Monthly Archives: December 2017

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Movie Review – Bright

Category : Movie Review

Director: David Ayer

Starring: Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Edgar Ramirez

Year: 2017

David Ayer is on some kind of a roll, with Suicide Squad and now Bright, two action-packed fantasies starring Will Smith, two movies that completely bombed.  One was supposed to be a big deal, one is an attempt by Netflix to become a big deal, and both failed miserably.  I won’t blame the director completely; I think quite highly of Fury and I’ve heard only good things about End of Watch, another buddy-cop drama set in L.A.  So Ayer has succeeded before; what happened this time?  The answers are probably too numerous to count, as problems arose around every corner, within every scene.  I don’t think it’s dramatic to say that Bright is one of the worst films of the year, Netflix or wide-release, and should be avoided & forgotten at all costs.

In a world where creatures straight out of a fantasy novel live alongside humans, all bets are off.  Apparently, two thousand years ago, there was a great war, and the orcs sided with the Dark Lord, ultimately losing when their leader was banished from the world.  But time doesn’t heal all wounds, the elves and the humans still remembering the ancient mistake.  Elves are now the wealthy of the city, humans are in the middle, and orcs do the dirty work, racial lines being drawn in blood and no one daring to cross them.  Until now, as Jakoby, an orc, joins the L.A.P.D., teaming up with a reluctant partner named Ward.  The duo is unlucky enough (or prophesied?) to stumble upon an ancient wand that all sides desperate want, a power that is far too strong for any faction to hold alone.

It’s not that Bright is bad, it’s that it’s so bad that you question ever watching a movie again.  Alright, I exaggerate, but Netflix can’t be happy with the product that was released, and it’s sure to tarnish the blossoming reputation of a studio that wants you to take them seriously.  It’s like someone combined Training Day with What Happened to Monday, caked Joel Edgerton in creature makeup, and sprinkled in some magic.  That turns out not to be a good thing, because this film was all over the place.  It was wild but in a dumb way, unique but incomprehensible, funny but kinda like an idiot wrote all the jokes and dialogue, so that you really couldn’t be sure what exactly they were trying to do.  Smith was dead on his feet, Edgerton was all covered up, Edgar Ramirez and Noomi Rapace embarrassed themselves, and I dare you to find someone you know who enjoyed this flop of a film, find them and then stop being their friend.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Review – Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Category : Movie Review

Director: Rian Johnson

Starring: Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver

Oscar Isaac, Carrie Fisher, John Boyega, Domhnall Gleeson

Year: 2017

From what I can tell, feminists love this film, fanboys want it removed from the canon, and critics were supposedly paid by the studio to give it high praise.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen and read such immediate controversy surrounding a movie, especially one that is made entirely for entertainment purposes.  Star Wars is a legitimate and well-loved universe, it stands completely on its own as one of the best ever made in Hollywood, its sole reason for existence is to be enjoyed by young and old, to survive for decades as a space opera/war story on a grand scale we’ve not seen before.  For those who loved it to call those who didn’t ‘butt hurt’, for those who are angered by it to call those who are not ‘false fans’ seems contrary to the entire spirit of this movie series, to fly in the face of why it was created.  Without distancing myself completely from both sides, because I think they both have valid points, I was able to have fun watching something that was at the same time flawed, so I can’t say I wholly agree with either point of view.  The Last Jedi is a sci-fi flick with problems, but one that endeavors to solve them by the final credits, not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but another part of the greater lore that we need to remember was written, basically, for fun.

Picking up soon after The Force Awakens ends, audiences are thrown directly into battle without any time for preparation, so strap yourselves in.  The First Order has located the Resistance base, and has come in force to crush the rebellion once and for all.  The Rebels mount an escape attempt, but their fighters, led by Poe Dameron, must hold off the Imperial fleet long enough to allow Princess Leia’s transports to get away.  Unfortunately, the plan only half succeeds, and the Empire chases the Resistance through space like a cat chasing a mouse.  Meanwhile, Rey has located Luke Skywalker and attempts to convince him to join his sister, lead the Rebels, and bring back the Jedi.  But Luke remembers his failure in training Ben Solo, an exercise he doesn’t want repeated, and he senses a frightening amount of power in young Rey.  Poe holds off the Empire, Rey learns the ways of the Force, Finn searches for help, and Kylo Ren struggles between choosing the light or the dark, while control of the galaxy hangs in the balance.

It seems ridiculous, but we can’t talk about this film without talking about the controversy of its content.  First, let’s remember that ‘fan’ is short for ‘fanatic’, and that it’s these fans that made the films and stories into the legends they are today.  Without them reading the books, learning the obscure facts, dressing up as Stormtroopers at ComicCon, this franchise isn’t the giant that we now know.  So these “fanboys” need at least that much respect, need to be remembered as the die-hard followers who’ve been with this series since the beginning.  They are upset because this movie is a departure from the norm, because it brushed aside fan theories, because it exhibits a different sense of humor.  Those who haven’t seen Episode IV a thousand times might not understand the gravity of small changes, but to some this is the biggest possible deal, and I’ve tried hard to understand that as I contemplate The Last Jedi, because I don’t care as much as some people do, but that doesn’t mean that their passion is worthless.  And if I sound like I’m siding with those who want this movie stricken from the record, believe me I’m not; I didn’t mind that Rian Johnson took this story in a unique direction, and I still had chills as the final climax shocked the entire theatre.

So I completely understand why some are angry, I totally get why some enjoyed every minute, and I guess I’ll claim to be somewhere in the middle.  This film, especially the first hour, is riddled with flaws.  I quote Bob Wiley, “Simply put; I have problems.”  If that had been stated at the beginning, before the scrolling text, I might have stood up to applaud, to praise someone for being so honest.  The first lines of the film, some throw away words about a transport, are so incredible bad I wanted to slap the actors.  The jokes, especially at the beginning, are juvenile to the point of insulting.  The animal rights activism, the constant new creatures, the lack of traditional fights and fighters, the side actors, every single word out of Laura Dern’s mouth; it wasn’t just bad, it was hideous.  But given time, the ship begins to right itself, if by that point you haven’t given up.  Rey and Ren’s plot is solid, the action with about an hour left is extremely intense, I didn’t mind the choices they made with the big reveals, the music flows perfectly underneath throughout, and by the end I was able to stand up completely satisfied with what I had just seen.  I don’t understand why this has to be an all-or-nothing issue; The Last Jedi is neither the worst nor the best Star Wars feature we’ve been given, and each one that is handed to us is another gift from the cinema gods.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Trailer – Overboard

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Bob Fisher, Rob Greenberg

Starring: Anna Faris, Eugenio Derbez, Eva Longoria

Release: April 20th, 2018

In the words of Samir Nagheenanajar, “This is horrible, this idea.”  Truly, this looks like the worst movie ever made, shame on anyone who thought it was a good concept.  Anna Faris, I used to think you were kinda funny, now you’ve lost me completely.  Good luck sleeping at night, knowing that you lost one fan from Ohio.


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Movie Trailer – Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Ol Parker

Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Lily James, Jeremy Irvine

Release: July 20th, 2018

And I love ABBA, I promise you I do, I know all their songs, I used to sing them while washing dishes when I was young, but I don’t think I can take this movie.  I didn’t see the last one, maybe it’s excellent, maybe I should go back, perhaps you can convince me.  After all, I used to listen to their greatest hits on road trips with my dad; I credit him and things like that for making me into a renaissance man who can enjoy musical theatre just as much as pro football.  But I’m also a film critic, and these stories seem too cheesy to be allowed.  I do adore Lily James though, so maybe I can be tempted to give the original a chance so that I can watch the sequel and enjoy her immense talent.  We’ll see.


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Movie Trailer – Mary and the Witch’s Flower

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Starring: Ruby Barnhill, Kate Winslet, Jim Broadbent

Release: January 19th, 2018

This is the studio that was formed by former animators for Studio Ghibli, and you can see the style perfectly, looks like nothing has changed.  And that’s a good thing, Ghibli is amazing, I don’t care if other studios steal the visuals from basically the best animation in the world, as long as their films are just as strong.  I want my kids to see this ASAP; I think it’s so important to share something other than Disney with them as they develop their tastes.


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Movie Review – Darkest Hour

Category : Movie Review

Director: Joe Wright

Starring: Gary Oldman, Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn

Year: 2017

This year, I have seen three new movies about Dunkirk: Darkest Hour, Their Finest, and, of course, Dunkirk.  Perhaps this will spell the end to that phenomenal & terrible bit of history being an unknown factoid that only WWII buffs know anything about.  I wouldn’t have guessed that to be the case, but every time in the past few months that I’ve brought up the place/battle/retreat/rescue, I’ve been greeted by blank faces, as people ask me “what’s that?”  Well, hopefully enough people got near a theatre this fall & winter and discovered for themselves this important moment in time, a moment that wasn’t all that long ago, a time that was among the most dangerous in modern remembrance.

Hitler’s armies have begun their conquest of Europe, routing the Belgians, the Dutch, and the French with ease.  Their air attacks are too fast, their tanks are too numerous, their supply lines work to perfection; the Nazis seem an invincible army.  England’s response meets disaster, their entire army defeated and forced back to Dunkirk and Calais, with little hope of returning home.  Without a military, Britain seems poised for surrender, or at least peace terms that will allow them to sit out the War while the Germans & Italians do as they will with the free world.  But one man, newly elected Prime Minister Winston Churchill, refuses to give up the fight, will not accept that the boys of Dunkirk are lost, or that Londoners want their government to wave the white flag and become Hitler’s vassals, not while there is breath left in their bodies and bullets left in their guns.

One of the strongest aspects of the film, and one that I will take away from my viewing experience, is how awesome Churchill’s oratory powers were, how his speeches had the power to rouse a nation and to defy an unstoppable and wholly evil tyrant.  What a voice he was during this time, and then what a leader, a historical figure with few equals.  Oldman’s transformation to play him is unbelievable, and I know we may get tired of praising actors for wearing makeup and expecting Oscars, but this time I don’t think there is any doubt that he is deserving of all the praise he gets.  James & Mendelsohn as supporters were great as well; don’t miss out on watching basically everything they appear in, from James’ The Exception to Mendelsohn’s Mississippi Grind.  And we can’t forget the director of Darkest Hour, Joe Wright, who you might know: Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, Anna Karenina.  His paces are deliberate, but I am a huge fan, and that might be the biggest criticism that anyone has about this film, that it’s a bit slow, but I didn’t mind in the least; I could have watched days and days of these events playing out and turned off the movie a very happy man.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Trailer – Gringo

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Nash Edgerton

Starring: David Oyelowo, Joel Edgerton, Charlize Theron

Release: March 9th, 2018

These actors are great and these actors made a bad choice.  Also, this feels like a favor from Brother Joel to Brother Nash, not an actual movie.  Pass.


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Movie Trailer – Sicario 2: Soldado

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Stefano Sollima

Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Catherine Keener

Release: June 29th, 2018

I want to like this, I truly do, because I thought Sicario was so phenomenal.  But, seriously, they’re just doing the first movie a second time, down to the last screenshot, explosion, sweeping cinematic effect, and helicopter ride.  There is nothing new here, it’s the exact same thing, why would we want to watch that again minus Emily Blunt?  We can just re-watch the original; she’s in that one.  At the same time, I like this style, this grit, this story, I want it to be good.  I’m just not sure it can be, not without Blunt, Villeneuve, and some unique content.


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Movie Review – Godless

Category : Movie Review

Director: Scott Frank

Starring: Jack O’Connell, Michelle Dockery, Jeff Daniels

Year: 2017

I don’t review TV, that’s not my interest and it’s not my focus.  Also, I don’t watch a ton, I’ve always just stuck to a few reality shows just for fun, and I’ve successfully stayed away from the dramas and comedies that American audiences can’t seem to avoid watching.  Recently, with the emergence of HBO and then of Netflix, TV has become something more solid, approaching film if never quite catching up, and some of it has demanded my attention.  I watch OITNB, Stranger Things, Black Mirror, a few like that, and I’ve learned to let them entertain me without having to critique them too harshly.  Also, in the past and present, I’ve stumbled upon a few short-run shows that I enjoyed very much, like Band of Brothers, Firefly, Rome, and Godless.  Here’s my review of the latter, a short-run mini-series that feels like a long-running movie, and something that is easy to consume.

Frank Griffin is a bandit king known throughout the Southwest in the post-Civil War days of the American Wild West.  He & his band of 30 men terrorize when and where they will, specializing in the robbery of mining towns and their new-found riches.  Griffin’s closest soldier, Roy Goode, a young man who he considers a son, inexplicably turns on Frank, stealing his latest take and shooting his left arm clean off.  Now Griffin will stop at nothing to kill Goode, even murdering an entire town in retribution.  Roy hides out on a ranch near Le Belle, New Mexico, a town that lost all its menfolk in an accident, so is now solely populated by women and a sheriff who is losing his eyesight.  As Griffin comes for Goode, the townsfolk try to revive their mine, not knowing that death has cast its shadow.

Godless is one of the best Westerns I’ve ever seen, on TV or otherwise, rivaling Lonesome Dove with its quality.  Now, both are mini-series and both are great, but they are actually very different.  Lonesome Dove is on an epic scale, while Godless focuses on the lives affected by Goode’s decision on on the fate of this one town.  But both weave together many different characters to create a tapestry of events that showcase the rough existence of the West, the fragile lives that were snuffed out so often and so quickly.  The acting is fair, it’s not going to blow your mind, but the characters are awesome, and the plot is so classic it immediately feels extremely comfortable.  What surprised me most was the cinematography, and the way each scene was paid special attention.  That’s what happens when you only need to focus on seven episodes, you can really devote time to getting it right.  And they did, this is a genre flick done correctly, and done incredibly well.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


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Movie Trailer – Ocean’s 8

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Gary Ross

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling

Anne Hathaway, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna, Awkwafina

Release: June 8th, 2018

So. Many. Thoughts.  Let’s start with Gary Ross, who is an odd choice for director, as he’s only done four movies: Pleasantville, Seabiscuit, The Hunger Games, Free State of Jones.  A strange mix, although he’s a writer as well, and he wrote this film, so give the guy credit for trying.  Next, I didn’t actually really like the original trilogy of Clooney movies; they’re OK, but they’re kinda silly/sloppy/strange, so I’m not excited about a reboot.  And then, it’s an all-female reboot to boot, which I know makes anyone who complains about it a sexist, but I can’t help myself, I need to complain just a little.  We don’t need this movie, we didn’t need a Ghostbusters remake; if you would like to make an empowering, feminist, feminine film by all means yes, do it, please, make it strong, raise you voice.  But why only piggyback off past successes?  Maybe the answer is that they don’t think they can get an audience, that our patriarchal world will deny it, and that’s a legitimate point.  But still, I’m sorry, I just don’t want to see this movie. Take these actresses, because some of them are very talented (not all, obviously), and create something original.  Not a bachelorette comedy or vacation flick, but something real, and I’ll be there to watch it.