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The Foreigner (2017)
Can't Hate It, But Was Disappointed
The Foreigner is a Political Thriller/Drama starring Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan. It was directed by Martin Campbell, known for his direction of Casino Royale, Goldeneye, and The Mask of Zorro. Jackie Chan plays Quan, an immigrant and restaurant owner from China in the UK. A bombing attack by a group calling themselves the "Authentic IRA" leaves Quan injured and his young daughter dead. Stricken with grief, he goes to Brosnan's character Liam Hennessy to try to find out the names of the terrorists. Hennessy is a politician in the UK who used to be in the IRA. He too wants to learn the names of the attackers, even as he and everyone around him is attacked by Quan.
This movie is a decent thriller, but it is nowhere near what I expected, and it did have a few problems. First, this movie has been advertised from the start as an action film starring an aging Jackie Chan. While there are action scenes, this is not an action film. It is actually closer to a drama/thriller with political intrigue that happens to include some action. Second, the plot gets very convoluted at times. It is unnecessarily complicated in a way it did not earn. Next, I was upset that the film seemed to not be able to blend the action scenes well into the rest of the film. In a way, the action was almost a completely separate being. It felt tacked on. There were also moments where Chan would be off screen for so long that I'd forgotten he was even in it. Essentially, don't go into this film expecting a Jackie Chan action film. You will be disappointed. However, there are positives. Chan's performance in this movie was emotional and well done. The acting he portrayed here was beautiful. He was able to show a side of himself so seldom seen. Same goes for Pierce Brosnan who gave a powerful performance as well. The action itself was well shot. With the director of Casino Royale and one of the greatest martial arts actors in Hollywood ever, I would expect nothing less. The Foreigner kept my attention and delivered an okay story, but in the end, it won't really be memorable, which is a shame given the talent level involved. 72/100
Happy Death Day (2017)
Groundhog's Day and Scream
Happy Death Day is a modern slasher film directed by Christopher Landon. The movie follows Tree (Jessica Rothe), a young sorority girl with a ridiculous name, on her birthday. She is a bitch to everyone she sees. Before the end of the night, she is murdered by a person in a baby mask. Then she wakes up on her birthday again. Tree must learn who her killer is as she keeps living the same day, before her chances run out.
To start with the obvious: yes, this film is very much like Groundhog's day in its premise. It is a person who is stuck in a time loop which they are trying to find their way out of. However, the film knows what it is, and doesn't try to hide from it. This leads to some tongue-in-cheek humor and a certain self-awareness not unlike the Scream films. Still, the story is fun and leads to some creative plot points mixed with clichéd ones. There are a few unexpected twists, and the mystery is fun to try to figure out, even if it does fall apart a bit when revealed. The acting is fine enough, though Rothe's performance did have a moment that actually blew me away a little bit. The action is also well shot and well directed. Landon shows he has a certain level of skill in his direction, and I'd like to see what he does with an actually well put together script. In all, Happy Death Day is a fine, enjoyable slasher film. It is not in any way scary. It borderlines on comedy. However, it delivers an entertaining 90 minutes, and I'd suggest checking it out if you ever catch it on TV. 76/100
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Blade Runner 2049, A Sequel Worth Waiting For
Blade Runner 2049 is a sequel to the Ridley Scott directed 1982 masterpiece Blade Runner. This movie, starring Ryan Gosling takes place 30 years after the events of that first film. Nexus 8 replicants (replicants with advanced artificial intelligence and an open-ended lifespan) have been made illegal due to a series of rebellions in 2022. Few survived and went into hiding shortly after. Years later, in 2036, a new line of replicants was created. The Nexus 9 models are complacent and made to never turn on humans. Ryan Gosling plays one of those models, a Blade Runner named K. His job is to investigate cases of Nexus 8 models in hiding and retire (kill) them. After one such mission, K makes a discovery that turns everything he knows completely on its head. I will not go into any specifics, as any spoilers would ruin the movie's mystery.
This film was an incredible feat. After 30 years, many would consider a sequel to be unwarranted and frankly, unnecessary. For Denis Villeneuve to captivate his audience, he needed to establish that his film added to the mythos, not cheapened it. In short, he did so extremely well. The cyber punk meets noire style that had made the original film so iconic was well represented. Every shot was masterfully crafted to hint at the mystery without giving it away. Blade Runner 2049, like its predecessor, requires multiple viewings to start to put together all the finite, masterfully crafted details. The soundtrack adds just enough atmosphere to allow the audience to essentially enter the movie itself. The new tech designs and pieces felt like they belonged in the world, and didn't feel tacked on. The acting was superb. Ryan Gosling does a fantastic job as K, though the true best acting comes from supporting actress Ana de Armas who plays Joi. Her role was simple, yet the actress brought so much life and depth to the role that I couldn't help but be captivated by every moment she was there. In all, Blade Runner 2049 is a fantastic movie that hits the aesthetic of the original while still being a fantastic movie on its own. I only had one slight problem towards the end when the movie had a flashback to explain everything to the audience. One of the greatest things about the first movie is that nothing is spoon fed, it takes multiple viewings to piece together the whole story. While there are moments that are better understood through a second viewing, I felt that the flashbacks slightly cheapened the movie, which is why I can't grant it a perfect score. 9.8/10.
Patriots Day (2016)
Superb Acting Makes Me Relate to a Terrorist
Directed by Peter Berg (Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon) comes Patriots Day, a movie about the true people involved in the events of the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013. It tells the story of the police involved, focusing in on Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg), a fictional character who exists as an amalgamation of many cops involved in the case. It also focuses on the bombers themselves (Themo Melikidze, Alex Wolff), as they attack Boston in an act of terror, and then try to escape to New York City for another attack.
This movie works on so many levels. First, the story is grounded in realism. This event happened just a few years ago, so the pressure to get it right was high. The actors all had a difficult, emotional job to do. They each performed fantastically. The main 2 stars to pay attention to in this are Mark Wahlberg, who gives one of the most performances of his career, and Alex Wolff as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger bomber. Wolff portrays this man not as a monster, but rather a sympathetic human being. This is extremely difficult given the subject matter, but his performance actually made me care about him quite a bit.
The direction is extraordinary. Berg puts in clips from actual security feeds from that fateful day to create a realistic account of the brother's actions post-bombing. He also filmed the bombing scenes in gritty, sickening, realistic ways to give a sense that the viewer was actually there them self.
Patriots Day is one of the best films I've seen in a long time, and I would suggest it to anyone looking for a fantastic and emotional time. Check this one out. 100/100
Jamie Foxx Does Decent in Sleepless
Based on the French film Nuit Blanche, Sleepless stars Jamie Foxx. This is a thriller film that is more decent than it should be. In it, Foxx plays a cop whose partner is crooked. Together, they steal cocaine from a group delivering to a casino owner from a mob boss' son. In order to get the drugs back, his son is kidnapped by the casino owner and held in his business. Foxx must fight members of the mob and cops as he tries his hardest to save his son, even if it means just giving all the coke back. Meanwhile, the cop chasing him (Michelle Monoghan) is trying her hardest to prove herself after a bust gone wrong got her injured. She does all in her power to stop Foxx and bring down the criminals.
The performances in this movie were decent. The actors do their best with what they are given, and deliver their lines with conviction. There is a sense of urgency for each character to achieve their mission. They all have strong motivations, and can get a little shady in their means of achieving their goals. Where this movie falters is in the script itself. Characters do things so out of place, and make some of the dumbest decisions simply because the plot demands it to move the action along. The movie had some cool ideas, but wasn't quite sure how to execute them correctly.
As for the action: it was fun, if not overly simplistic. The fight scenes seemed to be between brawlers without a lot of actual training. However, with quick edits and lots of shaky cam, it was very hard to focus on what was actually going on. Many times the action scenes ended up just making me dizzy.
This film isn't a classic. It never will be. But I don't think it was trying to be either. It is just a throw away action film that'd be fun to catch in Starz on a night in. It's fun and disposable. It entertained me, even though it wasn't very good, and I'd give it 54/100.
Underworld: Blood Wars (2016)
Worst Underworld Yet
Underworld: Blood Wars is the fifth movie in the series about the war between Vampires and Lycans. It is a series that should have been left alone after the second one, but here we are. Once again starring Kate Beckinsale, this movie follows her continuing fights against both groups. Selene is being chased by Vampires of the Eastern Coven, who claim to offer a pardon for Selene's killing of vampires from her own coven in previous films. She is being asked to train a new group of death dealers, the ones who fight lycans. Meanwhile, the lycans are after Selene to try to get information on the whereabouts of her daughter, a pure hybrid of both species, whose blood could end the war by giving them a large tactical advantage.
This movie is dumb, convoluted, and just altogether bad. The story structure seems to have no set purpose, jumping from scene to scene with so much exposition dump, it's kind of hard to believe even the actors could keep up with the story. There are way too many characters introduced in this film, and no time is given to flesh them out. It seems that every character in this film is betraying another like a chain of betrayal, and it's very hard to keep up with who is good and bad when that keeps changing on you. Also, Underworld, bad as the movies are, is built on action. There are very few action scenes in this film, to make way for more talking and exposition. And the ones that do exist are so poorly edited that it's hard to decipher what is actually happening in them. There are also action scenes that are very funny because of the amount of screaming. If you've ever seen a small child pretend to be a monster by roaring in your face, then you have seen this movie's attempt at 2 people fighting in certain scenes. I laughed many times over many things in this film, but none as hard as that.
Acting-wise, it seemed we had 2 kinds of actors. There were those who were only there for the paycheck such as Kate Beckinsale or Theo James, and those who went way over the top such as Daisy Head. The former group of actors said their lines, did their scenes, and went home, with no real care for what happened. Seems to me, especially with Beckinsale, that these actors are kind of stuck doing these films while we all know they are such great actors elsewhere. The others seemed to have seen the past films and thought that in order to "top" the ridiculousness of them, they had to overact everything.
Another problem was the special effects. Sure, the original films had bad cgi, but there were great practical mixed in to make it look decent. This movie is all cgi, and poorly done cgi at that. Every lycan looks fake, like the budget for animation was $100. Blood squibs are often animated poorly as well, giving off a terribly fake effect. There is also a moment where one character is drinking blood, but anyone can tell it's just wine/ red water due to how thick it isn't.
This film also cast wrong. Every character in this movie is white. Every new character, every extra, lycan and vampire alike, it's a pale-faced party. No diversity is terrible. Vampires may be pale, but black vampires do exist. As do black werewolves. It bothered me to not have any diversity at all. Though I guess maybe all the minorities were smart enough to stay away, as this movie was complete and utter garbage. Don't see this one. It's okay to skip. 30/100
Hidden Figures (2016)
NASA's Black Women Were Extremely Important
Hidden Figures is a drama film that tells the true story of Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), the three black women who changed the face of NASA during the Space Race of the 60s. Johnson was a mathematical prodigy who helped come up with mathematical solutions to a successful launch and reentry of Friendship 7, the spaceship that took John Glenn into orbit. Vaughan was a mathematician who learned FORTRAN language to become the first woman to be able to run the IBM at NASA, which was integral to the missions. She was also the first black woman to be a supervisor of staff, a feat she had to fight extremely hard to get. Jackson was a mathematician who worked and fought to be the first black female engineer at NASA, desegregating a high school in the process.
The acting between these three women is phenomenal. Each has their own distinct personality, and the chemistry they have for each other helps establish their close friendship. Taraji P. Henson is an especially amazing stand out, as she has to display a knowledge of complicated numbers and equations in a convincing way, which is very hard when the math is as difficult as it is in this film. Her tenacity, which helps her win over Kevin Costner's character, as well as a begrudging respect from a character played by Jim Parsons (not that either of their opinions really matter, but it did help her actually make a difference) is beautiful. I'm glad people are finally starting to notice her as a great actress (my first time falling for her charm and superb acting was in Hustle and Flow, though most people may know her as Cookie from Empire). She has been acting since 1998. Monae is also tenacious, as she fights to meet the impossible standards set upon her to become an engineer, by fighting in court to go to an all white High School's night classes. I'm hoping Janelle Monae actually gets into acting more. She is just as amazing at it as she is with her music. Octavia Spencer is tenacious too, but in a more mother-like sense. She fights for her fellow black women, and pushes for their success, while also fighting for her own. She herself must push back against a character played by Kirsten Dunst, who is your typical "I'm not racist, but " type person. Unfortunately, it seemed Dunst had the least development to work with, and at times seemed a little too one- dimensional. It didn't have much of an impact on the story at all, but I felt it could've been just a little better, as Jim Parsons' character is in the film. In the end though, each woman has an important part to play, and each does so well.
The direction of this movie was done by Theodore Melfi, whose only other director credit was for St. Vincent in 2014. So 20th Century Fox was taking a huge risk, and it payed off. The bright colours of the movie when there was justice prevailing helped set a happier tone to the more muted colour pallet used in scenes that actively showed the oppression. The camera work conveyed both moments of comedy, balanced with dramatic moments. Three black women were the focus of the story, so they were made the focus, allowing the white characters to exist, and work and change, without bogging down the movie with their stories.
This movie is amazing inside and out. One of the best I've seen in a long time, and one I hope empowers women, as well as the black community. It can be inspiring to everyone, sure, but those are the groups it focuses on, and those are the ones that will benefit from the representation the most. Please go support this movie. Let Hollywood know that we want more stories that are representative. Also, if you want, pick up the book that inspired the movie by Margot Lee Shetterly. 100/100
A Monster Calls (2016)
Monsters Aren't All Bad
A Monster Calls is a fantasy drama film based on the novel by Patrick Ness, which itself was an idea conceived by Siobhan Dowd, who died before she could write it. A little bullied British boy with a love for monsters/monster movies has a mom (Felicity Jones) dying from cancer, a dad who has his own family in America, and a grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) who's just too stern. So the little boy, who used to rely on his mom to get him through all of his worries and woes, suddenly feels alone in the world. Until a tree monster (Liam Neeson) comes along, telling the boy 3 stories, claiming that at the end, the boy must tell his own story, his own truth. And so the boy listens to each story, and each one causes him to examine his own life, and learn an important, but sad truth. This movie was beautiful. The CGI was fantastical. The story felt like it was coming from a childlike point of view, and each shot was reflective of the development of the characters. The story-telling elements blended computer animation with amazing watercolor artwork to give them a more fictional look to the traditional live action sequences. The director really knows how to play emotion through lighting. Just, beautiful cinematography as a whole completed this film. As for the acting, it was superb. This was due in large part to Lewis MacDougall, who has only had one acting credit before this in Pan. The boy plays complex emotions and thoughts through his journey, and many times had me tearing up as I felt his pain, anger, and sadness. He kept me engrossed in the film, and I was shocked. Young actors can often drag down an otherwise amazing film. MacDougall enhanced this one. Of course, the talents of Felicity Jones and Sigourney Weaver can't go unnoticed. The actresses spend much of the film displaying their own struggles. Their own emotions seem hard to interpret at times. This is once again due to the direction, which allows us to see these characters through a young boy's mind. Adults will understand what's going on, but find it's hidden in a haze of innocence. And finally, we have Liam Neeson. His deep Irish voice and tough presence are exactly the things needed for the tree monster. Neeson narrates each story with a wisdom and clarity of knowing something MacDougall's character is learning, because he himself had experienced each one. He does an incredible job, and must be appreciated. Of course, I must discuss the negatives. In this movie, there isn't much to complain about, but I do have some nitpicks. The monster played by Liam Neeson is a great character, but his look kept making me think that at any moment he was going to start saying "I am Groot." The designs were too similar. Also, I felt like the storytelling, beautiful as it was, was missing something. I don't know what it was, but I can't help but feel Guillermo Del Toro would have figured it out. And the score felt a little cheesy. It was emotional clichés. Nothing popped out as memorable. Just notes to make you feel things. It definitely could have been better. In the end, A Monster Calls is the movie no one saw in theaters, but everyone should. It's beautiful, and emotional, and amazing. Please, when you can, watch this film. You won't regret it. 85/100
The BFG (2016)
Bold, Fun, Good
The BFG is directed by Stephen Spielberg and is based on Roald Dahl's children's book of the same name. In this fantasy tale, a little Orphan girl named Sophie who has insomnia is taken out of her room after she sees a giant (Mark Rylance). In this world giants come and gobble up Orphan children, so naturally, it's a scary moment. But Sophie quickly realizes she's with the only nice giant in all the land, the Big Friendly Giant. This giant is small for his kind, only eats a gross, stinky vegetable, and brings dreams to the children of the world. Sophie and the BFG must work together to keep her safe, and stop the giants from terrorizing children anymore. Let's start with the positives. There has never been a more faithful and loving adaptation of a Roald Dahl novel. Each scene seemed to leap from the mind of the innocent children's writer himself. The whole movie has an air of magic that only Stephen Spielberg himself could've brought. I can't see anyone else directing this and doing it so well in that sense. However there are some negatives. The acting in this film is honestly mediocre at best. Mark Rylance tried his best but the acting from Ruby Barnhill just wasn't convincing at all. I understand she's young and this is her first acting experience. And she basically had to talk to nothing there most of the movie. So I get what happened, but still. Gotta be honest. Plus the rest of the cast seems to phone it in. And the animation is dreadful. The mocap on this scale, especially when you have real actors, was not a smart choice. The world felt fake. I appreciate the amount of work put into making him look a little odd and just like the books, but in this case, prosthetics on a real person might have better done the job. I was happy to have such a faithful adaptation of one of my favorite children's writer's books. The world was full of magic and whimsy. There were definitely some areas that needed improvement. I'm giving The BFG a 7.
The Legend of Tarzan (2016)
A Legendary Take on Tarzan
The Legend of Tarzan is directed by David Yates, who many people know as the director of the best Harry Potter films. It is a more adult take on the story of the king of the jungle. In this film, Tarzan, who goes by John (Alexander Skarsgård) , has already been domesticated and has taken his royal place in Britain in the late 19th century. When George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), a gunslinger and civil war veteran comes to ask Tarzan for help because of a slavery problem that may be happening in the Congo over some diamonds, Tarzan must go back. Jane (Margot Robbie) comes along but she, along with some African people she calls family, is kidnapped by Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz). Now Tarzan must reconnect with his jungle roots in order to save his wife, and the Congo itself. This movie is really great. It's fun and exciting, and an interesting take on Tarzan's story. It was a risky move to not do the story of his origin (except through a few flashbacks), but rather tell a new story. It was almost like starting with a sequel. But it pays off really well. We understand who the character is and why he is the way he is, and that's enough. The acting is decent. Nothing spectacular. Samuel L. Jackson is a great comedic relief character and Christoph Waltz plays the same villain he's played in many movies before. Margot Robbie was an American Jane with a lot of moxie. It's always refreshing when a woman is not just in a movie top be a damsel in distress. And Alexander Skarsgård is the perfect Tarzan. He plays the sophisticated British and animalistic sides both pretty well. The direction of this movie is great as well. David Yates really has done such a great job. The CGI in this movie is pretty great as well. For the most part the animals ate pretty fantastic, though there are moments where they could be better done. All in all, I loved this film. I'd give it a 9.
Toy Story 2 (1999)
Pixar was Here to Stay
Toy Story 2 was the sequel that confirmed Pixar was here to stay. After A Bug's Life didn't do as well as the company could have hoped for, they needed a huge hit. So why not a great sequel to the movie that started it all? In this one, Woody is stolen by the creepy toy collector we all turned out to be (played by Wayne Knight), and Andy's toys must go out and rescue him before Andy gets back from Cowboy Camp. Meanwhile, Woody finds out he's a rare toy from an old television marionette show when he meets Jessie (Joan Cusack), Stinky Pete (Kelsey Grammar), and a horse named Bullseye, who were all characters on the show as well. So the toys are on a hilarious, exciting, and fun adventure while Woody needs to decide where his loyalties lie. This movie is as good and, in many ways, better than its predecessor. It's absolutely hilarious, with so many gags is possible to miss quite a few of them in the first viewing. The animation is improved upon. The adventure has high stakes. Everything feels like an action film, except for kids. However adults cam find so much enjoyment too. This film tackles abandonment and growing up, and what it means to be loved. Absolutely amazing. I give this film a 9/10.
The Shallows (2016)
Good Ideas Shallowly Written
The Shallows stars Blake Lively and is directed by the same man who brought the world Orphan and Non-Stop, 2 of my favorite suspense thrillers of modern cinema. So, naturally, I really wanted to like this film. And I was disappointed. A young girl who just recently dropped out of med school decides to travel to a small beach in Mexico that her mother loved. It's the perfect spot for a surfer like herself to catch some great waves. But, after everyone else leaves, this woman receives a nasty shark bite and barely escapes. She is now stuck out in the ocean, bleeding, about 200 yards from shore with a nasty shark swimming in her way. The girl must try to stay alive using her medical knowledge and her will to survive as she travels from small surface to small surface with a seagull with a dislocated wing keeping her company hoping someone will come save her. Now, this movie has a good premise. Isolated, tense, all the things that make a great thriller. And Blake Lively acts well in this movie. Throughout it you feel her fear and her pain. Everything she does has an element of excruciating pain. The way she plays the character, you want her to survive. And the shark looks really good. It's CGI rendering was well done. The sound design in this movie is excellent. You are transported to the beach with each wave crashing or bit of water lapping up against something. Really this movie fails due to its script. The lines feel forced. Like they shouldn't be included most of the time. All of the actors do what they can with them. But really, they are just unnecessary. As a matter of fact, this movie would be better told, in my opinion, if they had stuck to a 90% visual only movie, with only one scene getting lines. Another problem was the pacing. A thriller should keep you enthralled beginning to end. At only an hour and eighteen minutes, this film didn't. There were moments that were seriously intense and scary. But there were also moments where things seemed to come to a feeling of dullness. In conclusion, The Shallows had potential, and some of it payed off. But the parts that didn't really ruined the experience for me. Still, I'll give this movie a 6/10.
A Bug's Life (1998)
It Bugs Me that this Movie isn't More Loved
A Bug's Life was Pixar's second dip into the movie business and is widely considered to be on the lower end of Pixar's quality films. When I was growing up or was one of my favorites, and to this day I don't get where the hate comes from. This movie follows an inventor ant named Flik (Dave Foley) who is your stereotype clumsy dreamer. His colony is extorted through fear of the grasshoppers, led by Hopper (Kevin Spacey), for their food. The grasshoppers make the ants collect food for them to have during the "Rainy Season." After Flik accidentally destroys a large supply of food, causing Hopper to double the quota, Flik goes on a quest to find some big bugs in the big city to protect the colony and stop the tyrannical grasshopper rule once and for all. Unfortunately, he gets a group of bad circus performers instead, and may find a way to use their limited talents to save them all. This movie is underrated. The political undertones to this film speak volumes, especially in our current political climate. The voice acting is decent. Kevin Spacey definitely gives a menacing performance, and it's adorable to hear a young Hayden Panettiere as an ant princess. The animation is pretty nice for its time. Certain moments looked better than others, but the real triumph was texturing, especially in the grasshoppers' designs. This movie isn't perfect. Many moments were predictable, and the movie relied heavily on gags. But still, it's fun and funny. And it does craft moments of actual fear and shows kids the power people can have when they stand together. It's definitely aimed more towards kids (even if it does get a bit...*murdery* seriously, rewatch it, it's very dark), but adults can appreciate that there's something there for them too. Altogether I'd rate this movie a 7. Not a bad Pixar film. Should be seen.
PS: Ratzenberger's role in this film was P.T.Flea, the ringleader of the circus bugs. It's a funny role that sits his voice well.
Toy Story (1995)
Pixar's First Movie Hits Perfectly
Toy Story was the movie to put Pixar on the map. In 1995, John Lasseter released a mega hit upon the world with one of the best computer animated movies of all time. It launched a huge career for the studio, dropping hit after hit even to this day. This is the story of a toy named Woody (Tom Hanks), a Cowboy Sheriff toy with a pull string voice box. He is owner Andy's favorite toy. But Andy gets a new toy in the form of a space ranger named Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), who actually believes he is Buzz, not a toy. Woody starts to feel left out and replaced. In an attempt to remain the favorite, Woody knocks Buzz out a window. The other toy's commit mutiny on him because this, and Woody goes out into the big, scary human world to bring Buzz back. The 2 toys adventure together eventually leads them to neighbor Sid's house, where the must escape before Sid's favorite pastime of blowing up toys turns on them. This movie was a pure stroke of genius. It showed off the technology computers could all have, and what the future of animation could be. Choosing toys as the focus was smart, because the animation was still fairly new, and therefore still a little plastic looking. So toys, which should look artificial, seemed to look decent. The voice acting in this movie is fantastic too. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen play well off each other and provide great characters. Woody's jealousy and angry outbursts contrasts well with Buzz's conceited yet naive nature. The supporting cast give great performances as well, and allow the toys to each have their own distinct personalities which, when put together, make them feel like a family. The soundtrack of this movie was done by Randy Newman, who made one the most sugary songs that I love. "You Got a Friend in Me" is known by most, as it is the quintessential Toy Story song. It is like a theme song to everything this movie is. The ultimate friendship between a human and his toys, but also between two life- long buddies. This movie promoted love, imagination, and friendship. It was a kids film that adults could relate to. It was everything that Pixar continues to stand on today. And everyone should see it. I give this film a 10/10. PS: Because this is Pixar, I gotta mention the good luck charm. In this film John Ratzenberger plays Hamm, the piggy bank. He's a fun character with good quips. One of my favorites he did.
Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)
Enjoyable, But Bad
Independence Day: Resurgence is the sequel to 1996's cult sci-fi film Independence Day. I'd like to start off by saying this film is 20 years too late. But still, it's here, and I forced myself to see it. So, we are 20 years into the future. Humanity has not had conflict because they all are united because aliens. Yet there are warlords. Okay. The people of Earth have created advanced weaponry by combining the leftover alien technology with their own. Everything seems okay. Until the aliens come back with a bigger ship with its own gravitational pull and basically lands on earth without completely destroying it with the the obvious gravitational problem, except for certain areas (ie: not America, where people matter). All your favorite characters are back, like uh, um, uh, Jeff Goldblum. And obviously dead in the first one mad scientist guy played by Brent Spiner. And replacement for crazy old guy: crazy old President, played by Bill Pullman. And Jewish dad,who contributes nothing to the story (just like the first time). And President's daughter, played by not Mae Whitman (because she doesn't fit standard beauty requirements, I guess?) And we also have new characters, like Will Smith's son played by not Will Smith. And Liam Hemsworth playing the same dude from every other movie he's in. Also, this movie features kids in danger because nothing spells tension like the kids in danger, even if they are shoehorned into the movie. Yeah, this movie has a lot of characters. I didn't even name them all. Anyway, the humans have to beat the aliens again and they learn stuff about them at the same time. Unfortunately, this movie just didn't deliver. It felt like a cheap knock off of all modern sci-fi flicks. It followed EVERY sci-fi movie cliché ever. It also felt like a badly made video game, complete with a friggin boss fight. The acting was stilted by most, though Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman seemed to be trying. Many of the performances were over the top, like the actors were trying to be comedic, but just ended up being annoying. The battle scenes had so much going on on the screen, it was impossible to tell what was going on half the time. Sort of like watching Transformers fight in a Michael Bay movie. And yet, through it all, though this movie was complete garbage, I can't hate it. It was enjoyable. Stupid? Yes. Bad? Yes. But so was Independence Day. Seriously, go re-watch that film without Nostalgia Goggles on. You're gonna notice something. It's not good. But it is so enjoyable anyway. See, in today's society, we have 2 choices. Love or Hate. There is no in between. But I say that should be changed. Some of my favorite films aren't good. But they entertain me. And that's what movies are designed for. Sure, there are some that are absolutely fantastic that'll stay in our minds forever. And there are some that are so bad that they should never see the light of day. But there are those inbetweeners. Sometimes we just want one that'll take our minds on a fun a ride for 2 hours. And that is the Independence Day films. I'd give this film a 5/10. Go watch it for a fun time. But don't expect anything good. P.S. Screw the ending. *No Spoilers* but they basically threw a gigantic sign in our face that said ID4:3: Coming Soon. Ugh.
Finding Dory (2016)
Pixar's Fish Still Got It
Finding Dory is the 2016 sequel to the beloved Pixar film Finding Nemo. In this movie, the lovable Dory, a blue tang fish with short term memory loss voiced by Ellen Degeneres, starts to get fragments of memories about her long lost parents and sets out on a quest to find them. She is joined by Marlin and Nemo (Albert Brooks and Hayden Rolence) as they travel to California. There, Dory goes to a Marine Life Rehabilitation Center and meets Hank (Ed O'Neil) a Septopus and Destiny (Kaitlin Olson) a whale shark with farsightedness who help her navigate the facility. This movie, as with all Pixar films, had a lot of heart. The story felt important. The stakes felt high. It didn't pander to kids. There was no real enemy or bad guy. This was an isolated story about what a home and a family really means. Baby Dory is adorable. And adult Dory is sweet, and sad. Anyone watching can feel her emotions. You understand her pain, and her insecurities. The animation, as always, is gorgeous. So much detail. The Ocean feels like it's there. It feels alive. There's so much to take in, and you can tell the animators really put in a lot of love to make this. The voice acting and scripting is top notch. The words and the characters give an almost perfect balance of comedy and drama. The emotions are genuine. The plot points are put together quite well. This movie is not as emotional as Finding Nemo. The stakes are nowhere near as high. However, it is still a quality film that is worth seeing, and felt as if it had a place in the Pixar world, and the Nemo lore. I'd say it was about as good as the Original Film. And would give it a solid 8/10. Go See It.
The Do-Over (2016)
No Need to Do-Over this film
It's no secret that I have hated almost every Adam Sandler film in the last few years. They have consistently been terrible. So when I decided to watch The Do-Over, I did not have high hopes. I really expected the worst. I can say I was pleasantly surprised. Adam Sandler and David Spade actually delivered a decent and fun comedy.
Two guys down on their luck fake their own deaths to escape their terrible lives. They take on the identities of two dead guys who apparently had a lot of money and something to hide, and stumble into a world of action they never asked for. Now, being chased by assassins, the two middle aged average Joes must find out why they are being targeted.
A simple premise, yes, but it delivers. The story actually has a good plot and some decent, if sometimes sloppy, character development. Some of the jokes are still riddled with that adolescent humor that plagues Happy Madison films, but it also lands quite a few funny moments. This movie will never be considered a classic, or one of my favorites. But I am still glad I checked it out.
The acting in this movie is okay. The 2 leads portray their parts convincingly enough. Though it can feel a little lazy at times. The rest of the actors get the job done. Nothing spectacular. But also not bad.
The soundtrack has a fun vibe, full of country hits, and some mediocre, generic action film music. It feels okay within the film.
The script was good. It definitely had some twists. And it delivered a story with more emotion and depth than the usual Happy Madison productions. It is very predictable to a fault, but it still feels nice to follow the story as it progresses.
So, in the end, this is not a masterpiece. It is not Sandler's best work. But it is a lot better than most of the stuff he's put out lately, and I can say I enjoyed watching it. It's a Netflix Original movie, so check it out if you have a chance.
Straight Outta Compton (2015)
Best Hip Hop Biopic
Straight Outta Compton is a biopic about the careers of Eazy E, Ice Cube, and Dr. Dre as they started the N.W.A and became the voice of people in the hood. With songs such as Straight Outta Compton and F*ck Tha Police these men worked their way up to the top through friendships, break ups, and different labels. They faced controversy from the streets and the Police for their works, and fought through it. It shows the boys break up from each other, their individual career paths and challenges (money problems, corrupt managers, Suge Knight, and more). You hear mention of their movie deals, and it shows a list of other artists the rappers worked with, such as Snoop Dogg and Tupac. Let's talk about what didn't work. This movie glosses over some of the low points in each rapper's career, mentioning them, but not putting enough detail to give a fair representation. This is mainly due to Ice Cube and Dre's involvement as producers obviously not wanting to ruin their names But that wasn't a big deal because I loved everything else. The cinematography was fantastic. There was one scene involving gangs that I wont ruin for you, but it had a very cool and emotionally powerful shot in it that made me almost cry with pride. The acting was superb. Every actor showed such raw talent and emotion that was so powerful that as a viewer I felt empathy for the characters, and I truly believed the pain was happening to them, in the moment. It was moments like that that made me forget I was watching a movie at all. It felt more like the actual people really going through everything. A special shout out goes to O'Shea Jackson Jr. for giving a performance as his own dad and absolutely killing it. And the story? Fantastically put together, switching between each character flawlessly without letting any character be overtaken by another. Also, I am a bit biased towards loving the soundtrack considering I knew every hip hop song in the film and could rap along with them. Suffice to say I loved this movie, and would definitely go see it again. 10/10
The Visit (2015)
Shyamalan is Almost Back
The Visit is M. Night Shamalamadingdong's latest piece. It is a found footage film about two kids going to meet their grandparents for the first time. It explains the Found Footage by making the girl an aspiring film maker putting together a documentary on the trip. While there the grandparents start acting creepy, and things get scarier and scarier. So, cool, everyone is praising Shyamalalalala on "returning to form," and in certain ways he has. He made something that I think compares best to Signs. It wasn't fantastic. But it had certain cool elements. Lets talk about what didn't work. Shamama's twist is known to be in every film. In this, you can see it coming from a mile away. The film gives too many clues too early on and it is very easy to piece together from there. The "documentary" feel is cool, but no 14 year old girl is going to have 2-3 different angled shots set up while in some of the shots (especially in the third act) is going down. They try to explain this away with having the brother doing some of it, but it still doesn't feel real, it feels too professional. And lets talk about one more thing I hated: this movie had jump scares. And they don't make sense within the film. The jump scares come from the actors doing things that don't make sense and feel staged. They don't feel organic with the rest of the film. With that being said, there are some praises I need to give this film. First, it is definitely Shahamanahamana best film in years. He gave fans what they have wanted for a while: a stripped down, real version of himself, without all the ego. He even went so far as to parody himself within the film. He actually wrote in things about trying to film stupid things for aesthetic, or random music that doesn't fit the film for "artistic reasons," and just random cinematography bull. It was nice for him to realize who he was and be able to make fun of that in a way. Next, I want to praise the child actors. These kids were pretty fantastic most of the time. I wont spoil anything but I will say there is a fantastic scene in this film where raw emotion comes through, and these kids show they have a future in Hollywood. And finally, I want to praise this movie's comedy. This film is not a horror. It is a Horror/comedy and the comedy is great. It works right where it needs to in a good way. Is this Shazamala's best work? No! This is just another one of his shitty films. But it did show potential for him to start to grow again. I would give this film a 5/10
Phillip Seymour Hoffman Delivers as Truman Capote
The true story of famed writer Truman Capote's work on his last finished book "In Cold Blood" is told brilliantly in Capote, starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Esteemed writer and popular socialite Truman Capote learns about a brutal murder in a small town and decides to investigate the story for an article in The New Yorker. He travels there with his best friend from childhood and long into adulthood, Harper Lee. Harper Lee is, of course, the author of the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, but at this time hasn't even written it yet. Now, Mr. Capote goes to this town and interviews many people. He talks with the police, with local residents, and even friends and family of the victims. But something happens when he meets the alleged killer. He develops a sort of empathetic connection to him, although he still does just seem to want a story. He decides to write a "non-fiction novel" instead of just an article as he gathers so much info. This is where we see a despicable side of Truman Capote start to arise. He hires a lawyer to help fight the killer's case, but mostly because he doesn't want the kid killed until he can get a confession out of him to write in his book. He acts like he's the kid's friend in front of him, but lies and treats him like garbage behind his back. And the movie also focuses over the fact that Truman starts to become impatient over his 4 year process because he cant finish his book until the killer convicted, set free, or executed. We also see Truman's fall from friendship with Harper Lee due to his increasing alcoholism and his insane jealousy over the success of her famous novel.
This movie does something great for the biopic genre as a whole. It shines light on a person's life, but doesn't romanticize it. This movie shows Truman Capote for what he was. Fun, and intelligent, but also deceitful and slightly corrupted. Phillip Seymour Hoffman runs away with this role portraying every detail associated with the author. Mr. Hoffman perfectly portrays the voice and lisp of Truman Capote, and also embodies all of his little mannerisms and traits. He becomes Capote in such a way that you forget it is an actor on screen. The man on screen IS Truman Capote, and that is beautiful. The story is excellent and truthful. It isn't romanticized like it could have been. An excellent movie. Must-see.
The Squid and the Whale (2005)
The Squid and the Whale Fighting is a Metaphor
When two boys (one in high school and one younger) become the children of a divorced family, everything falls apart on them. The older boy (played by Jesse Eisenberg) sides with his father (Jeff Daniels) in the proceeding events, due to the mother's adultery and his fascination with his father's profession as a professor for writing in college. The younger boy sides with his mother (Laura Linney) as it's quite clear he does not easily win the affections of his father. Not only that, but both these boys start getting into trouble as they try to deal with joint custodies and their crumbling family in 1980s Brooklyn. Jesse Eisenberg's character plagiarizes a song to win a talent show. At the same time he is discovering sex through his girlfriend (whom he seems not to appreciate) and lusting after his father's sex craved student who moves into his father's place and with whom his father is also lusting after. The younger brother starts acting up in school, cursing up a storm, drinking, and masturbating in school (leaving his nasty stuff wherever he wants). The boys naivety causes fights between them, as they too crumble apart the way their parents do.
This movie is a story of self discovery through use of a depressing common occurrence. Children of divorce always get caught in the middle of their parents drama, and many times act out in protest. As an independent film, everything seems small, but not in a bad way. The story is truthful. The characters, though a bit over the top at times are based in reality. Each one has their own personality and they play nicely off each other. Jesse Eisenberg's performance in this film is one of my favorites of his. The film is dramatic but with bits of wit to keep from weighing down on its audience. This is nowhere near a perfect movie, but it is one that stays with you long after the credits. People who study cinema and critics (really anyone whose job is movies) need to check this one out.
Walk the Line (2005)
Walking the Line Between Happy and Depressing
Joaquin Phoenix plays Johnny Cash in this biopic about the singer's life. It shows Johnny's young life watching the death of his brother, briefly shows his life in the military, and then focuses in on Mr. Cash's rise in music. Johnny originally played Gospel music before going to a recording studio and being told he could never sell records that way. So he recorded songs he wrote in the military. Thus started Johnny Cash on his way. He became famous for his Rockabilly style, and toured all across the US. Unfortunately the stresses of Johnny's constant leaving and the fact that he became addicted to pills put a strain on his marriage and his children. His divorce sent him on an even more destructive path, even as he fell in love with the woman he would love for the rest of his life: June Carter (Reese Witherspoon). Johnny spent years trying to get with June and the majority of the second half of this film is Johnny's struggle with addiction and persistence of trying to get June to marry him (which she eventually did). This movie can be a bit repetitive at times. It drags in areas. But it is still a fantastic movie. Joaquin's portrayal of the Rockabilly legend is excellent. Reese's portrayal of June was also well done. There is no denying the chemistry between the actors. And the singing? Spot on! I was nervous learning the actors did all their own singing but their voices were beautiful and accurate. Plus, being a fan of Johnny Cash, I love the songs. The cinematography was fun as well. The concert scenes almost felt like backstage passes mixed with Hollywood seamlessly. An excellent biopic every Cash fan needs to see.
Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995)
The Franchise Died Hard with a Vengeace After this One
Die Hard with a Vengeance: The third film in the franchise, the last good one in the franchise. Had the series ended here Die Hard would have went out on a high. As it happens, that's not what happened unfortunately. In this film John McClane is called back onto the force after being suspended (for some unknown reason) when a bombing occurs in New York City by a man named Simon. Simon plays a dangerous game of Simon Says with John and a black stranger with a vendetta on whites (who John comes in contact with in the first round of Simon Says in a hilariously terrible situation). Together they race around the city trying to stop bombs from being set off by playing along with the rules. They soon learn that Simon is the brother of Hans Gruber, the man John killed back in the original Die Hard. Soon after, John learns of Simon's real plan to rob the Federal Reserve, and works with his sidekick to stop him. This movie is a fast paced action, and never lets that up. Each scene is crafted to bring on the excitement, as it suspends you in fear as well. Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson make a great team. They work well off each others energy, and you see growth out of each of them throughout the film. This movie does have weak points, mainly being that the movie does play off the action movie clichés. Cheesy one liners, bad guys that cant aim if their target is 2 feet away from them, explosions galore, impossible escapes, and more. But the film is so much fun that you can forgive it for these details, and actually just appreciate them as good fun. A great movie that should have ended Die Hard on a high, this is one to see when you just want a great action film.
Twelve Monkeys (1995)
Will Make You Think You're as Crazy as 12 Monkeys
This psychological thriller starring Bruce Willis is something beautiful to behold. A virus leaked in 1996 that wiped out most of the humans and let the animals roam free once again. The last of humanity lives underground in a nightmarish prison. In order to be pardoned, people will travel back in time to try to find information on the virus (It can't be stopped, it already happened). If the info is found the people in the "present day" (the future) can cure the virus. Bruce Willis is sent back and ends up in a mental hospital for what seems to be manic depressive paranoid schizophrenia. As the story goes on, this man learns quite a bit about the virus, and who created it, alongside of his psychiatrist who starts to believe him as evidence piles up proving so. Of course, this movie does a really good job at being ambiguous as to whether this is all really happening or if it's all within the mind of a cray person. So many little details in this movie give it an excellent story, with a compelling plot and characters. Brue Willis plays both crazy and non-crazy so well, you are never quite sure where he stands. Brad Pitt is an excellent secondary character as well. Altogether this is an under seen and underrated film.
I'm Clueless as to Why this is Not More Popular than Mean Girls
Ever wondered what the 90s looked like? Watch Clueless, a movie about rich teens on Beverly Hills, and their first world high school problems. Cher is a blonde girl in high school who gets two of her teachers together in order to get better grades, and decides she likes doing good deeds. So when the new girl enters the school she decides to help her become popular. Cher and her friends go through relationships and breakups with all kinds of men. Gay, straight, druggies, sexual harassers, and more. Cher learns a lot about herself throughout this time, the main thing being she is in love with her college going, pretentious, ex-stepbrother (weird, gross, but funny). This comedy had me laughing quite a bit, the jokes hit well. The acting was mediocre at best, but the nature of the characters made up for that. I especially enjoyed the performance for the character of Cher's dad. His angry, random, and hilarious nature was well done, and quite entertaining. Altogether a fun, hilarious 90s comedy. A good time with your friends as well.