Category Archives: Movie Review

Movie Review – Moonfall

Category : Movie Review

Director: Roland Emmerich

Starring: Patrick Wilson, John Bradley, Halle Berry

Year: 2022

You know what you’re getting when you sit down in front of a Roland Emmerich movie, so you’ve got no one to blame when it turns out to be an epic disaster.  Well, sometimes it’s not, sometimes it’s fun, maybe *while* being an epic disaster, but still a fun time.  Moonfall lands in the bad category though, one of those films that’s such an embarrassment to watch you can’t imagine what it must be like to have been a part of making it.

So the Moon has gone out of orbit, which spells big trouble for all of us down here on Earth.  The Moon is coming closer and closer, until disasters wreak havoc on every continent, the oceans rise up, and even gravity isn’t what it once was.  Disgraced astronaut Brian Harper, his old partner Jocinda Fowler, and crackpot conspiracy theorist KC Houseman will travel into space to find out what, or *who*, is messing with the Moon, and hopefully fix it before our entire planet dies.

So, I would have been OK with a ridiculous disaster movie, those are fun.  We’ve seen them before from Emmerich, he knows how to have a good time, that’s not the problem at all.  Give me space and danger and cheese and aliens and adventure, I’ll eat it up, it’s all in good fun.  But what I don’t like, and what I was shocked by, were the story lines back on Earth; anyone who had anything to do with the plot or the characters or the acting as it relates to the story down home while the heroes were in space should be ashamed & fired.  I can’t begin to explain how bad Charlie Plummer, Michael Pena, & Co. were, how stupid that story was, and how it ruined anything entertaining that the rest of the film might have had to offer.  But, really, all the acting was bad, the three mains were hideous, this movie is complete trash, and may god have mercy on our souls.

My rating: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


Movie Review – Dawn of the Dead

Category : Movie Review

Director: Zack Snyder

Starring: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber

Year: 2004

One of the best zombie movies of the past 25 years, Dawn of the Dead is a classic throwback and a modern gore fest, a real breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale genre.  Zack Snyder is a polarizing director, he’s had his ups & downs, and will always have his fans & haters, but he kept this film simple & relatively clean, leading to something that worked perhaps even surprisingly well.  No zombie flick is a movie made for everyone, but maybe this one is as close as you can get to a crowd-pleaser and a real nice gem.

In a Midwest town, an outbreak of the undead turns every human against one another, as flesh-eaters roam the streets and the temporarily alive flee for what’s left of their time remaining.  A small group gather in the relative safety of a multi-floor shopping mall, taking refuge high up and barred away, where there are plenty of supplies and places to bed down.  Among them are a nurse and a police officer, who try to fight for order within the tiny society but are buffeted by three security guards who think they run the show.  Danger within, death outside; life just got almost impossible.

Dawn of the Dead works for a lot of reasons; it has a classic feel, it has modern blood, it’s mostly set in one location, it has personable actors, and it’s, at its core, about people.  All these things and more combine to make a cool genre flick but also a pretty good film, one about how humans react to bad situations and to one another, while also being about just shooting zombie brains.  It could have gone deeper, it should have done that at the same time as being sexier and even more gritty, but hey, this was Snyder’s first feature, it took him some time to get things right, and he still doesn’t always.  But we are lucky to have such a nice piece of horror entertainment, even one that’s not perfect.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

 


Movie Review – Jurassic World Dominion

Category : Movie Review

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Isabella Sermon

Year: 2022

After the nice nostalgia that was Jurassic World and the utter idiocy that was Fallen Kingdom, I guess we should have expected Dominion to be a combination of the two, a cool walk down memory lane amid some of the dumbest choices any characters & filmmakers have ever made.  Saved only by the return of a beloved trio (and I don’t mean Chris Pratt), this film is about as bad as you can get, a complete abomination much like basically ever movie in the franchise other than the original.  They should have known better & been less greedy and simply stopped when the peaked, which was in 1993.

Dinosaurs are now among us, and we’ve got to learn to live with that.  A giant tech company is attempting to make a refuge for the dinos, to study them, and to use their genes to further the advances of medical science.  Sounds good on the surface, but the crazy owner of the company is more a super villain than he is a super hero, and he’ll stop at nothing to get what he wants.  Meanwhile, Owen & Claire are protecting a clone girl whose DNA might hold some weird secrets, so they need to keep her from being eaten by dinosaurs and killed by tech billionaires, all while meeting the famous Grant, Sattler, and Malcolm.  It’s wild, it’s wonky, people will be eaten, but hey, it’s the new normal apparently.

So dumb, and with so little wiggle room for forgiveness.  The old guys coming back and being fun is really the only palatable part of the film; the rest is complete shit.  I thought Fallen Kingdom was terrible, and it was, dumb beyond degree, but Dominion might be worse, more ridiculous and more unhinged.  It at least has the saving grace of nostalgia, but that’s really it.  Otherwise, it’s all over the place, overly action-packed, the characters are awful, and there are literally times when the procedure of events makes no goddam sense.  This is one of the worst of the year, and you can go further; this franchise, going back to Lost World, is among the most hideous series we’ve ever had the misfortune to have thrust upon us.  Please never make another one, I beg you.

My rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


Movie Review – Where the Truth Lies

Category : Movie Review

Director: Atom Egoyan

Starring: Alison Lohman, Kevin Bacon, Colin Firth, Rachel Blanchard

Year: 2005

Noir is a tricky genre at the best of times, and seldom works the way that directors think it will in their minds.  Very few can get it just right, can do it in a way that’s not cheesy and stupid and completely out of date & touch.  I regret to inform you that Atom Egoyan is not one of these magical filmmakers who can bend the style to his will; on the contrary, this movie ate him up.  It’s a nonsensical emotional roller coaster from start to finish, with “twists” & turns and sex & murder galore, but without any real substance at all.  Where the Truth Lies is a film better left dead.

As a child with polio, Karen met two giant entertainment stars in the duo of Lanny & Vince, a pair of men who complimented each other perfectly and who America loved.  Now grown, she is set to write the definitive work on their legendary career, but she can’t help focus on one troubling detail; a girl named Maureen who turned up dead in their joint hotel room in New Jersey, and whose mystery was never solved.  Delving deep into their sordid affairs and uncovering secrets that all thought were buried, Karen gets too close to the duo, so close that she might be in danger herself.

On the surface, and out of the gate, this movie might seem pretty cool.  Telethon personalities, big stars, super famous, they split up, down the road we meet them again, and we dive into the story of how a girl ended up dead in their room, with no one telling the truth about any of the events leading up to her demise.  You’d think it would be sexy & fun & mysterious, but you’d be wrong; the life seems to have been sucked out of this film, until all that’s left is a neo noir shell that was destined to crack & shatter.  The problem is mainly Lohman, who isn’t in the acting business any more, and there’s a reason for that; she’s absolutely horrendous.  Bacon & Firth do their best, but they are stuck in a stupid plot with terrible lines and mangled mystery, with voice overs that will drive you insane with their inane idiocy.  The end is bad, the middle is muddled, the lead can’t act; not great ingredients when you’re trying to pull off a very tricky genre anyway, one that the director simply wasn’t talented enough to handle and shouldn’t have been allowed to serve to us.

My rating: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


Movie Review – This is 40

Category : Movie Review

Director: Judd Apatow

Starring: Leslie Mann, Paul Rudd

Year: 2012

I thought it would be a good time to watch This Is 40, ten years after it’s release, when I’m approaching the big 4-0 myself, and life sometimes really does seem like a whirlwind that should be captured in a film for all to see.  Well, maybe I didn’t quite wait long enough, or maybe This Is 40 just isn’t a very good movie.  It’s not believable, not realistic, not what most of us are going through, and doesn’t capture the true humor/despair of getting older and knowing there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.

It’s been about 15 years since Pete & Debbie married & started a family, they’re both about to turn 40, and life isn’t exactly as full of wonder & beauty as perhaps they had imagined it.  Pete owns a tiny record label that is falling apart, Debbie runs a store that’s being stolen from, their teenage daughter is a nightmare, their finances are collapsing, and their love life just isn’t what it was.  Is this what growing up has become, one problem after another, with no end in sight, or does it get better on the other side of the hill?

This movie doesn’t hit correctly, it’s that simple.  I’m not sure if it’s tone deaf because it’s about a wealthy-ish couple who can cater parties with tents and own two businesses, or if it’s simply not accurate enough to what actual married folk go through on a day-to-day basis.  Apatow is often genius, always hilarious, but he gets this one wrong, with a story about people you can’t relate to even when that’s the only thing the film ever tried to do.  Mann is a very poor casting choice, she never seems authentic, and even makes Rudd seem rudderless, which is a feat, because we usually adore him with ease.  The side cast is funny, Albert Brooks is the star, but not enough goes right often enough to make This Is 40 palatable.

My rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


Movie Review – The Return of the Living Dead

Category : Movie Review

Director: Dan O’Bannon

Starring: Thom Mathews, James Karen, Clu Gulager

Year: 1985

Dan O’Bannon may have only directed two features, The Return of the Living Dead in 1985 and The Resurrected in 1991, but his accomplishments as a writer are pretty impressive.  He created Alien, Heavy Metal, Blue Thunder, Lifeforce, Total Recall; quite an awesome list of horror and sci-fi standards.  He died at an early age of Crohn’s disease, which was said to be his inspiration for the famous chest-bursting scene in Alien, which is a very sad factoid.  Here, in Return of the Living Dead, he gave us one of the all-time best zombie cult classics, and a film that never gets old.

In a medical supply warehouse near Louisville, a new kid and a veteran employee discuss the legend of the undead, specifically a movie that was made about supposed true events, events that Frank just happens to know all about and is willing to educate Freddy on.  Well, the idiotic pair accidentally open a US Army container that was meant to remain closed, and a vapor is released that causes the bodies in the warehouse to reanimate.  When they try to burn those corpses, the smoke infects a nearby graveyard, and all hell break loose, literally!

What an excellent b-movie, a first-class zombie flick, and a rockin’ good time.  O’Bannon was some sort of genius to have come up with this screenplay; a twisted genius maybe, but a genius all the same.  He was able to direct one heck of an intense horror flick, with action at the beginning, the end, and everywhere in between, not a moment to lose when it comes to ghouls eating brains, I guess.  The characters were constantly frantic, the danger just kept escalating, and the end will blown you away, just wait for it.  This film is so fun, so freaky, and wild in all the right ways, a true cult hit.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

 


Movie Review – Prey

Category : Movie Review

Director: Dan Trachtenberg

Starring: Amber Midthunder, Dakota Beavers, Dane DiLiegro

Year: 2022

The horror movie of the year is here, and it’s part Bone Tomahawk, part Revenant, and all Predator, a great addition to the franchise, and by far the greatest piece we’ve been afforded since the original.  Going back to basics, making the simple even more simple, Prey shows how filmmakers can sometimes get it just right, balancing fan service with great craftsmanship, coming out on top with something wonderful.  Prey might not be for everyone, it’s gorier than you might expect, but, if you don’t mind turning your head a few times, everything else you see will be worth it.

300 years ago, the Comanche lived in relative peace and freedom on the Great Plains, as yet only seldom troubled by the white invader.  But for one group, there was a different alien to their land, and this one came from much farther away.  At first thinking it only a mountain lion, but soon understanding the far greater threat, Naru heads out on a quest that will make her an official hunter, with her trusty dog as her companion.  Her brother is skeptical of the creature and of the mission, but Naru knows something unnatural is lurking in the forest, and that the way that it kills is inhuman.

Prey really is as good as the original, and very similar in a lot of ways, just set in a different time & landscape, with a very different hero at the center.  Naru is young, headstrong, skilled, determined, but untested, and this will be the greatest challenge she ever faces.  The Predator is crafty and technologically advanced, but he’s never met human ingenuity before.  That’s the core story, but the action soon takes over, and wow is it fun to watch the variety of ways that the characters of this film can die.  It’s heart-pounding, it’s grotesque, it’s awe-striking, it’s cool; Prey is a great film with a great foundation, and that’s a gift to audiences.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

 


Movie Review – Old School

Category : Movie Review

Director: Todd Phillips

Starring: Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn

Year: 2003

Old School is probably the best of this generally ridiculous genre of mostly inappropriate movies.  Wedding Crashers, Dodgeball, Stealing Harvard, Orange County, Accepted, Role Models; the list goes on & on, with each one dumber than the next, but, really, Old School might be one of the funniest and most memorable of the bunch.  That doesn’t stop it from being fairly bad and just plain wrong, but the lines that came out of this film, the bizarrely memorable moments, those are at least worth honoring, even if the rest of it is better left forgotten.

Mitch hates his job, his girlfriend is cheating on him, he’s gotta move out, and things are spiraling out of control.  At least he’s got good friends; well, actually, terrible friends, but they are definitely loyal and love him, even if they have odd ways of showing it.  Like how one of them starts a pseudo-fraternity out of Mitch’s new house and makes Mitch the Godfather of some twisted boys club, that’s pretty weird.  And yet, it enlivens him in an odd way, and shows him what camaraderie is really like, and maybe even helps him move on from his crappy life toward something much better.

So, Mitch has sex with a high school student, a gay character clutches every single stereotype, an overweight character is played for laughs, and generally most of the plot would be immediately torn up and flushed down a toilet were it read for the first time today.  Putting that aside, if you can, because this movie came out 20 years ago, Old School has funny pieces that have become iconic, and that’s worth something.  Come to think of it, all the good stuff comes fro Will Ferrell, because of course it does, and that’s really all we need to remember about this silly film.  He’s great, the rest of the cast is weird, only frat guys will really fall head over heels, and the rest of us can be fine with remembering some good laughs and moving on with our lives.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

 


Movie Review – Uncharted

Category : Movie Review

Director: Ruben Fleischer

Starring: Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Sophia Ali

Year: 2022

Supposedly there’s a National Treasure 3 coming out in a couple years, but, really, there’s no need; we have Uncharted instead.  I know it’s based on the video game, which I have not played, but it might as well be based on the plot & delivery of the National Treasure franchise, because that’s exactly what it shadows almost frame for frame.  They say there’s nothing new under the sun, and, if this film is any example, they’re absolutely right, because this is only recycling, not revitalizing.  Uncharted is fine, it’s fun, at least it’s no Sahara, but it’s also nothing special.

Nathan & Sam Drake are orphans who have always dreamed of an adventure that would take them away from the reality of their lives, immersing them in a fantasy of treasure and intrigue instead.  Reality wins though, and Sam runs away, leaving Nate to grow up on his own, which leads to him being a young, unhappy thief/bartender.  Along comes Victor Sullivan out of the blue to tell Nate that Sam is alive, missing, and needs his help.  Sam & Vic were after a hidden fortune, and only Nate has the skills to find it, and so off we go on a circumnavigational good time and a ridiculously dangerous mission.

Uncharted really is just National Treasure with a few more throat slashes, and of course based on a successful game as well, which gives it some built-in fans but not a lot of broad support.  The adventure we can get on board with, the mystery is fun to be a part of, and the over-the-top theatrics must have been cool to control on PlayStation.  And the acting is actually fine, not bad at all, with pretty good chemistry; so where’s the problem?  Well, it’s kind of all around at all times, a nameless underwhelm that eats at you the entire runtime.  And then, at the end, when things get silly, it finally hits you; what I’ve been watching has only been mediocre.  You wanted to like it, but that’s just not working out, because the villains are dumb, the writing isn’t clever, and the climax is bizarre; you take as much as you can handle too early and then you’re just done.  Uncharted is too much crap and not enough substance maybe, or perhaps simply just not good enough, for long enough, with reason enough to watch.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

 


Movie Review – Lightyear

Category : Movie Review

Director: Angus MacLane

Starring: Chris Evans, Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn

Year: 2022

Is it a prequel, is it the toy’s origin story, is it an alternate Buzz universe, is it a movie all its own; it doesn’t matter, Lightyear is spectacular in any dimension and on any timeline.  Just when you think Pixar can’t out-do itself, just when you know the Toy Story franchise is done, just when you feel like you’ve had enough, along comes a film to make you stand up and clap, and *that*, folks, is why we love movies.  Lightyear is the animated triumph of the summer and quite possibly one of the Top 10 films we’ll see all year.

Buzz Lightyear, famed Space Ranger, started out as a young man on a mission, to protect galactic travelers as they explored new worlds and new realms of possibility.  On a routine stop on an uncharted planet, Buzz was piloting a group of cryo-sleeping scientists when the ship crashed, marooning them all in an inhospitable land.  Trying to solve the warp speed problem so they could go home, Buzz spent his own time flying & failing, while everyone else around him got on with their lives, made families, and learned to be happy.  Returning from one flight, Buzz finds that evil has come to his temporary home while he was away, and that only by working as a team with some unlikely friends will he be able to truly complete his mission.

Lightyear is the best movie I’ve seen so far this season, and it’s not really even close.  This animated action spectacle is pretty much everything you could possibly want in an hour & a half of viewing pleasure.  It’s got real heart, awesome adventure, clever humor, a robot cat, incredible voice-over choices, and enough honest reflection of the soul that you might even shed a little tear.  Chris Evans is spectacular as Buzz, the side actors are great too, the message is clear, the twists will SHOCK you, and you’ll leave so happy you’ll want to come right back again.  Think Interstellar meets Big Hero 6, which is as awesome as it sounds, although perhaps a little too borrowed.  Didn’t bother me though, borrow away, if the result is this good.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

 


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