Bad Boys for Life

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To prepare to see this movie, I watched Bad Boys and Bad Boys II on Netflix this past week and I hated both of them.  I mean really hated them.  It did anything but get me ready to watch this franchise expand once again.

However, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed Bad Boys for Life, the third film starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.

Seemingly unrelated law enforcement officials begin to be killed by an assassin which brings the Bad Boys, Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) back to the front of the action.

Sure, the plot is thin, but this movie is a fun watch.  The best part of the first two films in this franchise was the relationship between Mike and Marcus and the chemistry between Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.  They have not lost that spark despite not filming a Bad Boys movie since 2003.  These two fall right back into these characters.  Yet there is one difference.  This time they felt more in tune.  Both characters had some things happen to them that brought more of a depth to the character than they ever had in the previous films and it was very welcome.  There was a feeling of maturity to the characters that was more than just them growing older.

I think a key issue is that we no longer have Michael Bay directing.  He directed the first two films whereas this one was helmed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah and the difference is significant.  There are scenes that were added to give the film a Michael Bay feel, but they are not over used and help make this a Bad Boys movie.

The action was fun and cleaner.  There was less use of shaky camera and I could see the action happening.  Are there still too many silly explosions?  Of course.  It is a Bad Boys movie.  But they all feel more like a homage than the basis for the scene and it helped me suspend the disbelief than I could in the previous movies.

There were some actual stakes involved here too, including a couple of scenes that I was shocked by.  I liked how the story developed and, while I may not have loved the ending reveal, it did not take me out of the movie.

Of course, the story was, at best, okay and there are plenty of plot holes around.  It is far from a perfect movie, but it certainly is a good time at the theater.

This is easily my favorite film of the Bad Boys franchise and, if there is another in the offing, I would welcome it which is more than I thought after watching the first two.

3.8 stars

Doolittle

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Well… it isn’t the worst movie I saw this weekend.

Thanks to The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson, which I streamed on Vudu this weekend, Doolittle looks good in comparison.  However, that is not an excuse because Robert Downey Jr.’s first film since ending his run with Marvel is a terrible movie.

Doctor Doolittle (Robert Downey Jr) has become a recluse after the death of his beloved wife.  However, a boy named Stubbins (Harry Collett) arrived at Doolittle’s with an injured squirrel and a girl named Lady Rose (Carmel Laniado) also showed up with an urgent message from the Queen and, along with his animal friends, forced the doctor into action.

So many things wrong with this movie, but I want to start with a positive.  I do believe that the film has heart.  It wants to be good and it does give a positive message as it moves forward through the plot.  Little kids probably would like this film, and it is reasonably safe for them to watch it.  Kids 8 and under would most likely be the target audience of Doolittle.

That was about it for positives.

I have no idea what accent Robert Downey Jr was using, but it was not a good choice.  I am not sure how you can have one of the most charismatic actors working today and have a character as dull and uninteresting as Dr. Doolittle.  Maybe he was doing his best to differentiate John Doolittle from Tony Stark, but, if that were the case, he took it too far.

The cast of the voice actors was tremendous, but the voice acting itself was unremarkable.  Not one of the voice actors stood out as a great performance.  That is a shame with as many top notch stars that were involved.

The CGI was, at best, adequate.  There are way too many moments when the CGI stood out as noticeable and that is something that you simply do not want in 2020.

There was a lack of humor in the film, despite its attempt to be funny.  Again, some of the humor may have been targeted for 8 year-olds and under.  SPOILER: an example of horrible humor was the third act joke where Doolittle was pulling things (armor, bones, bagpipes) out of the rectum of a dragon, which then farted in Doolittle’s face.  Ha Ha Ha.  Yeah, that was a good one.  *SARCASM*

The use of the character of Stubbins was a fail too.  Though the kid gave a decent performance, the movie decided to have the boy learn how to talk to animals as well.  I found this odd because if anyone is able to learn how to talk to animals by practice, then what makes Doolittle special?

The villains of the movie were total losses.  Nothing but one note characters who do certain things simply because the plot needs them to do it.  They are boring and do not help create the necessary threat for there to feel as if there is any danger for our heroes.

This film wanted to be a magical adventure filled with action and humor for the whole family and it came up really short on this.  It did not have any magic, very little adventure and juvenile humor.  It also somehow made Robert Downey Jr. dull.  And the budget on this movie is $175 million dollars.  Doolittle is a bad movie that will not come anywhere close to that number.

But it is better than The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson.

1.5 stars 

The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson

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I guess the streaming path can rise up and bite you too.

Going to my third streaming film of the last few days, I watched The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson on Vudu.

I should not have.

Like everyone at the time, I was enthralled with the Simpson case back in the 1990s.  However, watching this movie made me feel as if I needed a shower.

It is my own fault too, because I was warned in a video by Chris Stuckmann.  He talked about how bad the film was and how disgusting it was.  He was 100% correct.  There are scenes in this movie that makes your skin crawl.

The film has such a disrespect for the victims of this crime that it is shocking.  They push the idea that a serial killer known as the Cross Country Killer, Glen Rogers.  was the actual murderer of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman.  Nicole and Ron’s murders are shown in gruesome detail and it felt as if they were being punished.  The film even made it seem as if it was Nicole’s fault for inviting the Cross Country Killer into her house in the first place.

Mena Suvari was fine as Nicole, but some of the other actors in this film felt like amateurs.  There were so many that were wooden and unemotional that it was painful to watch.  Taryn Manning (from Orange is the New Black) was so out of place as Faye Resnick that it bordered on distracting.

Calling this a Lifetime movie is an insult to Lifetime movies.  The film is ugly, uninteresting and cruel.  It is exploitative at best.  There was a scene where Nicole is dreaming and she is acting out a famous scene from Nightmare on Elm Street where the actress climbs up on the ceiling.  It is a note for note copy of it.  It is completely out of place in this movie and including it serves no purpose.

I wish that I had taken the advice of Chris Stuckmann and not bothered with this obscene drivel.  I did not though and now I have a leading candidate for the worst film of 2020.  It immediately joins the list of my most hated movies of all time (Movie 43, Holmes and Watson, batman & Robin, The Last Knight, this).

Of course, at least it was in focus.

0.2 stars  

 

Tyler Perry’s A Fall From Grace

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I returned to the streaming services for another new movie this weekend while the ice and snow is being removed.  This time I went to Netflix and found a film from Tyler Perry called A Fall From Grace.

Jasmine Bryant (Bresha Webb) was a public defender assigned to a murder case so she could get a plea deal for the client, Grace Waters (Crystal Fox).  Grace was accused of murdering her husband Shannon (Mehcad Brooks) with a baseball bat. Although there was no body found at the scene, Grace is ready to plead guilty.  However, Jasmine starts to see some of the evidence that makes her rethink what was going on.

I did not hate this film, but the film feels very much like a Lifetime special.  The plot has so many contrivances and so many scenes that do not fit together than it feels very disjointed at several points.  Some of the ideas come out of nowhere and do not work in tandem.  Anything in the courtroom setting was very weak and poorly written.  The acts all have a different feel to them and they seem like completely different movies.  Those problems really hurt the flow of the film, which is also too long.

Characters acted in ways that was inconsistent with ways they had acted in previous scenes.  Phylicia Rashad was probably the standout character as Sarah, Grace’s best friend.  The character of Jasmine was all over the place, though Bresha Webb did what she could.

I do think the film took a chance at putting forth a compelling mystery and thought it could keep the audience on its toes with the story.  Although I do not think the film was very successful in its execution, I have to respect the attempt.

This is not a very good movie, but for a Netflix original on a snowy Saturday night, there are worst films that one could watch.  Is it entertaining?  Somewhat.  Is it dumb?  Sure.  I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it and I wouldn’t want to pay money to see it, but just to watch while sitting on the couch, you could do worse.

2.6 stars 

 

 

Troop Zero

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A snowy Friday night really restricts the chances of getting to the movie theater.  So since I will probably not get to see this week’s two new releases until Sunday, it is nice to know that I can still find some movies to watch and review thanks to streaming.

In this case, it is Amazon Prime where I discovered the new film called Troop Zero.

Young girl with the white hair, Christmas Grace (McKenna Grace) is fascinated by the stars and outer space and, when the chance came around to get her voice on a record that was being recorded to send out to space, she would stop at nothing to win that prize.  Even if it means joining the Birdie Scouts, a Girl Scout-like organization.

However, Christmas had to find other members to join the troop which turned out to be a difficult chore.  Christmas compiled a group of local quirky kids such as the hellion Hell-No (Milan Ray), the silent but deadly Smash (Johanna Colon), the gender confused Joseph (Charlie Shotwell) and the one-eyed evangelist Anne-Claire (Bella Higginbotham).

But they also needed a “Momma” and, since her own mother had died, Christmas recruited her father Ramsey’s (Jim Gaffigan) legal aid Miss Rayleen (Viola Davis).  The rag tag group still faced conflict by the snobby girl troop led by Miss Massey (Allison Janney).

This film has a lot of heart and it is not afraid to show a group of kids who are extremely different as the leads of their movie.  McKenna Grace carries herself amazingly well as she is given some very heavy lifting by this plot.  The character beats she played are extremely strong and she is exceptional in the role.

All of the kids are very engaging and fun to watch.  There are some wonderful moments between Viola Davis and Allison Janney, two of the best actresses you will find.  Both take what could be stereotypical, one-note characters and bring them to life with their strong work.

Yes there are some cliches here.  The mean girl Birdie Scouts are the same in every film like this.  There were a few other moments that would fall under spoilers that were cliched.  The film countered that with some extremely original characters and allow the children to explore these characters.

In the end, this is a sweet and kind movie with a positive message and some solid performances.  There are some emotional moments as well and the finale is unexpected.  Troop Zero may have some connections to other movies of the same type, but I enjoyed watching this one.

3.7 stars

 

Just Mercy (2019)

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Here is the second 2019 film that was given its wide release in 2020. meaning that I had a chance to see it for the first time.

Just Mercy is the true story of Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), a Harvard educated lawyer, who moves to Alabama to start up a group to try and provide justice for people convicted and awaiting execution on death row.  He met up with Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), a man convicted of a brutal murder that he did not commit, but was railroaded onto death row because he was black and because the community needed someone to pay for the crime.

It is astounding that injustices like this case can go on in America and it truly highlights the issues we have in our judicial system when it comes to race.  How a man could wind up on death row with such a flimsy case against him is shocking and should be something that we all are ashamed of as Americans.  Because the case was so thin, the drama provided in this movie is top notch.  There is a sequence involving an electric chair execution that is just painful to watch.

Jamie Foxx is tremendous in his role.  He goes through the full ringer and the acting in the third act of the movie is some of the best I have seen from him in any movie.  Michael B. Jordan is solid as Bryan, but he is not at the same level in this movie as Foxx.  The secondary characters are well acted and provide a lot of balance for the film.  Brie Larson is good as Bryan’s aid/associate.

This is a performance heavy film, though there are strong moments throughout as well, including the aforementioned execution scene.  There are a couple of scenes where Bryan faces racially motivated situations that show how racism is embedded within our culture.  The fact that this was going on in the town where Harper Lee based her “To Kill A Mockingbird” and people kept referring to the museum dedicated to that book is one of the most ironic aspects of the film.

Just Mercy was better than I thought it would be, as I had heard some middling reviews of it.  Every review stated how good Jamie Foxx was in his role, and I agree completely.  The film ended with a statistic that for every 9 executions in this country there is one person released from death row who was falsely convicted.  That is a devastating stat and makes one wonder about the effectiveness of the death penalty.

4 stars 

Underwater

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For me, January 2020 is currently 0-2 so far.

The second movie I have seen in 2020 that was actually first released in 2020 (not counting 1917 or Just Mercy) was Underwater, a sci-fi/horror thriller film that takes place at the bottom of the ocean inside a subterranean laboratory.

At first, the crew believes that the lab is devastated by an earthquake, but, as it is crumbling around them, they realize that it is much more than an earthquake that they will need to survive.

While there is some tension involved, there are way more problems here than there are positives.

The biggest issue is that there were no characters with any depth to them (pardon the pun) at all.  The characters are as follows:  Kristen Stewart, the Captain, T.J. Miller, the black guy, the bearded guy and the other girl.  Their attempts at characterization included “you have a daughter” and the fact that bearded guy and other girl were a couple.  T.J. Miller carried around a stuffed animal and did his T.J. Miller shtick and that was about all.  Honestly, it became a joke to me as I was watching, using these names for the characters as they went along.

Kristen Stewart was fine and there was a spot near the end where she proved herself to be queen bad ass.  Stewart was easily the best part of the movie and she continues to distance herself from Bella Swan with every choice.

The setting was a total mystery because they spent almost zero time setting up the location.  I had no idea where we were at any point and it bugged me that this could have been a very frightening situation with a touch of world building.

Things were hard to see throughout and there were problems with the science of the whole thing.  The logic was way off (other girl apparently had never been in one of the diving suits despite working at the bottom of the ocean.  That seems as if it is a bit of a job requirement).

There were some interesting sequences of tension, but, since I did not know anything about any of these people (you’ve got a daughter!), I had a hard time caring at all.

I did think the ending was decent as they wisely focused on the main character, Kristen Stewart.  She was the one whom we had the most to connect to and she pulled off that epic bad ass moment just recently.

In the end, this is better than the last 2020 horror movie (The Grudge), but not by a ton.  Skip this and go see 1917.

1.75 stars 

 

1917 (2019)

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Every year there are a handful of movies that are released in 2019, but are not released wide enough for me to see until 2020.  I place those films on their own special list at the Year in Review in December.  I think I have found the film that will be at number one on that list.

1917 is a masterpiece.

Absolutely 100% brilliant from the start to the finish.  Director Sam Mendes (Skyfall, Road to Perdition, American Beauty) has created a film that is powerful, poignant, emotional and gorgeous (as well as sadly dour at times).

Two young British soldiers (Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay) are sent on a mission during World War I behind enemy lines to try and prevent other troops from being led into a German trap.

That’s all I’m telling you about the story.  It is such a wondrous film that you want to go in with as little prior knowledge as you can to really appreciate what the actors and the production team was able to accomplish.

Both Chapman and MacKay do outstanding jobs as the two young soldiers, determined to struggle to get the message through.  We learn about these characters through their dialogue and actions, amazingly showing us who these two men are without telling us in needless exposition.

The imagery of the war was breathtaking.  There are so many horrific images around here that there can be no mistaking the terrible price of war.  The entire trip is filled with tension and creates a distinct feeling of anxiety in the audience that you are never sure what is going to happen.

The story is simple, but the simplicity of the story is what made this so amazing.  It did not require plot twists and surprises because what they have is so powerful on its own.  Gigantic stakes in both emotion and physical.

Recently inducted EYG Hall of Famer Roger Deakins is utterly perfection in his cinematography in this film.  The shots are totally brilliant and tell the story in such an unbelievable way.

The one thing that I found a bit shaky was the whole “one-shot” technique that the movie was filmed in because early on in the film, I was looking for the places that were where the filmmakers would have the cuts.  That was a little distracting at times early and felt a tad gimmicky.  However, those feelings disappeared as we continued on into the movie and that technique helped create a distinct audience feeling that we were right there with the actors.  So while at first I was distracted, I get used to it and it really helps the storytelling.

1917 is a master class in technical film making.  It is also completely thrilling, emotionally compelling and beautifully shot movie that really should be seen at the theater.  It was one of the best movies released in 2019.  Now that it is released wide in 2020, do yourself a favor and go see this masterpiece.

5 stars

The Grudge (2020)

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Well it is January.

And it seems as if the first movie of the year is always a horror movie.

January is the month where, typically, movie companies dump the films that are not very good because they just want them to get out there and get done with their runs.  Most of the time, that makes January movies bad.

That is not always the case, of course.  There is a few gems in the month too, but I did not expect one of those when going to see the new version f The Grudge.  Unfortunately, the January movie expectation was fulfilled once again.  The Grudge was terrible.

The film seems to be focusing on Detective Muldoon (Andrea Riseborough), who was one of the detectives investigating the latest murder in a specific house.  It is a house where there seems to have been several cases of murder over the years.

Muldoon’s partner, Goodman (Demián Bichir), had worked a case at the house before, but he tried his best to avoid it because of feelings he had.

As the film moved along, we find out more about the other murders that took place in the house, and we find out that anyone who enters the house gets haunted and eventually kills family members and dies.  Then we go about seeing all of these stories.

There are literally at least three stories from different time lines (maybe four) going on at the same time.  The years flash large and loud on the screen when they first start flipping through time, but trying to tell these different stories was a mistake.  One, there wasn’t enough time to go into any specific details of any of these characters so they simply become one-note characters and two, we know they are dead so there is little to no tension.

It becomes confusing and truly just drops the plot.

Every horror trope/cliche is active in this movie, especially the jump scare.  While some jump scares are fine, this film has more jump scares than any film I have seen in a long while and drives them into the ground.  Plus, the movie is just not that scary.  Even with the jump scares, there is no fear involved.  The jump scares are telegraphed so much that it is painfully apparent when each one is going to happen.

The one good thing about all the jump scares is that it kept me awake.  The film was so boring that I found myself ready to doze off, but every time I got close, there was a loud jump scare to bring me out of the daze.

The acting was about as good as you could expect considering the story that was presented to them.  Lin Shaye (from Insidious) played her role to the hilt, but there was not much character to it.  Jacki Weaver was interesting too, but she suffered from the same issues.

There was nothing in this movie that we hadn’t seen before and better.  The first movie of 2020 certainly only gives the rest of the year’s films nowhere to go but up.

January strikes again.

1 star