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Girls Trip (2017)
A good female bonding and female empowerment film, not a great one but definitely decent.
'GIRL'S TRIP': Three and a Half Stars (Out of Five)
The hit comedy about four old female friends that go on a road trip together, to the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans, to bond again. It stars Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Tiffany Haddish, Larenz Tate and Mike Colter (of 'LUKE CAGE' fame). The film was directed by Malcolm D. Lee, who's also helmed other hit comedies like 'THE BEST MAN', 'THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY','UNCERCOVER BROTHER' and 'BARBERSHOP: THE NEXT CUT' (also featuring Hall). It was written by Kenya Barris, Tracy Oliver and Erica Rivinoja. The movie has gotten mostly positive reviews from critics, and it's also the biggest comedy hit of the year at the domestic Box Office. I mostly enjoyed it.
Four longtime best friends, that have nicknamed themselves the 'Flossy Posse', have grown apart over recent years. One of the women, Ryan Pierce (Hall), who's a professional lifestyle guru, is invited to be a keynote speaker at the Essence Music Festival, in New Orleans. She decides to invite her other friends along with her, so that they can all have a chance to reconnect. The women all party a lot, a bit too much at times, and have a good time, but drama of course (involving cheating men, jealousy among friends, and other things) ruins their fun as well.
The movie is surprisingly touching at times, especially towards the end, and it's mostly funny. Some of the jokes are a little too over-the-top for me, and gross (like ones involving the women, drunk, peeing all over others), but I think most of the humor in it works. All four of the lead actresses deliver good performances in it, especially Haddish. She seems a little over-the-top at times (as well) but it fits within the style of the movie. I think she's the standout of the cast. It's also a good female bonding and female empowerment film. It's not a great movie, by any measure, but it's a more than decent one.
Small Crimes (2017)
Some people just can't get things right, no matter how hard they try!
'SMALL CRIMES': Four Stars (Out of Five)
A dark crime-drama about a former corrupt cop, that's just out of prison for attempted murder (from 6 year earlier), who's desperately trying to leave his former life behind, but can't. The movie stars Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau, Molly Parker, Robert Forster, Jacki Weaver, Gary Cole, Macon Blair, Pat Healy and Michael Kinney. The film was directed by E.L. Katz (who also helmed 2013's outstanding 'CHEAP THRILLS'), and it was written by Katz and Blair (based on the novel, of the same name, by Dave Zeltserman). It was released by Netflix through their streaming site, and it's gotten mixed reviews from critics. I found it to be a pretty impressive, and highly interesting, dark crime movie.
Coaster-Waldau plays Joe Denton, a former corrupt cop that was recently released from prison. Denton did six years for attempting to murder a district attorney, named Phil Coakley (Kinney), under the mob's payroll. He attempts to reunite with his ex-wife, and their children, but learns that they've left town and never want to see him again. Denton instead moves in with his parents (Foster and Weaver), but they're suspicious that he's still a danger to himself, and everyone around him. At the same time he starts a relationship with a nurse (Parker), and he's harassed into committing yet another murder, by a corrupt police lieutenant, and his old partner (Cole).
The movie is really dark, and full of unlikable characters (with just a few exceptions). Coaster-Waldau is likable in the film, I think, but it's clear that he's done some really bad things in his past. I really wanted to root for him, and I did, but the movie is more of a tragedy than anything else actually. It's frustrating to see how some people just can't get things right, no matter how hard they try, and how positive their intentions are. That's the genius of this film, and it does a pretty good job of telling that story.
Extremely relatable to me, in some ways more so than any other film I've ever seen!
'WONDER': Four and a Half Stars (Out of Five)
A comedy-drama about a boy with severe facial deformities, who enters the fifth grade at a local school, for the first time, and attempts to fit in there. The movie stars Jacob Tremblay (who first garnered critical acclaim for 2015's 'THE ROOM'), Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Izabela Vidovic, Noah Jupe, Bryce Gheisar, Mandy Patinkin and Daveed Diggs. It was directed and co-written by Stephen Chbosky, who also wrote and directed 2012's outstanding 'THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER' (which is also about a young outsider that's trying to fit in). Steve Conrad and Jack Thorne also co- wrote the screenplay, which is based on the 2012 novel, of the same name, by R.J. Palacio. The film has gotten mostly positive reviews from critics, and it's also been a big (unexpected) hit at the Box Office as well. I (for the most part) really enjoyed it, and I also think it's really well made (for the most part), but I definitely have my problems with it as well.
August Pullman, also known as Auggie (Tremblay), was born with facial deformity (Treacher Collins syndrome), and he's had surgery numerous times because of it. He's never been able to fit in with others, of course, because of it as well. His mother and father (Roberts and Wilson) enroll him in a school for the first time, called Beecher Prep. Auggie is of course harassed and alienated by most of the other students there, but he's also able to make a few friends over time. The movie details how Auggie, his classmates, friends, and family are all changed by Auggie's new experiences there.
The movie is extremely relatable to me, in some ways more so than any other film I've ever seen. I grew up harassed and alienated by others for looking different. I think the first half of the film does an excellent job of depicting what that's like, and how it affects all areas of someone's life (as well as those around them). My only problem with the film is the excessively happy (and extremely unrealistic) ending. I think it's really positive and inspiring to depict society in such a positive light (where everyone easily learns form their biases and prejudices, that quickly) but life just doesn't work that way. On the other hand though, I think this is still a really positive and important movie for kids to see, because they're the most likely to learn from their faults, and try to progress because of them. Where as adults are much too set in their ways, and are incredibly fearful of change (and accepting their flaws). This film does a great job of illustrating that as well (when it shows how the bully's parents are much more bigoted, and full of fear and hate, than the young bully is). In my experience adults are much worse in their 'looks prejudice' than children have ever been too, and they're much more likely to victim blame as well, like the parents in this movie do ('so called friends' also do this). So while I really loved the first half of this film, I found the second half to be kind of insulting and completely unrealistic. It is still an important movie though, that could help kids learn from their biases and prejudices, and want to be better people because of it. So for that I'll still give it a pretty good rating.
Personal Shopper (2016)
Worth a watch for some, especially if you're a Kristen Stewart fan.
'PERSONAL SHOPPER': Three and a Half Stars (Out of Five)
A supernatural/psychological thriller about a celebrity's personal assistant, and shopper, that's desperately trying to make contact with her recently deceased twin brother. The movie stars Kristen Stewart, and it was written and directed by Olivier Assayas (the two previously worked together on 2014's 'CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA'). It also costars Nora von Waldstätten, Lars Eidinger, Sigrid Bouaziz, Anders Danielsen Lie and Ty Olwin. The film was well received at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, where it premiered, and it's also gotten mostly positive reviews from critics. I found it to be interesting, and well made mostly, but nothing special or memorable really.
Maureen (Stewart) works as a personal assistant for a celebrity named Kyra (Waldstätten). Her job mostly consists of traveling to European capitols, in order to shop for Kyra (by trying on different clothes, shoes and jewelry for her). Maureen secretly dresses in these expensive (recently purchased) clothes as well, when she's alone at night. She also continuously tries to contact her recently deceased twin brother, because before he died they both promised each other they would try to make contact with one other, from the afterlife (if there is one). Maureen is also harassed by persistent texts from an unknown number, who she thinks might be the spirit of her dead brother.
The movie is somewhat interesting, but it's also really slow-paced. It also seems severely unbalanced as well, with the supernatural elements seeming somewhat out of place (with the rest of the story) too. Stewart is really good in the lead role, but her character is the only relatable, or likable, one in the whole movie. I think the film was well directed, and the story is at least somewhat interesting too. It's definitely worth a watch for some, especially if you're a Kristen Stewart fan.
Shimmer Lake (2017)
Highly amusing, and always interesting to watch.
'SHIMMER LAKE': Four Stars (Out of Five)
A crime thriller told in reverse order, about a sheriff investigating a bank robbery involving his brother and two old high school friends. It was written and directed by first time feature filmmaker Oren Uziel (who previously wrote the horror-comedy 'FREAKS OF NATURE', and he also co-wrote '22 JUMP STREET'). The movie stars Benjamin Walker, Rainn Wilson, Stephanie Sigman, Wyatt Russell, Adam Pally, Mark Rendall, John Michael Higgins, Ron Livingston and Rob Corddry. It was released by Netflix through their streaming site, and it's gotten polarized reviews from critics (from the small number that have seen it that is, but some rave about it). I really enjoyed it too.
The story is told over the course of one week, in reverse order, starting with Friday. It's about a bank robbery gone wrong, in a small town, being investigated by Sheriff Zeke Sikes (Walker). The robbery was carried out by Zeke's brother Andy (Wilson), and two old high school friends of theirs, Ed Burton (Russell) and Chris Morrow (Rendall). On Friday, Andy is trying to get away with the money from the robbery, while his brother is looking for him. We see Andy's fate, and then we learn what happened to everyone else, and everything that happened leading up to Friday, in reverse daily order.
The movie is pretty cleverly written, and acted, and it even has a pretty fun twist at the end. It seems fresh, and pretty original, but if you take away the 'reverse order' storytelling gimmick, it's not really that original or memorable. Still it's highly amusing, and always interesting to watch. It should keep most viewers guessing (until the very end) as well. It did for me, and I definitely recommend it.
Justice League (2017)
Bored out of my mind at times!
'JUSTICE LEAGUE': Four Stars (Out of Five)
The fifth installment in the DC Extended Universe, based on the DC comics superhero team, which unites Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg, for the first time on the big screen together (in an attempt for DC to imitate the success of Marvel Cinemas' 'THE AVENGERS'). DC even brought in Joss Whedon (the filmmaker behind the first two 'AVENGERS' movies) to co-write the screenplay, and direct $20 million worth of reshoots. Zack Snyder (who also helmed 'BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE', 'MAN OF STEEL', and co-wrote 'WONDER WOMAN') directed and co-wrote the film as well, with Whedon and Chris Terrio (who also co-wrote 'BATMAN V SUPERMAN'). The cast features Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot and Henry Cavill reprising their roles as Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman (from previous movies). Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller and Ray Fisher also costars as Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg (which they previously performed cameos as, in previous films). Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielson and Joe Morton also reprise roles from other movies too; while J.K. Simmons and Ciaran Hinds join the cast. The story deals with the superhero team forming, after the death of Superman, to battle a new supervillain named Steppenwolf, and his army of Parademons. The film has gotten mostly positive reviews from fans so far, and some critics even like it too. I was severely disappointed with the movie, and honestly found it to be mostly a bore (sadly).
The story takes place months after the death of Superman (Cavill), and the events of 'BATMAN V SUPERMAN', when an alien army of creatures called Parademons are invading Earth. They're lead by a military officer from Apocalypse, called Steppenwolf (Hinds). Steppenwolf is on a mission to find the three powerful 'Mother Boxes', that are all hidden on Earth. Bruce Wayne (Affleck) teams with Diana Prince (Gadot) to stop the invasion. The super duo seeks out three other gifted superheroes to help them; Aquaman (Momoa), The Flash (Miller) and Cyborg (Fisher). Together they form the superhero team called 'Justice League', for the first time.
The movie is really slow-paced at first (and for most of the film actually), and I was bored out of my mind at times. There's a lot of ineffective character development, in my mind, that doesn't really help develop the characters much. The action scenes are all uninvolving, and dull, in my opinion as well. This is coming from a fan who absolutely loved 'WONDER WOMAN' and 'BATMAN V SUPERMAN' ('SUICIDE SQUAD' and 'MAN OF STEEL' too, to a lesser degree), and I have been a bigger fan of the DC Extended Universe lately even (over the MCU). I have to admit this film just doesn't work for me though. That's not to say it's bad, or overly cheesy at all (that's why I'm still giving it 4 out of 5 stars). It just really let me down. I had really high hopes though, and I still do for future DC movies (especially 'WONDER WOMAN' films). Gadot is awesome in this still, even though she's not given enough to do, and she's the scene stealer (like always) definitely. I think she deserves top billing even.
A Bad Moms Christmas (2017)
I enjoyed it slightly more than the original.
'A BAD MOMS Christmas': Three and a Half Stars (Out of Five)
The sequel to the 2016 comedy hit 'BAD MOMS' is a Christmas family comedy flick. It reunites Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn, in their overworked mother roles. This time they have to deal with their own overwhelming mothers, who are visiting for the holidays, while also trying to put on the perfect family Christmas. It costars Susan Sarandon, Christine Baranski and Cheryl Hines, as the three older moms, while Jay Hernandez also reprises his role from the first movie. It was once again written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, and it's gotten mostly negative reviews from critics (unlike the first film). It is another hit at the Box Office though. I enjoyed it slightly more than the original.
Amy (Kunis), Kiki (Bell) and Carla (Hahn) are still overworked, and stressed out, especially because it's nearing Christmas time. They become even more overburdened when all of their mothers show up for the holidays; Ruth (Baranski), Sandy (Hines) and Isis (Sarandon). Each of their moms is overwhelming, in different ways, which causes excessive chaos once again for the three young mothers. More bonding, of course, also occurs as a result of their new problems.
The film is a pretty routine Christmas comedy flick. The humor is definitely hit and miss (for me at least) as well, but it is more consistently funny than the original (in my opinion). I think largely due to the addition of the three older mother characters, and all of the three veteran actresses give good performances in their roles too (Baranski is especially domineering in her domineering mother role). I also think Bell, Kunis and Hahn are more settled into their roles this time around as well. So overall I'd say this sequel definitely surpasses the original, at least by a little.
Seven Sisters (2017)
I enjoyed it as a guilty pleasure.
'WHAT HAPPENED TO Monday': Four Stars (Out of Five)
A dystopian sci-fi thriller released by Netflix, through their streaming site. It tells the story of a future world where overpopulation has caused a strict one-child law. When identical septuplet sisters are born in secret, their grandfather raises them in isolation, allowing each one to only leave their home on the day of the week which they're named for. When Monday goes missing, the others must find out what happened to her. The film stars Noomi Rapace, Willem Dafoe and Glenn Close. It was written by Max Botkin and Kerry Williamson, and it was directed by Tommy Wirkola (who's also helmed such sci-fi cult classic hits at 'DEAD SNOW', 'DEAD SNOW 2' and 'HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS'). The movie has received mixed to positive reviews from critics and fans alike. I enjoyed it as a guilty pleasure.
In the year 2043 overpopulation has reached an uncontrollable level, and in order to maintain suitable living conditions the government enforces a strict one-child law. Any siblings born, in addition to the first child, are reportedly put into cryo-freeze. When septuplet sisters are born in secret, and their mother dies giving birth to them, the girls' grandfather (Dafoe) decides to raise them all in secret as well. He names each one after a day of the week, and he only allows each child to leave the house on the day of the week they're named after (making them all act as one person). When Monday (Rapace) goes missing, as a business woman adult, the other sisters must spring into action (for the first time) in order to defend themselves and find out what happened to Monday. Things get very violent and extremely bloody very quickly.
The movie is a pretty routine dark dystopian sci-fi thriller, but I really like the premise of this one. The action scenes are also pretty well done, and extremely gruesome. Rapace is a great action heroine lead as well, in anything she does, but I wish her characters here would have been a little more developed. There's not really anyone to relate to in this film, but if you're just looking for action, and a good dark futuristic sci-fi tale, than this is a pretty fun movie. Wirkola is an expert at directing this type of action flick too, and he doesn't disappoint here either.
Thank You for Your Service (2017)
Pretty well made war drama, that effectively deals with the subject of PTSD.
'THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE': Four Stars (Out of Five)
A war biopic about U.S. soldiers returning home from service in Iraq, and trying to adapt to normal civilian life again. It was written and directed by actor turned first time filmmaker Jason Hall, and it's based on the non-fiction novel (of the same name) by David Finkel. The movie stars Miles Teller, Beulah Koale, Haley Bennett, Joe Cole, Scott Haze and Amy Schumer. It's received mostly positive reviews from critics, and it's also performed very modestly at the Box Office as well. I found it to be a pretty well made war drama, that effectively deals with the subject of PTSD.
The film begins with Sergeant Adam Schumann (Teller), Tausolo Aieti (Koale) and Will Waller (Cole) all returning home from Iraq. Schumann returns with severe depression, to his loving and supportive wife Saskia (Bennett), and their daughter. Waller also returns with severe mental issues, to find that his fiancée has left him with their daughter. Aieti returns to a pregnant wife, grateful to the military for what they've given him. We later learn that all three soldiers suffer from more horrendous PTSD issues than are even first apparent, and they quickly become life threatening for them to have to deal with.
The film is pretty dark and depressing, and it's also very hard to watch (at times) because of it. There's definitely very little humor in it, or even exciting war action scenes (if that's what you're looking for). I think this is a good thing though, because it allows the movie to focus solely on PTSD, and how it deeply changes our heroic soldiers. Teller is great in the lead (like always), and Koale (who I've never heard of before this) gives a more than decent supporting turn. Like I said, it's definitely not a fun time at the movies, by any measure, but it's also definitely worth checking out.
Daddy's Home 2 (2017)
Adding Gibson to the cast was brilliant in my opinion!
'DADDY'S HOME 2': Four Stars (Out of Five)
A sequel to the 2015 hit comedy starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, as two rival fathers competing for the same children's love. In this follow-up they're now friends, and they have to deal with their own fathers visiting for the holidays, who are also complete opposites as well of course. Mel Gibson and John Lithgow join the cast, as the elder dads, while Linda Cardellini and John Cena also reprise their roles from the original movie. The film was once again directed by Sean Anders, and it was written by Anders and John Morris (the same duo also co-wrote the original, as well as 'HOT TUB TIME MACHINE', 'SEX DRIVE', 'SHE'S OUT OF MY LEAGUE', 'WE'RE THE MILLERS', 'HORRIBLE BOSSES 2', and other hit comedies). This film has received nearly unanimous negative reviews from critics, but it's done really well at the Box Office (and with viewers there). I thought it was pretty funny too actually.
Brad and Dusty (Ferrell and Wahlberg) now get along perfectly, and our doing a really effective job co-parenting their kids together. Then both of their fathers, Kurt (Gibson) and Don (Lithgow), decide to visit them for the holidays. Kurt is extremely egotistical, obsessively masculine, and a bit of a sexist asshole. Don is really sweet, kind and friendly. More family drama occurs because of their visit, which causes conflict between Brad and Dusty again as well. Especially when Brad invites the biological father (Cena) of Dusty's stepdaughter over.
The movie is frequently very funny. It definitely has some bad jokes in it too, and it's a pretty routine family Christmas comedy, but it's still mostly funny. Adding Gibson to the cast, as the womanizing chauvinistic pig, was brilliant casting in my opinion as well, and he's hilarious in the role. Lithgow is also good in his part too, and Ferrell and Wahlberg are both effective once again too. I actually enjoyed this sequel more than it's predecessor; it seems more packed with quality humor to me, at least in my opinion. It's also more fun that it's set at Christmas (in my opinion as well).