Image: Just give her a dang "Black Widow" movie already.
So when "Ghost in the Shell" was announced to me redone in live-action, through American means, fans were pretty skeptical. Not that our track record is really that bad (Well....Not THAT bad at least.) It's just such beloved source material, and I'm not just referring to the old anime film, which is apparently every young hipster's favorite movie. I have no investment in it because I have no familiarity with any of it whatsoever. So don't ask me how good a representation this is. Sometimes, film critics have to admit when they have no idea what they're talking about.
"Ghost in the Shell" begins in a futuristic, Japan based city, where humanity has begun to "Perfect" themselves through cybernetic enhancements. Eventually, a way was found to place the brain of a rescued human within a mechanical body. Known as "The Major" (Scarlett Johansson), this new cybernetic being serves as a field commander for a special forces unit.
Supposedly perfect in every way (Well, she is played by Scarlett Johansson), the Major is tasked, along with her partner, "Batou" (Pilou Asbæk) to find a mysterious, terroristic "Man", "Kuze" (Michael Pitt), who is determined to take down "Hanka Robotics", the organization that created the Major and kill everyone involved, including her surrogate mother, "Dr. Ouélet" (Juliette Binoche). The Major, who has also been experiencing strange glitches ever since a run in with Kuze, begins to question her past and her own humanity, soon learning that there is something the people that made her have been hiding from her.
Judging "Ghost in the Shell" on it's own merits, the film itself is a sight to behold. It's just absolutely gorgeous to look at in terms of visuals. The sheer scope of the city, along with the art design and the visual description of how the world looks, the movie looks like anime brought to life. There is always something going on in the background or the foreground, mixing up with the techno sounding score, making for a really cool looking movie. Even when the effects are less than spectacular, it's the style and artistry of how its done that make up for it.
Sadly, it seems Director Rupert Sanders ("Snow White and the Huntsman") might be a little too in love with the world that's being created, because in terms of storytelling, it's a sloppy mess. It seems to be going for a form of visual storytelling, but plot points are introduced and resolved quickly, taking a step back for the occasional drawn out action sequence, without much flow in the actual plot. Now it's not impossible to tell your story this way, and some directors even do it very well. But it's really distracting that once you get to the end of the film, you are surprised that its already over.
Luckily for "Ghost in the Shell", it's shortcomings are saved by a a mesmerizing performance from Scarlett Johansson. Aside from being obviously incredibly pretty, her presence in the film fits this character perfectly. Despite it's flaws, you cannot take your eyes off her, and you have an immediate amount of sympathy for her character. Some of the other performances are solid, with Pilou Asbæk, Juliette Binoche, and Michael Pitt (Who actually has a few creepy moments), all fulfill their roles well, with the highlight being Takeshi Kitano (as "Chief Daisuke Aramaki", the Major's superior), who gets some really badass (And probably the most memorable) moments, but Peter Ferdinando (As "Mr. Cutter", the villainous businessman villain) doesn't even register to the point I almost forgot to even mention him.
"Ghost in the Shell" has drawn controversy to itself, and understandably so, for the casting of Scarlett Johnasson in a role that was probably meant for for someone Japanese. (Anime, remember?) Much like "The Great Wall", it's more about Hollywood's need for star power, rather than racism itself, and to this movie's credit, there is a clever plot twist that does lessen the blow somewhat, and shows that the filmmakers did make a genuine effort, another one of the film's saving graces.
There was clearly a lot of effort put into "Ghost", and I can't say I didn't enjoy the film. But considering the source material, how much vested interest there is in it, and the God given gift that is Scarlett Johansson, it can't help but leave you wanting more.2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Sci-Fi Violence, And, Well, Just Look At Scarlett Johansson's Outfit.
Image: This film was not endorsed by any Police Union. Or any Union. Anywhere.
Guys, we are seriously running out of old TV shows to adapt into film. "CHiPs"? Really? I don't know much about the old show, but I think the public would have been more excited about raunchy, R rated film versions of "All in the Family". Or "The Love Boat" (Permission to come on board, indeed!) Or "Different Strokes" (What the f*ck is Willis talkin' about?)
"CHiPs" begins with a hothead, reckless FBI agent (Whose real name I can't even find it online), (Michael Peña) forced to go undercover as a California Highway Patrol Officer (CHP) named "Frank "Ponch" Poncherello" to locate some corrupt cops. He is partnered up with a rookie Officer/former bike riding champion, "John Baker" (Dax Shephard), who is only doing this job to save his failing marriage to his already moved wife, "Karen" (Kristen Bell).
Of course, Ponch and John don't get along, with Ponch being a sex addicted, rash jackass, and John being an overly excitable, moronic annoyance upon everyone he meets. But eventually, a beautiful bromance blooms as the both of them overcome their differences to take down the leader of the corrupt cops, "Ray Kurtz" (Vincent D'Onofrio) and........That's about it. Its an R-Rated adaptation of an old cheesy series from the late 70s. What more could you want from a 2017 film?
As I'm writing this review, the more I slowly realize that there really isn't much to "CHiPs" other than a ripped off idea, but not a very good one. The film seems to be trying to go for a "21 Jump Street" or "22 Jump Street" style of taking an old show and making a raunchy comedy out of it. The problem is that this film doesn't have any of the charm, intelligence, self-awareness, or most importantly, the laughs that those films had. In fact, it's the laziest form of lowbrow comedy that just makes you question the maturity of everyone involved.
I've been told never to judge a goofy comedy on it's plot. But its hard not to when you're sitting there not laughing the whole time. As for the plot itself, it's every basic buddy cop story, complete with the two guys who don't like each other, but will get along by the end. The whole "You're off the case" bit that feels like a tradition of these films. And the typical butchering of an important operation that makes you question why anyone would take these two seriously to begin with.
Dax Shephard, who also directed and wrote "CHiPs" (So I guess he's to blame for all this), is generally an actor I like. He can be funny and likable, but here, he comes across as thoroughly annoying when he is meant to appear endearing. And while his chemistry with Michael Peña is lacking (Mostly because of the slight script), Peña does at least get some of the film's few laughs. Vincent D'Onofrio gets nothing to do other than snarl and look menacing (Granted, he is kind of a pro at that), and Kristen Bell gets to do nothing other than look pretty. (Granted, she is also good at that)
Guys, this one is pretty easy. "CHiPs" is predictable, sloppily edited, doesn't seem to think it's audience is smart enough to figure out whats going on (Were those flashbacks to something that happened 20 minutes earlier really necessary?), and worst of all, not funny. It goes for the easy joke, expecting a laugh, but only getting the occasional cough. At my theater. I heard coughs, and maybe a chuckle or two. Maybe it is just like the TV show. 1 star. Rated R For Lots Of Foul Language, And For Michael Peña Face Planting Dax Shephard's Balls. (The highlight of the film right there believe it or not.)
Image: "I can't quit you."
If there's anything that movies have taught me, it's that space is bad. It's cold, it's dark, there are aliens up there that want to kill you. Hell, space itself tried to murder Sandra Bullock four years ago. And it won't get away with it.
"Life" follows the crew of the International Space Station, with crew doctors "David Jordan" (Jake Gyllenhaal), microbiologist "Miranda North" (Rebecca Ferguson), engineer "Rory Adams" (Ryan Reynolds), pilot "Sho Kendo" (Hiroyuki Sanada), crew commander "Katerina Golovkina" (Olga Dihovichnaya), and paraplegic biologist "Hugh Derry" (Ariyon Bakare) as they begin study on soil samples from Mars. The crew discovers a multi-celled organism with proves signs of extraterrestrial life.
The organism, (Who they name "Calvin"), is shown to be very strong and highly intelligent. But Calvin also proves to be more dangerous and bloodthirsty than expected and attacks Hugh, horribly crushing his arm in the process. Next thing the crew know, they are being picked off one by one while Calvin starts to grow, and a desperate battle for survival begins.
Despite what the trailers seemed to imply, "Life" is in reality, just a short, simple, Sci-Fi Horror B-Movie that managed to get it's tentacles on a few A-List actors. Aside from maybe a few moments where the film attempts to be thought provoking, it's all about the cheap thrills and gruesome deaths. And that's perfectly fine! The film is still very much entertaining and fun, regardless of all the suffering and nightmare fuel.
Director Daniel Espinosa does actually keep the suspense in "Life" constant from the start, mostly thanks to the fast pace that doesn't really let up till the film cuts to black. The visual effects are acceptable, and though at times the effects on Calvin look a little cheap (Which is expected of the smaller than usual budget), the creature's horrifying design is fairly clever and should be able to easily terrify audiences looking to be scared. (Think of a combination of an octopus and a demonic butterfly.)
"Life" also gets some excellent work out of it's dedicated actors, with Jake Gyllenhaal stealing the movie in a wonderfully twitchy, but likable performance, and Rebecca Ferguson brings depth and emotion to her character. Not much for character development here, but the actors all find ways to make you care about them, thanks mostly to some genuine relatability, which does make the rather bleak (and somewhat painfully obvious) ending a bit harsh, but expected of the genre.
"Life" is basically an "Alien" ripoff, and since we have another one of those ("Alien: Covenant") coming out in just a few months, it makes this movie kind of unnecessary. But that doesn't mean there's nothing to offer here. The film makes for a good (if not cheap) thrill ride. The kind of movie you would watch on home on a rainy day because there's nothing else to watch. Just don't eat any calamari or squid while you do it. 2 1/2 stars. Rated R For Strong Language And Excessive Swallowing Of Tentacles.
Image: "Now remember. Our safety word is Megazord".
I never watched the original "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" as a kid. In fact, I always found it to be too cheesy for my tastes (I apologize to all my fellow geeks), and I had no interest in "Educating" myself on the many TV incarnations and movies, or the endless lore of the franchise. I know. I suppose I should have my geek credentials revoked. But tell me the Power Rangers themselves don't look like giant prophylactics. It's just been difficult to take it all too seriously.
"Power Rangers" begins in small town in the middle of nowhere, with a coincidental meeting at a construction site between five teenagers with attitude. There's the rebellious delinquent "Jason Scott" (Dacre Montgomery), the pretty popular girl "Kimberly Hart" (Naomi Scott), bullied, autistic genius, "Billy Cranston" (RJ Cyler), crazy, wannabe tough guy, "Zack" (Ludi Lin), and lesbian loner, "Trini" (Becky G), who stumble upon five color coded stones (Red, Pink, Blue, Yellow, and Black).
The teens now literally have the stones that give them super powers and leads them to a million old alien ship, where the floating face in the wall, "Zordon" (Bryan Cranston) and his little robot buddy/life partner, "Alpha 5" (Voiced by Bill Hader) tell the teens that they must become ancient, super-powered warriors called "Power Rangers" and defeat the former Green Ranger turned bad, "Rita Repulsa" (Elizabeth Banks), who plans to unleash a giant, golden monster of doom, "Goldar". (Because with a name like Rita Repulsa, she sure as well wasn't gonna be a humanitarian).
My lack of knowledge (Or interest) of the source material aside, "Power Rangers" is far better than it has any right to be. The film is certainly made with care by people who clearly love the source material, stocking the movie full of references and Easter eggs to things I know nothing about. To it's credit, the film takes it's time to set up the Power Rangers element, focusing plenty of time on character development and attempts at explaining the lore itself.
With that said, the lore and backstory is still pretty vague and silly, and while Director Dean Israelite (who previously directed the meh "Project Almanac") is clearly a competent director, "Power Rangers" moves towards it's grand finale (Involving massive, robot dinosaurs) in a clunky fashion. The film is well shot and the visual effects are solid for the most part (With the exception "Goldar" himself, who looks like a giant, plastic action figure), but the plot is fairly basic and can't overcome it's dumb moments. (Krispy Kreme? Really?)
Where "Power Rangers" succeeds is with it's surprisingly relatable characters and the amount of depth the script actually gives to them, aided by the help from a talented cast. Dacre Montgomery's character might come across as the blandest of the bunch, but he eventually develops into a leader worth rooting for. Naomi Scott is lovely and brings complexity to her character. Becky G also adds some genuine profoundness to the film with Ludi Lin providing humor, and the terrific RJ Cyler gives the movie it's heart. Bryan Cranston and Bill Hader are fun in their supporting roles and Elizabeth Banks doesn't so much chew the scenery as so more like devours it all.
But it's the film's inability to fully balance the tonal shifts from dark and edgy to campy and goofy keeps dragging it down and prevents "Power Rangers" from fully succeeding as much as previous superhero films in the past few years have. Nevertheless, fans of the original series will likely adore this new film (The crowd I saw it with was going nuts over it.) And while it lacks the charm of, say, anything from the "Marvel Cinematic Universe", the movie isn't without it's fun moments. It may not really classify as a good film, but it is certainly a likable one that is endearing enough to justify the expectations of it's fans. Plus its certainly more enjoyable than any of the "Transformers" movies. At least here they play the "Power Ranger" theme song. Nice touch. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Sci-Fi Violence And Putty Patrollers.
Image: Another Secret Santa Gift Exchange gone horribly wrong.
I've still got the "Beauty and the Beast" theme in my head as I walk into "The Belko Experiment". Disney has once again made me happy and cheerful as I gaze up on the movie screen, where I see people brutally massacre each other with whatever work supplies they can get their hands on. As the carnage unfolds, I realize you can only stay in "Disneyland" for so long.
"The Belko Experiment" begins in some remote office building in Columbia, belonging to non profit organization "Belko Industries", where the employees hear a mysterious voice over the intercom, telling them to kill almost half of their coworkers. If they refuse, their heads will be blown wide open one by one by the tracking devices placed in their skulls.
While two employees, "Mike" (John Gallagher Jr.) and his girlfriend, "Leandra" (Adria Arjona) say that they need to find some other alternative solution, their boss, "Barry" (Tony Goldwyn) insists that they do whatever is necessary to survive. Barry gathers a group, including awkward creep, "Wendell" (John C. McGinley), to take charge and execute whoever is deemed worth killing and the entire situation slowly becomes a bloody free for all battle to the death.
"The Belko Experiment" does start off with potential, especially early on when we are introduced to the office workplace setting, which begins just like any other day, complete with many of the coworkers flirting, joking around, and acting passive aggressive towards each other. You can see what the filmmakers were going for from the start, but despite a few clever moments of over the top gore, the movie just gets old pretty fast despite it's short runtime. "Belko" lacks the clever edge it needs to have any real effect.
The reason why "The Belko Experiment" doesn't fully work is because the film doesn't have enough intelligence or humor to classify as a satire (Which is sad since "Guardians of the Galaxy" director, James Gunn, wrote and produced the movie). It also doesn't help that the point the movie is trying to make isn't all that original, and it's easy to guess where its all going from the start. The film is interesting enough at times, and the almost delightful glee Director Greg McLean takes in the sheer amount of violence in film is kinda commendable. (He's kind of a sick bastard in that way). It probably would of worked better as a straight up dark comedy, rather than a horror thriller.
The commitment of the actors themselves do help levitate the few slightly developed characters. John Gallagher Jr. and Adria Ariona are actually plenty likable, and you do start to care about their survival as the film progresses. Tony Goldwyn is intimidating as hell, while John C. McGinley is enjoyably wacky, and James Gunn's brother, Sean Gunn (as "Marty", the pot smoking cafeteria worker) brings out the film's best laughs.
But it's hard to care about a movie or it's characters when so many of them are offed out of nowhere and sometimes so frequently with little to no development. It's hard to even remember them, and "The Belko Experiment" will only be remembered for it's new and original ways to kill or die. I think I need another Disney movie. ASAP. 2 Stars. Rated R For Graphic Gruesome Gallons Of Gore Galore.
Image: Rick Santorum was right. Gay marriage would lead to bestiality!
Walt Disney Pictures has made pretty clear that they have no fear in remaking their own classic animated films into live-action. Now one of their most beloved films, "Beauty and the Beast" has been given the "Realistic" approach, begging the question, How could you possibly remake, not just a masterpiece in the eyes of Disney fans and critics alike, but remake one of the most respected, and one of the greatest animated films of all time? It was the first animated film to ever get a Best Picture nomination for a reason. Did you doubt they'd get it right?
The new "Beauty and the Beast" tells the story that you all should be familiar with (Its wasn't called the "Tale As Old As Time" for nothing), where a selfish prince (Dan Stevens) is turned into a monstrous "Beast" by an enchantress, who also places a curse on the rest of the castle and those who live in it, turning them all into various knick knacks, and only leaving behind a rose. Once the last petal falls from the rose, the curse will be permanent unless the Beast can learn to love and be loved in return. Years later in a nearby village, the most beautiful, intelligent, and kindest girl, "Belle" (Emma Watson), is occasionally mocked by the townsfolk due to being different. She is courted by the town hero (And complete buffoon), "Gaston" (Luke Evens), who will do anything to win her hand in marriage, while his goofy sidekick/#1 fangirl, "LeFou" (Josh Gad), pretty much does everything he says.
Belle's eccentric father, "Maurice" (Kevin Kline) winds up stumbling into the castle where the Beast takes him prisoner. Belle goes to save her father, offering to take his place. The Beast agrees and allows Maurice to leave while Belle is forced to remain in the castle forever. The Beast's servants, a romantic french candelabra, "Lumière" (Ewan McGregor), a pompous mantel clock, "Cogsworth" (Ian McKellen), the loving motherly teapot, "Mrs. Potts" (Emma Thompson) and her son, "Chip" (Nathan Mack), french maid feather duster, "Plumette" (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), opera singing wardrobe, "Madame de Garderobe" (Audra McDonald), and her composer husband/piano, "Cadenza" (Stanley Tucci), all get the idea that Belle could possibly be the one to break the curse. After a run in with wolves, where both Belle and the Beast save each other's lives, the two begin to grow closer, and, well, you know how the story goes. True love and all that good stuff between beauty and a wildebeest, bear, monster, thing.
2017's "Beauty and the Beast" has been given the impossible task of being able to get even close to being as the original classic. While it could never accomplish that task, there's still really nothing to complain about in what is regardless, another wonderful time for the family. Filmed beautifully with flawless special effects and an incredibly detailed direction from Director Bill Condon, a lot of the magic is still there.
All of those catchy songs we fell in love with, like "Be Our Guest", are still there, and they are still a complete delight to hear. While the few new songs that have been added don't really have the same spark or memorability, they are still enjoyable enough on their own. (It also helps that composer of the original film himself, Alan Menken, returned for this one.) The set design itself is worth the price of admission alone, with so much attention to every last detail, that it literally looks like a real version of the original film.
Emma Watson is perfectly cast as Belle, with the right amount of spunk, charm, and personality that you would expect from the character, along with the obvious beauty (Who didn't have a crush on Belle when they were a kid? Be honest). Dan Stevens brings humanity to his character, making his change of heart realistic, along with the relationship itself. Luke Evans is suitably hilarious, while remaining menacing throughout along with Josh Gad, who is clearly having a ball. Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellan, Emma Thompson, and the rest of the stellar cast all do excellent work with these classic characters, with Stanley Tucci being a nice new addition.
"Beauty and the Beast" keeps the story of the original basically the same, almost to a fault. Despite a few little tweaks here and there, there is very little difference right down to the repeat of much of the dialogue. While a few characters get a couple more scenes of development and the movie does at least explain a few unanswered questions (Like what exactly was the Beast a prince of? Did Belle even have a mother? How did nobody notice that giant ass castle down the road? Is LeFou really that gay?) There are hardly any changes, especially compared to recent Disney remakes like "Cinderella" and "The Jungle Book", who added even more development to certain characters and even changed a few story arcs completely.
Overall, there isn't much that could be seen as outright wrong with this new "Beauty and the Beast", other than it's existence itself, especially considering how perfect the original is. Now if that alone bothers you, I get it, though it seems a little sad to let that completely ruin the experience. This doesn't feel like a cynical cashgrab, it feels genuinely heartfelt. Once we get to the famous ballroom scene, with Belle in that yellow dress, dancing with the Beast to Emma Thompson singing the original "Beauty and the Beast" song, its hard not to feel a little enchanted. Still left with a smile on my face, and It's still a worthy companion piece to the original. 3 stars. Rated PG For Scary Images And For Starting That Whole Furry Trend.
Image: These majestic, gentle creatures calmly express themselves through their soft verbalization skills.
We are essentially living every young geeky boy's dream right about now. A confirmed giant monster film universe (or the "MonsterVerse"), where all of our favorite giant monsters exist together to eventually meet up and duke it out like men. With 2014's "Godzilla" now part of it, this is all buildup to when the "King of Monsters" fights everyone's favorite colossal ape. Once again proving that every Hollywood film exec was once a ten year old with toys.
"Kong: Skull Island" takes place in 1973, where shady government agent "Bill Randa" (John Goodman) and his assistant "Houston Brooks" (Corey Hawkins) gathering a team to go on an expedition to explore and map out an uncharted island known as "Skull Island" (Because that sounds totally safe). The team includes, former British Air Service Captain, "James Conrad" (Tom Hiddleston), hardcore US Colonel, "Preston Packard" (Samuel L. Jackson), pacifist Photojournalist, "Mason Weaver" (Brie Larson), Packard's second in command, "Jack Chapman" (Toby Kebbell), and a whole lot of red shirts.
When the group arrives in their military helicopters, they immediately start dropping bombs on the island, pissing off the giant Ape guardian of the island, "Kong" (Played through motion capture by Terry Notary), who proceeds to demolish Packard's men. The group is separated, with Randa revealing that he knew of Kong's existence all along, hoping to bring back proof, Packard swearing revenge on Kong, and Conrad and Weaver discovering a former World War II soldier, "Hank Marlow" (John C. Reilly), who has been stranded on the island for years. Everyone is now in a desperate race to get off the island, while avoiding Kong and the other horrific monsters on the island, including the nightmarish lizard-like "Skull Crawlers".
"Kong: Skull Island" isn't going for anything particularly original, but in terms of pure popcorn fun, it delivers on everything you could possibly want. A grand scale, spectacular visual effects, badass monster fights, and a giant freaking Ape! It knows exactly what its going for and embraces it fully. You don't get much depth of character, but they remain likable or interesting enough so you actually care about their survival, and Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts adds a lot of visual razzle dazzle to bring all that summer blockbuster fun. (Except it's in March this time. Technicality.)
Tom Hiddleston and and the sweetly adorable Brie Larson easily make for appealing leads,.Samuel L. Jackson is clearly having a blast (Doesn't he always) playing the "Captain Ahab" of the story, John Goodman is very much welcome presence, and John C. Reilly steals all of his scenes with humor and sheer lovableness. But the real star here is Kong himself, who doesn't just look amazing in terms of the visuals, which blend seamlessly into reality, he provides some genuine heart and emotion to the film, making him a monster you can root for (He is, kind of, the "Good Guy". Kinda.)
"Kong: Skull Island" has it's predictable beats (I mean, make a prediction who does and doesn't make it off the island). But much like "Jurassic World", just go along with the more cheesy moments so you can get to the parts where you're getting exactly what you paid for. Which will inspire a whole new wave of ten year old's imaginations. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Monster Carnage And Frightening Images.
Image: Octavia Spencer is God? I thought it was Morgan Freeman.
It's difficult not to look like a complete jackass to a certain audience right now. Yes, I was that one guy in that theater showing "The Shack", full of older, decent, Christian people, who wasn't crying tears of sadness and joy, and applauding at the end of this film. I was that one guy with his arms crossed, bored out of his mind, not "Getting it", and not shedding a single tear. Maybe I'm a heartless bastard. Or maybe, the movie is just terrible.
"The Shack" begins with a young boy, "Mack" (Carson Reaume), being raised in a Christian home, who is helpless as his mother is beaten mercilessly by his alcoholic father, who eventually begins to take out his rage on Mack as well. Since apparently telling the pastor does nothing but make things worse (Police? Nah), young Mack decides to poison his dad and kill him........and that's never brought up again. Anyway, Years Later, Mack (Now played by Sam Worthington), is married to his very religious wife, "Nan" (Radha Mitchell), and has three kids, including a little, wide eyed, completely pure and innocent daughter, "Missy" (Amelie Eve), who refers to God as "Papa". While on a camping trip, Mack loses sight of Missy, who is later found having been murdered (and possibly raped) by some lunatic in an old shack.
Now Mack is depressed and his family disconnected, having completely given up on life while turning his back on God. Mack then receives a letter from someone calling themselves Papa, telling him to meet at the shack where his daughter was killed. (Real sensitive, huh?) Mack heads over to the shack, where he meets Papa/God himself (Or herself), who as it turns out, is a sassy black lady (Octavia Spencer), along with her son "Jesus" (Aviv Alush), and their pretty friend, "Sarayu" (Sumire Matsubara), who represents The Holy Spirit. The three of them invite Mack to stay with them for a while to teach him lessons of love, life, redemption, forgiveness in 2 hours and 12 minutes of the longest time of my life.
"The Shack" is one of those movies that undeniably does have a good message to get across. but when it comes to executing that message, it fails miserably. It doesn't help that the message itself is pretty easy to decipher in the first few minutes. Then the movie grinds to a halt with dialogue that thinks its more insightful than it actually is, which make the film a complete pain to sit through.
Everything's an obvious metaphor with "The Shack", so it's difficult to learn what anyone is supposed to learn, and it sure takes an excruciating long time to explain it. The movie looks cheap, with laughably poor special effects (This cost $20 Million?!) "The Shack" lacks any real filmmaking competence, butchering any focus on a positive, yet dark, and extremely heavy handed, message.
God bless Sam Worthington, who is trying his heart out here against insurmountable odds. His accent comes and goes, but he seems committed to the role and I have seen him be really good in much better films ("Hacksaw Ridge"). Octavia Spencer is good no matter what, but what is anyone supposed to do with this part? Little Amelie Eve has to play her character as overly precious as possible, and that has never worked, ever. And while I do applaud the diversity in casting, the movie simply fails them all.
I know "The Shack" seems to be resonating with some, and I don't disrespect that, but Lord, I'm struggling to understand it. Some of the morals taught are questionable to me at best, and downright dangerous at worst. And when the film shoves it's morality in your face in such a painful and inept way, then anyone outside it's core audience, most of whom were going to love it regardless, aren't going to get a damn thing out of it anyway. I swear I'm open minded. Are they? 1 Star. Rated PG For Horrifyingly Disturbing Imagery And Situations.
Image: She should take of those shoes. Before she falls.
The themes of these recent "Young Adult" movies sure are getting heavy. They deal with a lot of death, pain, suicide and redemption. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the maturity that Hollywood has shown with these stories. But geez! I think it's time to lighten up a little once in a while. Is it too much to ask for some occasional potty humor? Just one fart joke?
"Before I Fall" follows "Samantha" (Zoey Deutch), a high school senior starting off her day like any other. First waking up to avoid her family, driving to school with her popular friends, "Lindsay" (Halston Sage), "Izzy" (Erica Tremblay), and "Allison" (Cynthy Wu), flirting with her jackass boyfriend, "Rob" (Kian Lawley), while avoiding the nice guy who obviously has a crush on her, "Kent" (Logan Miller), then finally heading over to a party where Samantha joins her friends in ruthlessly mocking the unpopular, weird girl, "Juliet" (Elena Kampouris). But while on the drive home, Samantha and her friends get into a car accident which results in their deaths.
Samantha wakes up the next morning, realizing that she is being forced to relive the same day, and proceeds to live through it over and over again. She at first attempts to make sure she and her friends are not at the party, only to discover that Juliet would be found dead, having committed suicide before being forced to once again start the day over. While reliving the same day, Samantha slowly begins to discover more about herself and those around her, while attempting to find a way out of the endless loop and hopefully make everything right.
"Before I Fall" goes down a familiar route and keeps the story simple, but takes time to add complexity to it's characters. The film can be seen as more of a character study with it's portrayal of Samantha, who is not a bad person and retains some likability, despite the actions of her friends and herself, which lead to very dire consequences. The film is shot beautifully, thanks to Director Ry Russo-Young, who puts great detail and effort to create an almost dreamlike feel (Nightmare is probably the more appropriate term.)
The acting helps lift the film, particularly Zoey Deutch, who carries the complex story by giving a compelling performance full of star quality and her face expresses every emotion convincingly. Halston Sage (Yes, I still have the same mushy feeling for her) is excellent as well in the "Mean Girl" role, yet her character has more depth than these roles usually have, while Kent Miller is likable, providing the film's little humor.
"Before I Fall" is nothing you haven't seen before, but it's made with expertise and heart. It shows respect and seriousness for it's subject matter, and doesn't take the easy way out, though the ending might seem a bit harsh to be sure. Today's young adults have proven they can handle difficult subject matter, and it's hard not to be impressed with that. As long as we remember to lighten up once in a while. You're kind of bumming me out. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content, And For Being, Like, Totally Heavy.
Image: And then, thousands of full grown, nerdy men wept like babies.
The idea of a R-rated major superhero blockbuster has really been unheard of. They either don't make much money (Ex. "Kick-Ass") or just aren't very good. (Ex. "Kick-Ass 2"). But with "Deadpool" changed everything, both with the box office results and the quality of the film itself (I called it. My predictions are legendary.) And.it made it possible for The Wolverine's last ride to be exactly what it needed to be.
"Logan" begins years after the supposed "Good" future at the end of "X-Men: Days of Future Past", in which things have pretty much gone to sh*t. The "X-Men" are no more, there are hardly any remaining mutants, and "Logan/Wolverine" (Hugh Jackman) is now an aging chauffeur, having begun to slowly lose his healing factor. He currently lives in an abandoned smelting plant in Mexico with a sun fearing, albino mutant tracker, "Caliban" (Stephen Merchant), who assists Logan in taking care of the now fragile, and senile, "Professor Charles Xavier" (Patrick Stewart).
Logan is approached by a nurse, "Gabriela" (Elizabeth Rodriguez), who wants him to take a young girl, "Laura" (Dafne Keen), to a place called "Eden".Logan at first tries to dismiss the offer, but eventually accepts, only to find Gabriela murdered the next day by "Donald Pierce" (Boyd Holbrook), a sadistic slimeball with a mechanical hand. Pierce works for mad Scientist, "Zander Rice" (Richard E. Grant), who is after Laura because, as it turns out, she is a mutant with razor sharp claws, just like Logan (And just as violent). Now Logan, Charles, and Laura are on the run, with Pierce and his men hot on their trail.
"Logan" takes a route that you would never expect a superhero film to ever take. The film is a sad, heartfelt, and powerfully told tale that feels more like a western than your standard "X-Men" flick, (They even reference the classic "Shane" at one point in great detail). Because of the clear emotions put into the film, it also feels very human. It can be seen in the violence itself, which is grisly, bloody, and brutal. But it needs to be. It is never meant to be excessive, and clearly meant to make the film feel more real. When someone dies, you are forced to take a moment and realize that there are real consequences in this world, which is now much more bleak and grim than seen in any of the previous films.
It's not just the violence that's amped up. "Logan" also piles on the F-Bombs, which also tie well into the main characters, who have all clearly been through a lot in their life to the point where you fully understand why they appear more coarse (We'd all be a bit more world weary by this point.). Director James Mangold (Who directed the previous outing, "The Wolverine") creates a world that is truly beautiful to look at. The cinematography and action sequences are stunning and gritty, with plenty of dark realism that add bitter sweetness to the story. Even the film's moments of humor have a hint of sadness to them, which helps you care even more deeply for it's characters.
Hugh Jackman (Who has been playing this character for almost two decades by now) gives a terrifically nuanced, heartbreaking performance that shows the character's flaws, pain, and eventually his humanity, which is why this character has been able to resonate with audiences for so long. Patrick Stewart is absolutely wonderful in probably one of his best performances, and his chemistry with Jackman is absolute perfection. Boyd Holbrook and Richard E. Grant make for incredibly detestable villains that you love to hate, Stephen "Wheatley" Merchant is excellent in a surprisingly dramatic role, and Dafne Keen is wonderful, hardly ever speaking, with a stare that is just full of emotions.
With a beautiful score, a smart script, and a few unexpected twists and turns "Logan" is a superhero film for both Comic-Con geeks and drama lovers alike. Mature in content and sentiment, the movie takes a chance on what you can really do with a franchise like this. There are no big end of the world events, massive CGI fight scenes, or destroyed cities. It's just a simple tale of redemption and life, which makes "Logan", without question, the best "X-Men" film to date. Much like "The Dark Knight" and "Captain America: Civil War", it stands on it's own as simply a great film, possibly even ranking up with the best superhero films out there. It's certainly the best "X" I've ever had. 4 stars. Rated R for Razor Sharp Language, Slicing And Dicing.
Image: He ain't nothin' but a Rock Dog. Cryin' all the time.
We're all adults here, right? Well, maybe not. Anyway, it's pretty obvious that unless you have very, very little kids, this review is kind of pointless. We do it for the children. You're all going to have them eventually. Lots and lots of them.
"Rock Dog" begins on a snow mountain called....."Snow Mountain", where a magical Tibetan Mastif, "Khampa" (J.K. Simmons), who can shoot fireballs from his paw, has been guarding the village full of Sheep from an evil pack of mafia Wolves and their leader, "Linnux" (Lewis Black). Khampa has been hoping his son, "Bodi" (Luke Wilson) would eventually take over his job as a guard, but Bodi instead wants to be a rocker like his cat idol/rockstar legend, "Angus Scattergood" (Eddie Izzard).
Khampa is convinced by (and no, I'm not making this up) "Fleetwood Yak" (Sam Elliot) to allow Bodi to go into the city to follow his dream. When Bodi arrives in the city, he is met with a less than warm welcome, especially from Angus himself, who hasn't released a song in years. Bodi sets out to get Angus to open up to him and give him guitar lessons, while Linnux sends his bumbling henchmen, "Riff" (Kenan Thompson) and "Skozz" (Who remains silent) to hunt Bodi down.
"Rock Dog" (which is both based on a Chinese graphic novel and made through a Chinese film company. And no, I'm not making that up either), is another one of those silly kids movies that's pretty much just harmlessly bland, nonsensical, and dumb. But it is well intentioned, competently made for the most part. The animation is obviously no where near on par with anything from Disney, Pixar, or any of the major animation studios, though it's colorful and lively enough to look at.
The story is generic, telling decent morals, but it doesn't exactly make a whole lot of sense. There's the magic element that really doesn't play much of a role in the film at all until the end, and the weird setting and locations used in the film just add to the confusion. (Maybe it was all lost in translation. In China it probably makes perfect sense.)
The voice work is serviceable enough, though Luke Wilson's character is fairly bland and uninteresting. We do get some funny moments from Eddie Izzard, Keenan Thompson and Lewis Black, who make the most of the occasional decent gag. The rest of the cast of characters barely register, but at least they all made their kids or small relatives happy.
Other than the stupid "Fleetwood Yak" bit (Not even sure what the joke there was supposed to be), there's nothing too ridiculous about "Rock Dog". The little ones won't be harmed by it, and they'll probably enjoy it. So other than me wishing you'd spend more money on "The Lego Batman Movie" or "Moana", there's nothing to complain about. A movie called "Rock Dog" wasn't shooting anything more anyway. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG For, What, How Can You Offend A 3 Year Old?
Image: "I was Gandhi, beeyatch!"
Just when you think you've seen it all on the film screen, you witness the extraordinary sites of Academy Award winner and artistic genius Sir Anthony Hopkins doing a Sylvester Stallone impression, and fellow Academy Award winner and dramatic legend Sir Ben Kingsley as a fur coat wearing drug pusher. Check those off your movie bucket lists.
"Collide" starts with a former American drug pawn (I'm guessing), "Casey" (Nicholas Hoult) giving up his life of crime working for eccentric/insane drug dealer, "Geran" (Sir Ben Kingsley) in favor of settling down with his new girlfriend, "Juliette" (Felicity Jones).
Some time later, Juliette becomes in need of a kidney transplant, and since Casey is unable to pay for it, he goes back to Geran to pull off one last job for him. Geran wants Casey to steal a truck full of drugs from his sadistic, traitorous partner, "Hagen Kahl" (Sir Anthony Hopkins) .Long, long story short, everything goes horribly wrong. Now Casey is sent on a series of car chases, shoot outs, and explosions to save Juliette, avoid Kahl's goons, and try his best not to accidentally get shot by Geran,
Produced by several production companies, most of them I've never even heard of, "Collide" is that cheap straight to DVD film you find in the back at Walmart that somehow got released in theaters. It's a bizarrely crafted attempt at an action thriller that just feels like a terrible car commercial where all the cars get wrecked beyond repair. The direction by Eran Creevy (No clue who that is either) seems to be going for a form of stylized film making, but I'm not quite sure what kind of style this is meant to be. Weird flash forwards and flashbacks within the same scene, awkward angles, and out of focus lights, it's all more of a distraction than anything.
The dialogue is absolutely atrocious, veering from ridiculously cheesy to strangely goofy. It's hard to tell what's meant to be kinda humorous and what is meant to be taken seriously. It doesn't help that the movie just completely wastes the talented actors that it likely blackmailed to get here. Nicholas Hoult does at least hold onto an American accent, though he has been much more impressive in much better films ("Mad Max: Fur Road"), Felicity Jones has a bit more trouble keeping her accent, though she does make a cute blonde, and while two of the best (and most respected) actors on the planet, Ben Kingsley and Anthony Hopkins ham it up like the pros they are, the script they are reading from and the stupid characters they are playing just make it look embarrassing.
"Collide" is a mess of a film to the point where I honestly had trouble keeping track of what was going on. None of the plot makes any real sense, none of the characters act rationally, and none of these actors are helping their career. Heck, they've probably already forgotten they were in it. Maybe, for their sake, we can too. 1 Star. Rated PG-13 For Collateral Damage, To Both Innocent Characters And Viewers Alike.
Image: Another viewer succumbs to the charms of "La La Land".
Could It finally have happened in my lifetime? A movie finally has achieved a perfect 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and has kept that score till it's opening day! In fact, as I'm writing this review, it's still at a 100%. There isn't any critic that found time to ruin it yet......Wait....Not Armond White! You bastard! You soulless bastard!
"Get Out" begins with a young black man, "Chris" (Daniel Kaluuya) feeling a little paranoid about going on a trip with his white girlfriend, "Rose" (Allison Williams) to meet her parents, "Dean" (Bradley Whitford) and "Missy" (Catherine Keener). But she assures Chris will definitely welcome him with open arms.
But things start to get a little creepy. Rose's parents assure Chris that they did in fact vote for Obama, that they totally love black people, and also just so happen to have black people as their help, who act bizarrely themselves. Chris notices how strange the rest of Rose's family acts, with each of them acting just as disturbingly friendly, with black people as their servants When one of the black servants shouts out to him a quick warning to "Get Out!", Chris finds himself pulled into a horrifying situation that I dare not spoil for anyone.
"Get Out" has a crazy but amazing premise, and it goes in directions you would never expect. Written and Directed by comedian Jordan Peele (from "Key & Peele"), the film brilliantly balances out the humor, horror and most importantly, the satire like a classic filmmaker. The socially relevant points the film makes aren't always obvious, and it leaves the viewer constantly on the edge of your seat, while laughing at whip smart absurdity of it all.
The script is incredibly original, and the, well, messed up imagery and atmosphere are satisfyingly unsettling. At first, the family of white people come across as awkward, which soon turns into creepy, and eventually, terrifying. But in a funny way. "Get Out" never loses it's sense of humor, or it's focus on the film's broader social themes. (And, for once, the main character in a horror film acts EXACTLY how you would act in this situation.)
The whacked out characters are all perfectly cast. Daniel Kaluuya is terrific, growing convincingly more terrified as the film goes (Wouldn't you be?) Allison Williams is perfectly cast as the flawless Rose, while Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford are having a blast as the most f*cked up parents you'll see on screen. Lil Rel Howery (as "Rod", Chris's best friend) is hilarious, and Stephen Root (as a strange blind art dealer) pops up for one of the film's most memorable moments.
As disturbing as "Get Out" plays, I can't say it's particularly scary, but as satire, the film is effective and thoroughly entertaining. It's delightfully twisted, brilliant fun. So I'm very happy such an original film got the coveted 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. (Warning: We are not responsible for anyone ruining the perfect rating after the publishing of this review. Who would possibly be such a jackass?) 3 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Grisly Violence, And For Making Stodgy White People Think.
Image: There's no cure for what he's got.
After all these years of reviewing films, I still have a difficult time rating a film that is more interesting than good. Do I give a good, but uninteresting film 2 1/2 Stars? What if you literally have no idea what you've just watched? It's a burden I wish on no one.
"A Cure for Wellness" begins with a young, ambitious, workaholic executive named "Lockhart" (Dane DeHaan) taking over a position at a financial service office after the last guy dies of a sudden heart attack. Lockhart is forced by his superiors to head over to a spa in the Swiss Alps to track down and bring home the seemingly insane CEO, "Pembroke" (Harry Groener), who refuses to return, believing he has found a so called "Cure".
When Lockhart arrives, he becomes suspicious of the spa, the guests staying there, and the creepy spa director himself, "Dr. Volmer" (Jason Isaacs). Lockhart attempts to leave, only to get into a car crash, resulting in his leg being broken. Despite the claims that the doctors are trying to cure him, Lockhart eventually stumbles upon (Or believes he does) a disturbing conspiracy involving the patrons, workers, life essence, and a mysterious young girl, "Hannah" (Mia Goth). Also, lots of eels. Lots and lots of slippery eels.
"A Cure For Wellness" is.....Something. I just haven't decided exactly what. The ideas are genuinely interesting, and Director Gore Verbinski certainly has always had a flair for imagery. But after a while it feels as if that's all there is to the film. Mood and style isn't near enough for a near two and a half hour movie that wears on you more and more as it goes. The film is purposely out of structure, repeating scenes and images out of order, which is both unnecessary and confusing.
Dane DeHaan is one of the better young actors around, and he's very good here, giving a fully committed performance. Jason Isaacs plays up the creep factor to the hilt and looks like he's having a ball, while Mia Goth is oddly and endearingly strange.
The film suffers toward it's finale, with seemingly no idea how it wants to end or where it wants to go. It's big reveal isn't as shocking as it should have been, proving "A Cure For Wellness" is too clever for it's own good. Yes, the movie made me think. Just mostly about my own critical criteria. And this, I must wrestle with alone. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated R Disturbing Images, Disturbing Nudity, And Disturbing Eels In Disturbing Water.
Image: Save us MYATT DAYMIN!
There are so many things wrong with "The Great Wall" that outside controversies (Historical whitewashing, the white dude in the lead role in a blockbuster Chinese movie, etc.), and I only have so much time, so , in a nutshell....Yes, I wish they they didn't feel they needed a major American white actor to sell the film....No, I didn't expect to see the true story of slave labor and mass death involved in the building of the real wall....And no, none of this has anything to do with what's wrong with this film.
"The Great Wall" tells the "True story" of why the Great Wall of China was built. A group of men, in search of "Black Powder" (aka Gunpowder) are attacked by some kind of Lizard/Dragon hybrids, leaving only "William" (Matt Damon) and "Tovar" (Pedro Pascal) to escape over to the Great Wall, where they are taken in by the soldiers guarding it.
Turns out the wall was built to keep out these "Bad Hombres" and now William and Tovar are forced into the battle. While Tovar secretly just wants to steal the gunpowder and leave, William slowly starts to see a reason to stay and fight, partly due to the fact that the female commander, "Lin" (Jing Tian) is pretty cute. So the Army prepares for battle against the slimy Dragon monsters, hoping to find a way to finally destroy them.
"The Great Wall" starts off with promise, with a cool first action scene that Director Zhang Yimou delivers with visual flair. The creatures are original looking, and the weapons and battle tactics are unique to say the least (I never would have come up with it.) And as soon as the the first battle ends, the tedium begins. Boredom sets in. And that's when you realize that the film makers may not have thought past the neat idea of monsters attacking a wall.
The film doesn't bother to develop any of it's characters. When someone kicks the bucket, you won't care because you won't remember who it was. The storytelling is sloppy, seemingly not knowing where it's leading. and yet it all ends exactly how you think it will. The monsters and the idea may be original, but nothing else about "The Great Wall" is.
It probably isn't surprising that Matt Damon doesn't exactly give his greatest performance here. His accent is a strange hybrid of sorts, and it's questionable at best (I'm not sure what anyone could have done with this, to be fair.) Willem Dafoe (as "Sir Ballard", another traveler in search on gunpowder) pops up for a paycheck and hams it up accordingly, Jing Tian is cute but plenty tough, and Pedro Pascal sneaks in the film's only humor and the film's only personality.
"The Great Wall" is huge, so to speak, and I'm sure they were going for something grand here. But the execution is choppy, and shockingly lazy for such an expensive film. It's a grand epic that is only a grand epic fail. Any more time spent on the outside social controversy should be saved for a better time and a far more interesting movie. Oh, and MYATT DAYMIN! 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 for Violence and Shoving Dragons In Your Face.
Image: "But sir, he won't stop scowling at me."
"Fist Fight" is a joke. No, seriously. The joke is in the movie title. Just like "Office Christmas Party", and "Ride Along". Like "Bad Moms" and "Dirty Grandpa". If you like the idea of hilarious hijinks surrounding an office Christmas party, then you get the joke. "Fist Fight" is about a fist fight between two teachers. Sound funny?
If you want a little more detail, "Fist Fight" is about possibly the most violent, chaotic, downright dangerous high school in the history of mankind. On the last day of school, all the students perform elaborate (and definitely illegal) pranks on all the teachers and faculty.
One of the teachers, "Andy Campbell" (Charlie Day), who is pretty much a wimp who lets everyone walk all over him, witnesses another teacher, "Ron Strickland" (Ice Cube), a violent, angry, lunatic, lose his sh*t over a prank by smashing a desk with a fire axe. The school principal (Dean Norris) threatens to fire one of them, so Campbell snitches on Strickland, who challenges Campbell to a fist fight after school. For the remaining hours left, Campbell begins looking for any reason he can avoid getting his ass kicked.
And that's the joke. "Fist Fight" just fills in an hour and a half running time around the premise. The hope is that the joke works, and once in a while it does. Though most of the film is padding, there are a few moments here and there that are funny and provide some mild amusement. There's nothing original here, but there at least a couple of cast members who play off the joke well and milk enough laughs out of the silliness.
Charlie Day is hands down the funniest part of the film, bringing in the biggest laughs, and when all else fails, his incredibly high vocal pitch will keep you from dozing off. Ice Cube scowls and growls like a pro, and has a few funny reactions out of it, while Tracy Morgan (as "Coach Freddie", a constantly shouting coach), Jillian Bell (as "Holly", the drug addict guidance counselor) and Christina Hendricks (as "Miss Monet", the hottest and most sadistic drama teacher you'll ever see), all make the most of their outrageous characters.
It's the cartoonishness of "Fist Fight" that helps (or prevents) you from taking any of this even remotely seriously. So when the jokes land, it's fine. When they don't, you roll your eyes in amazement that they can keep churning out profitable movies based on one joke. Then again, if we took this seriously, then we'd be wondering how everyone at the school wouldn't have died and or been arrested. 2 Stars. Rated R For Constant, Never Ending Bad Language, And For The Blood That Will Pour Out Of Your Ear When Charlie Day Raises His Voice To An Inhuman Frequency.
Image: Yeah, I guess he's back.
"John Wick", and it's sequel defies the odds in every way imaginable. They have brought an energy, originality and technique to an action genre that sorely needed it. And they have created a character, a (Former) hired killer, who is as likable and accessible as Mary Poppins. Amazing.
"John Wick: Chapter 2" starts off by tying up loose ends, with former Hitman "John Wick" (Keanu Reeves), a.k.a."The Bogeyman", taking back his car (or what remains of it) and making "peace" with "Abram Tarasov" (Peter Stormare), the brother of "Viggo Tarasov" (The villain from the first film). Wick hopes to finally retire in peace with his new doggy, but an old "Friend" that he owes a blood oath to, "Santino D'Antonio" (Riccardo Scamarcio), wants John to assassinate his sister, "Gianna" (Claudia Gerini), so that he can take her place with the other high level crime lords.
But John wants nothing to do with it, so D'Antonio decides to blow up his house. (The dog makes it out okay though). John is now forced to head over to Rome and go through with the assassination. But D'Antonio has plans to double cross John, sending out a $7 million contract on him, bringing out the worst assassins out there to attempt to kill him, including Gianna's loyal bodyguard, "Cassian" (Common) and D'Antonio's mute henchwoman, "Ares" (Ruby Rose).
It shouldn't come as a surprise that "John Wick: Chapter 2" is even better than the terrific first film, which was the ultimate surprise. It brings the same breathtaking, and brutally beautiful film making ability, but it's so well choreographed that it makes the violence and mayhem almost poetic and downright Shakespearean. It's like an interpretive dance. With blood.
"John Wick 2" would be almost preposterous in lesser hands. But Director Chad Stahelski (Co-Director of the last film) continues to expand on this violent, surreal world, and it's a fascinating place, with colorful characters and a macabre sense of humor.
Keanu Reeves has discovered a Hell of a second career with these films, and he's downright terrific in this role, eliciting great sympathy and relatability for a guy who can kill with nothing but a pencil. And kudos to Common for making his Hitman interesting as well (These guys could be you or me. Sort of.) Riccardo Scamarcio plays up the smarm with relish, while Ian McShane (Returning as "Winston", the Manager of The Continental/Hitman Hotel) chews up and spits out his dialogue with his usual charm. Ruby Rose is fully capable and a lot of fun, and "Matrix" fans are sure to be thrilled to have Laurence Fishburne (as "The Bowery King", an underground crime lord) reunite with "Neo", and he's an absolute blast here.
"John Wick: Chapter 2" is the almost unheard of superior action sequel, and a thrilling continuation to what should be a long, ongoing franchise with the film's ending setting things up perfectly. See, it isn't that difficult to make a great action movie. All you need is a simple story about a man and his dog. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated R For Gloriously Sexy Violence.
Image: "I'll have what she's having."
It's all right. This isn't our first time. we'll make it a quickie.
"Fifty Shades Darker" opens sometime after the last one with "Anastasia Steele" (Dakota Johnson) now working for her creepy, obviously evil boss named (And I'm not joking here), "Mr. Hyde" (Eric Johnson), who totally wants to sexually harass her. Ana runs into her also creepy, but totally hunky and rich (So it's okay) ex-boyfriend, "Christian Grey" (Jamie Dornan), who wants Ana back and even says that he is willing to change his kinky, dominating ways just for her.
So pretty much the rest of the two hour runtime is just watching these two go at it like a bunch of horny rabbits while insisting that they make a good couple, despite the many, many ,many flaws with the basic idea of this entire relationship existing. Also, there's also a pointless subplot, something to do with Christian's former lover, "Elena" (Kim Basinger), and the return of one of Christian's now loony, former submissives, "Leila" (Bella Heathcote).
I'm not sure which is worse. The fact that "Fifty Shades Darker" may be even worse than "Fifty Shades of Grey", or that it may beat "The Lego Batman Movie" at the box office (Seriously. What the Hell?) "Darker" is even more painful and unsatisfying than the first time (I didn't think it was supposed to happen that way.) The film drips along through an incredibly needlessly long, and extended time. By the end, it isn't good for anyone. There's not even a climax, really. It just sort of peters out, only leaving us exhausted, awkward and embarrassed.
And whoever wrote the atrocious dialogue should be punished, but i'm guessing the writers would enjoy it more than I would. "Darker" is even more painful to listen to than to watch. The one bright spot is Dakota Johnson, who at least is trying to rise to the occasion and above the limp material, despite the film's best efforts to sabotage her. But Jamie Dornan still can get up for the role, looking again like he's just going through the motion. Johnson and Dornan still have zero chemistry with each other. The rest of the actors, characters and subplots do nothing but pad the film's length, unnecessary devices that don't provide any satisfaction.
All of my bad puns aside, why is it okay to celebrate a "Relationship" that comes across as nothing but abusive and downright dangerous. Seriously, everything I've been taught about relationships shows me how wrong all of this is, and i'm not talking about the cheesy sex scenes (There may be a few more of them. But bigger isn't better. At least in this case.) The film is shoddy, shallow sh*t. If you're into that kind of thing. 1/2 A Star. Rated R For Graphic Sexual Content And Kinkiness.
Image: "Top this, Affleck!"
I can only imagine how difficult it is to be a Superhero. To constantly be on the move, going from one crisis to another. But always faced with bone crushing responsibility. These are perfect times for a Superhero. Even if he's only made of plastic blocks.
"The Lego Batman Movie" begins with the Lego version of "Bruce Wayne/Batman" (Will Arnett), Gotham City's egotistical, loner Superhero. He has just saved the city from his archenemy, "The Joker" (Zach Galifianakis), whose feelings are hurt since Batman told him that there is "nothing special between them". Things starts to take a turn for Batman after the retirement of "Commissioner Gordon" (Héctor Elizondo), who is replaced by his daughter, "Barbara" (Rosario Dawson), who wants the police force to team up with Batman (Who insists that he works alone.).
To make things more complicated, Batman learns that he accidentally adopted young, wide eyed orphan, "Dick Grayson" (Michael Cera). Batman's butler, "Alfred" (Ralph Fiennes) demands that he take care of and bond with the youngster, while Joker plots to get into the Phantom Zone to release all of the Lego universe's deadliest villains, in hopes of finally getting Batman to acknowledge their unspoken bond.
I'll make it easy for you. If you loved "The Lego Movie", then you'll love "The Lego Batman Movie". The film has the same fun, sarcastic, yet still sweet sense of humor. Both movies are just pure happiness. The dialogue is incredibly intelligent, with the jokes flying at you fast and furious from all angles The story is the perfect fantasy for kids of all ages. Think of "The Lego Batman Movie" as the ultimate mashup of your own personal playtime, only with a better script.
The animation is ridiculously cool to look at and impossibly gorgeous, constantly moving from colorful scene to colorful scene. The action scenes are wholly original and with the Legos, the possibilities are endless. You literally will not see anything else like it on screen.
Will Arnett was born to be a plastic Superhero. His Batman is snide and kind of jerky, but still plenty lovable and hilarious. Michael Cera is a perfect fit for Robin, and his relationship with Batman is kind of adorable. Zach Galifinakis is as funny (And strangely cuddly) as you'll see in a Joker. Rosario Dawson makes her Barbara uniquely her own, while Ralph Fiennes is a warm, wise and embracing Alfred.
There are a whole bunch of supporting cast and cameos in "The Lego Batman Movie" that deserve mention, but it kind of ruins the surprise if I talk about them too much (The film is a geek paradise.) In fact, there's just too much about "Lego Batman" that I want you to discover for yourself. Hidden underneath the goofy fun is a touching emotional core to both "Lego" films. These are the perfect films to watch together as a family, because there is something awesome for everyone. There, once again I have saved the day. Stay tuned for our next issue, where your intrepid hero faces off against "Fifty Shades Darker" Will he survive? Probably not. 4 Stars. Rated PG For Being Just Too Gosh Darn Funny.
Image: The "Hell's Angels" are getting a lot cuter.
Imagine such fine films like "The Fault in Our Stars" and "The Perks of Being a Wallflower", but without anything and everything that made those films entertaining or charming......or good.
"The Space Between Us" begins with a NASA expedition headed by "Nathaniel Shepherd" (Gary Oldman) to colonize Mars. But one of the astronauts, "Sarah Elliot" (Janet Montgomery) discovers she is pregnant, then dies while giving birth. The decision is made to keep this all a secret from the public.
16 years later, the child, "Gardner" (Asa Butterfield), has been living on Mars, knowing nothing of Earth aside from an online relationship with a pretty high school girl, "Tulsa" (Britt Robertson). Shepherd is eventually convinced by Gardner's parental guardian on Mars, "Kendra" (Carla Cugino) to allow Gardner to finally come to Earth, despite what the possible effects Earth's gravity might have on his body. Once on Earth, Gardner escapes and finds his way to Tulsa (The person. Not the place) and asks for her help in tracking down his real father.
"The Space Between Us" does have an solid and interesting premise, but relies way to heavily on the outline of far superior movies. Teen love and angst, a darker subtext, a soundtrack of songs only your teenage daughter would know, etc. "Space" lacks a sold script, with dialogue filled with overblown sentimentality and awkward attempts at humor.
The film isn't able to develop it's characters, despite it's fine cast. Asa Butterfield and Britt Robertson are likable actors, but there isn't remotely enough chemistry to carry the film (The fact that Robertson is several years older than the boyish looking Butterfield doesn't help.) Gary Oldman could walk out of a porno with his greatness unscathed, so he gets a pass, and Carla Gugino provides plenty of maternal warmth, but B.D.Wong (as "Tom", the Genesis Director) is criminally underused.
"The Space Between Us" feels like a studio creation specifically manufactured for a quick buck, with it all leading to a plot reveal that does nothing but present questions the film has no intentions of answering. Also, I'm not particularly good at all that Science stuff, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't work this way. It's just impossible to take any of "Space" seriously. He should have just stayed on Mars. 1 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content, And An Astonishing Amount Of Auto Theft.
Image: "You be a good boy and I won't throw you in the water."
So I suppose it would be pretty much impossible to get out of having to talk about the bit of controversy surrounding this film, right? I'll get there.
"A Dog's Purpose" follows the life (or lives) of a dog (voiced by Josh Gad). In his first life, he is named "Bailey" and develops a close relationship with his owner, "Ethan". Bailey helps Ethan through his difficult family life and his relationship with a cute girl, "Hannah" (Britt Robertson), all while questioning the world around him and his purpose in life.
When Bailey eventually passes away, he is reincarnated, this time as a female German Shepherd, "Ellie", who serves as a police dog to a lonely officer, "Carlos" (John Ortiz). When Ellie also dies (Whole lotta death in this), she is reincarnated again, this time as "Tino", now owned by a shy woman, "Maya" (Kirby Howell-Baptiste). Only to die yet again, to be reborn as "Buddy", who finds his way back to a now older "Ethan" (Dennis Quaid).
"A Dog's Purpose" is designed to be a tearjerker (Think Nicholas Sparks. But with dogs. Or the show "Quantum Leap". But with dogs.) But this film at least has a brisk pace, and a few effective moments that are sure to get to any dog lover. But though the book may be have been a best seller, the film's end result is a sloppy mess. It's oddly structured narrative doesn't give the viewer any time to absorb the different "Lives" of the dog, or the humans they meet.
The dog, or dogs themselves are predictably adorable (I've never given a bad review to a dog), and they help make "A Dog's Purpose" fairly watchable, and getting Josh Gad to voice the main dog is pretty inspired (Adam Sandler? Nick Nolte? Gad's a pretty good choice.) As far as the humans, there's not enough time given to them for the audience to connect, though Britt Robertson is predictably adorable.
So you've heard about the trainer who threw the dog in the water on the set of the film, right? What did or didn't happen doesn't really affect the film, though from my perspective, yeah, the guy was forcing a dog into the water that wanted, in that moment, no part of it (Imagine forcing a child in the same circumstance). And that's not okay. But boycotting seems a bit much. No one seems to condone it, and the filmmakers seem genuinely upset, so that helps. The throw the trainer in the water and be done with it.
"A Dog's Purpose" is fine for it's intended audience, if not a bit dark for younger audiences who may have trouble handling all the death in the film. There was probably a better movie to be made, with filmmakers who could have kept the film more organized. Maybe they just needed a treat. Who's a good boy! 2 Stars. Rated PG For For More Dog Death Than Your Local Dog Pound.
Image: Vin Diesel desperately races towards "Fast and Furious 8"
I'll give this movie credit for something. It gave me a new appreciation for the deep intellect and Shakespearean like dialogue of the "Fast and Furious" franchise. Those films may be silly, dumb popcorn entertainment. But I admit that the franchise has heart, and a weird charm to go with all the stupidity.
"xXx: The Return of Xander Cage" begins with NSA Agent "Gibbons" (Samuel L. Jackson) getting a satellite dropped on him due to a superweapon device thingy known as "Pandora's Box", which is now in the hands of criminal, "Xiang" (Donnie Yen). So CIA agent, "Jane Marke" (Toni Collette) enlists the help of the thought to be dead extreme athlete/government agent, "Xander Cage" (Vin Diesel), also known as "xXx" (Because he likes extreme stuff. And porn.)
Cage brings in his own team of extremists, including nut job car crasher "Tennyson" (Rory McCann), expert sharpshooter "Adele Wolff" (Ruby Rose), and (for some reason) a DJ named "Zhou" (Kris Wu) to track down Xiang's gang and get back the device before someone else gets a satellite dropped on their head.
Good Lord. It's alright that "xXx: The Return of Xander Cage" aspires to be nothing more than big, stupid, musclebound action. And that's kind of commendable (I'm trying to be generous) since they embrace it and stick to it the whole way through. The problem is that there isn't very much that's interesting about the film, (These extreme stunts have grown old fast) and the dialogue and characters come across as snotty and unlikable, which doesn't really give you any reason to care much for anything that's happening.
Vin Diesel doesn't really do a bad job in the film. It's just that his character's "Badassery" and "Coolness" come across as more annoying than anything else. Toni Collette seems to be having as much fun as an Oscar nominated actress can have in a movie like this. Same goes for Samuel L. Jackson, who is in way to little of the film (Every film he's in needs more Samuel L. Jackson.) Donnie Yen plays hands down the best character (His martial arts are incredibly impressive), though why they would make the gorgeous Nina Dobrev (as "Becky", the nerdy tech girl) into the comic relief makes little sense.
The plot (and I use that term loosely) of "xXx 3" is basically a series of over the top action scenes that, despite being well shot, are totally ludicrous to the point of being laughable. So while it's impossible to take any of it seriously, I can't seem to muster up any anger frustration either. It is what it is. Now Vin Diesel doing Shakespeare? Now that would be exciting. 2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Extreme Everything.
Image: I'm guessing he shaved his head a little to close.
So M. Night Shyamalan, the guy who made "The Last Airbender" and "The Happening", used to be good? The guy who brought us "After Earth"? That guy? I guess it's time to finally watch "The Sixth Sense".
"Split" begins with the seemingly random abduction of three young girls, a quiet outsider named "Casey" (Anya Taylor-Joy), along with her BFFs "Claire" (Haley Lu Richardson) and "Marcia" (Jessica Sula). They are locked into a windowless, underground room with no way of escaping.
Their captor, "Kevin" (James McAvoy) suffers from DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder), with 23 different personalities living inside him. Three of the personalities, "Dennis", the germophobic leader, "Patricia" an odd English woman, and "Hedwig" a disturbed 9 year old boy claim that the three girls are going to be used for a strange ritual involving a mysterious 24th personality known as "The Beast". Its up to Casey to figure a way of escaping before the personalities enact their plan and the Beast arrives.
"Split" could have gone wrong in so many ways. The premise is, to say the least, pretty out there, and the script could have taken the silly, easy route. But Shyamalan, who wrote and directed the film, creates suspense from the first scene and never lets up. Yet "Split" allows character and story development, as well as bizarre humor to develop, helping make an unsettling premise into an exciting (and yet still very unsettling) movie.
The split personalities of the villain are all given great detail and unique characteristics. This is where "Split" could have gone off the rails (Or been incredibly disrespectful), but Shyamalan keeps things grounded in a weird form of reality, in no small part to the astonishing performance by James McAvoy (Is It Too Late For A 2016 Oscar Nomination?) McAvoy is absolutely brilliant in an absurdly difficult role, and he makes each of his "Characters" impossible to turn away from. Anna Taylor-Joy and Betty Buckley are excellent as well, bringing great empathy to roles that are also extremely well written and respectful.
There are a story element or two in "Split" that don't quite flow convincingly, but it all comes together by the frighting climax, and the ending certainly eaves things open for interpretation and discussion . Let's put it this way. There is a Shyamalan twist, but one no one seemed to see coming. All I will say is that I need to watch "The Sixth Sense" and "Unbreakable" ASAP. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For As Many Disturbing Themes And Images As Allowed In A PG-13 Film.
Image: The tall guy is a real lady killer.
This review is as much for me as it is for the rest of you Anime lovers. I may be a little behind on this particular anime (About 400 episodes behind. I'll get there.) But I think I get for the most part what's going on. Plus this was a much better way to start off the new year for me then having to deal with the typical dumping ground we get with January movies ("The Bye Bye Man"?)
"One Piece Film: Gold" opens with the arrival of the "Straw Hat Pirates", a large entertainment city/ship made out of gold called "Gran Tereso". The crew includes rubberman captain "Monkey D. Luffy" (Colleen Clinkenbeard), skilled swordsman "Roronoa Zoro" (Christopher R. Sabat), money loving navigator "Nami" (Luci Christian), long nosed marksman "Usopp" (Sonny Strait), cool cook "Sanji" (Eric Vale), adorable talking reindeer "Chopper" (Brina Palencia), calm archaeologist "Nico Robin" (Stephanie Young), cyborg shipwright "Franky" (Patrick Seitz), and Afro skeleton guy "Brook" (Ian Sinclair).
The crew is offered VIP status and a chance to win millions at the casino, only to discover that its all an elaborate scheme to steal all they have set up by the evil ruler of the city, "Gild Tesoro" (Keith Silverstein), who has the power to manipulate gold. Tesoro takes Zoro hostage and demands that the crew pay him back what they've lost or else Zoro will be executed. One of Tesoro's henchwoman, "Carina" (Michaele Knotz), reveals herself to be an old acquaintance of Nami, teaming up with the crew in hopes of stealing Tesoro's riches, save Zoro, and the rest of the city's citizens who also lost everything and have been forced into slavery.
Let me try to explain this weird and wonderful movie. First, it's not for everybody, clearly. But for fans of the series, the film is a complete blast. The action never stops, and though it's incredibly frenetic, it's also incredibly colorful and visually stunning (I'm curious to know the film's budget. That's a lot of "Yen".) The different styles of animation mashed together, along with the overall scope of the film, is exhausting but exhilarating.The cast and characters all still have great chemistry and bring a clear sense of fun to their roles. The villain is pretty intimidating and we get plenty of enjoyable new characters
The action scenes are thoroughly over the top, but they are exciting. Still all of this madness and mayhem wears you out after a while. "One Piece" is a bit too long, even for me. The film is (At least, I think) trying to provide a message about money and class, the poor being slaves to the rich, etc. It's all kind of drowned out in the cartoonishness, but at least they gave it a shot.
"One Piece Film:Gold" has a lot of heart and a bizarre sense of humor, and it's not really all that hard to follow (My cousin seemed to enjoyed it without understanding a lick of it.) But I doubt I'll get too many converts to give it a shot. If you do, just look at as kind of a psychedelic trip. Its nothing deep or special, but as the film's villain says: "That's what you call entertainment!" 3 Stars. No Film Rating, Though I'd Suggest PG-13, For Bulging Muscles, Heaving Bosoms, And One Character Who Is A Proud Pervert.