Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

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Fifty years ago, there was a classic film released that really changed the genre.  Produced by and starring Warren Beatty, Bonnie and Clyde loosely told the true story of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, notorious bank robbers during the 1930s.

Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty), an ex-con, is caught by Bonnie (Faye Dunaway) trying to steal her mother’s car.  Enamored by his criminal lifestyle, Bonnie joined him in a bank robbery as the pair began a love affair.

The Barrow gang added Clyde’s brother Buck (Gene Hackman), Buck’s wife Blanche (Estelle Parsons) and mechanic C.W. Moss (Michael Pollard), and they moved around Texas and the central states robbing banks and getting into shootouts with law enforcement.

This movie was groundbreaking because of the violence that it showed.  For the time, the violent shootouts were very graphic and the blood was shown as well.  Of course, it was tame in comparison to today’s standards, but this film led the way in what a movie could show.

Beatty and Dunaway had tremendous chemistry with one another and you truly believed that these two were the wild loves.  This was also one of the first films that shows their main protagonists as criminals, anti-heroes.  Bonnie and Clyde are extremely likable and easy to support.

The ending was a dramatic moment that came out of nowhere.  SPOILERS.  The ending was just like real life.  In a set up, Bonnie and Clyde are gunned down in a hail of bullets by police officers including Frank Hamer (Denver Pyle).  Then the movie ended right there leaving the viewing audience shocked and wanting more.  I teach plot in my literacy class and we talk about the climax of a story being followed by falling action.  There was no falling action or conclusion here.  It took the climax of the film and just threw up the “THE END” on the screen.  There was not even any boxed text like you see in other real life stories where they have info on the screen for the audience to read.  It was just done.  That made this ending all the more unbelievable.

Bonnie and Clyde was a great film with a shocking ending and two extremely charismatic leads.  The film won two Oscars as well.  50 years later, this film certainly holds up.

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Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein (1948)

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I was always a fan of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.  I loved the “Who’s On First” routine.  I loved all of their other movies.  But when they came across the Universal monsters, the pair took it to another level.

This film also boasted the appearances of Lon Chaney Jr. as Larry Talbot (who would become the Wolfman) and Bela Legosi who is the Count.

These actors truly make the film work by playing their individual monsters straight.  They are not played for humor.  In fact, that straight play works extremely well with the lines delivered by Lou Costello.

There is more slapstick comedy here than the normal Abbott and Costello movie.

Dracula has a plan.  He wants to revitalize the brain of Frankenstein’s monster by replacing it with a viable (and simple) brain.  And whose brain do you think is the one that will work?  That is right.  It is Wilbur Grey (Lou Costello).  With the help of a beautiful lady scientist (Lenore Aubert), the Count looks to lure Wilbur into the spider’s web.

This is one of Hollywood’s first horror/comedy mash-ups.  There is a lot of humor here, without sacrificing the scares.  It is also one of the better examples of the Universal monsters coming together in a movie (which also included the voice of Vincent Price as the Invisible Man making a special cameo).  The Dark Universe stumbled out of the gate with The Mummy.  Perhaps they should look at this as an option, at least with the narrative.

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Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

Carrie (1976)

Carrie

This weekend sees the debut of Stpehn King’s The Dark Tower in theaters so I figured I would add one of the greatest King adaptations to the list of Classics reviewed here.

Carrie starred Sissy Spacek in the title role of a sad, put upon high school girl, who finally gets asked to the prom.  Problem is, Carrie is being set up by the mean kids.

Kids can be really cruel, and they think and do some of the meanest things just for the laughs of it.  And they can target the weaker and the different.

However, they mess up, because Carrie was anything but weak.

She was a telekinetic.  That means that she can move objects with her mind and I have always believed that TK is one of the most powerful of all super powers.  And Carrie turns this film on its head with her TK powers, changing the movie from a psychological horror movie to a revenge story.

Piper Laurie is utterly brilliant as the overbearing religious mother Margaret White.  She was just as cruel as the high school kids, but in a different way.  Locking Carrie in the closet was a terrifying scene, and Margaret earns her end.  Piper Laurie, who would eventually be on Twin Peaks, received an Oscar nomination for her role.  She was chilling.

There is a great cast around these other awesome actors.  John Travola, William Katt, Amy Irving, Betty Buckley all have important roles and have great performances here.  Brian DePalma directed the adaptation, creating some iconic imagery that continues to be a horrifying look at high schoolers and their lives.

There was a remake of Carrie a few years ago, but it was a basic reshoot of the original done with lesser performances.

This is one of the best horror films of the 1970s and arguably the best Stephen King adaptation to date.

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Carrie

Batman and Robin (1997)

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This was my least favorite movie for a long time.  Then Movie 43 came along and took its place, but that does not mean that this travesty is not still one of the worst movies ever created.

Joel Schumacher directed this turd and helped kill the Batman franchise.  After the series had been resurrected by 1989’s Batman, this, the fifth of the series, drove the nails into the coffin.  The only benefit of this is that it forced the WB to put this franchise aside until Christopher Nolan came back to the Dark Knight trilogy.

Again, this is not an excuse for why this sucked so badly.  It is just a fact.

George Clooney took over the Batman suit (fresh with bat nipples) from Val Kilmer.  He was hamstrung by the tone of the film.  The Batman series had been moving back toward the camp that the 1989 Batman left behind.  The Batman from the sixties had its detractors and the image of the character from the comics was very dark.  With the comedic tone and the campiness of the new film, Batman and Robin started in trouble.

Then, things were just went so badly.  Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze was a terrible choice.  Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy?  Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl (who was Alfred’s niece)?  A script that was so crammed full of horrid dialogue and ice puns that you could not stand it.  A Bat credit card (how does that work in the first place?)  Bat ice skates?

The whole Alfred is sick storyline was nothing but a way to force Batgirl into our world.  Chris O’Donnell played Robin as if he needed a slap across the face.

There was product placement galore.  Some of the worst examples of product placement in any movie (maybe better than the Transformers, but.. hey what isn’t?)

Oh… and Bane.  Well, maybe I really don’t have to go into how terrible this version of Bane was.

This version of Batman was too jokey to be taken seriously and too stupid to be funny.  The neon colors are vomit inducing.  The action is poorly filmed and does not make up for the ridiculous script.

These are some actual quotes from Batman and Robin:

“Let’s kick some ice! “- Mr. Freeze

“Tonight, hell freezes over! ” – Mr. Freeze

“Hey, Freeze. The heat is on.” -Batman

“You’re not sending ME to the COOLER!” – Mr. Freeze

“Chicks like you give women a bad name.” -Batgirl

“Let me guess, Plant Girl? Vine Lady? Huh? Hand over the diamond Garden Gal, or I’ll turn you into mulch!” -Mr. Freeze

“It’s the hockey team from hell!”  -Robin

“I hate to disappoint you but my rubber lips are immune to your charms.” -Robin

 

There were actually a bunch more Mr. Freeze lines that could have been included here, but you get the idea.

I’ve talked about this piece of crap for too long already.  If there was any doubt, this one is …

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Batman & Robin

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

Fast Times At Ridgemont High

TCM presented a showing of 1982’s comedy classic Fast Times at Ridgemont High today through Fathom Events and it gave me a chance to see the film.  Though there were several scenes that I was familiar with, I do not believe that I ever saw the entire film until today.

Fast Times was a film based on a book from then 22-year old Cameron Crowe, whom went undercover as a high school senior and wrote an expose on what he saw.  The book would become a high school comedy filled with a great cast and some real life situations that caused a stir.

There were plenty of references to drugs and to sex.  In fact, according to today’s pre-show, the film was initially rated X, until there were some cuts made to bring the rating down to R.

And you can see why the film was rated that way.  It had characters that spoke in a matter-of-fact manner about many sexual situations as well as there being plenty of nudity and simulated drug use.

However, the film was more than just that.  In fact, though most of the characters appear to be the typical stereotyped characters we have come to know from these high school movies, the Fast Times characters were actually quite well developed.  You could understand the basis for the choices these young people made and the film did not shy away a frank illustration of the youth culture of the times.

Plus, Fast Times is really funny.  Led by Sean Penn’s iconic stoner Spicoli, there are some great comedic performances here.  It was also wonderful to see the late, great Ray Walston as Spicoli’s foil, Mr. Hand.  That relationship was over-the-top, but it was sweet and surprisingly realistic. It is the type of teacher-student adversarial relationship that other films have tried to include but with which they failed miserably.

Now, Fast Times is far from perfect.  There was a decisively missing plot, as the film was really more of a series of scenes involving these characters.  The film gets away with that because these characters are so likeable, but the story structure was definitely lacking.  There were also some seriously lacking of parental figures for these kids.  Were they all just roaming around freely?

I enjoyed seeing the special presentation of Fast Times today, and I can see where many of the film’s ideas and concepts were copied and used with lesser extent in the years since.

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Fast Times At Ridgemont High

Rear Window (1954)

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The Alfred Hitchcock classic Rear Window is one of his best films ever.  There is something isolating about it and it brings us along to feel the anxiousness displayed by James Stewart.  We see everything happening in our own POV, knowing the truth but not exactly sure what is happening.

James Stewart plays photographer L.B. Jefferies, currently confined to a wheelchair with a broken leg, who spends his day staring out his window at the apartment complex and wondering about the lives of the people he sees.  When something strange happens in one of the windows across the way, Jefferies has his imagination run away with him… or does he?

Hitchcock creates such a great mysterious story that we try to work out at the same time as the main character.  He does it with a tremendous amount of suspense and tension.  James Stewart does a remarkable job of conveying that.

Grace Kelly is here as well, playing Lisa, Jefferies girlfriend who has been trying to get him to allow her into his life at a deeper level.  She is beautiful and it is an awesome when she joins in with Jefferies’ attempts to uncover what exactly was going on.  It showed their relationship in a strong way.

Raymond Burr played Thorwald, the neighbor whose behavior makes Jefferies think he has done something dastardly.  Burr does a great job with less, creating a wonderful antagonist for Jefferies, even though you are unsure if he has done anything wrong at all.

Rear Window is one of Hitchcock’s greatest films of all time and it holds up today.  It is am amazing film.

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Coach Carter

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I had a chance to go to an education conference and we were lucky enough to have a chartered bus to travel from Iowa to Minneapolis.  On the trip home, we put in a movie that starred Samuel L. Jackson named Coach Carter.

Coach Carter is a basketball coach that takes a job at his old school, a school that is one of the worst school in the state in way of graduation and education.  There are several young players who have their own struggles with dedication, as well as the other typical troubles that face the typical high school student in this type of sport movie.

Coach Carter was a pretty entertaining film for one main reason.  It was Samuel L. Jackson.  Jackson is always good, even in poorly written, cliche-ridden sport movie.  Jackson had a presence and he was very believable in the role.  Without him, I am afraid that this movie would have been considerably worse.

Most of the movie’s younger actors, including a young Channing Tatum, were not very good here.  Tatum has improved dramatically as an actor and seeing him this way is a stark reminder of how much better he has become.

As an educator, there were a lot of things that were illogical or downright wrong about what goes on in the movie.  The principal and the teachers were doing and saying things that made no sense, but, ironically, much of what Coach Carter says and does was almost exactly what, ironically, was talked about at my conference.

In the end, Coach Carter is a fun time despite its problems.  And as the first of the “classic” reviews, Coach Carter gets a….

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Doc’s Classic Movies Reviewed

Hey.  So, I want to start writing up some reviews for the site that give you my thoughts and opinions on other movies that occurred prior to the movie reviews on EYG.  This might be some that I had already reviewed back before the site came here to WordPress or it could be films that I have never reviewed before.

I have used the term classic in the heading of this section, but that does not necessarily mean I am only reviewing classics.  Clue could be reviewed, (ok…Outlaw?) or something that is like the original Ghostbusters, or Star Wars or Monster Squad or ET or Casablanca… etc.

In fact, I have never seen Casablanca, but I do believe it is one of the films to be included in the Fathom special series.  Films like that could get a review.

You could get cult classics- such as Rocky Horror or The Evil Dead.

I could review the “classic” films such as The Room or Birdemic: Shock and Terror.

Or even just old movies that I hadn’t reviewed before.  Films on Netflix or Amazon or one of the many other streaming services available today.

We are taking the term “Classic Movies” and stretching it quite a bit.

I am also going to change my rating system for these reviews.  Instead of using the stars, I am going to use the following classifications (in the following order).

Paragon

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Vintage

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Classic

classic

Fun Time

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Meh

meh

Overrated

overrated

Stale

stale

Putrescent

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Let’s see what this brings us.

Three Films, One Night

I watched three excellent movies last night on some of the streaming services (Amazon Prime and iTunes).  I want to give a mini-review over these three.

Image result for the autopsy of jane doeThe Autopsy of Jane Doe.  Another great horror film from 2016.  This was unexpected and chilling.  A body of a woman is found in the basement of a house where everyone else was slaughtered.  The woman had no marks on her.  So the police took her to the morgue, hoping their local M.E. could find a cause of death.  Brian Cox played the medical examiner and Emile Hirsch played the M.E.’s assistant, who also happened to be his son.  This was really creepy and scary.  It is also excellent because it is treated like a mystery, with some really intriguing work with the autopsy.  You’ll be seeing this on the list of best horror films of 2016 coming soon here at EYG

4 stars

 

De Palma.  The great director sits down and discusses his career.  This documentary is Brian De Palma sitting down with directors Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow and answering questions about all his movies, diving into insights about choices he made, thoughts on the movies he created, and ways he navigated the waters of Hollywood.  This was an entertaining look at a director who has been influential and engaging.

3.6 stars

 

Tickled.  This was the biggest surprise of the night and probably my favorite documentary of the year.  Tickled is a documentary created by David Farrier and Dylan Reeve. The doc started harmlessly as Farrier, a local news reporter, was looking for a two-minute fluff piece story to end the news.  Friends of his told him about a bizarre “competitive endurance tickling” video online and Farrier emailed the company behind the video to ask about the “tickling.”  The company Jane O’Brien Media responded with an email filled with homophobic insults directed toward Farrier.  This only served to inspire him to look into the story more, and he discovered a deeply dark and disturbing world behind the competitive tickling.

The film does a brilliant job of investigative journalism, discovering the secrets behind Jane O’Brien, an online bully who went out of “her” way to damage the lives of the people who went against her.

The film is about more than just tickling.  It is about online predators.  It is about online harassment and cyber bullying.  It is about the dark corridors of the internet and how people can get themselves caught in a web of deceit and lies.

You will not believe everything that happens in Tickled.  It really plays more like a thriller or a great mystery story.   It is an astonishing documentary.

5 stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lion

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Lion is the tale of two movies contained within one.  One half that I really liked, and one that I could have done without.

This is the true story about a five-year old boy named Saroo (Sunny Pawar) who is separated from his brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) and accidentally finds himself on a train traveling across the country of India.  He finally escapes from the train in Calcutta with no idea how to find his way back home.  Saroo has to struggle with language barriers, dangerous individuals, and deadly circumstances.

However, he winds up being adopted by a family in Australia, John (David Wenham) and Sue (Nicole Kidman) Brierley.  Twenty five years later, Saroo (now played by Dev Patel) is in a relationship with Lucy (Rooney Mara) and he remembered important details about his past and began a search for his mum and brother.

I really enjoyed the first half of this story, with young Saroo trying to survive and avoid the dangers that are clearly everywhere in India for a young child.  Sunny Pawar was outstanding in this film.  You never knew what was going to happen next.  You knew he was going to make it to Australia, but I have to admit that I just had no idea how he was going to get there.  Plus, Pawar spent most of his screen time running like the wind.

However, the second half of the movie really came down to earth (Google earth, maybe?).  At this point, Saroo became whiny and downright deuschy.  He mistreated his girlfriend, froze out his mother and mouthed-off to his emotionally damaged adopted brother (Divian Ladwa).  All of this because of the guilt he felt over leaving behind his brother Guddu and his mum.

The film also became too emotionally manipulative with several flashbacks and visions of Guddu, most of which were taking place in the head of Saroo.  This all felt like Oscar baiting, taking a story of determination and a person overcoming the odds and started tugging on the heart strings in a false-hearted way.

Sure the true story is cool.  That’s why I do not think they needed all the bells and whistles that they threw into the third act of this movie, just to try and get attention of the Oscar voters.

The first half of this film was really compelling.  The second half was not so much.  It is an interesting true story.  I just did not appreciate the “very, special episode” feel of this.

3 stars

Fences

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As I was watching Fences, it really had the flavor of a theater play.

Of course, there was a reason for that.  Fences was a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning play written by August Wilson.

Troy (Denzel Washington) was the protagonist of the film.  A 53-year old former Negro League baseball player who was now a garbage man.  His second wife, Rose (Viola Davis) did everything she could do be the perfect wife for Troy.  She asked him to build a fence around their property.

The movie really does not have much of a story.  In fact, I would venture to say that it has no story.  This movie is a character piece where, in place of a story, there are events that happen to the characters and we see how they react to them.

Since this is a character study without a really set plot, you had better have some great characters.  Fences has characters in spades.  This movie have two brilliant performances from its lead actors.  Denzel Washington and Viola Davis give a tour de force acting class in this film, displaying the amazingly sharp and constantly entertaining dialogue by August Wilson.  There are some of the best monologues in Fences of the year.  And this dialogue could not be delivered better, as Washington and Davis are at the top of their game.

Washington and Davis were not the only strong performances in Fences.  Stephen Henderson was very understated and believable as Troy’s best friend Bono.  Grimm’s Russell Hornsby played Troy’s first son Lyons, trying to get by on his music.  Jovan Adepo played Troy and Rose’s son Cory, who wants to play football, but Troy has certain rules to allow it.  All of these actors do a wonderful job here.

However, the biggest selling point of Fences is the chance to see Denzel Washington and Viola Davis perform their craft at a level you don’t often see.  I would not be surprised if both Washington and Davis are not only nominated, but actually win the Academy Awards this year. Their performances are understated, complex and layered.  Every word, every glance meant something.  They were remarkably human, bringing these characters to life.

Without the performances of Washington and Davis, Fences would have failed dramatically.  This was an example of a movie where the performances were greater than the sum of its parts.  Judging the movie as a whole, there are problems here.  It feels like a play, lacking much of the plot needed for a feature length film.  Some of the pacing of the film was troublesome as time jumped forward several times and it was a long film.  The fact was the performances were so electric that any other detriments Fences may have had can be cast aside.  I would not want to see Fences in the nominated list of Best Films but Denzel Washington and Viola Davis might be the favorites in the individual categories.

3.75 stars

Why Him?

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I hated this first trailer.  This looked completely stupid and I wondered why an actor the quality of Bryan Cranston would lower himself to be in this film.

And then I saw it, and I actually enjoyed it very much.

Is it predictable?  Of course.  Are these characters pretty basic?  Yes.  But the one thing that this movie is that many movies of the same ilk are not…

It is funny.

Ned (Bryan Cranston) and Barb (Megan Mullally) Fleming head out to California on the bequest of their daughter Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) so they can meet her boyfriend Laird (James Franco).  This caught them off guard, particularly Ned, who could not believe that his daughter would have been capable of keeping this kind of secret from him.

When they arrived at Laird’s house, they realize that he is extremely eccentric, foul-mouthed and socially awkward.  They also realize that he is a video game creator and is worth millions of dollars.

Laird tried his best to get off on the right foot, but his lack of a filter inside his head only served to show Ned that this man was not right for his little girl.  Then, Laird surprised Ned by asking his permission to purpose to Stephanie.  When he was rebutted, Laird became determined to earn Ned’s respect and his blessing by Christmas.

Jame Franco does what James Franco does best.  He has played this character several times, in several other movies, but I really liked him here.  I don’t know the difference, but Franco’s portrayal of Laird seemed more childlike than other times he has played this character.  Plus, he had the incomparable Bryan Cranston to work with.

Keegan-Michael Key appeared in the film as Gustav, Laird’s personal trainer and guru, and he is remarkably funny, stealing every scene he is in.  If he is not spouting wisdom, he is trying to keep Laird’s reflexes ready by launching surprise attacks on the multimillionaire.  Key is easily the best part of the movie.

Megan Mullally (formerly of Will and Grace) is hilarious here as well.  She has some really fun comedic moments sprinkled in the story.  We also have a cameo of sorts for the voice of Kaley Cuoco, who played a “Siri” kind of character named Justine that has a run of Laird’s house.

The end of the movie does take some twists that are over-the-top (particularly a cameo from Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of KISS), but there are also some good moments to counterbalance the problems.

I cannot argue that the story is not predictable.  It is obviously predictable.  I actually thought to myself about a third of the way through how this was going to end up, and I came up with two possible endings.  And strangely enough, they were both there.  Still, there are a lot of things that make why Him? into more than just another dumb comedy, especially the actors and their enjoyable chemistry with one another.  And it is funny, which many of today’s comedies cannot claim to be.

3.5 stars

Passengers

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I heard all kinds of negative reviews about Passengers.  Honestly, I thought it was pretty good.

Now, I think this is the issue.  There is something that happened in the early part of the film that is somewhat different than what the trailers indicated and that “twist” has caused the fervor over this movie.

Yes, I do not think that this movie takes advantage of the possibilities that it raised.  I think this could have been a real science fiction film with an issue that could split the viewers.  The problem is that the issue is not developed enough and eventually discarded completely for a more typical, big budget third act filled with set pieces and action.  This film could have been as thought provoking or as brave as Arrival was earlier this year, but it decided to stick to the safe path,

Having said that, it may not be fair judging a film on what it is not or what it could have been.  Passengers is an entertaining film as is, though there are flaws in it.

Because of technical difficulties on the space ship, Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) awakes from his hibernation 90 years early.  Jim was one of 5000 passengers on a trip off earth and on their way to a colony on another planet.  Problem:  it takes 120 years to arrive.  So everyone spends time in a hibernation chamber that never malfunctions.

Until it did.

Jim spent a year alone aboard the ship with only an android Arthur (Michael Sheen) to talk to.

I cannot talk any more plot without spoiling the story, so I will not say any more except that Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) also awakens and the two of them start a romance as the only two conscious people on the ship.  However, the ship is continuing to malfunction and they must race against time to prevent the ship from being destroyed.

The ending itself I thought was pretty weak.  There are things that happen that stretch credibility so much that it hurt the overall film.  I would have liked them to have gone in a different direction, but I understand the decision.  The action at the end was just problematic for this film.  Honestly, it felt out of place because the movie was trying to be something different than it ended as.

Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence are engaging and gorgeous throughout the film and make a solid pair.  Their chemistry is good, and they have some fine scenes with them together.  The issue with them floats over the story too much though without sufficient result at the end.

The film looked great. There really is no excuse for bad CGI any more.  In a world where we can travel dimensions with Dr. Strange and see what looks like real apes riding horse in Planet of the Apes, poor CGI is inexcusable.  Passengers looks beautiful, in particular the shots of outer space.

This film certainly is better than 32% on Rotten Tomatoes, and I can only assume that the biggest issues people have is the problem at the moral center of the film.  Yes, that problem is not sufficiently handled, but it is not completely ignored either.  Passengers could have been considerably better than what it is, but that does not make this a bad film.  My lowered expectations probably helped as I was entertained through most of the movie’s run time, but the ending did strain that entertainment some.

3.1 stars

La La Land

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Musicals are hit and miss for me, but a well done movie musical can be glorious.  La La Land certainly fits that bill.

Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a struggling jazz pianist who is trying to live out his dream of owning and running a jazz club.  Mia (Emma Stone) is a struggling actress who is working at a coffee shop to pay the bills while trying to audition for that big break in Hollywood.  These two characters’ stories intersect and we have a great, old-time love story with music.

It is not just music where the characters burst into songs (although there are examples of that as well), but the score and background music really is amazing in this film.  The dance numbers are spectacular and the story is in perfect tune.

Others have said this, but it is an apt statement so I will say it as well.  La La Land is like a love letter to the old time musicals of the 1930s and 1940s.  You could almost imagine Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in the lead roles of La La Land instead of Gosling and Stone.

Emma Stone is revolutionary here.  This is here best performance ever, and while Ryan Gosling is awesome too, Stone stands out so much with the emotion of the story and the doubt that creeps into her mind that she is definitely the highlight of this film for me.

The film’s ending is extraordinary to me.  I do not want to spoil it, but I love how they took this in a different, unexpected direction, and it really brought out the emotional feels.

The film is set in present day, but there is a feel of an old time film.  If you had told me that the film was set in the 40s, I wouldn’t have any issues believing you.  That tone is definitely a choice by director Damien Chazelle.  Chazelle also directed Whiplash and used music in a remarkably original way there as well.  Not only is the music grade A, but the film is beautifully shot.  Scene after scene Chazelle provided a visual masterpiece.  Even something so simple as Gosling dancing with an older black woman on a bridge was just jaw dropping in beauty.

The story is exceptional.  There is not just the love story here, but it is a tale of two people who want to follow their dreams, but have to come back to reality.  That struggle to not give up on your heart’s desire is at the center of La La Land, and might actually get more service than the love story itself.

It is a lot of fun and full of great music.  The dance routines are mesmerizing.  Both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone deserve Oscar nominations for their performances and La La Land should be considered on the best musicals we have had in many years.

4.6 stars

Assassin’s Creed

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One of these years there will be a movie based on a video game product that is good.  However, Assassin’s Creed is not that movie.

And it was a shame, because I really thought this could have been the one.  After Warcraft earlier this year was not very good, we turned our attention to Assassin’s Creed, starring the excellent Michael Fassbender.  Trailers looked entertaining.  The question about if this would be the movie that finally broke the trend of crappy video game movies was raised.

Then, we saw the film.

Assassin’s Creed was poorly written, boring, and wasted that opportunity to be a trend setting film to bring the genre of video game movies into respectability.

Cal Lynch (Michael Fassbender) was on death row and was executed for some crime involving a pimp (apparently).  However, he was brought back to life by a company led by Sofia (Marian Cotillard).  How did they do that?  Well, you know, by doing it.  That was a detail that was not important here.  Instead, what they wanted was to hook Cal up to a machine that could send him back into the past (15th Century Spain to be exact) where he would be inside an ancestor of his named Aguilar, a member of the group known as The Assassins.  Through Aguilar’s eyes, Cal would try and find a MacGuffin called the Apple of Eden.  The Apple apparently held the power to cure the human race of free will or some kind of crap.  Sofia was backed by the Templars, an organization that has always been fighting the Assassins and who wanted the Apple for their own nefarious and underdeveloped reasons.

Plus, when hooked up to the machine, not only did Cal get sent back into the body of Aguilar, but his present day body did all the same actions and movements of the body from the 15th Century.

Oh, and Jeremy Irons was here too.  He played Jeremy Irons as the father of Sofia.

I was sorry to be watching this movie ten minutes into it.  I was bored and wishing it was done almost immediately.  As soon as the movie showed us young Cal (Angus Brown) seeing his mother dead by his father’s hand, things began going downhill.

By the way, Christopher Columbus appears in this movie (played by Gabriel Andreu).

This film had a lot of potential but it squandered it away with a rotten and needlessly convoluted story, dull characters with muddied motivations, and some full out dumbness.  Even the action, which was okay, was hard to follow since the camera was constantly cutting form one scene to another.  It was impossible to see any of the potentially good action scenes.

The film was filled with cliches as well.  At one point, a runaway wagon pulled by horses rushed toward a cliff.  Seriously, haven’t we seen this a hundred times?

This film tried to be two different films and, by doing that, really damaged both.  It made little sense and was dull, dull, dull.

Assassin’s Creed, with its great cast, could have been the movie that made the video game movie genre not be the butt of the jokes any longer.  Unfortunately, this is not even close to being as good as Warcraft.  That is a really sad thing to say.

1 star