Quick Reviews, Winter 2018 Part 2: Green Book, Welcome to Marwen, Mary Poppins Returns, Holmes & Watson, First ReformedRead Now
Welcome to Marwen
Mary Poppins Returns
Holmes & Watson
Quick Reviews, Winter 2018 Part 1: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Creed II, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Boy Erased, Robin HoodRead Now
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Quick Reviews, Fall 2018, Part 1: BlacKkKlansman, Life Itself, Bad Times at the El Royale, Mid90s, Beautiful BoyRead Now
Bad Times at the El Royale
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
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