In Theaters: Forever My Girl, Den of Thieves, The Commuter, The Post, Proud Mary, Paddington 2, Molly's Game, All the Money in the World, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Pitch Perfect 3, Father Figures, Downsizing, The Greatest Showman, Darkest Hour, Ferdinand, Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Coming Soon: 12 Strong, Maze Runner 3, Winchester, Fifty Shades Freed, Peter Rabbit, The 15:17 to Paris, Black Panther, Early Man, Samson, Annihilation, Game Night, Death Wish
★★★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: Aww, isn't that swee.......I mean, ador.......Isn't it nauseating?
Sometimes your audience can perfectly identify the basic mood of your theater going experience. In a slightly busier than expected showing, full of women mostly probably shown up for a girls night out, I was once again seemingly the only guy in the theater. It's awkward, weird, and just plain looks wrong. Luckily, another girl and her boyfriend arrived just before the movie started. Cue the boyfriend standing still for a brief moment and letting out the loudest, longest, and most exasperated sigh you'll ever hear before going to find his seat, with a defeated look on his face. Sums it all up nicely don't you think?
"Forever My Girl" opens with Southern lovebirds, "Liam Paige" (Alex Roe) and "Josie" (Jessica Rothe) about to get married. Too bad Liam decides to be a jackass and runs off to become another generic country singer. Cut to 8 years later when the one black guy in town dies, Liam returns to his home for his funeral, taking a break from his big tour. Josie understandably isn't too happy to see Liam, and in fact, nobody in town really is, including Liam's estranged pastor father, "Brian" (John Benjamin Hickey). However, Liam soon realizes that Josie was also pregnant when he abandoned her before, meeting her (And well, his) daughter, "Billy" (Abby Ryder Fortson). Liam decides to stick around in hopes of getting to know Billy, reconciling with Josie, and reconnecting with his Southern, good old fashioned, all American roots.
Comparing "Forever My Girl" to the yearly Nicholas Sparks adaptions (Though they have basically vanished in the recent years) like most critics have been doing doesn't seem particularly fair. I've seen the worst those films have to offer and this one is nowhere on par with how bad they can get. With that said, much like those films, there is this lack of understanding of how people work and react in terms of reality. The sappy dialogue doesn't mesh well with the attempts to be cute and funny, mostly because of how heavy the emotional drama would be realistically. The way the film explains why Liam did what he did is so basic and simplistic, and the way the film treats other dramatic moments (Most of which happen off-screen) just feel odd and sloppy. It doesn't help that Liam is not a very likable character in the slightest, and since we are forced to focus on him more than anyone in the film, it ruins the actual romance, which weirdly feels secondary.
Alex Roe can't seem to keep his accent in check, and doesn't have the charisma to carry the film, especially considering how much of a dick he comes across as. (Also, is it wrong to say I don't trust his face? Not sure what it is, but I just don't....Look, I don't like his face.) Jessica Rothe (Who easily carried last year's underatted "Happy Death Day") is plenty cute and shows a great deal amount of personality. But their relationship is just off, mostly due to how poorly the film handles their story, resulting in me not buying the relationship's obvious outcome in the slightest. Abby Ryder Fortson gets some overly precious dialogue, but makes up for it with the fact that she's an undeniably talented little actress. (Although, is her character a bit too overly gifted? Sounds like it would be the plot of a separate movie) Probably the best performance comes from John Benjamin Hickey, who does sell his heartfelt moments, even if most of his story happens off-screen like many arcs in the film. The unlucky ones are seemingly abandoned, such as the dead friend's grieving widow. (Eh, She was unimportant anyway I guess.)
Directed by Bethany Ashton Wolf, "Forever My Girl" is too safe, blandly boring, and choppily cobbled together (And boy, I have heard enough country music to last me a lifetime), but on the bright side, it never reaches that offensiveness that I'm used to compared to other early in the year romances. It certainly overstays it's welcome quickly, and the film's more overly dramatic moments do get more laughs than the actual moments of humor. (Hot Dogs are the biggest conflict the movie has to offer) However, if your girlfriend decides to drag you to it.....well, actually, you'll still be pretty miserable But you could still be more miserable elsewhere. Maybe she wants to see "Paddington 2" or "Star Wars" instead. If she does, I suggest you marry that girl immediately. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG For Adult Content, Killer Hot Dogs, And Alex Roe's Inability To Keep His Shirt On.
Image: Gerard Butler's beard has his own agent and trailer.
You know, for a January film season, this hasn't been all that bad. (With the exception of "Paddington 2", that was great. You guys should have gone to see it.) But there is at least more of a sense of effort put into the few movies I've seen this month already. And when the worst thing you can say about your movies are that it's just sort of forgettable, that's at least better than....well, "Fifty Shades of Black", "Mortdecai", or "Norm of the North". It's the small victories in life that count.
"Den of Thieves" starts Las Angeles with a truck robbery resulting in the deaths of a couple cops. This brings in corrupt L.A.P.D. cop, "Nick O'Brien" (Gerard Butler) aka "Big Nick" (Because he's uh, big), who knows that this is the work of a elite gang of criminals, led by "Ray Merrimen" (Pablo Schreiber), who has been pulling off the most successful bank robbery heists in the state for years. Nick's crew manages to capture the gang's newest member, "Donnie" (O'Shea Jackson Jr.), with the intention of getting him to give Nick's crew information on what Merrimen's gang's next big heist is. Donnie can only provide so much (Mostly because he knows so little as it is), and he is forced to work for Nick in exchange for leniency. As the day of the heist draws near, Merrimen finally reveals that this last big heist is going to be their greatest and most difficult yet, planning to rob the Federal Reserve Bank, which is said to be impossible.
I may have a bit of a difficult time explaining the plot to "Den of Thieves", mostly because the more I think about it, it's actually a pretty simple yet overly complicated at the same time (Does that make sense?) It's the kind of story you've seen before, but despite some failings particularly when it's all meant to come together towards the end, there is this sense of suspense to the film that does keep your attention for the most part. First time Director Christian Gudegast knows how to build some tension, but can't seem to find the right sense of pacing and doesn't seem to understand the meaning of the word running time. (It clocks in at 140 minutes for no apparent reason).
One of the film's strongest aspects is Gerard Butler, giving the best performance I've seen from him for some time. He plays up the scumbag aspect with charismatic sliminess and dominates the screen, devouring the scenery every chance he gets. He easily steals the film from Pablo Schreiber, who is much more boring by comparison. O'Shea Jackson Jr. does a solid job in the movie, with a few moments to shine, even with a weird moment at the very end. While Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson (as "Levi", one of Merrimen's gang members) is here as well, that's really it, in terms of developed characters. Most of them are left in the background, leaving their family lives as afterthoughts, especially with a subplot involving Nick's wife, "Debbie" ( Dawn Oliveri), who is divorcing him for obvious reasons.
"Den of Thieves" has some cool technical aspects, with some excellent utilization of sound (Especially during the shootouts), and Gerard Butler's enjoyably sleazy performance elevates it further. But the film drags along, with an overly drawn out length, and a final twist that feels somewhat clever, but just makes you question the necessity of certain scenes and plot points. It's got it's moments, but it feels like a more forgettable version of a cop/robber thriller you've likely seen before. Just a really, really long version of it. 2 stars. Rated R For Very Strong Language, Brutal Violence, And Pure Gerard Butler Sleaze.
Image: "I'm getting too old for this sh*t."
I know this is pretty late. I'm playing catch up due to the weather seemingly going out of it' way to destroy us all. I witnessed the weather change and the temperature drop right before my eyes. It was kind of amazing, but I decided to weigh the risks and decided against braving the elements. I know Liam Neeson would handle it like a man and physically fight the freezing cold personally. You know that movie is gonna get made.
"The Commuter" follows "Michael MacCauley" (Liam Neeson), a former Cop living through the same routine day by day, just trying to get by, and provide for his wife, "Karen" (Elizabeth McGovern) and son, "Danny" (Dean-Charles Chapman). Michael ends up getting fired from his job as an insurance salesman simply for being old, and he dreads telling his family. While on the way home during his daily train ride home, he meets a mysterious woman, "Joanna" (Vera Farmiga), who gives Michael a supposed hypothetical question about what he would do if offered money to point out a random person.
Turns out the question isn't hypothetical as Joanna explains that he has a certain amount of time to locate a person using the alias "Prynne", and point them out to her "People". Michael decides to take the money and at first go along with it, but as he progresses in his search, he begins to realize that this is bigger than he could possibly imagine. Michael's family is targeted, people start dying, and Michael is seemingly being set up to take the fall. Michael is left to find Prynne and uncover the bizarre conspiracy before something even more terrible happens.
"The Commuter" is exactly what you would expect it to find in a preposterous action film. However, it does at least have competent people behind and in front of the camera to carry it, and does what it sets out to do, which is make for an entertaining, briskly paced thriller. The premise is certainly interesting, and the setup is surprisingly solid, showing our main character's family life before the plot finally happens to develop his character and further the theme of what kind of you could be if put in a deadly situation. It's clever, but nonetheless stupid, especially once we finally learn what exactly is going on. The villains' scheme feels way too overly convoluted for no apparent reason other than to make it overly convoluted, making less and less sense as it goes.
Liam Neeson thankfully doesn't sleepwalk even through the silliest of movies. He still gives it his all, with his charisma alone making you invested in what's happening. And to his credit, he doesn't fight his way through some baddies without taking a few good punches. (Aside from CGI Neeson jumping onto CGI train. That was....bad.) Vera Farmiga only appears briefly, but her presence throughout, (With a cute, innocent look and sound to her that makes her particularly villainous). Patrick Wilson (as "Mruphy", Michael's cop buddy) shows up to do the obvious, but doesn't do a bad job at it either, while Sam Neill (as "Captain Hawthorne", Murphy's superior) unfortunately just kind of shows up to do nothing.
"The Commuter" is ridiculous, with some goofy twists and turns, but at least retains some moments of humor and humanity to keep your attention. The film embraces what it is, with even the most outlandish of action scenes remaining enjoyable. Director Jaume Collet-Serra (Who previously directed "The Shallows" and "Non-Stop", which is eerily similar to this movie in plotting) is good at what he does, keeping the pace moving, making for a quick sit. It's dumb, but an action flick that doesn't take too much of your time, and least the most of it's January dumping ground release. Other than some really awesome people with January birthdays, let's just get this month over with. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Violence, Flying Trains, And Liam Neeson's Epic F-Bomb.
Image: "I'll show you my Oscar if you show me yours."
This one is kind of an easy call. When it comes to the relationship between journalists and news outlets to politicians, particularly the President. I'm not gonna say that they always get it right. They might have personal bias, or maybe even sometimes they might enjoy their humiliating of certain people a little too much. But regardless in the end, they are not meant to be the President's friend. When the most powerful person in the world does or says something abysmal, untrue, or both at the same time (Usually something about "Sh*thole" countries), it should be reported on and should be taken seriously, regardless if the President likes it or not. This wouldn't be the first time, and it won't be the last. Just maybe the most obvious.
Based on a true Story, "The Post" follows the events leading up to the publishing of "The Pentagon Papers", which contained classified documents that revealed the United States government's involvement in the Vietnam War, spanning over the course of four separate presidencies. At first the "New York Times" is the one publishing the documents, with "The Washington Post" desperately trying to catch up. But President Richard Nixon isn't going to have any of this "Fake News" and shuts the story down, making it impossible for the New York Times from publishing anymore documents. This leads to the first female publisher of the Washington Post "Kay Graham", and her editor, "Ben Bradlee" (Tom Hanks) finding a way to get the papers themselves, sparking a debate of if the papers should be published or not, due to the illegal implications. This starts an even more important battle between journalism and the US government as a whole.
From one of our greatest directors, Steven Spielberg, "The Post" is an important story, with some themes that are more than relevant today and odds are, will continue to be relevant for years to come. It's well told, going through the various details of how a story like this gets published, along the impact it inevitably will have on the public readers. The script is smartly written (Also by one of the co-writers of 2015's even better "Spotlight") and told with confidence that it's audience will understand it, while incorporating a little humor, defined characters, and taking time to at least address the complications of releasing such a story. Where the film only falters is that there is so much to be told, and with the decision to go for a more fast paced crowdpleaser, some things are left out or feel a little bit rushed, such as the initial curt proceedings which are merely skimmed through.
Where the film truly shines is when our awesome ensemble of actors are in the limelight. Meryl Streep is probably going to get her next Oscar nomination (32nd...33rd?). She gives a very strong, emotionally charged performance that does remind us why she is such a highly respected actress and really why she just keeps getting these nominations. Tom Hanks (Who just seems to constantly get snubbed recently), has been so great in almost everything he's been in as of late, and gives another Oscar caliber performance. (Quit taking him for granted Academy Voters!)
The rest of the cast includes great supporting work and appearances from Sarah Paulson (as "Antoinette", Bradlee's wife), Bob Odenkirk (as "Ben Bagdikian", who is the journalist who eventually gets "The Pentagon Papers"), Alison Brie (as "Lally", Kay Graham's daughter), Bruce Greenwood (as "Robert McNamara", the Secretary of Defense), and many others who all deserve praise. (But I only have so much space to type on here, so I'll leave them as a surprise.) Also, props to the filmmakers to using actual Richard Nixon recordings to show his apparent reactions to what happens. (His words and phrasing sound like a certain other President that we won't discuss right now.)
"The Post" is an excellent last second 2017 film, coming out just in time for Awards season. It's no "Spotlight", as it doesn't quite match up to that film's standards, intentionally leaving out details mostly due to time, but the film is nonetheless powerful and a true crowdpleaser to boot. Spielberg, Streep and Hanks could make "Fifty Shades of Grey" and make it Oscar worthy. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Fake News.
Image: Proud Taraji keep on burnin'.
This right here. This is what I expect to come out in January. Not so much that the film is terrible by any means, but January movies are just so....off. When the people involved hear that their film is going to be released in January, they know that it's conformation that the work of art they just finished is probably destined for box office failure and a 20% on "Rotten Tomatoes". So "Proud Mary" is pretty much a perfect January movie.
"Proud Mary" follows "Mary" (Taraji P. Henson), a well known hitwoman for a Boston crime family, led by the man who took her in "Benny" (Danny Glover). Mary has been a part of the family for years, eventually leading to a fateful day where she kills the deadbeat father of a young boy, "Danny" (Jahi Di'Allo Winston). Feeling guilty, she follows Danny for a year, seeing that he has begun working for a slimy rival mobster, "Uncle" (Xander Berkeley). Mary befriends Danny, and after seeing how much Uncle abuses him, she ends up putting a bullet in Uncle, resulting in the Russian mob growing paranoid. All the criminal gangs are now at each other's throats, with Mary planning to make amends for her bad deeds and maybe give Danny the family she never had. while attempting to get away from her hitwoman life, while avoiding the suspicions of her ex/Benny's son, "Tom" (Billy Brown).
"Proud Mary" just never quite figures out what the Hell it wants to be. The tongue in cheek tone from the trailer is missing for the most part in the film. Instead, it's more of a thriller, with some pretty heavy drama surrounding it. It doesn't help that occasionally the movie suddenly drifts into goody, more tongue in cheek territory, especially by the end. With a plot that has been done to death, the whole thing doesn't mesh and feels sloppy. It seems the filmmakers were trying to figure out what they wanted to do as the movie went on, but never came to an actual conclusion.
It's too bad because Taraji P. Henson is truly trying her absolute best, with her natural charm and ability to look pretty cool while kicking butt. Her relationship with Jahi Di'Allo Winston feels underdeveloped, but the amount of emotion that Henson brings to her role does make it feel somewhat genuine. It's also nice to see Danny Glover actually getting to sink his teeth into a good role for the first time in a while, easily going from nice and caring to villainous and threatening. Billy Brown isn't so much bad, as he can seem a bit intimidating, but his character's arc doesn't feel developed in the slightest and where they go with his character is both predictable and doesn't match how the character started. Neal McDonough (as "Walter", one of Benny's goons) is criminally underused, doing absolutely nothing for his 5 minutes of screentime.
"Proud Mary" isn't the worst film I've ever seen in January by any means, as the film does at least look like something I would see in theaters and Taraji P. Henson alone makes it a little worth it (And because Kellan Lutz isn't in it.) The film doesn't leave much of an impact, which is evident by the rushed through finale and an ending that just sort of stops. (The wrap up isn't even a minute long) With this review done, I'll probably never even think about this movie ever again. Such is the fate of dumped off January releases. Proud Taraji deserved better. 2 stars. Rated R For Strong Language, Strong Violence, And Tight Black Outfits.
Image: Prison changes a Bear.
Hello 2018! After taking a week off from reviewing anything ("Insidious: The Last Key"? I don't have time for that.), it's time to get into the usual January dumping ground (Aside from last second 2017 Oscar hopefuls). But instead of the usual run of the mill bad January releases, we get something rather wonderful. It must be my birthday or something.....Well, it was actually. Happy Birthday to me!
"Paddington 2" follows that adorable, overly polite, Marmalade loving bear from darkest Peru, "Paddington" (Voiced by Ben Whishaw). Paddington is still living in London with his adopted human family, "The Browns", consisting of the father, "Henry" (Hugh Bonneville) who is going through a bit of a mid-life crisis, the mother "Mary" (Sally Hawkins) who yearns for adventure, the son "Jonathan" (Samuel Joslin) who tries way too hard to be cool, the daughter "Judy" (Madeleine Harris) who starts a feminist newspaper to spite her ex, and their housekeeper "Mrs. Bird" (Julie Walters) who keeps everyone together. Paddington desperately wants to get his only remaining relative, "Aunt Lucy" (Voiced by Imelda Staunton) a birthday present, finding the perfect gift at the antique shop of his friend, "Mr. Gruber" (Jim Broadbent) in the form of a pop-up book of London. The bad news is that the book is one of a kind, and costs a fortune, so Paddington decides to try to make the money to buy it like the good little bear he is.
Enter egotistical, washed up actor, "Phoenix Buchanan" (Hugh Grant), who knows that the book contains a hidden secret that leads to a legendary treasure and plots to steal it. Paddington catches Buchanan in the act, but is unable to stop him from taking the book, resulting in Paddington being framed for the crime. Because those Brits take book theft very seriously, Paddington is sent to jail, eventually befriending a few of the inmates, including the prsion cook, "Nuckles McGinty" (Brendan Gleeson). Paddington and his new friends, along with the Browns aiding from the outside, set out to clear his name before Aunt Lucy's birthday and before Buchanan gets away with his crime.
The sequel to 2015's excellent family feature "Paddington", which was both a critical and box office success, "Paddington 2" really shouldn't be much different, since it's just as wonderful, just as endearing, and just as laugh out loud hilarious. Once again Directed by Paul King, who shoots the film like a colorful storybook made out of candy. The sight on screen is stunning to look at, with so much color changing throughout depending on the mood. The well written script remembers to be charming and funny, while also remaining undeniably sweet natured. The film's strong messages of family, positivity, and just plain treating people with basic compassion are just as inspiring for adults as they are for children, and should warm the heart of the most cynical of cynics (Even prison inmates get respect).. It's somehow grounded in a form of reality, despite all the fantastical and wackiness going on. (Everyone has pretty much just accepted that a talking bear exists in this universe.)
Ben Whishaw is once again delightful, with an innocent sense of wonder and optimism that makes for such a lovable character. The family dynamic remaining as strong as the first, with Hugh Bonneville and the adorable Sally Hawkins getting just as many laughs as moments of heart, along with Julie Walters getting some of the best dialogue. Like before, Jim Broadbent is likable in a supporting role, with Peter Capaldi (as "Mr. Curry", The Browns' grouchy neighbor) being suitably snobbish. Brendan Gleeson is an absolute riot, and Hugh Grant simply steals the movie in a wildly entertaining, rather brilliant performance that makes him just as dastardly as he is hysterical. The overall cast, which is also made up of a large ensemble of smaller parts, really brings the film together, and by the end, everything and everyone has a part to play.
"Paddington 2" is one of those sequels that somehow manages to be just as great as the first, never losing sight of it's genuine heart and emotion, while remembering to make it's audience laugh and teach good morals at the same time. It's a perfect representation of what a great family movie should be, giving both kids and their parents plenty to admire and enjoy. It's also hands down the most whimsical prison break movie you'll ever see and starts off 2018 in the best way possible. 4 stars. Rated PG For Quirky Shenanigans, The Tugging Of Heartstrings, And Constant Consumption Of Marmalade.
Image: Whatever they're paying Jessica Chastain, it's not enough.
I would like to thank "Molly's Game" for doing something I thought would be impossible, and that's making me understand Poker. Leave to a great writer and a great actress to be able to sit me down and explain it all in a way that makes sense to me. Now that doesn't mean I'm gonna start playing it anytime soon. Just because I understand it now, doesn't mean I would be good at it. I want to keep my money in my wallet where it belongs. Still, it's nice to see there's a bit more to it than placing down cards and saying phrases that sound weird out of context. A great film can make anything feel interesting.
Based on a True Story, "Molly's Game" begins with a young woman, "Molly Bloom" (Jessica Chastain) being arrested by the FBI for running an illegal Poker game that was loaded with Hollywood stars, athletes, business men, and other possibly questionable people, which may or may not include the Russian Mob. She finds herself a lawyer, "Charlie Jaffey" (Idris Elba), and is now setting out to clear her name in court, while detailing her life story. Starting from how she was a former professional skier that suffered a terrible accident, preventing her from ever skiing again, along with her relationship with her father, "Larry" (Kevin Costner). Things then lead to her becoming involved with private, underground Poker games, first run by her dickish real estate agent boss, "Dean Keith" (Jeremy Strong). This leads to running her own games, while dealing with a questionable celebrity player, dubbed "Player X" (Michael Cera), and then finally running possibly the largest, high stakes poker game in the entire world.
In his first directorial debut, Aaron Sorkin (Known for writing "A Few Good Men", "The Social Network", "Steve Jobs", and others) is mostly known for his keen eye for excellent dialogue, and he once again delivers in that department. Sorkin also shows he has some real talent for direction as well. Aside from occasionally getting distracted by itself, whether it be the complicated story or the rapid fire dialogue among the characters, the film stays grounded and moves at a brisk pace that almost makes you forget that it's nearly two and a half hours in length.
The real life events behind "Molly's Game" are at times kind of funny, but then shifts into uncomfortably bizarre, then becomes outright insane, while remaining utterly intriguing all the way through. Despite it's length, the film feels tightly wound, never dragging itself out needlessly. While Sorkin's whip smart, humorous dialogue is one of the selling points, the real star is the absolute perfection that is Jessica Chastain. As an actress, she has so much screen presence, and just electrifies the screen with charm, personality, and just a dominance over everyone else around her, much like her character. She has got to be one of the best actresses working today, and she owns the role, while owning the movie in the process. (Oh, and she's very, very lovely. But you already knew that.)
Idris Elba has great back and forth with Jessica Chastain (With his awesome accent effortlessly having vanished), and he mixes his own charisma with the wit of the script. Kevin Costner appears only sporadically throughout the film, but does get a few shining moments, with a particularly heartfelt scene towards the end. The film is packed with solid performances from some minor appearances from Jeremy Strong, Brian d'Arcy James (as "Brad", a rich hedge fund manager who is hilariously terrible at Poker), Chris O'Dowd (as "Douglas", an always drunk player with ties to the mob), Bill Camp ( as "Harlan Eustice", a solid Poker player who ends up losing everything), and a delightfully twisted Michael Cera. (I actually really want to know who the hell he was supposed to be.)
The writing in "Molly's Game" may seem a bit exhausting to some, but it still feels somewhat real in context to the characters and how they speak. It's fast moving and undeniably entertaining, with Jessica Chastain's intense performance pretty much guaranteeing an Oscar nomination. It's actually somewhat female empowering, but doesn't shy away from some of her more questionable actions, while also retaining a good heart. If you can pay attention, you'll probably walk out a bit smarter than you were when you entered. Aaron Sorkin has a tendency to do that. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Language, Adult Content, And Form Fitting Apparel.
Image: Boy, Kevin Spacey's makeup is really good....Oh, wait a minute.
2017 has been a bit of an odd year. Much like 2016, it has been filled with much anger, outrage, and depressing moments. This year had all that, along with constant uncomfortableness, with beloved actor after beloved actor being accused of sexual harassment. Kevin Spacey was probably one of the more painful ones, even if it was darn nice of him to assure us he was gay after the fact. The fact that this movie came to be, with Christopher Plummer being brought in just a month or so ago, taking 9 days to reshoot all of Kevin Spacey's scenes, that's some pretty awesome improvising right there. And on the bright side, it gave way for the veteran actor who should have gotten the role in the first place a chance to shine.
Inspired by True Events (With plenty of liberties admittedly taken), "All the Money in the World" begins in 1973, with young "J.P. "Paul" Getty III" (Charlie Plummer) getting kidnapped by a small group in Rome, led by "Cinquanta" (Roman Duris). The kidnappers want $17 Million for his release, despite Paul's mother, "Gail Harris" (Michelle Willaims), not having any real access to any money from her family since her divorce from "John Paul Getty Jr." (Andrew Buchan). The kidnappers insist that she shouldn't have any trouble getting the money from her former father in law, the richest man in the world, "J. Paul Getty" (Christopher Plummer). The problem is that Getty is a bit of an ass and a cheapskate, and does not intend to pay a single penny for his grandson's release.
However, Getty does in fact love his grandson, though not enough to actually pay money to save him. So he sends in one of his go to guys/former CIA operative, "Fletcher Chase" (Mark Wahlberg) to Rome to help with the search, and to do it as inexpensively as possible. (No seriously. I'm not joking about that last part. He actually says that.) The search for Paul's kidnappers slowly becomes more complex, as Gail is constantly slandered for no apparent reason other than the paparazzi needs a bad guy in the situation. And though Cinquanta's attempts to do things as easily as possible, the kidnapping becomes even more dangerous than anyone would of expected.
From Director Ridley Scott (Who really deserves some form of recognition for finding a way for all this to come together as well as it does), "All the Money in the World" is a thoroughly fascinating story that uses topics of family, along with the power of money and greed to turn real life events into something grand in scope and story. While it at times can overdo the dramatization (Which seems to veer into almost Shakespearean), the film is nonetheless interesting, and most importantly, rigorously suspenseful. Shot in a dark and bleak manner sets the grim tone of the film, Scott conveys the dread and urgency of the situation, and makes you get a better look into the minds of the characters.
Michelle Williams does wonderful work here, and is captivating throughout. She displays the real fear and sorrow that a mother would have, while also showing her cynicism to the world around here. Mark Wahlberg does an excellent job, and continues to improve as an actor. Charlie Plummer does have a certain look to him, being able to project plenty of emotion in his stare alone, that works well with Roman Duris, who is able to come across as threatening, yet somewhat sympathetic. His character's strange relationship with his captive displays some of his humanity, and makes for some strong moments. The real star here is Christopher Plummer, who not only deserves praise for the fact he literally just had to jump right into this role, but doing so in a way that's not overly theatrical. It's subdued and quietly detailed, being able to command the screen and dominate it whenever he's in focus. He even makes some of the more over dramatized scenes work, simply by portraying a character that's a times vile, charismatic, and complicated.
"All the Money in the World" has moments where the film feels disjointed, mostly due to reshoots, and with so much story to tell, that's full of so many little details, it can drag a little especially in the middle. Luckily the film never loses it's focus, and is one of the better movies to fully demonstrate what kind of effect money can have on people, whether they have little of it or just plain too much. 3 stars. Rated R For Language, Disturbing Images Such As Ear Removals, And The Thought Of Kevin Spacey Molestation Issues.
Image: Everybody get behind The Rock if you want to live.
Honestly guys, this is probably going to be a better "Tomb Raider" movie than the actual one we're getting next year. As far as video game movies, or at least ones having to do with them, this is by far one of the better ones. Surprisingly, for something people online mostly wrote off as studio executives trying to capitalize on something that's popular, it seems that the filmmakers have an actual understanding on what they are satirizing. This isn't "The Emoji Movie".
"Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" begins with the magical, sentient board game, "Jumanji", realizing that aside from hipsters and people in their 20s trying to be retro (Like me!), nobody really plays board games anymore (Especially when young people have video games to pass the time). So the game changes itself into a video game and waits for some unsuspecting players to end up sucked into the game, much like Robin Williams was years before. The players come in the form of high school students who end up in detention, with the nerdy gamer, "Spencer" (Alex Wolff), the big football jock "Anthony" (Ser'Darius Blain) who goes by the nickname "Fridge", the pretty popular girl "Bethany" (Madison Iseman), and the quiet shy girl "Martha" (Morgan Turner), who all stumble upon the game and decide to play it out of sheer boredom.
After selecting their characters, the kids are transported into the world of Jumanji, now trapped in new avatar bodies, with Spencer becoming musclebound "Dr. Smolder Bravestone" (Dwayne Johnson), Fridge becoming the short, backpack carrying "Franklin "Mouse" Finbar" (Kevin Hart), Martha becoming the tough, scantily clad "Ruby Roundhouse" (Karen Gillan), and Bethany becoming the chubby, bearded "Professor Sheldon "Shelly" Oberon" (Jack Black), much to her dismay. To return home, the players must return an ancient artifact to it's rightful place before the murderous villain, "Professor Van Pelt" (Bobby Cannavale) finds them, while avoiding all kinds of traps, chaos, killer animals, and learning a few life lessons about themselves along the way.
"Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" is a somewhat sequel (In that it takes place in the same universe) to the 1995 beloved cult movie, "Jumanji", (That I don't really remember being as good as everyone else seems to remember it being. Actually I don't remember much about it at all, really). But for something that could of been so stupid, and to a certain degree a bit insulting, the movie actually has a pretty decent amount of intelligence, with some clever twists thrown in, some good jokes about video games such as their nonsensical plots, enemies, and complicated objectives. Despite some only "Meh" effects work, the movie does have a pretty grand scope that makes up for it. Most importantly, it's just a really good time.
The excellent cast sells their characters, playing against type mostly, which makes for some great comedy and even a few moments of character development. Dwayne "He Is Still The Rock" Johnson is quite perfectly cast, with the adorable Karen Gillan getting to have just as much fun as the guys. Kevin Hart at times feels a bit out of place, mostly because he's essentially just playing Kevin Hart most of the time, but he does learn to settle down as the film progresses. Jack Black is the real scene stealer here, fully committing to the fact he is playing a teenage girl in Jack Black's body, which is undeniably funny, and he makes it flat out hilarious. Nick Jonas (as "Seaplane McDonough", who is the avatar for "Alex", a kid who went missing in Jumanji) does solid work here, while Bobby Cannavale is a forgettable baddie, who doesn't do anything other than look mean and say stuff in an indescribable accent. The younger cast is only in the movie briefly, but do have enough personality to make for a good set up.
While it does feel a bit longer than necessary, "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" balances some good humor with solid action and a shocking amount of heart, with some positive messages that actually work into the movie. It's more clever than you would expect, and does make for some nice family fun, with a bit of an edge that doesn't feel shoehorned in. Not a bad way for the family to spend the last couple days of the holiday. Odds are you or your kids are going to be sucked into a video game anyway. 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Some Adult Jokes, A Few Scary Images, And Kevin Hart Explosions.
Image: "I see a third sequel."
You can only make so many "Pitch" puns before it starts to get stale. We'be had "Pitchmas", "Pitch Slapped", "What Up My Pitches?" (Which actually may not of been one, but I added it because it sounded funny), "Pitches With Attitude" (I think that was one at one point.), and the list goes on. Really when you actually don't seem to be making many in your last movie, you can tell it's probably the end.
"Pitch Perfect 3" stars with college graduate/former Barden Bella, "Becca" (Anna Kendrick), getting out of her crappy job, having broken up with her boyfriend from the previous movies, and is living with her best friend, "Fat Amy" (Rebel Wilson), who has also broken up with her boyfriend. (Because they had places to be I guess) The current Bella leader, "Emily" (Hailee Steinfeld) invites all of the previous Bellas, including "Chloe" (Brittany Snow), "Aubrey" (Anna Camp), the lesbian one (Ester Dean), the weird one (Hana Mae Lee), and, uh, the rest (They all start to morph into one person, really) to watch a performance of the new, much shinier Bellas. This makes everyone depressed, so Aubrey reveals that there is going to be a special competition hosted by "DJ Khaled" (Played by Sir DJ of Khaled) during a United Service Organizations World Tour that will result in the winner being picked to be a part of a special show for the troops.
Everyone, except for the pregnant one (Alexis Knapp) go along, with commentators, "John Smith" (John Michael Higgins) and "Gail Abernathy-McKinnon" (Elizabeth Banks) just showing up again to be smartasses..The Bellas realize they might be outmatched, especially by the interestingly named band, "Evermoist", led by the also interestingly named "Calamity" (Ruby Rose). The group goes on the tour, hoping to prove themselves to the other bands, with Becca seemingly getting closer to her dream of singing professionally, and Fat Amy reuniting with her up to no good father, "Fergus" (John Lithgow). Then things get.....Odd.
The original "Pitch Perfect" was a pleasant surprise to many (I never actually got around to seeing it), gathering a pretty solid fanbase of mostly young girls, garnering loads of money, and even getting a sequel with the solid enough "Pitch Perfect 2". Now with the final entry in the trilogy, you can really see that the filmmakers are mostly just finding a way to wrap it up in whatever way possible they can. "Pitch Perfect 3" is more of what you would expect, with girls looking cute, dancing and singing, with a few decent laughs here and there. The only difference this time, it's obvious running on fumes and its also a bit, well, weirder than usual.
"Pitch Perfect 3" follows some fairly traditional plot points, even somewhat recycling one or two from the last movie, while tossing in an out of nowhere subplot involving criminals, a hostage situation, and a big action sequence that feels out of place, yet oddly isn't particularly shocking that this is where it all went. Luckily the singing and dancing is all fun still and the characters are likable enough. Anna Kendrick is so perky, cute, and utterly charming that she alone just kind of makes it all worth it, along with a few funny spouts from Rebel Wilson. Nothing wrong with the rest of the Bellas, but aside from Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, and maybe Hailee Steinfeld, the rest are mostly left in the background. John Lithgow pops up, doing a bizarre Australian accent that matches his bizarre role that's still regardlessly entertaining because it's just John Lithgow hamming it up, (And there is something completely right with that). Our shoved in our face guest star, DJ Khaled is.....something. He's his own entity really, and I don't know what to make of him. And John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks (Who have both been the funniest parts of these movies) still get the best laughs out of everyone.
The "Pitch Perfect" movies have never really been my thing, aside from some Anna Kendrick cuteness. I never disliked them, but they just obviously aren't made for someone like me. For the fans, "Pitch Perfect 3" is probably gonna be enough for them and that's enough. (My little sister had a good time, so the film wrapped up the franchise nicely for her.) I would say the last movie would of been a better sendoff and it certainly felt less jumbled than this one, though it is harmless and inoffensive, and really, it's just more forgettable than anything. Until they reboot the franchise in 5 years with a brand new pitch. 2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Jokes, Fat Jokes, And Whatever A DJ Khaled Is.
Image: "How about I shoot the Orcs and you shoot the Elves!"
I still say it's not the same. There's something nice about going to the theater, sitting down with a bunch of people you don't know, keeping quiet and focusing specifically to the movie on the large screen playing in the dark auditorium that smells of toddler urine and popcorn that the cleaners neglected to pick up. It's tradition. Nothing special about flipping up your laptop and watching a movie on the floor in your room in your undies, while a cat decides to rest on your chest. Where's the magic in that?
"Bright" takes place in an alternate universe where magic, elves, and fairies exist in the modern world. In Los Angelas, a veteran cop, "Daryl Ward" (Will Smith) is forced to work with the first ever Orc cop, "Nick Jakoby" (Joel Edgerton) despite his protests. Ward was previously injured by a random Orc shooter that Jakoby failed to catch, and has returned to work some time later. While nobody wants Jakoby around, mostly because humanity's history to Orcs has been quite shoddy to say the least, he's mostly just there because of Orc Affirmative Action. (That's not a joke. That's basically what it is.)
One night, Ward and Jakoby end up at an old house, discovering several obliterated dead bodies, along with a frightened Elf girl, "Tikka" (Lucy Fry), who has in her possession a magic wand, which is the most powerful artifact in the universe that can only be used by a so called "Bright".Turns out everyone wants this power for themselves. So Ward and Jakoby must survive the night, protect Tikka and the wand from evil Elf cult leader, "Leilah" (Noomi Rapace), along with corrupt cops, gang members, and other pissed off Orcs, while fulfilling a prophecy that has seemingly drawn Ward and Jakoby into this situation in the first place.
I'll give "Bright" this. It's certainly original. The premise is kind of cool actually, and could make for something pretty fun if done right. Too bad Director David Ayer ("Suicide Squad", "End of Watch", "Sabotage") makes the poor decision to take the film needlessly seriously, filling it with over the top, gruesome violence, while attempting to actually tell a deep and involving story that has a message that it wants to get across. (#OrcLivesMatter) It just feels wrong in many ways, and because of this and the really convoluted plot, the movie just ends up being a bit of a bore.
The movie feels like it's been written by an 11 year old who just learned how to say "F*ck", with dialogue feeling immature and at times, nonsensical. "Bright" tries to deliver exposition throughout it's near two hour runtime, in a way that's both bloated, yet underdeveloped at the same time. The film seems to want to go for stupid when it's convenient, but also claim to be delivering a smart message when doing so. There is an interesting idea here, which can be seen through some admittedly unique imagery. But "Bright" is unable to decide what it wants to be, while being thoroughly dull throughout. It just doesn't make the whole ordeal feel worth it.
Luckily cool Will Smith has been making a comeback as of late, and he finds a way to keep the film movie with his charm alone, even when delivering dumb dialogue. Joel Edgerton is a sympathetic character and does give an emotional performance. Lucy Fry is meant the be the film's heart, but doesn't really do anything. Noomi Rapace looks nice as a sexy evil Elf, but her role could of been played by anyone and just feels like a waste. Édgar Ramírez (as "Kandomere", an Elf detective hunting down Leilah) looks utterly ridiculous in the makeup, and by the end, feels unnecessary to the overall plot. And how dare this movie find nothing to do with a perfectly slimy Ike Barinholtz (as "Pollard", a corrupt cop who is basically just the same character he played in "Suicide Squad").
"Bright" is just too damn stupid to be as seriously as it wants to be taken, with the movie's poor attempt at social commentary never meshing well with the fantasy elements. The movie is too boring (And at times, not particularly pleasant) to have any real fun with. No need to Netlfix and chill this Holiday season. Just go see "Star Wars" again. where it needs to be seen. Merry Elfin' Christmas. 1 1/2 stars. Rated R For Nuclear F-Bombs, Gory Violence, And Gangsta Orcs.
Image: "You mean Darth Vader's our father?"
You're probably wondering why I haven't been reviewing the bigger, more important movies that came out this week such as "Pitch Perfect 3" or "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle"? Look man, I was sick, and it's Christmas. And I also have to work for a living too. I didn't ask them to release so many movies at once. I'm getting to it!
"Father Figures" follows two fraternal twin brothers, "Kyle" (Owen Wilson), a bit of a party boy living an easy life, and "Peter" (Ed Helms), a divorced proctologist going through a midlife crisis. They learn from their mother, "Helen" (Glenn Close), that she actually had no idea who their father really was. Turns out she used to be pretty promiscuous back in the day, and since Peter has become pretty pathetic over the years, he decides he wants to find out who his real dad is, with Kyle coming along with him because he just wants to hang out with his brother again. So Peter and Kyle embark on a wild road trip, full of wacky antics, crazy twists and turns, and "Terry Bradshaw" (as Himself). And that's.....basically about it. They just go from dude to dude (Which includes J.K. Simmons, Christopher Walken, and Ving Rhames) to find out who their real dad is.
"Father Figures" is another one of those movies I review at the end of the year, that I'm not going to remember a week or so from now, but really isn't that bad at least by comparison with some of the other crud that I've seen this year. To the film's credit, I think that the premise is certainly funny and the filmmakers were really trying to find a way to incorporate some heart into the movie to balance out some of the raunchiness. It's just a bit disjointed, and most importantly, nowhere near as funny as it probably should be.
Owen Wilson and Ed Helms don't look even close to looking like twins, but they are't bad together. They have some good back and forth, with their chemistry actually making the film's goofy journey more enjoyable to where you at least like them as people. The rest of the cast as pretty much reduced to glorified cameos, with J. K. Simmons popping up to be weird, Ving Rhames showing up to say vulgar stuff (But not try to sell me Arby's this time.), and Terry Bradshaw just being Terry Bradshaw I'm assuming ( I guess he won some Super Bowls, or something). Glenn Close does get a nice moment with Wilson and Helms in a scene that takes a rather serious turn that feels a bit out of place in the overall movie. I mean, I appreciate the effort and the thought, but it doesn't really belong in what is basically a live-action cartoon. Oh, and Katt Williams pops up as a hitchhiker. (That was just weird.)
"Father Figures" has a few too many gross out gags, but not enough to make it an unpleasant experience. You get a few funny gags, and the various twists throughout are enjoyably nonsensical. None of it really warrants a recommendation though, especially when once the movie is over, you can't really remember too much about it. Sorry this review is so short. The movie doesn't really have enough in it to talk about whether it be good or bad. I can't spread myself any thinner. 2 stars. Rated R For Cat Balls, Pee Fights, And Ving Rhames' Dirty, Dirty Mouth.
Image: Look, MATT DEYMON brought us a gift.
You know, Matt Damon hasn't had that good of a year when you think about it. You got critical and box office flops such as "The Great Wall" and "Suburbicon", with "Downsizing" probably about to join the latter club. Not to mention the fact he apparently has no idea how to respond to people around him getting accused of sexual harassment. Very few of us guys seem to. Here's a thought. Keep your hands to yourself! You all know better. There, solved.
"Downsizing" takes place in the kind of, sort of future, where a new, but irreversible process of shrinking people in an attempt to help the environment and over population, which has been known as "Downsizing". "Paul" (Matt Damon) and his wife, "Audrey" (Kristen Wiig) are having an immense amount of money trouble, and don't seem to be getting anywhere. Paul hears from one of his friends, "Dave" (Jason Sudeikis), who has already gone through the process, that when you go small, all your money problems go away, and more importantly, the value of the money you already have increases.
Paul and Audrey make the decision to move to "Leisure Land", which is a beautiful community where all the little people live. Only Audrey bails at the last second, resulting in Paul being forced to live alone, now as a tiny person (Like Kevin Hart).Cut to some time later, Paul has divorced Audrey, and now lives a miserably lonely life, with some always partying neighbors, "Dusan" (Christoph Waltz) and "Joris" (Udo Kier), but he befriends a former Vietnamese activist "Ngoc Lan Tran" (Hong Chau), who has a prosthetic leg and now dedicates her life to helping the sick. Paul starts to learn more about himself and the world, while discovering a group of people preparing for the next global level extinction event.
From acclaimed Director Alexander Payne ("Nebraska", "The Descendants", "Sideways"), "Downsizing" was picked pretty early to be a contender for one of the best films of the year, mostly because he just has a tendency to have movies that do that. It's sad to report that while the movie has plenty of greatness in it, with some important messages to say and a few fun characters, the film is just a little all over the place. "Downsizing" struggles to figure out just what it wants to be, and by the end, it comes across as too preachy and much longer than it necessarily needed to be. I mean, how did this movie start with Matt Damon having money trouble, but somehow towards the end, he's joined a hippie cult? That just doesn't add up when I say it out loud.
Matt Damon is a likable main character, but is by comparison, nowhere near as interesting as the characters or the world around him. He just sort of feels secondary and less important than the far more interesting plot lines going on, with Christoph Waltz and Udo Kier (Who I swear is just playing a more bizarre version of himself in every thing he's in) providing some laughs, and the insanely lovable Hong Chau single handedly stealing the movie. The movie is full of small parts/cameos from a variety of actors such as the underutilized Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis, Neil Patrick Harris and Laura Dern (as mini sales representatives), among many others.
"Downsizing" does benefit from solid effects work. While the look of a tiny person standing next to a normal sized one doesn't always look realistic, it looks about as good as you can possibly make it look. The film is certainly ambitious and original, with the message of protecting the environment and how you treat the less fortunate and poor when compared to the rich is a positive one, but it feels crammed in your face a bit too much, which only help the movie lose it's audience. Too many different ideas, mixed in with a slightly bloated runtime, but with some good performances, genuinely charming and funny moments, and I get what the film is going for. It's just too ambitious for it's own good. They should have thought smaller. 2 1/2 stars. Rated R For Language, Adult Content, And Hippies.
Image: Wolverine finally finds his true calling....Musical Theater.
If you are looking for the true story of P. T. Barnum, along with, yes, the abuse of all the animals and possible exploitation of the unique people who became his attractions, then you clearly have no idea what kind of movie this is meant to be. It's a musical fantasy for the family. Maybe a little misguided, but well intentioned nonetheless. Besides, even with it's flaws, you can't help but want to break out into song yourself. They just make it look so cheerful. Thankfully, I remembered just in time the fact that I have no singing ability whatsoever, sparing my theater audience and anyone within listing distance.
"The Greatest Showman" tells the romanticized story of "P. T. Barnum" (Hugh Jackman), having married his much richer childhood love, "Charity" (Michelle Williams), promising that he will provide for her, and their two daughters (Austyn Johnson and Cameron Seely). Sadly things don't go how he expects, with Barnum eventually losing his job due to the company going bankrupt. Barnum, who always has a flair for showmanship, gets the idea to create a museum of the strange, which also sadly doesn't do enough business to justify it's existence. He then gets another idea, to create an elaborate show, full is outcasts and misfits, such as bearded lady with an amazing voice "Lettie Lutz" (Keala Settle), a dwarfish performer "Charles Stratton aka General Tom Thumb" (Sam Humphrey), a young African American trapeze artist "Anne Wheeler" (Zendaya), among others who Barnum puts at the center of his show.
Convincing a bored playwright, "Phillip Carlyle" (Zac Efron) to become his partner, Barnum's greatest show starts to become the talk of the town, much to the dismay of snobby theater critic, "James Gordon Bennett" (Paul Sparks) and a group of violent protesters who just simply hate what they don't understand. However, when Barnum takes an interest in famous opera singer, "Jenny Lind" (Rebecca Ferguson), her act starts to overshadow the others, diverting his time away from everyone else, including his family,
"The Greatest Showman" has the potential to be great, and there are moments that shine throughout. Sadly the movie is just a bit of a mess, although at least an endearingly, somewhat blindly optimistic one. Directed by Michael Gracey (You're probably asking yourself who that is), the film has plenty of showmanship and spectacle, with beautifully crafted setpieces and actually pretty catchy original musical numbers, which were written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, (Who you may remember also wrote the lyrics to the songs from last year's musical masterpiece "La La Land"). In terms of it's story, it's fairly by the book, cramming a bit too much in, with the focus at times all over the place.
Hugh Jackman is excellent, once again showing his range as an actor, going from the dark and brutal "Logan" to something much happier and upbeat. While at times his moments of jerkitude (Especially when he starts to shun the other performers) can somewhat come out of nowhere, Jackman's enthusiasm and charisma carry the movie. Michelle Williams makes what could be seen as a thankless role better simply due to because of her natural charm and adorableness. Zac Efron (Who I don't recall doing any singing since the last "High School Musical") and Zendaya have the subplot that I think should of had the most focus (Their song, "Rewrite the Stars" is a pretty memorable sequence). They both have great chemistry, and have the most fascinating and heartfelt story. Keala Settle is thoroughly likable. Paul Sparks is an amusing caricature of a critic (We critics do have it coming), and Rebecca Ferguson is plenty appealing, but her subplot doesn't quite mesh with the rest of the film, (Especially in one of the film's weirder moments when she is meant to be an opera singer, yet her one song in the movie is more of a pop song ballad.)
"The Greatest Showman" can be seen as a little misguided, occasionally letting the fantastical elements overshadow the more important ones, and the supporting cast of performers at times are left in the background, but it's hard not to see the amount of effort put into this film, with the songs ranging from good to spectacular (In particular, the ridiculously catchy "The Greatest Show" and the Golden Globe nominated "This is Me"). There is still a certain magnetism to the film, that makes it hard not to leave thoroughly entertained. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG For Some Adult Content And Elaborate Dance Numbers.
Image: He will never surrender!!!!
There's nothing really to say when it comes to starting off this review, except for stating the obvious. Stop taking Gary Oldman for granted. The man has been top notch for years, but despite constant critical praise, he's only been nominated once for an Oscar. Well that just ain't right. Lets finally give him the recognition he deserves. Also, give some to Tom Hanks and Andy Serkis. This is my mission! Get with it Academy voters!
"Darkest Hour" tells the story of how, during the bleakest moment in World World War II for Britain, the former Prime Minister, "Neville Chamberlain" (Ronald Pickup) is to be removed and replaced by the controversial, larger than life, "Winston Churchill" (Gary Oldman). Churchill is not exactly the most liked of people, with most considering him to be a bit of a brute and a bully. The greatest fear from his rivals is that Churchill will not even consider peace negotiations with the Nazi forces, who are at this moment dominating the war. With the threat of invasion slowly becoming a reality, Churchill must go against his own party, convince the wary "King George VI" (Ben Mendelsohn) to his side, and find a way to bring the public together, even in their darkest hour. (Well, it is the title after all.)
"Darkest Hour", when you think about it, doesn't exactly tell us a story that's new or even really that essential in the grand scheme. But Director Joe Wright finds a way to balance out some powerful drama and even a little spectacle, to make for a rather fascinating sit. You are basically watching a movie about the politics of war, during probably the most devastating war the world has ever known. Its a bit like 2012's "Lincoln" in that regard, but lacks the sheer scope it had. This film mostly settles for a simple telling, yet you still feel the importance of it all, and why this whole debate was such a big deal, aside from the obvious that debate about surrendering to Adolf Hitler was a pretty big freakin deal.
First, lets talk about the star of the movie, Gary Oldman, (Who is unrecognizable under all that makeup), and he is utterly terrific here. The term "Inhabits a role" is used a bit too much, but it's really the best way I could describe him here. He brings the real life character to the screen, with bombast, energy, a little wit, and this strange charismatic charm that show why some weren't exactly fans of his, but why he was also widely beloved by many. Ben Mendelsohn is wonderful and sympathetic, while Kristin Scott Thomas (as "Clementine Churchill", Churchill's calming wife) and Lily James (as "Elizabeth Layton", Churchill's personal secretary) have limited roles that they make better mostly thanks to their own charm. Ronald Pickup and Stephen Dillane (as "Edward Halifax", another rival on Churchill's, who demands he negotiates for peace) are mostly antagonists in their roles, but at least are given moments to share their sides of the argument.
The script is smartly written by Anthony McCarten ("The Theory of Everything"), with some humor to add stability to the drama. "Darkest Hour" doesn't tell much new in terms of it's narrative structure, but does keep the pace flowing constantly, with a few memorable sequences that allow Gary Oldman's powerhouse performance to shine. You still can't help but smile during that final speech, which is still inspiring now as it was back then. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For British Language And British Snootiness.
Image: "We're going up against Star Wars? NOOOOOOO!!!!!"
So I doubt any families really were planning on not seeing "Star Wars" this last weekend. I mean, it's freakin' "Star Wars"! Probably the biggest movie event of the year. With that said, if you have little kids, who may not know much about it or just might be too little to handle it (Then again, apparently full grown fans can't seem to handle it much either), well then how about a movie about a cuddly bull, who dislikes fighting, and loves flowers? Can't get more wholesome than that. Star Wars has mass murder and genocide. Just remember that when your kids dress up as Kylo Ren or Darth Vader. You live with that.
"Ferdinand" opens in Spain, where little bull, "Ferdinand" (Voiced as an adult by John Cena), who only wants to sniff flowers and live a peaceful, pacifist life, escapes from the bullfighting training arena and finds his way to a young girl, "Nina" (Lily Daly), who adopts him as a pet. Ferdinand grows up with Lily, along with her father "Juan" (Juanes) and their dog "Paco" (Jerrod Carmichael). But despite his sweet, lovable nature, still grows into a massive monstrosity of a bull, he ends up causing a little destructive chaos, and ends up being shipped back to the bullfighting arena he escaped from years before.
Ferdinand is befriended by an insane goat, "Lupe" (Kate McKinnon), while constantly being ridiculed by the other bulls, including the antagonistic "Valiente" (Bobby Cannavale), nervous doofus "Guapo" (Peyton Manning), the scrawny "Bones" (Anthony Anderson), the Scottish "Angus" (David Tennant), and the silent "Maquina". The overconfident, slightly psychotic, legendary bullfighter "El Primero" (Miguel Ángel Silvestre) arrives in hopes of finding one final bull to fight before his retirement. Due to his size, Ferdinand is the likely choice, but he has no intention of fighting or staying. With the help of Lupe, along with a trio of hedgehogs, "Una" Gina Rodriguez), "Dos" (Daveed Diggs), and "Cuatro" (Gabriel Iglesias), Ferdinand plots to escape and get back home to his family.
Based on the beloved children's book "The Story of Ferdinand" (And you may remember there was a Disney short way back in 1938), "Ferdinand" comes from Blue Sky Studios (Known previously for the "Ice Age" and "Rio" movies), which means that while as far as story and writing goes, its going to be fairly basic. Despite this, much like most of their films, it also retains a likable cast of characters, some positive messages, and lovely animation that's just full of life and movement. Really, the film's humor works best when it relies on physical comedy, which lands pretty often thanks to the bouncy, stretchy style of animation for the characters, and it's the film's good heart that makes it at least feel genuine.
You can tell John Cena isn't really the best of actors, but there this warmth and lovability to his voice and personality, which shockingly carries the film, and gives the character life. You see an actual character that you do root for from start to finish. Kate McKinnon, who can be a bit much from time to time, is perfectly cast here, getting more than a few of the best laughs, along with some good work from some of the side characters such as David Tennant (Doing his "Scrooge McDuck" voice again), Flula Borg (as "Hans", a jerkish, German horse), and Miguel Ángel Silvestre, who is more of an antagonist than an actual villain.
"Ferdinand" at times lacks focus and by the standards set by most animated films, (Such as the hilarious "The Lego Batman Movie" or the heartfelt and emotional "Coco"), and it feels more generic and disposable. Still, there's nothing really to dislike here. When there's heart, you do feel it, with some amusing gags and characters, and the messages of being a good person and not letting how you look define you are good for kids. The film even takes a little time to bring up how the idea of bull fighting itself is a little messed up, to put it nicely. It's fluffy kid stuff, but there's nothing really that wrong with that. Just know that "Ferdinand" is about to get slaughtered. At the box office, that is. 3 stars. Rated PG, Although This Is Another One That Could Of Been An Easy G.
Image: "It's about damn time you came to me! Don't you know who I am?!""
People who know me in person know that I have three weaknesses. Pretty girls smiling at me, cute animals, and "Star Wars". How obsessed am I with "Star Wars"?.I don't know. Does the collection of figures on my counter, along with my collection of the films, comics, novels, video games, and DVDs for both television series being arranged in chronological order define what you would call obsession? I can better memorize these fictional planets than I can basic Algebra! Or American Geography! So you can believe containing my manly squees were very, very difficult......And I failed to do so. I don't care....SQUEE!
"Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi" opens right after "The Force Awakens", where despite losing their planet destroying "Starkiller Base", The First Order and it's disfigured, force powerful Supreme Leader "Snoke" (Andy Serkis) still has a massive arsenal of ships and troops to hunt down and destroy "The Resistance", led by the former princess turned general, "Leia Organa" (Carrie Fisher). On the run from Snoke's command ship, commanded by the slimy "General Hux" (Domhnall Gleeson), The Resistance, stuck in a constant retreat with a disastrous battle, puts a new commander in charge, "Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo" (Laura Dern), who is constantly at odds with the hot-headed pilot, "Poe Dameron" (Oscar Isaac). With Holdo's competence in question, the recently awakened, Stormtrooper turned rebel, "Finn" (John Boyega), new friend, "Rose" (Kelly Marie Tran), and lovable little volleyball droid, "BB-8" plan to sneak aboard Snoke's ship and disable it's tracker.
Meanwhile, the force sensitive heroine, "Rey" (Daisy Ridley), along with wookie warrior "Chewbacca" (Played in costume by both Peter Mayhew and Joonas Suotamo), and spunky droid, "R2-D2" (Jimmy Vee taking over for the late Kenny Baker) finally find the legendary hero/last remaining Jedi of the Rebellion, "Luke Skywalker" (Mark Hamill) to return his original lightsaber. Rey hopes to have him train her in the ways of the Force, and bring him back to save the Resistance. Bad news is that Luke has seen some sh*t, and sees himself as having failed the galaxy for failing to prevent his nephew and the son of Leia and the now deceased Han Solo, "Kylo Ren" (Adam Driver), from falling to the dark side by becoming Snoke's apprentice and plunging the galaxy into chaos. Luke eventually comes around and agrees to train Rey, but fears what kind of power she is capable of and how it reminds him of his previous failure.
Just when you think the year is nearing it's close when it comes to excellent filmmaking, "The Last Jedi" comes up to remind us that "Star Wars" helped define what we consider modern cinema, and somehow, manages to change it all up in ways none of us could possibly imagine. The film is a complete jawdropper, with Director and Writer Rian Johnson ("Looper") crafting what could actually be attempting to compete with "The Empire Strikes Back" (The second, but absolute best entry in the entire saga). Rian Johnson gives the movie his own look, expertly balancing every story until it all culminates into one grand finale that will constantly have you jumping out of your seat, ripping your hair out in excitement, begging for it not to end.
The cinematography is stunningly gorgeous, with many action scenes, set pieces, or simple camera shots that just pop off of the screen. The ending in particular, which takes place on a salt mine planet, made up of nothing but white, yet with red hidden under the surface is one of the most badass things I have ever seen. (And I can say that happens several times throughout this movies two and a half hour runtime). Johnson gives us the ultimate "Star Wars" epic that fans have been craving for years, but never loses sight of a solid sense of humor. Believe it or not, despite how dark and shocking the movie gets, "The Last Jedi" is also one of the funnier entries in the series, with great dialogue between likable characters, and even a few humorous situations. (Yes, The little penguin-like critters, "The Porgs" are pretty adorable, but never annoy like the "Ewoks" or "Jar Jar" did.)
Where "Star Wars" has found most of it's success (Aside from lots and lots of merchandising. No wonder "Disney" wanted the rights) is with it's characters, who are elevated by the actors who portray them. First and foremost, despite being a supporting player, this is basically Mark Hamill's movie in the sense that this is his time to truly shine. He is just amazing here, showing how the beloved hero can go from one way to another over the course of time, yet retain his basic personality and even tossing in a little more depth than before. He just commands the screen every moment he appears, in more ways than one. As does the late, great Carrie Fisher, who's role comes across as bittersweet due to her passing last year, but still warms the heart. Daisy Ridley is absolute perfection once again, in a character who's journey takes some unexpected turns. She also happens to have some pretty great chemistry with Adam Driver, who could go down as one of the most compelling villains in the entire saga, going from sympathetic, scary, and even a little funny at times. The writing and the emotional performance somehow make it work in a way that the prequel trilogy admittedly struggled when it came to the characterization of Anakin (Sorry Hayden.)
Returning cast members all get their moments of greatness, with John Boyega still remaining such a rootable character, Oscar Isaac getting more screentime as before and experiencing his own surprising character arc, the always great Andy Serkis getting to chew some scenery in true motion capture form, along Domhnall Gleeson playing up the smarm like a pro, the always welcome Anthony Daniels (As "C-3PO", everyone's favorite cowardly droid), Gwendoline Christie (as "Captain Phasma", a ruthless, chrome armored Stormtrooper) getting actually more of a role than the fan favorite guy who never did anything ("Boba Fett"), and a funny cameo from Lupita Nyong'o (As "Maz Kanata", a diminutive alien pirate, who sends Finn and Rose on their mission). We also get some memorable newcomers like Kelly Marie Tran, in her first major film role, who is a marvelous addition to the cast, with Laura Dern getting some pretty awesome moments, and Benicio del Toro (as "DJ", a scoundrel with questionable loyalties) clearly having a lot of fun.
"The Last Jedi" addresses the concepts of good and evil, and questions how we initially perceive them in a way that's poetic, and to a certain degree somewhat poignant. It throws the audience for a loop, to the point I could really see some people (Nerds mostly) leaving the movie frustrated. Fan theories? Out the window. Predictable plot points? Nowhere to be found. The film really does not go down the conventional route that a "Star Wars" movie normally would, or even a route that most movies would even dare to do. By the end, even I was a little ticked off because I now had no idea where it was all going, and that we have to wait two more years to find out. It's freakin brilliant filmmaking, and Rian Johnson makes it his own, while incorporating it into the larger "Star Wars" universe.
My only gripe has nothing to do with the movie itself, because the theater I was at had a speaker that was out throughout the entire movie. So at times the music would become louder than the dialogue, or things that were meant to be somewhat distorted, were even more so. Still, I did get to hear the boom of John Williams' reliably amazing musical score, which always sets the epic tone. "The Last Jedi" is powerful, dark, funny, and both heartbreaking and heartfelt (At the same time even), giving moviegoers what they've been clamoring for, and a few things they didn't even know they wanted. It's a real game changer in the multi-million dollar franchise, and sets a new standard for future films to come. Strong with the Force it is. 4 stars, if you haven't figured it out by now. Rated PG-13 For Sci-Fi Violence, Space Milk, Foul Artoo Language, And For Constantly Making The Audience's Jaws Drop.
Image: "You wouldn't argue with the voice of God, would you?"
After four "Four Star" reviews in a row, and weeks of me constantly praising and recommending films to people, it can get a bit tiring. I can only come up with so many adjectives to describe greatness, and my best of the year list can only fit so many movies, so to even it out I pretty much wanted the universe to at least mix it up a little. Throw a little curveball to add a change of pace. How about a movie in December that is terrible enough that it should have been released in January? Well.....Ask and you shall receive I guess....
"Just Getting Started" begins in an old people paradise called Villa Capri, a retirement community where they all play games, drink, and do all kinds of naughty stuff together. The resident manager, "Duke Diver" (Morgan Freeman) is the most loved guy there, known for being the life of the party and seducing many of the lonely ladies there. But he meets his match when a new resident arrives, "Leo" (Tommy Lee Jones), who seems to have made it his mission to upstage Duke every chance he gets for no real reason.
Both men also take an interest in the lovely "Suzie" (Rene Russo), who has been sent by corporate to make sure Duke is actually doing his job, and following the standard procedures. It turns out though that Duke is actually on the run, having been put into witness protection after testifying against the mob, and one of the mob wives (A random Jane Seymour appearence) now knows where Duke is and has sent someone to kill him. But that's not really all the important. The movie is just two old farts screwing with each other for about an hour and a half while the target audience gets a nice little nap in the process.
"Just Getting Started" is about as lazy and disposable as it's title, where it just never truly gets going. In terms of pacing and actual plotting. The movie just drags along, waiting for something to happen, but never actually figures out where it's going. It seems to be constantly distracted by itself, taking time to focus on random bits of goofiness, which hardly generate any real laughs, or even chuckles. It's thinly written and plotted for a movie that's barely even an hour and a half.
Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones are here to basically play characters that they've played before numerous times. While they're not exactly doing a terrible job at it, it doesn't justify how little the film utilizes their talents, and it makes their performances feel like little more than paychecks. Rene Russo luckily comes across as rather cute, showing some charm, and quite frankly is the only one who feels like an actual person compared to the rest of the cast of characters, who are more character types (Such as fat, horny, or stupid) than actual characters. I also have no idea what Jane Seymour (Who appears in three scenes, for a total of two minutes) is actually doing here.
Director Ron Shelton feels stuck in a different time as the film looks like it was something meant to come out sometime in the late 90s to early 2000s. "Just Getting Started" has so little to it, with very little going on throughout, and even when the plot actually does happen, it's almost done in such a nonchalant way that it's like the movie itself really doesn't care about itself either. It's nothing more than a last second Pre-Christmas turd to get dropped off before the year ends, and will likely fade away into nothingness in about a week, leaving little of an impact. It's the movie equivalent of Viagra failure. Or does that have a money back guarantee? How the Hell should I know? 1 star. Rated PG-13 For Old People Seduction, Shenanigans, And The Inability To Just Get It Over With.
Image: "You want me to put the ointment where?"
You get a four star rating! You get a four star rating! Four star ratings all around! The constant praise I've been throwing around these days isn't just me going soft, it just shows that 2017 has just been a truly good year for film. It's a year for originality, experimental filmmaking, the mixing of genres, and most importantly, the appreciation for the odd and the unique. So yeah, I'm gonna miss giving out these four star ratings come late January/early February when all the crap comes out.
"The Shape of Water" takes place in the 1960s, and follows a lonely, sweet natured woman, "Elisa Esposito" (Sally Hawkins), who is mute due to an injury on her neck that she sustained at a young age, that has left a permanent scar. When she isn't hanging out with her equally lonely, gay ad artist, "Giles" (Richard Jenkins), Elisa works the night shift as a janitor with her really talkative friend, "Zelda" (Octavia Spencer) at a top secret research facility. The facility receives a visitor when the unhinged "Colonel Richard Strickland" (Michael Shannon) arrives with a mysterious, fish-man like creature dragged over from South America, known only as "The Asset" (Doug Jones), who Strickland's superiors want to study and experiment on.
Elisa takes an interest in the strange creature, sneaking in to see it, and bonding with it through sign language. Feeling a strange connection to the creature and learning that Strickland intends to cut him open for experimentation, Elisa devises a plan, recruiting Giles to help her break out the Asset, and save him from a horrible fate. Elisa's relationship slowly begins to grow, blossoming not just a close friendship, but also true love itself. Not that I like you as a friend kind of love. The "You're beautiful on the Swamp Monster inside" kind.
From Director Guillermo del Toro ("Pan's Labyrinth", "Hellboy", "Pacific Rim", etc.), "The Shape of Water" brings out the best in his artistic style, with a striking amount of attention to detail, keeping itself grounded, yet whimsical at the same time. It's a dark fantasy, aimed at adults, but teeming with so much heart and occasionally a charmingly eccentric sense of humor. Guillermo del Toro always has had an eye for visuals, art, and set design, and the film bursts with color and graphic flair that just captivates you to the point where you just want to step right into the world that's been created. It's oddly fantastical, yet still finds it's place in a form of reality.
The film at times could give the appearance of distracting itself, by once in a while taking time to simply focus on one of the character's lives, but it serves a purpose especially by the end you see what everyone's role was meant to be. It's helped by well written, fleshed out characters, and some terrific actors portraying them. Sally Hawkins, who remains mute throughout, is thoroughly wonderful (Dare I say, enchanting), in how she is able to convey as much emotion as she does, without uttering a single word. (Add her to the long list of excellent actress performances going for Oscar consideration)
Her relationship with the creature, who Doug Jones brings to life with mesmerizing screen presence, somehow works. It's cute, funny, heartbreaking, and complicated. (Despite his human appearance, he is still slightly animalistic) Michael Shannon's character would almost seem cartoonish, but he is able to turn him into a menacing, vile villain whose moments of humanity make him even more threatening and even scarier than the actual monster. Octavia Spencer just steals whatever scene she's in simply through her own charm, with Michael Stuhlbarg (as "Dr. Robert Hoffstetler", one of the scientists who sees the beauty of the creature, and may also be a Soviet spy) giving an emotionally complex performance, and an absolutely lovable Richard Jenkins, who just brings a smile to your face every time he's on screen.
"The Shape of Water" shows themes of love and humanity, while even exploring some more topical themes. The film is truly a work of art, not just in how it looks, but also how it displays it's emotional soul. I mean, it made me care about the romantic relationship between a woman and a fish man. How did you do that? It's another addition to the long list of examples of excellent filmmaking that this year has had to offer. 4 stars. Rated R For Gorey Violence, Adult Language, Nudity, And Well, The Promotion Of Mixed Species Relationships.