Old Reviews (More)-2016

 

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This movie tells the story of an emotional distant and shy woman whose mother dies.  After years of taking care of her mother (as well as apparently scrounging everything that they ever came in contact with in true pack rat fashion), she finds herself attracted to a much younger man at the office where she works.  Doris then proceeds to stalk the young man, both in real life and online, while fantasizing about an improbable romance between the pair (with full on delusions where she loses track of the world around her).  After intentionally breaking the man’s relationship up, Doris attempts to seduce the young man at a Thanksgiving party.

All this works because of Sally Field.

Truthfully, I am not exaggerating too much about the story.  Hello, My Name is Doris is absolutely about an emotionally damaged woman who has just lost the mother that she lived with and cared for for years.  She cared for her mother above anything else in her life, including her own happiness.  She has a brother (Stephen Root) who is anxious to sell their family house, but Doris is having trouble getting past her emotional connection to the place.

When she meets John (Max Greenfield), Doris falls into “love” with him.  Doris does all kind of things to try and get close to him.  He sees her as a friend.

Honestly, when you look at the things, Doris truly is a stalker.  She does some very manipulative things.  The thing is though that Sally Field projects such an innocence about the character that you don’t think of her as a crazy stalker.  She is funny and charismatic and eccentric, and the movies works because of it.  Without Sally Field, Hello, My Name is Doris is not very successful.  With her, the movie is a fun time that has some good humor and interesting characters.  There are several side characters that are well used in this film including Root, Tyne Daley and Peter Gallagher.

Sally Field will turn 70 years old this year, but she brings a great energy to this film.  The scene of her dancing to the cd of Baby Goya, an electo-band, is one of the highlights of the film.  This could have been an unmitigated disaster, but Sally Field brings something special to it and truly saves the picture.

3.5 stars

 

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Earlier this year, one of our great actors passed away.  Alan Rickman died after a great career.  This was his final film.

And what a film to end on.

Eye in the Sky was a compelling, intense, dramatic, uncomfortable, emotional, breathtaking movie that I have seen in a long time.

British military have intel on three known terrorists, one of which was a former British citizen and the military was preparing for a capture mission inside the friendly nation of Kenya.  Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) was in charge of the mission and she had drones in the skies above Kenya to help pinpoint their mission.  However, a twist occurred when they discovered that there was a more immediate threat to the safety of the world than we thought.  This changed the mission from a capture to a kill.  The problem?  An innocent little girl found her way into the kill zone, making it likely that she would become collateral damage.  The struggle over what to do followed.

This was so amazing.  I was on the edge of my seat the entire film.  There may not have been a lot of action in the film, but that did not mean that it wasn’t an intense film.  The dialogue between the characters was unbelievable.  It showed how compelling drama could be, without just worrying about explosions.

The debate about what to do was difficult.  As it was happening, you were as conflicted as the characters on the screen.  As each character tried to push off the decision onto someone else, we, as the audience, were becoming frustrated.  However, it was still not an easy choice.  I wasn’t sure what I had wanted to happen.

Alan Rickman was Lt. General Frank Benson and he did a great job in this role.  With every facial expression, Rickman showed not only the frustration over the constant delays on the decision that he knew had to be made, but also the conflict brought about by the decision.

Aaron Paul played Steve Watts, the soldier who was in charge of the drone, and thought that all he had to do was manage the eye in the sky.  Little did he know that he would be responsible for delivering the missile that could cause the collateral damage.  Paul has not had a great movie role to match his brilliance from his role as Jesse on Breaking Bad, but this is that role.  He brought so much humanity to this character that could have been one note that you felt every bit of the emotional struggles that he did and you hoped, beyond hope, that he would be able to save the girl.

Helen Mirren was also great as the colonel who wanted to launch the missile, but still had that uncertainty in her eyes.  She could easily have been a villain, a cliche of the military, but she was not.  She was a human being who wanted what she wanted, but was conflicted with what she wanted to happen.  She was a complex character and you could really root for her and you understood what she did.

And there was also a hero in the film.  Barkhad Abdi (Academy Award nominee for Captain Phillips) played one of the insiders in Kenya who went out of his way to try to save the kids in the area.  He was great in the film as well.

This movie was very disturbing and tense.  You felt uncomfortable.  You felt emotion.  You worried and stressed and it was amazing.  I truly enjoyed this movie.  My emotions were shaken, tears fell from my eyes, and I was alive.  And it wasn’t just because Alan Rickman was here, using that melodic voice, for the last time.  After he was Severus Snipe and the Sheriff of Nottingham and Hans Gruber, his on-screen filmography ends as Lt. General Frank Benson.

Couldn’t be a better end.

5 stars

 

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I was not sure if the gimmick of this movie could be sustained over the entire run of a movie.  For most of the time, I think Hardcore Henry succeeds.

There is no doubt that this film sprung from the mind of a video game player.  Created in first person, much like the first person shooter games such as Doom and Grand Theft Auto, Hardcore Henry sees the world through the eyes of Henry’s POV and does not refrain from that story telling bit through the film’s run time.

Henry wakes up as a woman he does not remember is reattaching a robotic arm and leg.  The woman Estelle (Haley Bennett) tells Henry that she was his wife.  Suddenly a villainous character named Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) shows up, flashes some telekinetic powers, and sends Henry and his wife on the run.  Henry gets separated from her and meets up with Jimmy (Sharlto Copley) who is a mysterious man trying to, seemingly, help Henry.

The film is the next generation of the found footage film, just twisting this to a different level.  The first person perspective that this film boasts does drag it down at times, and there were many action scenes that were very difficult to watch because Henry was flopping all around, causing the POV to be shaky.  If you do not appreciate the shaky-cam style, then you will not like much of the action scenes in Hardcore Henry.

However, the action that you can see is amazing, bloody, and violent.  There are some extremely disturbing and creative ways to kill people in Hardcore Henry, and the action barely slows down.  There are a few scenes sprinkled in wisely to allow the audience to breathe, but they are not the focus of the film.

As I said, this is very much a video game come to the big screen and I can see where some people may be turned off by it.  I will admit that some of the film felt repetitive because of this.

Still, you definitely relate to Henry, who wakes up with no memory and starts on this adventure of discovery along with the audience.  Henry knows as much as we do about what is going on, and he learns as we do.  That connection makes some of the weaker parts of this movie more palpable.  It is actually amazing that a character who we never see or hear can be worth rooting for, but Hardcore Henry pulls that off.

There are also some definite off beat moments in Hardcore Henry, many of which are provided by Sharlito Copley.  To be perfectly honest, some of the scenes with Copley were strong and mysterious and others were ridiculous and over-the-top.  This hit-and-miss aspect hurt this character for me, though I think the pay off of exactly what was happening with him is very creative and entertaining (and…a song?).  I just found the character of Jimmy to be at the center of most of the scenes that I felt were weak.

Except of course for the villain.  Akan is a terrible villain.  He is basically a mustache-twirling villain, bent on world domination.  He did not seem to fit in the story and the telekinetic powers were jarring the first time he used them.  He reminded me very much of Tommy Wiseau’s character from The Room with his accent and some of the facial reactions he gave.  Again though, his final fight with Henry is well worth his inclusion in the film.  He could have been a considerably stronger antagonist if he had some personality.

Although, personality for the antagonist can be difficult when you are only seeing one perspective of the film so Hardcore Henry should be commended for accomplishing what they did.  There was humor included, some of it seemed to not fit the tone while other humorous bits really hit home.

Hardcore Henry is oddball enough that it has a chance to be an innovative movie that inspires other films to do something different.  It is far from perfect, but it survived a middle of the film that was just bizarre to come out as a strong action film.  This has a possibility of becoming a cult hit, though I do not think this is a movie that will find a wide spread following.  It feels like  a niche film, but it is a pretty solid niche film.

If you do not like video games or the level of violence displayed by most first person shooter games, then Hardcore Henry is not for you.  There is a ton of blood and bodies.  If you enjoy the video game world, this might be for you.

3.2 stars

 

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Let’s get this out of the way… Jake Gyllenhaal is a phenomenal actor.

However, there just felt like there was something off about his new film, Demolition.

Gyllenhaal played Davis Mitchell, an investment banker who was involved in a tragic car crash with his wife.  Davis’s wife died at the hospital and Davis goes into a strange, loss of emotions.  He writes a complaint letter to a vending machine company where he dives into his life and the tragedy surrounding him and then this letter is answered by fellow oddball Karen (Naomi Watts).  These two form a connection.  Davis also connects with Karen’s 15 year old son Chris (Judah Lewis).  This behavior leads to a conflict with his wife’s father Phil (Chris Cooper).

Davis begins to take items apart.  He takes apart his computer, a bathroom stall at work, an espresso machine.  He goes to a construction site just so he could swing a sledgehammer and destroy things.

I’m not sure what about this movie did not work for me.  The story was decent and the performances were strong, but there just felt as if there were something missing.  Perhaps I never connected with Davis the way I was supposed to have connected since he was not an enjoyable character.  Maybe I didn’t buy his reaction to his wife’s death.  Maybe I didn’t have enough of a reason to grieve for her myself, since we barely met her before she died.  Maybe Davis was just too much of a jerk.  I’m just not sure.

I felt bad for Phil, as he struggled to understand his son-in-law’s actions and tried to get past the death of his beloved daughter.  Chris Cooper does a very good job in this film, portraying the confusion over Davis’s choices while still trying to understand this tragic event.

The character of Karen was another whole thing.  I never believed in this connection she seemed to form with Davis, and she felt more like a crazy stalker than someone who could help Davis past his lack of emotions.  Her own actions truly put her sanity into question, a plot line that is dropped as the film progressed.

And… did I miss this…but who was in the station wagon that was following Davis?  Did we ever find that out and I missed it?

There are positives about Demolition, but the weird tone and strange character choices really made this feel off.  Sure, Gyllenhaal is good again, but this is nowhere near his performances from Southpaw or Nightcrawler.  His character was not very likable here, but not as well developed or written as some of his other unlikable roles.  There are many scenes where it was just Gyllenhaal wielding a sledgehammer and breaking dry wall.  Not the most exciting of concepts.

2.6 stars

 

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Some comedy actors fall into playing the exact same role in every movie they appear in.  Performers such as Adam Sandler, Kevin Hart, Michael Cera have not changed up their roles very often, choosing to stick with what has brought them success in the past.  Melissa McCarthy has fallen into this same trend and her newest film, The Boss, is no exception.

Michelle Darnell (McCarthy) is a self-made millionaire, titan of business, who is arrested and sent to prison for insider trading.  After serving her sentence, she is released, but her funds were frozen and she had nothing left.  Michelle went to her former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) for help.  While sleeping on Claire’s couch, Michelle discovers that Claire makes the greatest brownies and begins plotting her comeback.

Melissa McCarthy once again plays that unlikable and crude woman who has a heart of gold beneath the layers of rottenness.  She has played this same type of character repeatedly and it threatens to become old.  The key is that Melissa McCarthy is such a naturally funny and enjoyable presence on the screen, audiences continue to give her a break from the retread of these roles.  The character of Michelle Darnell is just the same.  You find yourself rooting for her despite being a really garbage human being.  You want to see her redeem herself and that is all because of the talent of McCarthy.

The movie is as predictable as you would expect, hitting every beat of this type of film.  Heck, even Kristen Bell’s character Claire specifically says to Michelle that she is like a cliche, pulling away once she got too close.  When one of your main characters criticizes the other one for being a cliche, there are problems with the film.

The boss is not as funny as I thought it would be.  I actually had enjoyed the trailers, laughing at them several times, but I did not find myself laughing much at the film.  That would have helped the movie tremendously.

Even though it was predictable and not as funny as I thought it might be, I was somewhat engaged as the film progressed.  Again, I think that is the general charisma of Melissa McCarthy shining through the material.

However, then the ending of the movie happened.

Holy shit.

The ending salvo of The Boss, featuring Peter Dinklage as the movie’s villain Renault, is as bad of a sequence as you are going to see on the big screen.  The movie figuratively becomes a cartoon, tossing any credibility the movie may have built up coming into this scene right out of the window.  I don’t want to spoil the scene, but let’s just say that it is as ridiculous as I have seen.

The Boss is directed by Melissa McCarthy’s husband Ben Falcone, who also directed Tammy, another of McCarthy’s bad films.  This film could have been really better than it was.  What I enjoyed most of The Boss is Melissa McCarthy.  I would love to see her do something different.

2.2 stars

 

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I was perusing YouTube and I came across a video made by Chris Stuckmann, one of my favorite movie reviewers on YouTube, for a film called Hush.  I had never heard of the film so I watched the review.  Chris really enjoyed this thriller and he revealed that this was streaming now on Netflix.  So I decided to go and watch it.

And Chris was 100% right.  This was outstanding.

The story was about a young author named Maddie (Kate Siegel) who was having trouble finishing her second novel.  Maddie lived in isolation in her home, in a secluded area.  She was isolated in another way as well.  She was mute and deaf.  She did have a friend in Sarah (Samantha Sloyan), who was a neighbor, and who had spent part of the day with Maddie.

Later, as Maddie continued to be frustrated with her inability to finish the ending of her novel, Sarah, bloodied and injured, rushed to her door, pounding hopelessly on it.  She screamed, in a vain attempt to get Maddie’s attention.  Her stalker, a man in a white mask, caught up to her and killed her.

Eventually, Maddie realized what had happened and that she was in danger.  However, the man in the mask was in no rush to get inside the house, taking his time to stalk her around her home, leaving her terrified and struggling with what to do.

This movie was just intense and kept me on the edge of my seat the entire film.  It was a great thriller/horror movie that broke all of the typical genre tropes.  Just when you thought there would be a jump scare, the film didn’t do it.  Instead, it created tension with the slow, deliberate pacing, the interesting images and the beautifully acted fear plastered across Maddie’s face.

Kate Siegel does a great job playing this seemingly weak character with a lot of intelligence and bravery.  I was rooting for her every second and I was trying to yell at my computer screen to see if my suggestions would help.  I knew she couldn’t hear me, but the film just brought that out in me.  I was engaged and I really wanted her to not fall victim to this psychos assault.

Speaking of the psycho in the mask, we really never found out any reasons for what he was doing, but we did get some subtle suggestions that this was not his first attack.  He was extremely creepy and worthy of our hate.  I so wanted him to get his.  I was running through ideas in my head on what she could do to stop him.

I didn’t expect to be this invested in the film.  Sure, I would have wanted more back story to the villain, but that is a minor complaint.  This movie was a blast from start to finish.  It was well-acted, intense and fun.  Netflix has a real winner here and I would like to thank Chris Stuckmann for the recommendation.  It made for a heck of a night.

4.6 stars

 

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There is so much here that is spectacular.

The CGI in the new live-action The Jungle Book, directed by Jon Favreau, is astonishing.  The fact that this entire movie is filmed in a studio blows my mind.  Unlike some CGI-heavy films (such as the prequels of Star Wars) which are too precise and almost too pristine, The Jungle Book looks so real with a sense of texture that you forget that you are not in an actual rain forest.

Young man-cub Mowgli (Neel Sethi) was found as an infant in the jungle by the panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley).  Bagheera took the child to the wolf pack and they raised him as one of their own.  However, the tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) has decided that Mowgli must die and he demands that the boy is given over to him.  Bagheera takes Mowgli away from the pack and planned to lead him to the man village to safety.

After being separated from Bagheera, Mowgli comes across the bear Baloo (Bill Murray), who cons the young boy into helping him get honey.

This is Neel Sethi’s debut film, and the young actor does an amazing job.  Sure there are some moments when you know he is a child actor, but the fact that he is constantly acting with nothing but a green screen to play off.  That makes it so much more incredible and inspiring.  If this actor failed to deliver, no amount of CGI would save the film.  He delivers big time.

The voice acting was near perfection.  Bill Murray was masterful as Baloo.  You could not have found a better actor to voice this iconic bear.  It was one of the best performances Bill Murray has given in years.  Idris Elba is downright frightening as Shere Khan.  Ben Kingsley is great as Bagheera.  And the casting of Christopher Walken as King Louie is pitch perfect.  These voices became these characters.  It was not Bill Murray doing a voice.  He was Baloo.  These voices blended into the CGI characters seamlessly.

There are some really tense moments in this film that had me gripping my seat.  The intensity of these scene kept me anxious and concerned for these characters, who I was engaged with.  Some of the chase scenes would drop my jaw.  And, of course, it looked just fabulous.  However, there may be some scenes that are too intense for young children so parents should consider the make up of their child before taking them to this version of the Jungle Book.  It is not the animated classic.

I will say that I felt that the song sung by Christopher Walken, which is of course classic from the original animated version, did not seem to fit.  For me, it did not feel right.  The only other song in the film was “Bear Necessities” but that one felt more natural.  Admittedly, it was awesome to hear Christopher Walken singing this song, but I think I could have done without it in the main film.  Maybe using it simply over the end credits would have made more sense to me.

That is about the only misstep in The Jungle Book.  It was constantly thrilling, dramatic and artistically rendered as you are going to get.  The voice talent was wonderful, with dialogue that was sharp and, in many times, funny (especially for Bill Murray) and the young actor is a star in the making.  Disney has been creating many of these live-action reboots of their animated movies over the last few years, and they have hit a home run with The Jungle Book.

4.8 stars

 

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Unfortunately, this is a high-level concept that goes nowhere.

Criminal stars Kevin Costner as a sociopathic killer named Jericho Stewart who is one in a million person whose brain is damaged properly for an amazing memory transfer experiment to work on.  Ryan Reynolds was a CIA operative who is killed, but he has secrets tucked away in his cerebral cortex of major importance to national security, so Gary Oldman, his boss, gets Dr. Tommy Lee Jones to forcibly operate on Cosnter without his consent.  Costner escapes from custody after the surgery and kills several people before the memories of Ryan Reynolds led to him finding Reynolds’ wife, Gal Gadot and his daughter.   Soon, Costner realizes that the memories have given him emotions and feelings and he goes about trying to help and protect Gadot and the little girl.

Yes, this plot is convoluted.  And what I wrote isn’t even the worst offender of probability.  Sure this idea could have been interesting, and Ryan Reynolds just had something pretty similar happen to him in last year’s crapfest Self/Less, but the execution was just poor and made for a long time at the theater.

There were plenty of plot holes, massive plot holes, scattered throughout this film.  So many contrived and downright silly moments that led to the predictable finish that it really wasted an opportunity that this film had to do something different and interesting.

Sure, this is a great cast, but even a top level cast can only do so much.

The story was predictable and the acting was subpar, a real sin considering how strong this cast should be.  Characters’ motivations are confused and simplistic, dialogue was dull and there were really no one to root for.  Jericho Stewart was about as unlikable of a character as you are going to find in a protagonist, but I just did not find myself rooting for him as a redemptive character.  The implanted memories cannot be the only reason why Jericho has changed, because otherwise his redemption feels hollow.  There had to be some soft part of Jericho to begin with, something that the audience had to latch on to.  Or Jericho the sociopath should have been fighting against the memories as well, actively trying to sabotage what Ryan Reynolds’ mind implants were trying to do.  Instead, there was some kind of weird amalgam of these two situations where the film wants you to accept that Reynolds’ memories are making Jericho a better person.

There was also a storyline of a missing bag of money, and the resolution of that plot part made absolutely no sense.  But making sense was not a major issue with this film.  This could have been something special or different, but it was just another dumb action movie.

It’s too bad the memories taken from Ryan Reynolds weren’t of Deadpool, because maybe that would have made this more entertaining.

2 stars

 

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I did not expect this.

I really thought that the third installment of the Barbershop series would be just a dumb comedy with a bunch of forced laughs, but it really tried to be more than that.  It went much more serious than I thought it would have gone, and it succeeded more than it failed.

I have not seen the previous Barbershop movies, and I think some of the characters in this shop probably have had more build up in those movies.  However, there were some really good characters here, not just the stereotypical characters that I had expected.  The relationship with Ice Cube’s character Calvin and his son was well done.  There was an interesting relationship with Calvin and Rashad (Common) and Rashad’s relationship with his wife Terri (Eve) felt real.  Cedric the Entertainer’s role of Eddie was good for most of the laughs of the film.

Now, I do think that there was a real lack of a throughout narrative in this film. It felt like there were six or seven plotlines involving these characters strung together using the barbershop as a central location to hash them out.  None of the stories felt important enough to call the main storyline and I think that hurt the overall movie.  I suppose you could argue that the ongoing gang trouble from the south side of Chicago where the barbershop is located would be the main arc, but there are too many other side stories that do not fit into that plot.

The best part of the movie though is the dialogue that goes on at the barbershop.  It is both funny and engaging.  Silly and substantial.  It takes not only the relationships of the characters seriously, but also deals very strongly with racism and the daily lives of African Americans living in Chicago.  I admit freely that this is not an area that I am well versed in, but listening to these characters deliver mostly powerful dialogue was extremely educational as well as engrossing.

It did feel like all of the storylines came to a happy conclusion by the end of the film, wrapped up into a nice bow.  This kind of conclusion seemed to be in contrast to the direct dialogue from earlier in the film.  I guess they just wanted a happy ending, and why should I hold that against them.  It just made it feel like a longer sitcom on television.

The laughs are minimal, but the dialogue is excellent.  I was not a big fan of Common, as he did not feel like he was a great actor and he had pretty much the same expression no matter what happened.

Still, there are many more positives than there are negatives, and this was absolutely not what I was expecting, and that is a good thing.

3.2 stars

 

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In December 1970, two of the largest personalities came together in the Oval Office of the White House for a short meeting that resulted in one of the most requested photos from the National Archives.  “The King” Elvis Presley and President Richard Nixon came face to face.  This film is the story of that meeting.

Now, to be honest, much of what happens in this “true story” has been made up because little is known about what actually happened.  That is really unimportant.  This film is magnificent.

Elvis (Michael Shannon) came to Washington with the intent purpose of getting a meeting with President Nixon (Kevin Spacey) with the idea of becoming a federal agent at large and helping stop the out-of-control drug culture of the late sixties and target subversives from derailing the country.

Nixon initially wanted no part of the meeting with the Rock and Roller, but, thanks to Elvis’s crew Jerry (Alex Pettyfer) and Sonny (Johnny Knoxville) and Nixon’s men Dwight (Evan Peters) and “Bud” (Colin Hanks), The King was able to gain admittance to the Oval Office.

The best part of this film is what had to be the best part for this film to succeed.  That is the performance of the two leading men of this film.  Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey are two acting maestros, who are not just here doing imitations.  These two juggernaut actors are infusing these two characters, who happen to be two of the most famous men in the history of the 1970s, with such gravitas and humanity, that the weird quirks on display only serve to enhance the characters.

And the quirks were on full display.  We see more of Elvis and his subsequent weirdness, but Michael Shannon does a masterful job of showing us behind the curtain of Elvis.  There were a couple of extremely touching moments where Elvis revealed an unexpected realness, showing us the young boy from Mississippi, instead of the over-the-top King of Rock-N-Roll.  Shannon was masterful in these moments and they were perfectly interspersed with the zany antics that made him Elvis.

Kevin Spacey does just as amazingly showing us the most powerful man in the world who was actually dramatically lacking in confidence and self-worth.  Seeing how easily Elvis was able to bring Nixon to his side with a few compliments really spoke loudly about the mind set of the President.  Spacey, who has been playing a fictionalize president in Netflix’s House of Cards, does not go too far with the voice, despite being a top notch impersonator, but he lets the body shape and the facial reactions tell us about Nixon.

The script of this film was funny.  The humor came organically from these two eccentric individuals (and the reactions of the people to them.  The Elvis impersonator doing his Elvis to Elvis himself without realizing that this was The King was one of the best moments of the film) and came from the poor people who were tasked to be at their side.  The secondary characters were completely loyal to these two men, and it was apparent that, despite the legit insanity that both Elvis and Nixon might as them to do, they were completely willing to do anything asked.  The relationship between Elvis and Jerry was especially touching, as they had a bond that transcended the iconic Elvis.  Their connection wasn’t about the money and the fame.  It was about two friends.

I really loved this film.  I was engaged by both Shannon and Spacey and found myself laughing out loud at the zany aspects of the story.  How accurate the specifics of the story are is unimportant.  How much is fictionalized is irrelevant.  The day that Elvis Presley met Richard Nixon is a thoroughly entertaining romp with two exceptional performers.

Thank you.  Thank you very much.

4.6 stars

 

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Triple 9 was not a terrible movie.  It had a great cast.  It just feels like it is an unremarkable movie for what it had.

Not to say that I hated this.  I did not.  In fact, there were parts that I found pretty enjoyable.  I just am not sure that I will remember anything about it by next week.

The film features a group of crooked cops who are blackmailed into doing some unspecified criminal jobs for the Russian mob.  But they are also being paid to do so, so the blackmail was not the main part.  And the second heist is something that is looking to be extremely difficult, if not impossible.  So the plan becomes to have a cop killed so the Atlanta police force would respond in full force to that, leaving the other place easier to hit.

Typing it out, the plot seems dumber than it did in the theater.

Anthony Mackie played on of the corrupt cops and he is saddled with a new partner from the good side of town, in Casey Affleck.  Affleck is the cop they plan on setting up to be killed; however, Mackie begins to have some second thoughts. Both Affleck and Mackie are solid in this film and probably my favorite part.

Norman Reedus and Aaron Paul are brothers here, effectively bringing together two of televisions greatest fan favorites in Daryl Dixon and Jesse Pinkman (from The Walking Dead and Break Bad respectfully).  Honestly, both felt like the same character that they have been playing all along and neither brought much to the story, in my opinion.

Chiwetelu Ejiofor was here as well as a criminal who brought this group together.  He also had a son with Gal Gadot, who was a sister of the Russian mob leader, Kate Winslet.  This part of the story was pretty messy, and the ending was as predictable as could be.  As soon as the concluding scene began, I knew exactly what was going to happen.  The entire Russian mob angle of this story was a weak spot.

Plus, Clifton Collins, Jr. (who played Franco) was able to get from one place to another like Jason Statham did in Furious 7.  I’m not sure if he borrowed his teleporter or what, but that dude got around.

Woody Harrelson’s character felt like many other Woody Harrelson character we have seen before, and I am not sure why he was so involved in the conclusion.  Woody felt like an after thought through most of Triple 9.

Some of the action was good.  I thought the scene where Casey Affleck and Anthony Mackie led the cops into an apartment behind a bulletproof shield was a very intense scene (though it concluded pretty questionably).  The final heist was intriguing.  There were scenes and moments here that could have made a good movie, but it does not seem to pull together into a coherent film.  Still, some of the performances were pretty good from this stellar cast, and when the film hits on all cylinders. it is a good film.  It is very uneven though.

Thinking back on Triple 9 while writing this review, I have been thinking about it more negatively than I did when I finished seeing it.  Sometimes in reflection, films are worse than you first think.  I am still recommending this, but taper your expectations.  There are good performances, but nothing that is going to be remembered in the long run.

3.2 stars

 

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I loved Egyptian mythology.  One of my first created characters was based around Egyptian mythology.  I have always been fascinated by the gods of Egypt.

Then there was this movie.

Gods of Egypt is a CGI-fest, filled with stupid characters and boring situations.  The action was average to below average, and the dialogue of the characters was ridiculously bad.  I know as I am typing this that I could have written better dialogue than what was in this movie.

We show up in Egypt as the King of Egypt, god Osiris (Bryan Brown) is getting ready to pass the mantel of leadership over to his son, Horus(Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).  Apparently, in this Egypt, Gods and humans both exist, only Gods are like double the size of the humans and bleed gold.  No reason for that bleeding thing.  Just a random trait.

Anyway, the Horus ceremony is crashed by Osiris’s brother Set (Gerard Butler), who at first makes it look like he’s there to be all supportive until he murders Osiris in front of everybody, kicks Horus’s ass, and tears out his eyes.  Horus then institutes an Egyptian world where the normals are slaves and only the wealthy have a chance to move on to the Underworld.

We also get a chance to meet our token human characters Bek (Brenton Thwaites) and Zaya (Courtney Eaton).  They are in love, but are separated first by circumstance and secondly by death.  Bek goes off to find Horus, who had been spared by Set, to have him help bring Zaya back from the dead.  They strike up a deal and an unlikely pair is formed.

Now, I have to give Jeremy Jahns credit.  Jeremy Jahns is a YouTube movie reviewer and, in his review of Gods of Egypt, he called Bek a “99 cent version of Aladdin” and he was 100% right.  That was all I could see when this character was first introduced.  I had to stop myself from singing “One Jump Ahead” when Bek first appeared.  In fact…here…VIDEO

What I mean is…good job Jeremy.  You nailed it.

Although, eventually, Bek also made me think of Iolas from the old Hercules series with Kevin Sorbo.  I don’t have a song for that reference.

Now, back to my own review.

The CGI was ok at times and, at times, was just atrocious.  There were multiple times when it was painfully obvious that these actors were standing in front of a green screen.  The entire Egypt felt fake.  It certainly in unacceptable for a major motion picture these days.

And what exactly was Geoffrey Rush doing?  Rush played Ra, the sun god and father of Osiris and Set.  And apparently, his job is to fight off some kind of giant cloud creature every day with his sun fire power.  Geoffrey Rush won an Oscar.  He certainly won’t win won for this.

Chadwick Boseman showed up as well as Thoth, God of Wisdom.  This character was the most interesting of the bunch, since there were some traits given to him.  That was nice since Boseman was the one non-white guy/girl in all of “Egypt” apparently.  I would have loved to have had a commission on the spray tan this cast used.  You would think that a movie called “Gods of Egypt” might have, you know, an Egyptian actor somewhere.  Diversity?  Not here.

Gods of Egypt really was a total flop in every way.  It had bad green screen, over dependence on CGI, laughable dialogue, forgettable characters and a stupid plot.  This feels like the perfect film for the fellows over at RiffTrax Live to take a whack at.  Their brand of humor would probably be able to skewer this film well and make it more entertaining…like Manos, Hands of Fate or Birdemic: Shock and Awe.

1.2 stars

 

 

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There is enjoyment to be had in London Has Fallen.  The key to enjoying this movie is approaching it with the correct mindset.  If you come to the theater expecting a large scale, dumb, action movie, a throwback film to the 90s action flicks, then you probably will enjoy it.

London Has Fallen reintroduces us to Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), a super stud Secret Service agent in charge of protecting the President of the United States, Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart).  These two are now friends (after the events of this movie’s predecessor, Olympus Has Fallen) and going jogging together.  However, Mike has a baby on the way and has begun to think that he needs to move on from this dangerous position.

Before he could resign, however, the death of the British Prime Minister brings world leaders from across the planet to London for a funeral.  Little does anyone know that this whole thing is a trap, orchestrated by our film’s villain Aamir Barkawi (Alon Aboutboul), to kill a bunch of leaders, especially the US President, in revenge for a drone strike that killed his daughter a few years before.

This is, of course, one of the biggest problems with the film. The story is so ridiculous that it is almost off-putting.  There is absolutely no way that any group could put together this massive of a terrorist attack on London.  These terrorists also seemed to know exactly where everyone would be and what they needed to be successful. But remember, I said this was like the old 90s dumb action movies.  Story is not a key element in that type of movie.

The key of this type of movie is having some exciting action, things blowing up, and having a hero you can root for, and Mike Banning fits that description to a tee.  Gerard Butler plays Mike Banning with a sly smirk that tells the audience that he knows what they are watching is ridiculous, but he brings them along anyway.  He has great camaraderie with Aaron Echkart as much of this film is placed on the duo’s shoulders.  Butler delivers some remarkably crappy lines of dialogue much in the same way as other 90s action heroes may (think Stallone, Van Damme, Schwarzenegger,  Willis).  Some of the lines are funny, but most are pretty campy.

Another problem of this movie was the CGI was very poorly done.  There were several instances where the poor effects were very dramatic, and even threatened to ruin the film.  The helicopter crash particularly looked to be right from video game animation.

I will say that I never felt any real tension that either Mike or President Asher would be killed, but, again, that is not needed in this type of film.  The tension is not whether or not Mike saves him, but how he does it.  And there are some good action sequences in London Has Fallen.

Morgan Freeman returns again as Vice-President Trumbull to provide some fun moments of banter with the terrorist, continuing to raise the improbability quota of the film, but it is always great to see Freeman.

In the end, London Has Fallen can be a fun time at the movies if you remember that this is not supposed to be a great film.  Shut down your brain and let the action embrace you and you might just enjoy yourself.  I liked London Has Fallen more than I thought I would despite its clear flaws as a movie.

3 stars

 

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The Other Side of the Door is a hot mess.

The Other Side of the Door stars The Walking Dead’s Lori Grimes (That is actress Sarah Wayne Callies) as Maria doing what she does best… playing a terrible, selfish mother who the audience hates.  She did it on The Walking Dead and now she is reprising this character archetype for this film.

The film is set in India, but there was so little of real Indian culture that it felt like there was no reason to have the setting be there.  The only reason was for there to be a weird temple available.

I hated Maria right away.  She was in mourning over the accidental death of her son Oliver (Logan Creran).  It was so overpowering that she attempted to commit suicide.  This, despite the fact that she had husband Michael (Jeremy Sisto) and daughter Lucy (Sofia Rosinsky) who needed her.

This character lost me right there.  She was so selfish that she didn’t care about anyone else’s grief…only hers.  And she tried to take herself away from her poor daughter.  I never really recovered from that development.

So when the “housekeeper” (I guess), who was a Hindu woman named Piki (Suchitra Pillai), tells Maria about a temple that she could go to to say her final goodbyes to her son one last time, I had already found a strong distaste for Maria.  Btw, what the hell was Piki thinking?  She had warned Maria that she could not open the door no matter what…but after seeing this ridiculous woman, how could she think she would care about anything other than what she wanted?  Silly Piki….

Before Maria had a chance to open that door that she was warned not to open (above anything else), she had some steps to do.  She had to sprinkle her son’s ashes at the temple.  One problem, her son had not been cremated.  So she had to dig up and burn the body of her son (who had drown after the car, driven by his mother, crashed into the water.  His mother, by the way, left him so she could save her daughter… that same daughter that she did not mind leaving motherless when she tried to kill herself.  UGH!).  Had the suicide attempt not been enough to make me hate this woman, seeing her dig up her son and burn him would have done it.  She did all of this without telling her husband.  All because of her own selfishness.

Of course, after she arrived at the temple and spread the ashes, she hears Oliver’s voice from the other side of the door and she can’t help herself, and she opens the door, unleashing an evil version of Oliver on her family.

I hated this movie.  I hated these characters.  I felt bad for the husband, because he is made to look like an idiot.  There were every horror movie trope available, including tons of jump scares.  The horror itself was not that horrible.  It was really lacked any subtlety.

Now, had this film really embraced the grieving mother angle and made this more psychological, maybe even making the whole “ghost” story being part of Maria’s delusion, perhaps they could have salvaged this, but they do not.  Instead, they take it exactly where you expect it to go.

It is one of the worst films so far this year.  I hated this.

1 star

 

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Disney is at it again, creating a new world of humor and adventure and sprinkling that Disney magic that has brought us so many classic animated tales.  Zootopia has stepped right in line with Big Hero 6 and Frozen and all the other iconic Disney movies.

Honestly, unlike last year’s Minions, Zootopia was a surprise.  The trailers had shown us a full scene at the DMV, but it really did not give away anything about the plot.  Whereas Minions felt like I had seen most of that movie before I actually saw it, Zootopia felt fresh and enjoyable throughout.

Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) is a bunny whose dream is to become a police officer.  However, there has never been a bunny cop before, and the odds seemed to be stacked against her.  Judy did not let those odds prevent her from accomplishing her goals, and she graduated from the police academy at the top of her class.  Assigned to Zootopia, Judy is immediately sent to give out parking tickets.

It was during this time where she met the sly fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), who is running a popsicle scam.  They wind up having to work together in search of a missing otter.

You see, in Zootopia, all of the animals live together, wear clothing, and act like real human beings.  However, there are still some underpinnings of doubt between the “predators” and the “prey.”  In fact, when some predators start going “savage”, some old wounds are opened up.

This is one of the things I loved about this movie.  Not only is it a fun, slapstick movie that will appeal to children, it has a deep metaphor dealing with race and bigotry/ stereotyping people.  When the cheetah a the police station front desk Clawhauser (Nate Torrence) called Judy “cute”, she lets him know that “cute” is a word that other bunnies can use to describe bunnies, but it is not alright for other species to use it to describe bunnies.  Sound like any other word you might be able to think of?  It was a subtle comment, but one that I really appreciated and found extremely clever.

There was a lot of cleverness in the writing of this film.  That metaphor of racial uneasiness carried through the whole film, but it did not beat anyone upside the head with this message.  It was subtle and brilliantly done.

There were also some really funny moments, including an allusion to Breaking Bad, as we met a character making a specific drug, while dressed exactly like Walter White.  In fact, they made a reference to “Walter and Jesse” being at the door.  These kind of allusions placed the script on another level.

The relationship and chemistry between Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde carried this film.  The relationship was special and something we have not seen much.  They started off with distrust and dislike of one another only to grow into a friendship that is tested by the insensitivity of racial comments made by Judy.  Both Judy and Nick are well developed characters who we understand and connect to no matter what they say or do.  Judy Hopps is legitimately a role model to any little girl (or boy for that matter) who has been told that they cannot do something.  Through her perseverance, Judy is able to reach her life’s goals and it is important to show children that message of empowerment.

Of course, we cannot go through this review without stating how beautiful the animation of Zootopia is.  Disney’s animation department consistently raises its game each and every time.  Zootopia has amazing character designs and has a rich and lavish background, including multiple borough-like ecosystem-containing neighborhoods found within the city.  Zootopia is a visual feast for the eyes at the highest level.

The children should love this film and the parents should too.  It reaches a great balance between the pair, including several pop culture references and drug humor that adults will love.  It is a beautiful movie and yet another magical release from Disney.

4.3 stars

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