More 2016 Old Reviews


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There was a time when anybody who thought this movie was going to be made was completely out of their minds.  After the character of Wade Wilson, Deadpool, the Merc with the Mouth, had his mouth sown shut in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Deadpool’s big screen hopes were what were dead.

Ryan Reynolds was very disappointed because he loved the character of Deadpool and would tell anyone who would listen that this could be an awesome movie.  Then, there was some test footage films and “leaked” onto the internet, and the fans went crazy.  This, reportedly, convinced the higher ups at FOX to green light the project.  After committing to an R rating, FOX created what might be the greatest marketing campaign of all time to promote the film, all the while apparently staying out of the creative process.  No meddling in Deadpool like there was in Fant4stic.

But none of that would matter if the film was not good.  And the film was not good…

It was $%@#(+*^ awesome.

This is perhaps the perfect adaptation of the fan favorite character of Deadpool that you could possibly see, and maybe the greatest adaption of any comic character to the big screen.  The reason was that Ryan Reynolds loved Wade Wilson (Deadpool’s altar ego) and he brought the fan boy to the film.  He knew the character and it shows.

Deadpool is the origin story showing how mercenary Wade Wilson became the foul mouthed Deadpool, but this is not just any origin story.  It took the tropes of the super hero genre and turned them on their ears.

There is so much good with Deadpool that I am not sure where to start.  This film is definitely a “hard R” rated film.  There is violence, f-bombs all over the place, nudity, crass sexual situations and language, … they simply did not leave it short.  It all blends together to become something epic.

The love story between Wade Wilson and Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) was the emotional core of the film.  This relationship was not the typical super hero love interest.  Far from it.  These two damaged and downright rotten characters bond together and, we as an audience, really connect to them.  Neither is a good person, but they are so damn likable together, and they are both played beautifully by Reynolds and Baccarin that their chemistry is amazing and you root for them to be together/

But Wade finds out that cancer is ravaging his body, and he undergoes an experimental process that may activate latent mutant genes in his body and save him by turning him into a super hero.  The problem?  Once in this secret organization’s clutches, Wade realizes that the organization, led by the villainous Ajax ( Ed Skrein), might have different plans for him.

Ajax was a great villain.  He was the perfect foil for Deadpool and his revenge plot that takes up a bunch of the story.

Speaking of the story, it is told in a non-linear manner, told in flashbacks between action scenes.  This is a very effective way to tell the story.  Had the origin story been told all in on part at the beginning of the movie, Deadpool would not have been as successful as it was.  There was surprising emotional depth here as well.

The film was brutally violent in an unapologetic manner.  The scenes of Wade Wilson being tortured to attempt to activate the mutant gene were, at times, tough to watch, but they really give you a feeling of what wade Wilson is going through. Plus, it gives you an insight into the character of Ajax.  The violent action scenes are creative, look great and never fail to entertain.

Deadpool is very crass.  There are plenty of jokes in this film that might push the boundaries of good taste.  And I loved them all.  I have said before that “funny” makes up for a lot.  Deadpool is hilarious.  You laugh throughout the entire film, starting with the opening credits.  You can forgive the tastelessness of the jokes if they are funny, and, boy howdy, these jokes are funny.  Movies that try to shock to get laughs should watch Deadpool to see how it is done.

X-Men member Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) and his “trainee” Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) are fantastic additions to the cast, successfully tying this world of Deadpool to the world of the X-Men film universe better than you could ever have hoped.  Colossus is fully CGI, though Kapicic does do some facial acting, but you would not notice.  The film, which did not have the huge budget of other super hero movies, got things done with less than most films.  That added to the feel of the movie.

Another challenging trick was the use of the “breaking of the Fourth Wall.”  This is where the actor, in this case Ryan Reynolds, speaks to the audience/camera a if he were a person who knew this was a movie.  Breaking the Fourth Wall has been around for decades as shows and films like Moonlighting, Ferris Buehler’s Day Off, and many Mel Brooks movies used the technique effectively.  However, none of these examples come anywhere near as unbelievable this is in Deadpool.  Deadpool narrates the adventure for us, speaking for the audience as he does.  Throw in the meta jokes about the movie business, jokes about Ryan Reynolds and his career and jokes that included bashing X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the sown mouth.  Breaking the fourth wall fit brilliantly.

The music was a perfect fit.  From the beginning strains of Juice Newton’s Angel of the Morning to the ending credits Shoop by Salt n Peppa, the music identified the film and played the jokes perfectly.

TJ Miller was great in his role as Wade Wilson’s friend Weasel.  We got the ultimate Stan Lee cameo.  Leslie Uggams played Wade Wilson’s roommate, Blind Al and provided some extremely funny (and probably inappropriate) jokes.  Uggams is amazing in this role.  The pacing was great.  The story was great.  Deadpool is one of the funniest movies I have seen in a long time.  Ryan Reynolds absolutely was able to bring the real character of Deadpool to the movie screen, and not the atrocity that we saw before, and he crushed it!  This film took that X-Men Origins character and made it irrelevant.  It became a joke that the film embraced.  Reynolds’ dialogue was fast and furious from the beginning to the end and it was sometimes hard to hear everything because we were all laughing so hard already that we missed the next joke.  That must mean I need to see Deadpool again!  Yay!

Deadpool took many of the same tropes that you see in the comic book movie genre and made them into something that feels original and trend setting.  Practically every joke works on some level and the relationship with Wade and Vanessa works so well that they are a leading candidate for couple of the year. Deadpool is highly entertaining and a load of nasty, dirty fun.

5 stars


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Zoolander 2 was horrid.

I had never seen the original Zoolander, but it seems like some of the key elements are represented in this sequel.  Most of the same characters are found here.  The problem was that Zoolander 2 was just not funny.

Several pop stars, including Justin Bieber, are being mysteriously killed, but just before they die, they give what appears to be a signature look used by the older model.  That leads Interpol into thinking that Derek Zoolander(Ben Stiller) might have some knowledge to share.  Meanwhile, Derek was lamenting the death of his wife and the removal of his son from years before, and, his old friend Hansel (Owen Wilson), was off with his “orgy” including Kiefer Sutherland.

Reunited, Derek and Hansel jump into the attempt to find young Derek Jr.  (Cyrus Arnold).  Everything is brought together with the return of the big villain Jacobim Mugatu (Will Farrell).

There are so many ridiculous situations and stupid moments that Zoolander 2 gets bogged down.  The real problem was that there are just no laughs involved.  Stupid situations and ridiculousness can be fine if there are laughs.  Laughs can solve many issues.  Zoolander 2 just did not have enough of them.  And when you open the same weekend as Deadpool, you are in trouble if you are hoping to be a alternative, because Deadpool is so much funnier than this film.

Without the laughs, the story falls apart very quickly.  The fact that Derek’s son Derek Jr. was fat and that it became a problem for Zoolander and the others in the film was quite offensive.  The main characters offend several different types of people (from transgender to little people) and none of it pays off with laughter.

There are a ton of celebrity cameos, most of which are basically wastes of time.  Most are done simply to have them in the movie.  Musician Sting is an interesting role in the film, but the payoff of that is completely ignored.  The Justin Bieber stuff could have been good, but his appearance was spoiled in trailers.  Plus, the actual scenes with Bieber were not stand out anyway.  Benedict Cumberbatch was here too so Derek and Hansel could make jokes about not knowing whether All (Benedict’s character) was a male or a female.

For all of the talent involved in the cast, this film felt very lazy.  A sequel to Zoolander probably should not have come out 15 years after the original.  Zoolander might have a bit of a cult following, but it does not have the type of power required to bring back the product.  Both Dumb and Dumber 2 and Anchorman 2 tried to have a sequel years after the originals and both fell desperately short.  Both were in the worst movies of the year list, and I cannot see a way that Zoolander 2 will not make that list as well.  The only reason this is not the worst movie of the year so far is because we had the travesty called Fifty Shades of Black.

There is a way to make stupid funny.  The original Dumb and Dumber did it. Zoolander 2 tried it, but failed miserably.  When you fail at making stupid funny, all you have left is stupid.  And that is what Zoolander 2 is.

1 star


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It’s Valentine’s Day and who doesn’t want a good rom-com for this invented holiday?  “Good” being a relative term here.

How to Be Single is about a group of female characters and the struggles they have living the single life.  The problem was most of these characters did not feel like real life people.  They were all stereotypes and cliches mixed together with party scenes at a bar.

We first meet Dakota Johnson’s character Alice, who is in a relationship with Josh (Nicholas Braun), but she apparently was unhappy.  She wants to take a “break” from the relationship to see what else is out there.  Despite the fact that Josh seemd ready to commit a life with her, Alice kicks him to the curb.  I have to say, later in the film when she came back to Josh looking to hook back up with him, I was very happy that he had entered into another relationship.  I had no pity for Alice, who spent much of the movie lonely, because she clearly brought it on herself.

After the break up, Alice is introduced to Robin (Rebel Wilson), the party girl, who immediately took Alice out to find her an uncomplicated, one-night-stand.  This was with Tom, the bartender (Anders Holm), who apparently is as much of a slut as any of the females in the film.  Tom wants no relationship and is only interested in short term sex.

Tom also has conversation with Lucy (Allison Brie) and he begins to wonder about the strange feelings he has for her.

None of these stories were interesting, funny or compelling in even the slightest bit.  None of them felt realistic either and so I could not relate to any of them.  It seemed like nothing more than a really poor episode of “Sex in the City.”

However, I did enjoy the story line of Meg (Leslie Mann) and Ken (Jake Lacy).  Meg, a pediatrician, finally warmed to the idea of having a baby of her own, and she searches out a sperm donor.  After successfully getting pregnant, Meg meets the younger Ken at Alice’s office party and they hook up.  Ken is a fresh breath of air in this film, and I would have liked to have seen much more of him and this relationship.  Had this relationship been the main one in How to Be Single then the film would have been considerably better.

However, it is relegated to the background as unoriginal and uninteresting and unfunny scenes were pile on the film to created forced melodrama.

The writing is terrible.  Only a handful of the overload of characters go through any character development at all.  Only Meg, Tom (somewhat) and the side character of David (Damon Wayans Jr) showed any growth at all.  Alice is basically in the same spot as she was at the start, just with an acceptance of being alone, and Robin quite literally ends the film where we met her in the first place.

How to Be Single was not a terrible film, but there is not much reason to see it.  The joke wears thin and the characters are not worth the time.

2.2 stars


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As a child, I enjoyed the story of Jesse Owens, African-American Olympic athlete who attended the 1936 Olympics held in Nazi Germany and who won four gold medals as Adolf Hitler looked on.  I remember being engaged by that story.  However, there were a lot of parts of the Jesse Owens story that I did not know, parts that I was introduced to by the new biopic Race.

Race tells the story of Jesse Owens (Stephan James) as he headed off to Ohio State University to run track for coach Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis).  Snyder was a former star track performer who had his career shortened by a plane crash, and he was having difficulty finding his footing as OSU track coach.  That changed when Jesse Owens arrived.

Snyder took the young runner under his wing and helped train him to achieve his ultimate goal of running at the Olympics.  Unfortunately, it was not going to be that easy.  For one, the United States was considering boycotting the Berlin Olympic Games because of the oppressiveness of the Nazi Party in Germany.  Some of the scenes of Race showing the Nazi soldier “relocating” Jews were very sad and effective.  These scenes really brought home to Race the horror that was just under the surface of the Third Reich.

The second challenge faced by Jesse Owens was the rampant racism against a black person at this time in America.  Race does not shy away from this either, showing how Jesse Owens had been treated by the football team, other coaches, and fans.

Much like the Jackie Robinson biopic 42, Owens is shown as a man who transcended the hatred and the bigotry and became a star in his sport.

Stephan James does an excellent job as Jesse Owens, showing the struggles he faced and the pressures heaped upon his shoulders.  James brings a lot of heart to the role of Jesse Owens.  Even more impressive was the job turned in by Jason Sudeikis because this was so outside his typical comfort zone.  Sudeikis took on this dramatic role as this washed up, alcohol drinking athlete who finds redemption through his coaching of Jesse Owens.

My favorite part was the involvement of a German athlete at the Olympic Games named Carl “Luz” Long (David Kross).  “Luz” showed a special level of sportsmanship during the long jump competition despite the potential dangers of aiding Owens.  The two athletes bonded over the moment and became friends.  I found everything about Luz fascinating and I would actually love to have seen the film from his POV.  I can’t imagine what Hitler was thinking as he watched those Games and saw his German star athlete raising the arm of Jesse Owens into the air in support of the black man.

There were a few things about Race that could have used improving.  The film was a little too long, as there were several scenes early in the film that was used to set up moments later.  I think some of them could have been either removed or tightened up.  Secondly, Race was really a by-the-numbers biopic with few changes to the story telling process.  Race was not going to break any new ground.

Yet, those were not major issues and, for the most part, I enjoyed Race.  I now know more about Jesse Owens than I did as a youth, and I can see how much of a hero he was.

3.85 stars


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There was a lot of buzz for The Witch, coming out of Sundance as a critical darling, and the trailer for the film was sincerely creepy, so I was looking forward to it.


That was it?

I was pretty disappointed by The Witch, finding much of the film fairly boring, and thinking that the ending was a mess.

  1. New England.  A family is removed from a village for questions about their faith, they head out to live on their own.  Finding a life on the outskirts of a creepy forest, the family immediately faces horrors when the infant son is stolen from beneath their nose.  The questions and doubts continue to tear the family apart from within, especially after the oldest boy Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw) disappears as well.

The story seemed to focus on the eldest girl in the family, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) who was with the baby when it was abducted, and was the last one to see Caleb before his disappearance.  The devout Christian family struggled to find reasons or excuses for the events that happened to them.

The performances of these actors were really strong.  Taylor-Joy and Scrimshaw in particular were exceptional in this film.  Both of these actors are fresh new faces that seem to have the world ahead of them.  Scrimshaw especially had to carry a vital scene and does so beautifully.

The father William (Ralph Ineson) and the mother Katherine (Kat Dickie) do extremely well also.  The actors are asked to speak their lines using the King’s James Bible type of language, making it all the more challenging, but they all pulled it off.  The “thous” and “thees” did not feel forced or out of place.

However, the story was not as engaging as I thought it would be.  It built toward the conclusion in a slow fashion, and the story was pretty confusing at times.  There was an opportunity to focus the story on the reality of someone in the 17th century of being accused of witchcraft, but instead, the film took the stereotypical manner of the story.  This led to the end of the film which really took a lot of the good will from the film and threw it away.  Without spoiling it, the ending of this movie really brought the film to a screeching halt.

I will give credit to The Witch for one thing.  The tension that it was creating was done without using jump scares.  The technique of having something jump out and frighten the viewers is a desperately overused trick in horror films these days and The Witch should be commended for not allowing that cheap trick to be used.

The soundtrack was also exceptionally used to help create a tone for the film that stayed consistent throughout.  Horror movies, when done right, can use music effectively to create the type of film that the filmmaker wants, and the makers of The Witch do this very well.

Robert Eggers is the director of The Witch and this is his first time directing a major motion picture.  The direction of the film was not the problem as much of the film looked wonderful and the shots set up well.  The story just did not interest me as much as I hoped it would have.

And then, there was a pair of child actors who played twins Mercy and Jonas (Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson) and I thought they were just the opposite of the talented Scrimshaw.  I found them unbelievably annoying and weak.  I hated every time they were on screen and they had an important role in the proceedings.

There was also a horned goat named Black Phillip.  This was a strange addition and threatened to take the proceedings into parody territory.

Fortunately, it did not get to that level, but The Witch was not anywhere as strong of a film as I was expecting.  The performances were good, especially from the oldest two children, and there was some good shots.  But the ending and the weaknesses of the story hurt The Witch more.

2.9 stars


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Dame Maggie Smith is amazing in this new film, The Lady in the Van, and her performance is clearly the main reason to see this funny little film.

Smith plays Mary (or is it Margaret?) who has gone through something traumatic in her life that led her to take up living in her van.  She parks her van on the street of a neighborhood in England and winds up in the driveway of a fledgling writer Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings).  The relationship between the transient woman and the closeted gay writer becomes the focal point of the film, and, despite the fact that Alan acts as if he is annoyed by the constant presence of the the lady, you can see that he “doth protest too much.”

This is based on a true story (or as the film claims, a “mostly true story”).  In fact, the film, using an interesting technique of having Alan Bennett talking to himself (literally to a second him on the screen), is able to let you know parts of the story that had been added and dialogue that had not actually been said.  The image of two Alan Bennetts on screen was, at first a little confusing, but developed into a great, almost fourth wall breaking technique.

Alex Jennings does a fantastic job as the foil to Maggie Smith’s over-the-top lady.  Alan’s deadpan and dry reactions make this all the funnier and touches the emotion of the scenes.

The film has a very British sense of humor about it, which I liked.  It also spends an inordinate amount of time developing these two main characters.  We have a deep understanding of both Mary and Alex by the end of the film.

The film does struggle a bit showing the passage of time.  Fifteen years were to pass from when Mary first moved her van into Alan’s driveway and, when the film dropped that number, it felt jarring.

Mary had a ton of quirks and they were all brought to vibrant life by Maggie Smith.  Smith deserves all kind of credit for this transitional performance.  Smith could create such an emotion from just a glance that helped make this bizarre woman a real person.  There is a joy in the performance, even if there was little joy to be found.

The Lady in the Van is well constructed, entertaining film with a really good performance and a brilliant one.  The relationship was real and personal for both characters, which comes across loudly and clearly.

3.8 stars



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The 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary had its share of intriguing stories, including the Jamaican bobsled team whose story was told in Cool Runnings.  And now, we get the story of the British ski jumping sensation, Eddie Edwards, who engaged the world with his amazing reaction to just being at the Olympics.

Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton) had always wanted to be an Olympians despite the fact that he lacked any real athletic skills or talents.  Eddie tries many different sports, but it is not until he switches to Winter Olympics sports where he starts to have some success.  After failing to make the downhill skiing team, Eddie discovers that Great Britain does not have a ski jumping team, making it easier for him to qualify for the Olympics.

Of course, Eddie had never ski jumped before.  But that would not stop this underdog.  He went to Germany and started learning how to jump.  He met constantly drunk Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), a former ski jumper who was dubbed a “natural” but was too undisciplined to take advantage of his skills.  Bronson tried to discourage Eddie, telling him that ski jumpers needed to start when they are 5-6 years old (Eddie was 21).  But Eddie would not give up and eventually wins Bronson over to his side.

Then, the British Olympic Committee changed the qualifying requirements in an attempt to keep Eddie out, but instead only inspiring Eddie to continue on and struggle to try and complete his dream.

Eddie the Eagle is absolutely a by-the-numbers sports movie, detailing the underdog’s attempt to overcome the odds.  There are typical story aspects in this film that are in every movie of this kind:  the training montage, the bullies, the family issues, the alcoholic coach, the early failure, the dramatic ending etc.  You have 100% seen this film before.

That does not make it bad.

I enjoyed Eddie the Eagle way more than I thought I would.  I did not like the trailer to this film, because it felt like it showed me the entire film.  And that criticism is still valid. However, there were many things about Eddie the Eagle that I still liked.

In particular, Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman were very good in the film.  Egerton really became this character, and we see nothing of the actor who starred in last year’s surprise success, The Kingsmen.  Hugh Jackman, on the other hand, was pretty much Hugh Jackman.  Still, Hugh Jackman is an enjoyable actor and I think he did a nice job here.

And the story this film told was engaging.  Yes, it was paint by the numbers, but it was funny and enjoyable and made you root for Eddie in all the right places.  It helped that I was not aware of the story of Eddie the Eagle from the Calgary Olympics so I was unaware of how this was going to end up, though I had a pretty good idea.  The slight uncertainty helped build some tension in the story.  Add to that the ski jumping scenes were very well done and there is enough to come out of Eddie the Eagle feeling good.

People love the story of an underdog overcoming the odds, especially if that underdogs is as likable as the character of Eddie the Eagle.  It is a feel good film and would make an awesome double feature with Cool Runnings.

3.8 stars


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I usually do not go to these Christian faith movies.  There have been many over the years and, for the most part, I do not like them.  They never seem to be any good and try to hit you over the head with their message.  Worse yet, some of my least favorite films of all time fall into this genre (Left Behind anyone?)

However, The Masked Saint was a religious film centering around the world of pro wrestling, which I love.  It was based on a true story of a wrestler who left the ring to become a pastor of a church.  That intrigued a some.

But the real draw of the film, the one that caused me to go see The Masked Saint, was the presence of Rowdy Roddy Piper.  This was the last film in the career of the wrestling icon, who passed away in 2015.  Piper was an all-time favorite wrestler and starred in one of the greatest cult classics of all time in John Carpenter’s They Live.  I could not turn down the opportunity to see “Hot Rod” one more time.

Chris (Brett Granstaff) wrestled under the moniker of  The Saint for the wrestling organization WFW, run by shady promoter Nicky Stone (Roddy Piper).  However, Chris announced that he was going to retire from the ring, much to Nicky’s chagrin.  The massive new villainous heel, The Reaper (James Preston Rogers) was to be his last match, but the giant Reaper intentionally injuries Chris’s leg.

After his retirement, Chris heads to his new church in a run-down, crime riddled neighborhood and immediately struggled at finding the words to inspire his few parishioners.   Then, church member and extra special babysitter Ms. Edna (Diahann Carroll) discovered his past secret as a pro wrestler and tells him that God gave him skills for a reason.  This leads Chris back into the wrestling business and he begins moonlighting for the WFW to make money to help his family and the church.

This was not a very good movie, but it was awesome to see Roddy Piper on screen again.  His character was not much of a stretch, but Piper has so much charisma that he can make up for the weakness of the material.  And this material is weak.  The acting may be passable, but the script itself, in particular, the dialogue was terrible.  It was filled with the platitudes one would expect in this style of movie.  Add to that, there were several subplots that felt tossed in for no other reason than to spread the run time of the film out.  There is one particular subplot involving spousal abuse that is fixed by the church.  Hallelujah.  Chris also becomes a masked vigilante, using his actual wrestling mask, to beat up a local African-American pimp and save a diner full of people and draw the vigilante-hating police detective Harper (Mykel Shannon Jenkins), who suckers Pastor Chris and his daughter down to the police headquarters to trick him into a police line up in probably the most ridiculous use of cop power ever on screen.

There were many problems with this film, but the wrestling action was actually pretty well shot, The Saint looked pretty cool (including an awesome finishing move, the faithbreaker, where he winds up on his knees and preying after hitting it) and there was Rowdy Roddy Piper.  Still, the ending is ridiculous.  Many of the characters are boring.  And the preachy aspect of the film is way over done.  I don’t understand why these type of parable films feel the need to bash you over the head with their beliefs.  I think this could have been done in a less painfully obvious way and still have Pastor Chris do all the same things.

It is sad that Roddy couldn’t have had a better film for his last one.  But you could always go watch They Live again.

2.1 stars


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Opening in 2015 in limited release to secure Oscar consideration, director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s latest film The Revenant starring Leonardo DiCaprio came out nationwide this weekend finally giving me a chance to see what everyone was talking about.

I can see why some people are claiming that this will be the film that finally earns DiCaprio that elusive Oscar.

The Revenant is based on a true story, where Hugh Glass, a frontiersman on an expedition for fur and pelts, is leading the group back home after an attack by Indians decimated their ranks.  The Indians were in search of the chief’s daughter who had been kidnapped.  John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) was oppose to basically every thing that Glass said, but Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) believed completely in Glass.  Glass also had a son named Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), a part Indian whose mother died years before.

The story takes a turn when Glass falls victim to a brutal bear attack and left near dead.  Debate raged about what to do, especially since the Indians were closing in on them.  It was decided that Fitzgerald, Hawk and Bridger (Will Poulter) would stay behind and tend to Glass until he died and then he would receive a proper, respectful burial while the rest of the group would continue back to their fort.  Fitzgerald winds up killing Hawk and burying Glass alive.

The rest of the film is Glass’s desperate attempt to survive so he could return and make Fitzgerald pay for his transgressions.

Leonardo DiCaprio was fantastic.  I have never been a huge Leo fan.  I have thought that his work has been mainly overrated, but there is simply no debating that he is magnificent as the battered and near dead Glass.  With very few lines of dialogue, this is the most brutal and grimy performance I have seen in years.  DiCaprio gives it his all, with every grunt and twitch a story is told.  The pain and anguish with every move is palpable while his dogged determination is inspiring.  Admittedly, there were a few times that I thought they may have gone too far with his survival, but DiCaprio completely embraces the brutality, spending more time dragging his battered body through the snow than walking.

And the film was astonishingly beautiful to look at.  The cinematography was perfect.  The environment was as much of a character as anyone else in this movie, and Iñárritu’s choice to use only natural light while filming (as …from the sun) created such a realistic and brilliant presentation.  You could feel the world around Glass and you struggled with it with him.  It is an experience.

I would say that there are a couple of the characters that could be developed more, and the whole subplot with the Indians seemed weird to me and I did not understand it for most of the film.  Plus, Tom Hardy, while overall amazing in the film, was hard to understand at times.

Now, there is the infamous bear scene.  There have been some comments about the bear scene that talked about the bear raping Leo.  Unfortunately, those comments did color my perception of the scene, as I could see why people might have said that.  When I got past that, the scene was unbelievably brutal and intense.

The Revenant was an amazing experience with breathtaking visuals and an out-of-this-world performance by Leonardo DiCaprio.  Having seen this now, I think I might believe that DiCaprio deserves the Oscar for this role.  Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, and Will Poulter have great performances as well.  The film is really a story of survival against all odds, against nature and against forces that conspire against you.  It was an exceptional film.

4.6 stars


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I was not looking forward to this one.  I was never interested in the trailers for The Danish Girl, the loosely based true story on the life of Einar Wegener, a known painter who became one of the first men to undergo sex reassignment surgery in the 1930s.

Here, Einar (Eddie Redmayne) is a working artist, married to Gerda Wegener (Alicai Vikander) and the pair were trying to get pregnant, as well as sell some paintings.  They seemed to be a happy couple, but one night, after Gerda asked Einar to pose for her, he had long buried feeling begin to surface.  He becomes Lili, initially as a joke between the couple, but it is not long after that Gerda realized that something strange was happening.

Apparently, Lili was something that was inside Einar since childhood, and now that she was out, he could not put her away.  However, he was not crazy.  He just felt like a woman inside the body of a male.

As I said, I had no intention of liking this movie, but then I saw it and it was so lovely and touch and had such amazing performances that I just couldn’t help myself.  The Danish Girl was a fabulous film.

Eddie Redmayne is amazing as the title character.  Although the transformation last year into Stephen Hawkins was more astounding, the change into Lili is remarkable as well.  I must say though, there is just something about Eddie Redmayne that is weird.  I don’t know if it is his sharp cheekbones and features or his pale skin, but every time I watch him it looks as if I am watching something not real, almost CGIish.  It was distracting at times, but his performance was riveting.

However, Alicia Vikander was absolutely memorizing.  I have not seen a more beautiful, gorgeous creature in a long time and every time the film zoomed in on her, I found myself taken by her epic loveliness.  Plus, she brought the goods to the movie.  She was unbelievable as Gerda, the woman who was slowly losing her beloved husband to his true nature.  Alicia Vikander had a massive 2015 as she was also brilliant in Ex Machina, and starred in Man from UNCLE and Burnt.  Beauty and talent together.  She is a star in the making.

The story itself was pedestrian, as the film was really performance based.  Of course, you had two astonishing powerhouse performances to hold this film together.  The two performances were heartbreaking as these people struggled with the realization of who they were and how their love was not going to be enough.  There were times when I thought that Einar was being very selfish (perhaps that opinion came from my love of Alicia Vikander), but then I would think about how confusing and lost he must have felt all his life and it made me reconsider some of my opinions.

The film was very careful to then make sure it gave Einar a back story, so it did not make it look like this was a sudden change in point of view.  At first, the change from Einar to Lili felt a little out of left field, but with the addition of Einar’s childhood friend Hans (Matthias Schoenaerts), a portrait was being constructed of a man who had these confusing thoughts for many years.

It was also fascinating seeing Einar and Gerda searching for help from the medical community, only to be labeled perverse or crazy.  It shows how far we have come as a society when it comes to these kind of situations.  Someone like Lili would no longer be called a deviant and cast out of society.  The scene in the Danish Girl where Einar climbs out of the window just before the doctor returned with a straightjacket and orderlies really emphasizes how much times have changed since the 1930s.

I did not expect to like this movie, but it was so emotional and powerful, with Oscar caliber performances by both Redmayne and Vikander that I found myself swept up into this film.  And Alicia Vikander is absolute perfection in The danish Girl in every way.

4 stars



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A Michael Bay directed film in January?  It can only be terrible, right?

Nope.  Actually pretty damn good.

13 Hours is the story of six men who were inside Libya at a secret CIA base who had to bunker down and hold off an all out assault on the American Embassy and their own compound from locals without any help from American forces.

This story was hugely controversial in 2012, as the talking heads of news television and politicians of both parties jumped on this story as a way to put down the other side.  The movie strays away from that, for the most part, deciding instead to play on the human drama from behind the compound walls.

And, of course, it is a Michael Bay movie, so things have to blow up.

However, this time, there were stakes and tension and people you cared about.  Who knew?

I will admit, in the beginning of the film, they started introducing characters at a break neck pace and I was confused about who was who.  However, Jack Silva (John Krasinski) stood out as a developed character.  The scenes with him and his wife and daughters helped to humanize this man who would be shown to be quite the warrior later in the film.

In fact, most of the characters got their chance to shine at more than just the war scenes, and, by the end of the picture, I had found myself caring for them, going as far as saying that I got emotional at the end.  This was unexpected and very welcome.  They were not just big, muscular guys with beards carrying heavy weapons.  They were real developed people.

I got my first inkling that this was not going to be just any old Michael Bay film early in the movie when there was a tense standoff with Jack and Rone (James Badge Dale) inside a jeep with locales outside it with guns pointing at them.  I found myself interested in this scene and engaged with the tension.

Now, that does not mean that 13 Hours was a perfect film.  Not by a long shot.  I would say that it was too long and, when the war battles began, it became difficult to tell what was going on at times.  The use of the shaky camera came into play here and there several times when I was not sure who was getting shot.  There were other good scenes of wartime action that made good use of the format.  I just wish there were more of that.  Also, the use of slow motion near the end felt out of place, almost cartoonish midst the graphic results of the violence that was shown.  There were too many times where the battle scenes felt like they came out of the newest Transformers movie.  Still, I would say that there were more war scenes that were tense and well done than were Transformer-like.

Michael Bay pays respect to this topic, a topic that was a true story and was very controversial.  It was everywhere on the news for months.  I was not anticipating liking this movie, but I liked it a lot.  The heroism of these characters that I learned to like as the film progressed was a welcome surprise.  There was good action and I really liked this film.  Who knew?

3.85 stars


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January is usually the month where so many terrible films are sent.  It is the wasteland of the movie year.  However, this year so far, we have had The Forest, which was not too bad, I saw the Revenant in January (though it was technically released in December) and 13 Hours was really pretty good.

And then there was Ride Along 2.

Returning January to its rightful rottenness, Ride Along 2 is a poor film that is not funny and has every cliched bit in these kind of dumb movies.  It is harmless, but it really has no purpose.  There is nothing new and there is maybe a chuckle or two.

Kevin Hart is once again playing Ben Barber, who is trying to impress his soon-to-be brother-in-law James (Ice Cube) and become a police detective.  They go together to Miami following up a lead and they discover Benjamin Bratt as a bad guy.  Kevin Hart does some dumb and annoying things and then does some good and heroic things and the film ends.

That was about it.

Kevin Hart is really in danger of falling into that hole of only playing characters that are Kevin Hart.  Melissa McCarthy has had that trouble as has Adam Sandler, but at least both of them have tried to do other roles.  Kevin Hart has yet to step outside of his comfort level and do something besides the same old shtick.  There is only so many times that you can fall back on the same role without it pulling you down and Kevin Hart is in danger of having that happen to him.  Add to that the fact that he is always screeching that he makes himself difficult to support.

Plus, Ice Cube’s character barely acknowledges any caring for Ben in this film.  He dismisses him at every step.  Why should I care about Ben if his soon to be brother-in-law not care?   Plus, why does he take him along to Miami?  Because his sister asked him to.  It was as contrived as it could possibly be.

Taking his note from the others, Ken Jeong plays his character from every movie (in particular The Hangover) except without the accent.  Oh, he’s a hacker.  He does not play a role, he plays a function of the plot.  I did not find him funny at all and even less likable.

I do not think you could get any more cliched than the final fight with Benjamin Bratt and his villainous crew than we got here.  Bratt shows up out of nowhere and his men are pretty worthless.

The story is just there as an excuse to have Kevin Hart yell and do some slapstick comedy and to have Ice Cube scowl at him and roll his eyes.  I actually found the fight between Kevin Hart and Sheri Shepherd, who played the obnoxious wedding planner, more interesting, and I wished that they had gone more in that vein for the movie.  Instead, this film was an unfunny and predictable affair that, while harmless, cannot be considered much of a comedy.  And since there were no “buddies” in this, Ride Along 2 cannot be a buddy cop picture either.

Welcome January back.

2 stars


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There are few stories that are as compelling as that of Jake “The Snake” Roberts, former WWE Superstar, and the documentary available now on iTunes, proves that point dramatically.

Jake Roberts was one of the biggest stars in the then WWF during the 1980s boom of professional wrestling.  While Hulk Hogan headlined the cards, Jake the Snake consistently gave the best promos and wrestled some of the most memorable feuds.  Roberts invented and named the DDT, an iconic wrestling maneuver that is now in nearly everyone’s arsenal.  All of those wrestlers were inspired by the character of Jake the Snake.

However, Jake Roberts faced more than just opponents in the ring.  He faced his own personal demons, and those demons almost got the best of him.  Drinking and drugs derailed a promising career and prevented Jake from contributing his brilliant mind for the business further.

In The Resurrection of Jake the Snake, they touch upon a very difficult and, downright, tragic childhood of the wrestling icon.  Son of former pro wrestler Grizzly Smith, Jake faced abuse from a step mother and apathy from his father.  The background of Jake is touch upon in the documentary but is not dwelled on.  It establishes reasons for the choices the man who seemed to have everything would make.

However, this movie is not about the problems of Jake the Snake.  Several years ago, there was a film called Beyond the Mat which included a section on Jake.  It portrayed Jake the Snake as a cocaine-addled, broken down, deadbeat father.  However, there was not much balance to the film, especially the Jake Roberts section.

This film did not want to focus on the negative, it focused on a man trying to recover.  It was made by people who spent time with Jake and who had a connection with him and, because of that, can show the truth, both good and bad.

One of the people behind the film was another former pro wrestler Diamond Dallas Page.  DDP, as he became known, put together a program called DDPYoga and reached out to Jake.  Jake was one of Page’s mentors as a wrestler and he wanted to give something back.  Jake’s struggles were well known, and DDP believed he could help him.  Some of the early shots of Jake Roberts really showed how far the man had sunk.  But with DDP’s help, Jake began a transformation physically that is astonishing to see.

We also see Page help another wrestler, Scott Hall, whose body had just about given out on him after years of substance abuse and the physical toil the ring takes upon you.  The transformation is truly unbelievable. The scene where Dallas Page and Jake Roberts call Scott Hall to invite him to come join them in Atlanta (where they lived) is one of the most amazing things caught on video.  You can hear a man go from being totally lost and at the end of his days to a man who suddenly had a hope for the future.  It is quite literal to say that Dallas Page saved these two men’s lives.

The film does not shy away from the falls as well.  We see Jake Roberts slip several times during the documentary.  The way that the alcohol changes Roberts was very obvious, as was the caring of the people around him.  Page, as well as the director Steve Yu, did not pull any punches when Jake would fall.  They expressed their expectations of accountability and emphasized how important Jake was to them.  And they were completely sincere.  The mixture of support and hard love really worked for the wrestling legend.

The level of support Roberts felt from Page was clear as there were a couple of slips that corresponded to times when DDP took trips away from the “Accountability Crib.”  It was like Jake needed that support or he would wind up losing himself and giving in to the cravings.  His descriptions of the cravings as a voice in his head telling him that one beer wouldn’t hurt was a frightening image and shows how precarious his hard fought sobriety truly was.  The pictures of Jake Roberts struggling with his demons, the tears filling his eyes at his own failures, are a haunting reminder at how nefarious an addiction can be.

But the film was not about the failures or the shortcomings of an individual.  It is a redemptive tale of a man who faced his demons and was able to come out the other side, with the knowledge that his fight would never be over, but that it was a fight that he would always be willing to face because he had people beside him to help him when he needed it.

Jake Roberts found how important he was to many people, the fans, his family and his friends and he was able to use that strength of love to help him fight to push off his personal demons.  The Resurrection of Jake the Snake ends with Jake’s surprise return to “Old School” RAW and his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame.  Dallas Page inducted Jake Roberts into the Hall of Fame and his words were inspirational.  He said:

“Never underestimate the power you give someone by believing in them.  Never underestimate the power you give yourself by believing in you.” -Diamond Dallas Page

This is perfectly shown in this film.  The Resurrection of Jake the Snake is a story that wrestling fans will love, but it should not be limited to wrestling fans.  Anyone can be inspired by this story of redemption and rebirth through love and support.  This is a beautiful documentary and I am very happy that I had a chance to see it.

5 stars


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January is back in a big way.

I disliked most everything about Dirty Grandpa.  I did not find it funny.  I did not find it entertaining.  It was certainly predictable.  Dirty Grandpa was terrible.

Jason (Zac Efron) is weeks away from getting married when his grandmother died, leaving her decade long husband Dick (Robert DeNiro) alone and horny.  The grandfather talked Jason, who was uptight and anxious, into driving him to Florida so he could show him how to have fun.

As soon as you meet Jason’s wife-to-be Meredith (Julianne Hough), it was painfully obvious what was going to happen.  Story wise, I could have listed off every beat that happened in this movie.

I also have historically disliked drug movies and placing a character who is blatantly selling drugs to college students on spring break as one of your heroic characters (played by Jason Mantzoukas) really irritates me.  Plus, the message that the drugs taken by Zac Efron during the film making him a batter, happier person is a poor message to send.

Skipping the drug aspects of this film, it was also very crude.  I don’t mind crudeness in a comedy, but crude humor needs to be funny, and most of this was not.  There was also a blowjob/handjob joke involving a young child and Zac Efron that most likely went too far.  I am hard to offend, and that joke really made my skin crawl a bit, and it was just not funny.

There are so many parts in this film that made no sense or where you had to completely shut your brain off to believe that it could possibly happen that this makes the film ridiculous.  There are so many bad, almost sitcom-like set ups, that my eyes were rolling constantly.

Now, Robert De Niro was decent as the horny grandpa, but that was absolutely the only thing that I found even remotely interesting.  De Niro’s karaoke performance being one of the few good moments.  There were so many terrible things and terrible characters introduced here.  There was a cousin (Adam Pally) which was mysteriously stupid.  There were two Florida police officers that are complete caricatures  (Mo Collins and Henry Zebrowski) who laugh with the drug dealer and are simply crooked and unfunny.  The Meredith character is as stereotypical as you can get.

Ugh.  This was just a terrible movie.  I waited for it to get funny.  It never happened.  There were so many stereotypical characters around every corner.  I really disliked this movie.

1.2 stars


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The 5th Wave was the aliens invading.  The 6th Wave was boredom.

In the latest YA novel adapted to the big screen, The 5th Wave tells the story of an alien invasion by following the Sullivan family and their struggles during the different waves.  According to the story, the first wave was the pulse that took out the electronics, the second wave was tsunamis and earthquakes, the third wave was bird flu and the fourth wave the infiltration.  Thus, we were up to the 5th wave in this alien invasion story.

Chloë Grace Moretz played Cassie Sullivan, the pretty young female character that we are supposed to follow.  She is trying to find her brother Sam (Zackary Arthur) who has been taken away by the military and Liev Schreiber.  She comes across an epically beautiful man named Evan (Alex Roe) and they have a forced and unbelievable romance right out of Twilight.

The biggest issue with the 5th Wave is that there is nothing here that we haven’t seen before.  This sets no new ground in alien invasion stories and even less in the teen romance areas.

And it becomes very dull during much of the film.  We have a lot of walking.  Then, there are some attempts at plot twists that just are not well done.  There were some interesting moments with the young kids at the army camp, and sending them out on a mission were the one spot that might have been okay.  There just was not even of that.

The dialogue was atrocious.  I actually sat in the theater and thought to myself that the dialogue was terrible.  That is usually something that I think about after reflection.  Not this time.

I liked Chloë Grace Moretz.  She is likable enough.  She is a beautiful young actress.  Even after Chloë’s character was supposed to be injured and bedridden for a week, her hair still looked wonderful and her make up was perfect.  Not sure how she was able to do that.

Plus, I am sorry, but “The Others” are always going to be on the Island with Ben Linus leading them.  Calling these dopey aliens, who end up doing some really stupid things, The Others made me think of LOST every time they said it.  And there is just no comparison.

The 5th Wave had a couple of moments but it really becomes derivative, like all of the YA novels that are turned into big screen films.  Some are better than others, but very few reach a level of excellence as The Hunger Games does.  The 5th Wave comes much closer to The Host than it does to The Hunger Games.

2 stars


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I thought the premise of The Boy was ridiculous and stupid.  The trailers did not do it any favors.

The thing is… I kind of liked this.

I was definitely caught off guard with how much I actually didn’t hate this.  I really expected to hate The Boy.  It is a January horror film and the trailer was garbage.  Yet, with several exceptions, I was unexpectedly entertained.

Now, I am not saying that this is a great movie by any stretch, but it had enough tension and mood about it to make it feel creepy, and most of the main characters were reasonably developed, and there were real issues that this film dealt with.  It did feel that it could have been even better with some tightening here and there.

Greta Evans (the beautiful Lauren Cohan from The Walking Dead) arrived at an exquisite England manor after leaving the USA to escape something in her past.  Greta was being hired by the Heelshires (Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle), an old couple who want her to become their child’s new nanny, giving them an opportunity to get out on a trip.  The thing is… the child is not a real child after all, but a doll, named Brahms.  The Heelshires treat this doll as if it were a real, live boy, which included a list of rules for Greta to follow.

These two actors playing the Heelshires were one of the best parts of this film, as they were just the right amount of creepy.  You just couldn’t gather whether they were a totally grieving couple or whether they were completely insane.  Did they believe what they were doing?  Why did they take this to the level that they did?  These performances were vital to set up the film or else nothing else would work.

Lauren Cohan was good in this film too.  She is one of my favorites from the Walking Dead, and I think she could have a lot of success on the big screen.  She has a fresh feel to her and she carried her role effectively.  I wasn’t even thinking of her as Maggie the whole time either.  That alone is a success.

Rupert Evans played Malcolm, the guy who brought the groceries to the secluded house.  I liked him, but I had a thought in my head the whole movie about Malcolm that turned out incorrect that might have influenced my opinions on him.  I did like him with Greta, but they did seem to get forced together too quickly.

The film did seem to have something to say about the subject of domestic abuse, but that plot thread was not as well developed as it could have been and ended up feeling like it was forced.  This was one example where I think a good re-write could have made this a much stronger subplot.

Now…the ending.  Without spoiling anything, there is a twist at the end of this film that about which I am just not sure how I feel.  On one hand, I like that the film didn’t go with the path I expected it to go, but the conclusion made a lot of plot points not make sense.  Again, I think the ending could have really worked if they had done another couple of re-writes on the script.

The first hour of this film really did a good job of setting the tone of the film and creating a mood out of what could have been a ridiculous premise.  The acting was solid, especially from the older couple playing the Heelshires and Lauren Cohen.  Plus, the doll was surprisingly creepy.  I think that there was a reasonable answer to why Greta didn’t just throw the doll into the fireplace when it started looking as if it were alive (which is what I would have done immediately).  Some possibilities were discussed between characters, which was also interesting.

On the whole, I am surprised at The Boy.  What could have been a terrible time in the theater, turned out somewhat entertaining.  It was certainly better than some of the other films I saw today.

3 stars


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I have been anxiously awaiting this film coming to a theater near me so I could see it.

All I can say it….WOW

Room absolutely deserves all the Oscar buzz that it has been receiving lately as this was an incredibly emotional story of a mother and her son that left me in tears.  It struck a serious chord for me and I just found it to be life affirming.

Joy (Brie Larson) had been kidnapped as a late teenage girl by Old Nick (Sean Bridges) and kept captive in an old shack out behind a house.  After a few years of being his captive and, for lack of a better term, sex slave, she became pregnant and gave birth to her son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay).  We meet these two in this little shack, that they call Room.  Jack, being born in captivity, does not understand the world outside the walls of Room, having never experienced it.  He never knew what a tree was, except that it was something made up on the television.  The only window was a skylight, which Jack believed led to space.

After his fifth birthday, Joy (called Ma during most of the film) began to think that Jack was old enough and smart enough to start telling him about the truth of what the world was like, and this really shook Jack to his emotional core.

First off, Jacob Tremblay is absolutely brilliant.  This young actor was breathtaking with the range of acting levels that he displayed.  It was most of Tremblay’s work that caused the tears to roll down my face.  His initial rejection of what his mother was telling him was just heartbreaking, as he screamed at her.  The scenes of wrapping Jake in a rug in an escape attempt and him yelling that he hated her for making him do it tore at my heart.  The entire sequence involving the escape plans were some of the best written, acted of any film and it delivered an emotional wallop.  Jacob Tremblay absolute was robbed by the Academy Awards this year when they failed to nominate him in a category.  There have been few adult actors that have given such a pitch perfect performance as this young man did.  This film would not have worked without him.  He was the main focus of the story.

However, there has been Oscar love for Brie Larson, who, as Joy, deserves every second of praise that she has received. Larson delivered a serious powerhouse performance and should be taking home that Oscar this year.  The guilt and anger and frustration and fear that she played in every scene can not be overstated.  It was a tour de force performance.  She played off Tremblay so well that they really felt like a mother-son.

The film was not afraid to show the damage done to these two characters by their incarceration.  However, Joy was shown to be having the harder time adjusting while Jack showed how resilient he was.  I believed that the resiliency shown by Jack was directly because of what a great job his mother did of protecting him in the room.

Directed by Lenny Abrahamson, he does a fantastic job of making this minuscule shed feel like a much larger space in the beginning of the film.   It could have even been a small apartment for all we knew at the very start of Room.  As we start to see what was happening here, the direction takes a claustrophobic turn and Abrahamson is able to take this horribly, heart-wrenching situation and show, despite the darkness that exists, how much hope there is in life.

I cannot stress enough how absolutely brilliant Jacob Tremblay was in this movie as young Jack.  With all due respect, his performance may have been my favorite one from all of 2015 (even though I saw this in 2016).  I gave Jacob the “I See Dead People” Child Actor Award in the EYG 2015 Year in Review even though I had not seen it.  I am so glad that I did because this is one of the best child performances ever.  This is an epic performance for any aged actor.  Room is amazing.

5 stars


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I cannot help but lament the days of Airplane or The Naked Gun or Young Frankenstein and any other numerous Mel Brooks movies.  These were the days when a spoof movie or a parody movie could also be smart and well-made and funny.  The days where there were more than just jokes centered around sex.  Where the movie has something original to say.  Did I mention that they were also once funny.

When was the last spoof movie that was actually funny?  Not just a couple of good laughs, but actually laugh out loud funny?  SpaceballsGalaxy QuestHot Shots?

I could not help but wish for the old days after seeing the abortion that is Fifty Shades of Black, a desperately unfunny, offensive and uncomfortable movie from Marlon Wayans.  Wayans has made such horrendous films as A Haunted House 1 & 2, and a series of Scary Movies.  This one may have reached a new level of crap.

In fact, I will go on the record in saying that this was the worst movie I have saw since I saw 2012’s worst movie of the year, Movie 43.

The film is clearly a take off on the terrible film from last year, 50 Shades of Grey, which is based on the equally horrible novel that was originally written as Twilight fan fiction.  The hatred I felt for 50 Shades of Grey made me interested in seeing how they might have skewered the film with this parody.

Oh, how sad.  I was actually more entertained by 50 Shades of Grey.  I think it was funnier as well.  I thought it was interesting that there were a couple positive reviews that I have seen for this crapfest because, basically, the reviewer hated the original “Grey” and claimed that this was a comedic take down of that movie.  I saw one reviewer on Rotten Tomatoes call it “cultural criticism” and that it “eviscerates nearly every scene in “Grey.”


I do not believe for one minute that this movie intends to do anything more than make joke about the size of penises or awkward sexual situations.  There is not a higher purpose to anything in this film and claiming that there is one does not make it so.

Fifty Shades of Black is a hateful movie, full of stereotypes and bigotry.  The white mother of Christian Black (Wayans) makes her son his favorite meal (fried chicken and Kool Aid).  This is the type of stereotype that I would have thought might be topic in the 70s, not in 2016.  A few seconds before this, the same mother (played by Jane Seymour, by the way) had offended her adopted daughter by believing she was from China when she was actually Korean.  This type of offensive humor is not funny, and in fact, can be dangerous these days.

The humor in it is juvenile, jokes that might make a 12 year old laugh (and I say, might.  I’m not convinced of that.)  It is low brow at its worst and lacks anything of substance or value.  It is not trying to say anything specific about the genre, and, despite taking a few shots at the source material, it really only exists to make jokes about sex.  That could still be funny.  Fifty Shades of Black is not.  I did not laugh once.  I did not even chuckle.

This has to be the worst movie of the year.  I cannot imagine anything being worse than this.  I usually skip this type of film anymore, and I regretted not skipping this one about 10 minutes into it.  It was the longest hour and a half I have spent at the theater in a long time.

0.2 star


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This was the tale of two trailers.

The first trailer, which focused on the character Miriam (Holliday Grainger) trying to convince Eric Bana’s character to call her fiance Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) back from the rescue mission was one of the worst trailers I have seen.  It had nothing that made me think that The Finest Hours would be anything more than a melodramatic claptrap.  However, trailer #2 featured scenes from the rescue at sea, and was actually extremely exciting and dramatic.  The opposite spectrum covered by these two trailers really made it uncertain what type of movie this would be.

The Finest Hours is based on the true story of what the Coast Guard still refers to as the greatest small boat rescue at sea ever. 1952.  A terrible storm off the coast of Cape Cod causes a tanker to be torn in two.  As the ship is sinking, the seamen on the vessel desperately try to come up with an idea to buy themselves time for a rescue to arrive.  Since abandoning ship on lifeboats was not realistic because of this terrible storm, mechanic Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) comes up with a plan to keep the boat afloat.  Meanwhile, four men from the Coast Guard, led by Webber, set off on what was called a suicide mission to retrieve the survivors.

Much like the trailers, I found this movie to be schizophrenic.   The parts of the film that focused on the rescue at sea or the attempts of the crew of the tanker, The Pendleton, to survive despite each other felt dramatic and intense.  However, every time they went back to the mainland to pick up the story of Miriam, it felt like the film ground to a halt.

The early part of the film dealt with the burgeoning relationship between Miriam and Bernie.  They came together pretty quickly, and I never really bought the closeness of the pair.  Bernie felt as if he were holding back for some reason.  That was never really dealt with, though I liked how Miriam was shown as an atypical female of the time.  She felt like a stronger female, but her story arc just did not work.

However, the stuff at sea was not only exciting, but it looked great.  Sure it may not be anything new (we have seen much of this in The Perfect Storm, among others), but the actors do a great job of bringing the goods in these scenes.  I was invested in the rescue of these survivors of the tanker, and I was amazed at the decisions made by Bernie that was able to save them.  The fact that this is based on a true story only makes this all the more amazing.

I would have loved to have seen more about the tanker, and less about the “love” story.  That seemed to be out of place here, as the main aspect of the movie dealt with the rescue.

Both Chris Pine and Casey Affleck are excellent in this movie, setting the emotional moments immediately.

Yes, this is a Disney movie, but I did not get the idea that they “Disney-fied” the story.  This story is not necessarily for children, as some of the images might be too dramatic.

The true story itself is amazing and heroic, and the film does a service to the heroes here.  This could have been a much better movie than it is had it not felt the need to focus so much away from the sea.  Still, the scenes on the tanker and the rescue boat carry more weight for me than the forced romance.

3.4 stars


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January movies are usually pretty bad.

The Forest isn’t that bad.

In fact, there are some good things about it.  Now, it isn’t a good movie, but I didn’t hate it completely like I thought I might.

Sara (Natalie Dormer) discovered that her twin sister was in Japan and was seen heading into a forest that was known to be a place where people who want to commit suicide would go to do it.  She had that twin voodoo power and she knew that her sister Jess was not dead, but in trouble.  So Sara hopped a plane to Japan in hopes of finding her sister before it was too late.

However, what she hears from the locales is that the forest is a place where you do not want to be.  It is a place where ghosties come out, especially at night, and, if you don’t stay on the path, bad things will happen to you.  Sara cannot give up on her sister, so she recruits people to help her out and into the forest she goes.

That premise is pretty solid.  Apparently this forest is a real life location, beneath Mt. Fuji and it had a lot of promise for creepiness.  And I have always enjoyed the concept of twins and the connection or bond between them.  Plus, there were some definitely creepy moments prior to Sara entering the forest.

Part of the most interesting aspect of this film was the background story of the young twins as children.  Jess saw something traumatic as a youth that her sister did not see and that image forever haunted Jess.  The guilt of Sara at not seeing what her sister saw led to years of trying to rescue Jess from her own self-destructive behaviors.

That was all very interesting and would give the forest (kind of like The Island on LOST) ammunition to use against Sara when she invariably goes off the path.

Once we were in the forest, though, there were as many moments that just did not work as those moments that did.  The biggest trip off path involved the demonetization of Aiden (Taylor Kinney), a reporter who was in Japan doing a story on the forest and met Sara.  Aiden was engaged by her story and offered to help her find her sister, for the rights to the story.  I liked this connection as well, until it got changed midway through the movie.  I am still not sure if this was meant to be a twist or if the forest was just one big mind game, but the way the movie flip-flopped on Aiden was a big time missed opportunity for me.

And yes, there were several cliched horror movie tropes that you see all the time in the genre, which is a shame because this could have been something different and interesting.  It did not have to rely on jump scares or creepy faces that come out of nowhere.  There was an attempt at a psychological terror that could have worked throughout the whole film, instead of just in pockets here and there.

The ending was the worst as it really fell apart in the conclusion.

It felt like The Forest wanted to be smarter than it was, but it came up short. There are enjoyable aspects of the film, and I think there were certainly parts that worked for me.  I did not hate this movie, but I did not love it either.  On the whole, The Forest was an okay time with a flawed, but still somewhat engaging, horror film.

2.5 stars



More old movie reviews 2016


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Tina Fey is a war correspondent in Afghanistan in the new movie, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, which is abbreviated WTF, if you don’t see that joke.  This is a pseudo-comedy/dramedy that hits more than it doesn’t and provides perhaps the best movie performance of Tina Fey’s career.

Fey plays Kim Baker, inspired by the book The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan which was written by Kim Barker.  Kim is a journalist who decides to “blow up” her life and accept a position covering the war effort in Afghanistan in the early 2000s.  The film is really more about the life of the reporter overseas than it is about life on the front lines of a war, although there are some parts of the film focused on that.

Tina Fey does a great job here, setting a perfect tone for this journalist in everything that she did.  Martin Freeman also appears as Ian, a freelance photographer who seemed to be more interested in his drinking and talking women into bed than his photography.  The relationship that develops between Kim and Ian is one of the highlights of the film, particularly the second half of the film.  I actually would have liked more of Martin Freeman since he is extremely engaging here.

There are other funny performances in WTF including Billy Bob Thornton as Marine General Hollanek, Alfred Molina as the horny Afghan Attorney General Ali Massoud Sadiq, and Margot Robbie as Tonya Vanderpoel.

The problem I had with the movie was there really wasn’t any through narrative to the film.  It felt like a series of scenes that happened to the same characters strung together in a particular setting.  This trait gave the feeling of a lack of cohesion to the film that would plague it.  Even if the scenes they were showing were good scenes, they felt out of place because of the lack of a strong narrative.  They tried to add some story near the end, but it was too late by then.

Still, the film looked good, made me feel like I was in Afghanistan, featured some good to great performances and had some good laughs to it.  Add to that the enjoyable relationship between Fey and Freeman, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot was worth the time to see.

3.6 stars


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I didn’t think that there would be any movie this year that would compete with the awfulness that was 50 Shades of Black for worst movie of 2016.

And then I saw The Brothers Grimsby.

This was atrocious.

Separated as children, brothers Nobby (Sasha Baron Cohen) and Sebastian (Mark Strong) reunite at an inconvenient time- while secret agent Sebastian was preparing to prevent an assassination attempt.  Nobby’s clumsy arrival leads to Sebastian accidentally shooting someone else and making his employers think he went rogue.  This leads to a chase across the planet to try to stop the plot without getting murdered by his own people.

There is so much stupidity here, I cannot even believe it.  I hated almost everything about it.

The one positive thing I will say is that the flashbacks to the two brothers as boys (played by Lewis Johnson and Gabriel Chay Palmer) were surprisingly tender.  Had there been more about this, maybe this wouldn’t be as much of a steaming pile of shit that it is.

This film spent the rest of the time making fun of people with AIDS, people with leukemia, pedophilia, and drunken, low-life scum.

This is the only time in the history of film that elephant semen is used as the deus ex machina.

The Brothers Grimsby was nothing more than crass and obnoxiousness, with every possible sex and drug joke available.  We saw Deadpool be crude, but still be awesome, because it was funny.  The crudeness in The Brothers Grimsby was just not funny.  There may have been a giggle here and there, but the real laughs were absent.  My theater was pretty quiet (though admittedly, there were not very many other patrons in the theater with me.)

I sat through this travesty, despite the fact that I desperately wanted to leave multiple times during the film.  I made it through and I take it as a badge of courage.  I hated the trailer that they used to promote this thing.  I thought the movie was obscene, predictable, and unfunny.  It is one of the worst movies of the year, if not… THE worst movie of the year.

0.4 stars


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About a month and a half ago, we saw a trailer.  It was a trailer for the new movie 10 Cloverfield Lane, and we had no idea that there was going to be a sequel/reboot for the Cloverfield franchise.  Then, we saw the release date… March 11th, 2016.


It floored me that they were able to keep this film under wraps so effectively that the trailer was such a surprise.  Add to that fact that this trailer was one of my favorite trailers I have seen in a long time that it really created such a buzz for this movie.  Would 10 Cloverfield Lane be able to live up to this excellent trailer and huge surprise of its release?

And the movie nailed it.

Now, to be fair, this movie is not really a sequel of the found footage 2008 cult classic Cloverfield.  This is a thriller that is loosely held within the same universe of those events.  It is not obvious.  In fact, without the name “Cloverfield” in the title, you would never be able to connect the two films.

Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is leaving her boyfriend when her car is sideswiped and rolls off the highway.  When she awakes, she is chained to the wall in a bomb shelter, being held captive by Howard (John Goodman).  In her efforts to escape, she meets another person in the bunker Emmett (John Gallager, Jr.).  Howard tells Michelle that she cannot leave because there was nothing left of the outside world.  But is he being truthful?  Is Howard crazy?  We don’t know.

This film is so tense.  I was on the edge of my seat throughout the entire run time.  It was a small film, not the giant aliens in the street film that the original Cloverfield was.  This was really more of a character drama held inside the bunker with two amazing performances.  John Goodman was magnificent as Howard.  We could never tell exactly what the truth was with this character.  One minute, he seemed bat-shit crazy and the next moment he seemed perfectly reasonable.  This kept the audience on edge and uncertain of exactly what was going on.  Then, Mary Elizabeth Winstead was the perfect person for the role.  She was amazing.  The character of Michelle was so different than you expect in this type of film.  She was so smart.  She never did things that were stupid.  I would be thinking “do this” and then she did it.  It is so nice to have a lead female character in a horror/thriller film that is intelligent and not just dumb.

Dan Trachtenberg makes his feature film debut as a director and he does an amazing job.  The shots of this film create the type of feeling among the viewers that 10 Cloverfield Lane wants.  There was such a small, claustrophobic feel to the film and you sense that throughout, creating the tense tone Trachtenberg wanted to create.  This would be a great job for a long time director let alone a new one.

Now there is a third act twist that I will not spoil, but there have been some people poo-pooing that twist.  To me, it seemed to fit with everything, and there were hints throughout the film, particularly in the dialogue, that fit together nicely.  I found that ending just as intense as the first two acts were.

Though 10 Cloverfield Lane is not really a sequel of the original film, this is a magnificent movie.  I was fully engaged the whole time and wanted to squirm in my seat with everything that was happening.  It shocked me several times and I truly loved it.

4.6 stars


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The new film in the Divergent series came out. I went and saw it.


Allegiant seems to fall into the same category as most of the young adult novel adaptations have fallen recently.  It is blah.  Not the worst movie you would ever see, but hardly memorable or truly engaging.

We pick up our story in the city of Chicago with Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) watching the survivors becoming angrier and more mob like, including executions of the men involved with Jeanine.  However, Tris and Four were more interested in seeing what was beyond the wall, despite the objections of Evelyn (Naomi Watts).  Tris and Four led a their group on an attempt to escape from the enclosure.

This felt very much like the recent Scorch Trials film from the Maze Runner series, and therein lies the biggest issue with these films.  There are so many of these YA adaptations and they all feel the same.  There are so few that have originality that you could easily predict what was going to happen as Allegiant progressed.  There is no surprise.

And yet, there were plenty of moments that really did not make sense.

The performances were fine.  No one really stunk up the joint.  Jeff Daniels as David was a toned down version of his role in The Martian or Looper.  Ansel Elgort and Miles Teller are passable here.  Teller seems to enjoy playing the douche character.  There just does not seem to be much for any of them to do.  Certainly not enough for the potential quality of this cast.

There are a few decent sci-fi set pieces, the scaling of the wall in particular was a pretty cool visual, but none of that excuses the repetitive nature of the story.  This was The Giver. It was Maze Runner.  It was even Hunger Games like.  There was nothing new.

And it is not over.  There is clearly the set up for furthering the story, despite there not being another book for source material.  Perhaps that is a good thing.  I know of people who think the Divergent series of novels are really great.  This movie series has been anything but.  It appears to be simply a money grab from a series that has nothing new to say.  And surely, the money will come in.

Still, it is not the worst film of the year by far.  It has moments of decent sci-fi elements and, despite the rampant predictability, this is a film that might be a good watch on some rainy day if you come across it on cable.

2.3 stars


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One of the stars of The Big Bang Theory, Melissa Rauch, wrote and starred in a new film called The Bronze and the character she played is as far away from Bernadette as you could get.

Hope Ann Greggory was a young female gymnast at the 2004 Olympics who was one of the favorites to win gold, but an freak injury put those hopes away.  However, Hope insisted on pushing on to do her routine on the uneven bars and, above all odds, is able to complete it, placing third and earning a bronze medal.

She came back to her hometown as an Olympic hero, loved by the nation, and she began taking advantage of the fame.  A decade later, she is still taking advantage of her local fame, stealing from her father, and not doing anything.  She was remarkably foul-mouthed and unlikable.

When her former coach commits suicide, Hope receives a letter from her saying that, if she helps coach a new gymnast Maggie (Haley Lu Richardson), she would receive $500,000.

Hope is a thoroughly unlikable character and this is one of the biggest problems with the film.  She is very tough to root for.  She took advantage of her medal win and was criminally rude to her father (Gary Cole).  She initially started coaching Maggie in order to keep her from succeeding and possibly taking her place as hometown hero.  She was really a rotten person.

Melissa Rauch was decent in the film and Gary Cole as her father was not too bad either.

The Bronze is not as funny as it wanted to be.  There was a lot of raunchy jokes and there was a sex scene that was probably the best part of the film.  Most of the jokes did not hit well.

The Bronze was also fairly predictable.  It’s not hard to figure out what was going to happen.  So without to many laughs and a story that was step by step, The Bronze was not a huge success.  There were some moments and I do like Melissa Rauch playing against type, and I have seen way worse films this year, but The Bronze is anything but a movie that I would recommend to anyone.

2.6 stars


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The longer you wait for a sequel, especially a comedy sequel, the more likely it will be that said sequel will be a disappointment.  We have had several examples recently including Anchorman 2, Dumb and Dumber 2 and Zoolander 2.  Comedies, in particular, which typically are hard to create effective sequels of anyway, have a bigger rate of failure.

So one wonders why studios continue to create sequels of long ago comedies.  The latest one is one of the most successful romantic comedies of the last 20 years, 2002’s My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

All of the actors are back to show us what these characters are doing 14 years later.  Unfortunately, the sequel, though not as bad as the three sequels I listed in the opening paragraph, still feels old and tired, filled with aging stereotypes and cliches.

Toula (Nia Vardalos) and Ian (John Corbett) are still married and dealing with the fact that their daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris) is a moody teen, looking to escape from the overbearing Greek family by attending an out of state college.  Meanwhile, Toula’s parents Maria and Gus (Lainie Kazan and Michael Constantine) discover that, fifty years ago,  the priest at their wedding ceremony, never signed their marriage certificate, making them a non-married couple.

These are the two main story lines involved in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, but they were not the only ones.  There were too many story lines added to this film, preventing any one to really take off.  There was also the marriage of Toula and Ian, the sexual orientation of Angelo (Joey Fatone), how Toula wanted to be a fixer, Gus’s brother, rude neighbors among others.  Some of these were fine, but most of them were just providing time wasters between the main story and suffered from a lack of development.

The film does have a heart, and has some sweet moments.  There are some cute lines and funny bits, but nothing that really stands out of my memory.  It is about what you would expect.

Another sequel that waited too long.

2.7 stars



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It has been decades for some people who have been hoping to see two of the greatest heroes on screen together.  Superman and Batman are two of the most well-known, iconic super heroes ever and this is the first opportunity to see them both in a single movie.  Add to this the fact that this film is being used to set up the DC Cinematic Universe, Batman v. Superman had huge expectations.

In the end, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice just could not reach that height of expectations.  It was okay.  That’s about it.

Bruce Wayne (Ben Afflack) is in Metropolis on the day that Superman (Henry Cavill) is fighting Zod (Michael Shannon) and destroying buildings left and right.  One of those buildings belonged to Bruce Wayne.  This has made Bruce Wayne ready to bring Superman down.

Meanwhile, Superman has found the world divided among the public.  Some believe he is a great hero, but there are also many who think that he is nothing more than an alien who is deadly dangerous.  Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) has decided that he will lead the fight against Superman with a convoluted and confusing plot involving Kryptonite.

Batman v. Superman had some good points to it.  It just is not the level of film that everyone hoped it would be.  Zack Snyder directed BvS and this felt very similar to 300 or the Watchmen.  There are some remarkable visuals to the film.  Most of the action was very exciting and looked very good.  Ben Affleck, despite the vitriol that he received from the Internet from the casting, does a really great job as Bruce Wayne/Batman.  I liked Henry Cavill in this film more than I did in Man of Steel.  Amy Adams is solid as Lois Lane and Jeremy Irons as Alfred was fantastic and should have been used more.

I really enjoyed the beginning of the film (not necessarily the Bruce Wayne parents’ murder that we have seen so many times before.)  The scenes of Bruce Wayne running into the destruction caused by Superman/Zod were awesome and it really helped make us understand why Batman was targeting Superman.

However, there were some real problems as well.  One of those is that some of the things that happen did not make much sense.  The plot holes were gaping.  With the exception of Bruce Wayne, the motivations of all of the other characters involved were muddy and uncertain.  This is the main reason why they spent so much time with Bruce Wayne in the beginning of the film.  They wanted his motivation to be clear.  His was.  That was it, though.

I also did not enjoy the one Batman v. Superman fight very much.  Early in the film, there were a couple of encounters between Batman and Superman (one was actually between Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent) and because they did not interact, I did not find their fight scene near the end to be as effective as it should have been.  It also did not help that I thought the step up for the fight was just stupid.

I disliked Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor.  He was absolutely the wrong actor to cast in this role.  Now, I don’t think he was terrible in the movie. I actually thought he did a decent job, but he was not Lex Luthor.  Maybe he could have been the Toyman or the Riddler and been just fine, but as Superman’s most iconic enemy, Eisenberg just was miscast.

Then…Doomsday.  I thought the fight scene with Doomsday at the end was pretty good, but this had been so spoiled already because of the trailers that it lost all of its power.  There was a moment when Luthor said to Lois that he had created this creature and it would be Superman’s Doomsday and that line would have created a huge stir in the crowd, a moment of shock and disbelief…had we not already known that it was coming.  This is not the film’s fault, but the marketing department that made that decision to reveal Doomsday in the trailers should lose their jobs because they minimized what should have been a kick ass moment.

Oh…and Doomsday did not look very good.

I found it very funny that twice in Batman v. Superman it was stated that these characters were fighting in areas where there were no bystanders.  This clearly allowed Zack Snyder to blow up the entire area without receiving the backlash that he got for the devastation that happened in Man of Steel.  I laughed both times it happened.

And speaking of laughs, there were not too many to be had (Perry White played by Laurence Fishburne got some funny lines).  In fact, the tone of this film was so down and borderline depressing that it could be difficult to watch at times.  Not that I think that everything has to be bouncy fun, but a little more balance would be appreciated.

Next, Wonder Woman.  Gal Gadot has received a lot of doubt directed toward her since she won this role.  I personally did not think that Gadot had enough of a presence in this film to judge how effective she will be in the role.  The few lines she delivered did feel a little wooden, but the sample size was pretty small so it is hard to judge.  What I will say is that she absolutely looks the part and her arrival in the third act is one of the highlights of the film.  The style of Wonder Woman was definitely a plus.  Whether or not Gal Gadot can bring the acting chops required for a standalone film is yet to be decided and Batman v. Superman did nothing to answer that question.

I will say that there were minor introductions of other future Justice League members and these felt like they were lazily shoehorned into the movie because they had to set up the upcoming Justice League movie.  The Cyborg scene (featuring Pappa Pope from Scandal) was especially awful.  It made little sense why Lex had this information or how he got it in the first place.

There was clunky dialogue throughout the film.  There were even some laughable lines.  The writing needed to be so much better.

One of the problems of Batman, the character, was that they decided to make Batman a killer.  Now, some will tell you that Batman has killed before, but this is not something that most people would know.  He is seen as a hero, someone who valued life.  Here in Batman v. Superman, the Caped Crusader did not value life at all.  He killed many people.

Batman v. Superman also had a ton of dream scenes and many of these were confusing or simply put stupid.  I found them as a waste of time.

So, I think there were many things that were done well.  I also think that there were some real garbage involved as well.  I should have left the theater thinking that this was awesome.  I did not.  I was conflicted.  And the people in the theater I saw this in had that same feeling.  There was a palpable feeling of disappointment.  I had a guy behind me who said that it was the worst comic book movie he had seen.  I wouldn’t go that far by any stretch, but there were problems.  There was too many things in the film.  It was too long.  I did not like the reason for the fight between the two heroes.  I struggled to decide what to rate this film.  It might be one of those that I reflect back on and like less.  I do believe that I will head back to the theater some time this weekend to see if second viewing changes my thoughts.  For now it is….

3 stars


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The Kung Fu Panda trilogy has given us some really enjoyable movies, and the newest addition is no exception.

Po (Jack Black) is back as the Dragon Warrior, trying to become a teacher of kung fu instead of just a student.  This time, however, his birth father Li (Bryan Cranston) shows up with a story of a secret city of pandas.  Meanwhile, Master Oogway’s (Randall Duk Kim) old friend and eventual enemy Kai (J.K. Simmons) returned from the Spirit Dimension intent on capturing the chi of all kung fu masters.  The prophecy stated that only a master of chi could defeat Kai, and Po sets off with his father to attempt to learn the ways of chi from the isolated pandas.

This movie may have had a major villain and a plot going on, but the real heart of the story was the relationship between Po, his birth dad and his adopted dad, Mr. Ping (James Hong).  Mr. Ping stows away with his son on his trip to the hidden panda city because of a fear of losing Po.  This was very relatable, as the goose suddenly became the odd one out.  Mr. Ping could only watch as Po became closer and closer with his father because they shared so much in common.  They were both pandas.  This emotional core of the story really resonated with me and made Po’s search of discovery a personal one.

The animation is always exceptional in the Kung Fu Panda movies.  I especially love the scenes of flashbacks as they are done in a different animated style, almost an artistic rendering instead of the style they had used.  This was consistent with the other movies and really brings a creative fingerprint to this trilogy.

The voices are also great as, not only are Jack Black, J.K. Simmons and Bryan Cranston great, but so are Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Lucy Liu, Kate Hudson, and Wayne Knight.  These characters are very well known by this point, but it never feels like I am tired of them.

There are great scenes of Kung fu fighting, and the early scenes of Po trying to teach the Five were hilarious.  In fact, there were many great comedic moments throughout the entire film, but the story does not sacrifice for laughs.  Each laugh springs from the characters naturally and fits well in the tale being told.

The scenes in the Spirit Dimension were beautiful and remarkably creative, and showed The Dragon Warrior at his butt-kicking best.  Kai was a really strong villain who, because he had taken the chi (souls?) of characters that we cared about, gave us a great reason to root against him. He was also understandable, as his back story revealed why he felt that what he did was right.  He felt betrayed by Oogway.  It was something that everyone could relate to, but maybe we would not have reacted in the same manner.

The King Fu Panda movies have been really great, and the third installment found me connecting with the characters even more.  I found myself surprising moved by the story and with Po’s journey of self-discovery.  The story of the adopted father and the birth father is another thing that many families have to deal with in the real world and serves to bring that extra emotional layer to the movie.  Add to that the great action and the brilliant animation, Kung Fu Panda is a wonderful time at the movies.

4.5 stars



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The Western genre has had its ups and downs over the years.  At one point, there were plenty of Westerns, but these days they are few and far between.  Jane Got A Gun is the latest.  Jane Got A Gun had to face a series of troubles, from acting changes to behind the scenes failures, in order to find its way to a theater this weekend.  Perhaps it shows why Westerns are not as popular as they once were.

Jane (Natalie Portman) has to try to defend her home and her injured husband (Noah Emmerich) from a gang of outlaws, led by Colin McCann (Ewan McGregor), who were looking to kill him.  She recruited her old lover Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton) to help stop them.

There were several problems with the movie.  The biggest problem was the villain of this movie, Colin McCann was as one-dimensional as I have seen in years.  There was absolutely no substance to this character.  We knew nothing about him.  He was just an evil bad guy.  Without a strong antagonist, the protagonists suffer, and this is a perfect example.  It was a total waste of a talent such as Ewan McGregor who could have played an epic villain if given the proper material.

We had a pretty decent background on Jane and Dan.  The story was told in a disjointed, non-linear manner which worked at times and resulted in awkward storytelling at others.

A second major issue with the film was that it got pretty boring at times, which always is a drawback for a western.  Stretches of time would pass where nothing would happen and the story did not progress.  There was a montage scene where Edgerton and Portman were setting up the area for the upcoming assault by the villains that reminded me of the old A-Team television show.  Some of the things they were doing made little sense, but making sense did not rank high on the plan.

For example, the twist at the end of the film came from so out of nowhere that had there been any good will built up by the film prior to this, it would have sucked the whole thing away.  Seriously, I am not sure who thought this ending was a good idea, but it was a totally unbelievable twist.

Now, there were decent things about Jane Got A Gun as well.  Natalie Portman and Joel Edgerton were good in what they had been given to do, though I would have liked more bad assery from Jane.  The look of the movie was pretty well done.  It had the right tone for most of the movie.  But the problems with the characterization and the plot were just too much to overcome.  Especially in a genre that is not drawing the number of people it did in its heyday.

2.4 stars



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I have to say, I was pretty disappointed with Hail, Caesar.  I had been looking froward to this since the trailer knocked it out of the park.

The movie itself… well, it was seriously weird.

Of course, I was sitting in the theater with a bad head cold, just trying to keep the snot from running down my face, so I may not have been the most focused on what was happening.  I just kept hoping it would get over so I could go home.  I probably shouldn’t have gone tonight.

Yet, I did.  And, sick or not, there were several problems with the new film from the Coen Brothers. However, there were things that were very fun and entertaining as well.

First and foremost was the awesome song and dance involving Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum).  This high energy number was just a hoot and was so outrageous you couldn’t help but be engaged and entertained.  In fact, much of the “movies within a movie” that Hail, Caesar used as the backdrop for their “story” was more interesting than the story itself.  The choreographed swimming number featuring Scarlett Johannson’s DeeAnn Moran was corny goodness.  The singing cowboy film starring the guitar playing, trick-lasso performing Hobie Doyle ( Alden Ehrenreich) was also fun.

Plus, Capital Pictures movie fixer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is great moving from one crisis to another in perfect deadpan fashion.  Brolin is wonderful in this role, providing just the right balance among the insanity.

The story, however, is truly disjointed.  A group calling themselves The Future, kidnapped star actor Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), the star of the new big time film Hail, Caesar and demanded a ransom.  Mannix bounced about trying to keep all of the problems from collapsing around him.

A second issue was one of the best actors in the film.  George Clooney just does not work in this role.  Clooney was constantly making strange faces, going way over the top.  He looked to be trying way too hard to show us that this is a comedy.

Then, what happens with Channing Tatum at the end (which I will not spoil) is so bizarre that I could hardly believe it.

Most of the side plots are wrapped up quickly and, even, off screen ( as it is with Scarlett Johannson’s storyline).  And even with the sickness overcoming me, it felt like the film was wrapped up really quickly and shook me.

This is clearly a love letter to the old time movies, and the parts of the different movies being created was easily the best part of Hail, Caesar.  There just wasn’t much more there.  There were good to great performances, especially Channing Tatum and Josh Brolin, including some great music and dancing.  Still, this could have been so much better.

3 stars


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I was a huge fan of the book Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and so I was extremely stoked for the film version of Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel.  How disappointed was I?  That film was terrible.

I have never read the novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, also written by Seth Grahame-Smith, and I was at best luke warm on the adaptation, probably as much for the failure of ALVH as anything else.

PPZ was okay.

It was certainly loads better than the Vampire Hunter film.

According to the film, the zombie curse began with the Black Death, as the dead began to rise from their graves.  However, England continued on their proper path, with young women training not just on wifely duties, but also on the art of war.  Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) and her sisters were some of these trained female killers, Elizabeth choosing to have her training in China.  The zombie outbreak was starting to pick up steam once again, bringing a renewal of struggles with the undead.

This brought Elizabeth into the orbit of two men who would become suitors for her hand: Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley), who she took an immediate dislike of because of his brutish manners, and George Wickham (Jack Huston), who has an ulterior motive.

This love triangle dominates much of the movie, as Elizabeth is trying to decide what she feels and what is happening around her.

There are subplots with Elizabeth’s sisters, especially Jane (Bella Heathcote), but to be honest, none of her sisters were anything more but fodder.  Only Jane had any screen time, and that was only because of her own relationship with Mr. Bingley (Douglas Booth).  The lack of development of these sisters really made their usage in the film a waste of time.

The story itself was lacking, particularly where the zombies were used.  There was not much sense involved, although I did like the change to the zombie cannon where some of these zombies were literate and could talk, depending on how many human brains they had consumed.  That gave the zombies a little more leeway than they normally have in battles with humans.  We see a zombie set up an elaborate trap and that was interesting.

There was a major problem with the score of the film.  There were more times than not that it was difficult to hear dialogue over the music swelling in the background.  This created even more confusion than needed to be here, and a better job of sound editing could have helped the movie be considerably more entertaining.

Another problem with PPZ was the tone was inconsistent.  At times, it felt like it wanted to be a farcical comedy/satire where other times it felt as if it were deadly serious and there were some horror jump scares thrown in as well.  The humor did not work most of the time and created an issue about knowing exactly what this film wants to be.

Lily James, who starred in Disney’s live action Cinderella, was excellent as Elizabeth and this actress is a star in the making.  She brought enough gravitas to this role that she made me believe that she was a kick-ass trained female.  She was a solid protagonist for PPZ.

The zombies themselves looked pretty decent also, though they may not have been as well used as they could have been.  The effects and the fights were well done, again much better than Abe Lincoln.

In the end, if you are a fan of this type of mash up storytelling, then Pride +Prejudice + Zombies might not be a bad time at the cinema.  If you are a fan of either one of the individual genres, you may come out disappointed.  If you go into the film with lowered expectations, you might have a fun enough time with this to make yourself happy.

2.85 stars


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Nicholas Sparks movies are ones that I never review because I never watch them.  They just aren’t my cup of tea so I avoid them almost as much as Adam Sandler movies.

However, this one has a story to it.

Thursday night, I am back from coaching a basketball game and waiting to head to the Quad Cities to see an opening night of Deadpool at 8 PM, but it is getting late and a player has yet to be picked up.  When he finally left, it was 7:20.  I flew down to the Cinemark Theater, perhaps bending a law or two to do it, and arrived at 7:50.  As I walked into the theater, I saw the 8 PM Deadpool screening had been sold out.  That meant I had to wait for the next showing (IMAX actually) at 9:45.

This really sucked because I did not want to sit around waiting for an hour and a half until I could get into Deadpool, so I began looking for a film that I could waste time at until it was time for Deadpool.

Enter…The Choice.

It was perfect, because it had almost started (I missed all the trailers) and it would not matter if I had to leave it early.  (I did, by the way).

Despite the ticket taker’s comment that this was a chick flick (he had suggested The Boy as the film to waste time at), I bought a ticket for Nicholas Spark’s latest film.

It wasn’t horrible. It wasn’t very good either.

I was definitely not invested, as I kept checking the time, waiting for the best opportunity to depart.  The story was much like many other Nicholas Sparks’ films.  Man meets woman.  They fall in love.  Tragedy strikes.  Can love overcome?

Benjamin Walker played Travis, a good old southern boy who plays his music too loud and has snappy banter with Teresa Palmer’s Gabby.  Walker played Travis just like a clean shaven Sawyer from LOST, and I couldn’t help but think about that every time he opened his mouth.  Gabby was attractive and looked good in a swimming suit.

She was also in a relationship with a doctor, played with a lot of stiffness by Tom Welling (Clark Kent from Smallville), but there was absolutely no emotional weight to the affair that she was having with Travis.  It was fluff.  That was the best I could say about the movie.

Tom Wilkinson was fun in a limited role as Travis’s father.

There is every cliche you can expect.  The acting is poor, although I did enjoy Sawyer.  This film exists for no good reason.

And yet, it was not as offensive as I thought it could be and it did serve its purpose… passing time and getting me to Deadpool, so, for that alone, I am appreciative.

But don’t go see this film.

2 stars


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

Old Reviews 2016 (continued)

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Do you remember the time in the Brady Bunch series when the Bradys went to Hawaii, and Bobby found an ancient tiki and took it with him?  This tiki caused the entire Brady clan to suffer a run of bad luck, including nearly killing Greg when he wiped out on his surfboard, until they were able to return the tiki to its proper place.

The Darkness had the same plot.

Yes, I immediately realized that this story was taken from The Brady Bunch.  The only difference was there were five rocks instead of one tiki, and instead of bad luck, it brought forth evil ghosts (or something).  Heck, the boy in the movie even resembled Bobby Brady with his curly dark mop top of hair.

From there, every imaginable horror movie cliche was placed on display, from jump scares to the young child being the only one who can see the ghosts.  They did not miss a beat.

The only redeeming quality, in my opinion, for Gotham’s young Bruce Wayne (David Mazous) and Agents of SHIELD’s Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) to have appeared in this movie (which they both did) was that now they are both just one degree separated from Kevin Bacon.  Yep, “Ming-Na Wen was in The Darkness with…Kevin Bacon” is now a line you can use in Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

Kevin Bacon does the best he can.  So does young David Mazous (looking pretty young here.  Really, I had to sit in the theater for quite awhile as I tried to place his face).  Mazous played Michael, the young Autistic boy who takes the evil rocks from where he accidentally stumbled across them while his family was on vacation in the Grand Canyon (where we also see Emma Swan from Once Upon a Time in a completely unexplained cameo).

There were some potentially interesting ideas presented here, but as soon as things were brought up, they were forgotten.  Kevin Bacon’s character Peter seemed to have had an affair and might have a bit of a wandering eye, but it was never dealt with.  Peter’s wife Bronny (Radha Mitchell) had a drinking problem.  Peter and Bronny’s daughter Stephanie (Lucy Fry) had some kind of eating disorder as we see her force herself to vomit and store the vomit in Tupperware beneath her bed (ick).  None of these character traits or developments were ever handled again after they were revealed.  It was like they never happened.  None of them had anything to do with the plot of the movie.

Plus, there was a remarkably creepy performance put in by Paul Reiser as Peter’s boss.  I’m not sure what this guy’s deal was, but he was all over the place with his character. And he was married to Agent May.  That was just not right.

The ending brought in another well-worn haunted house cliche as Agent May had given Bronny (what kind of name is that, anyway?) the name of some kind of nondescript …errr…psychic (maybe) who helped her and Paul Reiser save their child years before. This woman psychic was, of course, Hispanic (Alma Martinez) and did not speak much English so they had her daughter along to translate.  We did not meet these two characters until deep into the third act, so any danger that they faced was completely wasted since we had no connection to them.  They were a raging stereotype.

The ending was predictable and came out of nowhere.  It was literally over in just a few scarce moments after the peak point.  Of course, it didn’t end soon enough.  It felt like it went on forever, despite only being 92 minutes.

You know there is trouble when a plotline from the Brady Bunch is remembered more fondly than this movie.

1 star

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Money Monster is the latest film to fall victim to the “too-much-shown-in-the-trailer” syndrome that has befallen many movies over the last few years.  Money Monster showed us every bit of this film in the trailer, and there were no remaining surprises for the audience.  However, despite the spoiler aspects of the trailer, I found myself liking this movie more than I thought I would.

George Clooney played Lee Gates, a cable tv host whose job it is to inform the public on stock tips from Wall Street.  He is shown as being very obnoxious and unlikable as a person and dramatically over the top as a host.  However, one day after a significant stock lost 800 million dollars from a “glitch,” Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) takes Lee hostage live on television, and he demanded to know why he lost his whole life savings on a stock that Lee had claimed was safer than a savings account.

Julia Roberts played Lee’s producer Patty Fenn, who was ready to leave Lee because of his consistent obnoxious behavior.  Patty spends most of the movie talking to Lee through an ear piece, keeping him calm and telling him what he needed to do.

When Money Monster focused on these three strong actors (Clooney, Roberts, O’Connell), the movie is really good.  There is a high level of tension and you connect with them.  However, there are too many scenes that do not involve these three and those really weigh down much of the movie.

There were also tonal troubles with Money Monster.  The attempts at humor felt very out of place, and seemed to be at the expense of O’Connell’s character.  These attempts really made him less threatening and more of a buffoon.  Clooney was also too much of a buffoon at the start of the movie, really only changing near the very end.  Even when he was leading O’Connell through the crowd outside of the studio, he had a self-serving reason for doing it.

I was actually more inspired by Lenny the cameraman (Lenny Venito).  This guy was shown to be a brave guy who claimed to be just doing his job despite continuing to follow this entire drama from start to finish.  I liked this character and I was sorry that Lee never once thought about him.

The film seemed to have a message to present about the evils of Wall Street, and the selfishness of the CEOs of these big corporations, but since the CEO character was so one note, there was very little that made me care about him.  He does not even show up until almost the third act, spending most of the first 2/3s of the film hiding on his jet.  The plot was needlessly convoluted as well.

Despite all of these negatives, the performances of the three main actors in Money Monster were able to elevate the conventional script and plot to be more than what it should have been.  Clooney was too much of the clown early, but he still was able to have some solid moments.  O’Connell was very good when the script wasn’t putting him down.  And Julia Roberts gave another very strong performance.  These actors saved a film that had already shown me everything I needed to know from a trailer.  Because of that, I can still recommend you see Money Monster.

3.5 stars

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Before I wrote this review, I went over to iTunes and purchased several of the songs from the soundtrack.  They were so entertaining and toe-tapping good that I just wanted to have them on my phone.

Sing Street was a brilliant film, filled with awesome music and characters who were real, full of heart and thoroughly entertaining.  I was completely engrossed with Sing Street.

The level of enjoyment I had for this movie was unexpected as the trailers never really appealed to me.  Sure there was some good music used in the trailer, but that wasn’t enough to really sell me on the film.  However, the actual execution of the movie was near perfect.

Taking place in the eighties on the isle of Ireland during the boom of music videos, teenager Cosmo (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) was sent to a new school because of money troubles with his constantly fighting parents (Maria Doyle Kennedy and Aiden Gillen) and immediately became a target of both the other students and the head priest Brother Baxter (Don Wycherley).

It isn’t until Cosmo meets a beautiful, yet troubled girl Raphina (Lucy Boynton), who claims to be a model, that he finds his path.  Trying to impress her, Cosmo claimed to be in a band and offered her a role in their music video.  One problem… he did not have a band.

Cosmo and his friend Darren (Ben Carolan) head out to fill a band of other rejects.  Cosmo is lead through the world of rock and roll by his stoner brother Brendan (Jack Reynor).  The pair of brothers watching Duran Duran’s “Rio” video and claiming it to be “art” was a great scene.

The relationships in this movie are beautiful and complex.  Each character has problems that influences their decisions and their lives, but yet they have a real connection with one another.  The brotherly bond between Cosmo and Brendan was the backbone of this movie and Sing Street took the time to show the troubles the brothers had to deal with on a daily basis.  Music became not only a way to bond, but also a way to escape from the constant fighting of their parents.

The sweetness of the relationship with Cosmo and Raphina was also beautiful.  It was clear that Raphina was scared to let herself fully commit to anything more than some fun times while making music videos, despite the growing connection she was feeling with the year younger boy.  She had been damaged by the loss of her father and her mother’s mental illness, and she was typically keeping her emotional distance.  The music represented the way these two souls were able to connect despite their own frailties.

Plus, as I mentioned earlier, I loved the music.  Not only did I love the music by established artists such as Hall and Oates, M, Duran Duran, The Cure and Joe Jackson, but the songs performed by Sing Street, the name of Cosmo’s band, were also vibrant and entertaining.  “Drive it like you Stole it” is a particularly fun song.  As the boys write each song (to avoid being a cover band per instructions of Brendan), we see them recording different music videos, and the film takes the opportunity to parody several of the different clothing styles from the ’80s to a hilarious tee.  There is a magnificent “Back to the Future” inspired performance that truly steals the show.

Director and writer John Carney does a magnificent job bringing all of the side plots together to make a rich narrative without losing the focus on the main relationships of the film.  Everything is done so well that moments that could be silly or take you out of the story simply do not and work amazingly on their own.  There is heart galore throughout the entirety of Sing Street that I was very sorry to see it end.

Admittedly, a couple of the band members wound up short changed as characters, being regulated to playing instruments and backing vocals, but that is the only flaw that I would see in an otherwise magical coming of age film.

4.85 stars

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Green Room is a horror/thriller film written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier, following his film Blue Ruin, and he creates an extremely tense and claustrophobic experience unlike most films that have been made.

Punk rockers vs. Neo-Nazis.

How could that go wrong?

Green Room is a horror/thriller film written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier, following his film Blue Ruin, and he creates an extremely tense and claustrophobic experience unlike most films that have been made.

A punk rock group was preparing to finish their unsuccessful tour when they were unexpectedly booked in a backwoods bar in Oregon.  Heading to the gig, the band found themselves in the middle of a group of Nazis.  Worse yet, they witness a crime in a backroom. Barricading themselves in this little green room, the band attempts to come up with a way to escape and survive.

Things only get worse when the bar owner, played by Patrick Stewart, arrived.

There were many scenes in Green Room that were very uncomfortable to watch and that was great.  You were never sure what was going to happen next because anything was possible.

Now, I will say this.  The characters from the punk rock band were anything but smart.  They did many stupid things.  And there were very few of them that I wanted to root for.  Pat (Anton Yelchin) is one of the more likeable characters in the film, but even he was hardly displaying a lot of intelligence.  The other problem with these characters are that none of them are much more than one-dimensional beings.  There is not a lot of time spent on developing character traits (outside of finding out which bands the characters would want to be stranded on a deserted island with).  The lack of development is another reason why you don’t feel too connected to these people.

Still, there is a lot of tension created and there are some horrifying images on display.  The movie looks great and that helps with the horrors the film uses.

There are also several moments of really funny dark comedic moments that are still very disturbing.  You almost feel dirty laughing at the situation, but you can’t help yourself because it is funny.

The unfortunate situation these musicians found themselves in was really bad luck, but good luck for us.  We are never quite at ease in the theater, and that is a good thing.  And, sure the group of kids are as stupid as any other horror movie character, but that shouldn’t be a surprise.  It becomes a dark desire to see how these characters are going to die as much as hoping to see them survive.  Green Room messes with your nerves.

3.2 stars

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I had hated the trailers for this movie, and I was not looking forward to it.  Still, there were some pretty good reviews and word of mouth.  I was surprised at the level of the rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so I came into the film with the optimism of perhaps my judging of the trailers was misguide.

Did I mention stupid?

This was a horrendous movie with nothing funny and a group of unbelievably stupid people doing unbelievably stupid things.

The plot, as it was, was pretty similar to the first Neighbors movie (which, by the way, I liked quite a bit).  Mac and Kelly (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) are now trying to sell their house when a brand new sorority,led by Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz) moved in next door to do something that sororities in the US are not allowed to do:  party.  This party-centric sorority threatened the sale of the house, which was in escrow.  In order to root out the party girls, Mac and Kelly turn to their former enemy Teddy (Zac Efron) for help.  Hi jinks ensue.

I hated this film.  Every instance between the “old people” and the sorority was ridiculous and forced.  There were at least three times in the movie where Mac and Kelly would only have had to call the police and the situation would have ended positively for them.  The entire sequence at the tailgating party was as stupid as it got.  No real person would act the way that these characters act and only the most inane people would make the decision that were made at this moment.  The entire time I was just wondering why they didn’t do certain things that make so much more sense.

I thought Seth Rogen was over the top and did nothing more than yell his lines.  He certainly was only playing Seth Rogen.  Rose Byrne seemed to take her acting cues from Rogen as she did exactly the same thing.

And while credibility being stretched in a comedy is not uncommon, this was just scene after scene of stupidity.

I will say that the only part of the film that I did not despise was the section involving Zac Efron and his old friend Pete (Dave Franco).  These scenes were interesting and gave us a deeper look into the character of Teddy, and how he has been unable to move on from the glory days of college and grow up.  However, this was, at best, a side plot line and accounted for a mere slice of the film.

Efron does have some comedy timing and he is not terrible in the film, but we are asked to believe such stupid things and believe that any character, no matter how inept or unintelligent that character may be, would choose to do them.

I may have giggled every once in awhile at a line of dialogue, but the “big laughs” really fell flat to me.

Then, the ending.  What can I say… there are half hour comedies that develop the ending better.  The switch of the characters was drastic and jarring.  Of course, by the end, I was just happy it was over.

Neighbors 2 is a sack of flaming poop laying on the front porch of your house, and that won’t change no matter how many times Zac Efron shows off his abs.

1 star

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We have had movies created from, among other things, comic books, amusement park rides, television shows and video games.  But his one may be the first film created from a phone app.  Angry Birds was a tremendous fad a few years ago.  You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing about people playing Angry Birds, and, of course, Hollywood saw that and decided that this was the perfect opportunity to make some more money.

There is a problem, though.  They forgot to make a good movie.

Now, I have seen worse than Angry Birds, and my guess is that this film does not have me as its target audience.  Children may enjoy this movie.  I do wish that Hollywood would give the children of the movie viewing public something more interesting to watch.

And there really is no excuse for doing something that lacks as much substance as Angry Birds does.  I mean, we have seen animated films such as The Lion King, Wreck-It Ralph, Zootopia, Inside Out, Toy Story, How to Train Your Dragon among many others that brings more than just surface storytelling to the screen.  Those animated movies can appeal to both the kids and their parents.  Angry Birds is truly short in this area.

Red (Jason Sudeikis) is an unhappy bird living on an island full of smiling, happy birds.  After an incident, Red is sentenced to anger management classes where he meets a couple of other birds, Chuck (Josh Gad) and Bomb (Danny McBride).  Red is always snarky and unfriendly, truly wishing to be left alone.  However, when there is an arrival of green pigs from another island, it appears that Red is the only bird to have suspicions about the motives of the swine.

I don’t know why no one else saw the pigs as a threat as it could not have been more telegraphed.  A blind person could have seen that plot twist coming.

There are plenty of crass and low brow moments in Angry Birds, all of them playing to the lowest common denominator.  The entire eagle urinating gag that they showed in the trailer perfectly demonstrates the inane humor on display here.  If only the writers and creators of Angry Birds would have taken their story to higher levels, perhaps it would not have been so unfunny or dull.

Still, it was not the worst film I have seen.  The animation itself was actually pretty well done.  The voice acting was solid, though I am not sure that Jason Sudeikis was the proper choice for Red.

The movie’s message was also confusing, as it was implied that the anger was what was needed to be successful, but Red does make changes to his character at the end.  Didn’t you just tell me that they needed to be angry to ward off the evil pigs?  What do I believe???

It is really lacking in any substance, making this a very disposable and forgetful film, taking up the family movie dollar until it is time for Finding Dory.  Last year, Home (starring Jim Parsons) made a lot of money despite being a weak animated movie because it was released during a stretch when there were little choice for the family movie going experience.  Angry Birds could be tapping into that same concept.

2 stars

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Shane Black returns to the movie theater with his newest film, The Nice Guys, an unofficial sequel to Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.  While this is not specifically a sequel per se, The Nice Guys fits well into a genre with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Ryan Gosling plays hard drinking private detective Holland March, who is struggling through his cases trying to provide for his daughter Holly (Angourie Rice).  March does this many times in unethical manners, taking advantage of his clients and their grief.  When enforcer for hire Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is sent to discourage March from pursuing a certain case, the two men realize that they can be doing more together than apart.

The chemistry between Gosling and Crowe is off the charts and these two drive the film with their banter and their interactions.  Seeing how these characters react and bumble their way through a plot that is quite complex is very enjoyable.  Ryan Gosling, especially, brings a lot to this role, highlighting the weaknesses of his character (alcoholism, crookedness, greed) while showing the love he has for his daughter.

Young Angourie Rice is wonderful in this role.  Black seems to like to have young kids play off of actors in his films, and Rice truly does an amazing job in her scenes with Gosling and Crowe.  She feels like an old soul inhabiting this young girl’s body and I never once found it annoying or forced.

The Nice Guys does have some laughs, but it is not a comedy.  If I had to categorize The Nice Guys, I would call it a noir with some laughs.  There were no real laugh out loud moments in the film, but there was an undercurrent of humor in the situations that made you feel as if this was meant to be satirical.

The setting is pretty cool too.  We see 1977 Los Angeles and the film really fits into that world.  The mystery involving the porn industry at the time plays well into the mood The Nice Guys wants to establish.  Everything about this movie makes you think that the film was actually made in this throwback era.  It feels like a film from the mid 70s in all areas.  That is another fine success.

In the end, I was really looking forward to The Nice Guys, but I found myself a little underwhelmed.  I still really liked the movie, but I did not love it as I thought I might.  There is no mistaking the Shane Black feel of the film, and the dialogue and storyline was all above average.  Great performances by the lead actors and a surprising performance by the young girl are littered throughout The Nice Guys.  Gosling and Crowe are great together.  And yet, all of those positive still did not reach the levels of enjoyment that I expected.  I wanted this one to knock it out of the park, but it only banged it off the center field fence.  Still very good though.

3.9 stars

Image result for pee wee's Big holiday movie poster

I can’t believe I am about to say this.

I watched Netflix’s new movie, Pee Wee’s Big Holiday, which stars Pee Wee Herman (aka Paul Reubens) as the titular character, returning Reubens to a character he made famous years before.

And I was unbelievably entertained by it.

Pee Wee Herman continued to live his life in Fairville, working as a cook in a diner, when actor Joe Manganiello shows up for a milk shake and the pair hit it off immediately.  Manganiello invites Pee Wee to his birthday party in New York City in five days.  The problem?  Pee Wee has never been outside of Fairville.  Deciding to take a chance, Pee Wee takes off on a cross country adventure to attempt to reach New York in time for his friend’s birthday.

I was never a fan of Pee Wee Herman.  I have never seen Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (a film directed by Tim Burton), nor was a viewer of the Saturday morning children’s program Pee Wee’s Playhouse, but I saw this film listed in Entertainment Weekly and I figured I would take a look at it.

And I found it glorious.

Oh sure.  It was stupid.  But that stupidity was a huge part of the charm.  Each stop on Pee Wee’s trip across the country became more outrageous than the last and I laughed at all of them.

I was extremely impressed with the ridiculousness of Joe Manganiello.  The actor from True Blood, appeared as Big Dick Richie in Magic Mike XXL and Flash Thompson in the Sam Raimi Spider-man movies showed such a joy for the role despite how strangely uncomfortable the connection between the characters may have been.

This was so much fun that I have immediately added Pee Wee’s Big Adventure to my list at Netflix.

Paul Reubens was amazing as Pee Wee Herman, despite being a 63-year old man.  He seemed like he hadn’t aged a day and he threw himself into each silly situation with zest and integrity.  He gives us a feeling of innocence, a trip back to our childhood.  Reubens, who is a talented actor (currently showing his skills as Oswald Cobblepot’s missing father on Gotham), really embodies the man-child Pee Wee Herman.  And watching him was a treat.

Admittedly, the movie was nothing new.  The humor was silly.  There was not much to the story. It was campy.  I still loved it.

I did not expect to like Netflix’s new movie so much, but I did.  I laughed.  I had a huge smile plastered on my face the entire time.  It was a great surprise.

3.9 stars

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I love Tom Hiddleston.  As Loki, he is, arguably, the best Marvel Cinematic villain we have gotten yet.  He is an exceptional actor.  I enjoyed his performance in the new Hank Williams biopic.  He lights up the screen.

However, he just did not feel right as Hank Williams.

I Saw the Light tells the story of Hank Williams and his initial attempt to reach the Grand Ole Opry.  He had many problems in his life, struggling with alcohol abuse, a wandering eye, and a conflict with his wife.  He still shows his brilliance in his song writing ability.

The problem with the film was the relationship between Hank Williams and his wife Audrey (Elizabeth Olsen) was so inconsistent that it was off-putting.  One scene, the couple were happy and in love and then the next scene, they were fighting with no reason behind it.  They were divorcing and then they were back together and Audrey was pregnant.  Then they were fighting and rolling their eyes at one another.  It felt very disjointed as the scenes bounced back and forth.  It seemed as if they left several moments out of the film that could have made these scenes connect better together.

Hiddleston is very solid as Williams, though I did feel that he was miscast.  He admirably does his own singing and playing in the film and he does a very solid job of that.  Bradley Whitford and Cherry Jones are also solid contributors in the acting category for this film although Whitford’s black and white scenes suddenly jump into the story and comes out of nowhere.

The film is long and needed to be more concise, choosing to focus on other areas of the relationship to make this feel more consistent.  Why does Hank Williams drink so much?  Is it just because Audrey can’t sing very well?  Did they divorce over her lack of singing voice?  It seemed like it for a while.

There were good moments inside this film, most of them coming because of Tom Hiddleston and his overall greatness.  But despite this,  I Saw the Light is a basic biopic that is over long and boring, taking few chances in the manner the story is displayed or taking advantage of the strong cast to do something exceptional.

2.5 stars

old reviews

A Bigger Splash poster.jpg

Italian director Luca Guadagnino does a wonderful job of providing us with a dazzling view of the Mediterranean landscape. There was also a powerful cast of actors including Ralph Fiennes and Tilda Swinton.

However, I was pretty bored.

Thankfully, there was a lot of nudity to perk me up and keep me awake. I did almost doze off twice during A Bigger Splash, which is not a good sign.

Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton) was an internationally famous rock star on vacation with her lover Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts) and she was nursing a vocal condition that did not allow her to speak above a raspy whisper. Things were going great until Marianne’s former flame Harry (Ralph Fiennes) and his daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson) inserted themselves in on the couple.

Fiennes brought energy to this film that was undeniable. He was really over the top with this character, and at times he was as abrasive as he was entertaining. It was clear that he had an agenda for his relationship with Marianne. It was revealed that Harry had introduced Paul to Marianne, trying to provide a way out of their relationship.

Even with the supposed friendship between these three characters (not counting the unexpected daughter), the bounds of friendship seemed to be pushed to its breaking point several times and this really made me wonder why Marianne and Paul put up with the eccentric actions of Harry.

Plus…everybody is naked.

This might be a very European way to look at the human body, but every time Harry stripped naked to jump into the pool in front of everybody (including his daughter) I found it odd.

There was very little in way of a story involved in this movie, relying on the performances of the actors to carry the movie. This meant that when the film seemed to make a right turn near the end, it felt very weird and out of place. The last 30 minutes of this movie was very bizarre and does not pay off. There are several questions left to answer, that the film leaves to the viewer to determine. And while I would usually not be opposed to that technique, in this case, I needed to know the answers to really know how to react to the unexpected character swaps that happen in the conclusion.

Overall, A Bigger Splash was kind of boring and lacked a story, but bragged some good performances by some really talented actors who are almost able to save the film.

2.4 stars


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I did not hate Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland from 2010, a film that made a surprising billion (yes, with a b) dollars worldwide. When a film reaches the billion dollar level, a sequel is unavoidable. Now, a lot of people dislike the last film, but, looking back, I gave it 3 stars (which is a fresh review, but at the lower end). Alice Through the Looking Glass is not as good as Burton’s film, but it is not as bad as many people are making it out to be.

Johnny Depp returns at the Mad Hatter, but this time, he has become depressed. So depressed that his friends believe that he was dying. In a hope to help him, Absolem (voiced by the late Alan Rickman) leads Alice, who had just returned from sea as a captain of her father’s old ship, The Wonder, back through the looking glass. Alice is shocked at seeing what had happened to The Hatter, but she dismisses his story connected to his family.

This plot point was questionable. Why would The Hatter’s family being alive be impossible to Alice? She did just move from one plane of existence to another through a mirror. She had talked to a purple moth and a smiling, disappearing cat. Why is it impossible for Alice to believe that The Hatter’s family may be alive? The reason was that the script needed her to believe that to continue the downward spiral of The Hatter.

In a desperate attempt to save him, Alice comes up with a cockamamie plan to steal a device from Time (Sasha Baron Cohen) and go back in time to save Hatter’s family from death at the hands (or fire breath) of the Jabberwocky. Sasha Baron Cohen, who was in one of the worst films of the year a few months ago, is perfect in this role, and his Time is one of the absolute highlights of Alice Through the Looking Glass. Time warns Alice that her attempts are for naught, but the girl ignores his warnings and steals the device anyway.

Time then chases Alice back through time to try and return the device to its rightful place before it caused the destruction of time. Alice was shown as a very inconsiderate and dangerous individual, tossing aside apocalyptic warnings from Time all for her own personal reasons. One could say that she was no different than Iracebeth, the Queen of Hearts (Helena Bonham Carter) with her selfishness. Did this make Alice the villain of this story?

There was a ton of CGI, and, although the colors were fun to look at and entertaining, much of it felt fake, almost cartoony. Maybe that was what the producers were going for, but the CGI was distracting at times.

There was also an inane story showing the origin of Iracebeth and why she became such an evil, head-chopping off villainess. And it had to do with eating tarts. Yes, you read that right. Her sister Mirana (Anne Hathaway) had a deep dark secret she was hiding. She lied about something as a child and Iracebeth was blamed, leading to her falling and hitting her head, causing it to swell up. Apparently concussions are an even worse thing in Wonderland. This whole origin story was ridiculous and drew away from the parts of the story that did work.

Johnny Depp was decent as the Hatter, but he really did not have a lot to do. They tried to make the emotional center of the movie the loss of Hatter’s family, but there was not enough interactions with the family to really make the connection with the audience.

Alice Through the Looking Glass is sitting at 28% on Rotten Tomatoes, and, while I think that is too low for this movie, I do understand why some people have found this film rotten. Technically, my review would be a rotten review as well, but I did not hate the film. It was a little over long, and it lacked a real emotional story, but there were enough parts that I enjoyed to say that I did not waste my time.

2.5 stars


Image result for xmen apocalypse movie poster

X-Men: Apocalypse is the latest in the X-Men franchise, bringing one of Marvel Comics’ biggest and baddest X-villains to the big screen. The world’s first mutant, En Sabah Nur aka Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) is accidentally brought back to the world and he picks right up with his plan on devastating the world, leaving only the strong, those who follow him. The X-Men step up to oppose him and his Four Horsemen in a massive CGI slugfest at the end of the film.

Now, I have heard some negative comments on X-Men: Apocalypse, so my expectations, which would have been sky high after the excellent X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past, were managed. Because of the lower expectations, I found myself enjoying this story of mutants, despite several flaws and times when they dropped the ball.

I will continue telling you about what I liked and didn’t like, but it will need to be under the guise of SPOILERS from now on. If you have yet to see the film and you do not want to be spoiled, please skip to the end. You have now been warned.

The best part of this film is the character development of Magneto (Michael Fassbender). Magneto is living a quiet life, with a wife and a daughter, as a metal worker in Poland. He had left the international terrorist lifestyle behind him and he was happy. However, after using his powers at work to save the life of a co-worker, Magneto was exposed. The following scene where Magneto is confronted by law enforcement and his wife and daughter are unintentionally killed packs a powerful emotional wallop and is the heart of the film. We see Erik trying his best to stay on the side of the heroes, only to be faced with such a horrific tragedy, and his resumption of hostilities. Michael Fassbender is heartbreaking in this scene as the man struggled with the loss of his family and the feeling of fate pulling him back to the dark side. You knew those cops didn’t stand a chance with a pissed off Magneto.

This anger and vengeful attitude opens Magneto up to be recruited by Apocalypse, who is looking for his new Horsemen. Now, this is one of the weak parts of the film. Not Magneto, but the other three Horsemen. Storm (Alexandra Shipp) and Angel (Ben Hardy) are woefully underused and really are just here to stand beside Apocalypse. However, these two characters are done perfectly when compared to Psylocke (Olivia Munn). This was such a wasted use of one of the top female X-characters that is was embarrassing. She had nothing to do and she was nothing more than a henchman. Psylocke was the worst character in the film.

On the X-Men side, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) has set up his Xavier Institute for the Gifted and everything seems to be going smoothly. McAvoy is fantastic as Professor X, though I must say that some of the attempts at humor with Charles seemed to fall flat for me. Xavier discovered the return of Apocalypse with the use of Cerebro and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) returned to the school with Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) in tow. She told the X-Men about the troubles of Magneto. Jennifer Lawrence did not show her best level of acting skills in this film, looking as if she were bored. She was almost never in the blue makeup, instead choosing to have her own blonde haired visage almost exclusively. I am not sure that I would go as far as to say that she phoned her performance in, but she has certainly had more effort in other films.

The new (old) X-Men- Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan) and Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) were great additions to the cast, and I could have used more of them. I really liked how they displayed Cyclops’ powers and how destructive they were. They made these powers appear to be a real burden for the young hero. This was a way to connect Scott and Jean together as we found out that Jean has had many of the same kind of issues. A scene late in the film with Jean unleashing what appeared to be the Phoenix was a highlight of that final battle. I also enjoyed the reintroduction of Nightcrawler, who was provided with not only some major things to do, but also delivered some of the film’s better humor.

Speaking of the final battle, honestly, it was underwhelming. There were some awesome moments inside the battle (ex Phoenix force, Professor X battling Apocalypse inside his mind), but most of the rest of the fight was basically standing pat. When you compare this battle with the airport scene from Captain America: Civil War, this looks all the more weak. Then, Magneto and Storm both turned their backs on Apocalypse, and I am not sure the motivations. I did not buy the reasoning for either of them to turn their back on Apocalypse.

Quicksilver (Evan Peters) made his return. In Days of Future Past, the Quicksilver scene was an absolute standout moment,and everyone was expecting more here. And we got it. Quicksilver saved all of the mutants from the exploding mansion. This is a great use of the character of Quicksilver, who is shown with a great personality. Not only was he portrayed well, the use of his powers helped develop his personality more. This was done extremely well in Civil War. Every scene in that airport scene served character. This was not always done here, but Quicksilver was a good example of doing this well. However, I did have a little bit of trouble accepting that Quicksilver was THAT fast. Still, the scene was highly entertaining and shot well.

The appearance of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) was predictable,but fun. And man, did he go berserker? He butchered those men. As a comic fan, I appreciated the use of the actual Weapon X helmet and look for Logan. There was also a cool moment between Logan and new Jean that could help explain why Logan always felt such a connection to the redhead.


X-Men: Apocalypse is not at the same level of the last few X-Men movies, nor does it reach the excellent that was X2, but it is an enjoyable time at the movies, especially after I lowered my expectations. Sure, there are some problems with the film, including having some characters there for simply window service, a simplistic story and a questionable finale. However, fans of the X-Men should find enough here to be pleased with Bryan Singer’s latest installment.

3.5 stars

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Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a hoot.  The film featured the comedic group Lonely Island, the musical digital-shorts superstars Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, a group that has become famous online and on Saturday Night Live.

Conner4Real (Andy Samberg) is the latest, big thing.  Originally striking it big with his childhood friends Owen (Jorma Taccone) and Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer) as a boy band-like band called The Style Boyz, Conner4Real went solo after a on stage fall out with his friends.  Conner4Real is sky high, but his second album does not reach the heights he and his crew were expecting.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping was extremely funny.  I was laughing loudly throughout the entire film.  There are some really crass humor in the film, and most of that really works.  Crassness is fine with me, if it is funny, and this is.

This had a definite feel of This is Spinal Tap.  The story is told in a documentary style and that format really is effective to tell this story.  Of course, the whole idea is very much like Spinal Tap, specifically the last part of Spinal Tap where Nigel Tufnel leaves the band over a fight with David St. Hubbins.  Popstar tells the same story, only expanding that over the entire film.

Now, yes the story is predictable, and it might seem a little long, but, to me, these are nitpicks because I so enjoyed everything about this film.  The music is excellent, with most of them being really funny.  The Lonely Island is a very talented band and they showed it in these great songs.

This is a very hard R rated film, as there is a lot of language and sexual references and some nudity (including an amazingly funny moment with a penis).

Adam Samberg is great in the lead role here.  I have never been a huge fan of Samberg, but he is truly winning in this role.  There were a ton of moments of heart and sweetness among the dirty humor.

Tim Meddows does a great job as Conner4Real’s manager Harry.  Sarah Silverman played Paula, one of Conner4Real’s PR people.  Both of these actors help ground the craziness of Samberg’s character, and that is very important, because there are some really oddball antics going on that could be difficult to related to.

And one of the absolutely best thing about this movie was the amazing list of cameos.  Everyone from Mariah Carey to Weird Al Yankovic appear in this mockumentary style film.  Justin Timberlake is here as well and he is hilarious.  This is some of the best cameos you will ever see.  Probably the best cameos of the year so far.

This movie was extremely funny.  I laughed from the start to the end and, despite the predictable story, I loved this film.

4.2 stars

Image result for adderall diaries movie poster

Think about this.  Would the way you remember your childhood be the same way that someone else in your life remembers your childhood?  Does point of view alter the perception of what actually happened?

These are questions that are handled in The Adderal Diaries, a new independent film starring James Franco and Ed Harris.

Franco plays Stephen Elliot, a real life author upon whose memoir this film is based.  Stephen has had a miserable childhood, specifically because of the abuse and neglect of his father Neil (Ed Harris).  Despite this, Stephen has become a successful author with a big, upcoming book deal on the table.  However, the local murder trial of accused murderer Hans Reiser (Christian Slater) suddenly fascinates him and this trial begins to become a problem in Stephen’s life.  As does his father, whom Stephen has claimed is dead, when he shows up at a book signing and basically outs his son as a fraud.

Stephen, who has had troubles with drugs and alcohol as well as a fetish for S & M, begins to unravel from his carefully constructed narrative, along with the new and positive relationship he had just begun with journalist Lana (Amber Heard).  We begin to question not only the memories from the past, but also exactly how much of a victim Stephen was.

There are some very solid moments in The Adderall Diaries.  The concept of the film is very interesting.  With the doubt being cast on exactly whose POV can be trusted, the movie can play with the flashbacks to keep the audience guessing about what truly happened.  The problem is that the film does not really do that.  Instead of playing it as a mystery, it kind of just switches from one perspective to another.  Many of the scenes in the first hour of the film felt disjointed and not fully integrated into the narrative of the film.  It could have definitely used some more connective tissue to hold these reasonably decent scenes together.

James Franco is solid as the lead in this film, but there is nothing really standout about his performance.  It is a performance that you have seen from James Franco many times before.  More interesting was the performance of Ed Harris, who plays the father with such an uncertainty that it makes you owner exactly what the man is thinking.  He is, at both times, a sad and pathetic man and a horrible, spite-inducing abuser.  Harris does not hide from the negative aspects of the character, choosing instead to embrace the negative traits.  This choice makes the father much more of an enigma than just a stereotype of an abusive father, a role that we have seen countless times.

The whole murder trial of Hans Reiser felt out of place in the film.  Sure, I understand that this film was intended to help Stephen as a trigger to examine the truth behind what he remembered as a child, but it did not work.  It was more of a distraction than anything else.

I also did not like the S & M aspects of the film.  This is not 50 Shades of Grey.  None of the scenes from Stephen’s past made sense to why he became this messed up, although there were some sexual  abuse teased at during the flashbacks.  There should have been more concrete connections to the way he was today to justify the use of the flashback technique.

This felt as if it could have been a better movie than it was, but it is not terrible.  There are positives in the movie, but nothing a good rewrite and tightening up some story elements couldn’t help.

2.7 stars


 Image result for The Huntsman: Winter's War movie poster

The Huntsman: Winter’s War is both a prequel and a sequel to the 2012 film Snow White and the Huntsman as the film tells a tale that is engulfed around the original movie, and there is no sign of Snow White.  That is because Kristen Stewart was not involved in this.  She was the one who was the wisest of them all.

This movie was really boring.  It told an unnecessary story based around the life of the Huntsman Eric(Chris Hemsworth), how he came to be a huntsman and a love story with fellow huntsman Sara (Jessica Chastain).  Unfortunately for Eric, as a child he was snatched away from his parents as they were slaughtered (right out of Conan the Barbarian, which I thought of while watching that scene) and taken to the evil ice controlling queen.  No it is not evil Elsa.  She was the Ice Queen, Queen Freya (Emily Blunt). The evil queen from the original movie Ravenna (Charlize Theron) turned out to be Freya’s sister.  Freya had a baby, the love of her life, but circumstances occurred where the baby is burned to death by an intruder, triggering the power inside Freya and sending her into a cold and emotional-less state.  She rallied against love of any kind.

So when her two best Huntsmen, Eric and Sara, grow from children and fall in love, they must be punished.

There were so many contrived scenes in this film that there are too many to mention.  The scene where Sara and Eric are separated is clearly one of those.  None of it really made much sense, but that does not seem to be of major importance to The Huntsman movie.

Chris Hemsworth continues his unfortunate streak of being enjoyable in a bad movie.  With the exception of his role as Thor, every film Hemsworth seems to be in are poor despite his charisma and talent.  If I were him, I wouldn’t be giving up Mjolnir any time soon.

Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron, who have been remarkably great over the last few years, give two of the worst performances you will see.  Blunt in particular is just so bad in this movie, giving as icy of a performance as this not-quite Elsa character deserved.  One would wonder if she knew she was as bad as she appeared while filming it.  Theron, hot off of her huge role in Mad Max: Fury Road, phones in her performance as the not dead Ravenna.  Both villains are unworthy of a big time blockbuster as this film wants to be.

The supporting characters are all annoying and dull.  There are four dwarfs that are meant to be the comic relief, but they fall considerably short (pun unintended).  Nick Frost, in particular, as Nion is unfunny and that just shouldn’t be the case.

The biggest flaw of the movie is that it is dull.  The action is okay, but there is too little of it. The final scene was so predictable that I had just said minutes before what they had to do to stop the villains.  My favorite action scene was Eric leaping onto the castle roof and sliding down the angle.  However, that we had already seen in the trailer.  The CGI was okay at best.  It was certainly nowhere near the quality of The Jungle Book from the week before.  Coming out so close to that film can only hurt the Huntsman in comparison.

I do like Chris Hemsworth as well as the other actors involved in this project so I hope that they can find successful roles to wash the stink of this one off their resumes.  The Huntsman: Winter’s War was a real block of ice.

1.9 stars


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How cute…….

What a cutie kitty cat….

One of the most adorable kitty cats to ever grace the big screen.

Keanu is the big screen debut of the television comedy pair Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, and they are very funny.  I especially enjoy Keegan-Michael Key, having seen him on other shows and as a few appearances on the new version of Whose Line is it Anyway?, and being a big cat fan, I was really looking forward to Keanu.

Rell (Jordan Peele) has been dumped by his girlfriend and he is depressed when the cutest little kitty shows up on his doorstep.  Naming him Keanu, Rell snaps back and his life becomes focused on Keanu.  Little did he know, Keanu was originally the kitten of a drug lord who had been murdered, leading to several criminals trying to reclaim the cat.

Let’s start off with this.  Yes, there are some really ridiculous things that happen in this movie.  Seeing Rell and Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) going “undercover” inside the gang in an attempt to retrieve Keanu really stretches the suspension of disbelief.  Much of the action scenes really have to be taken with a grain of salt.  In fact, I might have even preferred there to be less gunfire and action.  Having said that, if you could suspend that disbelief, there were a lot of laughs to be had.  And let’s just agree that that cat is awesome.

Amazingly, that was part of the story.  Everybody that comes across Keanu falls in love with him and wants to take him for themselves.  That cat must have magical powers.

Key and Peele’s acting like thugs was hilarious, playing with the stereotypes of the typical African-American criminals/drug gangs.

The running gag about George Michael (from Wham!) is funny, but may have run too long.  Still, watching a car load of drug gang members singing along with “Father Figure” is absolutely worth the price of admission.

Again, this film has many flaws.  The plot is silly.  The action is hard to believe.  Some characters are extremely annoying (hi there Will Forte).  Yet I can forgive all of these issues with the film because it made me laugh more than it didn’t, and when I was laughing, I don’t have to sit and think how stupid something is.  The humor is based on the events and the characters and I found myself really liking Key and Peele.  Plus, Keanu is just ridiculously adorable.

This could have been better, but it is not bad.

3.5 stars


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This is one of the odder biopics that you are going to see.  Jazz legend Miles Davis, portrayed and directed by Don Cheadle, stars in Miles Ahead, a title of one of Davis’s albums.

The reason this film is so unconventional as a biopic is this:  the film focuses strictly on two basic moments of Miles Davis’s life, when he met and married his wife France (Emayatzy Corinealdi) during the 1950s and a time twenty years later when he withdrew from the music industry.  The film bounced back and forth between the two time frames with a reasonable amount of success.  However, with the older Miles, he goes through a story that feels extremely fictionalized.  True, Dave Brill (Ewan McGregor), Rolling Stone writer who comes to see if he can get the story of Davis’s grand return to the music world is a fictional character.  This makes me wonder how much of the tale we see with Miles and Dave in conflict with the record company over Davis’s new recordings is actually real and how much is made up.  That would place its genre into the historical fiction instead of a biopic.

Not that the film has to be truthful to be good.  In fact, Miles Ahead is a very solid film, with a fantastic performance from Don Cheadle and some amazing music.  Miles said in the film that he hated the term “jazz” and preferred his music to be labeled “social music.”  The soundtrack of the film is definitely one of the strengths.

And as I said, Cheadle is masterful in his performance as Miles Davis.  It is uncanny how much Cheadle looked and sounded like the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.  The film does not shy away from the warts of Miles Davis as we see him out of control several times, including when he drove his loving wife away after a significantly and dangerously violent incident.  We see him paranoid, full of self-doubt and arrogance at the same time and an expectation that he is who he is.  Davis is incredibly self-destructive and this plays out throughout the film.  The strength of Cheadle’s performance truly kept this film from losing track of what it wanted to be.

Ewan McGregor does an admirable job as the desperate journalist who finds himself enthralled in Miles Davis’s insanity, all for the opportunity of writing a story, but his character is fairly underdeveloped.  We really don’t know much more about him than he works for Rolling Stone and he really wants to write a story to help Miles.  Yet. McGregor and Cheadle have good chemistry with one another, which was a serious importance for this film to work, and that chemistry covers the lack of development of David.

More developed is Miles’ wife France (Emayatzy Corinealdi).  A dancer, Frances is shown as a strong woman who loved Miles, and put up with a lot of crap from the musician.  She had dedicated her life to her husband, going as far as to give up her dancing because he had asked her to do so.  The connection between Miles and Frances was played well throughout the film and you could believe that he always loved her.

While the scenes from the 1950s play like legitimate flashbacks. the section of the story with McGregor and Cheadle feel like a completely made up story, making this film a weird dichotomy.  I was amazed how effectively these two different genre types worked together in Miles Ahead.

I knew very little about Miles Davis’s life or career prior to seeing Miles Ahead, and that probably served me well.  At this minute, I am not sure what I really know about Miles Davis’ life or career.  I have to say, however, that I am interested to know more.

3.7 stars


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There are not enough superlatives in my vocabulary to sufficiently do justice to this movie.

Captain America: Civil War is, simply put, in my opinion, the best comic book movie ever made.  That is not hyperbole.  I was sitting in the theater with tears in my eyes because it was so wonderful.  The action is as good as you will ever see, but there is so much more than just that.  There is an unbelievable amount of emotion percolating throughout the show that you are constantly feeling the intensity and the sentiment.

Plus, the movie somehow provides you two characters, Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, pitting them on opposite sides of the issues- almost polar opposites, and yet makes you, as the viewer, think that both sides are right.  Even if you come in as #TeamCap, you cannot watch Civil War without empathizing and understanding what Tony Stark is feeling and doing.  How can both sides be right?  Civil War does it, and that only serves to amp up the narrative all the more.

So the plot:  after another Avengers mission overseas chasing after Crossbones (Frank Grillo) leads to innocent civilians dying in the crossfire, the United Nations, led by Secretary of State Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt, reclaiming his role from The Incredible Hulk), want the Avengers to sign an agreement for the UN to have oversight over the Avengers.  Some of the team agrees that this is a good idea, this group led by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) where as other team members see this as a step towards losing their freedom of choice, this group led by Steve Rogers (Chris Evans).

This was already causing trouble within the Avengers, but suddenly, The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) is blamed for a terrorist attack at the accord signing, and that throws everything for a loop.  Cap wants to help his friend, while Iron Man wants Bucky to be brought in as a murdering criminal.  Little does either of them know that Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl) is actually behind the attack.

Couple things right off the bat.  Everyone is talking about how the “airport” scene is great.  I am here to tell you that it is the most epic extended fight scene ever put on screen.  Every character involved in this scene (which runs around 17 minutes) have something special happen.  It has unbelievable action and everything that happens makes total sense.  All of the action is rooted in these characters that we have such an emotional connection to and that only makes this airport scene even more amazing.

I will say this.  There are plenty of people who will want to compare Captain America: Civil War to Batman V. Superman.  I am here to tell you that, despite a similar thematic narrative, that is not a fair comparison.  Captain America: Civil War has the benefit of having twelve movies behind it to set of these characters and their motivations.  We understand these characters and why they do what they do because we have seen it.  Batman V. Superman did not have that luxury, having only Man of Steel to build character.

Captain America: Civil War has such a support behind it that it makes me wonder how effective the film would be if this were the first Marvel Cinematic Universe film that you have seen.  Seeing the previous movies absolutely makes this a richer cinematic experience.  Civil War does another amazing thing.  This is clearly a sequel in a narrative sense to Captain America: Winter Soldier, but it also makes for a fantastic sequel to Avengers: Age of Ultron.  It is both a Captain America stand alone film and also an Avengers film.  Those people claiming that this is Avengers 2.5  are not wrong, but it is also a great stand alone.  Civil War has created some fantastic paradoxes.

Now, I am probably going to talk about SPOILERS form this point on…so if you have not yet seen Captain America: Civil War, please skip this part of the review and go to the end.  Since the last trailer, I have actively avoided footage that kept popping up online, despite desperately wanting to watch it, and I am very happy that I did.

Spider-man.  There is no doubt that Spider-man is my absolute favorite character, not just in comic book movies, but of all time.  Tom Holland is perhaps the greatest version of Spider-man and Peter Parker we have seen on the movie screen.  He is funny, he is awesome with his action, and he accounts for himself beautifully.  Yes, perhaps the hot Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) may take some getting used to, but Tom Holland has won me over completely.

Black Panther.  Chadwick Boseman has taken this new character and just knocked it out of the park.  As T’Challa, who blames Bucky for the attack on the UN that led to the death of his father, Boseman played T’Challa as such a bad ass, but one who carried himself with a nobility.  There was a regalness about him.  This is the King of Wakanda, and it showed.  This only helps make me more excited for the Black Panther stand alone movie.

The massive airport scene was such a large scale and epic battle, but the film ends with a very small scale, but dramatically personal fight.  When Zemo played the tape showing that Bucky had killed Tony Stark’s parents, I thought I was going to lose it.  I did not see that twist coming, despite seeing Bucky run this car off the road at the beginning of the movie.  Robert Downey Jr. really brought his game here.  You could see the torment and the regret in his face as Stark realized that his opportunity to make up with his father (John Slattery) had been taken away from him by The Winter Soldier.  Years of repressed anger and frustrations came out of Tony when that happened, and he just wanted to kill Bucky.  And you couldn’t blame him.  This was another example of how Captain America: Civil War is able to balance two sides and make them both seem equally right.

Chris Evans is every bit the counter-balance to Robert Downey Jr.  As an acting pair, these two are as much of powerhouses as their comic book counterparts.  Downey Jr. may be the godfather of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Evans is the heart and soul.

There are great moments for everyone here.  Elizabeth Olson as Scarlet Witch is great, and spends a good part of the fight bailing the others out of trouble.  Vision is rocking a sweater.  Hawkeye returns from retirement to help out Wanda.  Ant Man makes a giant impact.  Black Widow is a serious ass kicker, but also brings a moral uncertainty unlike any other.

I have also heard a lot of criticism about the villain.  Marvel movies have had some issues with their villains, and rightly so, but I did not find that an issue here.  I thought that Daniel Brühl was exceptional as the not quite so Baron Zemo.  His motivation was understandable (and even heart breaking) and, though his plan may have been shaky, he felt like a needed foil to continue to push the Avengers in the path that he wanted them to go.  He was not an over the top, mustache twirling, world dominating super villain.  He was just a highly skilled man who wanted revenge for the perceived slight and I believed it.  I am very glad that he survived the movie, because I think we could easily have much more development of Baron Zemo over the years to the point where he could become someone more like his comic book alter ego.

Captain America: Civil War is perhaps the most mature Marvel movie yet.  Not to say that there isn’t great humor in this like the other films.  However, the humor feels very organic.  The characters who are supposed to be funny, are.  Stark is quippy.  Spidey and Ant Man are down right laugh out loud.  But there are definitive stakes here, and the stakes feel real.

Two post credit scenes as well, including one of them with Spidey that just filled my heart with joy.


Captain America: Civil War is brilliant.  There is no other way to put it.  I loved this film.  It is my favorite comic book movie by far, and, after seeing this a few more time, I might even go as far as saying that it is my favorite movie period.

I came into this movie with expectations that were sky high, and it surpassed all of them.

It is a masterpiece.

5 stars