In Theaters: The Circle, Born in China, Pheonix Forgotten, Unforgettable, Free Fire, Colossal, The Fate of the Furious, Spark: A Space Tail, Going in Style, The Case for Christ, Smurfs: The Lost Village, The Boss Baby, Ghost in the Shell, CHiPs, Life, Power Rangers, The Belko Experiment, Beauty and the Beast, Kong: Skull Island, The Shack, Logan
Coming Soon: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Snatched, Alien: Covenant, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, Pirates of the Caribbean 5, Baywatch, Wonder Woman, Captain Underpants, The Mummy, It Comes At Night, Cars 3, Rough Night, All Eyez on Me, 47 Meters Down, Transformers 5
★★★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: How could you not trust this man?
You had all the ingredients right in front of you. You had Tom Hanks, who also just so happens to be the producer. A timely subject matter.....Hermione? When it all goes wrong, it doesn't matter who's involved.
"The Circle" starts with "Mae" (Emma Watson), a young woman struggling through her job and her life. She lives with her mom, "Bonnie" (Glenne Headly) and her MS diagnosed dad, "Vinnie" (Bill Paxton). Things change when Mae's friend, "Annie" (Karen Gillan) tells Mae that she has gotten her a job at "The Circle", a large internet corporation that specializes in community and surveillance, run by "Eamon Bailey" (Tom Hanks) and "Tom Stenton" (Patton Oswalt).
Mae eventually starts to rise through the ranks of the organization, gaining Bailey's favor. She becomes part of The Circle's newest security venture, involving little glass eyeballs being placed all around the world, so they can watch everyone at anytime from anywhere. Mae befriends a loner in the corporation, "Ty" (John Boyega), who warns her that The Circle is likely up to no good, but Mae just can't seem to help herself and starts to become part of the sickeningly close, always smiling community (Basically this movie should of been called "Hermione joins a Tech Cult".)
"The Circle" has some fascinating ideas, full of so much potential that it makes the final product all the more depressing. The film never really expands on any of it's own ideas, never going any further than simply stating them. One of the film's main problems that likely led to this would be the messy, inconsistent story that takes itself far too seriously, making the attempts at satire come across as goofy, over the top, and not very realistic.
It's just so shocking that so much talent can be involved in something that comes across as amateurish. Emma Watson tries her damnest, but she can't seem to avoid her slipping accent and her character's erratic behavior, going from wary of the organization's methods to fully on board within minutes. John Boyega is hardly even in the film, which either looks like the filmmakers had no idea what to do with him, or more likely most of his scenes got cut. (I saw the trailer a dozen times over the last few months. Something is missing). We don't get much of Karen Gillan or Ellar Coltrane (as "Mercer", Mae's ex boyfriend), who just randomly pops up once or twice in the movie.
Not surprisingly, the highlights easily would be Tom Hanks (Who long ago passed the point of having to explain and justify his choices to all of us who are not worthy), who plays the role with so much charm and charisma that you kind of buy why people are being sucked into his "Questionable" plans, while Patton Oswalt, though he rarely shows it, gives us just enough of the hidden sliminess of his character. It is also bittersweet to see the late Bill Paxton in this film, especially considering his character's illness.
"The Circle" asks questions about security and privacy, about how much can people really be trusted with it, or if it's really worth it in the end considering what possible good you can do with it? It's undeniably an interesting concept. But director James Ponsoldt just speeds through it all so fast that you rarely have any time to catch up. The audience never gets much detail into what The Circle is really doing, which ends up forcing you to ask other questions that only shatter the film's logic. Like, how would the American government allow a place like this to even form without anyone questioning it? Who the Hell is placing all those cameras all over the place? How in God's name is the company responsible for a guy driving his truck off a bridge to his death avoiding a freakin' lawsuit? The ACLU is going to question these things!
It's not that "The Circle" is incompetent, and it's clearly made by competent people. But with a lack of a sense of humor, the film's satirical elements fall flat, and by the time we reach the climax (If you would even call it that), it comes across as jarring much like the rather confusing ending itself. I's a waste of talent, and by the end, a waste of your time. Just wait for "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" and stay home this weekend. Tom Hanks will. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Peeping Toms (Get it?) and Dick Pumps.
Image: "Kung Fu Panda 4: The Cuteness"
Every year or two, at about the same time, around Earth Day, Disney's nature documentary centered film unit, "Disneynature" will release a film to the general public, aimed to educate as well as entertain children and adults of all ages......And every time, the public refuses to go see it. I guess because they don't have big explosions, grand special effects, or Kevin James falling down and going boom. Disney goes to all this trouble, with their crew risking life and limb from Panda attacks, and no one seems to appreciate it.
Narrated by John Krasinski, "Born in China" follows the lives and adventures of a mother Panda, "Ya Ya", trying to raise her curious little furball daughter, "Mei Mei", a mother Snow Leopard, "Dawa", struggling to raise her two cubs against the harsh climate and rival Leopards, a young Golden Snub-Nosed Monkey, "Tao Tao", who is yearning for attention due to the recent birth of a little sister, and a herd of Chiru, while they all try to survive in the mountains of China.
"Born in China" continues Disneynature's winning streak (At least in terms of quality), with another well put together, gorgeously filmed, and thoroughly heartwarming adventure. It brings us spectacular, almost unreal footage that you likely wont see anywhere else. (Unless you go to that part of China. But that's cheating). The shots of the landscapes, the constant changes in weather, and the interactions among the diverse communities of animals make for a beautiful experience.
Despite some probable minor manipulation, at least term's of the film's storytelling, it is fascinating, and almost kind of eerie, how full of personality these animals are. They all have their own stories, goals, and hardships that make you want to see them survive the hardships of the rather horrifying "Circle of Life", with the pandas in particular, stealing the whole film. (I could watch that little ball of fur all day)
While the film is aimed at a young audience, "Born in China" doesn't shy away from some of the more realistic outcomes to some of it's stories which, while a little hard to watch, show that it is taking it's audience seriously, hoping they are mature enough to handle it. The narration from John Krasnski might be one of the film's weaker points. While he isn't doing a bad job, injecting some humor and charm to the film, it just feels like there might of been a better choice for the job, especially considering how good the narrators for these films can be.
"Born in China" doesn't quite match up to some of Disneynature's much more superior work, such as 2014's "Bears" or 2011's "African Cats", but it's still a wonderful, and oddly relaxingly calm family film, that is sure to delight anyone of any age.....You know, if you actually SEE it! Please don't piss Disney off.We don't know what they're capable of. 3 1/2 stars. Rated G.
Image: Meth is a Hell of a drug.
They just don't listen to me.. The "Found Footage" genre is dead. It just isn't something that needs to stick around anymore. Especially the Horror ones. There's nothing original left to do with them, and there's only so many scares you can muster before audiences get the picture. "Unfriended" and "The Visit" were good. That's about it. If anyone has a clever new twist on the idea, please contact Hollywood immediately.
"Phoenix Forgotten" starts with a young filmmaker, "Sophie" (Florence Hartigan), who has returned to her hometown in Phoenix, Arizona. She is making a documentary about the unexplainable disappearance of her brother, "Josh" (Luke Spencer Roberts), and his two friends, "Ashley" (Chelsea Lopez) and "Mark" (Justin Matthews), who vanished twenty years prior while investigating the mysterious "Phoenix Lights". Many believed the vanishings to be UFOs, so Sophie begins her investigation by speaking to family members and local people, slowly discovering the truth. The film is interspersed with the found footage of the three teens, and what horrors eventually became of them.
By this point, the Found Footage genre has become so overdone that they're not even really promoting them all that much anymore (It's not like these films cost much of anything to make.) Even if "Phoenix Forgotten" is at least trying to put a bit of a twist in the genre. The film is basically two fake documentaries in one, the frame story with Sophie being shot with a modern day HD camera, complete with interviews with the local people, and the "found footage" having the look of being shot with an old, glitchy camera, which makes the footage actually look authentic.
"Phoenix Forgotten" does have moments of cleverness and parts where you actually feel some investment in what's going on. The film shows the reactions from the townspeople, how the disappearance of the teens affects them, and the personalities of the teens themselves. They characters come across as actual people, which makes it kind of tragic what eventually becomes of them. The fact that the film occasionally uses real footage from actual news reports and events adds genuine atmosphere.
With all that said, the execution is occasionally sloppy, with the framing story pretty much vanishing in the last half hour of the film's already short runtime. "Phoenix Forgotten" is never scary or even very suspenseful since you already know exactly whats going to happen, and the film doesn't provide any answers to the questions that you were already asking when the film starts. By the film's abrupt end, you don't feel anything was really accomplished. All of the actors are solid enough, with Florence Hartigan making for a likable presence,
"Phoenix Forgotten" is is a better made film than it really has any right to be, thanks in part to Director Justin Barber's attempts to change up the formula, but the "Found Footage" genre just isn't something that can really work anymore, at least in terms of theatrical release. But if any of you have a video camera and a freaky imagination, somebody might give you a couple million bucks to let them put it in theaters. 2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Scary Images And Snot Bubbles.
Image: Does that make her CRAZY!!!???
I knew it. As soon as I saw the trailer for "Unforgettable", I knew it wouldn't let me down. Feel the laughter. Feel the love. Feel the hate. Feel an odd amount of respect for just how bad a movie can get, and yet remain so thoroughly entertaining at the same time. This would be the movie that you just sit back and smile the whole way through, especially at the scenes you know damn well the filmmakers weren't planning at you to laugh at. And that's a thing of beauty right here.
"Unforgettable" begins with "Julia" (Rosario Dawson), starting a new life with her fiance, "David" (Geoff Stults) and his daughter, "Lily" (Isabella Rice). Julia's arrival makes things awkward around David's ex-wife, "Tessa" (Katherine Heigl), who is a bit mentally unstable, to say the least. Tessa plans out an elaborate, scary, and hilarious scheme to force herself back into David's life and destroy Julia.
By hacking into Julia's phone, and creating a fake Facebook account, Tess fakes messages to Julia's sadistic ex, "Michael" (Simon Kassianides), who Julia previously had a restraining order on, all while Tessa touches herself because this is also a sexual thriller. Of course this is all going to lead to betrayals, revelations, someone smacking another person with either a golf club, baseball bat, or fire poker, (Its always one of those in these kinds of movies) and the big bad catfight you all paid the same amount of money to see as I did (I would have gladly paid more.)
"Unforgettable" is everything I wanted and more. It's terrible of course. Just straight up the stupidest, most over the top, soap opera-ish movie you will find in theaters and eventually in the $5 bin at Wal-Mart. And unlike films like "When the Bough Breaks" or "The Boy Next Door", it gets right to the point in the first minute. It is trashy through and through, which is what it was always meant to be.
To give "Unforgettable" credit, it's not an incompetently made film. Director Denise Di Novi (Whose name you might recognize as the producer of a ton of Tim Burton movies), is at least trying to make the film work. The film was still destined to fail in a spectacular manner, due to the hilarious script, the constant stupid actions of it's characters, and such bizarre plot twists that none of it can be taken particularly seriously.
Despite it's entertaining horribleness, "Unforgettable" does get a couple decent performances out of it. Rosario Dawson doesn't sleepwalk through her performance, with her natural charm coming through to the point you really have no choice but to care about what happens to her. Katherine Heigl surprisingly sells her insane character. She has a pretty unsettling death glare, and at least some sense of humanity. (Its still stupid. But at least you tried).
We do also get an amusingly strange performance out of Cheryl Ladd (As Tessa's Sith Lord Mother). But Geoff Stutts is painfully bland, boring, and oblivious to the whole situation, while Simon Kassianides (Who you might remember from "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.") apparently thinks he's still on that show because he sneers his way through the movie like a supervillain. Also, Whitney Cummings pops up (as "Ali", Julia sassy friend) to deliver the film's only intentionally funny lines.
We get outrageously dumb scenarios and plot points, with characters who are said to be smart making idiotic decisions all throughout the movie. But the big selling point to "Unforrgettable" is the final, down and dirty fight, with people getting their heads smashed into mirrors and smacked around like an MMA fight. It all leads to the final twist at the end, which had the audience I saw it with burst out laughing. We all bonded. It was beautiful.
I don't just live for the great movies. I live for the blissfully bad movies too. Yeah, I'm almost giving it a positive review, but when a film is at least entertaining, even when it's atrocious, well that's still entertainment right there. Bring your friends. Preferably the loud ones who talk throughout every movie, and have a good time. It will bring you closer together. 2 1/2 stars. Rated R For Sexual Content, Violence, Evil Haircuts, And Devious Silverware Polishing.
Image: Don't do it, Brie. We mean too much to each other.
And now a film guaranteed to get completely lost in the summer movie shuffle, and have absolutely no chance against fast or furious.
"Free Fire" starts with a meeting between two members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, "Chris" (Cillian Murphy) and "Frank" (Michael Smiley), along with their dimwitted partners, "Stevo" (Sam Riley) and "Bernie" (Enzo Cilenti), an intermediary "Justine" (Brie Larson), a eccentric arms dealer "Vernon" (Sharlto Copley), and his associates, "Martin" (Babou Ceesay), "Harry" (Jack Reynor), and "Gordon" (Noah Taylor), along with their representative, "Ord" (Armie Hammer). What could go wrong?
The deal starts off a bit shaky with everyone acting either passive aggressive, or just straight up being a dick, to each other. Chris keeps insulting Vernon, Vernon takes the insults poorly, Ord just stands there and makes jackass comments about everyone, while everyone hides their motivations. Suddenly, a fight breaks out between Stevo and Harry, due to an incident some time earlier, and before they realize it, everyone starts shooting at each other for the entire film's runtime.
"Free Fire" comes across at times as more of an experiment than an actual film, though for what it's intentions are, it's just an immense amount of bloody insane fun. You don't exactly get much depth here or characterization, outside of what is presented to you in the first 20 minutes. Yet the film is just enjoyable enough to make you invested and want to see what they'll do next. Plus, since none of the characters are particularly likable, or even good people, it kind of makes it all right for them to shoot each other up. And yet somehow they keep surviving all the constant bullet wounds like it was a freakin Looney Tunes cartoon.
Director Ben Wheatley commits to the odd setup, only taking occasional moments in the constant, but always darkly humorous bloodbath (Most of the dialogue consists of the characters bickering and arguing, about who killed who.) "Free Fire" is basically an R rated version of a playground fight, and all of the actors are clearly having a ball doing it. The highlights in the film are the terrific Cillian Murphy, the always wonderful (And always adorable, even when she's packing heat) Brie Larson, a hilarious Sharlto Copley, a perfectly smarmy Armie Hammer, and the delightfully bizarre Sam Riley, who spends most of the movie high off something.
"Free Fire" doesn't really have much to it, other than a clever premise that the film executes very well. Its a briskly paced, simple, funny film that isn't taking itself too seriously. It just doesn't have a Rock or a Diesel, or really fast cars. 3 stars. Rated R For Constant Swearing And Constant Violence In Between The Constant Swearing.
Image: The haters were right. Anne Hathaway IS a monster.
Sometimes it's best a film doesn't tell you what its really about. This isn't like "Collateral Beauty" or "Passengers", where they are hiding the rather horrific reality of the film's plot. There are certain films in which the less you know, the better. So that when you do get to the film's true intention, it makes the shock all the more effective. And yet I still feel I have to tell you that "Colossal" is not a goofy, feel good, monster comedy.
"Colossal" starts with the unemployed, struggling alcoholic "Gloria" (Anne Hathaway) going through a breakup with her boyfriend, "Tim" (Dan Stevens), who also kicks her out of their apartment. Gloria is forced to return to her old, small hometown, where she is greeted by her childhood friend, "Oscar" (Jason Sudeikis), who offers her a job at his bar. Oscar invites her over for drunken get-togethers with his friends, "Joel" (Austin Stowell), who Gloria has an attraction to, and "Garth" (Tim Blake Nelson), who is weird because he's played by Tim Blake Nelson.
While roaming the town in a drunken haze, Gloria wanders through a playground before passing out. The next day, she is horrified to see reports of a giant monster randomly appearing in Seoul, South Korea, causing tons of damage and casualties. Gloria realizes that she is in fact the monster, who happens to appear every time she walks through the same playground at a specific time.Things only get worse with the arrival of a giant robot in Seoul, leading to things that the trailer didn't show you and I think is best not to spoil.
From Director Nacho Vigalondo (That's quite a name you got there, Nacho), "Colossal" is actually a much darker film than advertised. Not that there still isn't humor in the film. In fact, there is still plenty of laugh out loud moments, thanks to some of the quirky characters and the reactions that the average citizens have to the monsters, which go from terrified to glorified in a matter of days (And lets be honest, that's probably pretty accurate.)
However, "Colossal" does go into some darker, much heavier subjects, such as alcoholism, abusive relationships, and self-hatred, just with a couple of giant monsters. It's difficult to explain it all, and it's best to discover it for yourself anyway, but the film comes across as very clever with the rather weird scenario making complete sense by the end thanks to the oddball script from Vigalondo.
Anne Hathaway is drunk and disheveled (Yet still cute as a button), is excellent, retaining some likability despite her character's many faults and complications. She is flawed, but also human, and you do start to care for her as the film progresses. Jason Sudeikis is absolutely brilliant in a role that gets significantly more complex as it goes. "Colossal" is aided by solid supporting work from Austin Stowell, Dan Stevens, and especially the always entertaining Tim Blake Nelsen.
Now "Colossal" is certainly not for everyone. The tone shifts from quirky to somewhat disturbing at times in the same scene. The film makes you uncomfortable, but it's kind of supposed to. There is a point to the film and an actual message behind it. Its just hiding behind a giant Kaiju. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Language And Powerful Metaphors.
Image: Beauty and the bald.
How in the Hell did The "Fast and Furious" franchise become "Critically Acclaimed" (Or at the least) "Critically Approved"? Somehow, these entertaining (And completely preposterous) films have pretty much proven that you can make a profit, while accumulating a fanbase, and even garner critical approval with films that (And I hope even it's biggest fans would admit) revel in it's ridiculousness. They also have an undeniable charm and heart. And since the "Fast" train doesn't seem to be stopping anytime soon, I'm glad that it is at least attempting to mature.
"The Fate of the Furious" begins with former convict, professional street racer, and occasional special agent "Dominic Toretto" (Vin Diesel) living the sweet retirement life with his wife, "Letty Ortiz" (Michelle Rodriguez). Dom is confronted by infamous cyberterrorist "Cipher" (Charlize Theron), who has something on Dom important enough to force him into betraying his friends and family.
While on a mission to steal en EMP device in Berlin, with help from DSS agent "Luke Hopps" (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), former criminal "Roman Pearce" (Tyrese Gibson), mechanic "Tej Parker" (Chris "Ludicrous" Bridges), and hacker "Ramsey" (Nathalie Emmanuel), Dom turns on his team, stealing the EMP device, and causing an international incident which results in Hopps' arrest. Covert agent "Mr. Nobody" (Kurt Russell) arranges for Hopps' release along with rogue assassin/rival to Dom and Hopps, "Deckard Shaw" (Jason Statham) to gather the team back together to take down Dom and Cipher, despite Letty's protests that Dom can be saved.
"The Fate of the Furious", much like it's predecessors, knows it's silly, and embraces it. It knows that the laws of physics are dead in this universe and that anything goes (It's basically reenacting those awesomely sick fantasies you would play out with your Hot Wheels as a child.) However, this time around, it seems that this franchise has realized that at some point, things need to get a little more serious. And it surprisingly works. Not that the "Fast and Furious" franchise is going to be doing Shakespeare anytime soon, but this movie does at least acknowledge that there are consequences to all the absurdity.
As before with the previous entries, "Fast and Furious 8" does still retains it's sense of humor and comradery among it's characters, which makes you care when something serious does happen. Vin Diesel has developed his character into a very likable presence, and when you get to the reason for his seemingly change of heart, you do understand it and it adds a bit of complexity. The shocking death of Paul Walker is still felt, and the film handles his loss (As they did beautifully in his last film) with genuine grace
The rest of the endearing cast, including Michelle Rodriguez, Nathalie Emmanuel, with fun back and forth between Tyrese Gibson, and Chris Bridges works extremely well, and the interactions between Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham is such a delight that you really want a spin-off with just the two of them (Plus I can watch them beating the crap out of prison guards and convicts all day. I got issues.) Kurt Russel and Scott Eastwood (as "Little Nobody", Mr. Nobody's constantly mocked assistant) are great additions to the cast, and Charlize Theron is so deliciously evil (and yes, pretty hot too) that she really adds a little extra something to film.
Now of course, the action scenes in "The Fate of the Furious" are a huge selling point. and they are incredibly well constructed, and, of course, undeniably cool, thanks in part to veteran director F. Gary Gray ("Straight Outta Compton"). As long as we can all admit that the whole premise is still pretty dumb, especially with certain plot points that pretty much ignore the laws of international politics and gravity, I'm no expert, but a submarine battle with a bunch of cars on ice is just not something that could exist. (Also, a bunch of cars can't block a wall of fire. That's just....No)
"The Fate of the Furious" can't avoid the silliness and the downright absurdness of it's plot and action scenes, but the film does notice that you just can't do the same thing over and over with a franchise already on it's way into a ninth film. It's like this little franchise is growing up, while still remembering to keep a good sense of humor and a good heart. Quite frankly, I'd say this is the best film they've done yet. I know, right? I didn't see that coming either. 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For 'Splosions And Scantily Clad Street Girls.
Image: "When we kill and eat all of the humans, you can wallow in all the mud you want!"
I kinda feel bad for animated films like this. Everything and everyone seemed to lack faith in it. The studio distributing it, the writers, the animator. Pretty much all five film critics who actually saw it. It really never had a shot from the start, much like any alternative animated film these days not from one of the major animation studios. (Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, etc.). But the fact that it's still not very good really doesn't help.
"Spark: A Space Tail" starts with an evil, diminutive warlord "General Zhong" (Alan C.Peterson), unleashing the Space Kraken onto the peaceful, monkey world of "Bana". The Kraken's gooey stuff that comes out of it's butt, when unleashed, causes the formation of a black hole, or a wormhole (Or some kind of hole) that consumes most of Bana, leaving the rest to be conquered by Zhong, and stranding many of it's inhabitants on some of the planet's remaining pieces. Years later, orphan monkey, "Spark" (Jace Norman), dreams of adventure and has been raised by foxy fox, "Vix" (Jessica Biel), dirty, overweight pig, "Chunk" (Rob deLeeuw), and his pun-named nanny robot, "Bananny" (Susan Sarandon).
A series of events results in Spark, and his little roach buddy, "Floyd", stumbling upon the Kraken, accidentally letting Zhong get his hands on it a second time. Zhong, planning to destroy another planet just for sh*ts and giggles, banishes Spark and his friends through the Kraken goo wormhole thingy, where they come across an old military captain named , er, "The Captain" (Patrick Stewart). The Captain reveals to Spark that he is the long lost son of the royal family and it is his destiny to defeat Zhong, restore peace to their planet, and rescue Spark's queenly mother named, er, "The Queen" (Hilary Swank).
Distributed by "Open Road Films" and "ToonBox Entertainment" (Who previously gave us "The Nut Job", and we can blame them for giving us it's sequel later this year), "Spark: A Space Tail" is one of those movies that really could of used a dose of confidence in itself, and a lot less laziness. There probably could of been something here. Sort of "Star Wars" like space adventure, with monkeys, and with a quirky sense of humor, it's own mythology, and the occasional dark subtext. But the film never really commits to anything, instead giving us little humor or charm, and providing a rather convoluted story.
The animation itself is inconsistent. Sometimes it actually looks decent, with some solid character and art designs, but most of the time it just looks like something you'd see on Nickelodeon in the afternoon. (Why does everyone's hair look like Play-Doh?) Most of the film's humor relies on bad puns and goofy slapstick. While none of it is particularly harmful, its just so damn lackluster and doesn't seem to have any faith in itself or it's likely small audience.
The voice cast is a bit baffling. Jace Norman and Jessica Biel, while not exactly bad in the film, play characters with dialogue so bland, that it's hard to really care of remember them. I have no idea what Hilary Swank is even doing here, and Susan Sarandon still seems to have taken that Bernie defeat harder than we thought, which would be the only real explanation I have for her role in this. The only real amusement in the film comes from Alan C. Peterson, whose villain's height sensitivity is an old, but still mildly funny joke, and from Sir Patrick Stewart who does a Scottish for no apparent reason other than it sounds funny hearing Patrick Stewart do a Scottish accent. Laddie!
"Spark: A Space Tail" is probably fine for the little ones, but due to the lack of effort put into it, and the fact that there are much better movies to show them, it's destined only to be a massive flop that will fade from existence a week later. Good thing young kids have short term memory anyway. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG For Magic Kraken Goo And Heaving Gorilla Bosoms.
Image: "This says we one yet ANOTHER Academy Award. How many does that make?"
Old people are the greatest. They're wise. They're worldly. They might on occasion say something that your parents will cause your parents to tell you "It was a different time". It's possible they'll say something accidentally racist or homophobic. But these three "Old" folks certainly know how to take a sleight premise and turn it into a relatively fun time.
"Going in Style" follows three old coots, "Joe" (Michael Caine), "Willie" (Morgan Freeman), and "Albert" (Alan Arkin), who are all experiencing severe money problems after the loss of their pensions due to the company they've worked at for years being bought out. Joe, who is also being taken advantage of by his bank, witnesses an elaborate and successful bank robbery, which gives him the idea that maybe he and his buddies could do the same (How hard could it be?)
Albert and Willie at first find the idea to be completely ridiculous, but after realizing that their situation isn't going to get any better and they really don't have much to lose anyway, agree to go along with Joe's little scheme. So now the trio have to find a way to pull off the heist successfully without getting caught.
"Going in Style" is a remake of an old 1979 film that I've never seen. (Though I doubt it really has that much to do with this new version.), This film isn't much in terms of it's own plot and aspirations. Its a simple caper/comedy that hardly ever does anything too original or risky. With that said, its clear that director Zach Braff is trying to make a point (And it's a good one) about how the elderly are unfairly treated, often being ignored or taken advantage of, especially in a system that sees them as nothing but a number.
The script and the jokes in "Going in Style" are simple and unremarkable, but are elevated by the tremendous actors on screen. Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin are all nothing short of terrific. They're funny, likable, easy to root for, and as always, a joy to watch. And there's solid work from the supporting cast, with some funny scenes from Ann-Margaret (as "Annie", Albert's love interest), Matt Dillon (as "Agent Hamer", the smarmy FBI agent after the trio), and Christopher Lloyd (as "Milton", a bizarre, and senile old timer).
This is another one of those easy ones. and not exactly a critical challenge. "Going in Style" isn't much for substance. We're just here to see great, older actors have fun for an hour and a half, making something out of almost nothing. I can't say that you need to rush out and see "Going in Style". But we do need to appreciate these three wise, old actors for the joy they still bring us. For that reason alone, I'd like to see them in a sequel, maybe ten years from now. They have plenty more to offer. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Old Guys Firing Blanks.
Image: We only specialize in the "Alternative Facts" at this newspaper.
From Pure Flix Entertainment, the studio that brought us such open minded, totally non-biased Christian classics such as "God's Not Dead" and "God's Not Dead 2" comes.......Something that's fairly competent ? That's not me rooting against faith based films. I'm always and only rooting for competence.
"The Case for Christ" tells the true story of an atheist journalist, "Lee Strobel" (Mike Vogel), whose wife "Leslie" (Erika Christensen) becomes a devout Christian after their daughter, "Alison" (Haley Rosenwasser) is rescued from choking from a nurse, "Alfie" (L. Scott Caldwell), who claims that their meeting was the work of "Jesus". Lee just can't seem to understand his wife's new behavior, nor can he understand Christianity as a whole. So he sets out to disprove the entire religion, using whatever journalist legal way he can, which causes his marriage, his family life, and even his work life, to falter. But don't worry. He'll eventually see the light. That's how these movies work.
"The Case for Christ", unlike many previous films from Pure Flix, actually looks like it was made by people who knew what they were doing. The film is shot well and doesn't feel cheaply made, and to it's credit, it's at least attempting to bring humanization to it's characters. Sadly, it just can't seem to help itself. It's not entirely the film's fault, but for the devout audience it's meant for, it can't be too complex or else it risks losing them.
The film seems to be trying to add a bit of complexity, and it does make some pretty solid points about absolutism and how faith is something you are not meant to see, but instead believe. The problem is that sometimes it feels like the filmmakers forgot their own message when it applies to themselves. In the end, "The Case for Christ" is overly absolute to be believed, and the message of faith is contradicted by the film constantly trying to prove itself as completely right and that everyone else is completely wrong.
One of the saving graces for "The Case for Christ" is Mike Vogel, who, despite his character's occasional sporadic behavior, retains some likability, with a sense of humor, and actual genuine emotion. He's not portrayed as a bad guy really. Just a little too self absorbed and caught up in his own (Wrong) belief system that he refuses to acknowledge anything else (Which is much more complex than any other atheist character in any of these other films. To be fair, other films have the same, cynical, one note view of Christians.) We also get a solid performance out of Erika Christensen, whose character at least shows that she is really asking a bit too much from her husband to suddenly just jump at the chance of Christianity. On the downside, we get L. Scott Caldwell and her constant smiling throughout the entire film (Because she's got Jesus on her side), and that comes across as more creepy than endearing.
"The Case for Christ" addresses the points that certain non-believers and skeptics will make, and also provides it's own solid points to idea of Christianity as a whole. The message is good and important, but it can't help but come across as hypocritical considering the film's need to preach to the already converted. It's still a case that wouldn't hold up in court. 2 stars. Rated PG For Adult Content And Porn Staches.
Image: "The mushrooms, man....They're smurfin' me out!"
"The Smurfs" just won't die. They used to be well known, well beloved cartoon characters, having originated from a comic book, then a cartoon series, and all of those figurines of all those characters you see 30 year old men collecting. (We don't judge here.). But after the critically panned live-action "Smurfs" films, people lately sort of cringe whenever they hear the name Smurfs. So let's just reboot the whole dang thing, and animate it this time. Can't they just let a sleeping smurf lie?
"Smurfs: The Lost Village" follows the possibly socialist community of little blue people known as "The Smurfs", led by "Papa Smurf" (Mandy Patinkin), who are always hiding from the evil, but not exactly competent wizard, "Gargamel" (Rainn Wilson) and his cat minion, "Azrael" (Frank Welker). All of the Smurfs have their own character traits and names that resemble those traits, with the exception of the only female Smurf, "Smurfette" (Demi Lovato), who was in reality, was created by Gargamel.
Smurfette, feeling that she doesn't belong with the other Smurfs, stumbles upon a strange blue creature, who bears a resemblance to the other Smurfs. Against Papa's orders, she, "Brainy" (Danny Pudi), "Hefty" (Joe Manganiello), and "Clumsy" (Jack McBrayer) set off to the find the lost village of Smurfs, with Gargamel in hot pursuit. But they discover that, since the trailers and TV spots all spoil this anyway, the lost village is made up of nothing but female Smurfs, led by "Smurf Willow" (Julia Roberts).
I never really hated the live-action "Smurfs" films, but they sure weren't good, and they certainly outstayed their welcome very quickly. They were just silly, overlong, but harmless kiddie films that offered very little to any adults. But despite "Smurfs: The Lost Village" this time being fully animated, and not taking place in the real world, it's really just more of the same.
The biggest bright side this time at least is that now the Smurfs don't look anywhere near as revolting as their overly realistic, slightly fuzzy, live-action counterparts. The characters are bouncy and stretchy, much like an old cartoon, which blends well with the plenty solid, and at times imaginative animation. Though, because it is from "Sony Pictures Animation", it does at times veer into "Hotel Transylvania" territory, with too much freneticism, and the constant need to throw stuff at the screen out of fear of the kiddies getting bored.
The story in "Smurfs: The Lost Village" is serviceable enough and easy for the younger viewers to follow, but its pretty generic stuff, especially considering how it basically repeats the whole Smurfette plotline from the second "Smurfs" movie. None of it is really helped by the lack of any real laughs, aside from simple slapstick and cartoonish silliness.
The solid cast do make up for the unremarkable script, with the adorable Demi Lovato providing a likable presence, along with Mandy Patinkin bringing some warmth to the lovable Papa Smurf. Easily the best laughs come from the villains (Much like in the original cartoon really), with Rain Wilson and Frank Welker's characters' complete incompetence being hard not to enjoy.
The biggest downside is that the whole "Female Smurf" aspect really doesn't get introduced into almost the third act, and with voice talents such as Julia Roberts, Ariel Winter, Ellie Kemper, Michelle Rodriguez, and Meghan Trainor (Who all voice the female Smurfs), it's a bit wasteful to leave them with really nothing to say or do. This is a pretty easy one. If you enjoyed the other "Smurfs" films, or are just a big fan of the original series or comics, then you'll probably find something to enjoy here. But the film doesn't really offer anything except mild amusement for little kids, which is perfectly fine considering they are the demographic. My demographic? "The Lego Batman Movie" thank you. 2 stars. Rated PG For Graphic, Excessive, Hardcore Smurfing.
Image: Its gonna be yuuuuuuge!
This really seemed to be the point where people were starting to question the recent choices of the beloved animation studio, DreamWorks Animation. After being plagued by countless setbacks, movies being either pushed back years later or dropped entirely from existence. So their solution is to give us "The Boss Baby"? That's it. DreamWorks is dead. A film that looks like a bunch of poop and fart jokes mixed in with baby humor without any real plot to it. And yet, to this movie's credit, it may be that there's just a little bit more to baby poop after all.
"The Boss Baby" is told through narration by "Tim Templeton" (Tobey Maguire), recounting a strange little tale of when he was a young, imaginative, seven year-old boy (Miles Christopher Bakshi), living a happy life with his parents (Lisa Kudrow and Jimmy Kimmel), who work for a pet corporation known as "Puppy Co.".
Everything changes with the arrival of a new baby, who is for some reason dressed in a business suit and clearly has a hidden agenda. Tim, upset that his parents no longer have time for him, is determined to find out the baby's secret, soon discovering that he is.....wait for it....."The Boss Baby" (Alec Baldwin), a sophisticated, workaholic, talking baby, who was sent by his company, "Baby Corp.", which is where all babies, and I'm assuming all life, comes from.
The Boss Baby has been sent to find out why babies are no longer getting as much love as they used to, seeing that puppies are the likely cause of it all (That part is completely accurate.) The Boss Baby convinces Tim to help him sneak into Puppy Co. to find out what their big project is, not knowing that the deranged, evil CEO, "Francis E. Francis" (Steve Buscemi), with motivations of his own, plans to reveal the big project to the world.
Compared to how the rest of the internet was reacting, I was more uninterested in "The Boss Baby" than pissed off at it. But not even I was prepared for just how bizarre this movie truly was. Once you get past the predictable story line, you get a strange explanation for where babies come from and how they're made (It's how I'm going to explain it all to my kids), an evil plan to unleash an immortal puppy to make adults ignore babies, and a chase scene with the villain's henchmen chasing the heroes on a skateboard while dressed as Mary Poppins. This is some weird ass sh*t. But its kind of commendable in how balls to the wall insane it really gets.
"The Boss Baby" does in fact have some imagination to it, which is shown through the bouncy and colorful animation that occasionally shifts back and forth from CG animation to hand drawn 2D animation. But it is held down by a rather by the book story, with the whole two characters who don't like each other, but learn to get along bit, which has been done to death. Some plot points are easy to see coming and, despite the occasional funny gag, most of them are clearly aimed at the very young. Which is fine, with it being a kids movie, but we have come to demand a little more.
We do get some solid voice work, with Alec Baldwin getting the best laughs, basically playing an animated, man-baby version of Donald Trump (Wait. Is there a difference?). Miles Christopher Bakshi, does an excellent job carrying the film. You get an occasional laugh out of Steve Buscemi, but Jimmy Kimmel and Lisa Kudrow are sadly underutilized.
Aside from the glaring flaws, "The Boss Baby" gets way more out of it's limited premise than you would expect. It's silly and unsurprising with it's story, and the joke does eventually get old. With that said, there are a few decent enough laughs, there's clearly good intentions behind it, and the pure insanity that finds it's way onto the screen makes the film kind of hard not to recommend a little. So go suck on a pacifier. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG For Baby Butts.
Image: Just give her a dang "Black Widow" movie already.
So when "Ghost in the Shell" was announced to me redone in live-action, through American means, fans were pretty skeptical. Not that our track record is really that bad (Well....Not THAT bad at least.) It's just such beloved source material, and I'm not just referring to the old anime film, which is apparently every young hipster's favorite movie. I have no investment in it because I have no familiarity with any of it whatsoever. So don't ask me how good a representation this is. Sometimes, film critics have to admit when they have no idea what they're talking about.
"Ghost in the Shell" begins in a futuristic, Japan based city, where humanity has begun to "Perfect" themselves through cybernetic enhancements. Eventually, a way was found to place the brain of a rescued human within a mechanical body. Known as "The Major" (Scarlett Johansson), this new cybernetic being serves as a field commander for a special forces unit.
Supposedly perfect in every way (Well, she is played by Scarlett Johansson), the Major is tasked, along with her partner, "Batou" (Pilou Asbæk) to find a mysterious, terroristic "Man", "Kuze" (Michael Pitt), who is determined to take down "Hanka Robotics", the organization that created the Major and kill everyone involved, including her surrogate mother, "Dr. Ouélet" (Juliette Binoche). The Major, who has also been experiencing strange glitches ever since a run in with Kuze, begins to question her past and her own humanity, soon learning that there is something the people that made her have been hiding from her.
Judging "Ghost in the Shell" on it's own merits, the film itself is a sight to behold. It's just absolutely gorgeous to look at in terms of visuals. The sheer scope of the city, along with the art design and the visual description of how the world looks, the movie looks like anime brought to life. There is always something going on in the background or the foreground, mixing up with the techno sounding score, making for a really cool looking movie. Even when the effects are less than spectacular, it's the style and artistry of how its done that make up for it.
Sadly, it seems Director Rupert Sanders ("Snow White and the Huntsman") might be a little too in love with the world that's being created, because in terms of storytelling, it's a sloppy mess. It seems to be going for a form of visual storytelling, but plot points are introduced and resolved quickly, taking a step back for the occasional drawn out action sequence, without much flow in the actual plot. Now it's not impossible to tell your story this way, and some directors even do it very well. But it's really distracting that once you get to the end of the film, you are surprised that its already over.
Luckily for "Ghost in the Shell", it's shortcomings are saved by a a mesmerizing performance from Scarlett Johansson. Aside from being obviously incredibly pretty, her presence in the film fits this character perfectly. Despite it's flaws, you cannot take your eyes off her, and you have an immediate amount of sympathy for her character. Some of the other performances are solid, with Pilou Asbæk, Juliette Binoche, and Michael Pitt (Who actually has a few creepy moments), all fulfill their roles well, with the highlight being Takeshi Kitano (as "Chief Daisuke Aramaki", the Major's superior), who gets some really badass (And probably the most memorable) moments, but Peter Ferdinando (As "Mr. Cutter", the villainous businessman villain) doesn't even register to the point I almost forgot to even mention him.
"Ghost in the Shell" has drawn controversy to itself, and understandably so, for the casting of Scarlett Johnasson in a role that was probably meant for for someone Japanese. (Anime, remember?) Much like "The Great Wall", it's more about Hollywood's need for star power, rather than racism itself, and to this movie's credit, there is a clever plot twist that does lessen the blow somewhat, and shows that the filmmakers did make a genuine effort, another one of the film's saving graces.
There was clearly a lot of effort put into "Ghost", and I can't say I didn't enjoy the film. But considering the source material, how much vested interest there is in it, and the God given gift that is Scarlett Johansson, it can't help but leave you wanting more.2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Sci-Fi Violence, And, Well, Just Look At Scarlett Johansson's Outfit.
Image: This film was not endorsed by any Police Union. Or any Union. Anywhere.
Guys, we are seriously running out of old TV shows to adapt into film. "CHiPs"? Really? I don't know much about the old show, but I think the public would have been more excited about raunchy, R rated film versions of "All in the Family". Or "The Love Boat" (Permission to come on board, indeed!) Or "Different Strokes" (What the f*ck is Willis talkin' about?)
"CHiPs" begins with a hothead, reckless FBI agent (Whose real name I can't even find it online), (Michael Peña) forced to go undercover as a California Highway Patrol Officer (CHP) named "Frank "Ponch" Poncherello" to locate some corrupt cops. He is partnered up with a rookie Officer/former bike riding champion, "John Baker" (Dax Shephard), who is only doing this job to save his failing marriage to his already moved wife, "Karen" (Kristen Bell).
Of course, Ponch and John don't get along, with Ponch being a sex addicted, rash jackass, and John being an overly excitable, moronic annoyance upon everyone he meets. But eventually, a beautiful bromance blooms as the both of them overcome their differences to take down the leader of the corrupt cops, "Ray Kurtz" (Vincent D'Onofrio) and........That's about it. Its an R-Rated adaptation of an old cheesy series from the late 70s. What more could you want from a 2017 film?
As I'm writing this review, the more I slowly realize that there really isn't much to "CHiPs" other than a ripped off idea, but not a very good one. The film seems to be trying to go for a "21 Jump Street" or "22 Jump Street" style of taking an old show and making a raunchy comedy out of it. The problem is that this film doesn't have any of the charm, intelligence, self-awareness, or most importantly, the laughs that those films had. In fact, it's the laziest form of lowbrow comedy that just makes you question the maturity of everyone involved.
I've been told never to judge a goofy comedy on it's plot. But its hard not to when you're sitting there not laughing the whole time. As for the plot itself, it's every basic buddy cop story, complete with the two guys who don't like each other, but will get along by the end. The whole "You're off the case" bit that feels like a tradition of these films. And the typical butchering of an important operation that makes you question why anyone would take these two seriously to begin with.
Dax Shephard, who also directed and wrote "CHiPs" (So I guess he's to blame for all this), is generally an actor I like. He can be funny and likable, but here, he comes across as thoroughly annoying when he is meant to appear endearing. And while his chemistry with Michael Peña is lacking (Mostly because of the slight script), Peña does at least get some of the film's few laughs. Vincent D'Onofrio gets nothing to do other than snarl and look menacing (Granted, he is kind of a pro at that), and Kristen Bell gets to do nothing other than look pretty. (Granted, she is also good at that)
Guys, this one is pretty easy. "CHiPs" is predictable, sloppily edited, doesn't seem to think it's audience is smart enough to figure out whats going on (Were those flashbacks to something that happened 20 minutes earlier really necessary?), and worst of all, not funny. It goes for the easy joke, expecting a laugh, but only getting the occasional cough. At my theater. I heard coughs, and maybe a chuckle or two. Maybe it is just like the TV show. 1 star. Rated R For Lots Of Foul Language, And For Michael Peña Face Planting Dax Shephard's Balls. (The highlight of the film right there believe it or not.)
Image: "I can't quit you."
If there's anything that movies have taught me, it's that space is bad. It's cold, it's dark, there are aliens up there that want to kill you. Hell, space itself tried to murder Sandra Bullock four years ago. And it won't get away with it.
"Life" follows the crew of the International Space Station, with crew doctors "David Jordan" (Jake Gyllenhaal), microbiologist "Miranda North" (Rebecca Ferguson), engineer "Rory Adams" (Ryan Reynolds), pilot "Sho Kendo" (Hiroyuki Sanada), crew commander "Katerina Golovkina" (Olga Dihovichnaya), and paraplegic biologist "Hugh Derry" (Ariyon Bakare) as they begin study on soil samples from Mars. The crew discovers a multi-celled organism with proves signs of extraterrestrial life.
The organism, (Who they name "Calvin"), is shown to be very strong and highly intelligent. But Calvin also proves to be more dangerous and bloodthirsty than expected and attacks Hugh, horribly crushing his arm in the process. Next thing the crew know, they are being picked off one by one while Calvin starts to grow, and a desperate battle for survival begins.
Despite what the trailers seemed to imply, "Life" is in reality, just a short, simple, Sci-Fi Horror B-Movie that managed to get it's tentacles on a few A-List actors. Aside from maybe a few moments where the film attempts to be thought provoking, it's all about the cheap thrills and gruesome deaths. And that's perfectly fine! The film is still very much entertaining and fun, regardless of all the suffering and nightmare fuel.
Director Daniel Espinosa does actually keep the suspense in "Life" constant from the start, mostly thanks to the fast pace that doesn't really let up till the film cuts to black. The visual effects are acceptable, and though at times the effects on Calvin look a little cheap (Which is expected of the smaller than usual budget), the creature's horrifying design is fairly clever and should be able to easily terrify audiences looking to be scared. (Think of a combination of an octopus and a demonic butterfly.)
"Life" also gets some excellent work out of it's dedicated actors, with Jake Gyllenhaal stealing the movie in a wonderfully twitchy, but likable performance, and Rebecca Ferguson brings depth and emotion to her character. Not much for character development here, but the actors all find ways to make you care about them, thanks mostly to some genuine relatability, which does make the rather bleak (and somewhat painfully obvious) ending a bit harsh, but expected of the genre.
"Life" is basically an "Alien" ripoff, and since we have another one of those ("Alien: Covenant") coming out in just a few months, it makes this movie kind of unnecessary. But that doesn't mean there's nothing to offer here. The film makes for a good (if not cheap) thrill ride. The kind of movie you would watch on home on a rainy day because there's nothing else to watch. Just don't eat any calamari or squid while you do it. 2 1/2 stars. Rated R For Strong Language And Excessive Swallowing Of Tentacles.
Image: "Now remember. Our safety word is Megazord".
I never watched the original "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" as a kid. In fact, I always found it to be too cheesy for my tastes (I apologize to all my fellow geeks), and I had no interest in "Educating" myself on the many TV incarnations and movies, or the endless lore of the franchise. I know. I suppose I should have my geek credentials revoked. But tell me the Power Rangers themselves don't look like giant prophylactics. It's just been difficult to take it all too seriously.
"Power Rangers" begins in small town in the middle of nowhere, with a coincidental meeting at a construction site between five teenagers with attitude. There's the rebellious delinquent "Jason Scott" (Dacre Montgomery), the pretty popular girl "Kimberly Hart" (Naomi Scott), bullied, autistic genius, "Billy Cranston" (RJ Cyler), crazy, wannabe tough guy, "Zack" (Ludi Lin), and lesbian loner, "Trini" (Becky G), who stumble upon five color coded stones (Red, Pink, Blue, Yellow, and Black).
The teens now literally have the stones that give them super powers and leads them to a million old alien ship, where the floating face in the wall, "Zordon" (Bryan Cranston) and his little robot buddy/life partner, "Alpha 5" (Voiced by Bill Hader) tell the teens that they must become ancient, super-powered warriors called "Power Rangers" and defeat the former Green Ranger turned bad, "Rita Repulsa" (Elizabeth Banks), who plans to unleash a giant, golden monster of doom, "Goldar". (Because with a name like Rita Repulsa, she sure as well wasn't gonna be a humanitarian).
My lack of knowledge (Or interest) of the source material aside, "Power Rangers" is far better than it has any right to be. The film is certainly made with care by people who clearly love the source material, stocking the movie full of references and Easter eggs to things I know nothing about. To it's credit, the film takes it's time to set up the Power Rangers element, focusing plenty of time on character development and attempts at explaining the lore itself.
With that said, the lore and backstory is still pretty vague and silly, and while Director Dean Israelite (who previously directed the meh "Project Almanac") is clearly a competent director, "Power Rangers" moves towards it's grand finale (Involving massive, robot dinosaurs) in a clunky fashion. The film is well shot and the visual effects are solid for the most part (With the exception "Goldar" himself, who looks like a giant, plastic action figure), but the plot is fairly basic and can't overcome it's dumb moments. (Krispy Kreme? Really?)
Where "Power Rangers" succeeds is with it's surprisingly relatable characters and the amount of depth the script actually gives to them, aided by the help from a talented cast. Dacre Montgomery's character might come across as the blandest of the bunch, but he eventually develops into a leader worth rooting for. Naomi Scott is lovely and brings complexity to her character. Becky G also adds some genuine profoundness to the film with Ludi Lin providing humor, and the terrific RJ Cyler gives the movie it's heart. Bryan Cranston and Bill Hader are fun in their supporting roles and Elizabeth Banks doesn't so much chew the scenery as so more like devours it all.
But it's the film's inability to fully balance the tonal shifts from dark and edgy to campy and goofy keeps dragging it down and prevents "Power Rangers" from fully succeeding as much as previous superhero films in the past few years have. Nevertheless, fans of the original series will likely adore this new film (The crowd I saw it with was going nuts over it.) And while it lacks the charm of, say, anything from the "Marvel Cinematic Universe", the movie isn't without it's fun moments. It may not really classify as a good film, but it is certainly a likable one that is endearing enough to justify the expectations of it's fans. Plus its certainly more enjoyable than any of the "Transformers" movies. At least here they play the "Power Ranger" theme song. Nice touch. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Sci-Fi Violence And Putty Patrollers.
Image: Another Secret Santa Gift Exchange gone horribly wrong.
I've still got the "Beauty and the Beast" theme in my head as I walk into "The Belko Experiment". Disney has once again made me happy and cheerful as I gaze up on the movie screen, where I see people brutally massacre each other with whatever work supplies they can get their hands on. As the carnage unfolds, I realize you can only stay in "Disneyland" for so long.
"The Belko Experiment" begins in some remote office building in Columbia, belonging to non profit organization "Belko Industries", where the employees hear a mysterious voice over the intercom, telling them to kill almost half of their coworkers. If they refuse, their heads will be blown wide open one by one by the tracking devices placed in their skulls.
While two employees, "Mike" (John Gallagher Jr.) and his girlfriend, "Leandra" (Adria Arjona) say that they need to find some other alternative solution, their boss, "Barry" (Tony Goldwyn) insists that they do whatever is necessary to survive. Barry gathers a group, including awkward creep, "Wendell" (John C. McGinley), to take charge and execute whoever is deemed worth killing and the entire situation slowly becomes a bloody free for all battle to the death.
"The Belko Experiment" does start off with potential, especially early on when we are introduced to the office workplace setting, which begins just like any other day, complete with many of the coworkers flirting, joking around, and acting passive aggressive towards each other. You can see what the filmmakers were going for from the start, but despite a few clever moments of over the top gore, the movie just gets old pretty fast despite it's short runtime. "Belko" lacks the clever edge it needs to have any real effect.
The reason why "The Belko Experiment" doesn't fully work is because the film doesn't have enough intelligence or humor to classify as a satire (Which is sad since "Guardians of the Galaxy" director, James Gunn, wrote and produced the movie). It also doesn't help that the point the movie is trying to make isn't all that original, and it's easy to guess where its all going from the start. The film is interesting enough at times, and the almost delightful glee Director Greg McLean takes in the sheer amount of violence in film is kinda commendable. (He's kind of a sick bastard in that way). It probably would of worked better as a straight up dark comedy, rather than a horror thriller.
The commitment of the actors themselves do help levitate the few slightly developed characters. John Gallagher Jr. and Adria Ariona are actually plenty likable, and you do start to care about their survival as the film progresses. Tony Goldwyn is intimidating as hell, while John C. McGinley is enjoyably wacky, and James Gunn's brother, Sean Gunn (as "Marty", the pot smoking cafeteria worker) brings out the film's best laughs.
But it's hard to care about a movie or it's characters when so many of them are offed out of nowhere and sometimes so frequently with little to no development. It's hard to even remember them, and "The Belko Experiment" will only be remembered for it's new and original ways to kill or die. I think I need another Disney movie. ASAP. 2 Stars. Rated R For Graphic Gruesome Gallons Of Gore Galore.
Image: Rick Santorum was right. Gay marriage would lead to bestiality!
Walt Disney Pictures has made pretty clear that they have no fear in remaking their own classic animated films into live-action. Now one of their most beloved films, "Beauty and the Beast" has been given the "Realistic" approach, begging the question, How could you possibly remake, not just a masterpiece in the eyes of Disney fans and critics alike, but remake one of the most respected, and one of the greatest animated films of all time? It was the first animated film to ever get a Best Picture nomination for a reason. Did you doubt they'd get it right?
The new "Beauty and the Beast" tells the story that you all should be familiar with (Its wasn't called the "Tale As Old As Time" for nothing), where a selfish prince (Dan Stevens) is turned into a monstrous "Beast" by an enchantress, who also places a curse on the rest of the castle and those who live in it, turning them all into various knick knacks, and only leaving behind a rose. Once the last petal falls from the rose, the curse will be permanent unless the Beast can learn to love and be loved in return. Years later in a nearby village, the most beautiful, intelligent, and kindest girl, "Belle" (Emma Watson), is occasionally mocked by the townsfolk due to being different. She is courted by the town hero (And complete buffoon), "Gaston" (Luke Evens), who will do anything to win her hand in marriage, while his goofy sidekick/#1 fangirl, "LeFou" (Josh Gad), pretty much does everything he says.
Belle's eccentric father, "Maurice" (Kevin Kline) winds up stumbling into the castle where the Beast takes him prisoner. Belle goes to save her father, offering to take his place. The Beast agrees and allows Maurice to leave while Belle is forced to remain in the castle forever. The Beast's servants, a romantic french candelabra, "Lumière" (Ewan McGregor), a pompous mantel clock, "Cogsworth" (Ian McKellen), the loving motherly teapot, "Mrs. Potts" (Emma Thompson) and her son, "Chip" (Nathan Mack), french maid feather duster, "Plumette" (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), opera singing wardrobe, "Madame de Garderobe" (Audra McDonald), and her composer husband/piano, "Cadenza" (Stanley Tucci), all get the idea that Belle could possibly be the one to break the curse. After a run in with wolves, where both Belle and the Beast save each other's lives, the two begin to grow closer, and, well, you know how the story goes. True love and all that good stuff between beauty and a wildebeest, bear, monster, thing.
2017's "Beauty and the Beast" has been given the impossible task of being able to get even close to being as the original classic. While it could never accomplish that task, there's still really nothing to complain about in what is regardless, another wonderful time for the family. Filmed beautifully with flawless special effects and an incredibly detailed direction from Director Bill Condon, a lot of the magic is still there.
All of those catchy songs we fell in love with, like "Be Our Guest", are still there, and they are still a complete delight to hear. While the few new songs that have been added don't really have the same spark or memorability, they are still enjoyable enough on their own. (It also helps that composer of the original film himself, Alan Menken, returned for this one.) The set design itself is worth the price of admission alone, with so much attention to every last detail, that it literally looks like a real version of the original film.
Emma Watson is perfectly cast as Belle, with the right amount of spunk, charm, and personality that you would expect from the character, along with the obvious beauty (Who didn't have a crush on Belle when they were a kid? Be honest). Dan Stevens brings humanity to his character, making his change of heart realistic, along with the relationship itself. Luke Evans is suitably hilarious, while remaining menacing throughout along with Josh Gad, who is clearly having a ball. Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellan, Emma Thompson, and the rest of the stellar cast all do excellent work with these classic characters, with Stanley Tucci being a nice new addition.
"Beauty and the Beast" keeps the story of the original basically the same, almost to a fault. Despite a few little tweaks here and there, there is very little difference right down to the repeat of much of the dialogue. While a few characters get a couple more scenes of development and the movie does at least explain a few unanswered questions (Like what exactly was the Beast a prince of? Did Belle even have a mother? How did nobody notice that giant ass castle down the road? Is LeFou really that gay?) There are hardly any changes, especially compared to recent Disney remakes like "Cinderella" and "The Jungle Book", who added even more development to certain characters and even changed a few story arcs completely.
Overall, there isn't much that could be seen as outright wrong with this new "Beauty and the Beast", other than it's existence itself, especially considering how perfect the original is. Now if that alone bothers you, I get it, though it seems a little sad to let that completely ruin the experience. This doesn't feel like a cynical cashgrab, it feels genuinely heartfelt. Once we get to the famous ballroom scene, with Belle in that yellow dress, dancing with the Beast to Emma Thompson singing the original "Beauty and the Beast" song, its hard not to feel a little enchanted. Still left with a smile on my face, and It's still a worthy companion piece to the original. 3 stars. Rated PG For Scary Images And For Starting That Whole Furry Trend.
Image: These majestic, gentle creatures calmly express themselves through their soft verbalization skills.
We are essentially living every young geeky boy's dream right about now. A confirmed giant monster film universe (or the "MonsterVerse"), where all of our favorite giant monsters exist together to eventually meet up and duke it out like men. With 2014's "Godzilla" now part of it, this is all buildup to when the "King of Monsters" fights everyone's favorite colossal ape. Once again proving that every Hollywood film exec was once a ten year old with toys.
"Kong: Skull Island" takes place in 1973, where shady government agent "Bill Randa" (John Goodman) and his assistant "Houston Brooks" (Corey Hawkins) gathering a team to go on an expedition to explore and map out an uncharted island known as "Skull Island" (Because that sounds totally safe). The team includes, former British Air Service Captain, "James Conrad" (Tom Hiddleston), hardcore US Colonel, "Preston Packard" (Samuel L. Jackson), pacifist Photojournalist, "Mason Weaver" (Brie Larson), Packard's second in command, "Jack Chapman" (Toby Kebbell), and a whole lot of red shirts.
When the group arrives in their military helicopters, they immediately start dropping bombs on the island, pissing off the giant Ape guardian of the island, "Kong" (Played through motion capture by Terry Notary), who proceeds to demolish Packard's men. The group is separated, with Randa revealing that he knew of Kong's existence all along, hoping to bring back proof, Packard swearing revenge on Kong, and Conrad and Weaver discovering a former World War II soldier, "Hank Marlow" (John C. Reilly), who has been stranded on the island for years. Everyone is now in a desperate race to get off the island, while avoiding Kong and the other horrific monsters on the island, including the nightmarish lizard-like "Skull Crawlers".
"Kong: Skull Island" isn't going for anything particularly original, but in terms of pure popcorn fun, it delivers on everything you could possibly want. A grand scale, spectacular visual effects, badass monster fights, and a giant freaking Ape! It knows exactly what its going for and embraces it fully. You don't get much depth of character, but they remain likable or interesting enough so you actually care about their survival, and Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts adds a lot of visual razzle dazzle to bring all that summer blockbuster fun. (Except it's in March this time. Technicality.)
Tom Hiddleston and and the sweetly adorable Brie Larson easily make for appealing leads,.Samuel L. Jackson is clearly having a blast (Doesn't he always) playing the "Captain Ahab" of the story, John Goodman is very much welcome presence, and John C. Reilly steals all of his scenes with humor and sheer lovableness. But the real star here is Kong himself, who doesn't just look amazing in terms of the visuals, which blend seamlessly into reality, he provides some genuine heart and emotion to the film, making him a monster you can root for (He is, kind of, the "Good Guy". Kinda.)
"Kong: Skull Island" has it's predictable beats (I mean, make a prediction who does and doesn't make it off the island). But much like "Jurassic World", just go along with the more cheesy moments so you can get to the parts where you're getting exactly what you paid for. Which will inspire a whole new wave of ten year old's imaginations. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Monster Carnage And Frightening Images.
Image: Octavia Spencer is God? I thought it was Morgan Freeman.
It's difficult not to look like a complete jackass to a certain audience right now. Yes, I was that one guy in that theater showing "The Shack", full of older, decent, Christian people, who wasn't crying tears of sadness and joy, and applauding at the end of this film. I was that one guy with his arms crossed, bored out of his mind, not "Getting it", and not shedding a single tear. Maybe I'm a heartless bastard. Or maybe, the movie is just terrible.
"The Shack" begins with a young boy, "Mack" (Carson Reaume), being raised in a Christian home, who is helpless as his mother is beaten mercilessly by his alcoholic father, who eventually begins to take out his rage on Mack as well. Since apparently telling the pastor does nothing but make things worse (Police? Nah), young Mack decides to poison his dad and kill him........and that's never brought up again. Anyway, Years Later, Mack (Now played by Sam Worthington), is married to his very religious wife, "Nan" (Radha Mitchell), and has three kids, including a little, wide eyed, completely pure and innocent daughter, "Missy" (Amelie Eve), who refers to God as "Papa". While on a camping trip, Mack loses sight of Missy, who is later found having been murdered (and possibly raped) by some lunatic in an old shack.
Now Mack is depressed and his family disconnected, having completely given up on life while turning his back on God. Mack then receives a letter from someone calling themselves Papa, telling him to meet at the shack where his daughter was killed. (Real sensitive, huh?) Mack heads over to the shack, where he meets Papa/God himself (Or herself), who as it turns out, is a sassy black lady (Octavia Spencer), along with her son "Jesus" (Aviv Alush), and their pretty friend, "Sarayu" (Sumire Matsubara), who represents The Holy Spirit. The three of them invite Mack to stay with them for a while to teach him lessons of love, life, redemption, forgiveness in 2 hours and 12 minutes of the longest time of my life.
"The Shack" is one of those movies that undeniably does have a good message to get across. but when it comes to executing that message, it fails miserably. It doesn't help that the message itself is pretty easy to decipher in the first few minutes. Then the movie grinds to a halt with dialogue that thinks its more insightful than it actually is, which make the film a complete pain to sit through.
Everything's an obvious metaphor with "The Shack", so it's difficult to learn what anyone is supposed to learn, and it sure takes an excruciating long time to explain it. The movie looks cheap, with laughably poor special effects (This cost $20 Million?!) "The Shack" lacks any real filmmaking competence, butchering any focus on a positive, yet dark, and extremely heavy handed, message.
God bless Sam Worthington, who is trying his heart out here against insurmountable odds. His accent comes and goes, but he seems committed to the role and I have seen him be really good in much better films ("Hacksaw Ridge"). Octavia Spencer is good no matter what, but what is anyone supposed to do with this part? Little Amelie Eve has to play her character as overly precious as possible, and that has never worked, ever. And while I do applaud the diversity in casting, the movie simply fails them all.
I know "The Shack" seems to be resonating with some, and I don't disrespect that, but Lord, I'm struggling to understand it. Some of the morals taught are questionable to me at best, and downright dangerous at worst. And when the film shoves it's morality in your face in such a painful and inept way, then anyone outside it's core audience, most of whom we're going to love it regardless, aren't going to get a damn thing out of it anyway. I swear I'm open minded. Are they? 1 Star. Rated PG For Horrifyingly Disturbing Imagery And Situations.
Image: She should take of those shoes. Before she falls.
The themes of these recent "Young Adult" movies sure are getting heavy. They deal with a lot of death, pain, suicide and redemption. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the maturity that Hollywood has shown with these stories. But geez! I think it's time to lighten up a little once in a while. Is it too much to ask for some occasional potty humor? Just one fart joke?
"Before I Fall" follows "Samantha" (Zoey Deutch), a high school senior starting off her day like any other. First waking up to avoid her family, driving to school with her popular friends, "Lindsay" (Halston Sage), "Izzy" (Erica Tremblay), and "Allison" (Cynthy Wu), flirting with her jackass boyfriend, "Rob" (Kian Lawley), while avoiding the nice guy who obviously has a crush on her, "Kent" (Logan Miller), then finally heading over to a party where Samantha joins her friends in ruthlessly mocking the unpopular, weird girl, "Juliet" (Elena Kampouris). But while on the drive home, Samantha and her friends get into a car accident which results in their deaths.
Samantha wakes up the next morning, realizing that she is being forced to relive the same day, and proceeds to live through it over and over again. She at first attempts to make sure she and her friends are not at the party, only to discover that Juliet would be found dead, having committed suicide before being forced to once again start the day over. While reliving the same day, Samantha slowly begins to discover more about herself and those around her, while attempting to find a way out of the endless loop and hopefully make everything right.
"Before I Fall" goes down a familiar route and keeps the story simple, but takes time to add complexity to it's characters. The film can be seen as more of a character study with it's portrayal of Samantha, who is not a bad person and retains some likability, despite the actions of her friends and herself, which lead to very dire consequences. The film is shot beautifully, thanks to Director Ry Russo-Young, who puts great detail and effort to create an almost dreamlike feel (Nightmare is probably the more appropriate term.)
The acting helps lift the film, particularly Zoey Deutch, who carries the complex story by giving a compelling performance full of star quality and her face expresses every emotion convincingly. Halston Sage (Yes, I still have the same mushy feeling for her) is excellent as well in the "Mean Girl" role, yet her character has more depth than these roles usually have, while Kent Miller is likable, providing the film's little humor.
"Before I Fall" is nothing you haven't seen before, but it's made with expertise and heart. It shows respect and seriousness for it's subject matter, and doesn't take the easy way out, though the ending might seem a bit harsh to be sure. Today's young adults have proven they can handle difficult subject matter, and it's hard not to be impressed with that. As long as we remember to lighten up once in a while. You're kind of bumming me out. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content, And For Being, Like, Totally Heavy.
Image: And then, thousands of full grown, nerdy men wept like babies.
The idea of a R-rated major superhero blockbuster has really been unheard of. They either don't make much money (Ex. "Kick-Ass") or just aren't very good. (Ex. "Kick-Ass 2"). But with "Deadpool" changed everything, both with the box office results and the quality of the film itself (I called it. My predictions are legendary.) And.it made it possible for The Wolverine's last ride to be exactly what it needed to be.
"Logan" begins years after the supposed "Good" future at the end of "X-Men: Days of Future Past", in which things have pretty much gone to sh*t. The "X-Men" are no more, there are hardly any remaining mutants, and "Logan/Wolverine" (Hugh Jackman) is now an aging chauffeur, having begun to slowly lose his healing factor. He currently lives in an abandoned smelting plant in Mexico with a sun fearing, albino mutant tracker, "Caliban" (Stephen Merchant), who assists Logan in taking care of the now fragile, and senile, "Professor Charles Xavier" (Patrick Stewart).
Logan is approached by a nurse, "Gabriela" (Elizabeth Rodriguez), who wants him to take a young girl, "Laura" (Dafne Keen), to a place called "Eden".Logan at first tries to dismiss the offer, but eventually accepts, only to find Gabriela murdered the next day by "Donald Pierce" (Boyd Holbrook), a sadistic slimeball with a mechanical hand. Pierce works for mad Scientist, "Zander Rice" (Richard E. Grant), who is after Laura because, as it turns out, she is a mutant with razor sharp claws, just like Logan (And just as violent). Now Logan, Charles, and Laura are on the run, with Pierce and his men hot on their trail.
"Logan" takes a route that you would never expect a superhero film to ever take. The film is a sad, heartfelt, and powerfully told tale that feels more like a western than your standard "X-Men" flick, (They even reference the classic "Shane" at one point in great detail). Because of the clear emotions put into the film, it also feels very human. It can be seen in the violence itself, which is grisly, bloody, and brutal. But it needs to be. It is never meant to be excessive, and clearly meant to make the film feel more real. When someone dies, you are forced to take a moment and realize that there are real consequences in this world, which is now much more bleak and grim than seen in any of the previous films.
It's not just the violence that's amped up. "Logan" also piles on the F-Bombs, which also tie well into the main characters, who have all clearly been through a lot in their life to the point where you fully understand why they appear more coarse (We'd all be a bit more world weary by this point.). Director James Mangold (Who directed the previous outing, "The Wolverine") creates a world that is truly beautiful to look at. The cinematography and action sequences are stunning and gritty, with plenty of dark realism that add bitter sweetness to the story. Even the film's moments of humor have a hint of sadness to them, which helps you care even more deeply for it's characters.
Hugh Jackman (Who has been playing this character for almost two decades by now) gives a terrifically nuanced, heartbreaking performance that shows the character's flaws, pain, and eventually his humanity, which is why this character has been able to resonate with audiences for so long. Patrick Stewart is absolutely wonderful in probably one of his best performances, and his chemistry with Jackman is absolute perfection. Boyd Holbrook and Richard E. Grant make for incredibly detestable villains that you love to hate, Stephen "Wheatley" Merchant is excellent in a surprisingly dramatic role, and Dafne Keen is wonderful, hardly ever speaking, with a stare that is just full of emotions.
With a beautiful score, a smart script, and a few unexpected twists and turns "Logan" is a superhero film for both Comic-Con geeks and drama lovers alike. Mature in content and sentiment, the movie takes a chance on what you can really do with a franchise like this. There are no big end of the world events, massive CGI fight scenes, or destroyed cities. It's just a simple tale of redemption and life, which makes "Logan", without question, the best "X-Men" film to date. Much like "The Dark Knight" and "Captain America: Civil War", it stands on it's own as simply a great film, possibly even ranking up with the best superhero films out there. It's certainly the best "X" I've ever had. 4 stars. Rated R for Razor Sharp Language, Slicing And Dicing.