spoiler No. 2), and she joins them to stop Fraya before she uses the mirror to resurrect her sister (And, spoiler No.3).
But the previews already showed what all of that leads to, so all I've done is explain the obvious. "The Huntsman: Winter's War" doesn't have any reason to exist, partly because it doesn't really have anything to do with the Prequel/Sequel (It's supposedly both). And this leads to a bunch of glaring plot holes. What about the romance with Eric and Snow White? What about Ravenna's "Rapey" brother? Didn't that guy hint to Eric that he had killed Sara? Why don't they even mention that Eric and Sara are married? Weren't there way more dwarfs? I'd question all this more if I cared.
All that and more are glossed over in favor of shoddy storytelling and unnecessary plot points. "The Huntsman" does have some striking imagery and beautiful cinematography. And, thank god for the three beautiful actresses, or the film really wouldn't be worth watching at all.
Chris Hemsworth does what he can with the bland script, as does Emily Blunt (Way too good for this film). Jessica Chastain (Way to good for this film) has a strange, fake Scottish accent (She sounds like a hot "Shrek".) And Charlize Theron (Way to good for this film) has no reason to be here. He character feels like an afterthought. And how dare they not give Nick Frost anything funny to say.
The real sin of "The Huntsman: Winters War" is the waste of talent and money on a movie so unimportant. I know other critics have pointed this out, but the film wouldn't exist without far superior films like "Frozen" and "Brave", and that just makes it all feel even more unneeded. "Winters War" is shockingly boring. To the point where I really miss Kristen Stewart (Who was pretty good in the last film). It's not a terrible film. Just worthless. 1 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Violence, Adult Content, And Chris Hemsworth Playing With His Two Little Friends.
Image: Kevin Costner finally gets his just punishment for "Waterworld".
I just saw a movie called "Criminal'. Or, as I call it, "A Criminal Waste Of Talent".
"Criminal" begins with "Bill Pope" (Ryan "Thank God 'Deadpool' was a hit" Reynolds), a C.I.A. Agent, tracking "The Dutchman" (Michael Pitt), a computer hacker with nuclear launch codes, before someone much worse gets hold of them. But when Pope is killed by a super over the top villain, "Heimbahl"(Jordi Mollà), Pope's C.I.A. supervisor, "Quaker Wells" (Gary Oldman) hires a Scientist, "Dr. Franks" (Tommy Lee Jones) to (And stay with me on this), take Pope's memory, and implant it into the head of unstable, psycho killer, "Jericho Stewart" (Kevin Costner).
Not surprisingly, the plan goes haywire when Jericho breaks free. But he slowly starts to gain the memories and talents of the guy whose brain he has, suddenly remembering that he has a hot wife (Gal Gadot). Jericho begins to search for the Dutchman, slowly gaining a heart and soul, in a race against the clock before somebody does something really, really stupid.
But that was already done by the writers of "Criminal". The plot is obviously ridiculous, and totally convoluted. The film gets increasingly sillier as it goes, and by the end, absolutely none of it makes any sense. Any sense of excitement is over ridden by the fact that "Criminal" is just so damn stupid.
Not even such fine actors such as Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman and Tommy Lee Jones can possibly salvage a film this insane, but they are all committed to their roles (At least they can all look at their impressive filmography and take heart). Ryan Reynolds is here just to die. Also completely wasted are Gal Gadot and Alice Eve (As Quaker's assistant), both lovely in thankless roles. By far the most annoying performance comes from Jordi Mollà. Calling him an over the top super villain is an insult to all of the fun over the top super villains in film history.
"Criminal" has some goofy elements that make the film, at least, mildly amusing. But it's all too silly, and, worst of all, completely forgettable. "Criminal" would be bad enough on it's own. But to make a movie with Costner, Oldman and Jones forgettable? Now that's criminal. You deserve what's coming to you in prison. 1 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Brutal Violence, And Little To No Brain Activity.
Image: I wonder if they do the hot towel and special message.
Now that I've seen "Barbershop: The Next Cut", I'm glad I hadn't seen the first two films. Maybe because I've been doing this job for so long, I still look forward to being pleasantly surprised once in a while.
"Barbershop 3" returns Ice Cube as "Calvin", who still runs his neighborhood barbershop in Chicago. He has now partnered with "Angie" (Regina Hall), who has merged her beauty shop with Calvin, making things more inclusive. Gang violence and race relations are coming to a head, and Calvin fears for his son, "Jalen" (Michael Rainey Jr.).
So Calvin, "Rashad" (Common), "Terri" (Eve), "Draya" (Nicki Minaj), and "Eddie" (Cedric the Entertainer) (Obviously, there's more, but I'm running short on time) organize a cease fire between gangs, and offer haircuts to the community for free to help spread community solidarity.
The themes and social commentary are just as important to "Barbershop: The Next Cut" as the humor. Fortunately, both and all subjects are smart and well handled. "Barbershop 3" isn't afraid to take on these subjects, or even laugh along with it. Not everything is serious, but the film is incredibly relevant, bringing to light topics that too many would like to ignore.
The ensemble cast is what makes "Barbershop 3" special. The camaraderie between Ice Cube, Common, Eve, Nicki Manaj, Regina Hall, Cedric the Entertainer, Anthony Anderson, and J.B. Smoove (Along with the rest of the large cast) is extremely believable and likable. They make you feel like you're watching genuine people having funny and topical conversations.
It really isn't necessary to see the other "Barbershop" films to jump right into "The Next Cut", because the characters and the film embrace you right away. And though some of the dialogue feels like nothing more than riffing, I'm still glad I got the chance to listen. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Language, And Making Some White Folk Uncomfortable.
Image: "I gotta' have more cowbell!"
Oh, great. They just can't stop making remakes of beloved classic Disney films. And taking on the last film that Walt Disney himself was involved in? But, wait....What are we worried about? It's frickin' Disney. The folks who have raised us as much as our parents have. So if they're willing to spend $175 million on a live action remake of "The Jungle Book", we shouldn't question them. If Disney says, "Trust In Me", just do it. At least, until "Pete's Dragon".
"The Jungle Book" follows young "Mowgli" (Neel Sethi), who has been raised by Wolves. His loving parents, "Raksha" (Lupita Nyong'o) and "Akela" (Giancarlo Esposito), along with a kindly Black Panther , "Bagheera" (Ben Kingsley), have taught Mowgli the ways of the jungle, though the young "Man Cub" doesn't always quite fit in.
When a severe drought occurs, a truce is agreed to by everyone in the animal kingdom, which doesn't sit well with "Shere Khan" (Idris Elba), a Bengal Tiger who despises man, and vows to kill Mowgli once the drought ends. When the rain returns, Bagheera is tasked with returning Mowgli to the Man village, but they are attacked by Shere Khan on the way, separating Bagheera and Mowgli.
As Mowgli tries to find his way, he meets "Kaa" (Scarlett Johansson), a seductively voiced Python, "Baloo" (Bill Murray), a lovable Sloth Bear, and "King Louie", (Christopher Walken), a giant, ancient Orangutan, who wants Mowgli to give him the ability to control "The Red Flower" (aka Fire).
"The Jungle Book" stays loyal to both the classic animated movie, and the classic book. It also, somehow, rivals the original Disney Film in greatness, adding even more depth and emotion to the characters and story. Yes, this version is quite deep (And a bit dark). But instead of just redoing the tale, this version expands on every facet of the story. The characters are fully developed, and, like the best Disney movies, instantly memorable.
Visually, "The Jungle Book" is a cinematic achievement. Aside from the young actor, the entire film is completely rendered through CGI. None of it is real, from the animals to the scenery. But I swear you can't tell! The setting and the characters feel as real as if you are in the jungle yourself (It's almost scary). Director Jon Favreau has created a masterpiece, and Disney has yet again raised the bar for visual effect standards.
As far as the cast, Disney clearly has a gateway to my brain. "The Jungle Book" is perfectly cast, giving Bill Murray his best and funniest role in quite a while. He's at the top of his game, and is an absolute joy, as is the always wonderful Sir Ben Kingsley (Their chemistry is perfection). Scarlett Johansson is unforgettable in her one creepy (Yet, strangely sexy) scene, and both Lupita Nyong'o and Giancarlo Esposito are wonderfully warm as the parents.
Idris Elba makes a great villain even greater in an amazingly hardcore performance (He straight up murders someone!) Top it off with the amazing Christopher Walken, giving a performance that can only be described as a gift from the heavens above, and a star making turn from newcomer Neel Sethi (How he reacted to nothing but green screen like a seasoned actor is beyond me), and you get a cast as good as any you'll find in film.
The score for "The Jungle Book" is the usual Disney Magic. And while some may question the "Bare" necessity of including some of the original songs from the animated "Book" (Despite not being a musical), who has the balls to say that Christopher Walken singing "I Wan'na Be Like You" is ever a bad thing? Some may complain about the dark and heavy undertone, but Disney knows that kids aren't stupid, and can handle a little drama, especially when it's mixed with so much humor and heart.
"The Jungle Book" adds to the never ending list of perfect Disney family films. Walt would be proud if he wasn't frozen in carbonite. 4 Stars. Rated PG For Startling Intensity.
Image: "Look, man. I don't wan't any trouble. I'll give you a good review."
"Hardcore Henry" is honestly the first movie I've ever seen where I was warned by the theater itself that It might make me physically ill. Not even those found footage films have ever given warning that I could conceivably puke my guts out. I didn't buy it. I've sat through every Sandler movie in the last six years (Hey, I haven't sh*t on him since last September. It doesn't feel right).
"Hardcore Henry" is seen through a first person perspective, and follows "Henry" (Who we never see or hear), who wakes up in a lab, rebuilt by his hot, Scientist Wife, "Estelle" (Haley Bennett). Henry is remade with one robotic arm and leg, and robotic wiring throughout his body.
The lab is broken into by "Akan" (Danila Kozlovsky), a dastardly villain with telekinetic powers (Don't think about it. It's not explained). Akan wants to create a super army, and kidnaps Estelle. Henry stops at nothing to save Estelle, getting help from "Jimmy" (Sharlto Copley), a man who keeps appearing as Henry's guide, who keeps getting killed, only to reappear in different forms, again and again.
Logic is non existent in "Hardcore Henry". In fact, the film embraces the total lack of logic, so trying to make any sense of things is futile And unless you're a fan of extremely graphic violence, you may want to steer clear of "Henry" (The opening credits is basically a montage of new and inventive ways to kill). The film really is just a video game, our hero slaughtering villain after villain on his way to the final boss.
The first person action is not for everybody, but it looks amazing. The action and camera work feels constant, giving the viewer the viewer the feeling that they're actually participating. The action is grotesque, but at least "Henry" gets points for sheer originality (It may be the most original movie I've seen this year). And "Henry" certainly does have a twisted sense of humor.
Since there's no real lead "Actor", It's an interesting challenge for the "Real" actors to play to the audience. And Sharlto Copley is just crazy enough, and good enough to pull it off (I lost count of how many characters he played. But he was fun as all of them). Danila Kozlovsky is a cheesy villain, but he's having a blast. And Haley Bennett is pretty breathtaking as the girl that any cyborg would do anything for.
"Hardcore Henry" doesn't even try to explain it's purpose for the most part. It's more a film experiment, a chance for the viewer to put his or her self onto the big screen."Hardcore Henry" isn't serious at all, and that helps dull the constant, hardcore violence just a bit. So, It's not remotely logical. But it does give us a first person sword fight against a tank. And none of us have ever seen that before. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Hardcore Violence And Hardcore Shaky Cam.
Image: "But James thinks my breasts are perky enough!"
Melissa McCarthy is undeniably cute and talented and funny. And I am totally convinced that the new "Ghostbusters" will totally not suck (You can mock me all you want if I'm wrong). But that's what makes most of her films so disappointing (Except "Spy"). She is certainly not bland and predictable. So how come "The Boss" is?
McCarthy stars as "Michelle Darnell", a multi million dollar CEO of several companies, who has become one of the most famous, and richest women in America. But when her Rival/Ex-Lover, "Renault" (Peter Dinklage), exposes her for insider trading, Michelle is sent to rich people jail, where she is forced to spend months toiling away on the prison tennis court (Rich people got it rough).
When she is released, Michelle finds she has lost all of her friends and money, so she is taken in by her sweet, single mother assistant, "Claire" (Kristen Bell), and Claire's Girl Scout daughter, "Rachel" (Ella Anderson). Michelle sees a gold mine in Girl Scout brownies (Which has got to be true), so she devises a plan to reach the top of the business world once again, while Claire and Rachel teach her about family values and how to make special brownies.
Yet another movie we've all seen before, "The Boss" is just a wackier version of an all too familiar plot. The script has a few laughs, but the tone is inconsistent, veering wildly from attempts at serious heart, followed by cartoonish and goofy behavior. Most of the characters are devoid of reality, and their actions completely implausible, especially in the last act (Which, I admit, wouldn't matter if it were funnier).
Melissa McCarthy wrings as many laughs as anyone could, and makes "The Boss" better than it should be. Kristen Bell (Who has quite possibly the cutest smile in film history) does have genuine chemistry with McCarthy, but Peter Dinklage gives a performance so bizarre, that I honestly haven't decided what to make of it yet.
"The Boss" is a joke that stays around too long, and plays longer than it actually is, dragging itself to the finish line. In short, It's a bad film that was less bad only because of the actress starring in it. And that always bugs me even more. 2 Stars. Rated R For Vulgarity, And Obscene Spray Tanning.
Image: "I'd like to God to the witness stand....No need to swear him in."
I'm not here to bash or pick apart anyone's religious belief. And I won't rip anybody's political belief here, either. But I have no problem beating the crap out of a film that pushes it's own religious and political agenda that is so blatantly one sided. And I will thoroughly enjoy tearing to pieces one so hilariously incompetent.
"God's Not Dead 2" tells a few different stories. "Grace" (Melissa Joan Hart), a Teacher with strong Christian values, harmlessly answers a student's question involving Jesus, which pisses off the Godless school board, who order her to apologize, and never do it again. When Grace says, "Screw you, Jesus rocks!", it sets off a court case, where the evil, atheist, liberal ACLU Prosecuting Attorney (Ray Wise) sets out to prove that God is dead.
But Grace, and America's worst Lawyer (Jesse Metcalfe) defy the odds, proving once and for all that God lives, Jesus is our savior, Christianity is the one and only religion, and every non believer will burn in Hell (Or, get cancer or hit by a car, like in the first film.)
Meanwhile, "Reverend Dave" (David A.R.White), who somehow made it on to the jury (Nice job, Prosecutor), is being persecuted by the Obama administration. There is also a charming subplot, involving "Super Positive Asian Roland Chang", who gets slapped and disowned by his Dad, just for being Christian. By the end, Christianity proves to cure the world's two worst diseases: Cancer, and Liberalism.
Yeah, I'm being snarky, but "God's Not Dead 2" is being a way bigger dick than I am. The film is ridiculously absolute, and offensively stupid. Everything about the script is simplistic, black and white, good vs. evil. Complexity? Tolerance? That's for Godless heathens. There's only two truth's to "God's Not Dead 2". Christianity and conservatism (Hey, I've made fun of a few liberal movies, too. This had it coming.)
The plot makes no damn sense, and the actions of the characters are inexplicable. Maybe I'm naive, but I can't see this court case ever existing, and the outcome is preposterous. Only the evil ACLU Lawyer makes any sense (I'm sorry, but in this case, he's right. Can you imagine if a teacher was speaking to the glory of Allah?) The so called "Heroes" spout gospel, but nothing resembling evidence.
Another point. I remember the recent anti Gay Marriage protests in Kentucky, and I remember quite a bit of anger in those protests. But in "God's Not Dead" they do nothing but sit quietly and pray, while the anti-Christian protesters scream and yell. Everything about the film is heavy handed. And Grace could work in any religious private school she chose, preaching Jesus to her heart's content, thus avoiding a federal case (That wouldn't happen, anyway). But she insists to the court that she has a right to talk all the Jesus she wants. And, of course, the movie sides with her, clearly not understanding the separation between Church and State.
If anyone objects to my little rant, understand my only real problem is with the film itself. God bless everyone, and their faith (Mine is secure). But I would never beat everyone over the head with it the way "God's Not Dead 2" does. It's the film's total lack of quality and intelligence that ruins it. The movie looks cheap, the editing is poor, there are countless subplots that go nowhere, and it's somehow dragged out to nearly two excruciating hours.
Melissa Joan Heart is stuck with one pouty facial expression the entire film, Jesse Metcalfe lacks the charm his character seems to think he has, and poor Ernie Hudson (As the Judge) will believe anything they say, as long as there's a steady paycheck in it. Thankfully, Ray Wise is a fine actor, who plays his role so deliciously over the top, that it's impossible not to enjoy his performance. He may be the only evidence the film provides that God may actually exist.
Again, "God's Not Dead" does nothing to change my belief in a kind and benevolent God. And I get that the devout already believe everything the film is saying, anyway. I;m just afraid this film may create more atheists than converts. If the film doesn't show tolerance, why should anyone else? God's not dead. He just wants his money back. 1/2 Star. Rated PG For Self Pontificating Baloney And Mike Huckabee.
Image: "Yippee ki-yay, Mr. Rickman!"
It's always refreshing to see a film that I wasn't expecting to review, but was so good that I couldn't turn down the chance to spread the word. And the only other movie I am reviewing this week is "God's Not Dead 2", and I wanted to build up your anticipation.
"Eye In The Sky" follows a mission in Kenya to stop a terrorist attack. "Colonel Katherine Powell" (Helen Mirren) is leading a secret drone mission, hoping to capture a couple of the world's most wanted. She is relaying the info to "Lt. General Frank Benson" (Alan Rickman), but things become even more urgent when a Kenyan Agent (Barkhad Abdi) reports that a suicide attack looks imminent.
Colonel Powell decides that they must order a drone areal strike, but American Pilot "Steve Watts" (Aaron Paul) refuses to fire once he discovers a young girl in the blast vicinity. The tension builds as the decision works tit's way through the chain of command, whether one innocent life is worth the risk to take out the world's most dangerous terrorists.
"Eye In The Sky" is remarkable in it's complexity, and that it manages not to choose a side in it's political ramifications. Instead, it places the viewer in the, well, shi*tty situation our military and intelligence professionals must face in life and death situations. You sympathize with the characters in the film (Except those with a simplistic point of view), and feel their dilemma as they wrestle with the kind of choices you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy. "Eye" feels completely authentic, and the script is clearly written by those who have expertise in the world of drone warfare.
Helen Mirren was born perfect, and gives yet another perfect performance. Aaron Paul is excellent as well, and Barkhad Abdi finally gets a chance to shine again after his terrific performance in "Captain Phillips". But watching the late, great Alan Rickman in one of his final roles really gets to you. He gives one of his best performances, and I will make it my mission to get him the WAY overdue Oscar Nomination he got completely screwed out of ("Die Hard"? He didn't get nominated for "Die Hard"? Are you f*cking with me?)
"Eye In The Sky" never stops being suspenseful. Not even when it's over, because you're still thinking about it. What would you do? Do you really know? If so, you're a better man than I. "Eye" gives no easy answer. Life just sucks sometimes. 4 Stars. Rated R For Language And Disturbing Images.
Image: "Superman, you bring out the light in my eyes."
Editor's note: I am one of those film critics who has been bought off by Marvel and Disney, clearly explaining all of my positive reviews for each film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So that must explain the negative reviews for "Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice". I mean, it could be that it just really isn't all that good. But, no, that couldn't be it. We just didn't get paid off. DC spent $250 million on the film, but couldn't throw a little to the critics. Oh, well. They'll learn.
The epic "Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice" is the second film in the DC extended universe. The film begins with the climax of "Man of Steel", where "Bruce Wayne/Batman" is witnessing the destruction and death created in the battle between "Clark Kent/Superman" (Henry Cavill) and "General Zod" (Michael Shannon). Seeing so many innocents die has made Bruce bitter and a little cruel, according to his loyal Butler, "Alfred" (Jeremy Irons).
Some time later, "Senator Finch" (Holly Hunter) is asking Superman if he can be trusted after so much carnage, where others see him more like a God. Superman causes more controversy when he rescues "Lois Lane" (Amy Adams), but more lives are lost. Bruce believes that Superman is a menace, and that only Batman can stop him.
Meanwhile, "Lex Luthor" (Jesse Eisenberg) seems to have his smarmy hands in all of the havoc, plotting an epic battle pitting Batman against Superman. This showdown between titans will help decide the fate of the universe, Luthor plots for future things to come, and "Diana Prince/Wonder Woman" (Gal Gadot) is in it, too.
Did you notice how I just threw in Wonder Woman there at the end of the plot summary? Therein lies the biggest problem of "Batman V Superman :Dawn of Justice". Unlike Marvel, DC has failed to develop their cinematic universe, instead skipping ahead to the main course (For example, imagine that, after "Iron Man", they went to "Iron Man 2", only with "Captain America" and "Thor" in it, to help defeat "Ultron"). Basically, Marvel slowly developed eleven films, where DC has crammed the same amount of story into two. "Batman vs Superman" is too big, too much, too soon.
Awkwardly paced, "Batman V Superman" smushes together so many plot points and events, that the story is more confusing than it should be (Especially to non comic fans). As for DC fans (I'm one of them), I understand the many references, foreshadowing and cameos, but there's way too much backstory to fit into any film, let alone the second film in a long series of films. DC is obviously trying to compete with the Marvel cinematic universe, but it all comes across as more mess than fluid film universe.
I know I'm crapping on "Batman V Superman", here, but there is some true genius here. Ben Affleck is a downright awesome Batman, giving the Superhero and emotional depth and gravitas needed for the franchise, and the character. Henry Cavill is once again very good as Superman (His confrontation with Batman is as good as advertised). The always adorable Amy Adams is terrific, and Jeremy Irons is a Godsend, bringing humor and personality (And needed clarity to Bruce/Batman). Gal Gadot is surprisingly charming in a role that needed to be more fleshed out than it is, and Holly Hunter is excellent, also deserving of more screen time.
Unfortunately, Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor turns out to be a problem that I thought he might be, but not quite in the way I suspected. He is bizarre and uncomfortable to watch, but in a way that Director Zack Snyder didn't intend him to be. The character previously could be on the wacky side, but here he comes across as twitchy and insanely awkward, in a way that is difficult to comprehend. "The Riddler"? Maybe. Not for Lex Luthor.
Zack Snyder may very well be a visionary Director. He's also out of his frickin' mind! Some of the sequences in "Batman V Superman" are spectacular (The Batman/Superman battle is exactly what the fans want). But, where, say, George Miller added a great screenplay and masterful visual storytelling to "Mad Max", Snyder fails to tell an actual narrative.
Nowhere is that no more true than in the film's finale. It was difficult enough to determine if I can actually recommend "Batman V Superman". But the more I thought about the final battle with Luthor's ultimate creation/ultimate Superman villain "Doomsday" (Terribly disappointing CGI), the more I felt it not only wholly unnecessary, but way too big, ugly and loud, throwing everything they can possibly throw at the audience at you. It not only gave me a splitting headache, it feels hypocritical to the film's early message, that all that wanton human death and destruction in "Man of Steel" was wrong. Yet they double down on it here in the finale (Even Roland Emmerich thinks it's over the top). They mention in passing that these destroyed areas are abandoned, but I'm calling B.S. Marvel at least humanizes and addresses the carnage. These films seem to revel in it.
Look, this hurts me more than it hurts you, DC. I really wanted to love "Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice". There's too many good things, occasionally great things to dismiss this as a bad film. Then why am I still a little depressed? 2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Reckless Vigilante Behavior and Violence.
Image: "I swear, if there's another sequel, we'll follow through with the suicide pact."
I'm sure at the beginning of the "Divergent" film series, everyone involved felt there may be something special here. Even I thought after the first film, that maybe there was just a little something there. But by the end of "Allegiant", I think we're all looking for the off ramp.
The third film (But, sadly, not the last) in the "Divergent" film series, "Allegiant" returns Shailene Woodley as "Tris", who has led the successful rebellion against the oppressive "Erudites", and their dead leader "Jeanine" (Kate Winslet). Unfortunately, "Four" (Theo James) still has mommy issues with "Evelyn" (Naomi Watts), who has asserted her own control over Chicago, executing those in her way, and preventing anyone from leaving.
Tris refuses to accept that there's nothing on the outside, so she leads yet another rebellion, including Four, her Brother/Boyfriend from "The Fault in Our Stars" (Ansel Elgort), "Lenny Kravitz's Daughter" (Zoe Kravitz), and "Lovable D-Bag Peter" (Miles Teller). But not Maggie Q, cuz' she dead within five minutes.
The rebels find their way to the outside, which has turned into a "Maze Runner" like wasteland, where they come across another group, led by "David" (Jeff Daniels), who believes Tris to be special and pure (Creepy). Tris must decide who to trust, as they valiantly fight the same damn fight they already fought in the first two films.
If the trailers haven't spoiled the plot of "Allegiant" enough (They did), it doesn't take long to figure things out (Gee, I wonder if it could be yet another well respected actor, deserving of a big paycheck). There is absolutely nothing suspenseful about the film, primarily because you saw everything you needed to know in the first two films. In fact, some of the scenes and plot points feel exactly the same. If you've seen them, you've seen "Allegiant".
But "Allegiant" is a bit dumber, right down to the supposedly smart characters. How can you not see who the bad guys are before we do? And why do you keep bringing Miles Teller with you if he's going to keep you screwing you by the end of the film? Even the effects don't look very good. It looks like "Allegiant" cheaped out all around.
And, other than the obvious, what makes Tris so special, other than the cute actress playing her? Shailene Woodley has proven to be a terrific actress, but we still know very little about her character, and her performance feels more like an obligation at this point. Same goes for Theo James (Remember their relationship and chemistry in the first film? Where'd it go?) Ansel Elgort checked out long ago, Naomi Watts is wasted, and Jeff Daniels got screwed out of an Oscar nom for "Steve Jobs", only to be rewarded with this? Only Miles Teller and his "Don't give a sh*t" attitude makes the best of things.
This whole series already feels stretched out beyond reason, but "Allegiant" stretches things even more by separating the final book into two films (It's all the rage). To make yet one more sequel is pointless, but they are. On the bright side, nobody seems to really care anymore. 1 Star. Rated PG-13 For Sci-Fi Violence, And A Wee Bit Of Shailene Woodley Shower Nudity.
Image: "Jesus H. Christ! You stop pestering those poor men!"
Now this Jesus movie is a little odd. "The Young Messiah" has actually been received fairly positively by critics. But if you actually read the reviews, something feels a bit off. Aside from the more obvious devout Christians, no one really seems to like it. Maybe, there's just nothing really wrong with it. Or....There's nothing really right with it.
"The Young Messiah" tells the fictional story (Settle down! You know what I mean) of a perfect little dude named "Jesus" (Adam Greaves-Neal). He knows nothing of his destiny, though he is on a journey to Nazareth with his family to avoid persecution.
They are being followed by "Severus" (Sean Bean), a Roman General ordered to kill the one claiming to be the Messiah....And, so the story goes.
I guess the problem with "The Young Messiah" is pretty obvious. There just isn't really anything to this particular version that feels important or necessary. That said, the film perfectly fine. The acting is fine, the writing bland, but harmless and inoffensive. It will give a religious audience everything they want. And, at least it gives us the joy of Jesus, as opposed to all of the hardcore suffering and grief.
Then again, don't we already know all of this? This story has been told over and over again. And it really is a fictional story of the young Jesus. So, basically, it's a "Star Wars" prequel for Jesus. "The Young Messiah" is, in essence, "The Phantom Messiah". Or, "Attack of the Jews". Or, "Revenge of the Shkutz" (Look it up).
But seriously, folks. "The Young Messiah" is an important story, but doesn't feel that way. But I'm for anything that gives people comfort. Something that isn't harsh or cynical. But I'm a film critic, so it's too late for me. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Some Reason.
Image: "The British are a lovely people.....Not physically, of course."
Yeah, Sacha Baron Cohen movies are gross. And offensive. But we are used to it, by now, knowing he'll just push the boundaries even further. And further. Until you wonder just how far he can go. He's set the bar pretty high. Or low. So if "Borat" was too much for you (I thought it was brilliant), then feel free to sit this one out.
"The Brothers Grimsby" stars Cohen as "Nobby", a British soccer hooligan, who was separated from his baby brother when they were little. Nobby has always dreamed of finding him again, finally discovering where, and who he is. Turns out, "Sebastian" (Mark Strong) is a secret MI6 agent, who is trying to prevent the assassination of an Actress/Philanthropist (Penelope Cruz).
Nobby shows up right at the pivotal moment, resulting in disaster, and in Sebastian being framed for murder, and for being a traitor. The head of MI6 (Ian McShane) sends his best men after Sebastian, so it's up to Nobby to help clear his brothers name, while discovering an evil organization's dastardly plans, even though Nobby is quite possibly the stupidest man in in the world.
"Borat", this aint'. "The Brothers Grimsby" isn't the satire that "Borat" was. It does have the same gross out humor and intentional stupidity. But that's really all "Grimsby" is. Nothing but taste pushing scenes that have some funny enough moments (There are a few inspired bits). And even the dirtiest, raunchiest scenes can get a laugh. But "Grimsby" is too much of everything to be worth more than a skit or two on a late night comedy show. Unless you are looking for the thrill of male genitalia, elephant vagina, pubic hair beards.....Is this doing anything for you?
On the plus side, there have rarely been two actors more committed to a laugh than Sacha Baron Cohen and Mark Strong. Cohen has literally risked his life (Or someone else's) for a joke. And getting a fine, dramatic actor like Strong is the best thing about "Grimsby". Even when the film doesn't work, how can you not admire the fact that Sacha Baron Cohen may have genuinely sucked on the nads of Mark Strong, for no other reason than to make us giggle (Now that's commitment!) "Grimsby" does waste the talent of other fine actors, such as Ian McShane, Penelope Cruz, Rebel Wilson (Nobby's baby mama), and Isla Fisher-Baron Cohen (As Sebastian's love interested), who are all underused.
"The Brothers Grimsby" is so short on plot, it's borderline nonsense. And I know it's supposed to be nonsense, but I longed for more satire, and a little depth. Instead, I was mostly thankful that the film ran only 83 minutes (So many other films should take it's cue) If you're not going to be (Or aren't trying to be) particularly good, at least have the common decency to go away when you are no longer necessary. I got to see an Elephant ejaculate, and Donald Trump get AIDS. That's about enough for just under an hour and a half. 2 Stars. Rated R For Even More Disturbing Stuff Than Previously Mentioned.
Image: He doesn't give two fox about anything.
Happy sixth anniversary! They believed it wasn't possible. They said it couldn't be done. They believed....Actually, everyone I know was behind me all the way, and they couldn't have been more supportive. And thanks to all of you who have stuck with me through these years. I promise we'll do something special for our anniversary next year. Cake. Flowers. A romantic dinner....Yeah, you know I love you.
Disney's latest animated masterpiece, "Zootopia", follows "Judy Hopps" (Ginnifer Goodwin), a cute wittle bunny wabbit, who lives in a world where humans never existed, and animals have evolved instead. Predator and Prey living together peacefully. Judy has finally achieved her dream of becoming the first bunny Cop, despite her parents (Bonnie Hunt and Don Lake) objections. She moves to "Zootopia" (Think a furrier New York), where she is accepted into the Police force by "Mayor Lionheart" (J.K.Simmons), who is seemingly after the bunny vote.
Judy isn't taken seriously, at first, but is given her chance when "Mrs. Otterton" (Octavia Spencer) files a missing person report on her husband. "Chief Bogo" (Idris Elba) isn't thrilled with Judy being pushed on him, and gives her only forty eight hours to solve the case, or be forced to resign. Judy confronts a Fox named "Nick Wilde" (Jason Bateman), who was the last one to see Mr. Otterton, and she forces Nick to help her solve the mystery, while uncovering the bigger conspiracy behind it.
"Zootopia" takes on a bit more than you'd expect from a family movie, such as prejudice, fear, and racial profiling (Yeah, they're animals. But it all makes sense). What's amazing about the film is how expertly it balances some pretty heavy themes, with the usual Disney charm and humor. "Zootopia" is Disney at it's most hilarious, with animal puns galore, and plenty of inside jokes that only the adults will get.
It's Disney, so the animation is utterly perfect. "Zootopia" creates a world so huge and detailed, that it's almost it's own character. The animation is full of life, and the characters all adorable and memorable (Your kids will be demanding the toys and plushies. And you'll sneak one for yourselves).
Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman have terrific chemistry, and are absolutely wonderful together. Idris Elba is dang funny for such an intimidating presence, Jenny Slate (as "Bellwether", Lionheart's "Sheepish" assistant) is sweetly quirky, Alan Tudyk (as A Weasel with a familiar name) is Disney's good luck charm, while J.K.Simmons, Octavia Spencer, Nate Torrance (as "Clawhauser", An obese Cheetah Police Dispatcher), and Tommy Chong (as A nudist Yak) are all a riot.
Disney at it's best can do no wrong. Great comedy, great drama, and a surprisingly well thought out mystery. And a message that is as topical and mature as any film you could ask for (Adults can stand to learn a few things from film's with talking animals, from time to time). Throw in a catchy pop song from Shakira that is still bouncing in my head (Good luck getting it out of yours), and "Zootopia" is destined to become an instant classic. I now officially give Disney my soul, and pledge my undying allegiance to the Mouse. 4 Stars. Rated PG For Furries, And For Being More Socially Aware And Responsible Than Some Presidential Candidates.
Image: "I won't let success go to my head".
Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards inspired his home country of England, and underdogs around the world, when he overcame every obstacle by qualifying and competing in the ski jump at the 1988 Winter Olympics, the first in his country's history. The fact that he failed miserably, in such a cheeky, lovable manner, only adds to his legend. But he did still fail. Miserably.
"Eddie the Eagle" begins with young Eddie (Taron Egerton), dreaming of one day competing in the Olympics. Eddie had already overcome a disability in his youth, yet no one other than his Mother believes in him. He becomes believes that he can become England's first ski jumper to qualify at the Olympics, and convinces, "Bronson Peary" (Hugh Jackman), a former American jumper, to train him. Together, they overcome the British Olympic Committee's reluctance, in their quest to make history.
If you've seen one inspirational sports movie, you've seen them all. But, as I said about "Race" last week, they tend to be safe bets to be a solid flick. "Eddie the Eagle" has the same charm, wit and likability you would expect from such a neat story. The story is standard, but the characters and actors are likable enough to keep you rooting for them.
Taron Egerton is becoming one of my favorite young actors, and, as "Eddie", he transforms himself into the lovable underdog, showing impressive range. Hugh Jackman never gets enough credit for how dependable he is, and, as usual, make any movie better. Their chemistry IS the movie, and their relationship is....Well, it's just so darn likable.
Nothing remotely earth shattering about "Eddie the Eagle", and some will question the film's importance. It's just a nice, competent movie about underdogs proving naysayers wrong. Again, he failed. Miserably. But that's not what we're focusing on. We all have a little Eddie in us. Like Bernie Sanders. He's going to fail. Miserably. But we all do, at some point. Just remember to be cheeky and lovable when you do. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Suggestive Material And British Hobnobbing.
Image: What....What is that? What the Hell is that?
"Gods of Egypt" is a lot like a child at a talent show. He tries his determined little heart out. You feel bad, because you realize from the onset that this child has no real clue as to what he's trying to accomplish. And you have to stifle your laughter as they struggle mightily to get through it, knowing they don't stand a chance of succeeding. And that's when the child turns into a flying, golden monster, who proceeds to fight a giant, golden Coyote monster.
"Gods" is the epic tale of Egyptian Gods, where the beloved God, "Horus" (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), is about to be crowned King of Egypt. But his evil Uncle "Scar", er " "Set" (Gerard Butler) has other plans, like killing his own brother, "Osiris" (Bryan Brown), and gouging out Horus's eyes (The source of his powers). Set takes over Egypt, forcing the other Gods to his will, and enslaving the Egyptian people.
Some time later, "Bek" (Brenton Thwaites), and his girlfriend, "Zaya" (Courtney Eaton) devise a plan to steal back Horus's eyeballs, but get only one of them back before Zaya is shot in the boob with an arrow (I'm sorry. That's what happened), killing her. Bek gives Horus back his one good eyeball, pledging to help if Horus agrees to bring Zaya back to life.
So they travel into space, aboard the spaceship of "Ra" (Geoffery Rush), who tells them he can't help because he's busy battling a giant space smoke monster (YOU try to stifle your laughter!) When they return to Earth (It's flat, by the way, according to this movie), they plan to take down Set, before he destroys Egypt? I assume......I really don't know, to tell the truth.
Any one else see what's wrong with this? Is there anything right with this? There is absolutely nothing right with "Gods of Egypt". Literally, everything about this film, from the acting, to the story, to the effects, is an utter cinematic disaster. It's also every film critic's dream. A movie so horrid....Oh, so gloriously horrid....It's downright beautiful. "Gods" is so awful, you and your friends can get drunk or high while mocking the film in repeated viewings (I can see the riffs now. It will be epic).
"Gods of Egypt" cost about $140 million. Most of which went to shockingly crappy effects. The monster designs are lazy beyond belief, and don't make any sense. Nothing else looks anything close to real, in particular the Gods, who are too obviously digitally plastered into their scenes (Who in making this film thought, "Yep, that looks right"). Yeah, we all know know it's green screen, yet not for one moment do we believe in the trick (In a good trick, we're not supposed to see the wire).
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, God bless him, is fully committed to "Gods". But you can only tip toe around crap for so long. Brenton Thwaites is blander than bland, and his many, many quips are so bad, they're almost kind of good. Academy Award winner Geoffery Rush must have thought that Academy Award winner Geoffery Rush really is a God, and is thus willing to piss away his career. Courtney Eaton spends most of the movie dead. Chadwick Boseman (Who plays an army of Chadwick Bosemans) is flamboyant as flamboyant can get (And, the only black guy in Egypt, I guess). And, what can I say about Gerard Butler? He is absolute perfection. He growls. He scowls. He barks. He's even brown! So is "Gods of Egypt" racist? No, that requires thought process.
On the other hand, I haven't laughed any harder at a film this year than at "Gods of Egypt". And the makers of the film clearly thought they were creating greatness. I'm sure everyone involved went home at night, believing that the had done a fine day's work. Which is good, because it has probably ruined many of the careers involved, so, at least they have that. "Gods" is awful. And yet, I recommend it. You HAVE to see this! This movie needs to be a part of your life. Stories will be handed down through the generations. Parodies will be uploaded. "Gods of Egypt" is a train wreck. But much funnier. 2 1/2 Stars. Yeah, 2 1/2 Stars. Giving it anything lower seems cruel, somehow. Rated PG-13 For CGI Monster Violence, And For Validating Rappers Who Think That The World Is Flat.
Image: Jesus, this is hard work!
I've seen a few films about Jesus and Christianity in the last few years. And almost every single one of them is either a total downer, or just plain awful. I mean, where's the joy? I know how Jesus died and suffered is important to understand. But how about focusing on how joyous he was in life? You're not bringing in anyone new. And you're kind of bumming me out.
"Risen" takes place right at the moment of Jesus' (Or "Yeshua", as he was also known) death. "Clavius" (Joseph Fiennes) is a powerful Roman Tribune (Like a really powerful politician), who is ordered by "Pontius Pilate" (Peter Firth) to dispose of the body by sealing him in a cave, in a way that would dispute the belief of many that Yeshua will rise from the dead.
But wouldn't you know it, the body disappears! Clavius believes that the body was stolen by Yeshua's disciples, so Clavius and "Draco Malfoy" (Tom Felton) begin a frantic search to find the missing body, before it's no longer recognizable. As the truth unravels, Clavius begins to question his own worldview, as the shocking truth slowly reveals itself.
For all of the understandable skeptics out there, yes, "Risen" does tell "The Greatest Story Ever Told" for about the hundredth time. But the film does have a clever take on it, telling the story in away that should be enjoyable to everyone. The film's protagonist is a skeptic (Even villainous), as well, so you see the story through his eyes, and his transformation makes the film quite interesting.
Joseph Fiennes brings the right kind of intensity to a complicated character, and gives a terrific performance. Tom Felton is a fine sidekick, while Peter Firth is excellent, playing what could be the worst A-Hole in world history. And Cliff Curtis (As Yeshua) provides a nice take on our Lord And Personal Savior (Or, just a cool dude, for non-believers), showing his warmth and compassion.
The most shocking thing about "Risen" is that it actually shows a sense of humor (Completely the opposite of most faith based films). The characters actually seem human, and respond in very human ways. The film has a straight forward, Biblical message, but at least it's a message of happiness. Instead of wallow and pity, the film ends with joy and happiness. That's my kind of Jesus. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Biblical Violence.
Image: Suck on it, Nazis!
Just making a film about 1936 American Olympic hero Jesse Owens is a positive. More often then not, Hollywood gets these sports bio films more right than wrong. A good, safe bet. Safe being the key bet.
"Race" stars newcomer Stephan James as Owens, the first of his family to go to college. His running ability and speed catches the eye of Track Coach "Larry Snyder" (Jason Sudeikis), who encourages and trains Owens for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, right in front of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime.
Because of Nazi transgressions (It's gonna' get a lot worse), the games are in danger of being boycotted by the U.S., but Olympic committee member "Avery Brundage" (Jeremy Irons) fights to convince the rest of the committee to allow the U.S. to compete. Despite the horrible prejudice he faced, and immense pressure of competing in Berlin, Owens shattered the record books, becoming an American hero, embarrassing the racist Hitler (and his "Master Race") in in the process.
It's hard to mess up such an inspirational story, and, though "Race" takes few film making risks, it mostly rises above the typical Hollywood formula. Director Stephen Hopkins does a fine job framing the film and setting, and in building the momentum to the exciting Olympic scenes, which are fast paced and authentic. There are moments of simplistic dialogue, and scenes that are too obviously hammered home, but the film is never less than compelling.
Stephan James is a breakthrough actor to watch. He is wonderful as the famous figure, carrying the entire film on his shoulders. Jason Sudeikis is a pleasant surprise, and compelling in a rare, dramatic role. The Jeremy Irons lends his usual gravitas, while Shanice Banton (As Owens Wife) is fine as well, though stuck in the way too familiar supportive love interest role.
The love story is one of the draw backs to "Race" (Aren't they always). These romantic portrayals are almost always overwrought and underwritten, and this one stops stops the momentum of the movie (I'm not second guessing these relationships. Just Hollywood's idealized version of them).
"Race" is predictable, but predictably good, and a great story for those who don't know, or may have forgotten about Jesse Owens. But commenting on the poor state of our educational system may be better suited for another time. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Nazis.
Image: Hey, ladies! I'm single too!
Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! This review goes out to all those sweet, happy couples out there. All of those sweet, happy couples, lucky enough to find love, in this harsh, cold wilderness we call life. All of those sweet, nauseatingly happy couples....Thanks for sharing ALL of your photos on Facebook, proving just how happy and lucky you are....Aww, you got her a Teddy Bear? No, really, all of us who are still alone are really f*cking thrilled....Anyway, as I said, Happy Valentine's Day!
"How to Be Single" stars Dakota Johnson as "Alice", who gets the idea that she and her boyfriend, "Josh" (Nicholas Braun), should take a break, and see what it's like to be single. Alice move to New York to live with her sister, "Meg" (Leslie Mann), who is desperate to have a baby. At Alice's new job, she meets "Robin" (Rebel Wilson), a party girl who teaches Alice how to be single.
Alice has a fling with "Tom" (Anders Holm), a Bartender who claims to not want to settle down, but clearly has feelings for "Lucy" (Allison Brie), who is constantly looking for Mr. Right. And just when Alice decides she wants Josh back, he has already moved on, leading to love lessons learned, and everyone looking for a happy ending.
"How to Be Single" sounds exactly like the kind of movie I wouldn't care for, with some of the typical rom-com situations (It's a chick flick, for sure). But I reluctantly admit, the film kind of grew on me. It's a fairly intelligent script, with some excellent actresses and some more clever than usual moments. Though the beginning of the plot is forced, and some of the situations repetitive, "Single" has some charm, and takes far more risks then you'd expect (This isn't "The Choice").
Dakota Johnson proves she is so much better than in anything with the words "Fifty Shades" in it. She is totally cute and likable here, as is Rebel Wilson, who is obviously a natural scene stealer. Leslie Mann has been one of my, uh, "Mature Woman", crushes for a while, so, you know....(That's a compliment!) And Allison Brie has shot herself to the top of my list, because she's funny and unbelievably adorable (Though her role isn't as important as the others). The guys fare well, too. Nicholas Braun, Anders Holm, Jake Lacy (Meg's boyfriend), Damon Wayans Jr. (A guy Lacy likes), and Jason Mantzoukas (Lucy's love interest) are also well written.
And that's the best thing about "How to Be Single". None of the characters are caricatures, and the film works hard to avoid stereotypes. There's not much plot (It's mostly a series of subplots that wrap up by the end). And, it is still a romantic comedy, so I have to complain at least a little bit. Maybe I just expected less. But if your girl insists on dragging you to it, instead of "Deadpool", you can pretend to roll your eyes and groan. But you'll have a good time and then you can drag her to "Deadpool". 3 Stars. Rated R For Sexual Content, And For Rebel Wilson Doing And Saying Whatever The Hell She Wants.
Image: I admit it. I'm even a little turned on.
Five weeks in to the new year, and we already have a movie with "Star Wars" like anticipation. You can't go anywhere without seeing or hearing something "Deadpool" related. I mean, yeah, it's a superhero movie. It's also crass, perverted, and guaranteed to offend a significant portion of the country. It's also seems to be exactly what the country is looking for. Man, are we messed up!
"Deadpool" is based on the wildly popular comic book character that was butchered by the "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" movie a few years ago (Also played by Ryan Reynolds....But that's a long story). "Wade Wilson" (Ryan Reynolds) is a former mercenary, who has now found love with "Vanessa" (Morena Baccarin), the world's most beautiful Hooker. But almost as soon as Wade asks Vanessa to marry him, he is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Out of desperation, he agrees to a horrific experiment, conducted by "Ajax" (Ed Skrein), who claims he can turn people into superheroes.
The experiment horribly scars Wade, but does leave him the ability to regenerate (He basically can't die). When the lab is destroyed and everyone involves vanishes, a slightly bonkers, fourth wall breaking Wade, now calling himself "Deadpool", is seeking revenge against Ajax and his minions. "Deadpool" dedicates himself to killing his enemies, finding a cure, and reuniting with Vanessa, while trying to ignore other mutants, "Colossus" (Stefan Kapičić) and "Negasonic Teenage Warhead" (Brianna Hildebrand), who are trying to recruit him into the "X-Men".
"Deadpool" may look like like a spoof of superhero movies from the previews, though it's anything but. The Deadpool character is just crazy enough to treat it that way (No other character talks to the audience). Deadpool himself is unlike any superhero (If you want to call him that. He's kind of crappy at it) you'll see at the movies. He's violent and vulgar, and gleefully so. Still, he has heart, and is somehow incredibly likable.
The reason "Deadpool" is so likable is because Ryan Reynolds has finally found the role he was born to play. This is his shining moment, and he is completely hilarious playing a role few actors would have had the balls to play with such reckless abandon. Morena Baccarin really adds to the film, helping make them a couple you actually care about (Which is sounds impossible). T.J. Miller (As "Weasel", Wade's best friend) is a riot, and the team of Stefan Kapičić and Brianna Hildebrand make excellent "X-Men", playing it straight next to Deadpool's zaniness.
The villains of "Deadpool" are the weak link. Ed Skrein is smarmy, but not that interesting or threatening. Gina Carano (As "Angel Dust", Ajax's henchwoman) is plenty threatening, but not very interesting. Still, they serve the plot and the action sequences, which are as violent as you can possibly imagine. They are also insanely clever and humorous (I should feel guilty laughing at much of it. But I don't).
Yeah, "Deadpool" is filthy, yet that doesn't mean the script isn't smart. The narrative is unique and fun. Deadpool himself breaks every rule you can think of in narrating the story, and has a hell of a time doing it. And that's the secret to "Deadpool". This film is having a ball, completely reveling in it's absurdity. It's a joyous ode to crude and offensive behavior. And if that doesn't sit well with you, well, then f*ck you. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated R For...Are You Kidding Me? Are You Really Asking Why This Is Rated R?
Image: Donald Trump finally unveils his evil master plan.
I know....Everybody is expecting a "Deadpool" review. You gotta' wait till tomorrow so I can take my Mama to see it. Which either makes me the best son in the world, or the worst. And, please, no one is allowed to form an opinion of it until I do. That's the rule.
"Zoolander 2" is the long awaited sequel to the ridiculous (But funny) 2001 film that became a cult classic. Male Model superstar "Derek Zoolander" (Ben Stiller) has just had his life ruined, when his "Center for Kids Who Can't Read Good and Who Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too" collapses, killing his wife, "Matilda" (Christine Taylor), and horribly disfiguring (It's just a scratch) his best friend/ former rival, "Hansel" (Owen Wilson). Hansel goes into hiding, and Derek loses custody of his son, "Derek Jr", sending Derek into hiding as well.
Years later, Derek is given a message by Billy Zane from fashion goddess "Alexanya Atoz" (Kristen Wiig), inviting he and Hansel to a fashion show , and begin their comeback, but it turns out to be a mean joke on the former superstars. But when Justin Bieber is murdered (I'm conflicted), along with other beautiful celebrities, Interpol Agent Melanie Valentina (Penelope Cruz) recruits Derek and Hansel to discover the truth behind the murders, while Derek tries to reconnect with his now chubby teenage son (Cyrus Arnold). Could it be that the evil "Mugatu" (Will Ferrell) is behind it all? Yes, obviously he is.
"Zoolander 2" is as ridiculously stupid as the first film. In fact, it's nearly a carbon copy of the first, if maybe not quite as funny (Though not enough to explain the critical complaints). The real complaint is, like most sequels, it just doesn't feel necessary, repeating some of the same jokes, and following the typical pattern of sequels by repeating much of the plot. Fortunately, enough of the jokes land (Many of them pretty hard), particularly when Will Ferrell enters more than halfway through, immediately lifting a film that was getting a bit dull.
Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson have these characters nailed, and are pretty perfect at playing stupid. Penelope Cruz is having a blast, and is incredibly lovely, Kristen Wiig is underutilized for someone who is always hilarious, and Will Ferrell truly is a savior for his ridiculously funny performance.
"Zoolander 2" may have set a record for star cameos, maybe going a bit overboard. But here are the good ones Kiefer Sutherland (Orgy Member No. 2), Oscar Nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (As "All", the new hot Model), Neil deGrasse Tyson (Who knows everything about life), and Katy Perry, Ariana Grande and Christina Hendricks, because they're so hot right now (Well, they are!)
If you had a ball with the first "Zoolander", then "2" should suffice just fine, even if we really didn't need it in the first place. Except for Mugatu. We did need more Mugatu....And now you all need some "Deadpool". Until then, go take some crazy pills! 2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Gross Out Humor, And Penelope Cruz's "Flotation Device".
Image: Pride is fine, but not prejudice. Except if it's against Zombies.
This movie is a joke. A giant, ridiculous joke. Unless you don't take "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" seriously. And you're not supposed to take this film even remotely seriously. Which makes for a very tricky film review.
"Zombies" is a faithful adaptation to the novel "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies", which was a faithful adaptation of the classic Jane Austin novel, "Pride and Prejudice", but with Zombies. Set in old England, a horrible plague has caused a Zombie outbreak, resulting in the slow downfall of civilization. Young women of means are being trained in the ways of class and culture. And kicking Zombie ass.
"Elizabeth" (Lily James) is ready for battle, though her family wants her to settle down and find a suitor. "Mr. Bingley" (Douglass Booth), has a thing for Elizabeth's sister. "Jane" (Bella Heathcote), the cowardly "Mr. Collins (Matt Smith), "Mr. Wickham" (Jack Huston), who believes that the world can co-exist with Zombies, and the Zombie hunting "Mr. Darcy" (Sam Riley), who charmingly bickers with Elizabeth. As the Zombie apocalypse nears, the world must decide to either fight, die, or marry.
Stupid. "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" is stupid. But that's...Kind of...Okay. Unlike "Fifty Shades of Black", which was unfunny and unprofessional, "Zombies" is professional, and, at the least, quite amusing. It's a straight parody of the classic novel, and, though some of it doesn't work (Both the parody and Zombie genre are pretty much dead. Check the box office), the film has enough goofy laughs and charm to pass the time.
"Zombies" looks authentic, and the Zombie effects and over the top blood match the silly tone. And if you're a fan of the "Pride and Prejudice" style, costume and setting, and you don't mind the Zombies, then even die hard fans of the film and book source might get a kick out of it. Remember, though. It's just a joke.
Lily James and Sam Riley are absolutely terrific together. They (Like the rest of the cast) play it completely straight, and give flawless performances. Jack Huston is suitably cheesy, and Matt Smith is hilariously over the top as the flamboyant weenie of the group.
There's a specific moment during "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" that is so sensationally odd, that you realize that the whole film is just a cheeky gag, and you'll either get it or you don't. But unlike other films like it ("Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" anyone?), "Zombies" is competent and entertaining, at least as a guilty pleasure. It's not high art. You can't even say it's really good. But it is stupid. Which is precisely the point. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Cartoonish Zombie Violence And Blood, And For Making Me Suspicious Of What Weapons Women May Hide Under Their Dresses.
Image: "Honey... You smell like failure".
The message of "The Choice" is that, we all make choices in our lives. I have made the choice to review films. I made a choice to walk up to the ticket booth at the movie theater, and purchase a ticket, alone, for another Nicholas Sparks film. I then chose to sit up at the front of the theater, where everyone can see me, alone, for the fourth such time for these movies. And these are the moments I begin to question all of my life's choices
"The Choice" is about a hunky fellow (If you say so ladies. I don't get it) named "Travis" (Benjamin Walker), who meets "Gabby" (Teresa Palmer), the beautiful girl next door. Gabby claims to have no interest in Travis at all, Travis suggests he's not to fond of Gabby. Travis' buddinsky sister, "Stephanie" (Maggie Grace) suggests "Dude, you should totally tap that ass!"
When Gabby's boyfriend (Tom Welling) leaves town on business, Travis makes his move. They proceed to go at it, starting with "The Filthy Sanchez", followed by "The Wrap Around Butt Grab", a "Rod Carew", and finishing off with a "San Diego Thank You". (I'm sorry, but this is what happens when you sit through a crappy movie. You take your frustrations out on the review).
When the boyfriend returns, Gabby must make the ultimate choice. Should she stay with the guy she's been cheating on, or should she listen to every moron who annoyingly tell her how much she loves Travis, even if she won't admit it.
Now, this is where a half way decent movie should have the common courtesy to just end, at about the hour and twenty minute mark. But "The Choice" then begins "Part II", which holds you hostage for another forty minutes. Car accidents. A coma. Crying. Sobbing. And one, difficult choice....When to pull the plug....On this movie.
I think I've proven that I have nothing against romance films, but "The Choice" can only push a man so far (I began to mutter, point, and make wild and suggestive hand gestures. Imagine a drunk, angry Bernie Sanders). The film has the usual Nicholas Sparks tropes. A romantic scene in the rain. Painfully sappy dialogue. And unbearably quirky, unlikable characters who make self serving decisions that should have negative consequences, but don't. And making good actors look terrible (A Sparks favorite).
First, I'd like to talk about Benjamin Walker's face. He may be a fine actor, but, when he cries, I only feel like he deserves what's coming to him. And he doesn't deserve Teresa Palmer, who is beautiful, but doesn't seem to realize she is stuck in a horrible Nicholas Sparks movie. Walker also doesn't deserve the equally beautiful Alexandra Daddario (As Travis' on again, off again girlfriend). Maggie Grace plays a character even more terrible than his (She's like that evil little devil you see on a cartoon character). And I'd like to formally request to be the great Tom Wilkinson's (As Travis' Dad) new agent after he fires, or kills his current one.
"The Choice" is off putting and smug, claiming to be a charming little romance, when in reality, it's quite hateful. It's also terribly made, and badly put together. This is the date movie that will make your boyfriend say, "I'm sleeping with your sister". Even if it's not true. THAT's how badly he wants to get out of this movie. 0 Stars. Yes, 0 Stars. I can give out as many of those as I want. That's my choice. Rated PG-13 For Booty Calls, And Questionable Moral Behavior.
Image: The moment George Clooney finally realizes how awful his life really is.
Dang it! I know I said this wouldn't happen again. But, no, I have not seen any Coen Brothers films. I am a terrible excuse for a film critic...Moving on.
"Hail, Caeser!" is almost impossible to explain. Set in old 1950's Hollywood, "Eddie Mannix" (Josh Brolin) is a "Fixer", the guy who keeps celebrities in line, and their scandals out of the papers. Superstar "Baird Whitlock" (George Clooney) is starring in a Roman era epic. "Hobie Doyle" (Alden Ehrenreich) is a singing cowboy, forced into a starring role he has no business being in. Director "Laurence Laurentz" (Ralph Fiennes) is a stuffy perfectionist, who doesn't want Hobie anywhere near his film. "DeeAnna Moran" (Scarlett Johansson) is America's sweetheart, pregnant with no idea who the father is. All the while, twin gossip columnists "Thora and Thessaly Thacker" (Tilda Swinton) are trying to dig up dirt on all of them.
When Whitlock is kidnapped by a group calling themselves "The Future", Mannix must find a way to solve these bizarre problems before all of it becomes public.
The first thing I've learned about the Coen Brothers is, they're strange. And I can see why some may not like, or get "Hail, Caesar!". Some may wonder about the rhyme or reason for certain scenes and plot points, yet, miraculously, the film somehow comes together in a wild and wonderful way. The script and dialogue are incredibly clever, and the actors are all having a blast, each of them nailing their parts.
Josh Brolin always plays something different, and always turns in a great performance. George Clooney is a complete blast as a complete and total boob (He seems to love making fun of himself), Alden Ehrenreich is hilarious and likable, Ralph Fiennes is predictably awesome in his few scenes, as is the drop dead, knockout Scarlett Johansson (Words cannot describe). Tilda Swinton is a scene stealer, and Channing Tatum (As a singing and dancing star) keeps getting funnier in every movie ("G.I. Joe" Channing Tatum is long dead).
The set design of "Hail, Caesar!" is amazing to look at, and the 1950's era setting is flawless. Mix it all in with the old Hollywood studio system, give it a good roasting, and the Coen brothers make you realize that things probably were just as ridiculous back then as it is now. "Hail, Caeser!" may be convoluted (It starts out as if the film is nothing but a series of skits), but it wraps itself up effortlessly by the end. The Coens are truly a different breed of film makers. And now I get them. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Goofy Adult Humor, And Uncomfortably Short Togas.
Image: "You want kissie? Panda love you long time!".
Huh. "Kung Fu Panda" is on it's second sequel, with the first two becoming both critical and box office hits. It's a movie franchise about a fat Panda bear who learns and masters karate from a rodent, and saves the kingdom from an evil Peacock. Perfectly sweet and lovable.
"Kung Fu Panda 3" returns Jack Black as "Po", the Panda Bear (And Dragon Warrior) who is being trained by "Master Shifu" (Dustin Hoffman). Master Shifu tells Po he is retiring, and chooses Po to take over as the new teacher for "The Furious Five", which includes "Tigress" (Angelina Jolie), "Monkey" (Jackie Chan), "Mantis" (Seth Rogen), "Viper" (Lucy Liu) and "Crane" (David Cross).
Po is shocked by the arrival of his biological Father, "Li Shan" (Bryan Cranston). Li Shan reveals that there are hundreds more Panda's, hidden in a secret valley. Dad convinces Po to come to the Panda village, bringing Po's adopted Goose Dad, "Mr. Ping" (James Hong). But "Kai" (J.K. Simmons), a vengeful spirit, and former friend of their beloved "Grand Master Oogway" (Randall Duk Kim), is determined to destroy their world (He stealing their "Chi", man). It's falls to Po to master the "Art of Chi", to combat the awesome lethality of Kai.
The more I think about it, "Kung Fu Panda 3" isn't hardly any different than "1" or "2". (Po must learn a new lesson, find his inner strength, and defeat an ultimate evil). Yet the film still retains it's wonderful charm, and does expand on it's overarching story and theme. The animation in the "Panda" films is breathtaking (This might be the best of the bunch), with vivid colors and visuals blending seamlessly to create a fun viewing experience. And with another score by Hans Zimmer, the score is absolutely beautiful.
Jack Black is a riot again, and perfectly cast as Po, bringing his usual blend warmth and humor. Dustin Hoffman has a smaller role this time, but he's expertly deadpan and funny, while Angelina Joile, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogan, Lucy Liu and David Cross all have their parts down pat. James Hong is hilarious in an expanded role, Bryan Cranston is a perfect addition, and J.K.Simmons adds to the great list of "Panda" villains (Ian McShane and Gary Oldman are hard to beat), bringing menace and laughs.
"Kung Fu Panda 3" has another good lesson and great heart, but maybe not quite as much depth. But it's hard to complain in January about a feel good, expertly made family film. In December, "Panda 3" might not stand out so much. In January, it's a freakin' masterpiece. 3 Stars. Rated PG For Animated Violence And Other Kung Fu Stuff.
Image: This film deserves only one finger.
I have real sympathy with the reasons why some black performers are boycotting this year's Oscars, even if I'm not sure that that is the best solution. If Will Smith had been nominated, I'm not sure there would be a boycott, and yet it still wouldn't change the fact that minorities are under represented in Hollywood, from top to bottom, all the way to the Oscar voters. But, and this is just some friendly advice. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! DO NOT MAKE MOVIES LIKE "FIFTY SHADES OF BLACK"!
The film is obviously a parody of the abysmal "Fifty Shades of Grey", and stars Marlon Wayans as "Christian Black", a multi millionaire, with a fetish for the kinky. He meets "Hannah Steele" (Kali Hawk), a mousy innocent type, who is sexually repressed, and looking to be dominated....You know what? It's a "Fifty Shades of Grey" parody with black people. And it's not funny.
But did you really think it would be? Parody films like this have been dead ever since we got "Epic Movie" a few years back, and it's been downhill ever since. "Fifty Shades of Black" is exactly what the trailer suggests. a series of skits and jokes almost directly lifted from "Grey" (Which was an awful comedic parody in of itself). If you saw "Grey", then you've already made the jokes, and they're probably funnier than anything in "Black". This isn't a movie. It's a black penis, black fart, black poop joke. And I say that because that's is specifically all there is.
I feel bad saying this, in part because I genuinely like Marlon Wayans when I see him in interviews. He is downright charming and funny, which is why it's "Fifty Shades of Black" is so perplexing. Every joke is the worst kind of predictable, and the actors...Well, It's not really acting. Kali Hawk doesn't fare any better. And why talented actors like Jane Seymour and Fred Willard (As Christian's parents) and Mike Epps (as Hannah's Dad) chose a laugh less movie is perplexing.
"50 Shades of Black" is what it is. But even a one joke movie like this is even worse than the film it is spoofing. And "Grey" at least was unintentionally funny. "Black" doesn't even get one laugh. I pray this review gets more laughs than this movie. If Marlon Wayans spoofs this review, I hope he gets more laughs than "Fifty Shades of Black". 0 Stars. Rated R For Everything That "Fifty Shades of Grey" Was Rated R For.
Image: "Shield your eyes! Don't stare directly at this movie! It's so bad!"
I've resigned myself to the fact that I can only do so much. I can't get Andy Serkis an Oscar nomination. I can't get Jennifer Lawrence to call me. I'd like to take credit for moving Sandler films straight to Netflix (He can't hurt anyone, anymore!) But clearly I can't stop Hollywood from turning out more of these young adult novels into planned future franchises.
"The 5th Wave" is the latest Sci-Fi "Tween Pre-Pubescent" adventure to hit theaters. "Cassie" (Chloë Grace Moretz) is your typical teenager, who clearly hasn't prepared for the incoming Alien invasion we all know is near. The "Others" begin attacking Earth in a series of waves. The first knocks out all the power, the second causes floods and earthquakes, followed by the spread of disease.
Cassie and her family are forced into a refugee camp (Thank God they're not Syrian. They'd never get back in). When the Military arrives, "Colonel Vosch" (Liev Schreiber) brings buses to evacuate the kids, revealing to the parents that the Aliens are able to inhabit the bodies of humans. When all Hell breaks loose, Cassie is separated from her Brother (Zachary Arthur), leading her on a quest to save him, with the help of "Hunky McShirtless" (Alex Roe), who may or not be an Alien himself.
Meanwhile....Cassie's Brother ends up with "Ben" (Nick Robinson), Cassie's high school crush. Ben and other kids are being trained by Colonel Vosch to fight the human inhabited "Others", who are preparing to unleash the fifth wave, which leads to the painfully obvious plot twist the previews kind of, sort of, give away.
"The Fifth Wave" feels way to familiar (Think, "The Host". But dumber). The film is sloppy, and poorly cobbled together. Everything about it feels off from beginning to end. "Wave" is really two films happening at the same time. There's the "Ender's Game" theme, with the kids being trained to fight Aliens (It even follows the same story route), and the even more familiar "Twilight" theme, with a story that has no real relevance to the main plot. In fact, take out Cassie's story, and "The Fifth Wave" might work slightly better, I guess.
But then I wouldn't get to watch Chloë Grace Moretz, who is easily the best part of "Wave". The character may not have worked, but Moretz is one of the best, most likable, and cutest young actresses around. Yet even she can't develop any chemistry with Alex Roe, who has even less personality than the "Ken Doll" he looks like (He doesn't really do or say anything. Why is he here?) Nick Robinson has only one facial expression (Pout), and we all are trying to understand what a very good actor like Liev Schreiber is doing here (You'll figure it out).
By the end, I would have sworn there would be another thirty minutes left of "The Fifth Wave", but the film ends without much happening. It doesn't go out with a bang. More of a slight poof. Followed by their obvious prayer that they might get a sequel. "Wave" is yet another movie designed to create even more movies, attempting to bank off of the popularity of previous, and much better films. "Harry Potter" and "The Hunger Games" were great films, with hope of becoming great franchises. "The Fifth Wave" flings itself out there and hopes it will stick. 1/2 a Star. Rated PG-13 For Teen Angst, Teen Violence, And Teen Lust.
Image: "Are you lookin' at me? Seriously, I can't see a thing anymore".
Look, we go through this every year. We start a new year. We get crap at the movies ("Paddington" was the exception). Think about it. Why would we expect anything different? Why would 2016 be anything special? January even makes De Niro look bad.
"Dirty Grandpa" stars Robert De Niro as "Dick", a dirty, dirty Grandpa, whose wife has recently passed away. On her deathbed, she gave him a free pass to go out and live life to the fullest, so, in honor of her precious memory, he tricks his grandson, "Jason" (Zac Efron) into driving him to Florida for Spring Break. Jason is a tight ass, who is engaged to "Meredith" (Julianne Hough), a total control freak.
Dick knows that Meredith isn't right for Jason, so he forces Jason to participate in all the wholesome fun that youngsters have on Spring Break. They party, drink and flirt with Jason's mandatory love interest, "Shadia" (Zoey Deutch), and her slutty friend, "Lenore" (Aubrey Plaza), and things get nastier and nastier from there.
"Dirty Grandpa" has no other aspiration to be anything other than....Well....Dirty. Gross out humor, drugs, sex and farts. Anything you want in gross out humor, "Dirty Grandpa" has it. What it doesn't have, is comedy. The film is one dirty joke (I'll try not to use the word "Dirty" again. But it is dirty), stretched into an hour and forty minutes. You would think it would be amazing to watch De Niro spewing obscenities for an entire movie, but the fun lasts only a few minutes before it becomes exhausting.
"Grandpa" must have been the easiest script to write. A standard Spring Break joke, and an old fart saying "F*ck F*ck F*ck!" non stop. Worse, the film tries to fake a lesson learned, that is completely lost on me. Dick teaches Jason to "Be his own man", then Jason proceeds to do everything Dick tells him to do, regardless of consequences (It could be that Dick is just a dick, and a total menace to society). It's a pretty lousy lesson, in a pretty lousy movie.
Robert De Niro has done so much better work for over forty years, and I'd like to give him a pass. But in "Dirty Grandpa", he doesn't deserve it (He took the money). Zac Efron has even shown to be better than this, but, like the rest of the characters, there's nothing likable here. Zoey Deutch is bland, Julianne Hough is stuck in the typical "Bridezilla" role that needs to be retired, and Aubrey Plaza doesn't hold anything back (She's strangely adorable, though), and may be the only working actress willing to anything on camera. ANY-THING!
There's nothing much to laugh at with "Dirty Grandpa", because there's nothing clever about it. Just a dirty grandpa, being....Dirty. Well that's what he is. And that's not nearly enough. 1 Star. Rated R For Sex, Drugs, Nudity, And More De Niro Than You Ever Thought You'd See.
Image: Rob Schneider is Da Derp Dee Derp Da Teetley Derpee Derpee Dumb!
I'd like to think Michael Bay, for not making even remotely the worst movie of the week. And for not making the preachiest, or most excruciating to sit through. Congrats, Michael. That's a first.
"Norm of the North" stars Rob Schneider as "Norm", a Polar Bear who can speak human (At least English. They don't really explain), like his Grandpa (Colm Meaney). Norm aspires to be King of the Arctic, despite the fact that he's a complete idiot, who's only talent is his ability to dance to "The Arctic Shake". (It mostly involves twerking)
When Grandpa goes missing, Norm notices that condos are being built by "Mr. Greene" (Ken Jeong), an evil "1%" right winger, who wants to develop the Arctic as a vacation spot for rich folk (Polar Bears. Cold as sh*t. It'll do great!). Norm travels to New York, along with his "Minions", er, "Lemmings", where Norm becomes the mascot for Mr. Greene's company, because everyone thinks he's a guy in a Bear suit....Holy crap, this is stupid! You don't really care anymore, do you?
"Norm of the North" has a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. Meaning, NO ONE is even pretending to recommend this movie (Not even that guy from Fox-TV. What's his name? Shaun Edwards, or something? He likes everything!). This is, without a doubt, the worst animated film I've ever seen in theaters. It's "Legends of Oz" and "Free Birds" bad, adding in an extra level or two of crap. "Norm" is cheaply animated and written, terribly edited, and poorly acted. I'm running out of adjectives, here, but this is nothing short of a total embarrassment. Everything about it is wrong. But, just for sh*t's and giggles, let's continue!
Rob Schneider must need money for his precious crack, Ken Jeong screams every line, Heather Graham (As Mr. Greene's assistant) is bland and pointless, as is the great Bill Nighy (As a wise Seagull with glasses), whose Agent should have been swapped for our people held in Iran.... I'm sorry, but I'm still a little pissed off...And I've only just begun!
The plot for "Norm of the North" makes no sense in the slightest. Condo's in the Arctic? What? The bad guy forgets that Norm is a Polar Bear, only to remember later on? Norm's plan to save the Arctic is to raise the Evil company's approval ratings, so that people will listen to him? What! How! What! It doesn't make any sense! Trust me, It gets even worse.
Then there's the message of how the super rich 1% are evil and want to destroy the Arctic. Not even Trump would do that. No kid is going to listen to this, or understand it, and no parent is going to care. And that's the most insulting thing about "Norm". It doesn't even try to have anything positive for children. It just thinks that kids are complete idiots. Look, this isn't personal. I'm just saying that everyone associated with "Norm of the North" hates your children. 0 Stars. Rated PG For Farts. And Poop. And Pee. And General Ineptitude.
Image: Being in a Michael Bay movie is exhausting.
So, how do I start this review. Do I go on my usual rant about how much Michael Bay sucks? Or do I confront the Elephant in the room, and talk about the political brew ha ha surrounding "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi"? For once, there may not be much to talk about. For once, Michael Bay has shown....Restraint.
"13 Hours" is based on the attacks by Islamic militants on September 11th,2012, in Benghazi, Libya, killing 4 Americans. When the terrorists attack the U.S.Ambassador compound, CIA Security Contractors "Tyrone Woods" (James Badge Dale) leads his team, including "Jack Da Silva" (John Krasinski), as they all desperately try to survive the assault.
Clearly, there is far more to the "Real" story of "13 Hours", depending on which political side you choose to believe (My own opinion is way to complex for this review). What "13 Hours" doesn't have is anything about Hillary, or Obama, or hardly anything about the Video that was alleged to have caused the violence. Instead, believe it or not, Director Michael Bay has shown real restraint, and even more respect, by solely focusing on the heroes who fought that night, and those who lost their lives. Michael Bay has shown more respect than many pundits (And presidential candidates) have been able to muster (That's not political. That's undeniable).
Bay can't avoid some of his typical "Bay"-isms, like, stuff exploding in bombastic fashion, slow motion shots, and cheesy tough guy dialogue. Yet "13 Hours" is clearly the film Bay was shooting for. A tribute to incredibly heroic Americans who deserved better. Again, Bay avoids making the film overtly political, and that's for the better.
The acting is uniformly excellent, with James Badge Dale and John Krasinski giving fine performances, as does everyone else in "13 Hours" (No wacky Black people, or scantily clad teenage girls here. Way to go, Michael!) Everything in the production is top notch, including the battle scenes, though they are a bit over the top.
The more I think about "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi", the more I think I'm being a little lenient. Maybe because it means so much to many of the people who have seen, or will see it (It brought an old lady to tears in my theater). It can't possibly deserve the praise some will bestow on it, or be dismissed as easily as others will do. But Michael Bay and everyone involved have clearly put heart and passion into a film, designed as a tribute. Who can find much complaint in that? So now, we wait, and watch for Michael Bay to continue to screw up the "Transformers" franchise. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Hard Core Violence And Language, And For Difficult Subject Matter.