In Theaters: Brahms: The Boy II, The Call of the Wild, A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, The Photograph, Fantasy Island, Sonic the Hedgehog, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), Gretel and Hansel, The Turning, The Gentlemen, Bad Boys for Life, Dolittle, Underwater, Like a Boss, 1917, The Grudge, Spies in Disguise
Coming Soon: The Invisible Man, Onward, The Way Back, Bloodshot, The Hunt, My Spy, I Still Believe, A Quiet Place 2, Mulan, The New Mutants, Peter Rabbit 2, The Lovebirds, No Time to Die, Antlers, Trolls 2
★★★½: Very Good
★★½ : Eh
★★: Could've Been Worse, Could've Been Better
★½: Is It Too Late To Get A Refund?
★: Hope You Have A Good Date
½: Little To No Redeeming Value
No Stars: Rethink Your Life Choices
Image: That boy just ain't' right.
I never saw the original critically "Meh"ed 2016 horror film, "The Boy". From what I've heard, I really didn't miss much, but at least it had more of a purpose for existing than this did. This is what happens when filmmakers get together with the smallest of budgets to make a movie for no other reason than because "Well, Why the Hell not?".
"Brahms: The Boy II" follows a mother, "Liza" (Katie Holmes), who experiences a traumatic home invasion along with her son, "Jude" (Christopher Convery). While Liza is still haunted by what happened, Jude has refused to speak since the event. Liza's husband, "Sean" (Owain Yeoman), suggests that the family move out of the city and move to a house in the woods, which just so happens to be located by a really creepy, rundown and abandoned mansion, which also just so happens to have some scary history of its own. While exploring the property, Jude finds a well dressed, porcelain doll named "Brahms". (Even if you haven't seen the first one, it's pretty obvious that there's something freaky about this doll). Liza starts to suspect there's something screwy going on, as Jude seemingly starts to act out, though claims that Brahms is the one doing it. Sean remains useless, Liza is for some reason helpless, Jude's notepad is made up of gorey images of himself and Brahms killing people, and the weirdo living outside, "Joseph" (Ralph Ineson), serves as an expository device, revealing the doll's sinister past and future evil plans.
With returning director William Brent Bell ("The Boy", "The Devil Inside"), "Brahms: The Boy II" (God, what kind of stitched together title is that?) has absolutely nothing going for it, and is one of those movies that just sort of happens for no apparent reason. It would just be forgettable, if it weren't so damn lazy. The screenplay by Stacey Menear is too predicable and doesn't do anything remarkable to make up for it, along with Bell's bland and lifeless direction. The story itself is also quite confusing and indecisive on what it even wants to be. Again, never saw the first one, but I know of that film's big twist (Where it turns out Brahms was actually an adult perv living in the mansion walls, moving the doll around to make it seem as if it were alive), and where this film goes, it feels made up on the spot in a desperate attempt to make a sequel out of this.
Katie Holmes (One of the only true bright spots in the entire movie), is forced to do whatever she can with the poorly crafted material. At least, you can see she was putting effort into her role. I can see that Christopher Convery is not a bad actor, but the film oddly gives him little to actually do aside from look spooky from time to time in an attempt to drag out suspense. It doesn't work when the film spoils that the doll is obviously alive and evil right off the bat, ruining any chances of anyone buying that Jude is the one responsible for what's going on. While his character's true purpose amounts to a nonsensical (And perplexing) reveal, Ralph Ineson does play crazy well, while Owain Yeoman is one of the dumbest characters I've seen in a horror movie in a long time. (Just drop the damn doll and make a run for it. Nothing is keeping you there, and you're too moronic to see that anything is clearly wrong in the first place!)
The twists are half-assed, and the jump scares are littered all over the place, yet even they don't at least offer anything scary, "Brahms: The Boy II" is here just to occupy a spot in your local movie theater. Sure, it could of easily made room for something more meaningful, well made, or at least, resembles what actual cinematic entertainment is supposed to look like, but it's here anyway. Maybe not the worst horror movie I've seen in recent years (Maybe. It could be a close call), though it's easily the lamest and most useless one. ½ Star. Rated PG-13 For Loud Scary Noises, Child Impalement, And Merciless Teddy Bear Homicide.
Image: "Chewie....We're home."
We're kind of in an awkward situation. I think everyone can agree that putting animal actors in harm's way is something that shouldn't of even been a thing of the past. Now that may mean that we're going to be using million dollar special effects to bring real life creatures to life. Sadly, both Disney and the people who did the "Planet of the Apes" movies weren't available.
Based on the classic novel by Jack London, "The Call of the Wild" follows a larger than life St. Bernard-Collie mix named Buck as his life takes an unexpected turn. After getting abducted from his luxurious and pampered lifestyle in Santa Clara, California, Buck finds himself in the Yukon during the height of the 1890s Gold Rush. Buck first becomes a sled dog for a pair of mail carriers, "Perrault" (Omar Sy) and "Françoise" (Cara Gee), then suffers abuse from a greedy (And psychotic) man, "Hal" (Dan Stevens), before finding a new, kind master in the lonely "John Thornton" (Harrison Ford). John, suffering from his own personal losses, sets out on an adventure into the unknown wilderness to search for gold, where Buck, seeing visions of a mystical looking wolf, slowly starts to find his one true place in the world.
A story that's been adapted several times and is one of those dearly loved ones that's been held deep in a lot of people's hearts, "The Call of the Wild" is directed by Chris Sanders ("Lilo & Stitch", "How to Train Your Dragon") in his first non-animated film. Somewhat. The film is actually bolstered by a fairly large budget, which was over $100 million, and heavy use of CGI. In fact, most of the film is apparently created through computer imagery, from certain locations, the vast mountains, and the various animals that appear, right down to our canine protagonist. The film is certainly well directed and stunning to look at. Sanders has an eye for color and visual beauty, combined with striking cinematography. The effects falter when it comes to Buck, and the rest of the digitally created animals, who in a strange twist on the usual complaints about modern CGI, are far too expressive and cartoonishly animated to be believable. The exact opposite of last week's "Sonic the Hedgehog", which benefited from a more animated design, the CGI characters rarely feel like they should exist in the real world. It feels like a poor decision to rely on such distracting designs for what is meant to be a very deep story.
While he lacks the sense of realism that a live-action film such as this would require, Buck is still an impressive creation . An overly excitable, too big for his own good puppy, who goes through an emotional and uplifting character arc, Buck is pretty hard not to love. And some actor named Harrison Ford gives a very earnest performance, despite having to act against a dog (And many locations) that aren't always there (It's not like acting with a Wookiee). There are some solid, if not brief parts for Omar Sy, Cara Gee, and Bradley Whitford (as "Judge Miller", Buck's worn out first owner). Not to mention a really bizarrely over the top Dan Stevens, who only gets more deranged and villainous as the movie progresses.
Despite the mixed bag effects work, "The Call of the Wild" works best when the story's heart and emotional weight are allowed to sink in. With Sanders' skilled direction, a powerful score by Oscar nominated composer John Powell (Also "How to Train Your Dragon", "Solo: A Star Wars Story"), a legendary movie star, and a pair of likable main characters, it's an exhilarating adventure for the family, even if the film's relying on digital effects do give off the feeling of missing your own point. 2 ½ Stars. Rated PG For Perilous Pooches, Greedy Gold Rushes, And Canines Taking Names.
Image: This film isn't half baaaaaaad!
You have no idea how much it depresses me to see beloved British claymation animation studio, "Aardman Animations", who are the major Oscar winning animation studio behind "Wallace and Gromit" and "Chicken Run", get pushed to the side the way they have here in the United States. Their films just haven't found that much financial success despite nobody disliking any of them. 2015's wonderfully hilarious, "Shaun the Sheep" was a prime example of a great family film, that basically got praise from anyone who saw it, to just fade away from the box office almost instantly. And yet, we had how many "Alvin and the Chipmunks" movies?
Based on the television series (That's mostly remained somewhat obscure here), "A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon" follows the titular lovable troublemaking sheep, "Shaun" (Justin Fletcher), living on a farm owned by eyeless, glasses wearing farmer named, er, "Farmer" (John Sparkes), along with worn out sheepdog, "Blitzer" (Also voiced by Sparkes) and the rest of the flock. Blitzer has become increasingly frustrated with Shaun's antics, and Shaun just continues to find ways to get involved in some kind of chaotic situation. This time the situation involves a cute little alien, "Lu-La" (Amalia Vitale), which sends the entire town into an alien obsessed frenzy, including the Farmer (Who gets the idea to create an alien based theme park, "Farmageddon", to bank on the new craze). Lu-La's arrival also attracts the attention of some shady government agents, led by the no nonsense, "Agent Red" (Kate Harbour). Now Shaun must find a way to get Lu-La home before Red, her always nervous robot, "Mugg-1N5" (David Holt), and an army of faceless, hazmat suit wearing henchmen, find them.
Released through Netflix (Like last year's "Klaus", another more unique animated film that deserved better), "A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon" is another hand crafted, delightfully goofy, and unfairly charming treat from Aardman. With all dialogue being limited like before (All of the characters speak in grunts, groan, grumbles, and whatever other sound the voice actors can come up with), the film relies on the visually pleasing animation to speak for itself. Every detail is noticeable, right down to the Aardman trademark thumbprint, and what the animators get these characters to do is nothing short of incredible. The humor comes from well timed slapstick and quirkiness, along with an overabundance of easter eggs and science-fiction based references, which are littered throughout the entire film in both the background or foreground. (It almost demands a second viewing so you can try catch them all)
The characters are all a load of fun to watch, with the funniest moments coming from the always exasperated Blitzer and the Farmer's scheme to build up his theme park (A subplot with an amusing payoff). Shaun is an endearing character, and Lu-La is an adorable creation, just like Shaun's baby sidekick, "Timmy" (Also voiced by Justin Fletcher). The story this time tries to go for bigger, and considering what worked so well about the first film was how simple it was, it kind of doesn't feel needed. It's a minor complaint though when the film still has such a sweet center and good morals of kindness to go with the laughs, which are funny enough to get the parents bursting out with laughter. (Yes, as usual there are plenty of jokes just for the adults to get) "A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon" is pure charm personified. Drop what you're doing and give it your time of day. 3 ½ Stars. Rated G.
Image: "How about we spend a romantic evening seeing Sonic the Hedgehog?"
Being the kind of guy who would consider "Sonic the Hedgehog" a good Valentine's Day movie (or maybe "Birds of Prey". I'm not completely out of it), having to review a romance film by myself, surrounded by a horde of married couple and lovers, continues to be awkward after all these years.
"The Photograph" follows a photographer, "Mae Morton" (Issa Rae) and a journalist, "Michael Bloc" (Lakeith Stanfield), who fall in love after Michael is assigned to write an article on Mae's deceased mother, "Christina" (Played by Chanté Adams through flashbacks). Throughout their relationship, we are shown Christina's past, her relationship with an old love, "Isaac" (Played by Y'lan Noel in flashbacks, and by Rob Morgan in the present), and why she was the person she was, leaving Mae to question what kind of person she also is. That's the easiest way to describe the plot I think.
"The Photograph" has the appearance of a by the numbers romance, and to a degree, it kind of is one. However, it also ends up being a bit more of an unexpected (And welcome) challenge. Written and directed by Stella Meghie ("Jean of the Joneses"), the movie has a straightforward story, but it isn't exactly told in a straightforward fashion. At first glance, it looks as if the flashbacks have little connection to the main storyline in the present, other than the focus on Mae's mother's youth. It gives off a disjointed feeling up until it becomes apparent what exactly it's all meant to symbolize, which is something the film does quite beautifully. Meghie takes her time to tell the story, and avoids many clichés in favor of simply following a touching, very realistic relationship. The film also looks stunning, with some breathtaking cinematography, and pleasing visual imagery.
The story may not have much of an actual conflict per se (It's there, but it's not focused on or even given much attention to), but the cast keeps you invested in its characters. Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield (Another great actor with tons of versatility) have killer chemistry together, and are endearing to watch. They're just such likable characters, and you get the feeling how, despite some internal (And external) issues), do deserve a chance to be together. Lil Rel Howery (as "Kyle", Michael's brother) and Teyonah Parris (as "Asia", Kyle's wife) deliver on some lighthearted humor, Rob Morgan is quite excellent, and Courtney B. Vance (as "Louis", Mae's father) makes up for limited screentime with a couple heartfelt scenes. Chanté Adams, who has only just started to break into film, shows tons of promise, and gives a terrifically subtle performance.
"The Photograph" isn't a grand film, nor is it one with well, the kind of excitement the average moviegoer may be looking for. It's quiet, simple, and not everything goes exactly the way you might be used to. It's enjoyably different, and refreshing to see something a little deeper from what could of just been forgettable Valentine's Day fluff. There's no need to overstate or overdramatize. Just give the audience a good, crowdpleasing romance, with a new outlook. That's all any 26 year old, single man can ask for. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Lovey Dovey Stuff.
Image: Where's ZE PLANE!!!!!?????
You know what I love about film? There's something for literally everybody. Some people want action or drama. Some want romance or comedy. Maybe some horror or fantasy. Some people also want weird attempted reboots of heavily memed TV shows nobody talks about. I don't know who those people are, but I'm assuming they're out there.
Based on the old television series and given a more horror element (Kind of), "Fantasy Island" follows a group of contest winners as they arrive on the mysterious er, "Fantasy Island", run by the even more mysterious "Mr. Roarke" (Michael Peña). The guests include snarky, cynical girl, "Melanie" (Lucy Hale), wannabe action hero, "Patrick" (Austin Stowell), the regretful "Gwen" (Maggie Q), and the annoying step-bros, "Brax" (Jimmy O. Yang) and "JD" (Ryan Hansen). Mr. Roarke, who is extremely vague on all of the details, reveals that all of the guests will be receiving one fantasy each, and will have no choice but to see them through to the very end no matter what. With Brax and JD wanting an excess amount of money and women (And men too.), Patrick wanting to become a soldier like his deceased father, Gwen wanting to correct a mistake from her past, and Melanie wanting to get revenge on a mean girl (Portia Doubleday), who tortured her in high school. Of course, there's something nefarious going on, and it appears the guests may not being going home alive. Insert maniacal laugh here.
From "Blumhouse Productions" ("Paranormal Activity", "The Purge", "Get Out", all kinds of horror things) and directed by Jeff Wadlow ("Kick-Ass 2", "Truth or Dare"), "Fantasy Island" could classify as their most ambitious project yet. There appears to be an idea here, but I haven't the slightest clue what the hell it's supposed to be. Whatever the project originally began as, the final product is a hodge podge of tones, setpieces, convoluted plot twists, and the mad ramblings of whoever wanted to make a scary (Or in this case, PG-13 scary) version of an old show teenagers know nothing about. You know, aside from the little guy going "Ze plane! Ze plane!". The film feels randomly cobbled together, with the horror element going little further than your typical jump scares and the meager attempts at humor falling flat on its face. Most of the fantasies, which are unique to say the least, don't end up making much sense at first glance, and only get more confusing once the movie finally tells us what everything has been leading up to. The disjointed screenplay feels made up as it goes along, and while I can say it's not exactly predictable, that's just because it's physically impossible to tell where the movie even wants to go.
Michael Peña is thankfully a decent amount of fun in the movie, clearly relishing his creepy role, and even getting a good line here and there. A few of the actors, such as Maggie Q and Austin Stowell really are trying their best despite the material given, while Lucy Hale has possibly the worst story arc of the entire cast. (It just gets dumber as it goes along) As for Ryan Hansen and Jimmy O. Yang, aside from their antics being short on laughs, I'm just confused by the fact they're basically playing the same exact characters they played in last month's "Like a Boss". (Shared universe?) The most enjoyable performance comes from the always entertaining Michael Rooker (as "Damon", a crazy guy lurking on the island, attempting to discover the island's secrets), who knows how to liven things up, even if it's only for a little bit.
At nearly two hours, "Fantasy Island" isn't boring. It's too damn long for its own good, but not something too terrible. It's just a complete mess of a movie, with a not very well thought out premise. While there seem to be some slight aspirations, it all comes crashing down once we reach the unintentionally hilarious wrap-up. Nonsensical and needlessly confusing, it's one of those movies I can't imagine enough people asked for, and can't find a single person to recommend it to. Bad vacation spot. 1 ½ Stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content, Lazy Spooky Moments, And The Evil Side Of American Tourists.
Image: Sonic, after seeing how good he looks now, takes a confused look at the terror that could of been.
I have (Yet) another confession for the people who have been following my reviewing for these last (almost) ten years. "Sonic the Hedgehog" is my boi, and I have been a fan of the video game-based speedy blue blur since I was little. After all the ups, downs, and the horrific disaster of 2006 (Lets just say it wasn't a good year for him, and leave it at that.), when I heard that a movie was being made, I feared the absolute worst. Then I began to emotionally dread it after the now infamous first trailer, which revealed a revolting CGI design that still haunts the nightmares of millions. After the film was thankfully delayed a few months for the film's animators (Who deserve even more praise than they're getting), we got something much closer to the original hedgehog I know and love. Now all that remained was the movie's actual quality.... May God be with us.
Based on the almost thirty year old video game series, "Sonic the Hedgehog" follows the titular super sonic speedy blue hedgehog, "Sonic" (Voiced by Ben Schwartz). Forced to flee from his planet at a young age, Sonic uses his magical, teleporting gold rings to find a new home on Earth. After years of solitude in the small town of "Green Hills" (Cute reference), Sonic is lonely and yearns for companionship. His power attracts the attention of the government, who send in brilliant, but completely evil mad scientist, "Dr. Robotnik" (Jim Carrey), to track down Sonic. When Sonic's rings wind up teleported to San Francisco, Sonic finds help from the town's local cop, "Tom Wachowski" (James Mardsen). Now Sonic and Tom head out on a road trip to find the missing rings, and get Sonic to safety, while avoiding Robotnik and his army of lethal drones.
Directed by visual effects guy, Jeffy Fowler, "Sonic the Hedgehog" had the makings of the grand disaster that I had previously been afraid of. I mean, as far as plots go, this doesn't necessarily scream classic Sonic, and it's also just one of the safest forms of plotting you could possibly come up with. What we end up getting is a very strange, predictable, yet unpredictable, and oddly endearing little movie. I can admit it's nothing that special, and for the most cynical, it won't change any minds when it comes to the "Video Game Movie Curse", but I can't help but admit I had one heck of a good time with it. The weirdness makes the movie more inviting, and it makes up for a generic story with a good heart and some bonkers sequences that are going to be hard to forget. (The novelty of a "Sonic the Hedgehog" movie is odd enough, but I never expected the sight of Sonic partaking in a bar fight, or Jim Carrey dancing to the song, "Where Evil Grows")
The visual effects aren't particularly real looking, and don't mesh with the live action setting hardly at all. It especially shows with Sonic himself, who looks copy and pasted into the real world. Thankfully, his lovable personality and adorable charm make him a delight to watch. He just looks alive, providing some laughs, and even looking pretty awesome when he really starts to speed up. (And not to mention, unlike his previous design, his appearance doesn't make you want to throw up.) Ben Schwartz also deserves credit here, and does a wonderful job providing his own spin (Pun not intended) on the character, while still doing him justice. James Mardsen remains professional no matter how silly the film is, and his buddy relationship with Sonic is actually quite cute. There isn't much more use for other supporting characters, who don't end up having much of role, such as Tika Sumpter (as "Maddie", Tom's wife), Natasha Rothwell (as Maddie's agitated sister), and Lee Majdoub (as "Agent Stone", Robotnik's minion). Then there's Jim Carrey, who appears to be having more fun here than he's had in years. The right amount of over the top villainous, hilariously wild, and even a little imposing in a few scenes, Carrey just does this part better than anyone, reminding the audience why he was once the biggest star in the world.
Unexpectedly heartfelt and a bit more clever than advertised, "Sonic the Hedgehog" has a lot of genuinely good laughs, some groaners, and a few so dumb that they're admittedly kind of funny. (Olive Garden. Why Olive Garden?) The film is also compedently directed, and even ends on a shockingly well done and excitingly action packed finale. The movie isn't flawless, as you would expect, but it is the kind of fun that kids will love, the longtime fans will have a good time with, and even the parents, who may or may not know much about the character, will find themselves slightly charmed by it. It's nostalgic towards a classic character, and gives off a 90s era-esque vibe that I do kind of miss. It's the kind of flawed, though sweet and charming movie I would of loved as a kid, and can plenty having a soft spot for. And now I finally get to say I liked the "Sonic the Hedgehog" movie. Strange, isn't it? 3 Stars. Rated PG For Super Sonic Action, Slightly Crude Humor, And Sanic. No PINGAS Though, Unfortunately.
Image: "Joker" who?
DC Comics' "DC Extended Universe", having always been a subject to unfavorable comparisons to the much more successful (And more consistent) "Marvel Cinematic Universe", has finally figured out what it will take to make their more recent films work. Completely going off the deep end. And everything is much better now because of it.
"Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)" follows the titular "Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn" (Margot Robbie), a former psychiatrist turned crazed lunatic girlfriend to "The Joker" (Previously played by Jared Leto before DC disowned him). However, Joker ends up dumping Harley, leaving her without much purpose and the immunity being with him gave her. Determined to change herself for the better, Harley sets out on her own, only to find herself thrown into an elaborate series of events, and becoming the target of a lot of people who really want to kill her. With the "Batman" nowhere to be seen (Ben Affleck is gone, and Robert Pattinson is gonna do his own thing), maniacal (And petty) crime boss, "Roman Sionis/Black Mask" (Ewan McGregor) has plans to take over the criminal underworld, but his plans are threatened when an important diamond is stolen from him by a young thief, "Cassandra Cain" (Ella Jay Basco). Harley, in an attempt to get on Sionis' good side, tries to find Cassandra before Sionis' mercenaries do.
Harley slowly grows fond of Cassandra and proceeds to become a possibly bad influence on her, while others also get wrapped up into the chaotic web of violence, including Gotham City Police Detective, "Renee Montoya" (Rosie Perez), a very (Very!) talented singer at Sionis' club turned informant, "Dinah Laurel Lance/Black Canary" (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), and a crossbow wielding vigilante with anger issues, "Helena Bertinelli/Huntress" (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Eventually, all of these badass ladies are going to have to go up against Sionis, to protect Cassandra and save the city from his villainy, while also getting some much needed emancipation.
Having found critical praise with more standalone films, such as "Wonder Woman" and "Shazam!", "Birds of Prey" (Which is um, very loosely based on the comic of the same name), decides to continue what they started by not really focusing on the fact that all of these movies are meant to be a shared universe. The film also doesn't feel the need to be restrained by the tone or typical film ratings that usually accompany these movies. R rated, and proud of it, the film is rather brilliantly directed by Cathy Yan ("Dead Pigs"), with a screenplay by Christina Hodson ("Bumblebee"), and it goes all out with the insanity, giving us the DC-equivalent to "Deadpool". It's a laugh out loud, unhinged, and often strange thrill ride, showing us the darker, seedier side of the DC universe, while retaining a gleeful charm to itself. (The film is packed full of bloody violence, raunchy humor, and swears. Definitely not for the kids!) Yan, with this being her second film, shows a lot of potential, with her stylish direction working well with the violent, though well crafted action, the random humor, and moments of weirdness. (The film stops for a couple minutes to have an out of nowhere musical number tribute to Marilyn Monroe. It's such a baffling, yet amusing bit that fits perfectly with the odd tone.) The story, while a bit all over the place, feels like it's been done so intentionally, with Harley serving as a narrator, who keeps telling things out of order or getting distracted.
Margot Robbie, who stole the show previously in "Suicide Squad" (And tried her absolute best to make up for that film's disappointment), is the perfect Harley Quinn. It's clear that this was a personal project for Robbie considering she's also helped produce the film, and this time, she gets to let loose more than ever before. The right blend between delightfully funny, in your face bonkers, and even a little tragic, it's Robbie's show, and she runs it wonderfully. Ella Jay Basco, in her first major movie role, is a terrific straight man (or woman) to Harley's zaniness, Rosie Perez becomes an inspired choice for her character (Who originated from "Batman: The Animated Series" just like Harley did, before becoming a mainstream comic character), and Jurnee Smollett-Bell is entirely awesome in the most unexpected of ways. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who gets the smallest role of the group, still leaves one hell of an impression, deserving of her own possible spin-off in the future. (DC! Get on this now!) The movie also gives us some great baddies for our ladies to go up against, such as a really creepy Chris Messina (as "Victor Zsasz", Sionis' sadistic henchman/likely lover, who cuts himself after every kill) and an amazingly flamboyant, hilarious, and yet, still scary Ewan McGregor, who just deserves more recognition considering how good he always is.
With some insanely clever and original action sequences (Which were helped put together by "John Wick" creator, Chad Stahelski), "Birds of Prey" doesn't get too deep (And even if the story's randomness is intentional, it is a little offputting at times), but still offers a crazy amount of fun, some great characters, and a little something to offer for everyone. It's basically a girls night out kind of movie that just so happens to also be a comic book one. Showing more personality than ever and embracing something much different than their usual comfort zone. (I'll admit, even Marvel has trouble doing that sometimes.) 3 ½ Stars. Rated R For Strong Language, Lots Of Violence, Powered Up Drug Use, And The Tragic Demise Of An Innocent Egg Sandwich.
Image: "I bet Hansel and Gretel taste just like chicken!"
You know, all this movie was missing was an "A24" logo. This is not at all what I was expecting, and certainly not something I'm used to seeing as a major mainstream release. It's too artsy fartsy for that.
"Gretel and Hansel" follows the titular, "Gretel" (Sophia Lillis), and her younger brother, "Hansel" (Sam Leakey), who after being sent away from their mother, embark on a journey into the deep and dark forest to find a new home. While on their travels, the children come across an old house, filled with delicious food, sweets, and warm beds, where an old woman named "Holda" (Alice Krige), offers them a place to rest temporarily. However, their stay starts to become more permanent, as Hansel is easily swayed by Holda's generosity, while Gretel believes there is something more nefarious going on. If you've ever heard the old story before, then you know where this is going, and that witches be crazy.
A more twisted take on the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale (Or if you really think about it, the scary version might be more appropriate. Fairy tales were essentially horror stories.), "Gretel and Hansel" is less a movie, but more of an art-house experience that you leave wondering if you were actually meant to enjoy it or not. Turning fairy tales into horror movies (Or again, returning them to their horror status) isn't anything new. However, it's not really a full blown horror film, with director Osgood Perkins (Known for low budget horror films I've never heard of), treating the film as a dark fantasy that focuses on a slow paced showcase of unsettling imagery and surreal visuals. The screenplay by Rob Hayes is limited in some places in terms of dialogue, with the film stopping to give time to strange sequences of visual gothic beauty and other spooky images that I can only assume are meant to symbolic. (Sort of a coming of age story, mostly in part for Gretel reaching womanhood. I think.) The film is shot in an aspect ratio that presents the film in a square-like format, allowing a lot of single shots of weirdness as the focal point. It's all an odd mixture, which isn't helped by the seemingly intentionally out of place score credited to a French musician called "ROB". It's oddly techo, and doesn't seem to mesh. Yet, it bizarrely works in some places, and adds to the film's creepy and unnerving atmosphere.
Sophia Lillis (Who you might remember as being utterly brilliant as Beverly from "It") is the star of the film, and much like her character, has to carry the film almost completely on her own due to how small the cast is. She's gives a strong performance that relies more on her physicality and emotional reactions. Alice Krige gives off a calming, though delightfully sinister presence, and even adds a little humor to the film. Sam Leakey isn't much of an actor yes, and his performance, while nothing outright bad, doesn't quite work in some places, especially when he's meant to be acting opposite Lillis.
"Gretel and Hansel" isn't exactly scary, though that doesn't seem to be the intention. It's disturbing in places (Despite the PG-13 rating, the filmmakers still found a way to up the creep factor), rather original, and strangely mesmerizing, but kind of confusing and not exactly exciting. It's the kind of movie you see your artistically invested friends salivating over, and I can see it gaining a future cult status. It's almost like it was specifically made to achieve that. At least it gave me a little something different after the terrible horror movies this month. While I'm still not sure I liked it, I found myself weirdly immersed in it. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Scary Images And Poor Eating Habits.
Image: Blake Lively responsibly looks both ways before crossing the street.
I've been asked this question before, "What is the hardest type of review to write?". You have your different variations of quality in films, whether it be good, bad, great, anything from "Pure Flix", but the absolute hardest movie to write about are what I call the obligation films. Something I just saw because it got released that week, didn't too much time out of my day, and sure isn't bad enough to remember come the year's end. That's especially true when it comes out in January.
Based on the novel of the same name, "The Rhythm Section" follows "Stephanie Patrick" (Blake Lively), who has given up on life since the death of her entire family in a plane crash years prior. Having turned to prostitution and drugs, Stephanie is met by a journalist, "Keith Proctor" (Raza Jaffrey), who has discovered that the crash was not an accident, but in reality was a terrorist bombing. Stephanie finds out the name of the bomb-maker, "Reza" (Tawfeek Barhom), and after a botched attempt at vengeance that results in Proctor's death, she's left with nowhere else to turn to except for Proctor's informant, "Iain Boyd" (Jude Law). A former MI6 operative with a shady past, Iain agrees to help Stephanie get her revenge and catch all of the people involved with the bombing by training her to kill. Having Stephanie pose as a deceased assassin, "Petra", Stephanie's morality is tested as she's forced to do things she never would of dreamed of to complete her mission and avenge her loved ones.
Directed by Cinematographer turned director Reed Morano (Known for a few episodes of "The Handmaiden's Tale") and written by Mark Burnell (Who also wrote the original novel), "The Rhythm Section" is the kind of movie that could of used a lot more excitement and a sense of investment to make up predictable plotting. When you're left being able to figure out most of what's going to happen (Mostly due to how many times we've seen similar films such as this.), you would at least expect more compelling characters and action setpieces to add a little to the film. However, Morano seems to be attempting more drama, which when the film focuses on that, it kind of works. It's nothing original or even that deep, but it's well paced, atmospherically filmed, and thanks to Blake Lively, occasionally emotional. The action itself when it happens is a bit more iffy. The editing is choppy and the constant shaky cam makes it frustratingly difficult to tell what the hell is going on. After a while, things take a bit too long to get going, and you just start to lose interest.
Blake Lively, though her British accent seems to slip from time to time, is a strong presence, especially when the film relies on her expressive performance. You feel a lot for the character, even when she's cold, and Lively's simple stare conveys so much in of itself without the need of dialogue. I do also appreciate the film showing how lacking in capability the character starts out. She's not the best assassin in the world, and it takes a lot of time for her to grow into her own after much failure. Jude Law doesn't end up getting much of a role later on, though he still delivers a typically good performance regardless. In a part that could of been played by anyone, Sterling K. Brown (as "Marc Serra", a former CIA agent, turned reluctant ally), is another reliable actor giving a lot more than necessary.
"The Rhythm Section" is competent, yet forgettable. I can't necessarily say it's that bad of a film, but there's just isn't that much to say about it. It's so somber that it's kind of a bore, yet it's not something that deserves any real ridicule. There are some okay moments, though not enough to recommend. It's just a throwaway movie getting a throwaway review. 2 Stars. Rated R For Bloody Violence And Bloody Blandness.
Image: I think this movie "Turned" a long time ago.
I already saw "The Grudge". I filled my cruddy January horror release quota. You can't do this to me, and you sure as Hell can't do this to all of the good actors involved. It's not fair to anyone.
"The Turning" follows "Kate Mandell" (Mackenzie Davis), who has been hired to work as a governess for a mysterious and creepy looking house in the countryside. The old and rather catty housekeeper, "Mrs. Grose" (Barbara Marten), introduces Kate to one of the orphaned children, "Flora" (Brooklynn Prince), who immediately takes a liking to Kate. As Kate learns more about the strange circumstances, such as the deaths of the parents, the relationship between the even stranger eldest child, "Miles" (Finn Wolfhard) and the deceased stablemaster, and the random disappearance of the previous nanny. When Miles returns after being expelled from school, Kate starts to see terrifying visions of the dead, which slowly start to drive her insane. Locked in a house with a bunch of cuckoos, Kate struggles to keep her sanity, discovering the dark secrets that plague the estate and the children.....or does she? The movie is kind of like that....or is it?
A more modernized adaptation of a well known 1898 scary story "The Turning of the Screw" by Henry James, "The Turning" has a creepy idea going for it, but a very sadly amateurish way of executing it. Directed by Floria Sigismondi ("The Runaways", along with many music videos), the film's solid gothic atmosphere is wasted on a bland and uneven screenplay by Chad and Carey W. Hayes (Both "Conjuring" films, as well as the much reviled "House of Wax" remake). Like all bad horror flicks, the film relies on cheap jump scares as expected (Random faces appearing in mirrors and down hallways, accompanied by a loud musical cue. You know the drill.), though this time they do seem somewhat half-assed. It's as if Sigismondi couldn't commit to taking things slowly and allowing the mood to set in, or just simply going for the laziest of scares.
Mackenzie Davis is a good actress, and even with the material given, she's doing a much better job with it than she should even have to. Her terrified reactions feel real and she carries what she can. Finn Wolfhard continues to show off his versatility as an actor, and Brooklynn Prince (From "The Floria Project") is still terrific, playing up the adorable, yet creepy little girl act. Barbara Marten is almost too over the top with her snooty weirdness, and Joely Richardson (as Kate's mentally ill mother) doesn't do much except attempting to add a late addition twist to the story. The film seems to be trying to make it seem like things may or may not be real, and that Kate could just be crazy. However, when all of the characters themselves are freakin bonkers as it is, with all of them changing completely within the same scene for no apparent reason, it's hard to buy any of it.
Like the source material, "The Turning" wants to have some form of ambiguity to itself, but it fails miserably in that department. Once we reach the film's end (Or lack thereof), none of it makes any actual sense. The film may be visually pleasing to the eyes, though it has nothing to offer when it comes to originality to its story right down to an actual conclusion. (It's not like "The Grudge" bad where we saw the literal ending in the trailers, but it feels just as typical and lazy.) You'll be begging the theater to just turn it off before it's all done. Wouldn't be that much different anyways. 1 ½ Stars. Rated PG-13 For Scary Faces, Hallucinations, Spoiled Rich Kids, And The Terrifying Revelation That Steven Spielberg Is An Executive Producer.
Image: It's OK, Matt!.I gave it a good review!
My experience with director Guy Ritchie ("Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels", "Snatch"), involve his more recent, bigger budget films, such as the two "Sherlock Holmes" films, "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.", "Aladdin", and the frustratingly over the top "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword". The quality of his recent work varies, but from what I've learned about his early filmography, I think it's obvious that he hasn't been more at home making a movie until right now.
"The Gentlemen" opens with a framing device, involving smarmy private investigator, "Fletcher" (Hugh Grant), on orders from a grudge holding tabloid editor, "Big Dave" (Eddie Marsan), is attempting to blackmail, "Raymond" (Charlie Hunnam), the number two for marijuana kingpin, "Mickey Pearson" (Matthew McConaughey). With his findings all typed up as a screenplay, Fletcher recounts all.recent events that led everyone up to this exact moment, starting with Mickey, hoping to peacefully retire with his wife, "Rosalind" (Michelle Dockery), offering to sell his entire cannabis empire to flamboyant billionaire, "Matthew Berger" (Jeremy Strong). Things start to go off the rails as ambitious gangster, "Dry Eye" (Henry Golding), has plans of his own, and offers to buy out Mickey's operation. When Mickey refuses, Dry Eye arranges for Mickey's operation to be threatened, resulting in a gang war full of bullets, sophistication, and a constant use of the "C" word.
With Guy Ritchie directing, producing, and writing, "The Gentlemen" is essentially Ritchie creating a playground of guns, violence, and in your face machismo, and it's quite a delight to watch. It's a very stylish and slick looking film, with an off-kilter, and lets just say, very politically incorrect sense of humor. Pushing the envelope with some English smoothness, mixed in with a level of brash and roughness that just set out to push everyone's buttons. It's very Tarantino-esque actually, especially when the film stops to focus on character interaction, which is where the most enjoyable moments happen. Even when it offends or just plain gets too much to handle, you have to admire how many plot points come together and how cleverly constructed it all is.
The stellar ensemble cast deliver their intentionally overwritten and drawn out dialogue, and all appear to be having a ball doing so. Matthew McConaughey, instantly making up for last year's "Serenity", is his usual McConaughey self for sure. Yet, there is a certain relatability and charisma to him that make him a joy to watch. Charlie Hunnam is a blast playing against the usual macho hero type I've gotten used to seeing him as, while Henry Golding is an old school baddie, who may be in over his head, but still a force to be reckoned with. Michelle Dockery is very appealing, while Eddie Marsan and Jeremy Strong have great character roles. Meanwhile, a hilarious Colin Farrell (as "Coach", a gang leader, who finds himself and his crew wrapped up in everything against his will) and a scenery devouring Hugh Grant steal the show.
"The Gentlemen" takes the weirdness to a point where it could almost be seen as a parody by the end, and the film's seemingly casual use of racial humor, will not sit well with a lot of people. Even I'll admit it can get pretty uncomfortable at parts, even when the film caught me off guard with a big laugh, I would question if it's something that should be joked about these days. (A running joke involving a guy named "Phuc", along with a big payoff with a pig, the film offers some sidesplitting moments of humor.) It's the kind of film that only someone like Guy Ritchie could make, and one that I could tell he really wanted to. It's an unexpected injection of life in a month where we rarely get any. 3 ½ Stars. Rated R For Very Strong Language, Very Bloody Violence, And Very Guy Ritchie-Ness.
Image: "Let's talk Bad Boys 4!"
So is this what it takes to save your franchise and actually make something good? Just don't let Michael Bay direct? It worked with the "Transformers", and now here. It's too jarring to not be a coincidence if you ask me.
"Bad Boys for Life" follows Miami Police Department officers, "Mike Lowrey" (Will Smith) and "Marcus Burnett" (Martin Lawrence), with Marcus considering retirement, much to Mike's dismay. However, Mike ends up gunned down by an assassin, "Armando" (Jacob Scipio), the son of a vengeful drug lord, "Isabel Aretas" (Kate del Castillo), in a revenge plot that leaves many bodies in the process. After months in the hospital, Mike is back and ready to catch the attempted killer, only to discover that Marcus has retired and the stressed out "Captain Howard" (Joe Pantoliano), doesn't want Mike on the case. The villains have no intention of stopping anytime soon, and after tragedy strikes, Mike and Marcus end up working together for one last time, teaming up with Mike's new love interest, "Rita" (Paola Núñez), and her new generation team of cocky young people, "AMMO", consisting of "Kelly" (Vanessa Hudgens), "Rafe" (Charles Melton), and "Dorn" (Alexander Ludwig). As they get closer to solving the case, Mike and Marcus discover a few unexpected secrets, connecting everything in the process.
The third entry in the "Bad Boys" series, with the previous two films both being directed by Michael Bay, "Bad Boys for Life" is this time directed by Belgian filmmakers Adil El Arbi ad Bilall Fallah doing their first American film. While I never took the time to see the first two (Mostly because anyone who knows me personally understands that I will never go out of my way to see a Michael Bay film, let alone two.), this one seems to stand on its own just fine. The film takes its time to establish itself, with the tone balancing over the top action and masculinity fueled comedy, except this time, it's not annoying. In fact, it's shockingly endearing and quite enjoyable. The film is stylish and filled with bloody violence, mixed with lots of explosions, but done well and certainly originally. The film also doesn't so much avoid clichés. It instead has a good time toying with them, such as the obligatory slow motion under shot of our heroes stepping out of a car being interrupted by the door slamming into a fire hydrant.
The comedy works best due to the undeniable comradery between Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. They work well off of each other, bouncing hilarious comments at each other's expense and at the situations they find themselves in. They're also humanized by their relationship, which serves as the heart of the film. Joe Pantoliano is a lot of fun, while some of the supporting cast members, like Vanessa Hudgens and an awkwardly funny Alexander Ludwig (Playing a tech nerd, who just so happens to be totally ripped). Kate de Castillo and Jacob Scipio are mostly plot devices, but do solid jobs at being villainous. Most of the other characters are secondary compared Smith and Lawrence, who can carry the film on their chemistry alone.
While things start to get a little overboard (As you would expect) towards the last act, and it might be a bit bit longer than necessary, "Bad Boys for Life" succeeds at providing crazy and stylish action, with laughs, violence, and machismo in a way that lesser buddy action films (Or these days, I should say most buddy action films) seem to butcher. It's possibly a bit on the dumb side, though smart enough to know what works. Sometimes all you need is the right people involved, the right person NOT involved, and a couple of charismatic actors to inject new life into an old franchise. 3 Stars. Rated R For Strong Violence And Unconventional Policing Methods.
Image: Dr. Dolittle tries to make sense of his own movie.
It's in my expert opinion that what we have here isn't just really a bad movie. It's more like a sad one. It's the chopped up remains of a well intentioned, but misguided cinematic disaster of massive proportions. Audiences will be confused, critics will only live to decimate and ridicule, and everybody involved will just go home really depressed, due to not only will it fail, it will fail in a way that nobody will allow them to forget any time soon. That's probably the worst part about all of this. It didn't need to be this way, and yet, it's not so much surprising that it is. It's just....how did this go so wrong in the worst way possible?
"Dolittle" follows eccentric scientist and veterinarian, "Doctor John Dolittle" (Robert Downey Jr.), who has the ability to speak to animals. Previously a famed doctor, known throughout all of England, Dolittle has become a recluse after the death of his wife, closing himself off from the world with his colorful collection of animal companions. "Queen Victoria" (Jessie Buckley) has fallen gravely ill, sending her assistant, "Rose" (Carmel Laniado), to force Dolittle to find a way of saving her. Dolittle, deducing that only a rare and mystical fruit from a fabled island can save the queen, he embarks on an epic journey at sea with his friends. Dolittle's kooky crew consists of a wise parrot, "Polly" (Voiced by Emma Thompson), a worried gorilla, "Chee-Chee" (Voiced by Rami Malek), an Octavia Spencer duck, "Dab-Dab" (Voiced by Octavia Spencer), a bickering polar bear and ostrich, "Yoshi" (Voiced by John Cena) and "Plimpton" (Voiced by Kumail Nanjiani), a feisty squirrel, "Kevin" (Voiced by Craig Robinson), and a plucky kid, "Tommy Stubbins" (Harry Collett), who self-appoints himself as Dolittle's apprentice. The crew faces many obstacles, such as Dolittle's nefarious rival, "Dr. Blair Mudfly" (Michael Sheen), acting on orders of the Queen's traitorous courtier, "Lord Badgley" (Jim Broadbent), who plot to stop Dolittle from completing his quest.
Directed by Stephen Gaghan ("Syriana", "Gold"), or perhaps I should say "Partially directed by" instead, "Dolittle" has suffered from an identity crisis, in part thanks for countless reshoots from other directors such as Chris McKay ("The LEGO Batman Movie") and Jonathan Liebesman ("Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles"). It doesn't help that the screenplay, co-credited to Gaghan, really doesn't seem to have the slightest clue who the audience for the film is. Everything feels misguided, and it all results in an explosion of uninspired storytelling, a lack of focus, unpleasant weirdness, and some of the worst editing I've ever seen in a theatrically released movie. It's baffling how this mangled corpse of a family film has been poorly stitched together and tossed into the January dumping ground in an attempt to salvage anything of value. The story's pace moves like a snail, while never letting up in the constant babbling of the many characters and the introduction of various plotlines going on at once. There is so much that happens over the course of what should of felt like a brisk hour and forty minutes, such as a scheme to kill the Queen, Dolittle's grief over his lost wife, Tommy popping up to contribute nothing, the animal characters who appear and disappear when the plot requires, and a whole side quest involving Dolittle's resentful father in law, "Rassouli" (Played by Antonio Banderas), that takes up the entire second act. I haven't even mentioned the part with the dragon (Voiced by Frances de la Tour), who Dolittle gives a colonoscopy to, resulting in a fart in his face. The film keeps going and never slows down, and yet, it feels so long at the same time.
The almost random, though still bland and derivative script just brings down all of the talented actors and actresses that have somehow found their way into the movie. (It's a lot like last month's "Cats", though slightly less ugly.) Robert Downey Jr., who is also listed as an Executive Producer, is trying his best to remain dignified. Sadly his accent is contentiously shifting, and while he still finds a way to retain some charm, his performance mostly requires a good amount of mugging. Harry Collett doesn't really do anything by the end, except add an extra few minutes of runtime, the recently Oscar nominated Antonio Banderas is left with an embarrassingly written part, and Jim Broadbent is wasted, having been given three scenes despite being the actual main villain of the film. Michael Sheen at least gets to play over the top evil, which is something he's exceptionally skilled at. The large ensemble voice cast do sound like they're having some enjoyment, such as Rami Malek, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland (as "Jip", a glasses wearing dog), Selena Gomez (as "Betsy", a giraffe), Mario Cotillard (as "Tutu", a french fox), Jason Mantzoukas (as "James", a dragonfly, who just randomly enters the story halfway through). Most of them don't get much of a role, and some feel criminally underused, such as Ralph Fiennes (as "Barry", a violent, but depressed tiger). The more enjoyable voices being Emma Thompson, who will always be welcome no matter what she's in, and both John Cena and Kumail Nanjiani, delivering the closest to what this film has to offer when it comes to actual humor. The CGI effects at times look alright, but mostly don't end up meshing well with the live-action setting. This leads to some awkward and offputting shots and camera angles that you can tell are destined to be mocked for years to come. (The film's prologue, which is made up of a artistically stylish form of animation, only proves that the film would of been better off fully animated)
With conflicting tones, weak humor (Most of which is made up of goofy modern jokes, flatulence and antics), and zero originality, "Dolittle" is the kind of filmmakig travesty that you expect at this moment of the year. It's just that this one in particular hits a new low in a depressing fashion. It's one thing for a film just not to work on its own. It's another thing for it to have never stood a chance in the first place. My diagnosis? Dead On Arrival. January 16th. 7:00 P.M. Poor Tony Stark. 1 Star. Rated PG For Rude Jokes, Fart And Poop, And The Unforgivable Sight Of A Gorilla Kicking A Tiger In The Balls.
Image: Kristen Stewart stars in "Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots:The Movie". Finally.
I think it's time that more movies start acknowledging a fact of life that everyone seems forget. The ocean is a terrifying place, and man was never meant to go there. It's dark and scary, there are some creepy beasts that want to eat you. And, not to mention, T.J. Miller. See? Terrifying.
"Underwater" follows the surviving crew of a large drilling corporation after an underwater earthquake cripples the entire station. The remaining crew members include the very capable engineer, "Norah Price" (Kristen Stewart), the captain, "Lucien" (Vincent Cassel), the funny guy, "Paul Abel" (T.J. Miller), the nice girl, "Emily Haversham" (Jessica Henwick), the nice guy, "Liam Smith" (John Gallagher Jr.), and the other guy, "Rodrigo Nagenda" (Mamoudou Athoe). With the station beyond repair, the survivors don their anime-esque diving suits to journey out onto the ocean floor to locate the control base and find a way to make contact with the surface. However, along the way, they find themselves being mercilessly hunted down by monstrous creatures of the sea, whose only mission is to rip the crew members to shreds. Norah and the rest of the crew must find a way to survive, eventually discovering more about what led to this deadly situation in the first place.
Directed by William Eubank (Known for more low budget films such as "Love" and "The Signal") with a larger scale and bigger ambitions than before, "Underwater" as you can tell by the plot, is essentially a rip-off of "Alien", except at the bottom of the ocean instead of space. It's funny how Hollywood refuses to avoid the formula that film originally had given us, and nearly completely following through with the most derivative of Sci-Fi Horror plotlines to the letter. You know where it all goes, who lives and dies, and there are sequences that could be seen as carbon copies of other work. The film does at least succeed at having an undemanding, yet oddly exciting watch, that occasionally is quite scary. Eubank takes things at a steady pace, allowing for the underwater atmosphere and tense dark lighting to create a sense of anxiety and dread to make up for the very predictable story. It's a beautifully creepy looking film, with some impressive visual effects. The creatures are especially cool looking, being give some mystery to their monstrous appearance, while also allowing just enough of a glimpse at them to unexpectedly terrify the audience. The film gives in to the urge to rely on jump scares, but they can on occasion be effective and the creatures unique design lends itself to a good enough scare.
The characters are tropes of the genre, yet the cast is game enough to make up for it, mostly thanks to Kristen Stewart. Having proven herself to be a great actress time and time again no matter the quality of the film she's in (The days of "Twilight" ended a long time ago people. Let it go already!), Stewart is a badass lead and carries the film in compelling fashion. Vincent Cassel is excellent, despite being obviously overqualified for this kind of material. There are solid performances from Jessica Henwick (Who plays scared witless very well), John Gallagher Jr. (Who is generally good no matter what), and even T.J. Miller, getting a couple admittedly funny lines. (Though his appearance in the film considering recent developments about his personal life makes things a little awkward) Meanwhile, Mamoudou Athie shows up to do well, the most obvious thing his character would be required to do.
Nothing original and aside from a minor (And pretty fun) twist, "Underwater" offers very few surprises. What we do get is well made, visually pleasing, and at times, successfully scary. It's the kind of horror that doesn't match the films it tries to emulate, though it fares better than those who fail on a more miserable level. It's nothing, pardon the pun, deep (The attempt at an environmental message aside), but something simple enough to enjoy on a rainy day.. It's the most you could ask for right now. 2 ½ Stars. Rated PG-13 For Scary Images, Aquatic Atrocities, And Lots Of Kristen Stewart Fanservice. Lots Of It.
Image "So we want a raise....And new agents."
After a major film achievement like "1917" serving as reminder of how great a year 2019 was for film, moving back onto the rest of the infamous "January Dumping Ground" feels more uninviting than ever. Guess there has to be balance in the universe somehow, right?
"Like a Boss" follows longtime best friends, "Mia" (Tiffany Haddish) and "Mel" (Rose Byrne), owners of a well liked, but mostly failing beauty company. Mia is the more brash and open one, while Mel is more careful and tries to keep everything from falling apart. Once they realize that they're thousands of dollars in debt, the besties find hope when a big time cosmetics tycoon, "Claire Luna" (Salma Hayek), offers to buy a share of their company. Little do Mia and Mel know though, Claire schemes to steal the company from under them by pitting the two of them against each other. Mia and Mel must address each other's differences and other contrivances to save both their company and their friendship.
Directed by Miguel Arteta (Who has gone from lower scale, less mainstream films like "Chuck & Buck" and "Beatriz at Dinner" to um, whatever "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" was), "Like a Boss" is the kind of comedy that seems to have the idea that if it just spouts out whatever kind of vulgarity, lowbrow joke it can, it will automatically be funny. What we get is an unfocused mess that seems to be stuck trying to pad out a surprisingly short runtime. The movie just seems to stop dead for certain overlong jokes, minor characters riffing, or random shenanigans to distract from how thin the screenplay is.
While their characters act in needlessly moronic or selfish fashion whenever the point in the script seems to say so, Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne do at least make up for it with their actually pretty solid chemistry. I buy their almost sisterly relationship, and while you're not laughing at the humor on display, they are still a joy to watch. Salma Hayek is over the top, but she is having a lot of fun, and some of it does occasionally rub off on you. (Plus her accent is always wonderful to me.) There are way too many side characters in the film, from Jennifer Coolidge (as "Sydney", an employee of Mia and Mel, who keeps talking about her vagina), Karan "Dopinder" Soni (as "Josh", Claire's wormy henchman), Jacob Latimore (as Mia's enthusiastic lover), along with Ari Graynor, Natasha Rothwell, and Jessica St. Clair (as a trio of Mia and Mel's friends, who serve no purpose whatsoever). The only standout would be Billy Porter (as "Barrett", another employee, who Mia and Mel are forced to fire), who gets an amusing moment or two.
There's nothing wrong with some good comedy to carry how weakly put together plot, even when it's a little immature and bawdy, but "Like a Boss", just feels lost and confused. It's almost as if the filmmakers themselves were uncomfortable with themselves as the film tries its best to push things down a dirtier direction. Saying "F*ck" all the time though, doesn't necessarily guarantee laughs. The film avoids a few predictable narrative pratfalls (No romantic subplot, and the temporary friendship breakup is resolved halfway realistically), but it almost just helps prove that the film is struggling to get to feature length. Not the worst you could do right now. However, you're better off just seeing all of the Oscar hopefuls instead. 1 ½ Stars. Rated R For Language, Rude Humor, And Various Gentile Based Jokes
Image: Yeah, how about we try to avoid this again if possible.
2020 may be underway (And popping out the usual January crap), but I'm still finding time to check out 2019's leftover Oscar hopefuls, and one of them just won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Drama. Like with "Roma", which I was only able to see after I prepared my "Best of the Year" list, I'm going to need to make some last second adjustments. This is what happens when you save one of your most captivating theater experiences for last.
"1917" follows a pair of young British soldiers during a heated and drawn out battle in World War I. "William Schofield" (George MacKay) and "Tom Blake" (Dean-Charles Chapman) are called forward by their superior, "General Erinmore" (Colin Firth), for a mission requiring the two of them to hand-deliver a message to "Colonel Mackenzie" (Benedict Cumberbatch). The message says that the planned attack on the German forces the following morning will only result in a complete massacre of Mackenzie's men, including Blake's brother, "Joseph" (Richard Madden). To prevent the heavy casualties in time, Schofield and Blake must trek the body riddled, trap filled warzone, while avoiding enemy forces and other hardships along the way.
Directed by Sam Mendes ("Road to Perdition", "American Beauty", along with the previous two "James Bond" entries, "Skyfall" and "Spectre"), "1917" is an immersive experiment unlike anything I've seen before in a film, and not to mention, it's something I never even thought would ever exist. With acclaimed cinematographer, Roger Deakins ("The Shawshank Redemption", "Fargo", "Blade Runner 2049", "Sicario", and that's just naming a few of them), Mendes tells an authentic, heart-wrenchingly nightmarish, and heroically inspiring story through a series of very long takes to give the appearance of one continuous shot. This means you experience everything just as our main characters experience them, allowing you to feel the urgency of the situation, almost as if you were right there in the action with them.
Yet, it's not gimmicky about it at all. Our main characters are never not on screen, and we see everything from their perspective. It's both engrossing and a little disorienting, which only adds to the experience. It's a stylish idea that's nothing short of brilliant, and something that nobody will ever be able to replicate. However, none of it would work if it weren't for the story behind it all. "1917" isn't just an action film, and in fact, there are only a handful of major setpieces. It's actually a closely human drama, with the screenplay by Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns, allowing for the film to take moments to settle down and let our characters interact with either each other, the people they meet along their journey, or just the destructive, grim world around them.
George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman give two of this year's most underappreciated performances. Balancing out anxiety, humor, and a very human sense of heroism, coming from desperation and fear, which is something you never see enough of in protagonists. It makes them more relatable and compelling certainly, and realistic in the face of wartime terror. There are also sporadic, but excellent appearances from other terrific actors, such as Colin Firth, an enjoyably cynical Andrew Scott, a perfectly cast Mark Strong, and Benedict Cumberbatch, getting one of the film's most memorable scenes.
More terrifying than any horror movie, while also more heartracing than any action movie, "1917" culminates in one final, edge of your seat sequence that will become legendary. It's the kind of great film that sticks with you after its done, and while you are in awe of the spectacle, you're just as moved by the story and characters. You'll leave the film in silence, taking what you've seen with you, and never forgetting it. War is still Hell. 4 Stars. Rated R For War Violence And The Unexpected, Tragic Deaths That Follow.
Image: It's 2020. We don't judge someones preferences.
Here's how little I actually know about horror movies, I always thought "The Ring" and "The Grudge" were the same thing. Come on, I can't be the only one. Both are based on Japanese films, with scary looking girls with long hair, and only decreased more and more in quality the longer they went on. It's easy to mix them up.
A reboot of the 2004 Americanized remake of the 2002 Japanese film, "Ju-On" (This movie is essentially the "Frankenstein" of movies), "The Grudge" follows the recently widowed, "Detective Muldoon" (Andrea Riseborough), as she's partnered up with "Detective Goodman" (Demián Bichir). they investigate a mysterious and brutal death related to a previous case involving a supposedly cursed house, where a demonic spirit was brought over from Tokyo like a virus by a mother, "Fiona Landers" (Tara Westwood). The incident resulted in the gruesome murder-suicide of her entire family. Muldoon goes to investigate further, only to find herself cursed by the grotesque and vengeful spirit intending on driving her to madness. Throughout the film, we are shown flashbacks involving others who have been cursed by the house through the years. The interconnected stories include a married couple, "Peter" (John Cho) and "Nina" (Bett Gilpin), who are expecting a baby, along with a woman, "Lorna Moody" (Jacki Weaver), arriving at the house to lend assist an elderly man, "William Matheson" (Frankie Faison), and his seemingly dementia stricken wife, "Faith" (Lin Shaye), who is in reality seeing the ghost of a little girl. There's also some involvement from Goodman's previous partner, "Wilson" (William Sadler), whose investigation of the house years earlier have made him insane. Muldoon soon realizes that her life is now in danger, and she must find a way to stop the spirit's curse for good.
Time to start off 2020 like we start off every previous year, with a bad horror movie that's just going to maybe make back its budget the first week just before fading away into nothingness. Produced by Sam Raimi ("Evil Dead"), "The Grudge" does nothing to separate itself from the average scary demon story (Which should frustrate fans of the series), and does little to explain itself, leaving one who doesn't know about the series confused (Which should frustrate just about everyone else). Director and writer, Nicolas Pesce (who is known for very unique sounding horror films I've never heard of, such as "The Eyes of My Mother" and "Piercing"), seems to have an eye for something halfway decent. The film has a creepy look and appears to be attempting to let some real atmosphere sink in. These little moments are too far and in between, and mostly end up being subverted by a cheap jump scare immediately afterwards. It doesn't help that they're all scares that you've seen before, whether it be in better movies or just more memorable ones.
A lack of originality and heavy amounts of predictability end up becoming the film's final downfall, ad turn it into something blandly forgettable, except this time in the worst way possible simply because of all the talent that seems to have ruthlessly dragged into the film. Great, versatile actors such as Andrea Riseborough and Demián Bichir are left to do what they can with the flavorless screenplay. The other non-linear storylines, while an apparent staple of this franchise, end up having little to do with each other, and all result in obvious outcomes. John Cho and Betty Gilpin have the best story, mostly just because the actors bring out enough emotional range to make it somewhat work. Lin Shaye plays strange very well, while Jacki Weaver seems to be here to make attempts at humor and William Sadler's storyline exists simply to deliver exposition.
Normally with something like "The Grudge", I'd chalk the film up to being just a lifeless, forgettable, cardboard cutout of a basic horror movie......And then the ending happened. You've seen any of the TV spots? You've seen the ending. No rhyme or reason for it to end this way, except because of a lack of imagination. It's a January released horror movie that belongs exactly where it is. We can only go up for here. 1 Star. Rated R For Grisly Images, Jump Scares, And Uncreative Twists.
Image: He should'n't have tweeted his whereabouts.
It's a sad tale what's become of poor "Blue Sky Studios". After finding major success with the original "Ice Age", during Disney's minor rut of financial misses, the studio never really has found much further success, neither at the box office or critically since, with the exception of the much underappreciated "The Peanuts Movie". After the mass buyout of "20th Century Fox", the studio is now a subsidiary of Disney, and still can't quite strike box office gold the way others can. It sucks because with "Spies in Disguise", they've given us easily one of their better, and much more clever films yet.
"Spies in Disguise" follows renowned, yet very overconfident American secret agent, "Lance Sterling" (Will Smith), who is known for his legendary showdowns, spectacular getaways, and a knack for causing a bit more trouble than necessary. After tracking down an arms dealer, "Kimura" (Masi Oka), Sterling seemingly prevents suitcase containing an experimental and deadly drone from winding up in the metallic hand of a cybernetically enhanced terrorist, "Killian" (Ben Mendelsohn), despite having issues with some of new gadgets (Such as a glitter bomb that shows holograms of cute kittens to distract the enemy). Sterling meets the young man responsible, "Walter Beckett" (Tom Holland), a nerdy, pacifist tech genius, who Sterling has fired immediately. When presenting the suitcase to his superior, "Joy Jenkins" (Reba McEntire), Sterling realizes that the drone is not in there. Turns out Killian, disguised as Sterling, is using the drone to frame him, resulting in Sterling having to go on the run from security forces agent, "Marcy" (Rashida Jones). With nowhere else to turn to, Sterling goes to Walter for help in finding a new disguise, accidentally ingesting Walter's latest experiment, a liquid that transforms Sterling into a pigeon. Now Walter and Pigeon Sterling must avoid Marcy's agents, while tracking down Killian before he unleashes an army of killer drones to slaughter the entire agency.
A pretty odd, and out there premise aside, "Spies in Disguise" gets quite a lot of mileage out of the weirdness, and provides families with a gorgeous, fast paced, and action packed comedy that unfortunately won't amount to much. Directed by Troy Quane and Nick Bruno, the film is Blue Sky at its finest, utilizing the studio's eye for blending a variety of stunning colors, fluid animation, and exceptional storyboarding. The film's animation looks especially great during the elaborately set up action sequences, which are explosive, yet still cartoonishly funny. The humor is also on point, with the animators allowing for a lot of hilarious physical comedy, which is heavily used for the film's funniest characters, "Lovey", "Fanboy", and the messed up "Crazy Eyes", a trio of pigeons who forcefully bond with Pigeon Sterling. There is actually a smart screenplay, written by Brad Copeland and Lloyd Taylor, which has charm to spare and a good heart. The film even takes a little time to focus on deeper themes, such as trying to find more peaceful solutions rather than violence and avoiding casualties. It's of course handled in a kid friendly, and not particularly realistic manner (It's a cartoon. What do you expect?) But it's something to think about, and the film thankfully does remember there is a legitimate and capable threat to face, with deadly consequences if our heroes fail. (Also, I kind of get the idea this film is trying to say something about drone warfare. It's subtle, but I feel it's there.)
The expressive character design perfectly match their voice actors, while remembering to exaggerate many features to prevent any signs of uncanny valley. They actually add to the charm of the film. Will Smith is a riot, showing off his trademark personality and charisma, working well off of an equally likable Tom Holland, who is yet to give a bad performance. Ben Mendelsohn,aka Hollywood's new go-to bad buy, is a surprisingly scary and intense villain, with a James Bond-esque backstory and a sense of menace that's rare in a family movie. There are fun voice performances from Rashida Jones, Masi Oka, along with Karen Gillan and DJ Khaled (as "Eyes" and "Ears", Marcy's tech department). Meanwhile, Reba McEntire is mostly just here because it's always a delight to hear her voice, and there's a brief, heartfelt part from Rachel Brosnahan (as Water's deceased officer mother).
Goofy, yet in an endearing way, "Spies in Disguise" is the kind of surprise holiday treat that comes out of nowhere, and has enough for everyone in the family to enjoy. It's just a lot of fun, that doesn't talk down to the kids, offers plenty of laughs and excitement, and still finds a way to charm the parents too. Blue Sky might being falling on rough times as of late (And it's hard to tell how much movies like this will pay off), but this makes for one of the first times the studio truly tried to branch out from safe, though mostly generic, and go for something a bit more unique. Not to mention, I learned more about Pigeons than I ever thought I would. 3 ½ Stars. Rated PG For Spy Action, Dark Moments, And Questions About Pigeon Anatomy.
Image:Technically, they're medium sized women.
In 2017, actress/filmmaker Greta Gerwig, gave us one of that year's best films, "Lady Bird", which if you looked at it from a distance, was just another coming of age story that could be argued that we've seen plenty of times before. The miracle of that film was how fresh she made it all seem. Whether it be her direction, eye for great characters and dialogue, and a certain quirky charm, she turned something that's been done many times, and gave us something that felt new, becoming something more iconic as time went on. So it shouldn't be shocking that she could direct something that's been made seven times, and make it both better and more relevant than ever.
Based on the beloved novel by Louisa May Alcott, "Little Women" opens with "Jo March" (Saoirse Ronan), attempting to publish a novel she's been working on. Between flashing back and forth between time, the film follows the lives of the "March" sisters, including Jo, Amy" (Florence Pugh), "Meg" (Emma Watson), and "Beth" (Eliza Scanlen), during the Civil War and after it. While their father (Bob Odenkirk) is away fighting, the sisters live with their mother, "Marmee" (Laura Dern) through the changing times. We mostly follow Jo, who has dreams of being a writer, known for her adventurous and rebellious spirit, while Meg wants to have a family, Amy yearns to become an artist, and shy Beth wants to become a musician. The sisters, especially Jo, bond with their neighbor, "Laurie" (Timothée Chalamet) and his wealthy grandfather (Chris Cooper), during this time. After years away, Jo eventually must return home when Beth gets sick, with everyone also facing future, more mature challenges of life. Honestly, you should all know this story by now to a certain degree.
From various adaptations, and whether or not you've seen any of them (Let alone read the original novel), "Little Women" is based on classic source material that's become an influence on feminist based media. It's an iconic story for young women, no matter their age, and and it takes a certain skill to keep something like that fresh. It's amazing how Greta Gerwig, who serves as both writer and director, has perfected the original story, and retold in a way today's audiences can gravitate towards it. The film is modernized, but not in the same way as last year's "Little Women" adaptation from "PureFlix", which just took the story and set in during the current time without much reason or even a sense of understanding what it really wanted to do with it. I mean that the film finds a way to convey its timely themes without compromising them, and using them to connect to the current demographic. It's done through a good sense of humor, applicable drama, and a natural charm. Gerwig's direction keeps the flashing back and forth storyline from getting jumbled, keeping the film focused on its well defined characters, who all go through a sense of full development throughout the film. Every emotional and powerful moment in the lives of these characters benefit from the non-linear story. Whether it be moments of happiness, sadness, or uncertainty, it's easy to find yourself attached to everyone's storyline. Not to mention the smart screenplay, which helps everyone feel so alive and real, such as when the film balances out something serious with something more humorous. The tone doesn't shift. It instead feels more natural this way.
The wonderful cast each have their role, and even with some mostly being secondary, there is a love and attachment you have to them as well. (Greta Gerwig really has an eye for character, as shown in "Lady Bird", which would take time out of the film's main story to instead focus on a supporting character, no matter how minor of importance.) Saoirse Ronan, on her way to another possible Oscar nomination, is empowered and commanding, yet has a certain fragile uncertainty that young girls can find relatable. Florence Pugh, having been on a role lately with "Fighting With My Family", "Midsommar", and an upcoming role in next year's "Black Widow", finds herself with the most complex of the sisters. An attentions seeker, who has a mature arc of her own, Pugh gets the funniest and most insightful moments of dialogue. Emma Watson is graceful, and flawlessly cast, while Eliza Scanlen is especially wonderful. The film wouldn't of worked without the impeccable sisterly chemistry between these actresses. There are more great performances from Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, Bob Odenkirk, a hilarious Tracy Letts (as "Mr. Dashwood", a sourpuss publisher, who challenges Jo's writing), James Norton (as "John Brooke", Meg's penniless love interest), and a likable Louis Garrel (as "Friedrich Bhaer", a professor friend of Jo, who may also have a thing for her). Not to mention some memorable supporting work from Chris Cooper, having some very subtle, though very poignant moments, and Meryl Streep (as "Aunt March", the wealthiest member of the family, who is lets just say, too brutally honest about everything.)
The beautiful and appealing production ad costume design in "Little Women" is Oscar worthy, as well as Gerwig's ability to portray the film's aesthetic to go with the time period. It's all so authentic, and visually stunning without overstating itself. Themes of female empowerment and how society views their place in the world is shown with humor and heart, while retelling an old tale to new generation. It's a credit to the source material that it can still be pertinent despite so many adaptations. It's also credit to the talent behind and in front of the camera to make sure it's all done right. Some people, mostly dudes honestly, have been wondering why so many critics and audiences have been gravitating to a movie like this, let along the fact I'm also giving it such high praise. ("But wait. You didn't even give "Star Wars" this much acclaim?" they'll say.) It's not meant to be a gamechanger in the traditional sense. It's just what you want from a great movie, with a classic, enduring story, with characters (And actors) that you love, and themes of maturity being told with a blend of heartbreak, joy, and hope. That's the power of a good story, that just so happens to be told by one Hell of a good narrator. 4 Stars. Rated PG For Some Upsetting Moments Of Realism, But IS Perfectly Suitable For The Whole Family.
Image: Golden Furby Award winner Adam Sandler
Everyone knows that there are a few actors that I dread seeing new movies from, and it's a biased thing that I should not hold against them. Especially when those actors end up showing me how good they can actually be. Comedian Adam Sandler and I have never seen eye to eye (I could list off a few "Happy Madison" films.....but then I would end up listing off more than three quarters of them.), and I can admit that even his supposed good movies, I'm not even that big a fan of. In a year that's consisted of actors returning to form or stepping out of their comfort zones, and in return getting high praise and award recognition, it's fitting that even the guy who only eight years ago played his own twin sister in a high pitched voice that still sends shivers down my spine, get his chance to prove himself at long last.
Taking place in 2012, "Uncut Gems" follows "Howard Ratner" (Adam Sandler), a Jewish Jeweler with a strong gambling addiction. Howard's constant bets and poor decisions have resulted in him owing many loan sharks all across New York, including his own brother in law, "Arno" (Eric Bogosian). While balancing out a failing marriage with his estranged wife, "Dinah" (Idina Menzel) and his relationship with his mistress/employee, "Julia" (Julia Fox), Howard runs a small jewelry story, where he awaits the arrival of an uncut colorful opal. Howard plans to auction off the opal for millions, assuring Arno's hired henchmen, "Phil" (Keith Williams Richards) and "Nico" (Tommy Kominik), that this will pay off his debts. When one of Howard's employees, "Demany" (Lakeith Stanfield), brings in basketball great, "Kevin Garnett" (Played by uh, basketball great Kevin Garnett), Garnett takes an instant interest in the opal. Believing he has some kind of connection to the opal, Garnett asks to borrow the opal for the night of his upcoming game for good luck, loaning Howard his championship ring in the meantime. However on the following day, Garnett doesn't end up returning the opal, and with the day of the auction nearing, Howard's life is thrown out of wack. Howard goes on a series of really moronic misadventures to get back the opal before his many debts catch up to him.
Directed by Josh and Benny Safdie ("Good Time"), "Uncut Gems" is a twisted look into horrible people making terrible decision because they're all so freakin stupid, and it's a sleazy, thrilling, and darkly hilarious good time. The Safdie Brothers, having already proven themselves to have an eye for grimy, shady cinematography before, allow a slightly bigger scope and story expand on their style. The cinematography is colorfully blinding and disorienting, matching the imbecilic and perplexed attitude of many of the characters. Nearly everyone in the film is either an unpleasant person, obnoxiously brainless, or even both, which for any other film, would make the movie unbearable to watch. Thankfully the screenplay by the Safdie Brothers and Ronald Bronstein (All having previously worked together on "Good Time"), is sharp witted enough to realize this and somehow finds a way to make the unappealing immensely entertaining in the most vile way possible. The dialogue is a mile a minute, with characters constantly talking over each other and raising voices to add to the intentionally all over the place story. It's an extra layer of bewilderment, which can be a bit off-putting to some, but gets some moments of humor and even quite a bit of suspense.
I have never expected to see Adam Sandler be this great before. Aside from being aggressively charismatic and scummy, he also gives probably one of his funniest performances too. From that slimy grin, exaggerated mannerisms, and clear mental instability, Sandler is a special kind of electric, forcefully glueing your eyes to the screen. He's remarkable and I really hope he sticks to roles like this in the future. The great cast of characters are also not limited to Idina Menzel, an excellent Julia Fox, a boisterous Lakeith Stanfield (Is he just really good in everything he's in?), Eric Bogosian, an unhinged Keith Williams Richards, Judd Hirsch (as "Gooey", Howard's father in law), and a fantastic Kevin Garnett, who really gets some of the film's best moments.
Contemptible and chaotic, "Uncut Gems" might be too much madness for some, and I can maybe see why. (All of the constant bickering and yelling over each other, while intentionally frustrating, might turn people off.) It's all also hard not to be enthralled by it all. Sandler is just too wonderful not to enjoy, and even while his character is both absurdly brainless and greedily disgusting, you kind of start to see the world through his eyes in a way by the end. A screwed up film about a total screw up, made by some original filmmakers that offers a mesmerizingly bizarre experience. 3 ½ Stars. Rated R For Casually Fired F-Bombs, Sexual Content, And So Much Sleaze.
Image: "Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should."
I think everyone is collectively asking the same question, which for some odd reason nobody involved with this film even thought of asking. Why?
Based on the popular and very strange stage musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber (Which was also based on a collection of stories by T. S. Elliot), "Cats" is set in a world where all cats have human faces, detailed human bodies, yet are still the size of regular cats in the alley streets of London. A white cat, "Victoria" (Francesca Hayward) meets a tribe of cats, known as the "Jellicles", who are gathering for a special ball run by their patriarch, "Old Deuteronomy" (Judi Dench). At the ball, a competition is held where Deuteronomy will select the "Jellicle Choice", meaning that selected cat will be able to ascend to a higher place of existence to be reborn into a new, better life. All of the cats are coming to participate, including Jellicle leader, "Munkustrap" (Robbie Fairchild), the magical "Mr. Mistoffelees" (Laurie Davidson), the lazy "Jennyanydots" (Rebel Wilson), the milk obsessed and horny, "Rum Tum Tugger" (Jason Derulo), the fat overeater, "Bustopher Jones" (James Corden), and the cast aside, "Grizabella" (Jennifer Hudson). Meanwhile, teleporting master criminal, "Macavity" (Idris Elba) plans to win the competition through nefarious means and begins to cheat his way to the top.
What kind of misguided, tone deaf, twisted mind allowed this entire production to find its way to the big screen? With "Cats", everything is so wrong and so much worse than you could possibly imagine. Directed and co-written by Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech", "Les Misérables", "The Danish Girl"), the film's reason for existence, let alone questionable execution, is going to become one of those infamous Hollywood conspiracies that will haunt audiences for years to come. (The terrifying images on display certainly won't help.) The idea of giving the musical the theatrical treatment isn't necessarily a bad one, though I've never quite understood the source material myself. But whoever thought this was the way to go is likely on his way to losing his job as of right now. What could of worked as a possibly stylish animated film has instead been turned into a live-action, CGI hybrid, with the feline characters being given very human like bodies along with the faces of the actors playing them. It's the "Uncanny Valley" on steroids, with any impressive moments of visual flair being destroyed by an unappealing design. The fur doesn't look fully rendered and the heavy use of green screen only helps the bad effects pop off the screen, almost literally. (Say what you will about "The Lion King", but the effects both looked good, and were at least, you know, finished) Despite this, it's also sickeningly detailed in some areas, such as with almost naked human bodies these cats are given. The faces most of the time look like they don't belong, with a wobbly and tacked on feeling. It gives vibes of the sun baby from "Teletubbies", yet even that looks better than this.
Hooper's shaky direction style just gets in the way of what could of been solid dance choreography, which appeared to be elaborate and thought out. His screenplay, which was also written with Lee Hall ("War Horse", "Rocketman"), which poorly structures in the musical's well known songs, along with some of the worst attempts at humor in any movie this year. (Puns! Puns! PUNS!) These thin characterizations and lack of an actual story do a disservice to the music, which even then, almost feels out of place itself despite the fact it's a damn musical based on another musical. It's surprisingly boring in pacing and even when things get weird, sometimes on a disgusting level (There's a sequence involving mice with children's faces that is far more unsettling than any recent horror movie), there's no magic or charm to most of the musical numbers. They almost feel like obligations, despite being the main focus at the same time.
The crappy, distracting effects work only holds back performances from newcomers who you can tell have some kind of potential. Francesca Hayward, an accomplished and acclaimed dancer and ballerina, appears to be trying her best, along with Laurie Davidson and Robbie Fairchild. They at least look more at home than most of the other actors who found themselves roped into this travesty. Skilled performers like Dame Judi Dench, Ray Winstone (as "Growltiger", Macavity's henchmen), and Sir Ian McKellen (as "Gus the Theater Cat", who sadly can't sing no matter how much he tries) are wasted to a degree that one feels the need to call for legal consequences, while others such as Rebel Wilson and James Corden are needlessly annoying, relying on lazy pratfalls and fat jokes. Idris Elba is over the top and by the end, completely pointless to the story, while the worst of the ensemble being Jason Derulo, who ruthlessly mugs at the camera in a disturbingly rapey fashion.
Jennifer Hudson, despite being forced to endure the horrible hybrid of CGI, at least delivers on singing the musical's most memorable song, "Memory". The character's part in the story sucks and the film's attempts at trying to possibly get her an Oscar nomination falls hilariously flat, but nobody can deny she can belt out a song in a powerful and emotional way. The closest the film comes to anything lively involves an insane sequence with Taylor Swift (as "Bombalurina", Macavity's seductive feline fatale). It's an awkward (And uncomfortable) sequence that you could argue has no place in what's meant to be a family movie, but the bonkers sequence is easily the most fun out of all the others. Unlike the other lackluster musical numbers, this one at least showed some imagination and Swift looks to be having a lot of fun. Though sadly, she ends up vanishing completely from the film almost immediately after her number ends, and never appears again.
You can tell a lot of work went into the production design and you could normally find appreciation with that. If only "Cats" wasn't so damn ugly. Words like grotesque, repulsive, malformed, aren't enough to describe how hard it is to look at the film. It was pretty much a disaster from the start, and yet I can't even describe it as a so bad, it's good, kind of film because of how uninteresting it ends up being. Even with all of the nonsensical, random, drug induced images on display, it's not fun at all. It just drags on the floor like a pair of saggy cat balls. Gross and uninviting, yet lazy and too long for its own good. This didn't need to happen. Nobody wanted it to happen. And yet, it happened. Now we are forced to exist in the same world with it. Again I ask, Why? ½ Star. Rated PG Despite Loads Of Scary, Sexual, And Uncomfortable Images That No Human Should See, Let Alone Any Children.