Hey friends! With the impending release of the sixth installment of the Mission: Impossible franchise, I figured now is as good a time as any to take a look back at the previous five installments. Hopefully you'll see that while the franchise had some very humble beginnings (I'm still not sure how it continued on after the rather disastrous M: I-2) but hopefully I'll convince you that this franchise has propelled itself to the top of the proverbial action genre mountain with its recent installments. By the end of this you'll understand why Mission: Impossible - Fallout has been my most anticipated release of this summer's slate of blockbusters. So, let's get started!
Mission: Impossible II
Mission: Impossible III
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
Quick Reviews, Summer 2018, Part 2: Sicario: Day of the Soldado, The First Purge, Skyscraper, Sorry to Bother You, The Equalizer 2Read Now
Sicario: Day of the Soldado
The First Purge
Sorry to Bother You
The Equalizer 2
Quick Reviews, Summer 2018, Part 1: How to Talk to Girls at Parties, Hotel Artemis, The Incredibles 2, Tag, American AnimalsRead Now
How to Talk to Girls at Parties
Quick Reviews, Spring 2018, Part 3: You Were Never Really Here, The Death of Stalin, RBG, Fahrenheit 451, UpgradeRead Now
You Were Never Really Here
The Death of Stalin
A Quiet Place
Quick Reviews, Spring 2018, Part 1: Tomb Raider, 7 Days in Entebbe, Isle of Dogs, Best F(r)iends, UnsaneRead Now
7 Days in Entebbe
Best F(r)iends: Volume One
Quick Reviews, Winter 2018: The Commuter, The 15:17 to Paris, Game Night, Red Sparrow, Thoroughbreds, GringoRead Now
The 15:17 to Paris
The Boss Baby
Quick Reviews, End of 2017, Part 3: Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, Last Flag Flying, Roman J. Israel, Esq., Ingrid Goes West, DetroitRead Now
Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool
Last Flag Flying
Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Ingrid Goes West
Quick Reviews, End of 2017, Part 2: The Mountain Between Us, November Criminals, The Foreigner, Victoria & Abdul, The Big Sick, MarshallRead Now
The Mountain Between Us
Victoria & Abdul
The Big Sick
Quick Reviews, End of 2017, Part 1: Darkest Hour, It Comes at Night, Bright, Mudbound, Jumanji: Welcome to the JungleRead Now
It Comes at Night
Jumanji: Welcome to the Journal
Quick Reviews, Winter 2017: Battle of the Sexes, My Friend Dahmer, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, The Hitman's Bodyguard, The Killing of a Sacred DeerRead Now
Battle of The Sexes
My Friend Dahmer
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
The Hitman's Bodyguard
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Quick Reviews, Summer 2017: Baywatch, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Wonder Woman, The Mummy, Transformers: The Last KNightRead Now
Baywatch (2017): Devoted lifeguard Mitch Buchanan butts heads with a brash new recruit. Together, they uncover a local criminal plot that threatens the future of the Bay.
If there is such a thing as "So bad it's good," Baywatch would get top consideration. A shamelessly bad film, Baywatch owns its premise and appeals to its target audience about as well as you'd expect. And, believe it or not, I actually had a pretty good time watching this. Pretty good. When the film was just being straight up ridiculous, I was into it. HOWEVER, whenever the film tried to have any semblance of a, oh....what do you call it? "Plot?" It was terrible. That said, the acting was pretty good, with the undeniable chemistry between The Rock and Zac Efron being at the forefront of it all. The raunchy, R-rated comedy seems to be a sweet spot for The Rock, and whenever he was able to just do his thing, I was having a blast. The females of this cast are definitely placed in the background, though Alexandra Daddario does a great job in her role as one of the female lifeguards, as does Illfenesh Hadera. However, outside of the acting and the improv, there isn't much going on here. This is yet another American comedy that is lazily made, but I don't think its target audience will care about that too much. But you know what? I found myself laughing a good deal, so the movie did succeed in this regard. (Even though several times I was laughing at the movie instead of with it) Ultimately, if you have a few drinks before and go see this with a group of friends, it's not the worst way to spend a Friday night. Just don't expect any semblance of a plot. Or editing. Or pretty much anything other than some pretty raunchy and crude humor.
My Number: 4/10 Below Average
Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017): Captain Jack Sparrow searches for the trident of Poseidon while being pursued by an undead sea captain and his crew.
YES. IT'S ANOTHER PIRATES MOVIE. THAT LOOKS LIKE EVERY OTHER PIRATES MOVIE. Seriously. I haven't liked this franchise since the original film came out all the way back in 2003. Yet here we are, 14 years later, looking at the FIFTH Pirates movie. This movie is hyped up to be "Javier Bardem vs. Johnny Depp" and that's about all this movie had going for it. And by that I mean all this movie had going for it was Javier Bardem, because Johnny Depp is just Johnny Depp. All my problems with Depp and how he's Hollywood's single-most overrated actor in the business can be traced back to this franchise, and he's once again just.....there. The newcommers don't bring much to the table, either. Though the cameos were ok, I guess. Pretty much the only person you could like in this movie, (as Bardem too was mostly sleepwalking through his role) was Paul McCartney. And yes, he was legit. But that's about all this film has going for it-it's a snooze-fest from the technical departments, and Bardem's hair, which I'm sure a lot of money went to, just looked soooooo silly. Basically, this is a film that no one asked for but we got nonetheless, and it can be added to the pile of crap films we've gotten recently that can be labeled as good ol' fashion corporate directed filmmaking. But hey. At least Paul McCartney is in it.
My Number: 3/10 just for Paul
Wonder Woman (2017): Before she was Wonder Woman she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained warrior. When a pilot crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, she leaves home to fight a war to end all wars, discovering her full powers and true destiny.
I know I had the awesome Peter Kosanovich review this film already, I just wanted to add my two cents on what is undoubtedly the best DC film to date. While it certainly is a decent film, with Gal Gadot stealing the show in the film's title role, there are many problems with this film as well. First off, it's WAY too long. I don't know why DC films feel the need to flirt with the 2.5 hour mark, but can you please STOP? The entire opening section of this film felt unnecessary, and the pacing is just all over the place from start to finish. Also, the action sequences were pretty terrible. They just looked so corny! This is another trend of DC films that Marvel has (mostly) avoided. CGI porn is exactly that-CGI porn. We're getting plenty of it in the new Transformers film.... we don't need it here. That said, there is plenty going on in Wonder Woman that I liked. Gal Gadot carries this film, as DC has undoubtedly found its Iron Man/Captain America with her. Not to be outdone by Gadot is Chris Pine, who is excellent as Steve Trevor. Outside of them this movie is mostly bare, as pretty much everyone else is forgettable. That's about all this film has going for it, but it's all it really needs. Gal Gadot plays the character so well, and having a female-led superhero film is refreshing and wonderful. See it just for that, and just ignore its faults.
My Number: 6/10 Above Average
The Mummy (2017): An ancient princess is awakened from her crypt beneath the desert, bringing with her malevolence grown over millennia, and terrors that defy human comprehension.
The Dark Universe is here and lands with a loud thud with yet another re-incarnation of The Mummy. Gotta love corporate-directed filmmaking. The biggest problem of The Mummy is the fact that there's not enough Mummy in it. Wait, what? Can someone please tell me why we have to focus on Tom Cruise so much when Sofia Boutella as, you know, The Mummy, is EASILY the best part of this film? Even after what happens at the end (which is total BS, by the way) I still think the film made a mistake focusing on Cruise so much. He's pretty forgettable as Nick Morton, and were it not for Jake Johnson providing some much-needed comedic relief by helping Cruise out throughout the film it would've been a whole lot worse. But man. It's still pretty darn bad. The writing here is an absolute travesty. Everything is focus-group tested and none of it feels organic. What happens at the end is TOTAL, frustrating BS, and isn't earned at all, and, well, come to think of it, pretty much none of the Cruise's actions feel earned. Outside of Boutella's stellar performance as The Mummy, the only other thing this film really had going for it was Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll. Crowe is signed on to play the role in several more Dark Universe films, and that's about the only positive takeaway from this whole movie. And those who know me know I am not the biggest fan of Russell Crowe, so that is actually a pretty decent compliment.. Despite the lackluster reception and mediocre box office numbers, Universal has already invested massive amounts of money into their Dark Universe, so like it or not these movies are here to stay. But if this first film is any indication, it's that it takes a lot more than a single idea to make a film enjoyable. Hard pass.
My Number: 3/10
Transformers: The Last Knight
Transformers: The Last Knight (2017): Autobots and Decepticons are at war, with humans on the sidelines. Optimus Prime is gone. The key to saving our future lies buried in the secrets of the past, in the hidden history of Transformers on Earth.
Hey, look! It's another TERRIBLE Transformers movie! I know most of you are rolling your eyes and saying, "Obviously." but my job is to see the films that are going to bring in big box office numbers, and yes, Transformers is one of them. But this film is AWFUL, even by Transformers standards! The pacing is atrocious, the dialogue is hilariously bad, Michael Bay is still a misogynist, and the film is SO. FREAKING. LONG. Seriously, guys? 2.5 hours? Really? Oh ya, let's hit the misogyny for a second, because it's STILL here. Why does every female character in a Michael Bay movie need to be uncomfortably objectified? There are two women in this film, played by child-actor Isabela Moner, and Laura Haddock, and both have to constantly answer the unnecessary question of "Why don't you have a boyfriend?" Poor Laura Haddock is forced into a very unnecessary and uncomfortable love story with Mark Wahlberg that was actually unwatchable at points. Of course she's supposed to be the smartest person in the room at all times, with multiple degrees from Cambridge and Oxford, but of COURSE the only thing that matters is, "Where's your boyfriend?" SMH, Michael Bay. SMH. Also, what the heck was going on with the editing and aspect ratios? There are THREE different aspect ratios in this film, and they are all interspersed throughout the film. Sometimes these aspect ratios would change for a SINGLE shot. It was very distracting. And, of course, the CGI was terrible. In short, this is the worst film of the franchise to date and the worst film I have seen in 2017 so far. AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE.
My Number: 2/10 just because when she wasn't uncomfortably objectified (and actually in the movie because Bay forgets about her for around 90 minutes) Isabela Moner was pretty bad-ass. And the 2 minute fight scene between Bee and Prime was cool.
Quick Reviews, Spring 2017: Beauty and the Beast, Ghosts in the Shell, Life, The Fate of the Furious, Free FireRead Now
Beauty and the Beast
Beauty and the Beast (2017): An adaptation of the fairy tale about a monstrous-looking prince and a young woman who fall in love.
I'm not going to lie: I'm impressed. So far many of these live action Disney adaptations have left me thinking, "Is this really necessary?" and some of the "alternative" adaptations, like Maleficent, have left much to be desired. Well, that finally ends today: Beauty and the Beast is a surprisingly good film that still (mostly) manages to capture the magic of its source material. While it's not perfect, (looks at Luke Evans and some of the excess musical numbers) I still found myself humming along to some of its iconic scenes. I haven't seen the original film in years, so I think this definitely impacted my opinion of the film because I had forgotten just how good a story this is, but still. As far as Disney's (still unnecessary) live adaption of its classic fairy tales go, this is easily the best one yet. The CGI was excellent, (it needed to be with the talking furniture) and the editing crew showed up and really added to the movie with several well-cut numbers. These are things I have found lacking in several other iterations: if you create a well-rounded movie and don't just focus on retelling the story in as generic a way as possible, suddenly the film doesn't feel like a straight-up cash-grab. It's amazing how that works! If you've been holding out on these Disney reboots, Beauty and the Beast may be the one (and really only one so far) worth checking out.
My Number: 7/10 Good
Ghosts in the Shell
Ghosts in the Shell (2017): In the near future, Major is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world's most dangerous criminals.
Well, I must appreciate a film that goes all in on a premise. Ghosts in the Shell is a remake of a 1995 animated film by the same name, a film which has inspired multiple sequels and even a TV show since its release. And, while I appreciate a film going all-in on a premise and doing a great job with "immersion," this film does it so well (minus the fact that there's no people in this giant, sprawling city) that it will likely turn off most mainstream American audiences. There were many points throughout the film where I had to ask myself, "what just happened?" and before I had time to figure it out we were onto the next thing. So, eventually I just turned my brain off and enjoyed the visuals of this film. No doubt the strongest part of this film, the visuals here are breathtaking. Whether it be skyscraper-tall advertisements, or an invisible Scarlett Johansson taking on a bad guy in water, this film excelled at looking absolutely gorgeous. Sadly, though, great visuals does not equate to a great film, and the second you try and figure out just what the heck is going on in this story...you'll be lost. I went with some friends whom are super into this franchise and they seemed to mostly enjoy it, so if you're a fan of the originals you'll probably like this one, but for everyone else? If you like sci-fi and wanna look at something pretty check it out, if not consider seeing Life instead to get your sci-fi on.
My Number: 5/10 Average
Life (2017): A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form, that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.
This movie is surprisingly fun. While it borrows heavily from other films, I still had a good time watching it. The movie throws you right into the thick of it with a thrilling opening sequence like the opening of Gravity, and as the creature develops it became more and more like the Xenomorph from Alien. Actually, this film might as well be called Alien 2.0. But that's not necessarily a bad thing! The tension of this film was unreal-it may only be a 104 minute film but it felt like 404 minutes long..... And yet thanks to the slow boil to start and a few breaks throughout the "everything is going wrong" sections of the second and third act, I actually really cared for these characters. Far more so than anyone outside of Ripley in the original Alien. The creature itself is also fascinating-they take the idea of the "perfect organism" and multiply it by about 1,000, creating a creature that is basically indestructible. As fascinating as it is, this may be the biggest misstep of the entire film-if the alien creature is actually invincible, you know what the ultimate outcome will be. And believe me: exactly what you think will happen, happens here. But that really didn't matter to me. The journey getting to the final outcome was still a fun one, and thanks to some great acting from Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson, (FINALLY she has a good role to tout following her breakout performance in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation) I had more than enough fun on the ride. Just......don't expect too much from this.
My Number: 6.5/10 Almost Good
The Fate of the furious
The Fate of the Furious (2017): When a mysterious woman seduces Dom into the world of terrorism and a betrayal of those closest to him, the crew face trials that will test them as never before.
America's favorite series to hate is BACK with another big stupid action movie that is just so much fun to watch. Yes, I LOVE this franchise.....get over it. Even though this installment does not quite reach the pinnacle that was Furious 7, (I mean c'mon-you really want us to believe that Vin Diesel is working with the bad guys) its calling card - the spectacle of it all - is still an absolute blast to watch. The banter between characters like The Rock and Jason Statham is awesome and hilarious, the effects are great, and the cars are still sexy AF. Charlize Theron is the big addition here. She is clearly a villain this franchise is all-in on, and I can see why - she killed it as Cipher. Though.... her conclusion, admittedly, was pretty weak. This film also struggled to figure out how to write out Paul Walker without actually writing him out. The motivations of Diesel's character is the big loser with this - they basically write in a motivation for him that is not earned in any way. And they ask Vin Diesel to act too, which can be something if not hilarious to watch. Though he does his best! He clearly tried, so A for effort. But you don't go to a film like this expecting a good story! Heck you shouldn't even expect great acting. You go for the spectacle, and it's here and bigger and better than ever. I'll just say this when it comes to the set pieces: zombie cars, man. Freaking zombie cars. Now don't you wanna go see it? Plus, you know, a submarine chase scene which is easily worth the cost of admission alone. So, ultimately, if you go into this movie ready to turn the brain off and have a good time, you're gonna have a good time. But in terms of getting into the series? Start with Furious 7.
My Number: 7/10 Good
Free Fire (2017): Set in Boston in 1978, a meeting in a deserted warehouse between two gangs turns into a shootout and a game of survival.
Following their massive 2016 in which they took home Best Picture for Moonlight, this time the hottest studio in Hollywood right now, A24, teams up with the great Martin Scorsese and a cavalcade of stars to bring us Free Fire. What could possibly go wrong, right? How could a film starring Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley, and Armie Hammer be dull? Well, by forgetting the definition of the term "pacing." A film like this should be flying through it's 90 minute run time, right? Not here! Free Fire is an absolute drag, turning basically 20 minutes of action into 90 minutes. While there are some great one-liners, and Armie Hammer in particular is FANTASTIC, there's just not enough content here to make this one truly enjoyable. For a film where everyone has a gun, there's an awful lot of useless talking! Not to mention basically the entire establishing of these characters was a waste of time - none of them have remotely interesting back stories. And some of the ideas flirted with in the fantastic trailer, like characters forgetting which side they're on, are not investigated AT ALL. This basically just turns into an overlong Mexican standoff, with Brie Larson being the only person to have something even resembling a character arc. So, at the end of the day, while there is a good premise here, and the actors involved are clearly having fun with their roles, poor writing and pacing sinks this film from being the best it could be. For a studio that has dropped some of the best films of recent years, it's hard for me to believe they ever let this one out the door.
My Number: 4/10 Below Average
Quick Reviews, Winter 2017: Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Our Friends), Get Out, Logan, Kong: Skull Island, The Belko ExperimentRead Now
Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Our Friends)
Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Our Friends) (2017): A documentary on the band on stage at Let Bataclan during the attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015.
HBO and Collin Hanks are the first to take a crack at a documentary on the band Eagles of Death Metal after their names were immortalized by being on stage at Le Bataclan during the Paris terrorist attacks in November of 2015. As much as I was emotionally moved by this documentary, and as much as it tells a story that needs to be told, I also believe its release comes too close to the events themselves to be of any real value. I think we are still several years away from the true documentary on Eagles of Death Metal and these terrorist attacks. However, this is still an excellent documentary that does nail showing the raw emotions still felt by the band. The story is told primarily through the eyes of frontman Jesse Hughes and his best friend and Queens of the Stone Age frontman Joshua Homme. These are two of my favorite bands, so it didn't take much for this retelling to pluck my heartstrings. As I said easily the best thing this documentary does is capture the raw emotions that are still being felt by Hughes and Homme and everyone else in the band, but it does also glance over some of the more incendiary remarks made by Hughes since the attacks. So, ultimately, while this is a good first attempt at retelling this traumatic story, its failures to truly encapsulate the event and explain the ramifications because of how quickly its being told hold it back from being the documentary that this band and the victims of these attacks truly deserve.
My Number: 7/10
Get Out (2017): A young African-American man visits his Caucasian girlfriend's mysterious family estate.
Ok. Let me get this out of the way: Get Out is a good film, but it's definitely being over-hyped. It falls just short of greatness for me because of it's massively predictable script. Now, I know with this genre an unpredictable story is hard to come by, but I shouldn't be able to guess what's going to happen before the movie even starts. BUT. Besides for the fact that this slasher goes exactly where you expect it to go, I still had a grand ol' time on the journey. There are a lot of genuinely creepy moments during this film, and it's well-acted. Actress Betty Gabriel stole the show for me as Georgina. Man is that role a far cry from her role in The Purge: Election Year. There's some good editing that takes place here as well, and all of this is sprinkled over a very smart and on point statement on systemic racism today. There's a moment in the final few minutes of the film that was as devastating as it was entirely because of race, and it was, for me, the most thought-provoking moment of the film. But if you're into slasher flicks, this is certainly the best one to come out since The Purge: Election Year, but hopefully it will not be the best slasher film of 2016. You're still in for a good time, (films like this are exactly why I love seeing a film in a dark movie theater with a bunch of strangers) but it's certainly not a 99% on Rotten Tomatoes kind of film. Temper your expectations. Slightly.
Also I don't know if I'm ever going to be able to look at milk the same way again.
My Number: 7/10
Logan (2017): In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X in a hide out on the Mexican border. But Logan's attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are up-ended when a young mutant arrives, being pursued by dark forces.
Ahhhhh it's good to see a good X-Men movie again. Seriously, guys, what happened last year with X-Men: Apocalypse? Anyway, Logan is a grittier superhero movie than we're used to, and is the further development of distributors finally embracing the idea of a hard-R superhero movie. There is a LOT of blood in this, which is nice to see! It's nice to see a superhero movie where the hero kills someone and it actually looks somewhat realistic. There's also a lot of curse words, though some of them were definitely unnecessary. However the central calling card of this film is the Wolverine and Laura, played by the wonderful Dafne Keen. While Laura's story arc is one of the weaker parts of the film, it's still well executed, and her relationship with Wolverine leads to a climax that will emotionally devastate you. It is the best moment of the film, and it may even be a contender for one of my favorite movie moments of 2017. Patrick Stewart is also excellent in this, reprising his role as Dr. Charles Xavier one last time as well. Outside of some liberties taken with Laura's character, I did have some quarrels with the third act I won't mention here, but it certainly centered around the film's shameless attempts to setup future installments with a new generation of X-Men. Despite it's troubles though, this is a strong installment for the franchise and brings back memories of Days of Future Past, which is my personal favorite superhero film not named The Dark Knight. Any film that can be used in the same sentence as that one is pretty dang good in my book.
My Number: 7.5/10
Kong: Skull Island
Kong: Skull Island (2017): A team of scientists explore an uncharted island in the Pacific, venturing into the domain of the mighty Kong, and must fight to escape a primal Eden.
Feels like the summer blockbusters are coming earlier and earlier every year, eh? Logan kicked it off just one week after the Oscars and now Kong: Skull Island is here. It's odd, too: this film is the quintessential summer blockbuster. It's a big, stupid action movie that would be perfect to go see on a hot summer's day to escape the heat and turn the brain off for 2 hours. Don't get me wrong....as much as this film was trying to be something more than a popcorn flick, it accidentally does the popcorn flick quite well. If you go into this film wanting to see a giant gorilla fight giant lizards with shameless one-liners from the cast, that's what you're going to get. As well as a chance to see Loki and the future Captain Marvel on screen together. (Don't worry....they're the best part of this movie) But don't go into it looking for anything other than that because man....this script is a total disaster. From the WB-mandated surface level pop song every two freaking seconds, to the film changing it's tone on a dime multiple times a minute, this script may find itself receiving the "Worst script of 2017 award." I just gave up after a while, and instead had a blast watching a giant gorilla beat stuff up. This is by no means a good movie, (heck I may even have to label it a guilty pleasure at some point) but if you go into it ready to turn the brain off and have a good time....(even at the film's expense) you're gonna have a good time.
My Number: 5/10
The Belko Experiment
The Belko Experiment (2017): The IMDB description is too long. This movie sucks.
What the heck happened here? This movie is an absolute trainwreck. It has shallow characters, incredibly slow pacing, (despite its brief 88 minute runtime) and is overall just messy. This film was written by James Gunn too! The dude is the brainchild of what I think is the best MCU film, Guardians of the Galaxy, so I know he can create some fleshed out characters. What was this? Did he write this script just for the paycheck? So many characters have no real arcs, and the only one that does (Danny, and she's not even a main character) has the most unsatisfactory conclusion outside of the actual ending imaginable. Oh ya! And at the end, when we get the whole "What was it all for" discussion, the response is a shrug and the ol' "We're not at liberty to say" excuse. No. F U. Such lazy storytelling. Also most of this film is just a straight ripoff of the great The Cabin in the Woods, right down to them having an eerily similar pothead providing "comedic relief." Only this time the pothead does not have the coolest bong ever. There is a loooooooot of blood and gore in this film, (fair warning-it was a little much for even my tastes) and even if it is accidental and surrounded by a lot of stereotypes, the idea itself is pretty interesting. So I guuuuuuuuuess it has that. But Jesus is this script a disaster. There aren't nearly enough slasher flicks out there, so our pickings are slim, but I would say don't even bother with this one. Watch The Cabin in the Woods and any of The Purge films again. They're all better than this one. Yes, even the first Purge film. This movie sucks.
My Number: 2/10
Quick Reviews, End of 2016, Part 3: The Founder, Edge Of Seventeen, Bleed for this, American Honey, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime WalkRead Now
The Founder (2016): The story of Ray Kroc, a salesman who turned two brothers' innovative fast food eatery, McDonald's, into one of the biggest restaurant businesses in the world with a combination of ambition, persistence, and ruthlessness.
Well. Let's talk about this movie, ya? Because....as interesting a story as it is, The Founder suffers from one tremendous problem. A problem which torpedoes the entire film: it glorifies the main character. Ray Kroc is a despicable man, and this film spends way too much time singing his praises. Yes, he created the empire now known as McDonald's, but he destroyed a lot of lives along the way. An easy example of this misstep with the film is with the female characters. Laura Dern is his initial wife, (and grossly miscast, but that's a whole other thing) and about halfway through, he divorces her. No rhyme or reason. Just....sitting at the dinner table, and, "I want a divorce." Then, later on, we discover that he's remarried to a woman who was clearly married to someone else during the film. No mention of how that came to be. It just....happens. This film honestly would've been infinitely more interesting had it been told from Dick and Mac McDonald's standpoints versus Ray's. You really have to feel for them: they are very similar to the Loving couple who paved the way for marriage equality with Loving v. Virginia in that they stood at the precipice of fame, glory, and immortality and walked away because they didn't want it. There's no denying that this is an interesting story-after all, today McDonald's is one of the biggest companies in the world. However, we're still be waiting for it to be told right: from the perspective of the McDonald's brothers.
My Number: 4/10
The Edge of Seventeen
The Edge of Seventeen (2016): High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother.
I'm such a sucker for a good coming-of-age film. And The Edge of Seventeen is certainly that. While there are certainly problems with this film-most notably it presents its solution pretty much immediately then you go through the drama of the film-it was still a good time. Oh and Kyra Sedgwick is totally miscast. Sorry. However! Woody Harrelson makes up for it in one of the best roles I've seen him do, and Hailee Steinfeld is great. If Hollywood had more respect for the coming-of-age flick, she might've had another Oscar nomination. This is easily her best performance since True Grit! Beyond that though, this film is an engaging story (even though it shares a lot of similarities with other coming-of-age films) that I was totally in on. Oh, and there's a great soundtrack! As usual. No Perks of Being a Wallflower level good, but still good. I just wish the solutions to Steinfeld's problems weren't presented so early on and peppered in throughout the film. But really. EASILY the best parts of this film are the exchanges between Steinfeld and Harrelson. I'm sure someone in Hollywood will recognize their chemistry and build a film around having those two as the leads. I would have had no problem watching an entire film of just the two of them snarking off to each other in a classroom. This film is worth a watch for the two of them alone, but if you like the coming-of-age flick, there's no doubt this one was the best one of 2016.
My Number: 7/10
Bleed for this
Bleed for This (2016): The inspirational story of World Champion Boxer Vinny Pazienza who, after a near fatal car crash which left him not knowing if he'd ever walk again, made one of sport's most incredible comebacks.
Ahhhh yet another polarizing boxing film. I can't emphasize this enough: I am a sucker for come-from-behind boxer films. Almost as much as the coming-of-age film. Don't ask me why because I can't tell you, but for whatever reason I love these! I am the guy that loved Southpaw, after all. But what makes this film so polarizing is that it's basically two separate films that are split by the car crash that nearly kills Vinny. (Played by Miles Teller) The first half of the film is a boring ripoff of literally every other standard boxing film ever, and the second half is the actual come-from-behind story. Which I enjoyed! Once we got past the crash there were several exhilarating sequences of Teller's training and him pushing himself past the limits of the human body. Unfortunately, while Miles Teller is pretty good as the lead, Aaron Eckhart is TERRIBLE as is trainer. I don't know what he's doing with this character, but GOD is he awful. There really wasn't anyone else who made a splash in this film beyond Ciaran Hinds, who had like one good scene. Everyone else.... I didn't even bother trying to figure out who's who. Vinny's got a big family in this film, and the filmmakers make little to no effort to flesh them out. Honestly this film would've been significantly better had it opened with a montage of Vinny before the accident then went straight into it, and not had Aaron Eckhart as his trainer, but beggars can't be choosers. What we get here is another average boxing flick. Just go watch Creed again.
My Number: 5/10
American Honey (2016): A teenage girl with nothing to lose joins a traveling magazine sales crew, and gets caught up in a whirlwind of hard partying, law bending and young love as she criss-crosses the Midwest with a band of misfits.
American Honey is a film that feels free. It's a very spontaneous film, and I can really respect that. It made a GREAT casting decision with its lead and complete newbie Sasha Lane, and Shia LaBeouf is even pretty good. Though he was very much Shia LaBeouf. However, it's the freedom of this film that is so liberating. However, it is also freeing to a fault-this film is kind of a scattershot of ideas and no direction. You look at another hippie film that came out in 2016, 20th Century Women, and you see a film that, while spontaneous, still has a goal. It's still trying to get somewhere. American Honey, though, feels like it has no destination. And it ends like this too-the film pretty much just cuts to black, with none of the questions it raised to the viewer answered. I mean I get why it made this decision, but c'mon! At least give us like a bit of closure! Also, there was no editing crew to speak off and thus scenes certainly dragged, and I absolutely DESPISED how this film was shot. The camera never focused on the person I actually wanted it to focus on, and it would randomly cut to things that had nothing to do with the scene because of its spontaneity. And that's why I still enjoyed this film! I can respect a film that really embraces its premise and makes itself as freeing as it can in every facet of film making. Even if it was frustrating at points, I was totally suckered into the film, and couldn't help but enjoy myself. If you identify with the whimsical crowd, move this one to the top of your list. Just behind 20th Century Women.
My Number: A deserving, but frustrating 7/10
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (2016): 19-year-old Billy Lynn is brought home for a victory tour after a harrowing Iraq battle. Through flashbacks the film shows what really happened to his squad - contrasting the realities of war with America's perceptions.
This movie sucks. Unfortunately it's only my second film from director Ang Lee (the other being Brokeback Mountain) and this one did not leave a great taste in my mouth. The film's problems start with the dialogue. Literally no one talks in real life like they do in this film, and the delivery of said dialogue by these actors is anything but great. I think the camera had something to do with this, as there was this awkward close up going on most of the time when everyone was talking. Newbie Joe Alwyn is alright, but right after seeing other newcomer Sasha Lane's performance in American Honey I can safely say I've seen far better. Additionally, this film is a tonal catastrophe. What is the objective of this film? How are we, the viewer supposed to feel? I have no clue, and it's not because we're supposed to figure things out. Oh no, this film hammers you over the head and makes its points as obvious as possible. Just....one moment we're supposed to be thinking, "Man these guys put their souls out there for us." Then the next it's, "Man everyone hates these guys. Are we supposed to be feeling that way?" And in between there are stories about Billy's sister, played by Kristin Stewart, who's easily the best part of this film with the 3 scenes she gets, and there's this story about "Should I stay or should I go?" and there's a movie deal with Jerry Jones-I mean "discount" Jerry Jones played by Steve Martin and there's this guy who is their agent but is he sleazy? I don't know. Oh wait! Doesn't matter we're moving on. See? See the problem we have here? There's way too many ideas being flown around for any of them to stick. As a result none of them do, and what you end up with is likely (or I will tell myself this) the worst film Ang Lee has ever made. Tear it down and start again.
My Number: 3/10
Quick Reviews, End of 2016, Part 2: The Neon Demon, 13th, Deepwater Horizon, Live By Night, Love & Friendship, SilenceRead Now
The Neon Demon
The Neon Demon (2016): When aspiring model Jesse moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has.
Gah this movie! I wanted to like it. Really, I did. So many people complain (and rightfully so) that creativity has been sacrificed in Hollywood at the altar of money. And if there's one word that describes The Neon Demon it's creative. It has a very creative story and tells it in a unique way. Visuals are how this story is told versus dialogue, (though there is still plenty of that) and director Nicolas Winding Refn spared no expense in this department, including some amazing lighting and absolutely breathtaking makeup. Even the editing shows up to help tell this story at times. I loved that! But its visual story is also its downfall. Elle Fanning's character is a HUGE swing and a miss as she makes far too many jumps in character for me to follow. One second she's a totally innocent girl trying to make friends and the next she's pushing away her boyfriend to get ahead. The supporting cast makes some inexplicable jumps in character too, with only Abbey Lee's character remaining consistent. While all these characters are well acted, (this may be the best performance I've seen from Jena Malone) there were simply too many "Wait, what?" moments for me to truly love this film. As much as I love creativity and originality, it's also a two-way street.
My Number: 5.5/10
13th (2016): An in-depth look at the prison system in the United States and how it reveals the nation's history of racial inequality.
Ava DuVernay can do no wrong. Yet another eye-opening film that exposes the terrible systemic racism that exists in this country, 13th is a harrowing documentary. Told entirely through interviews, 13th explores how a simple provision in the 13th Amendment opened the door to atrocities like Jim Crow or the "War on Drugs" to our modern (and messed up) prison system. What is truly fascinating with this film is that it does actually go into the "other side" of these issues. For example, when it highlights the negative effect ALEC has had on our prison system, (ALEC is something, by the way) it actually shows an interview of a spokesperson from ALEC. Because DuVernay's crew actually reached out to ALEC for an interview and they responded. However, when the consequences of their actions are shown, it really goes to show just how ridiculous their defenses are. This is one of the best documentaries I've seen in a long time, and it is worthy of a watch from anyone who asks the question, "Why do Black Lives Matter?" Seriously. Go see it. Just a few missteps in the editing department keep it from a perfect score, but for most people that won't matter. This is available to watch on Netflix right now, so you have no excuse not to watch it. Doooooo it.
My Number: 9/10
Deepwater Horizon (2016): A dramatization of the April 2010 disaster, when the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon exploded and created the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
You know, I wanted to really like this movie. After all my interest in it was spiked by seeing Peter Berg's other 2016 film Patriot's Day, and this was the one nominated for Oscars and not the other, so I figured that I must be better. Well.....it's not. While it's certainly quite the spectacle, and there is a fair share of naturally dramatic events including one film-made one towards the end between Wahlberg and Rodriguez that was EASILY the best moment in the film, but it also had a lot of problems. Unfortunately, these problems outweigh the good in my opinion. The problems start, surprisingly, with the effects. I thought the effects were pretty corny. I don't know, maybe I'm just so used to CGI that I would assume something like this was all CGI, but the fire throughout this film looked very fake. Combine that with the dark setting and the oil and everything on everyone's faces, and I had absolutely no idea what was going on with anyone short of Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Gina Rodriguez, and John Malkovich. That's.....not what you want to have happen in your film. I don't know. Maybe I should've seen it in theaters. Might have been more coherent then. But as it is I had no idea what was happening to anyone and what was happening where other than EXPLOSIONS all throughout the disaster sequence. Even though the final moments between Wahlberg and Rodriguez were emotional, it was not enough to save it. Oh, and can we PLEASE give Kate Hudson more to do than just being "the wife?" Seriously....when will these shallow roles for actresses end??
My Number: 4/10
Live By Night
Live By Night (2016): A group of Boston-bred gangsters set up shop in balmy Florida during the Prohibition era, facing off against the competition and the Ku Klux Klan.
This movie is TERRIBLE. The biggest problem with it is that it feels like a bunch of movies in one. As a result, the film struggles to find an identity throughout its 129 minute run-time and is simply a missed opportunity. There were some interesting bits: most notably Elle Fanning's role as a Hollywood-bound girl turned drug addict turned fundamentalist preacher, but the film doesn't spend anywhere near enough time with this idea to make it resonate. Fanning gets basically two scenes to flesh out her character, and that's simply not enough. Affleck is basically playing his character from The Town, which here is very out of place: he's actually kind of bad in this film. His character's arc isn't really that interesting, and his decent from dignified bootlegger to gangster has been rehashed far better a million times before. Rather than taking an interesting route, like with Fanning's character, Affleck (who also wrote and directed the film) seems totally content with making his film feel like every other gangster film. While he may be content with that, no one else wants to see "just another gangster movie," and as a result this movie deservedly tanked. It also caps off one of the worst years in recent memory for Warner Brothers, who will only see Sully and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them receive any sort of Oscar buzz (three nominations total between them) out of the 18 high-profile films they dropped in 2016. Just watch Goodfellas again instead of this travesty.
My Number: 3/10 Bad (And it's a 3 only for Elle Fanning and the set design)
Love & Friendship
Love & Friendship (2016): Lady Susan Vernon takes up temporary residence at her in-laws' estate and, while there, is determined to be a matchmaker for her daughter Frederica -- and herself too, naturally.
OH MY GOD THIS MOVIE IS AWESOME. Just needed to blurt that out real fast. Seriously. Make the time to see this film. It is hilarious for the first two acts of the film, then it takes an extreme turn to the dramatic for the final act. Oh my God did this film go from hilarious comedy to gripping drama on a DIME. It took me completely by surprise. I was surprised because the film stealthily laid the foundation for the third act, and then sprung it into action. I was hooked. In addition to an amazing story, Kate Beckinsale is absolutely INCREDIBLE as the lead. This film rests on her shoulders, and she puts in one of the best performances of 2016. While the rest of the cast was pretty much invisible, that was ok because Beckinsale certainly carried her weight. Additionally, the film had a marvelous set design and some great costumes. Don't know why this didn't receive a Makeup and Hairstyling nomination but that category makes no sense as it is so whatever. Ultimately, I give this film a strong recommendation because of its humor, its gripping narrative, and a massively underrated performance from Kate Beckinsale. If you're a fan of films that take place in Early Modern Britain, you need to move this film to the top of the list. Just a couple of minor missteps in the final act with Beckinsale's character keep this one from receiving a perfect score.
My Number: 9/10
Silence (2016): Two priests travel to Japan in an attempt to locate their mentor and propagate Catholicism.
Martin Scorsese can do no wrong. While the first half of this 161 minute film is a little slow, the second half is an exceptional bit of film making from my single favorite director in the business. Scorsese uses the namesake, silence, to a bone-chilling effect and makes for one of the most harrowing moments in film I've seen all year. That said, it does take over two hours to get to that point, and I think a lot of people will be somewhat bored with the journey to get there. The film had this weird haze throughout the first half dominating many shots that I'm sure served an artistic purpose, but I was not a huge fan of it. Mostly because when there wasn't haze surrounding any given shot the film looked absolutely gorgeous. Rodrigo Prieto, one of Hollywood's great cinematographers, shot this film and did a marvelous job when there wasn't that weird haze. I mean overall it's great watching a film like this from a master filmmaker because you know there's an artistic purpose for how every shot is framed and portrayed. Additionally no one is better at utilizing the art of silence than Scorsese and this film further punctuates that point. Absolutely fantastic sound design. And man are the last 45 minutes great! Additionally Andrew Garfield is outstanding in this film. I think he should've been nominated for this performance over Hacksaw Ridge, but that just goes to show just how great a year Garfield had. However Adam Driver's character did not receive the same amount of attention Garfield's did, which is quite a shame. At the end of the day, there's no doubt this film is well worth your time if you're a fan of Martin Scorsese like I am. But it's definitely not for everyone. The Irishman can't come soon enough!
My Number: 7/10
Quick Reviews, End of 2016, Part 1: Christine, Zootopia, Snowden, The Lobster, Batman: The Killing JokeRead Now
Hey guys! I do my best to see and deliver as many full reviews as possible, but I can't review them all. So, here are a few quick reviews of films I missed throughout the year that deserve mentioning. Enjoy!
Christine (2016): The story of Christine Chubbuck, a 1970s TV reporter struggling with depression and professional frustrations as she tries to advance her career.
This film got to me. While I can't deny there is some slow writing, and Rebecca Hall seemed just a little bit strained, the source material for Christine was all this film needed to be great. From a broad and poignant never-ending dilemma the media has with the idea of "if it bleeds, it leads," to an intimate struggle with one's manic depression, this film certainly nailed the emotion that naturally comes with an event like this. For those who don't know, this film is based on a real life event involving the suicide of Christine Chubbuck on live television. Rebecca Hall clearly gives it her all as the lead, though I did feel she was a bit strained throughout the film. I mean, this would be a tough role for anyone to take on, and from what I hear Hall herself struggled with a bit of depression while researching and portraying the role, but she did bite off a bit more than she could chew. There's also some pretty big leaps made in the final act, though I guess that is to be expected when someone has manic depression. My biggest complaint with this film, however, is the epilogue. Director Antonio Campos and co. made the controversial decision to show the suicide, (the broadcast was recorded but has been intentionally lost to the annals of time) but afterwards we get this somewhat extended sequence with one of the supporting members of the film. If it had just cut to black after the gunshot, or given us just a couple of shots after the suicide, it would've probably found itself in the realm of greatness. Instead, it is merely good. Though it is certainly a thought-provoking way to spend a couple hours.
My Number: 7/10
Zootopia (2016): In a city of anthropomorphic animals, a rookie bunny cop and a cynical con artist fox must work together to uncover a conspiracy.
This movie is cute. I went into it knowing that it was one of the better animated features of the year, and coming out I can see why. It has a nice story, likable characters, and a CHILLING similarity to real life. While I will say the story here is typical to most Disney films-the main character is told they can't do something then they go out and do it against all odds-it's typical because it works. This time the unlikely hero is a rabbit played by an unlikely star, Ginnifer Goodwin, and her sidekick is a fox played wonderfully by Jason Bateman. But what really got me in this film was the similarities to real life. While many of the kids might of missed some of these hints, Disney was clearly trying to open the eyes of the parents throughout the film as the election of a certain someone drew near. While it's not a Frozen kind of game-changer, Zootopia is certainly another strong entry in what is undoubtedly another Disney revival. I just wish their live action films were as good. C'mon Beauty and the Beast!
My Number: 8/10
Snowden (2016): The NSA's illegal surveillance techniques are leaked to the public by one of the agency's employees, Edward Snowden, in the form of thousands of classified documents distributed to the press.
Do yourself a favor. Watch Citizenfour for the story of Snowden. While this film is fine, it definitely lacks the power and grace that came with Citizenfour. I think director Oliver Stone is mostly to blame here, as he really tries too hard to make the movie "dramatic." Even though it doesn't need to be at all. There were also some odd creative choices, like recreating shots of Citizenfour but with the actors of this film. That was quite bizarre, and really distracting, since the documentary just came out 2 years ago. That said, I still enjoyed learning more about Snowden and the life he had before becoming a whistle-blower. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is fine in the main role, but he is certainly outplayed by his on-screen counterpart, Shailene Woodley. While she has pretty limited screen time, she definitely makes the most of it. But overall my biggest fault with this film is how it fails to escape the shadow of Citizenfour. It is far too soon to be making a drama about this event, and that really detracts from the overall experience. The film also didn't dive much into Snowden's life in Moscow. I would imagine he's keeping that pretty secret, but in the end titles the film told us that his girlfriend (Woodley) moved out to Moscow to be with him, which I think we can all admit is pretty important information. Why wasn't there a scene of her flying out to Moscow? Or of her at least being with him out in Moscow? Anything at all? Why is an end title card telling us this? Talk about a swing and a miss. And that just about sums up 2016's Snowden film. A swing and a miss. It will not be Hollywood's last attempt at recreating these events so hopefully they'll do better next time.
My Number: 5/10
The Lobster (2016): In a dystopian near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods.
My God. What a film. The Lobster is a film that is rather hard to describe with words. It is a crazy and outlandish film that owns its premise, and it never hesitates to "go there." Ultimately, it was a little too much for my tastes, but I cannot deny its creativity. At the heart of the film is a brilliant, dead-pan performance from Colin Farrell, who really puts in one of the best performances of his career in this film. The movie also features a stellar supporting cast that includes Bond stars Ben Whishaw and Lea Seydoux, and another hilarious performance from John C. Reilly. The movie had me laughing from start to finish, but it also delivers a fairly poignant message about love. I was quite impressed by the themes going through this film, I just couldn't buy all of the rules and motivations of certain characters. Particularly the motivations of Lea Seydoux. (Great as she was) At the end of the day, if you like pure creativity there may not be a better film to see from 2016 than this. However it's definitely not for everyone, including myself, and that certainly brings the film down a little bit. I think my biggest issue with this film was that it created a set of rules for its universe that didn't necessarily make sense. As the film progressed, and as Lea Seydoux's camp was introduced, these rules made even less sense, and that just brought the viewing experience down for me a bit. But it's still worth the watch for its pure creativity and for Colin Farrell.
My Number: 7/10
Batman: The Killing Joke
Batman: The Killing Joke (2016): As Batman hunts for the escaped Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime attacks the Gordon family to prove a diabolical point mirroring his own fall into madness.
So this is my first real crack at the DC animated universe, though I've heard nothing but good things to this point. I also heard that this new comic series from DC was highly anticipated, and this film was supposed to restart the DC animated universe in a big way. However, will it actually do any of those things? I say no. I was HUGELY disappointed by this film. While there are some very dark themes throughout its short 76 minute run time, the calling card for this film is Mark Hamill returning to play his iconic Joker one more time. But this is where the film falters in a big way. It attempts to give The Joker a backstory, but this backstory is very shallow and totally unbelievable. I mean, it's just really lazy! Heath Ledger's Joker's backstory is more engaging than this, and all we get on that is a couple of cut scenes. Overall, the writing is what kills this film, despite some excellent voice-overs. I mean man is it great to hear Mark Hamill voice The Joker once more, but his boring and unbelievable backstory, which was supposed to be the centerpiece of the film, proves to be his undoing. Just watch The Dark Knight again.
My Number: 3/10
Art at its most Abstract
Anomalisa (2015): A man crippled by the mundanity of his life experiences something out of the ordinary.
What a unique film. Anomalisa is unlike anything else you'll see this year. After all for starters this film is filmed in stock-motion animation. Actually, the story of even how this film was made is fantastic, featuring a production cycle of several years. This film was made with a painstaking attention to detail, and you can really see the love pouring through in every scene. It is literally impossible to hate this film, but when you add an incredible story of normality versus anomalies it makes this film one of the best of the year without a doubt, and easily the best animated film of 2015. You also have great voice performances from the leads David Thewlis and Jennifer Jason Leigh, and we can't forget the GREAT artistic choice of having Tom Noonan voice everyone else in this film. And there are a lot of other characters in this film. There are a few problems here, but they are certainly not enough to detract from one of the most unique films of 2015. It's short, coming in at only 90 minutes, and I STRONGLY recommend checking it out and seeing it for yourself. Don't take my word for it, but this film is incredible.
The Verdict: 9/10 Damn Near Perfect
A culinary disaster
Burnt (2015): Adam Jones is a chef who destroyed his career with drugs and diva behavior. He cleans up and returns to London, determined to redeem himself by spearheading a top restaurant that can gain three Michelin stars.
Wow. Talk about overdone. 2015 has not been a good year for Bradley Cooper. Burnt is no exception. Because here we are with another "white guy finds redemption" film featuring an absolutely despicable lead character how's arc is laughably not earned by the end when, of course, everything ultimately goes right for him. The main problem here lies in the fact that Cooper's character is simply just unlikable, so its very hard to root for him as he finds his undeserving redemption. Couple that with a supporting cast who's all over the place in terms of their performances, and you have an over-seasoned, overcooked mess featuring a (wait for it) burnt steak at its center. Boy you could say I'm.....on fire with all these food puns right now. I think I just conjured up a better dish than this film does, despite all the awesome food porn throughout its 101 minute runtime. Go watch Chef again instead. It is on Netflix right now and if you haven't seen it you should change that right now.
The Verdict: 3/10 Bad
An important story improperly told
Concussion (2015): In Pittsburgh, accomplished pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu uncovers the truth about brain damage in football players who suffer repeated concussions in the course of normal play.
Well, I decided to give this a go. And I can see why it didn't receive any nominations. The film starts out promising, but it takes too many creative liberties with its story to be truly taken seriously. As time went on in this film, I cared less and less about this story, and that's not something you should be saying about something as important as this issue and the NFL's continued attempts of covering it up. But the main problem here is in the fact that this story is really about Dr. Bennet Omalu, a man who's presence in this entire affair is sadly vastly overblown. If only this film were more about the NFL's cover-up and not Omalu. But Omalu's presence dominates this entire film. Which, on one hand is fine since Will Smith is easily the best thing about this film, but on the other hand it's not because Omalu simply just isn't very interesting. I hope in the future this story is told again, but from the NFL's perspective. And that time please please PLEASE don't cast Luke Wilson as Roger Goodell.
The Verdict: 5/10 Average
In the Heart of the Sea
A disappointing Spectacle
In the Heart of the Sea (2015): A recounting of a New England whaling ship's sinking by a giant whale in 1820, an experience that later inspired the great novel Moby-Dick.
This film makes me sad. See I was really excited to see In the Heart of the Sea, because it was initially scheduled to be released way back in March and then Warner Brothers pushed the film back to December for no real reason. To me, this lack of reason could have only meant that someone at Warner Brothers thought this film was good enough to be a legitimate Oscar contender and so they wanted the film to be released towards the end of the year. That means it must be good, right? NOPE. Not at all. Whoever thought this was a legitimate Oscar contender needs to be fired. This film tanked because of its release date, but had it been released back in March it would've been competing against other box office disasters like Seventh Son and Jupiter Ascending instead of coming out one week before that film called....um.....what's its name? Oh right. Star Wars. So why does this film suck? Well, let's start with the accents. Lol the accents in this film are hilarious and all over the place, least of which is Chris Hemsworth. His Boston accent is essentially just a deeper Thor voice. Actually, I had more fun pretending Hemsworth was Thor in this film than anything else, because the "story" surrounding these guys is paper thin, to put it lightly. While the film looks great, and the CGI whale was great to behold, just about every other aspect of this film was terrible. Ron Howard came back in a big way with 2013's Rush, but there's no doubt this film is a huge step backward for him. Go watch Rush again if you need a Ron Howard fix. (Though why would you need a Ron Howard fix....?)
The Verdict: 4/10 Below Average
Messy But Fun
Legend (2015): The film tells the story of the identical twin gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray, two of the most notorious criminals in British history, and their organised crime empire in the East End of London during the 1960s.
Well, the biggest takeaway I had from Legend is that Goodfellas is one of the greatest films ever made. As much as I love gangster films, it's almost impossible for any film of the genre nowadays to break out of the shadow of Martin Scorsese's masterpiece, and when Legend wasn't throwing as many ideas against the wall as it possibly could, it was paying homage to Goodfellas to the point that it just felt like.....wait for it.....a British Goodfellas. Wooooo! But that certainly isn't a bad thing. This film was still fun to watch at points, though at 132 minutes it was way too long. Additionally, the music choices (which certainly emulated Goodfellas) were extremely obvious, and did nothing more than reiterate what we were seeing on screen at that moment. You gotta be smarter with your musical cues, guys. However, Tom Hardy was fantastic. Easily the best part of this film, Tom Hardy is pretty much the only reason anyone should see this film, though it was nice to see Emily Browning put in the best performance of her career, (though that is certainly damning with feint praise given her career) and her character actually had a bit of depth. Just a bit, but given the fact that most of the films recently the women have just had generic "love interest" roles I have to praise Legend for at least giving its primary female character some substance. Ultimately, while this film is incredibly messy from a cognitive standpoint, it was still an absolute blast to see two Tom Hardys on the screen at the same time.
The Verdict: 6/10 Above Average.
Suffragette (2015): The foot soldiers of the early feminist movement, women who were forced underground to pursue a dangerous game of cat and mouse with an increasingly brutal State.
I liked Suffragette. It was a fine film, but it suffered from many problems. First off, the story was a tonal mess. It struggled to find its identity, particularly with its main character, who was in more of a "witness to every major event in the suffragette movement" position than actually in the suffragette movement, and as a result I found it really hard to buy the main character. This character was also played by Carey Mulligan, who I think is one of the most overrated actresses out there right now. She's....alright, but this film really fell on her shoulders and as much as she tried to hold it up....she couldn't. That said, she had a great supporting cast around her, led by Helena Bonham Carter and Ben Whishaw. Meryl Streep also showed up for essentially one scene, but she too was excellent in that one scene, bringing all the charisma she needed to. However, the one who truly stole the show and brought out the ugly cry in me was child actor Adam Michael Dodd. Holy crap in his few scenes as the child of Whishaw and Mulligan....this kid absolutely killed it. And it's his first film too. I hope to see him again. Other than the acting there's really not much to say about this film. The production design is fine, but definitely not noteworthy until the major Derby Day scene towards the end of the film. The cinematography was aggravating, with uncomfortably close close-ups littered all throughout the film and, of course, shaky cam. But, the scene that counted at Derby Day, was shot excellently. In short, the only two reasons to watch this film are for Adam Michael Dodd (the child actor) and the Derby Day scene towards the end. Otherwise, your time is better spent watching The Big Short or Spotlight.
The Verdict: 6/10 Above Average.
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