Image: Behold one of the Lord's majestic creatures.
Since this last weekend was apparently the worst box office weekend in over 15 years, and this week could possibly be worst considering there are no new movies of importance being released, I decided to do my first ever, Netflix movie review. They've been doing movies for a while now, but are only recently becoming more and more popular. So instead of getting dressed, heading to the dark theater to watch 15 to 20 minutes of trailers before the movie actually starts while one guy messes with his phone the entire time in front of you, I will lay on the carpet, turn up the volume as much as my computer will allow, and watch a movie on that somewhat dirty screen that I've neglected to clean. While in my underwear.
"Death Note" takes place in Seattle, where an old black book falls from the sky and ends up in the hands of a weird high school student, "Light Turner" (Nat Wolff). Light ends up getting his ass kicked by a bully and winds up by himself in detention where he is visited by the spiny, sharp teethed, God of death, "Ryuk" (Voiced by Willem Dafoe). Ryuk explains to Light that the book is known as "The Death Note", where you can write any person's name in it and they will end up dying by the means you write down. After causing the gruesome death of the bully who previously beat him up, Light decides to use the book to get revenge on the person responsible for the death of his mother years earlier.
Light ends up revealing to the cute cheerleader, "Mia" (Margaret Qualley) the Death Note, who finds this whole situation totally hot, and the two of them use the Death Note to start killing off criminals, terrorists, rapists, and other terrible people, while going under the name "Kira". Kira's many killings attract the attention of eccentric detective, "L" (Lakeith Stanfield) and his assistant, "Watari" (Paul Nakauchi), who are determined to bring Kira to justice. Eventually things start to get out of hand, with Light failing to understand what powers he's toying with, Mia starting to seriously getting way to into all this, and Ryuk just sitting back, munching on apples, and screwing with everyone.
Based on a beloved Manga (Japanese Comic, basically) and a beloved anime (Japanese Cartoon, basically), "Death Note" has already gotten controversy and hate from fans due to accusations of whitewashing, which we are not going to get into because it's really not worth it. Since I know nothing about the source material, I'm just going to judge it as a movie on it's own, and for the most part, its fine. There are things here and there that do work well, such as Adam Wingard's stylized direction and love for creepy imagery, but despite some cool set pieces, the film is trying way too hard to please everyone, so much that some of it just doesn't mesh together properly. (Such as a character in Seattle actually being named Light. That's just.....stupid.)
"Death Note" has so much story to cram into a measly hour and forty minutes that at times the pacing rushes through moments that should feel more important or developed. There is potential here, and sometimes the movie fully embraces it, such as the horrifically (And damn near cartoonishly) violent deaths that (Unlike earlier this year's "Wish Upon") goes all out in the gore and actually shows that the movie has a sense of humor about itself, and the story itself is fascinating with a few fun characters.
Nat Wolff is not exactly a bad choice for this characters, but the movie has troubled defining him as simply a well intentioned extremist who just loses control of the book, or a complete psycho who lets the power go to his head. His relationship with Margaret Qualley takes up way too much screen time, and she doesn't give a compelling enough performance to justify her character's later actions. (Which only leads to a completely obvious plot twist.) Our best characters (And if you ask me, would of actually made for more interesting protagonists) come from a delightfully bizarre, yet brilliant Lakeith Stanfield and Paul Nakauchi, who have an enjoyable Sherlock Holmes/Watson type relationship that is much more interesting than our actual main characters. Shea Wingham (as "James Turner", Light's caring police officer father) gives a very heartfelt performance and Willem Dafoe just steals whatever scene he's in, remaining thoroughly creepy, yet surprisingly funny at the same time. (Also Ryuk is a rather impressive effect)
"Death Note" comes to a pretty clever conclusion, that's actually fairly original for a movie like this. The film doesn't seem to be taking itself too seriously, but sadly only occasionally discusses the moral dilemma of the situation and what someone would do with this power if they acquired it (Though I could be completely trusted with it). I'm assuming the movie changed quite a bit, yet tried to keep so much at the same time, and it honestly feels as if the movie just should of been it's own thing. It makes for something flawed, but enjoyable. But much like most anime adaptations or remakes, you just can't help feeling that there is a better version of it already in existence. And now, maybe I should put my pants on. 2 1/2 stars. Rated R For F-Bombs And Gorey Splatters.
Image: "You have offended my Dragon....Prepare to die!"
I'm gonna tell you a story that's all about Steve. Yeah. good old Steve. Steve was a cool dude, who trained with Bruce Lee, apparently. You know Bruce Lee right? That uninteresting guy who knew some sort of epic fighting style. Nah, you don't care about him. You want some Steve. What? Did you come to see Bruce Lee? Too bad. This movie is all about Steve.
Based on a fictional account of a possibly true (Or maybe not true) story of a fight that may or may not of happened (Try to figure that one out), where in 1965, martial artist icon, "Bruce Lee" (Philip Ng) has been teaching Americans the art of Kung Fu. When a famous, but disgraced Shaolin monk, "Wong Jack Man" (Xia Yu) arrives, the different ideologies between the teachers leads to an epic fight between the two. Wong place. Wong time.
But that's not important. What is important is Lee's student, "Steve McKee" (Billy Magnussen), who ends up wanting to be trained by Wong Jack Man instead of Lee. After learning that his love interest, "Xiulan" (Jingjing Qu) is being held hostage by the evil gangster woman, "Auntie Blossom" (Jin Xing), who threatens to sell her into prostitution, it turns out Steve is the one who is forced to arrange the fight so Xuilan can be allowed to go free. I'm positive this all happened.
"Birth of the Dragon" makes little to no sense, with the story becoming more preposterous as it goes along, especially when we reach the over the top climax. I know its all meant to be a homage to classic martial arts films like the ones Bruce Lee starred in. But when your movie is meant to be set in reality, there is no way any of this happened the way its presented.
It's too bad because Philip Ng and Xia Yu are not bad in this movie, with Ng providing plenty of charisma as the famous martial artist/actor and Xia Yu bringing genuine charm to his role. You do see potential in the conflict of ideologies and the actual fight (Which is well choreographed) between them is the only moment worth recommending. Too bad the movie decides to focus more on Billy Magnussen, who is quite possibly the most boring actor I have ever seen. His relationship with Jingjing Qu is unnecessary, stupid, and lacks any chemistry. And the less you need to know about the cartoonish villains, the better.
Cheaply made and poorly constructed, "Birth of the Dragon" is one of those "What the Hell is this?" kind of movies. The choices that the filmmakers made and what they decided their final product should look like is nothing short of bizarre and at times, downright insane. Worst of all, its all just pointless, with little actual reason to exist. Other than to give the nonexistent Steve his time to shine. 1 star. Rated PG-13 For Some Kung Fu Fighting And No Logic Or Reality.
Image: "If I let you go, just flap your arms really, really hard!"
So this movie has a bit of a weird history. At least in terms of it's title. English language, yet produced through a French/Canadian company, the film was originally "Ballerina" in other countries with a slightly different voice cast. Meant to be released earlier this year, under the new name "Leap!", with a couple late additions to the cast, the movie somehow has found a way to get two separate Rotten Tomatoes scores. It seems like a lot of overkill for a little animated film like this.
Taking place in the late 1800s, "Leap!" starts with a young orphan, " Félicie" (Elle Fanning), who only has a music box to remember her mother (Kate McKinnon). She dreams of becoming a ballerina alongside her best friend, "Victor" (Nat Wolff), who wants to become an inventor. (He also has a bit of a crush on Félicie). The "Mother Superior" (also Kate McKinnon) and the supervisor of the orphanage, "M. Luteau" (Mel Brooks) assure Félicie and Victor that their dreams should remain just dreams and nothing more. One night, Victor gets a "Brilliant" plan to escape, using makeshift wings, resulting in him and Félicie making their way to Paris, where there is a school for the "Paris Opera Ballet".
After getting separated from Victor, Félicie meets a cleaner with a limp, "Odette" (Carly Rae Jepsen), who works for an evil, wealthy restaurant owner, "Régine Le Haut" (Kate McKinnon. Again!), who is determined to get her dancer daughter, "Camille" (Maddie Ziegler) into the upcoming rendition of "The Nutcracker". Since Camille is nearly as awful as her mother, Félicie pretends to be her, becoming a part of a dance class, run by the strict instructor "Mérante" (Terrence Scammell), who intends to eliminate a girl every class until he decides who will get the part. With help from Odette, who agrees to help properly train her, Félicie slowly starts to improve and becoming the ballerina she's always dreamed of.
Despite confusion over naming and dubbing, "Leap!" is actually a fine little kids movie that never strays from the predictable path of it's story, yet at least feels well made and comes across as genuinely heartfelt. The animation is nothing spectacular, but the film is certainly pretty to look at with plenty of detail added to the characters and their clothing, with a nice use of lighting and it's setting along with it's unique character designs. (Even if Félicie does look like a mini version of Anna from "Frozen".)
Sometimes some of the American based dubbing feels a little off (And added in at the last second), but the film overall does have some good characters with Elle Fanning making for a likable lead, and Nat Wolff getting a few good laughs in. The adorable voiced Carly Ray Jepsen, who also provides the movie's main song ("Cut to the Feeling"), actually does a pretty solid job (And that song is catchy as Hell.) Maddie Zeigler is suitably bratty, and we get fun supporting work from Terrence Scammell and the great Mel Brooks (Who obviously feels like a late addition, but its always nice to hear him doing voicework). While its not necessary for Kate McKinnon to be voicing three characters (Though I'm guessing that's just a normal day for her), her work as the villain is surprisingly wicked. (Even if it gets a little weird later in the movie)
There are a few silly moments probably added for the American release, and the film's out of nowhere dark climax is a bit jarring (As are the use of pop songs, that feel completely out of place), For the most part, "Leap!" (Or "Ballerina") is a rather unremarkable movie in terms of story. However, the film has a good heart, teaches positive messages, and most importantly, the kids will probably love it. (Especially young girls). The film sets out to do one job and it does it well. Whatever you want to call it. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG For Some Occasional Adult Humor And Attempted Homicide. Seriously. It's Pretty Disturbing.
Image: "I will not be typecast"!
Sorry about taking so long to see this movie. Once in a great while, I do have other things in my life other than movies. Had a trip to Animefest in Dallas, waited in line after line, heard the "Yuri on Ice" theme song more times than I ever thought I would, and apparently there was even a mini riot. So, fun weekend. But for me, it's back to work. And by work, I mean watching movies and ranting about them online for zero profit whatsoever. I need a get rich quick scheme.
"Logan Lucky" starts with rednecky laborer/former convict, "Jimmy Logan" (Channing Tatum) getting fired from his job due to a permanent limp. He also has to deal with custody issues with his ex-wife, "Bobbie" (Katie Holmes) over his daughter, "Sadie" (Farrah Mackenzie), who looks up to Jimmy. After a mishap with a pompous Brit, "Max Chilblain" (Seth MacFarlane) at a bar owned by his one armed veteran brother, "Clyde" (Adam Driver), Jimmy gets the idea to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Teaming up with their sister, "Mellie" (Riley Keough), they begin to set up their scheme, planning to break out a currently incarcerated/slightly off his rocker, former safecracker, "Joe Bang" (Daniel Craig) to use his "Brilliance" to help pull off the heist. With extra help from Joe's equally strange brothers, "Sam" (Brian Gleeson) and "Fish" (Jack Quaid), the siblings proceed with their plan, involving pipelines, jail riots, gummi bears, and Nascar.
Seemingly dumb and convoluted at first, "Logan Lucky" actually comes together nicely once it's all explained to the audience. Our main characters may have silly voices and say weird, rednecky things, but they're actually pretty brilliant and come across as good people just trying to make a living. (Sure they're stealing from Nascar, but who hasn't thought about doing that? I'm considering it right now.) Director Steven Soderbergh takes the movie down the standard heist movie route, but finds a way to make it fresh and fun.
Channing Tatum and Adam Driver have great chemistry together, committing to the absurdity of their characters and actually injecting some genuine heart into them. Rile Keough is also quite good (And thoroughly adorable), with a hilarious Daniel Craig stealing every scene he's in and showing that he is a much more versatile actor than we give him credit for. We get a great selection of actors in memorable supporting roles, including Seth MacFarlane at his most cartoonishly douchey, Sebastian Stan (as "Dayton White", a health obsessed Nascar driver), Dwight Yoakam (as "Warden Burns", the prison warden who refuses to acknowledge anything is wrong), Brian Gleeson, Jack Quaid, Katie Holmes, Katherine Waterson (as "Sylvia", a nurse/love interest to Jimmy), and Hilary Swank (as "Agent Grayson", an FBI agent who cares way too much about this investigation), who all have an important part to play.
While you do wonder if everything has truly come together by the end, "Logan Lucky" is a bit of quirky heist comedy, that much like it's main characters, secretly smart as it is funny. Hidden under what appears to be silly shenanigans is actually a well thought out, thoroughly likable, and just plain entertaining good time that somehow finds a way to be unpredictable. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Southern, Hillbilly Accents Galore.
Image Deadpool and Nick Fury's Wackily Violent Adventures
Okay lets all be honest here, this is pretty much a 90s action comedy that just somehow got released in 2017. I can't necessarily explain it, but the 90s were known of movies like this. Crazy, over the top action, with big name stars playing characters with plenty of quirks and personality, the sheer amount of whimsy on display despite all the excessive death and carnage, and so many clichés to the point of parody. I grew up with movies like that and it morphed me into the young man I am today.......That actually explains everything the more I think about it.
"The Hitman's Bodyguard" starts with special protection agent, "Michael Bryce" (Ryan Reynolds) miserably failing to protect one of his clients, resulting in him losing his credibility, his dignity, and ruining his relationship to Interpol agent, "Amelia Roussel" (Élodie Yung). 2 years later, Bryce is now depressed and protecting coked up businessmen, but ends up getting a call from Amelia to protect someone who is going to testify against ruthless European dictator, "Vladislav Dukhovich" (Gary Oldman) to the International Court of Justice.
Turns out this person Bryce has to protect is notorious/possibly lunatic hitman, "Darius Kincaid" (Samuel L. Jackson), who Bryce has had run-ins with in the past. Bryce only agrees to the mission to get back his old job (and possibly patch things up with Amelia) and Kincaid just wants to get his wife, "Sonia" (Salma Hayek) free from prison in exchange for his testimony. Due to a possible leak in Interpol, Bryce and Kincaid are on their own as they make their way to Dukhovich's trial, with Dukhovich's men hot on their trail, and the fact that the both of them hate each other's guts.
"The Hitman's Bodyguard" is definitely a throwback to all those action comedies we grew accustomed to during the 90s, or at least that's what Director Patrick Hughes is going for. The film goes through as many action movie clichés it can possibly cram into 2 hours, and while sometimes you get the idea the writers appear to just be going for easy, most of the time it feels intentional. The wacky antics and sheer gleefulness of the violence goes from brutal to cartoonish in a matter of seconds, while retaining a sense of humor throughout. (Although even the tone can be a little off from time to time)
The film's biggest saving graces would be it's performances, especially from Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. "Motherf*ckin" Jackson, who may or may not just be playing variations of themselves. They have plenty of chemistry and banter with one another, with Reynolds' snark and Jackson's constant disregard for life making for some of the best laughs. Gary Oldman has played these kind of villains roles before (And he can probably do it in his sleep) and yet still finds a way to be menacing as Hell. Salma Hayek also gets a few moments to shine, stealing whatever scene she's in. (A rather hilariously, brutal, yet somewhat heartwarming flashback to where she and Jackson met is hands down the funniest moment in the film.) Élodie Yung does fine with whats she's given and Joaquim de Almeida (as "Foucher", a superior Interpol officer) is here to do exactly what you think he's going to do.
"The Hitman's Bodyguard" goes through every standard 90s trope you can expect, and while the action is well done, the sheer excess displayed on screen might come across as more unsettling to some. (Especially when the film gets really dark out of nowhere) But in the end, you're just here to see some great actors portray some fun characters getting involved in all kinds of chaos. I can't necessarily say it's that good of a film (I mean, a 35% on Rotten Tomatoes is harsh, but probably warranted), it's just I would be lying if I said that I didn't have an immense amount of fun with it. There are better movies out there to see, but if you want to get a few good laughs and some good old fashioned, popcorn movie absurdness, this will be right up your alley. 3 stars. Rated R For Abundant Violence And Constant Use Of The Word Motherf*cker.
Image: "I said I wanted the the number 4 combo!"
Last year's animated adaptation of the beloved DC one shot, "The Killing Joke", kind of hit a sour note with fans. And Lord knows DC comics has gotten a bit of rep for going too dark all the time. So you can't blame them for simply saying "Lets just have fun with this". Batman needed to take a chill pill.
"Batman and Harley Quinn" opens with former botanist, turned supervillain, "Pamela Isley/Poison Ivy" (Paget Brewster) and humanoid plant monster, "Jason Woodrue/The Floronic Man" (Kevin Michael Richardson) orchestrating a scheme to replicate what turned Dr. Alec Holland into that big tree monster, "Swamp Thing" (John DiMaggio) in hopes of turning all human life into plants. It's up to "Bruce Wayne/Batman" (Kevin Conrroy) and "Dick Grayson/Nightwing" (Loren Lester) to stop them. Realizing that this situation will definitely require some help from someone previously close to Ivy, they form an awkward alliance with the Joker's former girlfriend/henchwoman, "Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn" (Melissa Rauch) to find her. The three of them then embark on a wacky adventure to save the world
"Batman and Harley Quinn" is basically a farce, going for straight up comedy compared to what you usually see from the source material with a rather simplistic plot that feels secondary. While that doesn't exactly make it a necessary watch, there's still plenty to enjoy. One being the animation which has been stylized to give the look of the classic "Batman: The Animated Series", where the character Harley Quinn originated from. The movie also takes time to establish why the character has resonated with so many people.
While it can be a bit jarring to hear someone new taking on the role of the beloved on again/off again supervillain, but Melissa Rauch makes the character her own, remaining cute, funny, and oddly lovable throughout (And hot. Should I mention hot? C'mon, every straight guy is in love with Harley!). Kevin Conroy and Loren Lester (Returning to voice the characters they did in the "Animated Series") perfectly contrast with Harley Quinn's antics, while Paget Brewster and Kevin Michael Richardson make for amusing villains. The film is also filled with many references to previous DC comics, and even a few to the original animates series. (There is a funny bar scene filled with henchmen that many should recognize from the old show.)
"Batman and Harley Quinn" does take a bit to figure out exactly what tone it's going for, and even then, it has some trouble keeping it completely focused. Overall, the movie is pretty much here just for laughs, and it provides some pretty good ones. It's not something I would say is entirely important to see, and it's nothing compared to "The LEGO Batman Movie" (Which is way funnier and more clever), but for any DC fan who doesn't take their comics too seriously, its plenty of pointless, goofy fun. Loosen up, Bats! 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And That Nightwing/Harley Quinn Ship I'm Sure Someone Has Been Wanting. (Still Less Disturbing Than That Whole Batman And Batgirl Thing.)
Image: The New Adventures of Hawkeye and Scarlett Witch.
When you see the words "From the Writer of "Sicario" and "Hell or High Water" acting as director", its hard not to get a little bit excited. You just know you're going to get something dark, maybe a little hard to watch at times, but thoroughly well written with some excellent characterization. Director Taylor Sheridan certainly doesn't disappoint in that department. The guy does complexity really, really well.
"Wind River" starts with US Fish and Wildlife Service agent, "Cory Lamber" (Jeremy Renner) discovering the dead body of a young Native American girl, "Natalie Hanson" (Kelsey Chow) in the snow within the Wind River Indian Reservation. The FBI sends in inexperienced rookie agent, "Jane Banner" (Elizabeth Olsen), after its been discovered that the girl was also raped at some point before her death, implying that this was actually a murder. Knowing little about the unrelenting, frozen environment, Jane hires Cory to serve as her tracker to find the person responsible, while she is forced to witness the dark world within this community and how the environment affects them during the rather harsh winter with little actual assistance from anyone.
"Wind River" is pretty much to the point, just throwing you into the dark and brutal situation, filling you with suspense all the way through as the mystery unfolds. While the mystery itself is intentionally secondary (Meaning we are never given any clues as to who did it until we actually see him), the film is more focused on it's complex characters, the dialogue between them, and the setting, which itself is almost it's own character. With the beautiful cinematography, the time dedicated to showing the unbearable setting and just how hostile the cold can be adds atmosphere to the film. (Also, the AC in the theater was for some reason low to the point it was freezing in there. It's as if I was there!)
The dialogue is smart, injecting moments of humor that never feels out of place, and further humanizes it's characters. Jeremy Renner is terrific, and honestly doesn't get the credit he deserves as an actor. Elizabeth Olsen, who yes, is totally adorable, is also wonderful in the film, having excellent comradery with Renner. (The film thankfully never once implies a romantic relationship between them). We also get some great supporting work from Gragam Greene (As "Ben", the sheriff who assists Jane) and Gil Birmingham (As "Martin", the distressed father of Natalie), who is good in everything he's in. We also get a cool cameo from an actor I would rather not spoil.
"Wind River" has a fascinating story, with a good point to make, and while the mystery isn't exactly a mystery per se, you will constantly be wondering what will happen next while on the edge of your seat the whole time. It's one of those movies that after you see it, you just have to talk about it. (Especially once you reach the rather nontraditional ending) If you can handle the bleakness (and one unsettling scene). It's a modern day western that's definitely worth a look. If It's darkness doesn't consume you whole....Nah, you'll be fine. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Language And Disturbing Content.
Image: "That's the last time we let them grab our nuts!"
Well, of course they would make a sequel to 2014's "The Nut Job". It didn't cost much to make and proceeded to gross over $100 million worldwide, which for a movie like this is pretty solid. Not to mention home video sales and the fact that it seems to have a pretty solidly sized fanbase. So even though its not the best animated film in the world (And has some sort of strange fetish for edible kernel), I can see the appeal.
"The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature" starts sometime after the first one, with "Surly Squirrel" (Will Arnett), still being hailed as a hero by the animal community. They all currently live inside the now abandoned nut shop, where they spend all day just eating, sleeping around, and getting fat. The smart female squirrel, "Andie" (Katherine Heigl) wishes everyone would go back to the old ways of living in the park and working for their food, warning that this lifestyle can't possibly last. Surly assures everyone that they have nothing to worry about, just before the whole nut shop randomly explodes
The animals are forced back into the park, hoping to get used to returning to their old way of life. But trouble arrives when the corrupt "Mayor Muldoon" (Bobby Moynihan) intends to tear down the park and replace it with a new amusement park and make a lot of profit off of it. When Surly decides that the animals fight back, Muldoon hires a lunatic animal control officer, "Gunther" (Peter Stormare) to exterminate the animal population and tear down the park. Eventually, Surly's pug buddy, "Precious" (Maya Rudolph) is taken by Muldoon's bratty (and somewhat sadistic) daughter, "Heather" (Isabela Moner), and it's up to Surly and his mute rat buddy, "Buddy" to save her and the rest of the park animals from certain destruction.
"The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature" is pretty much not much better than the first, but pretty much not any worse either. The animation has vastly improved since then, and considering the studios behind this movie ("Open Road Films" and "ToonBox Entertainment") previously gave us "Spark: A Space Tail" earlier this year, this is pretty solid animation. While the studio has improved in terms of it's animation, story still seems to escape them. They settle for generic and predictable, while feeling somewhat thinly plotted overall, and there is quite a bit of padding and convolution.
The film isn't without it's charms, in particular it's voice cast. Will Arnett is typically pretty great here and Surly is a fun character. (Sort of a Daffy Duck type). Katherine Heigl does actually have a bit more of a role this time around, while Maya Rudolph and Bobby Cannavale (as "Frankie", Heather's pet French bulldog who falls madly in love with Precious) have a cute, but pretty pointless subplot. Jackie Chan (as "Mr. Feng", a cute karate mouse, who hates being called cute) is quite funny, despite only getting 10 minutes of screentime. The most enjoyable characters would be the villains, with Bobby Moynihan and Isabela Moner being enjoyably laughably evil, and Peter Stormare always being a welcome delight.
"The Nut Job 2" gets a few solid laughs in, some good messages, and a few inspired moments, but it drags on for too long, and rarely does anything you wouldn't expect. There isn't much to offer for adults here. With that said, it's perfectly fine for kids, and compared to "The Emoji Movie", it's a masterpiece. Hey, maybe someone will quote me in a TV spot for the film. "The Nut Job 2" is a masterpiece! It's going to happen at some point. 2 stars. Rated PG For Cartoon Violence And Flagrant Nut Hording.
Image: What a little doll.
Freakin' dolls man! I mean, look at those things. They always look like they're staring into your soul, judging you when your back is turned, and when you turn back, you could swear it moved closer. (Or maybe that's just me being paranoid. But I'm not) Evil or not, these old fashioned dolls are creepy looking as Hell and Annabelle personifies that. Sure her first movie was crap, but don't blame that on her. Perhaps this prequel to a prequel can remind us why we were so freaked out about her brief appearance in 2013's "The Conjuring".
Telling the true origin story of that creepy ass doll, "Annabelle: Creation" starts with the happy "Mullins" family living a happy life, with the father "Samuel" (Anthony LaPaglia) and mother "Esther" (Miranda Otto) raising their lovable daughter "Annabelle" (Samara Lee). But things can't stay happy forever as Annabelle is tragically killed by a speeding truck. 12 years later, a group of orphaned young girls, along with their loving caretaker "Sister Charlotte" (Stephanie Sigman) come over to live in the Mullins house, where now Samuel is a depressed old fart and Esther wears a mask and remains in bed all the time.
Two of the young girls, the disabled "Janice" (Talitha Bateman) and her best friend "Linda" (Lulu Wilson) start to suspect something nefarious about their new home, especially involving a room that's meant to be locked. Janice ends up finding her way into the room, coming face to face with the "Annabelle" doll herself and the demon that controls it, who also wants Janice to be it's new host. Everything comes together as the Mullins' horrifying secret behind their "Resurrected" daughter is revealed, as is the doll's evil plan for all the girls.
"Annabelle: Creation" being better than it's predecessor, 2014's "Annabelle", is an obvious one. It's story is stronger and actually provides real and necessary backstory to it's titular villain, with Director David F. Sandberg providing actual atmosphere and imagery to fill you with consistent dread, rather than rely on jump scares to constantly pop out at you. (Although there are still quite a few.)
Where this movie really succeeds is with it's characters, who are much more likable and fleshed out, making you actually care about them and fear for their safety. Talitha Bateman and Lulu Wilson are excellent young actresses, conveying the heart of the film, which makes it all the more tragic as to where this eventually leads. (You saw the other movies, so you know where this one is gonna go) Stephanie Sigman is also quite good, along with the rest of the young girls, although Philippa Coulthard and Grace Fulton (as "Nancy" and "Carol", the oldest and more rebellious of the girls) appear to be a bit more mature looking than the movie is implying. (They're like in their early 20s.) While Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto provide good supporting work.
At times (And typical for certain horror flicks), some of the characters in "Annabelle: Creation" will make a dumb decisions, (Such as the obvious being, who thought bringing young girls (One of which with a disability) into a house with a demon inside it was a good idea?) but luckily the movie does call out some of the characters' actions, and with the backstory explained later in the movie, you do see how this situation came to be. I also like that this time around, most of the girls find the doll horrendously creepy from the start, compared to the first movie where the main character thought it was cute. (Look at that thing. It's like someone beat it with an ugly stick).
The climax relies a bit too heavy on jump scares, where you can tell that the filmmakers were likely starting to run out of ideas, but it luckily ties up nicely to the rest of the "Conjuring" franchise and even finds a way to make the first film make a little more sense. (It still sucks though. It's just relevant now.) "Annabelle: Creation" isn't perfect, but it tells a solid scary story with characters you can get behind and a few memorable chills. It certainly shows that the creepy little doll still can send a shiver down your spine. They all do. And they're watching you. 3 stars. Rated R For Horrific Images And Horny Demons....I Mean, Horned Demons.
Image: "You have been offered an all expense vacation....Wait, don't hang up!"
Alright, let's get through this as quickly as the scriptwriters did. Because I'm honestly having trouble remembering too much about this movie despite having only seen it 24 hours ago. There is nothing other than Halle Berry to see here, and because the filmmakers don't know how to hold a damn camera still, all it did was give me a headache.
"Kidnap" starts off with divorced mother, "Karla" (Halle Berry) taking her six-year old son, "Frankie" (Sage Correa) to the local carnival. While there, Karla gets a call telling her that her ex husband intends to make it so he has full custody over Frankie because he's a dick. Although Karla isn't making that good of a case for herself because Frankie is randomly kidnapped right from under her nose by a couple of dumb rednecks (Lew Temple and Chris McGinn), who load up Frankie into their car and make a quick getaway. So Karla decides to hunt them down in her minivan, partaking in a wild car chase that causes tons of property damage, pointless casualties, and leading up to a climactic fight between Karla and those white trash bumpkins in the bayou. Wee Doggie!
"Kidnap" is just one of those movies that you would see for a cheap price at Wal-Mart, that would cause you to question the series of events that lead up to it somehow roping in an excellent actress into it. Another casualty of the whole Relativity Media bankruptcy incident, the film was pulled from a release schedule multiple times sine 2015. One has to wonder what was the point of it all.
When it the movie begins, it doesn't start off bad, as it shows the relationship between our protagonist and her son, which actually comes across as cute and kind of charming. But that's just the first 10 minutes. The rest is basically one long action scene, complete with constant shaky cam, horrendous editing, and all around cheapness. The film's length doesn't even reach an hour and a half (Despite what the theater listing says), and you wonder what it had to do to even get a theatrical release.
Poor Halle Berry is trying her absolute best, and she certainly elevates what little material she is give. She really deserves better than this, but there isn't much to say about anyone else because hardly any of them actually do anything. "Kidnap" is not exactly the worst film of the year, and maybe I could see where someone thought the premise could work, but the movie has so little to it, with it's preposterous story and over the top dialogue, that it is forgettable at best and laughable at worst. Its just a waste of time that will fade away, never to be seen or heard from again. Wait, what are we talking about? 1 1/2 stars. Rated R For.....Um....Slight Violence? Why Was This Rated R?
Image: From this image alone, you know this is gonna be an uncomfortable sit.
Boy in some ways, things really don't change. There isn't some magic reset button that just fixed everything involving racism, the difference between the black community and the white community, along with the obvious discord between the black community and the police in general doesn't just go away because a bunch of guys in suits (or loudmouths on the radio) said so. I mean, slavery was abolished in 1865, and yet it took nearly a century for African Americans to be given actual rights. Why did it take so long? What makes you think any leftover racism or even just stereotypical ways of thinking would just go away immediately afterwards. Look, you can make arguments about how on occasion some people in certain groups like "Black Lives Matter" react to certain situations, but do you honestly believe that its so unlikely that people in power can abuse said power? Is it that hard to believe that it could be racially motivated? Is it more likely that black people are just angry people, who are angry for no reason, and are just making this all up just because they can? Everyone needs to remember, crap like this has happened before. Rant over.
"Detroit" takes place during the infamous 1967 Detroit riots and is separated into separate sections, following different characters before, during, and after. First, starting with the escalation of the discrepancy between the mostly white police force and the African American community that turns the city into a war zone for several days. Then, while the riots are going on, two band members, "Larry" (Algee Smith) and "Fred" (Jacob Latimore), in an attempt to avoid the chaos, stay for the night at the "Algiers Motel", coming across two young white girls, "Julie Ann" (Hannah Murray) and "Karen" (Kaitlyn Dever) who happen to be staying at the hotel. When one of the occupants, "Carl" (Jason Mitchell) decides to screw with the police and army force a few miles away by firing a toy gun, this results in the police knocking down their door to find the so called sniper.
One racist, sadistic officer, "Phillip Krauss" (Will Poulter) takes this opportunity to terrorize and torture the occupants to find a gun that isn't real and to justify his own horrible action while African American security guard, "Melvin Dismukes" (John Boyega) is left no real choice but to watch. Finally, the incident leads to the deaths of three black men, with the rest beaten and traumatized, and a court case to convict the officers responsible that will sadly go exactly the route you would probably expect it to go.
Despite mostly being based on speculation and eyewitness accounts (Because very few people survived to tell the story and that's not suspicious in the slightest.), makes a film like "Detroit" work is the absolutely brilliant direction from Director Kathryn Bielow ("Zero Dark Thirty" and "The Hurt Locker), who just drops you right into the middle of the situation. You are forced to endure the horrors of what happens on that night, witnessing the pointless chaos and death that followed through the eyes of the people caught in the crossfire.
The script by Mark Boal (Who also wrote "Zero Dark Thirty" and "The Hurt Locker") is smart, with realistic dialogue between the compelling characters, who are all portrayed wonderfully by the ensemble cast. With standouts including newcomer Algee Smith, who gives a gripping performance with the equally terrific Jacob Latimore. Will Poulter is Oscar worthy, in a role that is spine chillingly villainous, creating a character that is the stuff of nightmares (The scary part being that this is a person you could see existing in reality and possibly did exist). The rest of the cast, which includes a memorable John Boyega, Jason Mitchell, Kaitlyn Dever, Hannah Murray, Ben O'Toole (as "Flynn", another racist cop), John Krasinski (as "Attorney Auerbach", Krauss' lawyer), and Anthony Mackie (as "Greene", a returning veteran stuck in a bad situation) are all amazing. Also, props to this movie for getting a really good performance out of Jack Reynor (as "Demens", one of the cops who appears uneasy about the situation), who is much better here than he was in "Transformers: Age of Extinction).
"Detroit" is brutal to sit through. Not just because of the haunting images and violence, but also because you know exactly where this story is leading to and what the outcome will be. It never shies away from the topical subject, while portraying the terror (and of course, the racial aspect) in a way that sticks with you and damn near makes you sick to your stomach. Its a powerful look into what it would feel like to be stuck in this kind of circumstance, and might even open the eyes of people who just want to pretend there's nothing to see here. (That is if they're even willing to listen). It just goes to show that if African Americans clearly weren't making this sh*t up back in the day, what makes you think they're doing it now? 4 stars. Rated R For Disturbing Images And Rage Inducing Acceptance Of Hatred.
Image: All right, guys. Your big kissing scene. Don't blow it.
Boy has this movie been through a lot. Based on a rather beloved series of Stephen King novels (That somehow all tie-in together with most of Stephen King's other many novels), the stories of "The Dark Tower", "The Gunslinger", and "The Man in Black" might be just as much a staple in the Science Fiction/Fantasy genre as say "The Lord of the Rings", "The War of the Worlds", etc. So the fanbase has been pumped for someone to make a big, blockbuster film adaptation (or in this case, continuation) of their favorite saga. Being tossed around in development hell for almost 10 years, with big name directors like J. J. Abrams and Ron Howard at one point attached to direct, the film has finally hit the big screen.......And, thud.
"The Dark Tower" starts with our young protagonist, "Jake Chambers" (Tom Taylor), who is experiencing strange dreams involving a strange apocalyptic world where the evil "Walter, The Man in Black" (Matthew McConaughey) is using his rat people in human skin henchmen to harvest children brains in an attempt to destroy "The Dark Tower", that is meant to protect all worlds and realities from darkness. Jake also dreams of the heroic, "Roland Deschain, The Gunslinger" (Idris Elba), who is attempting to avenge his dead father (Dennis Haysbert) and kill the man in black.
Jake has begun to draw the images he is seeing in his dreams and hopes to find out what these dreams means, confusing his loving mother, "Laurie" (Katheryn Winnick). Jake eventually discovers that these dreams are in fact real, getting teleported away to "Mid-World", where he comes across Roland and the two of them work together to stop the man in black from destroying the tower, and unleashing the horrifying creatures of darkness onto the world.
Honestly, "The Dark Tower" makes me kind of sad for several reasons. It's troubled production aside, the film has many cool and fascinating ideas that are sadly let down by mediocre direction from Director Nikolaj Arcel. "Tower" has inconsistent pacing, and the fact that the film has been obviously edited into oblivion in an attempt to get the film down to 95 minutes is obvious. I also just feel bad for the fans who have been dreaming of the day this movie actually became a reality. It just sucks when something that clearly had a lot of work put into it, just doesn't work.
"The Dark Tower" feels like it's been trimmed down, which explains some awkwardly edited sequences, such as us being introduced to our hero and villain through a random flashback that seems to jump mid-scene, or much of the mythology and lore of the story being reduced to throwaway lines, which provides little explanation for whats going on. By the end, there is much left unresolved. The film also can never find the right pace, ranging from going much too slow or just speeding through everything without taking a moment to breathe.
It's all a shame because the film isn't without it's merits. This world that the film sets up is undeniably cool, with some pretty original set pieces and action scenes. We get an occasional good line or moment of excitement, and luckily, none of our actors fare badly at all. Idris Elba just personifies cool and makes the best of his underdeveloped character, with Tom Taylor actually handling himself well in the film's more serious scenes and surprisingly carries most of the movie. Matthew McConaughey looks like he is having a blast, devouring the scenery in the best way possible, oozing charm and menace. Although shame on this movie for not utilizing Jackie Earle Haley (as "Sayre", Walter's main henchman) to his best abilities.
"The Dark Tower" has some imaginative creatures and some decent enough effects. However, you can tell some of it's pretty fake and starts to look even more so by the end. The movie feels like what should of been a big two hour epic (Or maybe would of served better as a big budget TV show), has been reduced to a chopped up kids movie, that after a while just sort of stops instead of actually ending. This is not a bad movie by any means. If it weren't for the rushed ending, I might of even still somewhat recommended it. There are some good stuff here, but it's just stuck in a cluttered mess, with most of the best aspects likely missing. The fanbase can tell you better than I can. Whatever we were supposed to get, it isn't there. 2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Rat People And Lots And Lots Of Bullets.
Image: Meh, they all look alike to me.
Finally, the movie everybody has been dreading since the moment it was announced. At first, it seemed like a joke. Sony Pictures Animation, who has given us great films like "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" and "Arthur Christmas" (Although also gave us "The Smurfs" franchise and "Hotel Transylvania". So this isn't too unexpected.), was making a full length movie based on Emojis. The little faces kids send through texts instead of words because we've become too damn lazy. From the minute it was announced, to the release of the first poster and trailer, it's been mercilessly mocked and has been seen by many as the downfall of cinema and maybe society itself. But don't give this movie too much credit. To have accomplished that goal, that would have required significantly more thought and effort than this.
"The Emoji Movie" takes place in the amazing world that's within all of our cellphones, in the city of "Textoplois", where all those "Emojis" live. In this city, all Emojis are instructed to have one personality trait and make one face for their phone's owner, "Alex" (Jake T. Austin). One "Meh" Emoji, "Gene" (T. J. Miller) seems to have more than one emotion, much to the dismay of his "Meh" parents, "Mel" (Steven Wright) and "Mary" (Jennifer Coolidge). Gene is finally given his chance to shine when Alex tries to send a text to his crush "Addie" (Tati Gabrielle), only for Gene to panic and make the wrong face. All the other Emojis consider Gene to be a malfunction, and the sadomasochistic leader, "Smiler" (Maya Rudolph), decides that Gene must be terminated and sends her killer robot drones to delete him.
Gene escapes with the help of High-Five Emoji, "Hi-5" (James Corden), who offers to take Gene through Alex's phone, along with a hacker, "Jailbreak" (Anna Faris) to find a way to fix Gene, while avoiding Smiler's forces. Meanwhile, Alex starts to think his phone is acting up and is considering erasing all data on his phone, including all the Emojis (So from this point on, I kind of have trouble describing what's going on). Our heroes go from app to app, heading to "The Cloud", getting into all kinds of wacky situations, and basically doing nothing creative or clever with it's premise and setting.
It's not that I thought that "The Emoji Movie" was going to be good, but I simply shrugged it off as nothing to get bent out of shape over. In some ways, the film is about what I expected. Yet somehow, it's quite a bit worse, due to the film being horrible for different reasons. This is a movie lacking so much in creativity, originality, or even actual humor, while failing to understand it's own audience and even what it could do with it's silly premise, that the final product comes across as undeniably shallow and sloppy. "Emoji" is also shockingly boring beyond reason, leaving you with so little of an emotional connection to anything going on in the movie (For a movie about emotions, that's pretty ironic don't you think?)
This didn't have to be bad. Studios have taken ideas based around other products and pop culture icons, and turned them into instant classics (Like "Wreck-It Ralph" and "The Lego Movie"). However, "The Emoji Movie" feels like it's been made by people who have never even talked to a child, let alone have any idea what they like, or even know what makes Emojis popular. Really the fact that the characters are all Emojis doesn't play much of an actual role in the movie. In fact, most of the side characters are kind of horrible. (Why were they all just going along with Smiler's plan to basically murder Gene and his friends? It's like never referenced again. Most Emojis are Nazis I guess.) All it does is drag down the colorful and vibrant animation, and it's talented voice cast.
T. J. Miller has officially lost his mind, and I feel as if this movie is somehow responsible for it. Anna Faris has an adorable voice, but her character has nothing to her other than she's a so-called feminist. (It's almost as if this was written only by men who have never been on a date with a girl) Steven Wright and Jennifer Coolidge are actually perfectly cast and could of brought many of laughs, yet like everything else in the movie, its always utilized in the poorest of ways. Maya Rudolph does come across as more terrifying than I think the filmmakers even expected, even for a villain. The most enjoyable character probably comes form James Corden, who gets the closest thing to what you could consider a laugh in the film. Also, I'm not sure if Sir Patrick Stewart (as "Poop", the Poo Emoji. Obviously) is funny or depressing. Either way, here, he's crap (Even though he is barely used. So what was the point?)
"The Emoji Movie" goes from Point A to Point B in the most predictable, blandest, and most imagination free way it possibly can go. There is little connecting between the phone world and the human world, so you don't care about any of that, and due to hardly any real attempts at humor (Which range from bad to just plain awkward and confusing), you feel emotionally drained from not feeling anything for an hour and a half. It's not as annoying or as deadly as we were expecting, but it somehow makes it worse in which there just isn't anything to the movie. It's a waste of good animation, precious time, and gives nothing in return. The worst kind of "Meh" you could possibly imagine. That alone makes it downright offensive. 1/2 star. Rated PG For Poo, Laziness, and Good Time That Could Of Been Spent Talking On The Phone.
Image: Did you hear the one about the blonde? No, because she killed the guy who was telling it.
So why can't we have female James Bond? Or a female "007" of sorts? Aside from the fact that we're that we're so insecure about our masculinity of course. Seriously, an attractive female, using all kinds of disguises and gadgets, kicking ass, seducing men, seducing women, and blowing stuff up for king and country. We as men love that crap. Why wouldn't we support that? Honestly, "Atomic Blonde" is probably what it would look like. "James Blonde?"
"Atomic Blonde" takes place in 1989, around the time the Berlin wall was falling ("Mr. Gorbachev, Tear down this wall!") MI6 agent, "Lorraine Broughton" (Charlize Theron) is currently being interrogated by her MI6 superior, "Eric Gray" (Toby Jones) and CIA agent, "Emmett Kurzfeld" (John Goodman) on what the hell happened on her mission to Berlin that took place a few days before. Flashback to that time, where Lorraine is brought in after the death of another agent, "James Gasciogne" (Sam Hargrave), who also just so happened to be Lorraine's lover. Turns out Gascoigne had hid a list with all the names of all the known MI6 agents, including the identity of a traitor, inside a watch, and Lorraine is tasked with finding it. She is forced into an uneasy and complicated alliance with bizarre Berlin station chief, "David Percival" (James McAvoy), and it's up to the two of them to cooperate to find the list before it gets into the wrong hands.
Okay, comparing "Atomic Blonde" to the "James Bond" series (Especially the newer, more reality-based ones), might be a little extreme mostly because this film is a bit more like a comic book than a spy thriller. But the pieces are all there to where you can make the comparison. From Director David Leitch (Co-Director of "John Wick"), the film is stylized, action packed insanity full of blood, bullets, karate, and the use of everyday objects as weapons (You can use high heels for that!?). The plot is not exactly anything new and can get a little too complicated at times, but it's serviceable as the film never takes itself too seriously.
"Atomic Blonde" always retains a sense of humor about itself, whether it be with it's dialogue, Charlize Theron's reactions, or the intentionally odd music choices. However, where the film truly shines is in it's elaborate fight scenes, including one that happens in a stairway, which goes on for several minutes and appears to have all been done in one ongoing cut. (It's nothing short of amazing). Then we have Charlize Theron herself who, aside from being ridiculously pretty, completely owns this role. She is pure badassery, while remaining a complex and fascinating character. James McAvoy (Who is having a great year so far) is utterly terrific, playing eccentric in the most delightful way an actor possibly can. John Goodman and Toby Jones are always welcome in any movie, while we get some excellent work out of some of the supporting cast, which includes Eddie Marsan (as "Spyglass", an MI6 ally with a photographic memory of the list) and Sofia Boutella (as "Delphine", an inexperienced French spy who gets, um "Close" with Lorraine).
"Atomic Blonde" falters a bit towards the end, seemingly ending a couple times before it finally does. The film is still a blast of chaotic, skillfully filmed action, utilizing the awesomeness that is Charlize Theron to her best abilities. Seriously, how did she not get an Oscar nomination for "Mad Max: Fury Road"? Because she's a blonde, that's why! And now, she'll make them pay. 3 stars. Rated R For Bloody Violence And What Can Only Be Described As Hot, Steamy Lesbian Action.
Image: Lost in space.
3D seemed to be dying out lately, and rightfully so. Not every movie in theaters needs to be forced into a 3D conversion, which most of the time adds nothing, raises the ticket price even more than it needs to be, and, instead of leaving you mesmerized, you're just left with a massive headache.. Yet even when the movie itself is only mostly ok, A good filmmaker can still find a way to make the whole 3D gimmick work. And I might not need an Advil.
"Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" takes place in the 28th century, following two agents of the human space police, "Major Valerian" (Dane DeHaan) and "Sergeant Laureline" (Cara Delevingne). Valerian is hopelessly in love with Laureline and hopes to make her feel the same. Valerian is also having strange dreams involving an unknown race of humanoid aliens and a destroyed planet. After a mission to apprehend a cute little alien thing, called a "Converter" that poops magic pearls of power (That isn't a joke actually. It's what it does) from space pirate "Igon Siruss" (Voiced by John Goodman), Valerian and Laureline return to "Alpha", a space station that now houses millions of creatures from all over the galaxy. They are instructed to protect the Converter, along with the obviously not evil "Commander Filitt" (Clive Owen), who warns the agents of an unknown force that is threatening the station. (Which is something he totally has nothing to do with.)
Suddenly, the station is attacked, and Filitt is captured by the humanoid beings that Valerian previously saw in his dream. Now its up to Valerian and Laureline to track Fillitt down along with his kidnappers, interacting with the many odd creatures and inhabitants of the station, all while uncovering a conspiracy that connects everything together. And still, Valerian needs to find time to woo Laureline. (When your coworker is Cara Delevingne, what do you expect a guy to do? Priorities.)
"Valerian an the City of a Thousand Planets" in terms of it's use of 3D and it's jaw-dropping special effects, is absolutely stunning to look at. Despite being based on a French comic series, "Valérian and Laureline", the film feels completely original, creating creatures and locations that aren't like anything you've ever seen. Director Luc Besson ("The Fifth Element") fills every frame with imagination and world building, mixed in with an excellent use of the 3D, which enhances the experience, it's a delight to watch.
Too bad that in terms of it's script and story, "Valerian" seems to be solely focused on the world it's created than the actual structure of the story. The film takes several detours in the plot that offer some enjoyable moments and visual wonder, but most of the time really doesn't go anywhere. Sometimes the movie's quirky sense of humor and tone can make for many awkward moments. They are probably intentional, considering Luc Besson's love for the odd and totally weird (To the film;s credit, the fact it never takes itself too seriously. and that's a positive). Still, there is such thing as too much weirdness just for the sake of weirdness. (Was that a "Taken" reference? And a "Roger Rabbit" reference?)
Dane DeHaan isn't so much bad in the film. He just feels very miscast, and lacks any chemistry with Cara Delevingne, who is admittedly lovely (Those eyebrows man!), but doesn't have enough range to match how much she is given to do. Clive Owen has little screentime, and looks kind of bored most of the time. A hilariously over the top Ethan Hawke shows up out of nowhere (as "Jolly the Pimp", who's profession is self explanatory), as does Rihanna (as "Bubble", a shapeshifting stripper), who still doesn't have much acting chops, but certainly makes for one of the film's most memorable characters.
The strange creatures and side characters in "Valerian" are a lot of fun, and there are some clever action sequences. But the plot rarely has focus, and distracts itself often, while our main characters are nowhere near as interesting as the world around them. Its enjoyable enough, and certainly imaginative enough to recommend seeing in theaters, though the film's massive budget (Over $200 million) pretty much spelled out "Box Office Bomb". Sometimes weird just isn't enough to sell tickets. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Pearly Poop.
Image: Dear God.
Christopher Nolan is a freakin genius, and he might be one of the best, and certainly, one of the most reliable directors working today. From the excellent "The Dark Knight Trilogy" to the amazing "Inception" and "Interstellar", he goes for originality, mixed in with an expert use of music, sound, and a utilization of the filmmaking process that is all his own. "Dunkirk" is no different, and might be one of his best films yet. Can you imagine what he'd with a "Transformers" movie?
"Dunkirk" follows the events of the Dunkirk evacuation, which took place during World War II, where thousands of Allied soldiers are surrounded by German forces, with little to no hope for escape. The story is told in a nonlinear narrative (Meaning it's all out of order), following different characters and locations throughout the course of the evacuation. The first thread, which takes place over the course of a week, follows a young British private, "Tommy" (Fionn Whitehead), along with two other soldiers, "Gibson" (Aneruin Barnard) and "Alex" (Harry Styles), who are all desperately trying to find some means of escape off the beach as evacuation on "The Mole" begins.
The second thread, which takes place over the course of a day, follows "Mr. Dawson" (Mark Rylance) who, along with his son "Peter" (Tom Glynn-Carney) and Peter's friend "George" (Barry Keoghan), take Mr. Dawson's boat out to aide in the evacuation. But things become more complicated by the arrival of a shell shocked soldier (Cillian Murphy), who has no intention of returning to the battlefield.
The third thread, which takes place over the course of an hour, follows a couple Royal Air Force pilots, "Farrier" (Tom Hardy) and "Collins" (Jack Lowden), who are currently making their way to help the trapped soldiers, only to run into their own problems, such as enemy fighter planes and only a small reserve of fuel. Eventually, through all the death and despair, everything comes together as we witness not just the horrors and bleakness of war, but also the bravery and heroism that comes from the people forced into it.
"Dunkirk" could be seen as more of an experiment than an actual movie, and I mean that in the best way possible. The idea to tell this story in this fashion could sound odd at first. But once you experience it for yourself, it is nothing short of sheer brilliance. The characters aren't delved into their background or personal stories, and the dialogue is limited, but that's not the film's design. What we see is the basic goals of each character as they try to survive a horrifying situation. There's no forced romance, or subplots involving the politicians or villains There is no scene of a Soldier talking about his wife and expecting child, who ends up dying two minutes later (Our empathy is already there with them). In fact, you don't even see the Germans themselves. You see what the characters see, or in this case, hear what they hear. Which is nothing but gunfire and bombs, all aiming right for them. It's both poignant and terrifying.
The use of sound and the score by Hans Zimmer (Nolan's good luck charm), also enhances the experience. It's loud and booming, but also incredibly scary when it needs to be, making you feel the dread and terror that the characters are feeling, and the suspense never stops. "Dunkirk" has an absolutely terrific ensemble cast, with Fionn Whitehead perfectly suiting the average guy, thrown into the middle of a failing battle. Harry Styles (You know, that dreamy guy from "One Direction". Or so says my sister) is also quite good in the film, holding their own alongside the rest of an amazing cast, which includes Kenneth Branagh (as "Commander Bolton", the one overseeing the evacuation), James D'Arcy (as "Colonel Winnant", who works closely with Bolton), a suitably psychologically unhinged Cillian Murphy, the always wonderful Mark Rylance, and Tom Hardy, who's eyes show enough expression to know his story. Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Aneurin Barnard, and Barry Keoghan all deserve recognition, as the film never just focuses on one specific character. Much like the evacuation in the film, it's the definition of a group effort.
With Nolan's attention to detail and eye for practical effects, "Dunkirk" is the best representation of what a theater experience needs to be (And I didn't even see it in IMAX, so it probably looks even better there), and also shows how to do pure spectacle the right way. It never forgets to convey the emotional weight and power that comes from the harsh reality of war, and despite a lack of much blood and gore, you still feel every death. Whether it be a sacrifice or just some random (And almost pointless) casualty that serves as a reminder in war, anyone can die at any moment, and its not always big and dramatic. It's a beautiful, mesmerizing film that once we reach the end, it's bound to bring a tear to your eye. (Yeah. It got to me). Its another great addition to Nolan's filmography, and another great film to come out of possibly the best movie season I've had in some time. Please. Don't forget about it come Oscar time. 4 stars. Rated PG-13 For War Violence And The Sheer Terror Of Never Ending Water.
Image: I want to fly with these girls.
Clearly, I'm not the audience for certain movies. And there's nothing wrong with acknowledging that some films are geared toward specific cultures and races. And that's perfectly understandable. Now, this may come as a shocker to all of you who have never seen me, but....I'm not black. I'm a White/Hispanic hybrid (Bet you didn't see that coming. Take a moment to absorb this shocking revelation).So it's no surprise that "Girls Trip" is not designed for my amusement. Toss in the fact that it's pure chick flick, it makes it even more of a surprise. I guess charming and funny are common denominators. And I learned something today.
"Girls Trip" follows four lifelong friends, "Ryan" (Regina Hall), "Sasha" (Queen Latifah), "Lisa" (Jada Pinkett Smith), and "Dina" (Tiffany Haddish), who have all started to grow apart in recent years. When Ryan, who is a best selling author, is given the chance to bring her friends to the "Essence Music Festival" in New Orleans. Their sisterhood faces complications with the reveal that Ryan's husband, "Stewart" (Mike "Luke Cage" Colter) is having an affair, along with the many changes that the four of them have gone through during their time apart.
"Girls Trip" may not be for me, but it certainly knows it's audience, and to it's credit, it works well for the kind of comedy that it is. It for the most part sticks to the comedic chops and the chemistry of it's main actresses, and utilizes them to their best abilities. We get really great performances from Regina Hall and Queen Latifah, while Tiffany Haddish (Who is at her most wild) and Jada Pinkett Smith steal every scene they are in. The film doesn't make Mike Colter out to be evil, instead just making him a jackass (Which is much more welcome than what you usually see in these kinds of films) and we get a few pretty good laughs out of Kate Walsh (as "Elizabeth", Ryan's overbearing agent). There is an unnecessary romantic subplot involving Larenz Tate (as "Julian", Ryan's old friend/soon to be love interest), which by this point, you know that no film can win me over with that obvious plot device.
Director Malcolm D. Lee ("Barbershop: The Next Cut" and "The Best Man Holiday") does avoid getting too into any melodrama here (Despite a couple of fairly serious moments), instead showing more focus on the film's characters and the solid laughs. It's a raunchy R-Rated comedy that actually benefits from it's R rating, but also nothing but the best of intentions and a good heart. With that said, the film is a bit too long and a lot of the dumb moments you saw in the trailer are still present. (Could of done without the peeing scene, thank you).
"Girls Trip" is perfectly fine for it's demographic, and while I would never watch it on my own, it's hard not to recommend it as a whole. The film offers some good laughs and a charming cast, with some genuinely heartfelt moments, positive messages of female empowerment, and enough intelligence to know what it can and shouldn't do. It will certainly make for a solid girl's night out. 3 stars. Rated R For Raunchy Content, Old Man Dick, And, "The Grapefruit".
Image: Just wish for a Pony.
I guess you could say a generic ass PG-13 horror movie deserves a generic ass PG-13 movie review. But I like to at least attempt to add a little bit more of interest to my reviews. No matter how blandly uninteresting the movie is. But if you find my review boring and uninspired, please know that I've probably put more thought into it than these filmakers.
"Wish Upon" follows a young high school girl, "Clare" (Joey King) who only lives with her dumpster diving father, "Jonathan" (Ryan Phillippe) after witnessing her mother (Elisabeth Röhm) commit suicide years before. Clare deals with bullying popular girls, high school crushes, her dad's embarrassing job, and the fact that she lives in a rundown, crappy house. Things take a turn when her dad finds a strange box with Chinese writing on it. Not understanding what she's doing exactly, Clare wishes for one of the mean girls to go rot (Which she does. Literally.). Clare eventually starts to realize what she has found and what she can do with it, being given 7 wishes, but with every wish, somebody has to die in some shape or form. Clare kind of becomes a terrible person as her wishes continue and the body count rises until she finally starts to realize this might not be the best idea in the world.
"Wish Upon", which is directed by John R. Leonetti (Who previously directed "Annabelle" and....."Mortal Kombat: Annihilation"?), is the most by the book, unoriginal attempt at safe horror you could possibly get. Trying to be dark and gruesome, but not too much so that they get the young audience to show up. Its never scary in the slightest, with the many deaths in the film ranging from silly to hilarious, while generally being over the top every time. Sadly it's never in a way that makes for a so bad it's good experience. Mostly because the film does so little with it's somewhat interesting idea, inconsistently tying the deaths and the wishes together, and taking too much of it's already short runtime. Instead, the film wastes it on blandness.
At least we benefit from the usually reliable Joey King, who is honestly too good of a young actress for this. She has plenty of personality and acting chops to carry the movie on her own, despite the fact her character is a selfish little sh*t. We also get actually pretty solid work out of Ki Hong Lee (as "Ryan", Clare's helpful love interest) and Shannon "Justice for Barb" Purser (as "June", one of Clare's friends and one of the only people to realize that something is messed up about the situation). Ryan Phillippe is.....weird. Don't really know what else to say about that. Its just an odd casting choice/performance.
"Wish Upon" starts to pick up in the last act, when stuff actually start to happen. The movie suddenly realizes how horrible the decisions it's main character makes and finally calls her out on it. And to this movie's credit, it throws in a pretty clever last second surprise that feels like a fitting way to end a horror film like this. Too bad it takes too damn long to get anywhere. By that point it's too late, and you've already sat through the most simplistic, uninspired form of teen horror that only the 12 Year Olds will find scary. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Death By Rug And A Pokemon Go Ripoff.
Image: He looks pretty upset. I think you should give him that Oscar nomination already.
I think we can all admit that lat summer's "Blockbuster" films was pretty bland stuff. (I mean, "Ghostbusters" was as good as it got for the most part). This year however, we have had original movies ("Baby Driver"), big superhero flicks ("Wonder Woman", "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2", and "Spider-Man: Homecoming), and some good laughs and big heart ("The Big Sick" and "Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie"). Now we're getting possibly one of the most powerful, emotional dramas you will see in theaters this year. Except with Apes. Damn, Dirty Apes.
In a world where humanity is being wiped out by a disease that instead makes apes smarter, "War for the Planet of the Apes" starts a few years after the last one ("Dawn of the Planet of the Apes"), with beloved, intelligent talking Ape, "Caesar" (Andy Serkis) trying his best to protect his Ape followers and loved ones after his former friend turned enemy, "Koba" (Toby Kebbell) pretty much screwed everyone over and started a war between the humans and apes. Now Caesar's clan is being hunted down by a military group led by a bloodthirsty man only known as "The Colonel" (Woody Harrelson), who has even recruited some of Koba's former followers, including a large Gorilla, "Red" (Ty Olsson), who wants revenge on Caesar. Caesar plans to move his followers to a save haven, but a betrayal results in the Colonel attacking and murdering Caesar's wife, "Cornelia" (Judy Greer) and oldest son, "Blue Eyes" (Max Lloyd-Jones).
Caesar sends his followers on their own, planning to go after the Colonel on his own to kill him. Caesar is joined by his Orangutan best friend "Maurice" (Karin Konoval), chimp second in command "Rocket" (Terry Notary), and loyal gorilla "Luca" (Michael Adamthwaite) to track down the Colonel's base. They come across a young mute girl, "Nova" (Amiah Miller), who Maurice becomes a foster parent to, and an eccentric Chimp, "Bad Ape" (Steve Zahn), who leads them to where the Colonel and his forces are located, currently using Ape slave labor to build a wall to keep out some bad hombres. So the war for the planet truly begins, along with the internal war for Caesar's soul as his lust for revenge start to lead him down a dangerous path.
I know I have been whining about "Transformers: The Last Knight" a lot lately, but trust me. It's important to mention that movie when I talk about this one. (I swear. This is the last time). Compared to what that movie does (Or doesn't do), "War for the Planet of the Apes" represents the exact opposite. It actually gives you what you want, focusing on the characters you want them to focus on. Characters who are actually fully developed, and where the visual effects enhance the experience. Visually it is just incredible to look at, with the Apes themselves looking more real than the actual people in the movie. There is just so much detail and time being put into their designs, and so much focus on their facial expressions, which adds to the emotional impact of the film.
"War for the Planet of the Apes" is a beautifully crafted film, not just in terms of it's jaw dropping effects, but also in it's direction by Matt Reeves (Who previously directed the last film and is set to direct the next "Batman" film), who adds a dark beauty to the movie. The film is very bleak, filled with nightmarish imagery of war, torture, slavery, and humanity at it's worst. (In fact, I think it does a better job at showing the complex morality of humanity in the apocalypse better than any zombie movie in the last few years). Its powerful, compelling stuff, yet despite how brutal it can get, whether it be the exciting action or the captivating drama, the film has this heart to it that adds hope to the situation.
The impressiveness of the special effects and motion capture work aside, we also get amazing performances out of the actors who are utilizing them to their best effect. Andy Serkis (Who the Academy will never acknowledge ever in the history of forever. And until they do, I shall never forgive them), is just utterly terrific in the film. Along with the skillful visual effects rendering, it's all his movements, his voice, and his expressions that bring to life our conflicted hero. Steve Zahn is also wonderful in the film, bringing in much needed humor and a lovable personality to lighten the dark mood. Woody Harrelson is realistically terrifying, portraying a great villain that sticks with you after the movie is over. The rest of the Ape cast (Who take up more of the screentime than any of the humans), including Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, Ty Olsson, Michael Adamthwaite and others, bring these Apes to life to the point that you forget than none of them are actually real. We also get a breakthrough performance out of Amiah Miller, who's expressive face convey plenty of feeling, and serves as the heart of the film.
"War for the Planet of the Apes" is an intelligent, thought provoking film that treats it's audience with respect. The film never spoon feeds you. It expects you to know what something is supposed to mean and and to come to conclusions on your own. Unlike that garbage talking robot movie (Damn it! Sorry. Couldn't help it), it has the balls to take risks, not just with it's story, but with it's hero, who's story arc continues from the first two and occasionally goes down a dark path. (Something you don't really see in your average summer blockbuster). In fact, much of the first half of the film is subtitled sign language, with little actual talking (Aside from Caesar and Bad Ape). Top it all off with a mesmerizing score by Michael Giacchino, and you are sucked in instantly.
This isn't just why we all gather at the movie theater during the summer, this is why we see movies in general. "War for the Planet of the Apes" is the perfect representation of the modern movie going experience. It is thoughtful, powerful and boldly told, culminating in a spectacular finale that is bound to get even the strongest human a little choked up. I'm honestly running out of adjectives to describe it. "Apes" Is great filmmaking, and I can't wait to see it a second time. 4 stars. Rated PG-13 For War Being Hell.
Image: "So, did you hear he one about the Muslim and...."
If you've followed this site, you know knows my thoughts on the Romantic Comedy genre as a whole. I just generally find many of the movies in the genre to lack many real laughs or actual romantic chemistry, have thoroughly predictable plots, and usually seem to find themselves more charming than they actually are. It just always feels fake to me. Now ladies, please don't think I'm a heartless bastard. I am a film critic after all. In my defense, I was just waiting to be proven wrong.
"The Big Sick" is loosely based on the life of Kumail Nanjiani, who plays well, um, "Kumail", a struggling comedian who also works as an Uber driver on the side. His family desperately hopes he will continue their old fashioned Pakistani Muslim tradition of arranged marriage. During this time, Kumail meets a cute girl, "Emily" (Zoe Kazan), and the two of them are essentially perfect for each other, sand they start a relationship, despite Kumail keeping his family's plans for him a secret from Emily, and keeping his relationship a secret from his family. Emily discovers this, and seeing that Kumail himself cannot truly commit, she breaks the relationship off.
Some time later, Kumail finds out Emily is in the hospital with a sickness so bad that the doctors have to put her into a medically induced coma. Kumail meets Emily's parents, "Terry" (Ray Romano) and "Beth" (Holly Hunter), who are also going through their own personal issues. Eventually Kumail starts to bond with Terry and Beth, realizing the mistakes he made with his relationship with Emily, and the mistakes he is making with his family, as they can only hope that Emily pulls through.
"The Big Sick" is one of those films that comes across as real and honest. Director Michael Showalter takes this tired genre and not only finds a way to make the formula work, but also serve as what I feel other romantic comedies have tried desperately to do. The film is funny, heartfelt, and thoroughly charming beyond reason with it's genuine characters and a smart script written by Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon (The inspiration for the "Emily" character in the film)
The clever and at times, profound dialogue is expertly delivered by the terrific cast, with Kumail Nanjiani giving a comical, yet sincere performance that is nothing short of wonderful. Zoe Kazan is perfectly cast (And perfectly adorable beyond reason), and has great chemistry with Nanjiani. Holly Hunter and Ray Romano both provide plenty of laughs and plenty of heart, and the film's supporting cast all have their roles to play. The way the film treats it's cultural themes is both funny, complex, and understanding.
"The Big Sick" is essentially what I think any romantic comedy should aspire to be. None of the laughs feel forced, the romance and drama is handled well and with the respect it deserves, and the charm just comes naturally instead of being obviously fake. The film is hilarious, emotional, and infectiously sweet, surprisingly making for one of this year's best films. Not even a hardened critic like myself could walk out of this movie without a big smile on my face. My cold, cold heart has melted. And I'm finally ready for love. 4 stars. Rated R For A Strong Amount Of Language And For Smart And Hilarious Cultural Jokes.
Image: First, we'll start with a sensual massage.
Too soon? Aside from "Batman", everyone favorite web slinging teenager, "Spider-Man" is probably the most rebooted superhero out there. We have had three different film versions of him in the past ten years. We've seen the same origin twice now. I mean, poor Uncle Ben just exists simply to die, really. With that said, it's understandable why Spider-Man is so beloved. He's us. He's that lovably nerdy high school students who deals with every day problems. Who just so happens to have superpowers. And luckily, Marvel's got him now (Although Sony is still gonna be making money off him), and they may of perfected the fan favorite hero.
"Spider-Man: Homecoming" begins after the events of "Captain America: Civil War" where "Peter Parker/Spider-Man" (Tom Holland) was called in by his hero, "Tony Stark/Iron Man" (Robert Downey Jr.), with his whole "Captain America Gone Rogue" problem, Tony rewards Peter with a new spidey suit, while telling him to continue his current job of saving cats out of trees, and the Avengers will call him when they need him.
Peter is now forced to deal with his superheroics, while trying to balance out his school life. His best friend "Ned" (Jacob Batalon) discovers his secret identity, he develops a crush on the popular girl "Liz" (Laura Harrier), and a new supervillain arrives in the form of "Adrian Toomes/The Vulture" (Michael Keaton), a former salvage company owner turned arms trafficker after getting screwed over by Tony Stark's new clean up division. Peter, obsessed with becoming an Avenger like his hero, starts to learn what it truly means to be Spider-Man and the responsibility that comes with it. "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility" and whatnot.
Unlike the previous outings, "Spider-Man: Homecoming" this time chooses to skip the backstory that we all already know by this point, and instead decides to focus on our main character himself, along with a more personal story that remains a superhero film, but can also serve as a a terrific coming of age story. The high school setting has never been more fitting, which also makes for some of that Marvel humor that we've all come to love.
As the sixteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, "Spider-Man: Homecoming" also finds humor in everyday situations with the typical civilian's reaction to seeing superheroes in action less amazed than usual, instead this time treating it as something you would see any other day. This also makes the film's smaller scale fit more within the story, which is a major theme as well. Peter's journey throughout is him trying to become part of something bigger, while learning the importance of helping the little guy.
Look. I love Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. They made excellent versions of the character. But Tom Holland is just perfect. He's immensely likable, funny, and acts like any teenager would act if given superpowers. The character has the charm that you want him to have and his problems are relatable. (You know, with the exception of the whole webs shooting out of his wrist thing). I'd be happy to have Robert Downey Jr. on screen for one scene, but he plays an important role in the film, yet never outshines our hero. Jon Favreau (as "Happy", Tony's loyal bodyguard) is always a welcome addition in these movies. Marisa Tomei (as "Aunt May", Peter's very attractive, protective aunt) has a certain warmth to her that you want to see in this character. And Michael Keaton makes for a intriguing, and oddly sympathetic villain, while also remaining menacing throughout. We also get some good work out of the younger cast, including a hilariously nerdy Jacob Batalon, a suitably dickish Tony Revolori (as "Flash Thompson", Peter's rival), and a wonderfully weird Zendaya (as "Michelle", one of Peter's classmates who just sort of appears now and again) Another memorable standout includes Jennifer Connelly (as "Karen", the AI in Peter's suit).
"Spider-Man: Homecoming" is probably the best Spider-Man film we've ever had, even better than the Raimi films, and also serves as one of the most endearing entries into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Director Jon Watts balances out the fun action with the film's sense of humor and genuine heart, with a great cast of characters and a more personal story. Its further proof that Marvel still does what their job better than anyone else. (Okay. DC came close with "Wonder Woman"). But with "Marvel", we already knew it before we saw it. 4 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content, Though It's Perfectly Suitable For Kids.
Image: First you get the money....Then you get the power.
Just because you know people are good at improvisation, and generally make you laugh when they do it, doesn't mean they should use up an hour and a half to do as much as they can with a thinly written script. Nobody can do that. Not even Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler. No matter how funny they are.
"The House" starts with husband and wife, "Scott" (Will Ferrell) and "Kate" (Amy Poehler) hoping to get their daughter, "Alex" (Ryan Simpkins) into an expensive college. Thanks to city councilman, "Bob" (Nick Kroll) going back on the city's plan to offer a scholarship in exchange for a big ass pool, Scott and Kate left desperate to find a way to pay for Alex's tuition. They end up finding "help" from Scott's friend, "Frank" (Jason Mantzoukas), who has a gambling problem and is going through a bad divorce because of it, to come together and open an illegal casino in his basement to make the cash they need. And that's about it. I honestly hate when this happens. Nothing but Shenanigans. You know the drill.
"The House" has a funny premise, and maybe a good laugh or two (Most of which were in the trailer), but it never seems to have much going for it outside of that. In terms of plot, it's more of a series of scenes that either rely on the actors improvising what little they have to work with, or are just build up to mostly just one joke that takes too long to wrap up. It generally seems that the screenwriters (One of which is first time Director Andrew J. Cohen) didn't really come up with much after the basic idea.
Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler are two of the funniest people on the planet, and while its not like they're completely unfunny, its just that they can't salvage as much as they probably thought they could. The whole thing with Nick Kroll doesn't really add up to much other than to have some kind of bad guy, same goes for Jeremy Renner's glorified cameo (as "Tommy", a gangster). On the bright side, Jason Mantzoukas gets some of the biggest laughs, easily stealing the movie and just seemingly finding more to work with than anyone else.
"The House" really falls apart by the end, where it appears the writers sort of wrote themselves into a corner and just couldn't think of a way to end the movie. (Was that last 15 minutes really all that necessary?) Though the film isn't completely without laughs, they're mostly just occasionally sprinkled throughout a sloppy, underwritten movie that still somehow feels too long at only an hour and a half. Just watch Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler on "Saturday Night Live". We gotta' have more cowbell! It's much funnier, shorter, and cheaper. 1 1/2 stars. Rated R For Language Galore And Terrible Parenting.
Image: "Conceal yourself! Children are watching!"
Want to truly comprehend how long the "Despicable Me" franchise has been going on for? About as long as this website has been going on, but unlike the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" franchise, it's still a ridiculously successful franchise with a large following that also kickstarted Illumination Entertainment. It also, of course, gave us those little, Twinkie like Minions that appear everywhere you turn, whether you want them there or not.
"Despicable Me 3" starts with former failed supervillain, "Gru" (Steve Carell) failing to capture former 80s child star turned mad supervillain, "Balthazar Bratt" (Trey Parker) after he attempts to steal the world's largest diamond. This failure results in Gru and his wife, "Lucy" (Kristen Wiig) being fired from the Anti-Villain League by their new director, "Valerie Da Vinci" (Jenny Slate). They are worried that they wont be able to provide for their adopted daughters, "Margo" (Miranda Cosgrove). "Edith" (Dana Gaier), and "Agnes" (Nev Scharrel), leaving Gru to feel like he hasn't accomplished anything since he quit being a villain.
To make matters worse, those little gibberish speaking cheesy poofs known as "The Minions" (Most voiced by Pierre Coffin), led by rebellious minion "Mel", want to go back to their villainous ways and quit working for Gru, only to wind up in prison. Gru learns from his neglectful mother, "Marlena" (Julie Andrews) that he has a rich twin brother, "Dru" (Also Steve Carell). Gru takes his family to meet Dru, who reveals that their father was a well known villain and wants to team up with Gru to return to villainy all while Balthazar Bratt plots to reclaim the diamond and use it to destroy Hollywood for canceling his show (Get in line).
"Despicable Me 3" doesn't do too much new with the franchise, and it certainly is the weakest film in the trilogy (Though a bit better than the "Minions" spin off). The movie still offers plenty of solid laughs, bouncy and colorful animation, and cuteness overload to keep the kiddies interested, with the occasional "Getting Crap Past The Radar" joke that the adults will appreciate.
Illumination Entertainment's in your face style of marketing aside, they still do an excellent job when it comes to animating characters. Sometimes even the best gags come from the movements and cartoonish nature of how they're animated, with a funny visual joke waiting in the background. Sometimes it's over the top, scattershot style can be a little much, but the film uses it to it's advantage. Especially in terms of pacing, which makes "Despicable Me 3" a quick, easy sit.
Steve Carell, this time playing two characters, is still perfectly cast and plenty lovable as Gru, While Kristen Wiig is both funny and adorable like she always is. The minions, whose constant appearances have started to become a bit old by this point, still give the film some of it's best laughs. However the real scene stealer this time around would be Trey Parker ("South Park"), who is suitably over the top of an overly flamboyant villain, serving as a bizarre representation of the 80s in the most hilarious way possible.
"Despicable Me 3" at times can feel like it's starting to run out steam, with a few unnecessary subplots that add little to the overall film, but it's a solid continuation of the series and feels like a good place to end (But it probably won't. Please don't become "Ice Age"). The heart and sweet nature is still there, and you're bound to laugh at least a few times. (The Minions prison scene is undeniably funny stuff). While the film may not be much compared to 2017's better animated comedies, such as "The Lego Batman Movie" or "Captain Underpants", it's still a fine little family diversion to pass the time until "Spider-Man: Homecoming" next week. 3 stars. Rated PG For Cartoony Action And More Hardcore, Yet Tasteful Minion Nudity.
Image: "He kinda' looks like a baby!"
Gotta' give 2017 credit for something. They're certainly trying out some new and weird material. Once you get past all the sequels, franchises, and cinematic universes, we've still found time for some truly inspired, original filmmaking. Like "Get Out", "Colossal", etc. And Edgar Wright's weird, strangely intelligent and at times oddly brilliant "Baby Driver" is no exception. I live in Austin. Weird can be good. Weird is in.
"Baby Driver" follows "Baby" (Ansel Elgort), a young getaway driver who, after an accident when he was younger that caused the death of his mother, listens to music constantly to block out his tinnitus. Baby has been forced to work for a criminal mastermind, "Doc" (Kevin Spacey), and drives around different bank robbers, including the particularly unfriendly "Griff" (John Bernthal), a charming party animal "Buddy" (John Hamm) and his girlfriend "Darling" (Eiza González), and the somewhat sadistic "Bats" (Jamie Foxx), while also finding time to take care of his deaf foster father, "Joseph" (CJ Jones). But as Baby's time working for Doc starts to run out, he meets a cute young waitress, "Debora" (Lily James), and falls madly in love, hoping to finally get out of the business and never look back. However, we wouldn't have a movie if things worked out perfectly, resulting in Baby taking part in a heist that's soon falling apart before it even begins.
"Baby Driver" is not what you would expect in the best possible way. Best known for the hilarious, "Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy", Edgar Wright (Who also wrote the film), takes a basic idea we've seen before, but never takes the predictable or silly route. Instead, he fills the film with fully fleshed out characters, stunning actions scenes, and an uncommon, but plenty kickass soundtrack, while throwing in a few laughs along the way. It makes for some of the most ludicrously stylish fun you can have at the movies right now.
Music plays a major role in the film's story and adds to the film's skillful direction. The song choices are not exactly what you would expect, but they fit the film's tone and enhance the scenes they are used in. (Some of these songs I'd never even heard of). And unlike a certain giant robot movie last week, the action is filmed beautifully, where you can actually tell what the heck is going on. Matching the pace of the film, it's just pure adrenaline from start to finish, without sacrificing good character development and smart dialogue.
Ansel Elgort is just likability personified in this movie, bringing relatability to his character, and he has perfect chemistry with Lily James, who is just absolutely adorable and completely lovable. It's one of those rare sweet romantic subplots that actually work. Kevin Spacey is at his Kevin Spaciest, dominating the film with the power of his charm. Jaime Foxx gives probably his best performance in some time, and John Hamm drifts from charming to terrifying like a pro. The relationship between Ansel Elgort and CJ Jones is also a nice, endearing little subplot. Although I am not sure what John Bernthal is doing here other than to pop up for a minute, then just disappear as if he was never there.
Though the ending to "Baby Driver" feels a bit rushed through, the film is definitely unique in terms of filmmaking and how it makes a standard action film storyline feel fresh and original, while embracing the weird at the same time. Weird is in and Edgar Wright is one weird son of a bitch. But we love him for it. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Strong Language And A Surprising Amount Of Violence.
Image: I know Optimus. I'm pretty pissed too.
Okay Michael Bay. I am going in open minded. Scratch that. I’m going in not caring in the slightest. That’s right. I said three years ago with your last film (“Transformers: Age of Extinction”) to do whatever you wanted with it. I said that there was nothing you could do to anger me anymore. I blocked out all the negative critic reviews because well, that’s always gonna be a given. I decided that I wasn’t going to show the lick of emotion going into this thing. My expectations are nonexistent.........Okay. Now that I have seen it..... SCREW YOU!!! How dare you dump this incomprehensible, despicable, insulting pile of garbage not just on Transformers fans, but the average moviegoer!......Well, I tried to be calm.
So lets get into this massacre of storylines that the filmmakers call a plot. “Transformers: The Last Knight” opens in the Dark Ages, explaining that the robots who turn into vehicles, dragons, and other such stuff from the planet Cybertron have been here on Earth longer than we thought. (Didn’t we establish that three or four movies ago?). Apparently they helped the not so great wizard, “Merlin” (Stanley Tucci for some reason) aid “King Arthur” (Liam Garrigan) and his Knights of the Round Table. Thousands of years later, Autobot leader, “Optimus Prime” (Peter Cullen) has left Earth to confront his evil creators, only to wind up captured by the head creator, a sorceress named “Quintessa” (Gemma Chan), who brainwashes Optimus into becoming her slave.
Meanwhile on Earth, all Transformers are currently being hunted down and captured by a government military force, including the former Autobot ally, “William Lennox” (Josh Duhamel). A young girl, “Izabella” (Isabela Moner) and her little robot buddy, “Sqweeks” (Reno Wilson) wind up with another friend to the Autobots, “Cade Yeager” (Mark Wahlberg), who is currently living with a group of Autobot refugees, including the non speaking “Bumblebee”, fat gun toting bastard “Hound” (John Goodman), samurai “Drift” (Ken Watanabe), whoever “Crosshairs” (John DiMaggio) is, and the T-Rex Dinobot “Grimlock”.
Fate leads to Cade being chosen for something that has something to do with a Transformers historian, “Sir Edmund Burton” (Sir Anthony “I have clearly lost my mind” Hopkins), his crazy robot butler “Cogman” (Jim Carter) and other Autobot friend “Hot Rod” (Omar Sy), and a lovely Oxford Professor “Vivian Wembly” (Laura Haddock). All of which has to do with some big event with Cyberton crashing into Earth, the end of the world, and Merlin’s big ol’ staff. Also, Decepticon warlord “Megatron” (Frank Welker) is in it too.
So last time I said that these movies weren’t getting any better, but at least they weren’t getting any worse. Its like Michael Bay said, “Challenge Accepted!” and proceeded to make not just the worst “Transformers” movie yet, but also one of the absolute worst experiences I have ever had in a movie theater. In terms of writing, editing, directing, “Transformers: The Last Knight” is just straight up inept. Its amazing that a major film studio can take over $200 Million to be completely incompetent. There are so many people who dream of making their own film, let alone their own “Transformers” film, and yet they never will. Not because they’re bad at what they do, but because apparently lazy is just acceptable these days.
The story in “Transformers: The Last Knight” (Which is the fifth film in the franchise) is a complete disaster, with too many plot points and characters, yet at the same time it gives us such a thinly written script that just can't seem to figure out what tone is. At nearly two and a half hours in length, you feel like you’ve watched three separate movies before it’s finally over, with the film wasting too much time on stupid crap and never truly giving you what you want. Look, I don’t want to hate, but Michael Bay just continues to somehow disappoint despite the already low bar. Especially this time where the film is shot with different types of cameras. Not that this is the first time a director has done that (Christopher Nolan does that all the time). However here the film’s aspect ratio keeps shifting from widescreen to fullscreen to whatever that other one is, even at random moments when characters are just talking, which makes for a distracting and eventually, headache inducing experience.
Mark Wahlberg’s character by this point has become even more irritating than Shia LaBeouf’s from the previous films. The film’s many attempts to convince me that he is the most badass of badasses, just makes the Transformers themselves seem less important to his generic storyline. His romance in the film with Laura Haddock (Who does provide some excellent fanservicey outfits. A Bay trademark) is as bland and unoriginal as you can possibly get. Isabela Moner and Jerrod Carmichael (as “Jimmy”, the comical black guy. Another Bay trademark) don’t do anything, vanish for a large portion of the movie, and just reappear in the last act for no reason. Great actors like Stanley Tucci and John Turturro (as “Seymour Simmons”, an eccentric ally to the Autobots) are criminally wasted, while Anthony Hopkins somehow gives an even more bizarre performance than he did in “Collide” earlier this year. (Never thought I would ever hear Sir Anthony Hopkins refer to Marky Mark as “Dude”.)
The Transformers themselves for the fifth time in a row feel like secondary characters in their own movie. Its great to hear the voices of Peter Cullen and Frank Welker return to portray the characters that they did way back in the original cartoon from the 80s, but their screentime is limited. The whole “Optimus gone bad” story arc only lasts a couple minutes and Megatron’s confusing motivation making for an insult to such classic characters. Other voices such as the admittedly perfectly cast John Goodman, Ken Watanabe, John DiMaggio, Omar Sy, Jess Harnell (as “Barricade”, a Decepticon who appears then vanishes. Never to be seen again), and Steve Buscemi (as “Daytrader”, a Transformers trader who also appears then vanishes. Never to be seen again) should all be interesting, but never get to do anything other than look cool. Gemma Chan doesn’t resonate as a villain in the slightest (And where this plot point goes is more laughable than scary), while the only possibly enjoyable character could be seen as Jim Carter, who might be amusing if not for the horrendous film he was in.
Every once in a while there might be a moment where I saw myself starting to feel some kind of odd enjoyment in “Transformers: The Last Knight”, but the film somehow finds a way to ruin that too. The effects may look good, though by this point they don’t really show anything all that impressive. There may be the occasional cool “Transformers” reference, but it’s not like it means anything or goes anywhere. While it’s cool to see Optimus Prime and Megatron duking it out like old times, its hard to care where you’re never given any form of emotional connection to the characters.
“Transformers: The Last Knight” is the worst example of modern cinema. This is coming from a guy who always defends today’s kind of movies against those who say that the old movies were always better. There was just as much crap back then as there are great movies right now. With that said, this is a movie that could only exist in today’s day and age. It’s sloppy, full of holes, more focused on effects and advertising, and comes across as cynical in how it just sets up another movie despite claiming to be “The Final Chapter”. (Yes. There is in fact a post credits, and it's just a giant middle finger to the audience) To quote the great robot, Tom Servo. "You know, there are certain flaws in this film." No Stars. Rated PG-13 For Mechanical Violence And Noise, Noise, Noise.
Image: My guess is it's not a Goldfish.
Okay, I should probably clarify what the Hell is going on. You’re probably wandering what you’re doing on a different site. What happened to “Eagan at the Movies”? The bottom line is that we have gotten it all fixed for right now. Might be problematic in the future. Might lead to something better. But that's not important. Lets talk about Sharks killing people!
“47 Meters Down” begins with two sisters, “Lisa” (Mandy Moore) and “Kate” (Claire Holt), on vacation in Mexico. Lisa is going through a bad break up, so Kate decides she needs to do something fun like cage diving with sharks. (I’m admittedly a complete coward and would never consider that fun). So along with a couple of bros they met, they board a boat owned by “Captain Taylor” (Mathew Modine), who sets up the cage that Lisa and Kate are going to be diving in. Lisa is scared, thinking this is a bad idea, but Kate assures her nothing can go wrong.
So yeah. Something goes wrong. The boat winch breaks, sending the cage, along with Lisa and Kate, tumbling down to the sea floor at 47 meters. Now low on oxygen, badly injured, and with a crap load of hungry sharks circling them, Lisa and Kate must find a way back to the surface before they suffocate, pass out from the pressure, or become dinner.
“47 Meters Down” to it’s credit looks better than any movie like this has any right to be. For something originally meant for nothing more than a straight to DVD release (or at least for Video on Demand), the film does succeed at moments of atmosphere and terror. It’s really all you’re gonna get, but for fans of the genre, I doubt they’ll be too picky.
The plot is basic and really just dives right in (Ha!), without giving too much development to it’s characters other than the fact you just don’t want to see them get eaten or worse. As for dialogue, its nothing more than the usual survival talk. Luckily Mandy Moore is a much better actress than she's given credit for, and she elevates what little material is given her, while Claire Holt is also plenty serviceable. Its also nice to see Mathew Modine take time out of his busy schedule of torturing super powered children in “Stranger Things”.
The last second twist is fun, but predictable, and you aren’t given anything more than advertised. “47 Meters Down” is the definition of “Getting what you paid for”. You get to see some sharks look scary and chomp down on some people. Little depth or characterization, but at least a couple decent enough performances. You wanted a shark movie and you will get your shark movie. Dig in. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Sharky Menace And For Reminding Me Why I Will Never Cage Dive.
Image: Thug Life Apparently.
So apparently Tupac really is alive. Not only is he chilling with Elvis, he took time out of his day to change his name to Demetrius Shipp Jr. and go be in a movie about himself. Makes sense, don’t you think? Either way, for all this film’s issues, they got the look right. Too bad the rest of the film is a complete mess.
“All Eyez on me” follows the life story of hip-hop artist “Tupac Shakur” (Demetrius Shipp Jr.), while in a correctional facility (It's prison. Just say prison). Tupac tells his biography to a journalist (Hill Harper), starting from his childhood, being raised by his political/Black Panther supporting mother “Afeni” (Danai Gurira), his relationships with various people, including his best friend “Jada Pinkett” (Kat Graham) and his once friend and soon to be future rival, “The Notorious B.I.G.” (Jamal Woolard).
Shakur talks about how he rose in popularity, became famous, and got into trouble with the law, all while becoming a symbol of inspiration to the African American community. When Tupac is eventually released from prison, he later signs up with “Death Row Records” and it’s record producer/wannabe mafia boss, “Suge Knight” (Dominic L. Santana). Shakur’s choices further adds controversy to his life until eventual murder, which to this day despite many accusations, has never truly been solved.
The idea was there for “All Eyez on Me”. This had the making of a fascinating biopic about a fascinating person, whose life has generated many fans and controversy. The sad part is that this film has no intention of addressing any of that and settles for essential a Tupac highlight reel, going from scene to scene of his life without much real development or sense of the word pacing.
In fact, “All Eyez on Me” goes for the most generic form of storytelling in terms of biopics. The film simply moves from scene to scene, life event to life event, without taking much time to focus on much of it. Director Benny Bloom just can’t seem to keep the film structured properly. Its a shame because Tupac Shakur's life story is actually very interesting, and a rather important one for many in the black community. Love him or hate him, he left an impression, certainly more than this movie will.
All jokes about possible cloning aside, Demetrius Shipp Jr., who is also a newcomer, is not a bad choice for the role. He’s got the look and plenty of charisma, showing, much like the real man, just how people were able to gravitate towards him and why he made such an impact. Kat Graham does solid work despite limited screen time. Danai Gurira could be seen as a little over the top, but considering how passionate her character is she does have a few powerful moments. But sadly other actors like Jamal Woolard, Dominic L. Santana, and Jarrett Ellis (As “Snoop Dog”, who needs no introduction) are wasted. They’re not bad, but the film’s lack of proper pacing and focus don’t allow them to fully resonate with the audience.
“All Eyez on Me” feels insultingly by the book, probably in a rushed attempt to get this film out as quickly as possible. The story is intriguing enough as it is and could of made for a compelling character study, but at nearly two and a half hours in length, the failed attempt feels all the more frustrating. You would be better off just reading up on Tupac Himself. Or get Spotify. 1 1/2 stars. Rated R For Language And The Thug Life.
Image: And your kids are now traumatized for life.
Yes I know! We still haven’t gotten a sequel for “The Incredibles” yet. But we have somehow gotten a trilogy of “Cars” movies. Its weird that “Hot Wheels” with faces is apparently one of the most successful properties to come out of the beloved animation studio, “Pixar”. To it’s credit though, even when Pixar goes for the middle of the road, its still generally a pretty solid ride.
“Cars 3” opens in the possibly post apocalyptic world where humanity is no more and the entire population is made up of vehicles with eyes and mouths. The film follows now veteran racer, “Lightning McQueen” (Owen Wilson), who is starting to fear the takeover of the new, shinier, faster, younger racer cars, especially rookie, “Jackson Storm” (Armie Hammer). The next race turns into a complete disaster, with Storm dominating and McQueen getting into a horrifying crash. While he survives, McQueen starts to lose his spirit when all the racing analysts declare that he is finished and should retire much like his now deceased mentor, “Doc Hudson” (Voiced by Paul Newman in the original movie) was forced to.
Refusing to quit, McQueen is determined to make sure he can not only race again, but become good enough to beat Storm, despite the demands of retirement from McQueen’s new boss, “Sterling” (Nathan Fillion), who only cares about branding and profits. He finds some unexpected help from a new perky trainer, “Cruz Ramirez” (Cristela Alonzo), and McQueen begins training to become better than ever before, while also learning to cope with the changing times.
“Cars 3” is the threequel I doubt many were really asking for. The franchise has overall been considered Pixar’s weakest, with the last sequel, “Cars 2”, to be the first (And only) film to ever get negative critical and fan reactions. While I never disliked this series, I will admit, there did seem to be a certain amount of emotion lacking from them that Pixar had been known to always provide. But I suppose third time really is the charm as “Cars 3” is the best film in the franchise. While thoroughly predictable, following many of the same plot points you’ve seen from other films, this one still offer plenty of charm, a few good laughs, a lot of heart, and some positive morals for both kids and adults. Not to mention, as usual with both Disney and Pixar, the animation is just gorgeous (Pixar really is just showing off by this point). With so much attention to detail on the designs of every car, right down to the shine, scratches, and rust, mixed in with beautiful colors, you really can’t help but smile when you look at it.
Owen Wilson is essentially Lightning McQueen by this point, and I can only imagine his voice coming out of that character. Cristela Alonzo is a nice addition, adding some humor and a little depth once we start to learn more about her character. Larry the Cable Guy (as “Mater”, McQueen’s dimwitted tow truck buddy) is fine in small doses and the film wisely keeps him to just occasional comic relief this time around. We get a few good laughs from Tony Shalhoub (as “Luigi”, an excitable Italian member of McQueen’s pit crew) and Bonnie Hunt (as “Sally”, McQueen’s girlfriend), who actually has a role this time unlike the last film. Armie Hammer and Nathan Fillion lay on the smarm as the closest things this movie has to villains, with Chris Cooper (as “Smokey”, Doc Hudson’s old mentor) being a welcome addition, and the late, great Paul Newman (Who sadly passed away almost 9 years ago) gets a heartwarming little tribute, through the use of unused recordings and archived dialogue.
While the film’s ending comes as a surprise and provides a rather mature message for kids, “Cars 3” rarely goes anywhere you wouldn’t expect it to. It still doesn’t quite measure up to Pixar’s best work, but it does at least offer much of the delight and enjoyment that we get from the studio. Kids will love it and adults will certainly appreciate it. And Lightning McQueen survives and isn't horribly disfigured, contrary to what that horrible early preview of the film suggested. Easy, Pixar. we can only handle so much. 3 stars. Rated G.
Image: Please let me be the groom! Please let me be the groom!
Those bachelorette parties certainly seem way more fun than your standard bachelor party. While we get a bunch of drunken bros, most of which you don't know or even like, eventually hiring a stripper (Who may or may not cause you to do something stupid) and pretty much doing anything else that will cause you to wake up the next morning filled with grief, shame, and the realization that you will likely be ruining some poor girl's life. However, the girls will be partying it out, doing all kinds of wild stuff, and actually enjoying themselves. (Not to mention Scarlett Johansson is at this one. So I definitely need to be there) What I'm trying to say is, they know how to party. Not to mention they seem to know how to properly hide a dead body.
This "Rough Night" begins with "Jess" (Scarlett Johansson), who is about to be married to her dorky boyfriend, "Peter" (Paul W. Downs). Jess reunites with her college friends, including former roommate/best friend "Alice" (Jillian Bell), former bickering lovers "Frankie" (Ilana Glazer) and "Blair" (Zoë Kravitz), and her other, wacked out Australian college buddy "Pippa" (Kate McKinnon). They all gather in Miami for Jess' bachelorette party and go out for a night of debauchery, drugs, clubs, drinking, topping it all off with the inviting of a male stripper, which results in said stripper accidentally bashing his head in and winding up dead. So the friends need to find a way of disposing the body in the most calm and rational way as possible......Which is what they don't do and we have our movie.
"Rough Night" is one of those movies where critics like me aren't really given much to talk about. You've been through this kind of territory many times before, sometimes better or sometimes worse. All you can really hope for is that its funny, and for the most part, it is. Granted, most of it is likely helped by the talent involved. Scarlett Johansson plays it straight against all the wacky shenanigans perfectly, while Jillian Bell is a riot as usual. Illana Glazer and Zoë Kravitz get plenty of laughs, with Kate McKinnon's bizarre performance is oddly mesmerizing to the point where you just wanna see more. All five of them have solid chemistry which actually makes the film's moments of heart feel genuine. Paul W. Downs (Who also co-wrote the film) actually gets some pretty good moments here and thoroughly commits to the absurdity, while Ty Burrell and Demi Moore pop up in odd roles (as "Pietro" and "Lea", an aggressively sexual couple).
To be perfectly honest, movies like "Rough Night" kind of tick me off. Not that there is actually much wrong with it. It's just that because they make for really boring reviews. In terms of plot and predictability, its all exactly what you would expect. Hitting the standard beats, it ends in a way you should easily figure out 10 minutes in, and I won't be giving anything away saying that the plot isn't going to go anywhere too dark, just amusingly ridiculous. To it's credit, the film does it's job and does it well enough to recommend to anyone look for a girl's night out. You're just here to see some funny women be funny, which is exactly what you get and not much else. But It does confirm how much fun it would be to hang out in person with these ladies, so I'm happy to volunteer my services in disposing of the body. 2 1/2 stars. Rated R For Raunchy Girl Language And Stripper Homicide.
Image: A girl and her dog.
There are a couple things in film that will always get us. Children or babies in danger, aging couples nearing the end (Damn it, I can't take it!), and relationships with animals, who may or may not be in danger. Hell, even a weak film like "A Dog's Purpose" had it's moments, showing that just the idea of a faithful companion in any form of danger, can make a grown man blubber. So yeah. This story just had to work.
"Megan Leavey" tells the true story of a young woman (Kate Mara) whose life isn't quite going anywhere. She is constantly at odds with her mother, "Jackie" (Edie Falco), and always getting into trouble and screwing up. So since she has nothing else to lose, she joins the US Marines, where she proceeds to get into trouble and screw up some more. Megan eventually takes interest in becoming a K9 handler. Unfortunately, she is paired with a rather rebellious, easily agitated German Shepherd, "Rex".
Despite a rough start, Megan begins to see that she and Rex are perfect for each other, serving in two deployments in the war in Iraq until they are both wounded in an explosion. When Megan plans to leave the Marines, she also intends to adopt Rex as well, which proves to be a very difficult task. Megan, realizing that she owes Rex more than just her life, is willing to do anything to see that a furry war hero is brought home.
"Megan Leavey" is one of those films that could of gone off course really easily. But the film avoids the cheese and forced drama, instead relying on the genuinely heartwarming story of a girl and her dog, which anyone can relate to. The film treats it's serious subject matter with the utmost respect that it deserves. Thanks to Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite, the film rarely loses focus of it's intention, telling a powerful story that should give audiences the feel good movie they've been looking for.
Kate Mara shows off just how terrific an actress she can really be, retaining likability and relatablility throughout, with honest emotion, charm, and heart. Her character's relationship with Rex pulls on your heartstrings, finding time to make you both laugh and occasionally sob (I fought it back.) We also get solid work out of Edie Falco, Bradley Whitford (as "Bob", Megan's divorced dad), Tom Felton (as "Andrew Dean", a veteran dog handler), while Common (as "Gunnery Sergeant Massey", Megan's superior) shows continued growth as an actor, giving an excellent performance,
"Megan Leavey" does have a couple weak spots, especially when the movie takes a detour to focus on a romantic subplot involving one of her corporal buddies, "Matt Morales" (Ramón Rodríguez), which almost never adds much of anything. When the film keeps it's focus on the relationship of it's two heroes (Both here and in real life), the film truly shines, making for the perfect crowdpleaser. Especially if you have a soft spot for the cute and furry. And cute redheads. 3 1/2 Tears...I mean, Stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Harsh War Reality.
Image: It always comes at night....Or in this case, the daytime.
I'm afraid of the dark. And so are you. Don't try to kid yourself. Nobody wants to be lost in some dark hallway, armed with a small flashlight of lantern, only able to see what's in front of you, not knowing what might pop up from behind or what will just run at you from the front. We can't see it, we can't predict it, we just don't know who or what it is that's hiding in the dark and that just scares the crap out of us. But most horror films are filled with cheap scares that are immediately forgotten about. This one could give you nightmares.
"It Comes at Night" begins in a possibly post apocalyptic world (It's never really clarified), where the world and it's people have fallen to some kind of horrifying and contagious disease that causes them to become covered in boils, vomit black stuff, and die slow and painful deaths. A family lives alone in the woods, away from the world, including the father, "Paul" (Joel Edgerton), his wife, "Sarah" (Carmen Ejogo), their curious son, "Travis" (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), and their doggy "Stanley".
The family lives in a boarded up house, where they have all promised never to open the only door at night, because of what they fear is lurking outside. Their house is broken into by a desperate man, "Will" (Christopher Abbott), who is only looking for water for his wife, "Kim" (Riley Keough) and their young son, "Andrew" (Griffin Robert Faulkner). Paul decides to allow the family to stay with them, but as time progresses, distrust and paranoia starts to get to everyone and some really weird, messed up sh*t is about to happen.
Despite what you might be thinking, "It Comes at Night" is not really a horror movie in the more traditional sense. It's more psychological, trying to mess with your head, and make you question what's real and what isn't. With that in mind, it's more artistic way of bringing out suspense and dread might not sit well with today's audience. Just look at the "D" on Cinemascore. (Then again, "Boo! A Madea Halloween" has an "A", so I suggest not taking them seriously in the slightest.) The film is a unique sit through, filled with disturbing and unsettling imagery, along with clever use of darkness itself with Director Trey Edward Shults utilizing it beautifully.
"It Comes at Night" doesn't exactly answer any questions. (Okay, it doesn't answer anything), but it does fill you with a sense of fear that's much different from your standard horror film. With some dream sequences meant to further mess with your head (And create future YouTube screamers) and sounds that you probably think you've heard while wandering outside late at night, its hard not to become engaged in the experience. Even if the experience is just such a complete downer to the point you kind of question what the point of it all was.
In terms of acting, everyone in "It Comes at Night" is terrific, with Joel Edgerton, who has probably become one of the most reliable actors in Hollywood, and Carmen Ejogo, who is an incredibly underrated actress, both playing up the family dynamic and paranoia perfectly. We spend most of the film with Kelvin Harrison Jr., giving us a more innocent look into this bleak, almost pessimistic world that's been created.
One understandable complaint of the film could be had with the film probably has to do with the reveal of what's really going on (Or in this case, lack thereof). The ending comes abruptly in a way that's just depressing, but to the point where you don't really know how you're meant to feel. (I'm still not sure myself honestly.)
I am sure the way "It Comes at Night" ends and the mixed feelings that arise from it are purely intentional, and I can see plenty of people reacting to the film poorly. "Night" is meant to fill your head with unseen fears that trick you into becoming just as jumpy as it's characters. And while it doesn't always satisfy, you will certainly remember the experience and will probably hold that flashlight extra tighter next time you're in a dark room. You wimps. 3 stars. Rated R For Projectile Vomit And Humanity At It's "Finest".
Image: "Ray....when someone asks you if you are a God, you say YES!"
Before there was the "Marvel Cinematic Universe", there were the "Universal Monsters".You remember those old, classic black and white movies. Dracula, the Wolf Man, Frankenstein and his monster, all the classics. They were part of the original cinematic universe. Sadly, they never really capitalized on it (And the oodles of dough that came with it), while Marvel would later perfect it. But now Universal is bringing back their old monsters (And the Hunchback for some reason) to start up their new big screen franchise. Only to have Wonder Woman kick their ass at the box office this week.
"The Mummy" begins in ancient Egypt, where a power hungry princess, "Ahmanet" (Sofia Boutella), fearing that she will never have the throne, decides to call upon the evil god, "Set" (aka Egyptian Satan), and murder her family. Her demonic alliance results in her being mummified alive by her people and buried in a prison like tomb far from Egypt. Now in the present, a pair of soldiers, "Nick Morton" (Tom Cruise) and his wussy buddy, "Chris Vail" (Jake Johnson), who secretly have tendency to steal priceless items from war zones to sell to the black market, stumble upon Ahmanet's tomb.
Nick's previous little fling, "Jenny Halsey" (Annabelle Wallis), turns out to be an archaeologist for a secret organization, and she wants to study Ahmanet's sarcophagus. So Nick decides to release it from it's prison and on the plane ride home, where Ahmanet's power is unleashed. Nick is able to get Jenny a parachute to safety, but goes down with the plane, killing everyone else. But Nick learns that he just can't die, along with Vail (Who has become an undead apparition), because Ahmanet has chosen him to become Set's new vessel. Now Nick teams up with Jenny and her mysterious employer, "Dr. Henry Jekyll" (Russel Crowe), to put a stop to Ahmanet's plan for world destruction.
Originally meant to begin with 2014's dreadful "Dracula Untold", this new version of "The Mummy" is intended to be the first in Universal's new cinematic universe, or "The Dark Universe". However the film ends up being a bit of a disappointment. Not that I was really expecting too much from this, but I always found the idea of creating a series of films based around our beloved book/film monsters to be full of so many possibilities. In the end, the film mostly teases them, while cramming too much into a tonally inconsistent movie.
Director Alex Kurtzman (Whose name you probably recognize from a ton of geek related stuff) has the idea down, filling "The Mummy" with some clever moments of horror and action, but the plot is far too complicated and sloppy, with the film's many admittedly fascinating ideas never being fully realized. The film takes some time for some solid atmosphere, though its usually interrupted by the movie's failed attempts at humor, clearly trying to be too much like Marvel.
This leads to the biggest issue with "The Mummy". It's trying way too hard to be like everything else. The plot, which is all over the place and seemingly made up as it goes along, takes too many ideas from other films, including the previous "Mummy" films before it. It doesn't help that the script can't seem to figure out the tone it wants to have. When the horror elements are focused on, some of it works, but the more humorous aspect falls flat, along with the film's lack of character development.
At least Tom Cruise is a pro and he still shows it after almost 40 years in the business. He brings his A-game, with his cowardly, somewhat jerky character's wisecracks (And the fact that he genuinely looks terrified by the horror presented to him), show what the movie should of been. Same goes for Russel Crowe, (Who isn't in the movie near enough.) He not only looks like he's having some fun, but he shows where this idea could really go if it were in more capable hands. (His "Mr. Hyde" transformation is the film's most memorable moment.) Annabelle Wallis is pretty, but doesn't have the range to pull off how much she is given to do in this movie, and while Sofia Boutella is plenty creepy looking (And kind of hot in a weird, slit your throat kind of way way), but her villainess is just not very interesting or memorable. Also, this movie completely wastes the fun that could of been had with the idea of an undead Jake Johnson.
"The Mummy" has it's moments from time to time, especially when you can see what the filmmakers have in mind for the future of the film universe. But it seems like nothing more than just a cool idea once we reach the rather confusing ending, failing to fully deliver on the classic monster movie excitement that you really don't see much of anymore. The potential is still there, and I do want this to succeed. It's just that before Universal starts making big plans, they actually need to figure out what the Hell their plan even is. 2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Scary Images And PG-13 Mummy Booty.
Image: My sister and I laugh the same way when our Dad walks out in his underwear.
We were all kids once. Well I was, anyway. Like all kids, we had a strange obsession with poo, boogers, and undergarments. (That last one especially for some reason.) And most kids, from my generation anyone, could see that personified in the beloved, classic children's book series, "Captain Underpants" by Dav Pilkey. They were silly, nonsensical, but funny and surprisingly intelligent. So it makes sense that the movie wouldn't be any different. Especially if they still make poo jokes.
"Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie" follows the life of young pranksters/comic book creators "George Beard" (Kevin Hart) and "Harold Hutchins" (Thomas Middleditch), two best friends who try to bring laughter and joy to "Jerome Horwitz Elementary School", the most depressing school you'll ever see, run by the tyrannical "Principal Krupp" (Ed Helms). Mr. Krupp, who hates fun altogether, loathes George and Harold's many pranks and looks forward to the day that he can finally catch them red handed. Krupp gets his chance when George and Harold sabotage a boring science convention and are ratted out by the nerdy know-it-all, "Melvin Sneedly" (Jordan Peele).
Mr. Krupp plans to destroy George and Harold's friendship by forcing them into separate classes, but George, in a move of desperation, uses a hypno ring that he got out of a cereal box to hypnotize Mr. Krupp, turning him into one of their characters from their comics, a half naked superhero named "Captain Underpants". George and Harold decide to use this to their advantage to make sure they can remain together, all while attempting to make the school a better place, despite Captain Underpants' incredible stupidity and reckless behavior. However, things become more complicated by the arrival of a mad supervillian posing as a science teacher, the unfortunately named "Professor Poopypants" (Nick Kroll). Poopypants plots to rid the world of laughter because, well, his name is Poopypants, so its up to George and Harold (And to a lesser extent, Captain Underpants) to save the day.
From DreamWorks Animation, "Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie" is basically pure nonsense, but that's what it's supposed to be. Never taking itself too seriously, right down to the way the story is presented, occasionally referencing the limited budget and veering back and forth from some hand drawn animation. The film then reverts back to 3D (Which itself is clearly meant to resemble 2D animation), resembling the original books perfectly, right down to a "Flip-O-Rama" scene that is utterly brilliant. (You guys remember those right?)
The almost chaotic animation style makes the film occasionally frenetic, though the film's short, brisk length and pace balance it out. The jokes are sure to make both kids and their parents laugh, with plenty obviously meant only for the adults. While the film is undeniably meant to generate more laughs than anything, "Captain Underpants" still takes time to add a little depth to its characters, with George and Harold's relationship actually coming across as cute and pretty heartwarming.
Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch don't exactly sound like little kids, but they do really fit the characters, who are both likable and oddly relatable. Ed Helms provides plenty of big laughs, while really playing two different characters, between the over the top meanness of Mr. Krupp and the over the top joyousness of Captain Underpants. Nick Kroll is hilarious, as he tends to be with voice roles. (The German accent just makes it funnier), as is Jordan Peele, who I had no idea was even doing that voice until after the movie ended. And Kristen Schaal (as "Edith", the shy lunch lady who is crushing on Mr. Krupp's hot bod) is always welcome.
"Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie" is blissfully silly with plenty of jokes revolving around underwear, toilets, and other goofy, gross stuff. Despite this, somehow the film is never juvenile. In reality, this "Underpants" is smart, clever, and thoroughly charming. With lovable characters, beautiful animation, and a good message about the importance of just having a sense of humor, "Captain Underpants" is probably the best movie to come out of DreamWorks Animation in some time. I told you boogers and poo are funny! 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG For Hilarious And Totally Appropriate Toilet Humor, And Totally Appropriate Partial Nudity.
Image: Aaaaand.... Theme Music!
Lets face it. DC has got issues. Aside from the Christopher Nolan and Tim Burton "Batman" films, and a couple of the "Superman" ones, they just can't seem to make their beloved and abundant characters translate into quality movies. Their answer to the "Marvel Cinematic Universe", known as the "DC Extended Universe" was to give us disappointments like "Batman V Superman" and "Suicide Squad". But now they have just found something that even Marvel hasn't been able to accomplish. They've given us the first ever great female superhero movie. Not that anyone would argue, but "Elektra" and "Catwoman" are bad and bad for you.
"Wonder Woman" begins in the Amazonian island of Themyscira (Meaning women only. Sorry dudes) where the young "Diana" (Gal Gadot) hopes to become an Amazonian warrior much like her aunt, "General Antiope" (Robin Wright), but her mother "Queen Hippolyta" (Connie Nielsen) does not want her to follow this path, fearing that the dreaded god of war, "Ares", could find her and use her for his own nefarious ends. Things become more complicated with the arrival of the island's first man, "Steve Trevor" (Chris Pine), a US spy, who also accidentally leads some German soldiers to the island, resulting in many casualties, Steve warns them of the ongoing Great War (World War I), and of the deadly chemical weapons about to be unleashed by the maniacal "General Erich Ludendorff" (Danny Huston) and scarred mad Scientist, "Doctor Isabel Maru/Doctor Poison" (Elena Anaya).
Hippolyta has no intention of involving her people with this war, but Diana, believing Ares is the one behind the war, takes matters into her own hands, taking with her a sword known as the God Killer Shield (Self explanatory what it does), and that colorful armor that kinda makes a "W" symbol, and leaves with Steve to go to venture into the world of man. Allied with smooth talking spy "Sameer" (Saïd Taghmaoui), alcoholic sharpshooter "Charlie" (Ewen Bremner), opportunistic smuggler "Chief" (Eugene Brave Rock), Steve's quirky secretary "Etta Candy" (Lucy Davis), and peaceful speaker "Sir Patrick Morgan" (David Thewlis), Diana learns more of the outside world, along with the good and evil than the world of man can spawn.
Like all DC comics fans, I had been hoping that "Wonder Woman" would be the one that could change the course for their film universe, and it certainly doesn't disappoint. In fact, its actually better than you would even expect it to be. Instead of focusing on cramming too much into too little time and relying on an obsessive need to catch up to Marvel, this film instead takes time develop truly likable and memorable characters, mixing some humor and emotion with the drama, and bringing in empowering messages of heroism and shockingly, the reality of war and humanity's role in it.
Director Patty Jenkins does an excellent job explaining the world of Themyscira and how it works, which applies to Diana's journey as she discovers how different the rest of the world in in comparison. Injecting a few moments of genuine fun, while also remembering the seriousness of the setting, it ends up being the perfect place to tell the story. With some awesome action sequences (Though a little too reliant on CGI), is full of excitement. (That trench scene was a thing of beauty)
Gal Gadot is now who I think of when I think of "Wonder Woman" (And I intend to think about her a lot.) She's tough, totally badass, yet remains very feminine, with her own personality quirks and a little naivety, which makes her an incredibly compelling character. Her chemistry with Chris Pine, who is also great in the film, is sweet, injecting some humor and charm to the film. Danny Huston and Elena Anaya are perfectly sinister villains, while David Thewlis steals whatever scene he's in. Connie Nielson and Robin Wright have great small, but important roles, Lucy Davis gets some good laughs, and Ewen Bremmer, Saïd Taghmaoui, and Eugene Brave Rock are terrific additions to the film.
"Wonder Woman" does falter a bit towards the end, with the large, explosive, flashy climax that reminds you a little too much of rather over the top finale of "Batman V Superman". But that's really a minor complaint towards the end, and it doesn't last too long. The film succeeds with it's characters and it's heart. And despite the comedy put in to balance the film out, it never shies away from the reality of war, making Wonder Woman's acts of heroism all the more powerful.(Which has been something the other DC films have been lacking lately). Leave it to a badass woman to come out to save an entire film franchise. Men had their shot. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For War Violence And Male Discrimination. (How dare Alamo Drafthouse give the ladies something to look forward to.)
Image: "Dear Diary: Nobody asked for a reboot."
You know a franchise has outstayed it's welcome when your little sister, and the main reason you really saw these movies in the first place, is at the age where she has no interest in the newest film whatsoever, and declares that "You're on your own" for it. Not to mention the fact that this series has been going on since I first began reviewing movies way back when. Greg Heffley is almost in his 20s now! Man I'm feeling my age.
"Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul" starts with well, the wimpy kid, "Greg Heffley" (Jason Drucker) being forced against his will by his caring, cute, but overbearing mother, "Susan" (Alicia Silverstone) to go on a family road trip with his rather gooberish father, "Frank" (Tom Everett Scott), his idiotic, wannabe rockstar brother "Rodrick" (Charlie Wright), and baby brother "Manny" (Wyatt and Dylan Walters), to go see his grandma for her 90th birthday.
Greg, having accidentally become an embarrassing internet sensation (Involving him with a diaper stuck on his hand), plans to manipulate the trip into taking a detour to a gaming convention so he can do something that's kinda....Well, kind of hard to explain really. Anyways, shenanigans ensue, involving a baby pig, some psycho bearded fat guy who really wants to kill Greg, and constant family bickering that will eventually lead to some valuable lesson about family and overcoming your inner wimp.
The "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" franchise has never really been much to talk about in terms of quality, but they were generally fine kids movies that at least didn't annoy the parents who were dragged to see them. Granted, "The Long Haul" really isn't that much different. It's just a weaker, and more unnecessary version of it. The story follows the same beats from the other films, complete with gross out humor and goofy antics. It feels like it was all cobbled together at the last second because all the kids from the original series had the nerve to grow up, and while it's technically a reboot of the franchise, it somehow manages to be a sequel at the same time. It's a paradox of wimpy proportions!
"Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul" does provide a positive message, and offers an occasional couple of amusing gags, all while doing so as inoffensively as possible. It just lacks a bit more of the effort (And feels somewhat cheaper) than the other films before it. In terms of performances, Alicia Silverstone and Tom Everett Scott are not bad choices for their characters, and they do seem like they're having a lot of fun. Jason Drucker and Charlie Wright are okay enough, but they clearly aren't really actors yet, and lack the necessary comic timing Also, Greg's chubby best friend, "Rowley" (Owen Asztalos) pops up for about 5 minutes and vanishes, never to be seen again.
I've noticed that "The Long Haul" has hit a sour note with fans of the franchise, mostly due to the complete recast of all the characters. (#NotMyRodrick). It really isn't much different than the others. The kids may enjoy it, but it just doesn't feel like it needs to be here, offering less laughs and the sort of charm that the franchise used to provide. Honestly, I wish it was worse. Then I could say something like, "It should have been called "Diary of a Weaker Kid". Nope, Doesn't make me feel any better. 2 stars. Rated PG For CGI Vomit, And a "Psycho" Reference (Okay. That was kind of funny funny.)
Image: The worst case of cutting yourself while shaving.
Fourteen years! This franchise is the same age as my younger sister. I was only starting Middle School when it all started. Hell, we've had three presidents since then. The original 2003 film (Or "The Curse of the Black Pearl" as it was called) was and to some degree still is, one of my personal favorite films. It was fun, exciting, quotable, memorable, just like the Disneyworld ride it was based on. However, unlike the ride, this wasn't meant to be ridden over and over again.
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" starts with young "Henry Turner" (Brenton Thwaites), son of the cursed current captain of "The Flying Dutchman", "Will Turner" (Orlando Bloom) and "Elizabeth Swann" (Keira Knightley), hoping to find the fabled "Trident of Poseidon" to release his father from his curse. Henry first has to track down legendary, drunken, buffoonish pirate, "Jack Sparrow" (Johnny Depp). His search also leads him to work on a British Navy ship, which is attacked by a crew of ghosts, led by the dreaded, maniacal pirate hunter, "Armando Salazar" (Javier Bardem).
Salazar wants revenge on the pirate who caused his cursed death, which surprise surprise, is Jack Sparrow. Salazar sends Henry to find Jack and to tell him that he intends to finally track him down and kill him. Henry eventually finds Jack, along with a feisty astronomer, "Carina" (Kaya Scodelario), who is also searching for the Trident for her own reasons. The three of them plan out their search for the Trident, with Salazar forcing Jack's old rival, "Hector Barbossa" (Geoffrey Rush), to help him find Jack before he gets his hands on the Trident.
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" sadly doesn't take the series anywhere new, once again having some big bad guy coming back to kill Jack Sparrow, so he and a few other people have to go find some kind of mystical artifact while Barbossa finds his way into the story somehow. I've never found this franchise to ever really be bad. Honestly, I kinda enjoy the second and third films ("Dead Man's Chest" and "At World's End") despite their glaring flaws, but that's where it all should of originally stopped. Then after 2012's pretty forgettable "On Stranger Tides", the series has continued regardless of how necessary it needs to be, and unlike the "Fast & Furious" franchise, they've never really found anything new to justify it's existence.
"Dead Men Tell No Tales" looks great in terms of visuals and cinematography, with Directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandbergwith providing some cool actions scenes and some really impressive special effects. (If you look past the jumping Zombie Shark). Salazar and his ghostly crew in particular are a rather amazing effect, with enough little amusing details to add to the film's tone. In general, the series always had the look of a Pirates life down, dirty, yet large in scope. Despite it's excellent look and feel, this fifth installment is by far the weakest one yet, due to it's lackluster script, which is so convoluted, yet so underwritten, that the film's big reveals and the fates of certain characters leave little to no impact.
Johnny Depp gave us Jack Sparrow years ago, who has become as beloved as any other major Disney character, and while he still has his moments, the shtick just got old after a while. Brenton Thwaites and the rather adorable Kaya Scodelario aren't so much bad in the film, their characters aren't given much more development other than what is presented in their opening scenes. Geoffrey Rush doesn't need to be here again, but he chews the scenery like the pro he is. Luckily, even this film continues the series' trend of excellent baddies, and Javier Bardem just oozes villainy and is having a blast doing it.
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" suffers from too many, unnecessary subplots, whether it be with returning characters like Jack's BFF, "Gibbs" (Kevin McNally), or newly added characters like evil British officer, "Scarfield" (David Wenham), who literally does nothing but make the film longer. Even other characters who have importance don't really feel like they need to be here and the film has trouble trying to give them all enough attention to warrant their focus in the film.
Though its been billed as the "Final Adventure", that's hands down the biggest lie Disney has ever told us considering the film's post credit scene that only implies not just a continuation, but some really confusing plot lines in the future. (The mythology in these films are starting to go all over the place by this point.) "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" has it's moments, like all the film's do, it still doesn't feel like we absolutely needed this. 2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Scary Images And Drunken Johnny Depp (A little unsettling in hindsight don't you think?)
Image: The cast of "Baywatch" flees from their own movie as fast as they can.
This is starting to become it's own genre now isn't it? The whole "Take an old, cheesy TV series and turn it into a raunchy, R rated comedy" genre. Sadly, instead of a charmingly self aware "21 Jump Street" type (Or "22 Jump Street"), we basically get another "CHiPs" and considering the star power involved, its a shocking waste of time.
"Baywatch" starts with cocky former Olympic athlete, "Matt Brody" (Zac Efron) being forced to perform community service by becoming a lifeguard for an elite lifeguarding division, "Baywatch", which is led by the beloved, massively musclebound "Mitch Buchannon" (Dwayne Johnson). Brody is also forced to endure tryouts, along with his pretty love interest, "Summer" (Alexandra Daddario) and chubby dork, "Ronnie" (Jon Bass), who is only there because he has the hots for one of the lifeguards, "C.J." (Kelly Rohrbach). But when Mitch discovers drugs and a dead body, he connects it all to evil businesswoman, "Victoria Leeds" (Priyanka Chopra), and believes its up to Baywatch to solve the case, despite the fact literally nobody wants them involved. Nobody.
"Baywatch" is another one of those comedies that settles for the easy joke, which usually revolves around some kind of lower, lengthy appendage or some random swear repeated, but this time it commits possibly the worst crime a comedy can make. Taking competent people, making them unfunny, and putting them in a movie that is just ungodly boring. With a running time reaching nearly two hours, the film's lack of laughs only further damn a silly, over the top, yet somehow blandly generic plot.
From Director Seth Gordon ("Horrible Bosses", "Identity Thief"), "Baywatch" never really goes far enough with it's premise, nor does it ever truly embrace the campiness of it's own source material. Its like it wants to be taken seriously at the wrong parts, and aside from the occasional chuckle, just provides jokes that fall flat. Hard. Like when you hit the water face first hard. It doesn't help that most of the jokes are pretty bottom of the barrel, usually going for easy and lazy, rather than clever or smart.
Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron do what they can with what is given, mostly providing the film's most amusing moments, while the lovely Alexandra Daddario's hypnotic blue eyes are worth it enough. Priyanka Chopra's villainous role is nothing but typical, never being funny or threatening, Ilfenesh Hadera (as "Stephanie", Mitch's love interest, I think) doesn't really say or do anything. And Jon Bass is nowhere near as funny or as lovable as this film seems to continuously suggest. Also, he and Kelly Rohrbach? No. Just no. Not even here. No.
Despite being overlong enough as it is, "Baywatch" still feels like some scenes are missing, making me wonder how long the final cut originally was. Its choppy and tonally all over the place, especially with it's characters and plot, and since it's like it forgot to be funny, it's just a waste of something that really could of worked. Not to mention some rather horrendous CGI work, which is not something I thought I would bring up in a review for "Baywatch" of all things.
"Baywatch" could of been fun, but its a slow, dull chore to sit through. It could of been amusing if it committed to either being a parody or a satire, especially when you compare it to it's goofy source material. Really, you should just watch that instead. It's got a shorter runtime, less dick jokes, and way more Hasselhoff. 1 star. Rated R For Bouncy Bouncy And Jiggle Jiggle.
Image: "Lets piss off a bunch of old, white people and kiss."
Is it possible for a perfectly decent, sweet, well made, if not a little cheesy, love story to be ruined completely by a nonsensical, outlandish and completely out of nowhere plot twist? ....... Yep, pretty much.
"Everything, Everything" follows "Maddy" (Amandla Stenberg), a young girl suffering from a disease that prevents her from ever leaving her home, with her only real interaction being between her doctor mother, "Pauline" (Anika Noni Rose) and her nurse, "Carla" (Ana de la Reguera). Maddy takes an interest in the new neighbors, in particular, the new guy next door, "Olly" (Nick Robinson), who Maddy thinks is totally adorbs. Only being able to speak with him through text messages and the occasional cute smile to each other from their windows, Carla allows Olly, behind Pauline's back, to come over where he and Maddy start to fall in love. But Pauline isn't having any of it, especially after Maddy becomes ill after going outside for a minute. Maddy is determined to live her own life and see the outside world, planning to run away with Olly to see the ocean, even if it kills her.
"Everything, Everything" is not the kind of movie that was made for me. It's more for sensitive teenage girls who want a dose of death with their romances. Similar to other films in this genre (The romance/drama/death genre?), it can't help occasional moments of melodrama and cheesy lines of dialogue. With that said, the film is competently made, and Director Stella Meghie does a solid job, especially when it comes to the focus on the two main characters and their interactions, which are (And I will gladly admit this), cute.
Amandla Stenberg (Rue from "The Hunger Games") is a good young actress, with charm to spare, and she actually has good chemistry with Nick Robinson. Both actors are surprisingly a delight to watch together, injecting humor, likability, and some professionalism to a fine, but not perfect script. Anika Noni Rose does good work as well, despite some "Things" involving a little twist that happens later on. (I Can't spoil it for you. Even though I want to. Sorry.)
"Everything, Everything" is a well made, well acted, fairly charming romance for about the first 70 minutes or so. It's in the last 20 where the movie collapses on itself. Somewhat like earlier this year's "The Space Between Us" (Though this film is slightly better made), the film leads to a rather bizarre plot twist that would normally raise questions in the real world. It's beyond stupid, it makes zero sense, and it destroys any form of logic that the film had set up from the beginning.
I was even considering giving "Everything, Everything" are fairly positive review up until the ludicrous ending. A genuinely heartwarming and at times effective movie is nearly ruined by it's soap opera-style plotting. Which is a bit of a shame. When I awkwardly go into these movies all by myself, I don't need the experience to be made even more awkward than necessary. Think about MY feelings for a change. 2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Poor And Seriously Improper Medical Practices.
Image: "Are you telling me that the name of this movie is nothing but a dirty joke?"
Amy Schumer will say whatever she wants, whenever she wants. She'll sprinkle in with a few vagina jokes for good measure. She's both undeniably funny and too much at the same time. I get it. She has no problem making you or I uncomfortable. It's also undeniable that there's a double standard for an edgy female comedian. So it doesn't surprise me that the haters are all over her new film, especially since Paul Feig and Katie Dippold (Director and Writer of the last year's "Ghostbusters") produced and wrote it. Internet Trolls unite!
"Snatched" starts with self-centered loser, "Emily" (Amy Schumer), planning out a vacation to Ecuador with her boyfriend (Randall Park), who breaks up with her before the trip. Since Emily can't refund the tickets, she convinced her recluse, cat obsessed mother, "Linda" (Goldie Hawn) to come with her on the vacation. Against Linda's protests, along with the protests form special-ops trained vacationers, "Ruth" (Wanda Sykes) and her tongue-less friend, "Barb" (Joan Cusack), Emily decides nothing could go wrong and parties it out with some hunky guy named (And I assure you, all guys with this name are hunky) "James" (Tom Bateman).
But as it turns out, James is only there to lure Emily and Linda into a scheme involving an evil crime boss, "Morgado" (Óscar Jaenada), who plans to hold them captive for ransom somewhere in Columbia. Emily and Linda manage to escape and are now on the run from the kidnappers, forced to rely on their lack of skills to survive, while growing closer as mother and daughter.
"Snatched" offers moments of humor here and there throughout, but its never enough to make a film critic truly recommend it to anyone, other than the many, many, older women I saw this movie with. (They apparently loved it, by the way. Naughty ladies.) It's not a particularly original idea, sort of going through the standard motions and beats you would see in a film like this.
Director Jonathan Levine ("50/50", "Warm Bodies") is competent at what he's doing, and everyone involved isn't necessarily sleepwalking through the film. But "Snatched" doesn't really have much else going for it. It's a goofy comedy that is attempting to inject some heart and say an important message (It's Mother's Day. Call your mother.) The film is genuine, yet it just doesn't really click.
Amy Schumer is a little all over the place lately, and I do get how that can annoy some people. She does show here (Much like she did in 2015's much better "Trainwreck") that she is a talented comedian, who also can actually act. She is essentially playing the same character she always plays here, and while she does it well, it does make you worry she could eventually go down the Sandler route and get a little too used to doing that. Schumer does thankfully have solid chemistry with Goldie Hawn, who despite not having been in a film in years does have a decent amount of charm.
Their mother daughter relationship in "Snatched" is a high point, coming across as actually cute and you see the point the film is trying to make. The best laughs come from the supporting cast, including Wanda Sykes, Joan Cusack, Ike Barinholtz (as "Jeffrey", Emily's mama's boy brother), and the very underrated Christoper Meloni (as "Roger", a wannabe Indiana Jones type), who appears briefly, but leaves an impression. And as usual with these kinds of movies, the less I say about the unimpressionable villains the better.
"Snatched" is not the disaster I think everyone was really expecting, but it doesn't really have much reason to be here. By the end, there's very little to write home about, other than getting to see talented comedians at work. Everyone involved is much more talented than this, so let's hope Amy Schumer takes advantage of her new film career and stretches herself further in the future. Beware the cautionary tale of the Sandler. 2 stars. Rated R For F-Bombs, Vagina Jokes Galore and Tape Worm.
Image: "Stop. Not so fast y'all. You think you can just up and run away, you're crazy. I like to eat people from other planets. Especially y'all."
I think I just watched "Prometheus" again. Except this time it was called "Alien Covenant". You can interpret that as you want. In the end, it's the same thing. It just depends on if you're okay with that or not, and if it's well made. And since I actually had a good time with "Prometheus" regardless of the understandable arguments against it, there is plenty of chest bursting (And back bursting) enjoyment to be had here. That never gets old.
"Alien: Covenant" begins in the year 2104, with the colony ship "Covenant" transporting thousands of sleeping colonists in stasis pods and frozen embryos to a new inhabitable planet to start a new life. Things take a dark turn when a "Space Storm" hits the ship, and, despite the efforts of synthetic Android, "Walter" (Michael Fassbender), the storm results in the deaths of a few colonists and the ship's captain, "Jacob Branson" (A barbecued James Franco cameo). The rest of the crew is awakened, including Branson's now widowed wife "Daniels" (Katherine Waterson), former first mate turned new captain "Christopher Oram" (Billy Crudup), lovable pilot "Tennesse" (Danny McBride), security officer "Lope" (Demián Bichir), and all the other future Alien chow. The crew intercepts a strange human transmission directing them to a nearby mysterious, unknown planet.
Against Daniels' objections, Oram decides it's totally a good idea and changes the ship's course to land on the planet. Once they arrive, the crew discovers a seemingly inhabitable, but pretty much lifeless planet, with a downed Alien ship and a pair of Dog Tags belonging to "Elizabeth Shaw" (Noomi Rapace), who the crew remembers being a member of the doomed "Prometheus" exhibition a few years earlier. After 20 minutes investigating the planet, everything goes to hell, with squishy monster Aliens bursting out of people's backs and throats, and the arrival of another android, "David" (Also Michael Fassbender), who claims he wants to get the crew to safety. Little does anyone know, something more horrifying than they could possibly imagine is starting to form, all leading to the creation of those terrifying dildo like Aliens we've all come to fear, "The Xenomorphs".
The comparing of "Alien Covenant" to "Prometheus" is an easy one. Both films suffer from the same exact faults, but excel in terms of their strengths. Mostly, that's thanks to Director Ridley Scott, who has pretty much defined this style of Science-Fiction/Horror, while bringing up some interesting philosophical concepts. The film goes through familiar territory, yet still finds a way to make you feel the suspense and atmosphere. Not to mention it's top notch visuals, which are both stunning and yes, beautifully, grotesquely horrifying. (Body horror at it's finest)
"Alien Covenant" has all of the same stuff that probably annoyed you in "Prometheus". There are more questions raised than answers, and especially considering the last movie ended on one big question, you feel don't feel much closer to the original series as you did when it began (Even if you do get the Xenomorph origins at long last.) Characters, who are clearly meant to be intelligent, act like total morons. Sure, stick your head inside that big, gooey egg pod. There might be presents in there, like the ones who latch onto your face! Sure, why don't we have shower sex after an alien attack? That always ends well in these kinds of movies! This all could of been avoided if you guys just kept on flying past the damn planet you knew nothing about.
Once again, it feels like a small amount of backstory is missing from "Alien: Covenant". I'm betting this is intentional, considering that the film basically skips what was meant to happen after "Prometheus". Its meant to build up the mystery of the situation and the suspense does still work quite well. Again comparing this to "Prometheus" (Which I am doing to both make a point and knowing it will piss some of you guys off at the same time), despite it's flaws, it still succeeds at what it sets out to do. It's most apparent with it's actors and characters who, even when they do something stupid, are still very memorable.
Katherine Waterson is truly wonderful as the one sane person, who really gets put through the ringer throughout the film, and turns into a believable badass by the end. Danny McBride is also excellent. He's not just in the film to provide comic relief, coming across as endearing in the more serious scenes. Billy Crudup gets to bring some complexity to the film, as a genuinely decent guy who is trying to find a way to make his crew happy (And you know, screws them over unintentionally). In the end, these characters (At least the main ones), do feel like people. Then there's Michael Fassbender, who is nothing short of amazing in this film, not just with his new character, "Walter", but with his returning character, "David". He isn't just acting against himself, with different accents, and personalities. He has created fascinating characters that are at times creepy, at times a little humorous, and thoroughly compelling.
The action and horror come together seamlessly in "Alien: Covenant", and the eventual reveal of the classic alien is nothing short of brilliant, with a few extra freaky creatures thrown in just for some blood splattering fun. While the film can feel a bit sloppy at times, trying too hard to please everyone), the film retains it's genuine terror and excitement from start to finish. Briskly paced, undeniably cool, and with an interesting mythology that only expands, "Alien:Covenant" is basically more of the same from the first five in the series. But hey, if you didn't mind that too much before, you're bound to find plenty to enjoy here. Credit to the competent filmmakers, who can still find freshness with in something old fashioned. God bless those lovable Aliens! 3 stars. Rated R For Gore, Gore , Gore... And More Gore.
Image: King Arthur finally disposes of his nemesis, a moss covered coconut.
What more can you do with a legend when it's already been beat to death? Tarzan. Hercules. Dracula. King Arthur. But Guy Richie hasn't gotten his hands on one. Short of "Michael Bay's Dracula", I can't imagine this in worse hands.
"King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" begins with "Uther Pendragon" (Eric Bana), armed with his magic sword, Excalibur, leading his armies against the evil "Mordred" and his army of giant war Elephants, and obliterating them with the power of the sword. But Uther's evil brother, "Scar", er, "Vortigern" (Jude Law) is revealed to have been manipulating all these events from the shadows with help from Ursula the Sea Witch. (Seriously, I don't know what that thing was!) Uther is able to get his son to safety before Vortigern murders him and takes over the kingdom, ruling it with an iron fist. Years later during Vorgitern's rule, Uther's now adult son, "Arthur" (Charlie Hunnam), having been raised in a brothel, has become known for his good deeds, helpful personality, and the fact that he's ripped as sh*t.
Around this time, Excalibur makes it's return, lodged inside a large stone. Fearing that he may lose his power, Vortigen sends his forces to find Uther's son, eventually tracking down Arthur. Before Arthur can executed, he is rescued by a group of rebels, including a woman only known as "The Mage" (Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey), one of Uther's former captains "Sir Bedivere" (Djimon Hounsou), and "Goosefat Bill Wilson" (Aidan Gillen). The group intends to help Arthur hone his skills with the magical sword, so he can kill Vortigen and reclaim his throne, despite the fact he clearly has no idea what the Hell he's doing.
"King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" is basically what you get when you let Director Guy Ritchie run around without adult supervision. Taking all of the many quirks, artistic choices, and oddly sophisticated, but sometimes charmingly bombastic that you've grown accustomed to in his films, and simply lets it all run wild. Sadly, it's all to the point where the film just feels too in your face, loud,and kind of obnoxious in terms of testosterone. Lots and lots of testosterone.
Despite Guy Ritchie's outrageous abuse of his style, the film doesn't look bad. The cinematography is solid, the sets and costumes look good, and as usual, he brings some visual flair. But some of the effects are questionable at best and laughable at worst, with some pretty lame CGI used on a variety of over the top creatures. Speaking of CGI, this film's over reliance on it is a constant distraction, especially once we get to the boisterous climax, that comes across as a video game right down to the "Kingdom Hearts" style final boss. (You know. I should go play that right now. It's significantly more fun that this movie.)
The dialogue in "King Arthur" wants to come across as intelligent with a sense of humor about itself, but rarely lands due to the (Intentionally?) choppy editing and lack of any real character development. That's disappointing since Charlie Hunnam is honestly not a bad choice to play the King Arthur character. He's got the look down, and a decent amount charm where you could of seen it work in a much better movie. Jude Law brings plenty of hammy sliminess, making him easily the most enjoyable part of the film. Djimon Hounsou and Aidan Gillen basically play....Djimon Hounsou and Aidan Gillen. They do it well, mostly to make up for the lack of substance. Yet Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey doesn't really do anything other than serve as the Deus ex machina character and soft of, but not really, love interest. .
"King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" is Guy Ritchie on "Bro" overload. It's the definition of style over substance. But here, the style is more annoying than adrenaline pumping, while adding nothing new to the classic legend. Honestly, just read the book. Read any book, really. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Loud Action And, Oh So Much Bromance.
Image: "Ooooh. What does this button do?"
Madness!. Madness I tell you! When Marvel Studios said that they would be bringing "The Guardians of the Galaxy" to the big screen, what with it's talking space raccoon and his big tree buddy who only says "I Am Groot", people said that the studio had jumped the shark and finally lost their mind. But not only did the film make a whole lotta' money, and get shockingly high critical and fan acclaim, it also has become one of the studio's biggest, and most beloved franchises. So, yeah. Marvel wins. Just let them do whatever they want already.
"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2" starts with the Guardians of the Galaxy, well, guarding the galaxy. (For money of course). Earthling/former smuggler "Peter Quill/Star-Lord" (Chris Pratt), former stepdaughter of Thanos "Gamora" (Zoe Saldana), musclebound brute "Drax" (Dave Bautista), gun toting raccoon "Rocket" (Voiced by Bradley Cooper), and everyone's favorite lovable tree "Baby Groot" (Voiced by Vin Diesel), have just finished protecting some powerful, priceless "Space Batteries" for a bunch of golden uptight jerks, known as "The Sovereign", led by the conceited high priestess "Ayesha" (Elizabeth Debicki) in exchange for the capture of Gamora's violent, criminal step-sister "Nebula" (Karen Gillan). Rocket decides to be a dick and steals some of the batteries for the hell of it, resulting in the Sovereign declaring war on the Guardians.
The Guardians wind up on a strange planet, meeting "Ego" (Kurt Russell), who claims to be Star-Lord's real father, and his cute green assistant, "Mantis" (Pom Klementieff). Ego tells Star-Lord that he too is a godlike being (And also happens to be a living planet. Don't ask) and the two start to bond, putting a bit of a strain on his relationship with the rest of the Guardians. Meanwhile, The Sovereign remains determined to kill the Guardians, sending "The Ravagers", led by Peter's former mentor, "Yondu" (Michael Rooker), who is having a little trouble of his own with one of his group members, "Taserface" (Chris Sullivan), who just can't seem to find anyone to take him seriously.
"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" obviously was going to have trouble replicating the same success of the first film, at least in terms of quality. But the sequel is a complete blast of wacky, quirky, space filled fun, that does still remember to take time to make us care for it's characters. Director and Writer James Gunn piles on the sarcastic and occasionally offbeat humor, but never forgets to develop the characters, providing them with genuine heart and emotion.
Visually, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" is stunning to look at, with so many various colors popping all over the screen, that it looks like you're watching candy explode on screen. You'll never want to take your eyes off it. In terms of plot, it becomes a little more convoluted than before, but our charming cast makes up for the film's shortcomings. Chris Pratt just owns his role, bringing in good laughs and an emotional core that affects the rest of the film and it's characters. Zoe Saldana acts as the straight one to all of the goofiness of the Guardians, while also sharing some really well done scenes with Karen Gillan, who gets more development here to the point where she becomes a much more complex character then before. Dave Bautista is a complete riot (And honestly, my favorite character of the group), and of course, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel's characters are a delight. (Yes. Baby Groot is just so damn adorable)
"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2" also brings best out of it's terrific supporting cast, with the wonderful Michael Rooker stealing the film at times from everyone else. Sean Gunn (as "Kraglin, Yondu's most loyal Ravager) gets a larger role this time around, and the movie benefits from it. Pom Klementieff is a great new addition to the team, and while Elizabeth Debicki and Chris Sullivan aren't exactly the most memorable of villains, they are suitably amusing throughout. And Kurt Russel is perfectly cast, clearly having the time of his life with his unbridled enthusiasm (I'm kind of wondering if he even knew he was being filmed.)
Despite the wackiness of the plot and it's characters, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" does get a little darker than you would expect, even finding a way to tug at your heartstrings, much like the first film found a way to do so. The film can feel a little messy at times, but its still is a labor of love, with it's likable characters, laugh out loud sense of humor, and a surprising amount of heart. It shows that the "Marvel Cinematic Universe" is still nowhere close to slipping up anytime soon. Be sure to stick around for probably the best end credits sequence you'll ever see. I Don't know why people still leave the theaters so early. Haven't they watched these movies before? It's Marvel. You stick around for the end credits. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Space Action, Scrotumheads, And Baby Groot Adorableness.
Image: "Kung Fu Panda 4: The Cuteness"
Every year or two, at about the same time, around Earth Day, Disney's nature documentary centered film unit, "Disneynature" will release a film to the general public, aimed to educate as well as entertain children and adults of all ages......And every time, the public refuses to go see it. I guess because they don't have big explosions, grand special effects, or Kevin James falling down and going boom. Disney goes to all this trouble, with their crew risking life and limb from Panda attacks, and no one seems to appreciate it.
Narrated by John Krasinski, "Born in China" follows the lives and adventures of a mother Panda, "Ya Ya", trying to raise her curious little furball daughter, "Mei Mei", a mother Snow Leopard, "Dawa", struggling to raise her two cubs against the harsh climate and rival Leopards, a young Golden Snub-Nosed Monkey, "Tao Tao", who is yearning for attention due to the recent birth of a little sister, and a herd of Chiru, while they all try to survive in the mountains of China.
"Born in China" continues Disneynature's winning streak (At least in terms of quality), with another well put together, gorgeously filmed, and thoroughly heartwarming adventure. It brings us spectacular, almost unreal footage that you likely wont see anywhere else. (Unless you go to that part of China. But that's cheating). The shots of the landscapes, the constant changes in weather, and the interactions among the diverse communities of animals make for a beautiful experience.
Despite some probable minor manipulation, at least term's of the film's storytelling, it is fascinating, and almost kind of eerie, how full of personality these animals are. They all have their own stories, goals, and hardships that make you want to see them survive the hardships of the rather horrifying "Circle of Life", with the pandas in particular, stealing the whole film. (I could watch that little ball of fur all day)
While the film is aimed at a young audience, "Born in China" doesn't shy away from some of the more realistic outcomes to some of it's stories which, while a little hard to watch, show that it is taking it's audience seriously, hoping they are mature enough to handle it. The narration from John Krasnski might be one of the film's weaker points. While he isn't doing a bad job, injecting some humor and charm to the film, it just feels like there might of been a better choice for the job, especially considering how good the narrators for these films can be.
"Born in China" doesn't quite match up to some of Disneynature's much more superior work, such as 2014's "Bears" or 2011's "African Cats", but it's still a wonderful, and oddly relaxingly calm family film, that is sure to delight anyone of any age.....You know, if you actually SEE it! Please don't piss Disney off.We don't know what they're capable of. 3 1/2 stars. Rated G.
Image: How could you not trust this man?
You had all the ingredients right in front of you. You had Tom Hanks, who also just so happens to be the producer. A timely subject matter. You had Hermione. When it all goes wrong, it doesn't matter who's involved.
"The Circle" starts with "Mae" (Emma Watson), a young woman struggling through her job and her life. She lives with her mom, "Bonnie" (Glenne Headly) and her MS diagnosed dad, "Vinnie" (Bill Paxton). Things change when Mae's friend, "Annie" (Karen Gillan) tells Mae that she has gotten her a job at "The Circle", a large internet corporation that specializes in community and surveillance, run by "Eamon Bailey" (Tom Hanks) and "Tom Stenton" (Patton Oswalt).
Mae eventually starts to rise through the ranks of the organization, gaining Bailey's favor. She becomes part of The Circle's newest security venture, involving little glass eyeballs being placed all around the world, so they can watch everyone at anytime from anywhere. Mae befriends a loner in the corporation, "Ty" (John Boyega), who warns her that The Circle is likely up to no good, but Mae just can't seem to help herself and starts to become part of the sickeningly close, always smiling community (Basically this movie should of been called "Hermione joins a Tech Cult".)
"The Circle" has some fascinating ideas, full of so much potential that it makes the final product all the more depressing. The film never really expands on any of it's own ideas, never going any further than simply stating them. One of the film's main problems that likely led to this would be the messy, inconsistent story that takes itself far too seriously, making the attempts at satire come across as goofy, over the top, and not very realistic.
It's just so shocking that so much talent can be involved in something that comes across as amateurish. Emma Watson tries her damnest, but she can't seem to avoid her slipping accent and her character's erratic behavior, going from wary of the organization's methods to fully on board within minutes. John Boyega is hardly even in the film, which either looks like the filmmakers had no idea what to do with him, or more likely most of his scenes got cut. (I saw the trailer a dozen times over the last few months. Something is missing). We don't get much of Karen Gillan or Ellar Coltrane (as "Mercer", Mae's ex boyfriend), who just randomly pops up once or twice in the movie.
Not surprisingly, the highlights easily would be Tom Hanks (Who long ago passed the point of having to explain and justify his choices to all of us who are not worthy), who plays the role with so much charm and charisma that you kind of buy why people are being sucked into his "Questionable" plans, while Patton Oswalt, though he rarely shows it, gives us just enough of the hidden sliminess of his character. It is also bittersweet to see the late Bill Paxton in this film, especially considering his character's illness.
"The Circle" asks questions about security and privacy, about how much can people really be trusted with it, or if it's really worth it in the end considering what possible good you can do with it? It's undeniably an interesting concept. But director James Ponsoldt just speeds through it all so fast that you rarely have any time to catch up. The audience never gets much detail into what The Circle is really doing, which ends up forcing you to ask other questions that only shatter the film's logic. Like, how would the American government allow a place like this to even form without anyone questioning it? Who the Hell is placing all those cameras all over the place? How in God's name is the company responsible for a guy driving his truck off a bridge to his death avoiding a freakin' lawsuit? The ACLU is going to question these things!
It's not that "The Circle" is incompetent, and it's clearly made by competent people. But with a lack of a sense of humor, the film's satirical elements fall flat, and by the time we reach the climax (If you would even call it that), it comes across as jarring much like the rather confusing ending itself. I's a waste of talent, and by the end, a waste of your time. Just wait for "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" and stay home this weekend. Tom Hanks will. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Peeping Toms (Get it?) and Dick Pumps.
Image: Does that make her CRAZY!!!???
I knew it. As soon as I saw the trailer for "Unforgettable", I knew it wouldn't let me down. Feel the laughter. Feel the love. Feel the hate. Feel an odd amount of respect for just how bad a movie can get, and yet remain so thoroughly entertaining at the same time. This would be the movie that you just sit back and smile the whole way through, especially at the scenes you know damn well the filmmakers weren't planning at you to laugh at. And that's a thing of beauty right here.
"Unforgettable" begins with "Julia" (Rosario Dawson), starting a new life with her fiance, "David" (Geoff Stults) and his daughter, "Lily" (Isabella Rice). Julia's arrival makes things awkward around David's ex-wife, "Tessa" (Katherine Heigl), who is a bit mentally unstable, to say the least. Tessa plans out an elaborate, scary, and hilarious scheme to force herself back into David's life and destroy Julia.
By hacking into Julia's phone, and creating a fake Facebook account, Tess fakes messages to Julia's sadistic ex, "Michael" (Simon Kassianides), who Julia previously had a restraining order on, all while Tessa touches herself because this is also a sexual thriller. Of course this is all going to lead to betrayals, revelations, someone smacking another person with either a golf club, baseball bat, or fire poker, (Its always one of those in these kinds of movies) and the big bad catfight you all paid the same amount of money to see as I did (I would have gladly paid more.)
"Unforgettable" is everything I wanted and more. It's terrible of course. Just straight up the stupidest, most over the top, soap opera-ish movie you will find in theaters and eventually in the $5 bin at Wal-Mart. And unlike films like "When the Bough Breaks" or "The Boy Next Door", it gets right to the point in the first minute. It is trashy through and through, which is what it was always meant to be.
To give "Unforgettable" credit, it's not an incompetently made film. Director Denise Di Novi (Whose name you might recognize as the producer of a ton of Tim Burton movies), is at least trying to make the film work. The film was still destined to fail in a spectacular manner, due to the hilarious script, the constant stupid actions of it's characters, and such bizarre plot twists that none of it can be taken particularly seriously.
Despite it's entertaining horribleness, "Unforgettable" does get a couple decent performances out of it. Rosario Dawson doesn't sleepwalk through her performance, with her natural charm coming through to the point you really have no choice but to care about what happens to her. Katherine Heigl surprisingly sells her insane character. She has a pretty unsettling death glare, and at least some sense of humanity. (Its still stupid. But at least you tried).
We do also get an amusingly strange performance out of Cheryl Ladd (As Tessa's Sith Lord Mother). But Geoff Stutts is painfully bland, boring, and oblivious to the whole situation, while Simon Kassianides (Who you might remember from "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.") apparently thinks he's still on that show because he sneers his way through the movie like a supervillain. Also, Whitney Cummings pops up (as "Ali", Julia sassy friend) to deliver the film's only intentionally funny lines.
We get outrageously dumb scenarios and plot points, with characters who are said to be smart making idiotic decisions all throughout the movie. But the big selling point to "Unforrgettable" is the final, down and dirty fight, with people getting their heads smashed into mirrors and smacked around like an MMA fight. It all leads to the final twist at the end, which had the audience I saw it with burst out laughing. We all bonded. It was beautiful.
I don't just live for the great movies. I live for the blissfully bad movies too. Yeah, I'm almost giving it a positive review, but when a film is at least entertaining, even when it's atrocious, well that's still entertainment right there. Bring your friends. Preferably the loud ones who talk throughout every movie, and have a good time. It will bring you closer together. 2 1/2 stars. Rated R For Sexual Content, Violence, Evil Haircuts, And Devious Silverware Polishing.
Image: Meth is a Hell of a drug.
They just don't listen to me.. The "Found Footage" genre is dead. It just isn't something that needs to stick around anymore. Especially the Horror ones. There's nothing original left to do with them, and there's only so many scares you can muster before audiences get the picture. "Unfriended" and "The Visit" were good. That's about it. If anyone has a clever new twist on the idea, please contact Hollywood immediately.
"Phoenix Forgotten" starts with a young filmmaker, "Sophie" (Florence Hartigan), who has returned to her hometown in Phoenix, Arizona. She is making a documentary about the unexplainable disappearance of her brother, "Josh" (Luke Spencer Roberts), and his two friends, "Ashley" (Chelsea Lopez) and "Mark" (Justin Matthews), who vanished twenty years prior while investigating the mysterious "Phoenix Lights". Many believed the vanishings to be UFOs, so Sophie begins her investigation by speaking to family members and local people, slowly discovering the truth. The film is interspersed with the found footage of the three teens, and what horrors eventually became of them.
By this point, the Found Footage genre has become so overdone that they're not even really promoting them all that much anymore (It's not like these films cost much of anything to make.) Even if "Phoenix Forgotten" is at least trying to put a bit of a twist in the genre. The film is basically two fake documentaries in one, the frame story with Sophie being shot with a modern day HD camera, complete with interviews with the local people, and the "found footage" having the look of being shot with an old, glitchy camera, which makes the footage actually look authentic.
"Phoenix Forgotten" does have moments of cleverness and parts where you actually feel some investment in what's going on. The film shows the reactions from the townspeople, how the disappearance of the teens affects them, and the personalities of the teens themselves. They characters come across as actual people, which makes it kind of tragic what eventually becomes of them. The fact that the film occasionally uses real footage from actual news reports and events adds genuine atmosphere.
With all that said, the execution is occasionally sloppy, with the framing story pretty much vanishing in the last half hour of the film's already short runtime. "Phoenix Forgotten" is never scary or even very suspenseful since you already know exactly whats going to happen, and the film doesn't provide any answers to the questions that you were already asking when the film starts. By the film's abrupt end, you don't feel anything was really accomplished. All of the actors are solid enough, with Florence Hartigan making for a likable presence,
"Phoenix Forgotten" is is a better made film than it really has any right to be, thanks in part to Director Justin Barber's attempts to change up the formula, but the "Found Footage" genre just isn't something that can really work anymore, at least in terms of theatrical release. But if any of you have a video camera and a freaky imagination, somebody might give you a couple million bucks to let them put it in theaters. 2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Scary Images And Snot Bubbles.
Image: Don't do it, Brie. We mean too much to each other.
And now a film guaranteed to get completely lost in the summer movie shuffle, and have absolutely no chance against fast or furious.
"Free Fire" starts with a meeting between two members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, "Chris" (Cillian Murphy) and "Frank" (Michael Smiley), along with their dimwitted partners, "Stevo" (Sam Riley) and "Bernie" (Enzo Cilenti), an intermediary "Justine" (Brie Larson), a eccentric arms dealer "Vernon" (Sharlto Copley), and his associates, "Martin" (Babou Ceesay), "Harry" (Jack Reynor), and "Gordon" (Noah Taylor), along with their representative, "Ord" (Armie Hammer). What could go wrong?
The deal starts off a bit shaky with everyone acting either passive aggressive, or just straight up being a dick, to each other. Chris keeps insulting Vernon, Vernon takes the insults poorly, Ord just stands there and makes jackass comments about everyone, while everyone hides their motivations. Suddenly, a fight breaks out between Stevo and Harry, due to an incident some time earlier, and before they realize it, everyone starts shooting at each other for the entire film's runtime.
"Free Fire" comes across at times as more of an experiment than an actual film, though for what it's intentions are, it's just an immense amount of bloody insane fun. You don't exactly get much depth here or characterization, outside of what is presented to you in the first 20 minutes. Yet the film is just enjoyable enough to make you invested and want to see what they'll do next. Plus, since none of the characters are particularly likable, or even good people, it kind of makes it all right for them to shoot each other up. And yet somehow they keep surviving all the constant bullet wounds like it was a freakin Looney Tunes cartoon.
Director Ben Wheatley commits to the odd setup, only taking occasional moments in the constant, but always darkly humorous bloodbath (Most of the dialogue consists of the characters bickering and arguing, about who killed who.) "Free Fire" is basically an R rated version of a playground fight, and all of the actors are clearly having a ball doing it. The highlights in the film are the terrific Cillian Murphy, the always wonderful (And always adorable, even when she's packing heat) Brie Larson, a hilarious Sharlto Copley, a perfectly smarmy Armie Hammer, and the delightfully bizarre Sam Riley, who spends most of the movie high off something.
"Free Fire" doesn't really have much to it, other than a clever premise that the film executes very well. Its a briskly paced, simple, funny film that isn't taking itself too seriously. It just doesn't have a Rock or a Diesel, or really fast cars. 3 stars. Rated R For Constant Swearing And Constant Violence In Between The Constant Swearing.
Image: The haters were right. Anne Hathaway IS a monster.
Sometimes it's best a film doesn't tell you what its really about. This isn't like "Collateral Beauty" or "Passengers", where they are hiding the rather horrific reality of the film's plot. There are certain films in which the less you know, the better. So that when you do get to the film's true intention, it makes the shock all the more effective. And yet I still feel I have to tell you that "Colossal" is not a goofy, feel good, monster comedy.
"Colossal" starts with the unemployed, struggling alcoholic "Gloria" (Anne Hathaway) going through a breakup with her boyfriend, "Tim" (Dan Stevens), who also kicks her out of their apartment. Gloria is forced to return to her old, small hometown, where she is greeted by her childhood friend, "Oscar" (Jason Sudeikis), who offers her a job at his bar. Oscar invites her over for drunken get-togethers with his friends, "Joel" (Austin Stowell), who Gloria has an attraction to, and "Garth" (Tim Blake Nelson), who is weird because he's played by Tim Blake Nelson.
While roaming the town in a drunken haze, Gloria wanders through a playground before passing out. The next day, she is horrified to see reports of a giant monster randomly appearing in Seoul, South Korea, causing tons of damage and casualties. Gloria realizes that she is in fact the monster, who happens to appear every time she walks through the same playground at a specific time.Things only get worse with the arrival of a giant robot in Seoul, leading to things that the trailer didn't show you and I think is best not to spoil.
From Director Nacho Vigalondo (That's quite a name you got there, Nacho), "Colossal" is actually a much darker film than advertised. Not that there still isn't humor in the film. In fact, there is still plenty of laugh out loud moments, thanks to some of the quirky characters and the reactions that the average citizens have to the monsters, which go from terrified to glorified in a matter of days (And lets be honest, that's probably pretty accurate.)
However, "Colossal" does go into some darker, much heavier subjects, such as alcoholism, abusive relationships, and self-hatred, just with a couple of giant monsters. It's difficult to explain it all, and it's best to discover it for yourself anyway, but the film comes across as very clever with the rather weird scenario making complete sense by the end thanks to the oddball script from Vigalondo.
Anne Hathaway is drunk and disheveled (Yet still cute as a button), is excellent, retaining some likability despite her character's many faults and complications. She is flawed, but also human, and you do start to care for her as the film progresses. Jason Sudeikis is absolutely brilliant in a role that gets significantly more complex as it goes. "Colossal" is aided by solid supporting work from Austin Stowell, Dan Stevens, and especially the always entertaining Tim Blake Nelsen.
Now "Colossal" is certainly not for everyone. The tone shifts from quirky to somewhat disturbing at times in the same scene. The film makes you uncomfortable, but it's kind of supposed to. There is a point to the film and an actual message behind it. Its just hiding behind a giant Kaiju. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Language And Powerful Metaphors.
Image: Beauty and the bald.
How in the Hell did The "Fast and Furious" franchise become "Critically Acclaimed" (Or at the least) "Critically Approved"? Somehow, these entertaining (And completely preposterous) films have pretty much proven that you can make a profit, while accumulating a fanbase, and even garner critical approval with films that (And I hope even it's biggest fans would admit) revel in it's ridiculousness. They also have an undeniable charm and heart. And since the "Fast" train doesn't seem to be stopping anytime soon, I'm glad that it is at least attempting to mature.
"The Fate of the Furious" begins with former convict, professional street racer, and occasional special agent "Dominic Toretto" (Vin Diesel) living the sweet retirement life with his wife, "Letty Ortiz" (Michelle Rodriguez). Dom is confronted by infamous cyberterrorist "Cipher" (Charlize Theron), who has something on Dom important enough to force him into betraying his friends and family.
While on a mission to steal en EMP device in Berlin, with help from DSS agent "Luke Hopps" (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), former criminal "Roman Pearce" (Tyrese Gibson), mechanic "Tej Parker" (Chris "Ludicrous" Bridges), and hacker "Ramsey" (Nathalie Emmanuel), Dom turns on his team, stealing the EMP device, and causing an international incident which results in Hopps' arrest. Covert agent "Mr. Nobody" (Kurt Russell) arranges for Hopps' release along with rogue assassin/rival to Dom and Hopps, "Deckard Shaw" (Jason Statham) to gather the team back together to take down Dom and Cipher, despite Letty's protests that Dom can be saved.
"The Fate of the Furious", much like it's predecessors, knows it's silly, and embraces it. It knows that the laws of physics are dead in this universe and that anything goes (It's basically reenacting those awesomely sick fantasies you would play out with your Hot Wheels as a child.) However, this time around, it seems that this franchise has realized that at some point, things need to get a little more serious. And it surprisingly works. Not that the "Fast and Furious" franchise is going to be doing Shakespeare anytime soon, but this movie does at least acknowledge that there are consequences to all the absurdity.
As before with the previous entries, "Fast and Furious 8" does still retains it's sense of humor and comradery among it's characters, which makes you care when something serious does happen. Vin Diesel has developed his character into a very likable presence, and when you get to the reason for his seemingly change of heart, you do understand it and it adds a bit of complexity. The shocking death of Paul Walker is still felt, and the film handles his loss (As they did beautifully in his last film) with genuine grace
The rest of the endearing cast, including Michelle Rodriguez, Nathalie Emmanuel, with fun back and forth between Tyrese Gibson, and Chris Bridges works extremely well, and the interactions between Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham is such a delight that you really want a spin-off with just the two of them (Plus I can watch them beating the crap out of prison guards and convicts all day. I got issues.) Kurt Russel and Scott Eastwood (as "Little Nobody", Mr. Nobody's constantly mocked assistant) are great additions to the cast, and Charlize Theron is so deliciously evil (and yes, pretty hot too) that she really adds a little extra something to film.
Now of course, the action scenes in "The Fate of the Furious" are a huge selling point. and they are incredibly well constructed, and, of course, undeniably cool, thanks in part to veteran director F. Gary Gray ("Straight Outta Compton"). As long as we can all admit that the whole premise is still pretty dumb, especially with certain plot points that pretty much ignore the laws of international politics and gravity, I'm no expert, but a submarine battle with a bunch of cars on ice is just not something that could exist. (Also, a bunch of cars can't block a wall of fire. That's just....No)
"The Fate of the Furious" can't avoid the silliness and the downright absurdness of it's plot and action scenes, but the film does notice that you just can't do the same thing over and over with a franchise already on it's way into a ninth film. It's like this little franchise is growing up, while still remembering to keep a good sense of humor and a good heart. Quite frankly, I'd say this is the best film they've done yet. I know, right? I didn't see that coming either. 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For 'Splosions And Scantily Clad Street Girls.
Image: "When we kill and eat all of the humans, you can wallow in all the mud you want!"
I kinda feel bad for animated films like this. Everything and everyone seemed to lack faith in it. The studio distributing it, the writers, the animator. Pretty much all five film critics who actually saw it. It really never had a shot from the start, much like any alternative animated film these days not from one of the major animation studios. (Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, etc.). But the fact that it's still not very good really doesn't help.
"Spark: A Space Tail" starts with an evil, diminutive warlord "General Zhong" (Alan C.Peterson), unleashing the Space Kraken onto the peaceful, monkey world of "Bana". The Kraken's gooey stuff that comes out of it's butt, when unleashed, causes the formation of a black hole, or a wormhole (Or some kind of hole) that consumes most of Bana, leaving the rest to be conquered by Zhong, and stranding many of it's inhabitants on some of the planet's remaining pieces. Years later, orphan monkey, "Spark" (Jace Norman), dreams of adventure and has been raised by foxy fox, "Vix" (Jessica Biel), dirty, overweight pig, "Chunk" (Rob deLeeuw), and his pun-named nanny robot, "Bananny" (Susan Sarandon).
A series of events results in Spark, and his little roach buddy, "Floyd", stumbling upon the Kraken, accidentally letting Zhong get his hands on it a second time. Zhong, planning to destroy another planet just for sh*ts and giggles, banishes Spark and his friends through the Kraken goo wormhole thingy, where they come across an old military captain named , er, "The Captain" (Patrick Stewart). The Captain reveals to Spark that he is the long lost son of the royal family and it is his destiny to defeat Zhong, restore peace to their planet, and rescue Spark's queenly mother named, er, "The Queen" (Hilary Swank).
Distributed by "Open Road Films" and "ToonBox Entertainment" (Who previously gave us "The Nut Job", and we can blame them for giving us it's sequel later this year), "Spark: A Space Tail" is one of those movies that really could of used a dose of confidence in itself, and a lot less laziness. There probably could of been something here. Sort of "Star Wars" like space adventure, with monkeys, and with a quirky sense of humor, it's own mythology, and the occasional dark subtext. But the film never really commits to anything, instead giving us little humor or charm, and providing a rather convoluted story.
The animation itself is inconsistent. Sometimes it actually looks decent, with some solid character and art designs, but most of the time it just looks like something you'd see on Nickelodeon in the afternoon. (Why does everyone's hair look like Play-Doh?) Most of the film's humor relies on bad puns and goofy slapstick. While none of it is particularly harmful, its just so damn lackluster and doesn't seem to have any faith in itself or it's likely small audience.
The voice cast is a bit baffling. Jace Norman and Jessica Biel, while not exactly bad in the film, play characters with dialogue so bland, that it's hard to really care of remember them. I have no idea what Hilary Swank is even doing here, and Susan Sarandon still seems to have taken that Bernie defeat harder than we thought, which would be the only real explanation I have for her role in this. The only real amusement in the film comes from Alan C. Peterson, whose villain's height sensitivity is an old, but still mildly funny joke, and from Sir Patrick Stewart who does a Scottish for no apparent reason other than it sounds funny hearing Patrick Stewart do a Scottish accent. Laddie!
"Spark: A Space Tail" is probably fine for the little ones, but due to the lack of effort put into it, and the fact that there are much better movies to show them, it's destined only to be a massive flop that will fade from existence a week later. Good thing young kids have short term memory anyway. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG For Magic Kraken Goo And Heaving Gorilla Bosoms.
Image: "This says we one yet ANOTHER Academy Award. How many does that make?"
Old people are the greatest. They're wise. They're worldly. They might on occasion say something that your parents will cause your parents to tell you "It was a different time". It's possible they'll say something accidentally racist or homophobic. But these three "Old" folks certainly know how to take a sleight premise and turn it into a relatively fun time.
"Going in Style" follows three old coots, "Joe" (Michael Caine), "Willie" (Morgan Freeman), and "Albert" (Alan Arkin), who are all experiencing severe money problems after the loss of their pensions due to the company they've worked at for years being bought out. Joe, who is also being taken advantage of by his bank, witnesses an elaborate and successful bank robbery, which gives him the idea that maybe he and his buddies could do the same (How hard could it be?)
Albert and Willie at first find the idea to be completely ridiculous, but after realizing that their situation isn't going to get any better and they really don't have much to lose anyway, agree to go along with Joe's little scheme. So now the trio have to find a way to pull off the heist successfully without getting caught.
"Going in Style" is a remake of an old 1979 film that I've never seen. (Though I doubt it really has that much to do with this new version.), This film isn't much in terms of it's own plot and aspirations. Its a simple caper/comedy that hardly ever does anything too original or risky. With that said, its clear that director Zach Braff is trying to make a point (And it's a good one) about how the elderly are unfairly treated, often being ignored or taken advantage of, especially in a system that sees them as nothing but a number.
The script and the jokes in "Going in Style" are simple and unremarkable, but are elevated by the tremendous actors on screen. Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin are all nothing short of terrific. They're funny, likable, easy to root for, and as always, a joy to watch. And there's solid work from the supporting cast, with some funny scenes from Ann-Margaret (as "Annie", Albert's love interest), Matt Dillon (as "Agent Hamer", the smarmy FBI agent after the trio), and Christopher Lloyd (as "Milton", a bizarre, and senile old timer).
This is another one of those easy ones. and not exactly a critical challenge. "Going in Style" isn't much for substance. We're just here to see great, older actors have fun for an hour and a half, making something out of almost nothing. I can't say that you need to rush out and see "Going in Style". But we do need to appreciate these three wise, old actors for the joy they still bring us. For that reason alone, I'd like to see them in a sequel, maybe ten years from now. They have plenty more to offer. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Old Guys Firing Blanks.
Image: We only specialize in the "Alternative Facts" at this newspaper.
From Pure Flix Entertainment, the studio that brought us such open minded, totally non-biased Christian classics such as "God's Not Dead" and "God's Not Dead 2" comes.......Something that's fairly competent ? That's not me rooting against faith based films. I'm always and only rooting for competence.
"The Case for Christ" tells the true story of an atheist journalist, "Lee Strobel" (Mike Vogel), whose wife "Leslie" (Erika Christensen) becomes a devout Christian after their daughter, "Alison" (Haley Rosenwasser) is rescued from choking from a nurse, "Alfie" (L. Scott Caldwell), who claims that their meeting was the work of "Jesus". Lee just can't seem to understand his wife's new behavior, nor can he understand Christianity as a whole. So he sets out to disprove the entire religion, using whatever journalist legal way he can, which causes his marriage, his family life, and even his work life, to falter. But don't worry. He'll eventually see the light. That's how these movies work.
"The Case for Christ", unlike many previous films from Pure Flix, actually looks like it was made by people who knew what they were doing. The film is shot well and doesn't feel cheaply made, and to it's credit, it's at least attempting to bring humanization to it's characters. Sadly, it just can't seem to help itself. It's not entirely the film's fault, but for the devout audience it's meant for, it can't be too complex or else it risks losing them.
The film seems to be trying to add a bit of complexity, and it does make some pretty solid points about absolutism and how faith is something you are not meant to see, but instead believe. The problem is that sometimes it feels like the filmmakers forgot their own message when it applies to themselves. In the end, "The Case for Christ" is overly absolute to be believed, and the message of faith is contradicted by the film constantly trying to prove itself as completely right and that everyone else is completely wrong.
One of the saving graces for "The Case for Christ" is Mike Vogel, who, despite his character's occasional sporadic behavior, retains some likability, with a sense of humor, and actual genuine emotion. He's not portrayed as a bad guy really. Just a little too self absorbed and caught up in his own (Wrong) belief system that he refuses to acknowledge anything else (Which is much more complex than any other atheist character in any of these other films. To be fair, other films have the same, cynical, one note view of Christians.) We also get a solid performance out of Erika Christensen, whose character at least shows that she is really asking a bit too much from her husband to suddenly just jump at the chance of Christianity. On the downside, we get L. Scott Caldwell and her constant smiling throughout the entire film (Because she's got Jesus on her side), and that comes across as more creepy than endearing.
"The Case for Christ" addresses the points that certain non-believers and skeptics will make, and also provides it's own solid points to idea of Christianity as a whole. The message is good and important, but it can't help but come across as hypocritical considering the film's need to preach to the already converted. It's still a case that wouldn't hold up in court. 2 stars. Rated PG For Adult Content And Porn Staches.
Image: "The mushrooms, man....They're smurfin' me out!"
"The Smurfs" just won't die. They used to be well known, well beloved cartoon characters, having originated from a comic book, then a cartoon series, and all of those figurines of all those characters you see 30 year old men collecting. (We don't judge here.). But after the critically panned live-action "Smurfs" films, people lately sort of cringe whenever they hear the name Smurfs. So let's just reboot the whole dang thing, and animate it this time. Can't they just let a sleeping smurf lie?
"Smurfs: The Lost Village" follows the possibly socialist community of little blue people known as "The Smurfs", led by "Papa Smurf" (Mandy Patinkin), who are always hiding from the evil, but not exactly competent wizard, "Gargamel" (Rainn Wilson) and his cat minion, "Azrael" (Frank Welker). All of the Smurfs have their own character traits and names that resemble those traits, with the exception of the only female Smurf, "Smurfette" (Demi Lovato), who was in reality, was created by Gargamel.
Smurfette, feeling that she doesn't belong with the other Smurfs, stumbles upon a strange blue creature, who bears a resemblance to the other Smurfs. Against Papa's orders, she, "Brainy" (Danny Pudi), "Hefty" (Joe Manganiello), and "Clumsy" (Jack McBrayer) set off to the find the lost village of Smurfs, with Gargamel in hot pursuit. But they discover that, since the trailers and TV spots all spoil this anyway, the lost village is made up of nothing but female Smurfs, led by "Smurf Willow" (Julia Roberts).
I never really hated the live-action "Smurfs" films, but they sure weren't good, and they certainly outstayed their welcome very quickly. They were just silly, overlong, but harmless kiddie films that offered very little to any adults. But despite "Smurfs: The Lost Village" this time being fully animated, and not taking place in the real world, it's really just more of the same.
The biggest bright side this time at least is that now the Smurfs don't look anywhere near as revolting as their overly realistic, slightly fuzzy, live-action counterparts. The characters are bouncy and stretchy, much like an old cartoon, which blends well with the plenty solid, and at times imaginative animation. Though, because it is from "Sony Pictures Animation", it does at times veer into "Hotel Transylvania" territory, with too much freneticism, and the constant need to throw stuff at the screen out of fear of the kiddies getting bored.
The story in "Smurfs: The Lost Village" is serviceable enough and easy for the younger viewers to follow, but its pretty generic stuff, especially considering how it basically repeats the whole Smurfette plotline from the second "Smurfs" movie. None of it is really helped by the lack of any real laughs, aside from simple slapstick and cartoonish silliness.
The solid cast do make up for the unremarkable script, with the adorable Demi Lovato providing a likable presence, along with Mandy Patinkin bringing some warmth to the lovable Papa Smurf. Easily the best laughs come from the villains (Much like in the original cartoon really), with Rain Wilson and Frank Welker's characters' complete incompetence being hard not to enjoy.
The biggest downside is that the whole "Female Smurf" aspect really doesn't get introduced into almost the third act, and with voice talents such as Julia Roberts, Ariel Winter, Ellie Kemper, Michelle Rodriguez, and Meghan Trainor (Who all voice the female Smurfs), it's a bit wasteful to leave them with really nothing to say or do. This is a pretty easy one. If you enjoyed the other "Smurfs" films, or are just a big fan of the original series or comics, then you'll probably find something to enjoy here. But the film doesn't really offer anything except mild amusement for little kids, which is perfectly fine considering they are the demographic. My demographic? "The Lego Batman Movie" thank you. 2 stars. Rated PG For Graphic, Excessive, Hardcore Smurfing.
Image: Its gonna be yuuuuuuge!
This really seemed to be the point where people were starting to question the recent choices of the beloved animation studio, DreamWorks Animation. After being plagued by countless setbacks, movies being either pushed back years later or dropped entirely from existence. So their solution is to give us "The Boss Baby"? That's it. DreamWorks is dead. A film that looks like a bunch of poop and fart jokes mixed in with baby humor without any real plot to it. And yet, to this movie's credit, it may be that there's just a little bit more to baby poop after all.
"The Boss Baby" is told through narration by "Tim Templeton" (Tobey Maguire), recounting a strange little tale of when he was a young, imaginative, seven year-old boy (Miles Christopher Bakshi), living a happy life with his parents (Lisa Kudrow and Jimmy Kimmel), who work for a pet corporation known as "Puppy Co.".
Everything changes with the arrival of a new baby, who is for some reason dressed in a business suit and clearly has a hidden agenda. Tim, upset that his parents no longer have time for him, is determined to find out the baby's secret, soon discovering that he is.....wait for it....."The Boss Baby" (Alec Baldwin), a sophisticated, workaholic, talking baby, who was sent by his company, "Baby Corp.", which is where all babies, and I'm assuming all life, comes from.
The Boss Baby has been sent to find out why babies are no longer getting as much love as they used to, seeing that puppies are the likely cause of it all (That part is completely accurate.) The Boss Baby convinces Tim to help him sneak into Puppy Co. to find out what their big project is, not knowing that the deranged, evil CEO, "Francis E. Francis" (Steve Buscemi), with motivations of his own, plans to reveal the big project to the world.
Compared to how the rest of the internet was reacting, I was more uninterested in "The Boss Baby" than pissed off at it. But not even I was prepared for just how bizarre this movie truly was. Once you get past the predictable story line, you get a strange explanation for where babies come from and how they're made (It's how I'm going to explain it all to my kids), an evil plan to unleash an immortal puppy to make adults ignore babies, and a chase scene with the villain's henchmen chasing the heroes on a skateboard while dressed as Mary Poppins. This is some weird ass sh*t. But its kind of commendable in how balls to the wall insane it really gets.
"The Boss Baby" does in fact have some imagination to it, which is shown through the bouncy and colorful animation that occasionally shifts back and forth from CG animation to hand drawn 2D animation. But it is held down by a rather by the book story, with the whole two characters who don't like each other, but learn to get along bit, which has been done to death. Some plot points are easy to see coming and, despite the occasional funny gag, most of them are clearly aimed at the very young. Which is fine, with it being a kids movie, but we have come to demand a little more.
We do get some solid voice work, with Alec Baldwin getting the best laughs, basically playing an animated, man-baby version of Donald Trump (Wait. Is there a difference?). Miles Christopher Bakshi, does an excellent job carrying the film. You get an occasional laugh out of Steve Buscemi, but Jimmy Kimmel and Lisa Kudrow are sadly underutilized.
Aside from the glaring flaws, "The Boss Baby" gets way more out of it's limited premise than you would expect. It's silly and unsurprising with it's story, and the joke does eventually get old. With that said, there are a few decent enough laughs, there's clearly good intentions behind it, and the pure insanity that finds it's way onto the screen makes the film kind of hard not to recommend a little. So go suck on a pacifier. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG For Baby Butts.
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 Shepard), 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 Shepard, 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 Shepard'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.