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After getting my list down to ten, some of my ones that just didn't quite make it included: The Judge, The November Man, Maleficent, Birdman, The Theory of Everything and The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies.
These are not in any particular order!! They are not my favorite at #1 and so on. They are randomly my top twenty favorites.
Second of all....I estimate their time in the industry according to their first significant piece of work (nothing uncredited or unsubstantiated) and because I am listing my top ACTORS I am also not making too many comments on their other jobs in the industry ie: Directing, Producing etc.
I also estimate their Successful/Hit Films----I am thinking movies that were #1 at the box office, made significant money, or become cult/media classics. A movie that everyone has seen type of thing. And it's an estimate and I'm not including if they strictly directed the film either. Only their acting appearances.
And finally I chose to list Oscars because many film fanatics believe the Oscars are the ultimate in Acting honors. I don't necessarily agree but it does in some cases prove their clout in Hollywood but not always either. I think sometimes The Golden Globes are a better indication of that. Anyways enjoy my list and let's chat when you're done!!
Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017)
Perhaps underwhelming but an interesting story
When I first saw the trailers for this I thought it had huge potential for being a really sweet story. It had elements of Finding Neverland and it was a story not told before from this perspective and really the entire story around Winnie The Pooh and AA Milne and his son is very interesting. The concept is good and the performances are good but the script and direction lacks something significant. It ends up being about the same level as a made-for-TV film that is interesting enough but really lacks depth and feels like it skirts over a lot of the more interesting aspects. It covers everything from Milne's idea and creation of Winnie The Pooh and the characters into Milne's jealousy of his son and his celebrity status.
Domhnall Gleeson is an excellent actor and I think he portrays parts of Milne very well especially the PTSD and harsher sad but he lacks a certain softness that I have to believe was necessary to create this character. He just doesn't seem to capture the screen well with charisma. Margot Robbie is hardly necessary in her role. I believe she's considered a hot up and comer at the very least and she's barely in the film with no character depth at all. The chemistry between her and Gleeson is non existent good or bad. Will Tilston plays the role of Christopher Robin for most of the film. He is very good. He easily outshines Gleeson and Robbie and seems to really fit the role well. He's probably the reason to watch the movie honestly. Second to him Kelly Macdonald is quite good as Christopher Robin's nanny Olive. She definitely has the most emotional scenes and her story with him is probably the best portrayed and fun to watch.
Simon Curtis is anything but new to directing. He's had a long history in British Television and some well liked films but interestingly, my experience with him is that I always find his efforts underwhelming. I felt like Woman in Gold and My Week With Marilyn both felt less effective than they should have been. This is an interesting story about a massively well known person and world and I think this film doesn't even scratch the surface. It's a basic film that is okay but won't blow you away. I feel like it had a lot of potential but never pans out. It's okay. 7/10
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Is there even a reason to review Marvel films anymore?
Someone recently said Superhero films were the Millenium's version of the Western and that may be accurate. Westerns were around for a very, very long time and changed cinema history and there are some really good ones and some really terrible ones. No matter what you have to give insane kudos to Disney and Marvel for creating the largest cinematic Universe ever spanning Television and film and knocking it out of the park every...single....time. What was their mis-step out of 20+ films? The Incredible Hulk? Maybe. They've recouped that a hundred times over. I haven't always been super impressed with everything they've done and I do think certain aspects of the franchise is showing wear. The first Thor I actually thought was one of their least impressive films but the second one I thought was absolutely incredible. Thor Ragnorak falls somewhere in the middle for me. However, that's on sheer entertainment because as I read some things on this film I realized the sheer dept and fan service they pay to true comic fans. I was always a DC Comics kid so I miss a lot of the Easter eggs but Marvel fans must be over the moon. The film also is much more comedic than others in the Universe, above and beyond what would normally be there and honestly (especially in the beginning) it felt a little forced. The CGI is decent and the characters are a ton of fun. I honestly think Ragnarok was built for the die hard Thor and Hulk fans and they probably love it.
Chris Hemsworth returns to the role as the God of Thunder. Hemsworth is one of the Marvel castings that was done with complete perfection. God help anyone ever having to play this role after him. In Ragnarok I found he wasn't quite as "strong" as he was in other films but then that also makes sense too given the storyline. He still commands the film perfectly and best of all his ego doesn't get in the way of the other characters. He shares the spotlight perfectly. Mark Ruffalo also appears as Bruce Banner and The Hulk. I personally think they made The Hulk look more like him. I'm not a Ruffalo fan and I never thought he was particularly well cast but he does well in this. He's basically always the same as Banner. He and Hemsworth have good chemistry. Tessa Thompson joins the team and apparently it's a huge deal for fans as she plays Valkyrie. She is a great character and perfect in her role. I loved the setup for her friendship with Hulk. I could see her carrying her own film. Tom Hiddleston also returns with perfection as Loki. He and Hemsworth have always had incredible chemistry and it's great seeing him back. He's one of the best anti-heroes/sometimes villains in movies. And you can't hav a great hero with a villian or in this case a villainess as Cate Blanchett takes that role. She is one of my least favorite actrors (I know...blasphemy) but she is good in this part. She is perfect given the story. Also to be honest, I knew she looked familiar but I couldn't place her at all until I read here. As with many Marvel films but especially Ragnarok the supporting cast is amazing. Jeff Goldblum, Idris Elba, Karl Urban (fantastic role), Anthony Hopkins, Taika Waititi (who is also the director and he gives an amazing voice role in a hilarious and fun turn as 'Korg' who was easily my favorite character in the movie.
Taika Waititi is not a well known director and yet he handles this big budget Marvel spectacle expertly. I can't imagine what it must be like handling these characters and the special effects and the lore and the story and do so quite well. The space travel alone is incredible and the battle scenes as well and the amount of choreography and people involved. So really my review is this ... for me who is not a huge Marvel fan but respect the heck out of this massive Universe and the popcorn type fun it provides, it was okay on the scale of what they've offered. But for those of you who adore Marvel and have been fans all your lives, I think you'll be blown away by this and the Easter eggs are plentiful. This definitely shows that the universe is not in danger of slowing down anytime soon. 7/10
Justice League (2017)
The DCEU is getting slowly better
I have been a DC "kid" for 35 years give or take. I have been a Superman fanatic for nearly as long. I have my comic collection, my Superman collectibles, and the love of live action DC films. Man of Steel for me was a colossal disappointment in many ways. Zack Snyder really let me down and butchered so much of the Superman I knew and loved and changed so much about him. The casting was average at best (Amy Adams as Lois Lane is the worst Lois Lane yet) and the plot holes you could fly a jet through. But it worked to boost DC's film universe finally. Batman v Superman was better but still had some definite mis-steps. Wonder Woman so far is easily the best film of 2017 and one of the best I've ever seen period. I still blame Snyder for a lot of DCEU issues so far. I was pretty hesitant about Justice League and yet felt like I've been waiting for this movie my whole life. One of my biggest passions in life was the Death of Superman story line and I feel like Batman v Superman underplayed it but there was some redemption in Justice League. I think Joss Whedon's rewrites and re-shoots might have made a big difference here. Snyder still doesn't seem to understand that for superhero films we still want and need depth and back stories and details that make sense. I am starting to see a certain style in the DCEU that in part has to do with the CGI which seems clumsy but then I have to wonder if it makes up part of the look.
Interestingly Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot take point on the Justice League as Superman is dead at the beginning of the film. Both are perfectly cast. I wasn't sure about Gadot at all until the Wonder Woman film and now no one else could ever do it but her. I feel like Wonder Woman was so incredible that she didn't get used enough in this but she was still great and her and Affleck have good chemistry that should be explored more in future films. Affleck is a great Bruce Wayne and Batman. I think it'll be a real shame if he doesn't continue in the role. He seems passionate about it and his angle works and he has that weary, cynical vibe that is very important. I'm still not sold on Ezra Miller as the Flash. He does the role well enough but he doesn't sit right with me in the role. There's something awkward about him and he doesn't have that same chemistry on the team. There are two characters I was certain they could never pull off and that was Cyborg and Aquaman (two of my least favourite DC heroes.) Ray Fisher and Jason Momoa play them and if one great things comes out of the Justice League it will be that both characters and actors are great! Most surprising is Momoa as Aquaman who actually is fantastic. He's bad ass and I could almost imagine a stand alone film and Aquaman is a horrible hero in my opinion. The chemistry with him and Batman is great too. Jeremy Irons, Amy Adams, Diane Lane and JK Simmons show up in their small roles. Adams is horrible as ever as Lois Lane (I would have stayed dead if I were Superman), Irons is fine but very underused and seems bored, SImmons looks the part but same as Irons seems bored and Diane Lane is good in her role. There seems to be a ton of complaints about the villain in the film Steppenwolf. It is weird that I've never even heard of him but he's a good enough villain played by Ciarán Hinds. I think they underplay the importance of his connection to Darkseid who would be the more obvious villain. He is a worthy foe until Superman shows up.
Artistically, I think there is some great scenes in the film. Not unlike Wonder Woman the battle scenes are very good but also very CGI'd but it works just fine. Some of the cinematography is also very good. The addition of some comic recreated scenes (the black Umbrella shot from Death of Superman) and the hidden spatter of Danny Elfman's 1989 Batman theme was a nice touch. Given the short run time of less than 2 hours, I am amazed they were able to make the film as coherent and fun as it is. The humour is well placed. The downside to this film and most of the DCEU in general is the story feels rushed at times and there are pertinent details left out for the sake of timing and we're expected to accept it (it's very much a Christopher Nolan move to leave plot holes and expect us to ignore them because he's Chris Nolan.) The addition of a race between Superman and Flash was great and I thought Cavill really stepped up his role as the symbol of Superman. All in all, I enjoyed it a lot and look forward to watching it again. It's a step in the right direction and I think a good thing that Snyder had to step down to allow some fine tuning. Snyder should step aside completely and let others with more vision take over. 8.5/10
Wind River (2017)
Would stand solidly behind the words ... and the Oscar Goes to ...
Best movie of 2017? Maybe. At least the second best in my opinion (see Wonder Woman review) and perhaps a bit of a surprise for me. I love catching an indie flick by chance and being blown away by it. A great crime drama is something of a masterpiece when done correctly. I can think of many over the years that have stayed with me because of the character driven, setting inspired, but real feeling stories and that's what drives home with Wind River. It is character driven, it is absolutely setting inspired and feels incredibly real. I saw Hell Or High Water and enjoyed it but it didn't have the same impact as Wind River. This film is disturbing, visceral, captivating and the characters are subtle but very easy to relate to. I haven't seen Sicario but I've heard good things. Wind River is slow burning but super powerful. It gives a back story that links the characters to the current situation and then builds a mystery and a climax. There are a few mis-steps in how the film unravels but I was still riveted by everything. A film like this relies on tension and atmosphere and the director puts you in the middle of both. It also easily builds back story so that you understand the characters without spending a lot of time dwelling on them.
The cast does such a great job because the chemistry between them is so strong. I'm never sure whether or not I like Jeremy Renner but over time he's growing on me in the Marvel Universe. But I was really glad to see him sinking his teeth into something more gritty and real here. Granted he still is playing the lone sulking brooding type of character that Hawkeye is but he does it well and he cares the film like a star should. Elizabeth Olsen also returns to full form as the FBI Agent who is solely unprepared for the case. Olsen and Renner are good together and I like that it's not a sexual/romantic relationship but strictly a partnership. Olsen's character is tough and strong and I like that a lot. Graham Greene has a great role and good chemistry with Renner too but his character's progression and eventual climax is poor at best. They use him very well as a supporting character and then completely waste him in the end. Hugh Dillon, Kelsey Asbille, Ian Bohen, and Jon Bernthal all have strong supporting roles that really bring the story together and put you in the middle of this community reeling from personal problems and crime.
This is definitely director Taylor Sheridan's best in my opinion. The style and direction is very good. It might even trump the cast's performance. If you look at the way the movie is filmed you can't help but be impressed. Considering the entire film is this bleak, white wasteland with not a lot to go on, he makes it come to life. Renner's employment as a hunter and knowing the wilderness and tracking predators. The close ups of certain character's faces and the wide-shots of the outdoors and what they're up against. The far shots as though you're often looking through a scope...these are things that would really catch a critic's eye. But regardless if you like a slow burning thriller, this one is great and it gets under your skin and stays with you which is why I think this is one of the best indie films of 2017 and I hope to see them pop up somewhere at the Oscars as unlikely as it is. 8.5/10
One of the greatest films ever made period
Se7en defines a cult classic. It is a film that was created intrinsically to haunt you for years after you've seen it. I've seen it a handful of times and in watching it again just now I realized how brilliantly it was built. It might be one of the finest handcrafted films ever made. It was like each and every shot and moment and scene was made to let you see something different each and every time or unpack the film for years to come. If you look at fan theories and things you think is true that have nothing to do with the actual film you'll understand how deep the movie goes. It is definitely a cinephile's dream in that you can find so much about the film to explore. But even at a base level, the tension is unbelievable. With each character and moment you can't help but feel like the next moment will be someone's last. The dark, brooding city they create (unnamed and always raining) is haunting. The film holds this true film noire feel and the style of the characters and the office is something from a 1940's Detective film and yet the film clearly is modern times. Each time I watch it I want to know more about the world they exist in and yet we never will but watching each time gives you something new.
Both Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman should have been given Oscars. It might be one of the best Detective teamings in film history. Freeman is the epitome of world weary, ready to retire but haunted by the past cop. Brad Pitt is the idealistic young Detective with the beautiful family just building his life and world and sinking his passion into his work. Both men believe they understand the person they're chasing and yet both underestimate the killer greatly. You're watching this mystery unfold through both men's eyes in different ways and then in the end they both end up on the receiving end of a wicked sense of justice. The killer (I literally refuse to say who it is in case someone hasn't seen this nor knows the twists) is brilliantly played by a well known Hollywood actor. He also should have been given an Oscar. They keep his name from the opening credits and it makes it all the more impactful when he is revealed. He is hands down one of the best "villains" or killers in Hollywood history in my opinion. The final scene with the three of them in the field is easily a classic moment. Gwyneth Paltrow has a small but impactful and well played role as Pitt's young wife. Her and Freeman forge an unlikely friendship that works very well.
I never liked Fight Club...it's true...judge me. BUT David Fincher is still an American Hollywood icon. Some of his other films just literally hit 10's for me easily, probably more than any other director other than maybe Spielberg. But Fincher's style is dark and cuts right through to our very core of what makes us human. Call it horror or noire or thriller but somehow he gets these scripts and creates twists and turns you can barely handle and then gets actors to absolutely knock it out of the park. Gone Girl, Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Se7en, The Game, The Social Network, these are films that are stylistic and character driven and in every case puts you in the middle of the action and makes you feel everything. Se7en is the definitely of a modern day classic and if you love crime films this will be your mother ship calling you home. This will forever by one of my favourite films for a myriad of reasons and I think anyone could sit around and talk about it for years to come. 10/10
Rough Night (2017)
So ridiculously dumb funny that it works
Bridesmaids was such a massive hit that clones have come along every so often. Even Ghostbusters was a clone of sorts with Paul Feig helming it. I never saw a trailer for this but I suspected it would be the same old. I was never a fan of Bridesmaids so I wasn't sure how this would be. So my expectations were practically nil. Rough Night is insanely stupid. It is one ridiculous mishap after another and it probably feels forced and absurd and guess what? It's kind of amusing. It's slapstick funny and it's just enough predictability that you have fun with it. It has a story and fun characters and just a very old school 80's comedy vibe in the vein of Weekend At Bernies or Revenge of The Nerds. There is some serious strong direction to this if their goal was a certain demographic. They know how to use each character, even the supporting ones. I wanted to roll my eyes and just not like it but I DID!
I think they were very fortunate to get the star power of Scarlett Johansson in the film and she seems like odd fit for the film but she actually is great! It's a nice turn to see her in a silly comedy playing the popular but down to earth girl. She fits in nicely and plays the role very well. Jillian Bell is the "Melissa McCarthy" of the movie. She is a little more subtle than what she could be which is good because it doesn't cross being annoying. Zoë Kravitz and Ilana Glazer round out the college foursome. They are definitely secondary characters but with some definitive development even if it's basic. They still had some funny moments and carry some of the story as well. Kravitz was the better of the two in my opinion. One of the most overused comediennes right now is Kate McKinnon but...she does have timing and star power and she is her typical type of role here. So fans of hers won't be disappointed and her and Johansson and Bell have very good chemistry together. The five of them in fact work very well together amongst all the silliness and that is a high point of the film. Paul W. Downs, Colton Haynes, Ryan Cooper, Ty Burrell and Demi Moore all have small but terrific fun and often hilarious roles in the film. Burrell probably sticks out more than most but he serves her purpose. Downs, Cooper and Hayes are amazing in their respective small roles.
Interesting fact, Paul Downs is also a co-writer of the film (explains why he wrote himself in as Johansson's fiancée) and I give him kudos for a script that is really dumb but works. Lucia Aniello is the director and I think it's good for a film like this to have a female director but that being said I'm not sure she has the experience to really make this impactful. The story works but I wonder if someone with more handle on comedy could have really made it even better. She has never really had any experience on a big screen film. Regardless these are only a few things that make the film not as good as maybe it could have been BUT I still liked it quite a bit. Maybe it was my extremely low expectations or boredom of the evening but it's fun, silly and a good flick for girls night or just to entertain in a simple brainless way. 7.5/10
Calling it a knockoff of Alien is being way too generous. Life is blah.
I was hesitant to watch Life for a few reasons. I remember when it came out, I hardly saw any trailers and it has a strong cast and yet did very poorly. I knew there had to be a reason for that. I'm not sure how a film like this goes so poorly. All parts of it are things we've seen before. Space exploration, vivid personality crew, experts at what they do, find something weird, weird attacks them and picks them off, a few or two or one remaining finds a way to survive. But Life is so completely forgettable. Despite the charisma of the stars in the cast and some very weak attempts at making them seem human, I couldn't care less about any of them. Most of the time I was so bored I didn't care who was in it. Even the music seemed like it was the same little snippet over and over and over again trying to set tone. The special effects are okay although sometimes I thought their faces looked like you could practically see a green screen behind them. It gets marginally better once the practically faceless cast gets picked off but probably only because Jake Gyllenhaal has a lot of chemistry on screen. There is one good solid scene that was still only good because it was reminiscent of Alien. This film checks a ton of boxes for smart sci-fi horror and then doesn't deliver on any of them.
So check out this cast. As mentioned you have Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada and Rebecca Ferguson in your main cast. Between them you might have one okay scene each. Gyllenhaal gets the most but only because he lasts longer than everyone else. It's honestly like watching a cheap slasher flick where people are picked off one by one but not even in a fun gory way. I don't even know what they're goal was behind the film. It's so brutally predictable and obvious with nothing new added to the genre. It feels like a stale remake of a hundred different Alien films and especially THEE Alien film itself.
Director Daniel Espinosa is young and fairly new to Hollywood but he did alright with Safe House though I remember thinking then too that a more experienced director could have done more. He just doesn't seem to know what to do with a strong cast. Life is less than average and I was bored by the half way point. You could compare it to other films but it doesn't try nearly as hard as it should. It was a colossal disappointment with a few and I mean... minimal moments that caused me to look up and keep going instead of turning it off. 2/10
Considering how bad you SHOULD expect it to be, it's not that bad, but still underwhelming
If there was ever a reason to say a remake/reboot was necessary this would be it. There was no situation where this would have ever worked in any way. So I sat down to watch it with sincerely low expectations. So imagine my shock when it was okay. Okay at best! It certainly had some fun with the original series poking fun at the seriousness of the original series and the sorts of things they took on. It also made multiple blatant way too obvious jokes about the slow motion running and the bathing suits. It actually ended up being less gratuitous than I thought and I think even balanced the male to female ratio and included a short, stubby, geeky guy for good measure. The "Jonah Hill" type of the film which was unnecessary but it worked. It actually tries to have genuine heart and it does have it's moments. The characters aren't completely vapid and they actually give them some personality even if they spoof the poor personalities. The story is okay, kind of weak but at least they gave it a story. The action scenes are decent but contrived and much like many films I've seen lately, why is CGI fire so incredibly bad. There are two "okay" cameos from former Baywatch cast members (the two most necessary) but it's not a film you should rush out and buy that's for sure.
The biggest movie star on the planet oddly enough is Dwayne Johnson (I saw oddly because for a WWE wrestler to come up and become the world's biggest star was unheard of prior to him.) Mind you it seems more are coming (Dave Bautista for instance.) Johnson is so incredibly charismatic you can watch him in anything no matter how bad. So his personality and larger than life on screen persona makes his character and performance redeemable for the film. He is having a good time and fans of his will enjoy it for that reason. Similarly Zac Efron has a certain quality about him that makes his suave and egotistical character of Matt Brody kind of fun to watch. Efron and Johnson have good chemistry together (I'd love to see them do something with a better script.) Both men are built like brick walls and seem to be popular with women. The women leads are not much different. They are stunning, gorgeous, half decent actors at least but underdeveloped characters. Alexandra Daddario and Kelly Rohrbach absolutely...err fill their roles well. Daddario is fast becoming a celeb crush, the girl is just an unbelievable beauty and she is a good actress too! I actually liked Rohrbach's role and her fun romance/chemistry with the "nerd" of the group played by Jon Bass. That was one of the best parts about the movie. Bass plays his incredible predictable role well so it works fine. The five of them have good chemistry together which helps too for the very silly contrived plot. Ilfenesh Hadera has a sadly small part because she seems like she could have been a more serious addition to the cast. Priyanka Chopra is horrendous as the villain. She isn't even as good as a Rocky and Bullwinkle villain. She might sort of look the part but she is so subtle and laid back, the only good part is her ridiculous death.
Director Seth Gordon has some decent credits to his name but mostly in Television. I can see why he would want to take this on and try and make it his big hit film but everyone had to know this would never fly? The thing is it's not terrible. It's okay in every sense of the word. It's funny-ish, it's got action-ish, it's got men and women in bathing suits-ish, it's not even really gratuitous except for the language which is quite unnecessary meaning they would have been better off trying to sell this the demographic of teenagers or early 20's. I was surprised I didn't hate it because the script is slapped together with very little effort and it relies entirely on the charisma and chemistry of the cast which is actually good enough to not hate the movie 6.5/10
The Hitman's Bodyguard (2017)
2017's Kingsman until...you know Kingsman comes out
There was a point when I thought the days of my brand of action films were a thing of the past. I grew up on the clichéd, magnificent, excessive action films of the 80's and 90's. Catch phrases, Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis, guns, body counts and F bombs. I am thrilled that now they are starting to make these classic popcorn flicks again and it's not all about superheroes and Billion dollar openings. My expectations for The Hit-man's Bodyguard was mediocre just because the trailers were just okay and it seemed like an old formula. I'm happy to say that for me it worked in a big way. The action was fantastic, the one liners were plenty and the comedy was balanced perfectly. Some of the harsher reviews harp on it being formulaic and a recipe that hasn't worked since the 90's but it does still work! It is very formulaic and predictable but it's not trying to earn any Oscars, it's just trying to entertain. The worst part of the film for me was the ridiculous plot holes and having to overlook them (how many mistakes world class assassins make, how bad Reynolds and Jackson were at hiding their tracks, bullets flying with good guys never being hit critically) You absolutely have to shut off your sense and brain and just enjoy it.
Samuel L Jackson fans will love this. This is pure Sam L at his finest. He is an expletive spewing, laid back, deadly assassin with a big heart. If you could write a role just for him to appease his fans this is it. I couldn't possibly say it's not a good performance because it fits him like a glove. So if you like him, you'll this and his character. Ryan Reynolds...same idea. Fans have a certain expectation of him and this is it. The adorable, sweet guy with bad-ass moves and some of the best sarcastic comedic timing in the business. A film like this literally lives and breathes by the chemistry between it's "buddies" and Reynolds and Jackson are good together! I hesitate to say great because I think about legendary team ups and I don't see this as "legendary" but they are good, maybe very good. The film is perhaps too formulaic to ever show the two of them as "great." Gary Oldman...legendary actor AND legendary villain. If you're going to make an homage to 90's films you might as well get Lee Harvey Oswald, Dracula, Jean- Baptiste Emanuel Zorg and Ivan Korshunov just name a few. Ivan Korshunov (AirForce One) is one of the best villains in action film history. Oldman is sadly underused as the villain but he is still a formidable presence in the film. His end scene is also perfectly crafted to those 80's/90's films much like the one liners throughout. Elodie Yung and Salma Hayek have small but impactful roles as the leading men's ladies. Hayek is overblown by funny in her scenes and Yung is a great strong character who kicks some serious butt. It's unfortunate in one of the scenes where she gets to take on her nemesis she is saved by Reynolds but otherwise she is a strong female heroine. Joaquim de Almeida who I am a fan of from Fox's 24 years ago, is also good as a sub-villain. Then there is a huge host of nameless/faceless henchman pouring out of every orifice to get butchered.
So speaking of Stallone (my idol) Patrick Hughes is probably best known for directing the least of The Expendables series number 3. He made some mistakes with that. So it would lead me to believe that Hughes probably wasn't best for this film but it's still a solid enjoyable flick and the action and fight sequences are phenomenal and no holds barred thanks to the R-Rating. So Hughes clearly has a love for the same genre of action as I do so I'll keep giving him a chance as he seems to be getting better. Many of the action and crazy over the top stunts reminded me of The Kingsman which was an incredible film and instantly one of my favourites. I would love to see sequels to this and the budget was very modest so it's possible. There is nothing a love more than just a flat out good time at the movies and it was that! 8.5/10
The film everybody wants that not many will like
For decades now I've been a movie fanatic. I will watch literally almost anything. My reviews will prove that. It's been awhile since I saw and Indie flick and I remember seeing trailers for this and thinking it looked interesting but also knowing what to expect being an indie film. I assumed it would be a little off the wall and bizarre and it is exactly that. But how often do we hear movie goers complain that Hollywood is not original and there are no good stories out there (ironically the film was sued for being too much like Godzilla) but the concept of the film is very unique. It transitions from comedy to drama to action/sci-fi throughout the film almost flawlessly. You could tune into this movie at any given time and not know what genre you were watching. The film could easily be dissected into a morality tale about emotions and self-confidence and life decisions. The script is not amazing and has some pacing issues but the film is saved from monotony but it's main two stars. The fact that the film ends up taking itself so seriously is a testament on how much they want you invested in it. I presume it was quite low budget but the special effects are strong despite a few moments of terrible looking fire. I'm also not sure I understand the underlying story of what happened to them when they were kids. But the movie is unique enough and well acted to entertain.
If you were going to find someone to headline a potentially bizarre film you'd get one of the world's finest and they did that in Anne Hathaway. Few would doubt her acting chops but also her ability to be relatable and believable and show serious emotion. She is subtle and wonderful as down on her luck server Gloria who feels like she is in a rut. Hathaway gives this such a quirky little spin but ends up being the perfect heroine too. I was blown away by the performance of Jason Sudekis. He actually gives what I would think the Academy would consider an Oscar Worthy performance as the man who draws her into a deadly game of control and emotional abuse in some sense that manifests itself as a battle between two massive creatures in Korea. Sudekis is disturbing in some sense and he and Hathaway are great together. Austin Stowell, Tim Blake Nelson and Dan Stevens are okay as Sudekis' friends but they're solely unnecessary to be honest. They serve a purpose to show a dark side of Sudekis but outside of that they don't get a chance to give any sort of performance.
Nacho Vigalondo has had some success in some extremely indie horror flicks that gained a cult following. I think I saw some parts of them. He also wrote Colossal and he definitely shows some talent. I think he has a lot of learn and the film could have used some experience and some fine tuning. All that being said if you like indie films and you really want to see something different. Colossal is that! I enjoyed it in all it's quirkiness. 7/10
Annabelle: Creation (2017)
Taking the predictable concept and making it even better than the first time around
I grew up in and on the 80's Slasher films. I used to be terrified to even look at them and then I fell in love with them in later years. R-Rated, ridiculous over the top slasher flicks with x amount of sequels and I came back every time. The new generation of horror films which rakes in the money are also good but very different. PG-13/14A opens up a bigger audience and means character development and scares are key and usually it works! The Conjuring was a great film and spun off into Annabelle which was a decent movie but we've seen killer dolls before haven't we? Inevitable we would see a sequel. I had mediocre expectations but wanted to see it anyways. How often do we see a sequel better than the first especially when it's a horror film and based around a concept we've seen before? Annabelle: Creation adds more story and great characters and some truly great performances from the young cast. It even leaves enough to explore more about the doll and the situation around it. The twist in the end or how it ends up is fantastic and I didn't see it coming at all. It makes you truly invested in this as it's own franchise apart from The Conjuring. Allegedly the "real" Annabelle is a Raggedy Ann Doll and they even pay homage to that.
Anthony LaPaglia plays the perfect role as the father and head of the girls' home later on. I haven't seen him star in anything in a long time but he does a great job in his role and gives it a very good brooding vibe. Samara Lee and MIranda Otto are also good as his family. Otto has more scenes and is underused but still good. Talitha Eliana Bateman and Lulu Wilson are M E S M E R I Z I N G. They are fantastic in their roles. They bring a realism to it and Bateman gives honestly one of the best performances in a film of this type in a very long time. I think we will end up seeing a ton of her in the future. Stephanie Sigman is also a little bit underused I think but gives a great performance as Sister Charlotte. The other girls in the film played very well by Grace Fulton, Philippa Coulthard and Tayler Buck are good. Buck is extremely underused but Fulton and Couthard are good in much smaller roles than Bateman and Otto.
Director David F. Sandberg breaks the mould in that he has done some shorts and various work but until recently had done a mainstream film. He had some success with Lights Out which I have not seen yet and now this. I'm extremely impressed with his direction. This script could have been very typical and "same old" but he uses the perfect build up and scares and direction to get the most out of the rating it is given. While the film is not "gory" by definition, it definitely has cringe worthy moments and gets very much under your skin. There is something real about the feel of the story and the setting of the house/orphanage/workshop is absolutely perfect and minimal to suit the story. I will say that I think for being a film that was supposed to show the origins of Annabelle, it doesn't actually tell us where the spirit began or it's true origins. It only gives the origins of the doll itself and the first thing the demon jumps into. The Conjuring franchise is growing into something really great. It builds slow but both those films were good and now the Annabelle series stands on it's own. Best of all this sequel is even better than it's predecessor! 8/10
First Kill (2017)
Better straight to video fare than usual
I am definitely a sucker for punishment when it comes to my Hollywood heroes. Bruce Willis is one of those and he's certainly fallen into hard times as of late. He chooses straight to video stuff that is just awful and usually has a tiny cameo role in it and probably rakes in a huge paycheck. Despite that...I see his name and I click on it. I did it again. However, much to my surprise, First Kill is actually quite a good movie. It's not amazing and it won't be hitting my shelves as part of my collection but it's entertaining, decently acted with some good action scenes. It was apparently filmed in less than 2 weeks and you'd never know it with the exception of some of the scenes towards the end which start to feel a little hokey especially since most of the film actually was not. I've seen worst films go to theatres. I saw this on the same day I saw Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk and guess what...I liked this more. It is very predictable and the characters are paper thin but it works to entertain and keeps you watching.
Hayden Christensen has had a bad rap since his turn as Anakin Skywalker in Episode II and III of the Star Wars prequels and I've seen him in a few other things that weren't great. This might actually be the better of his performances I've ever seen. I think I could have done without the really forced scene in the beginning that tried to show him as a "busy" wall street banker. It had no bearing whatsoever on the story and doesn't fit the film really. Otherwise he makes a great hero and a devoted father. Ty Shelton is excellent as the 11 year old son who is kidnapped as a bargaining chip and develops something of a friendship with his captor. Shelton doesn't give an award worthy performance but he still plays the part very real and does a good job. He and Christensen have good chemistry. Gethin Anthony is also quite good (although again predictable and stereotypical) as the kidnapper Levi. Regardless of how he's portrayed, he plays the role well. Megan Leonard is Christensen's wife and I think she has lines? Otherwise she's fodder to get kidnapped and round out the family look. Her performance is weak at best and the character is empty. William DeMeo is okay as well as an underused side thug for the family to defeat before the big boss. And then you have Bruce Willis. He's still got a very small role but it's more than 5 minutes. He is most of the last half hour of the film and the climatic scene is a shoot out in the forest and nobody does a gun fight like Bruce Willis. He actually seems invested in the film and the script and that helps. The final showdown between him and Christensen is great and they have good scenes together. The two of them carry the film quite well.
I will emphasize again, the movie is not amazing. I'm reviewing it as a straight to video film and how much it entertained me an hour and a half. I didn't know director Steven Miller by name but I do remember seeing the Silent Night, Deadly Night remake and I didn't hate that either. I thought it was silly fun. It turns out he's directed almost all of Bruce Willis' recently bad straight to video movies. Maybe they hand him a paycheck and a script and this time he did okay. I am hopeful he gets better with each film because he is directed Escape Plan 2 which I am stoked for. It is likely he's working his way up and he gets better scripts and better budgets each time. This film is worthy of a watch. It's miles above one of Miller and Willis' previous collaboration Extraction which was torture but certainly nothing that will stick with you for long. 7/10
Probably well filmed but a messy film to follow and take in
War films are similar to Westerns, we just don't see many of them anymore. While I do believe Christopher Nolan did some incredible films, I felt like after the Batman franchise his ego overtook talent and now he thinks everything he makes is gold. I thought Dunkirk would just be a solid, potentially moving film about an important battle in World War 2 history. Some reviews seem to indicate that is what some people saw. To me, it was a story with good cinematography, impressive practical effects, a rousing score but empty characters, a non-sensical and pointless chaotic chronological plot and a slow pace. I get that the point is to focus on all the men and the event as a whole and that works but in order to get truly invested as a movie goer, I think you need some character development and hero or heroes that you care about and I couldn't even tell you a single name in the film. The performances are all perfectly fine but the script is non-existent. They are just faces on a battlefield and it's very hard to connect with the incident. Towards the end of the film there is a big moving moment when the civilian boats arrive and there are tears in the eyes of the soldiers and I felt nothing. It was like watching a documentary but even less connecting.
There is a lot of newcomers on the cast, done on purpose by Nolan to get fresh faces, and then a few names. Fionn Whitehead, Damien Bonnard, Aneurin Barnard, Barry Keoghan, Mark Rylance, Tom Glynn-Carney, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Harry Styles (Yep that Harry Styles) and Jack Lowden are the main cast. Mark Rylance probably gives the best most memorable performance. He might be the only one you really get a back story on or something to actually understand him from. Everyone else gets plenty of screen time and some good scenes of fear and emotion but the lack of dialog and climactic scenes leaves you confused about whose who. I knew Tom Hardy was in the film but barely realized it was him until the end. Kenneth Branagh gives a very small, woefully underused part but has solid emotion to it. Harry Styles does a great job in his role as well. The film teases a few twists to the characters but it's so painfully forced down your throat that finding out otherwise is almost expected.
Christopher Nolan has done some of the biggest films of our generation. He also did some of the most brilliant (Inception, Memento) but as he continues to make films he goes bigger and bolder and uses elaborate pontificating tricks to make his films seem so great. The reality to the movie going public of 70mm film or whatever it is being important is pretty low I think. I do really respect him for practical effects because I think CGI and Digital is way overused. The scope of the battlefield and the air fights and the ships on the water are all really well done. The claustrophobic feel of some of the scenes really is good. It's just lacking the connect that draws you into the battle. You won't find yourself invested in any of the characters period. I'm surprised this wasn't a November release for awards season though we will likely see it in the technical awards. 6/10
Visceral and disturbing
If anything comes of Arnold Schwarzenegger's return to film following his Governorship it'll be turns like this we can be grateful for. Aftermath might be Arnold's tour de force performance as an actor quite honestly as he shows a depth and diversity he has never demonstrated before. Aftermath is not about a guy on a trail of vengeance with guns blazing or an Alien life form that needs killing. It's about a man. Just a guy. A regular guy, an immigrant with a wife and daughter and a grandchild on the way. He's a blue collar guy, up in years and on a day that seems like any other where he's excited about welcoming his family home, he discovers they were both killed in a plane crash. The film is bleak and slow, and some would say poorly paced but there is a very real underlying emotion to it all. You're seeing the film from different perspectives, the grieving husband and father, and the man who inadvertently caused the accident. The film's underlying message is one of humanity and decisions made based on emotions and really puts you in the situation of these two men and the lives effected. It's a character driven story that has very urgent emotional scenes.
The script for Aftermath is not fantastic. The pacing is off. Still Arnold Schwarzenegger gives a solid and very moody performance. His pain and emotion comes through clearly. The character of the grieving father and husband is very well done. Scoot McNairy is the Air Traffic Controller who inadvertently causes the accident that takes Schwarzenegger's family from him. McNairy goes through his own intense grieving process that effects his entire family until the two words collide in a horrifying way. McNairy is very good but underused in my opinion as the film could have hyper focused more on him and Schwarzenegger. Maggie Grace is good but also underused as McNairy's wife. That relationship could have been built up far more as well. Same for Judah Nelson who plays the young son.
Aftermath is a good film with a lot of promise that misses the mark of being great. Elliot Lester has experience behind the camera but he falls victim to the same thing many directors who came from Music did ... tunnel vision. He has trouble elaborating on a story. There is some good attempts at cinematography and the dark tone fits the story well. It's a very sad movie that doesn't capitalize on the characters and strong emotions. It is still quite a thing to witness for Schwarzenegger fans to see him sink his teeth into something like this and see the ability fans of his has always known was there. 6.5/10
A Masterful ending to a masterful trilogy
If nothing else The new Plant of The Apes series proved why "reboots/remakes" can be a very good thing. This series has been unbelievable for action, special effects, drama and a new twist on an old story. The character development for a group of CGI apes is completely astonishing. The first two films were staples of my previous summers. I was very excited to see the latest film and I was not disappointed. War for The Planet Of The Apes is not the best of the three but it's also more story driven and wrapping up any loose ends to this particular part of the story (Caesar's Trilogy.) The battle scenes are quite brutal and the interesting thing is you see an evolution to this trilogy where in the original film the focus was on James Franco and his pet ape, the second film balanced the human story with the Apes and now you have this third film where this is entirely from the view of the Apes as they work to build their own land and freedom. The only "good" human in the film is one who is almost completely de-evolved. I have always respected how much time and effort they spent on these films and that nothing was ever rushed or pushed. I think they end this perfectly and perhaps leave enough open for a new direction.
I'm not sure anyone realizes what Andy Serkis has done for acting. He doesn't just motion capture is characters. He plays every aspect of this character. He made Caesar a film legend. He has depth of character and evolution over the course of three films. His emotional and brooding expressions and personality make you emotionally invested in this. Woody Harrelson is mesmerizing as the vicious Colonel who is the human embodiment of everything Caesar and his apes have been up against is perfectly cast. Steve Zahn and Karin Konoval are very good as well as Caesar's closest allies and family helping him against The Colonel. Amiah Miller is riveting as the human girl they end up taking along with them.
Matt Reeves on the big screen has done some incredible work in my opinion. Let Me In was breathtaking and then Dawn of The Planet of The Apes he made a sequel that in many ways was superior to the first two and is easily one of the best mainstream films in the last decade. I think he had a strong vision for how he wanted this to go and he fulfills that perfectly. If the ultimate Blockbuster is entertaining, emotional and leaves an impression this film works but only has part of the trilogy I think. It lacks some of the depth and urgency of the first two but it does work as a closing statement to this particular chapter. Still one of the best films of the summer. 8/10
Dirty Dancing (2017)
Wait...did I just...enjoy that?
So I'm a child of pop culture obsession. In particular, the late 80's and 90's and at one time Dirty Dancing (the original) was sacred to me. I've seen it more times than I can count. I'm someone who actually supports remakes if done right and I watch literally everything. But I had zero expectations this would be good especially considering it was made for Network Television. So maybe those low expectations helped but the truth of the matter is this is not a bad movie period. In fact, I would guess that the film makers were huge fans of the original because they truly do capture the spirit of the original. Is it as good? Hell no. There is something magical period about that original film and Swayze and Grey's chemistry. But they came darn close to capturing much of the film's soul and even added more dramatic element to some of the sub-characters like Baby's parents. The music is touched up slightly but all the classic scenes are firmly in place. The film maker kept in mind that they had to pay huge homage to the original and they did that. It's probably changed only about 20% from the original which is enough to give it a new feel but still make you nostalgic and remember the original.
In the first ten minutes I thought ... oh man this is gonna be terrible and the casting is very bad. Colt Prattes is NO Patrick Swayze and he's not. But he also don't need to be. He's not playing Patrick Swayze, he's play Johnny Castle and he does the perfect (if not stereotypical) 60's rebel with the hair. He's not as unpolished as Swayze's Castle but he fits the bill just fine. Abigail Breslin seemed like the least likely person to play Baby and I wasn't sure how she would pull that off and you know what, I think she was fantastic. She looks real! She's down to Earth, she's not perfectly trim and she's curvy and innocent and looking for adventure in her life and her and Prattes have good chemistry! Is it as hot as Swayze and Grey (who allegedly disliked each other a lot), no. But it works very well. Sarah Hyland, Debra Messing and Bruce Greenwood are truly fantastic as the Houseman family. The side story of Messing and Greenwood's marriage is one of the best things of the movie. In fact Greenwood gives a powerful performance!! Yes I said it!! He and Messing have the best chemistry in the movie! Hyland is also a scene stealer as Baby's older sister. Nicole Scherzinger is also very good but underused as Penny, Johnny's dear friend who helps Baby with her dancing. Katey Sagal and Tony Roberts are both quite good in very small parts as well.
Wayne Blair has some significant credits to his name but I've never seen much of them. That being said I think he does this film very well. I loved the addition of the singing and the elaboration on some of the other characters. I also think he did a good job with some of the cinematography and scenery capturing the long hot summer/camp feel. The scene with the log dancing and the lifts in the water was actually beautiful and wonderfully done. With an iconic film like this you wait and expect certain massive scenes. For me it was "Hungry Eyes" and of course the closing "Time of Your Life Scene." Hungry Eyes was well done and while it doesn't hold quite the same impact as the original, it was pleasantly done. The end scene was made more interesting but Baby and Johnny singing the song. I'm not sure that Breslin did her own singing but it was still cute. I also think the dancing wasn't all that impressive throughout and yes I know that's the whole point of the film but if you consider it story driven, it works period. Sometimes I grade a film based on entertainment and I was very entertained by this. In one of the closing scenes between Messing and Greenwood, I teared up. Go in with an open mind and looking to have fun and you won't be disappointed. 8.5/10
The Dark Tower (2017)
It is what it is but they made some key mistakes
The Dark Tower is not a bad film. Standing on it's own it's a decent sci-fi/fantasy flick that comes up a little shallow in certain ways. I am a massive Stephen King fan but I went in to this with mediocre expectations due to reviews and honestly due to the trailers and also word of the reshoots and issues on set. However, as a King fan, I feel like I could have helped them make this or scrapped the whole thing because they missed the mark entirely adapting the book. I thought one of the biggest issues was casting but it turns out the casting wasn't so bad. The issue here is the adaptation itself and also the approach they took on it. The Dark Tower focuses on Jake and Earth and his interaction with the mid-world to save his own. The Dark Tower book series is about Roland and his life and his adventures and his determination to destroy the Man In Black. Roland and the Man In Black were practically supporting characters to the boy Jake and that doesn't work for this story. Roland's back story is weak at best in the film and they don't scratch the surface of Walter or Jake for that matter and the world they live in. If they were hoping to start a franchise they missed the key things they needed here but perhaps most importantly resting the film on Roland. There is a reason the first film was called "The Gunslinger."
I think Idris Elba is a great actor but I definitely was not sure he would be right for Roland. I was convinced in fact. I was wrong. He could have really done some amazing things with Roland and for what he's given, he does! His darkness and his broodiness fit perfectly and the choreography for his fight scenes are fantastic. He even looks the part very well. Tom Taylor does a great job as Jake, the powerful boy from Earth who can bring down the tower. Taylor and Elba have very good chemistry and I would have loved to have seen them play their roles more to the book. One of the biggest concerns I had was Matthew McConaughey as the Man In Black. Once again, I was wrong. The single only issue is that he is not given enough time or depth to make this an incredible villain. I think he and a good director and writer could have made Walter/Man In Black one of the cinematic great villains. Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba were good together and played off each other wonderfully but the script didn't give them enough. Supporting cast was okay but the main cast was so under-used that the rest had very little chance of being built up.
The Dark Tower could and should have been 2017's beginning to a new Lord of The Rings epic world. They could have built one of the most vast connected Universes ever seen. Could anyone bring this to the big screen/small screen properly given the scope and depth of the books? Yes I think so. Much like Peter Jackson did with Lord of The Rings/The Hobbit someone with true vision and talent could have pulled this off. Why on earth this got handed to someone like Nikolaj Arcel is beyond me. He is a good screenwriter but to leave this in his hands for direction seems careless. Then again perhaps the studio cut it to shreds. A 93 minute run time is insane for a film of this magnitude. The Dark Tower will hopefully be redeemed. The characters are in place, the special effects were good, the world is loosely established but someone needs to step in. 7.5/10
Alien: Covenant (2017)
Definitely the definition of a "reboot"
What I mean by that is Ridley Scott took his science fiction classic and create this prequel trilogy (this is the middle instalment according to him) and created a different vibe, feel, almost a different direction entirely. Prometheus and now Alien Covenant have an artistic almost interpretive dance feel to them. I love Prometheus but there were plenty of complaints about it basically that it lacked the Alien connection. Covenant fixes that. It gives you more to the same storyline but brings back the Aliens in a big way. Maybe we won't understand the full picture until the third film but so far I'm intrigued enough to stay with it. Covenant is unique in that it gives us that familiar vibe that the original Alien and Aliens and Alien3 brought to the table but still keeps that fantasy, history aspect that Prometheus built. That does make the first half of the film a little dry, slow moving and it doesn't build the suspense all that well. However, once Ridley Scott mixes in the horror and darkness that made the original Alien a classic things start to come together. There are some truly first rate horror scenes and they utilize some of the more classic visuals (the Alien in the chest) and recreate them to great success. I love the concept that to make it fresh and new rather than coming out the front...the Alien comes out the back. Simple but effective.
I read one review that really trashed the cast of the film calling them monotone and boring and stereotypical. I didn't get that at all. Are they as memorable as some of the original cast, no. I do think they tried too hard on Danny McBride's character as "Tennessee" but he does get a good story arc and McBride is actually very good in the role and has some tense and emotional scenes. Michael Fassbender returns to his role as David and also Walter, the Androids. I recall Fassbender being one of the best parts of Prometheus and he was good in this but I felt something was off with the character development and something was missing. Still he did well. Katherine Waterston was fantastic as the heroine of the film. Whether or not on purpose she has the look and feel of an Ellen Ripley type character though a little softer around the edges. I would love to see her take over in future instalments of this franchise. Billy Crudup and Demián Bichir round out what I consider to be the main and supporting cast with a few other third string characters as well all played well enough but without a lot or any back story. The film might actually have too many characters who are ultimately not much more than fodder for the Alien(s).
Ridley Scott is a sci-fi legend in the directors chair of course. It is obvious he is very passionate about this franchise and he has or has had ideas in his mind for a very long time about the lore behind the Alien franchise and how it ties into human beings. He might be taking it in a very intellectual direction and I think we are all okay with that but he'll want to be careful to remember what we love about this franchise as well which was the horror and survival nature and isolation. While not the best of the series it holds its own and hopefully represents a good bridge between Prometheus and the end of the new trilogy that links all the series together. 8/10
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Expected a rehash and once again Disney surpasses expectations
Say what you will about Disney but whomever is at the helm nowadays is brilliant. So far their live action renditions have brought in Billions. Beauty and The Beast might be the first of the truly modern day Animated classics they've "rebooted" in a live action way. I thought it looked cool and was excited to see it but cautiously so because wouldn't it just be the same thing seen before in Animation? In short...yes. In long, it didn't matter! The direction, cinematography and seeing the classic fairy tale in live action makes it all the more impressive. It is perfectly cast and wonderfully performed. I found myself excited for the familiarity of some of the musical numbers and really enjoyed the story all over again. I saw a review or two that called the film trash for being liberal and I still can't wrap my head around that. I wish this over-PC world would calm itself and just enjoy something for a change. Disney is brilliant because they found a way to remake their classic films for a new generation but they also don't skimp on sheer quality. These films Beauty and The Beast included are magnificent with huge budgets so it is understandable why they're doing it and I will keep seeing them for sure!
It seemed something of a controversy to cast Emma Watson but I think she does a very good job. I think she is finally breaking the mould that was the Harry Potter franchise. She is really perfect as Belle. It's not exactly a meaty part and she's beautiful and headstrong and makes for a good heroine. Dan Stevens is excellent as The Beast. He is as good as his animated counterpart from years ago. He perfectly captures the personality and torment and still shows some fierce loyalty to Belle. Their chemistry together is perfect for the film. It's not too intense but not understated either. In a film like this where the characters are iconic and so Disney-esque, the supporting cast is as important as ever. Luke Evans and Josh Gad are absolutely perfectly cast as the villainous Gaston and his henchman LeFou. Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson (still would have loved to have seen Angela Landsbury return), Nathan Mack, Audra McDonald and Stanley Tucci all add something truly special to the film in their own way. Some of the more iconic characters (Lumiere and Cogsworth) are more understated I thought this time around but maybe that is okay for a live action film. Gaston is also more evil than he was in the animated version. Things are just turned up more in this version. It's a little darker, a little more vivid and large and a little more magic.
Bill Condon was a very interesting choice for the director of Beauty and The Beast. He has a lot of experience but I wouldn't have expected him to be able to pull this off. He plays things very safely. He makes sure all the things that fans of Beauty and The Beast would expect BUT he also gives it just a little bit more to keep new fans and old fans locked into a whole new remake. It's a beautiful film and stands beside it's animated counterpart. Time will tell if it will be a classic as well. 8/10
As good as the first, I suppose it's just not my cup of tea
The Marvel Universe on the whole has been great for me. I don't quite get the insane popularity of some of those films (AntMan for instance?) and I expected to really like the first Guardians film. I would never say the first film and this one were not "good" because they have incredible special effect, good performances, good laughs and people love it. Good! But for me, for some reason, the film doesn't resonate with me. It has all the things I love about a good popcorn flick but it just ends up being okay with me and this one was the same as the first. I think it was easily as good as the first and expanded the Universe a little bit and the characters. I loved the Howard The Duck cameo, I LOVED my hero and idol Sylvester Stallone showing up, there were some good laughs....but I see reviewers and even friends saying they cried multiple times and how emotional it was....I didn't get any of them. It was a CGI studded event with Science Fiction roots all through it but it didn't break any grand moulds and no one will say it reshaped the Marvel Universe like Doctor Strange did. It was fun and that's about it. It is an easy watch and good music like the first but what about this movie makes it so unique from any other film in it's genre.
Hollywood's latest superstar Chris Pratt might be part of the reason the film doesn't floor me. I like Pratt but I'm not sold on him as a superstar. He doesn't have the chemistry yet that (say Stallone had 20 years ago) or Dwayne Johnson nowadays. He plays this role well and this definitely builds more for his character and the Peter Quill story but he gives just a good performance in a good movie. Bradley Cooper as Rocket might be my favourite Guardian character but he is actually underused this time around. He has a few good lines and the banter between he and Pratt is good but I feel like he needs more story. Dave Bautista continues to surprise me as a half decent actor and he really nails the role of Drax. He is definitely the most lively character and also gets a ton of comedic moments and also some great action scenes. Zoe Saldana is decent but much like Rocket Raccoon, got downplayed significantly this time around. The romance between her and Quill is hinted at (which is part of the gag) but I think they should have added a touch more to it. I believe I said this in the first movie but why in the hell Vin Diesel was hired and is credited for being Groot makes no sense. I love Groot. He's adorable and funny but he is a 110% CGI character with an indiscernible voice so why do we need a Hollywood star playing him? Michael Rooker returns to get a huge character development as Yondu. It's a great twist to the story and he and Pratt are good together but I'm not sure the development makes a lot of sense given how quickly he makes a change. Still it definitely adds the emotional depth to the film. Karen Gillan is really amazing as Gamora's sister Nebula. She doesn't get enough screen time but her sub-plot was one of the best and I hope to see more of her in the future. And then we have Kurt Russell who is phenomenal in his role as Peter's long lost father. ***SPOILER ALERT*** he is also the villain, the big bad etc. and he is perfect at that. I'm so glad he's been getting a career boost as of late.
James Gunn is probably the only person who can helm this franchise. He cares about it, he co-writes it, produces, directs and he wants to build the Guardians Universe and keep it cohesive and bravo to him for that. I am quite certain that the continuity and feel of this movie was as good as the first because of him. I think once he steps away from the helm of this franchise it won't be nearly as good especially for me who just thinks it's okay to begin with. I know he is crafting a story here and I will gladly see the third and not just because I see all Marvel films. This isn't one of my favourites but it's not because it isn't good. I am in a very very small minority who think Guardians of The Galaxy and Volume 2 were okay and average in every way. Check out the amazing visuals and stay for the characters and story and chances are you'll be as hooked as everyone else. Considering this an anomaly for me.
La La Land (2016)
Average in every way and maybe a little unique but not worthy of the acclaim
To me, the Oscars nowadays means that the critics all got together and decided to play a popularity contest that quite often the mainstream movie going public doesn't see eye to eye with. I love musicals...like adore them...so I was excited for LaLa Land and so I was disappointed and confused by the fact that it did not come close to fulfilling expectations. I will say there were a couple of scenes that were very well done. The film has a unique vibe that is timeless and some of the dance and music scenes are reminiscent of an era gone by. It is definitely an artistic film. However, the story and the characters and the climax of the film is utterly and completely bland. It's not the type of film I could watch more than once and I don't understand how it is even classified as a musical when it had very few blatant musical numbers and it felt like it was more about jazz or "LaLa Land" itself than the music. The hardest part to accept was the lack of chemistry with the stars and just the overall lack of a solid story to hold onto.
Emma Stone is notable for this film because she is Emma Stone. She has an undeniable chemistry on screen and it always works at least a little bit. Still her struggling character actress is okay at best and she never really goes through any arc at all and you're left feeling very underwhelmed. Ryan Gosling honestly is downright terrible. I don't know if it's the writing or what but his character is vapid and empty and boring. Their "romance" is silly and contrived and it never takes off despite them trying desperately to make you root for these two. Somehow the "music" brings them together and their love of the arts. There is some supporting cast but honestly no one comes even close to being memorable or stepping up to anything. It's overall a very large disappointment.
If the film was just a few dance scenes with Gosling and Stone I might be inclined to love it but unfortunately they make you sit through a sub-par story first. I guess the choreography and some of the scenes are worth noting. The thing is I adore writer and director Damien Chazelle. Whiplash was literally incredible. Easily one of the best films of the year. I had such high hopes this would be more of the same and I get the art behind it and the neon glow and the story of Los Angeles and struggling artists but there is no meat here. There is nothing that captivates you and a film that won all kinds of awards and (nearly) won Best Picture is barely memorable. Film schools might study it but for me once is enough. 5/10
Their Finest (2016)
A very unique little film worth checking out
If there is one thing we hear constantly it's "Hollywood is out of ideas" and "there is nothing original anymore" but there is! Sometimes you just have to search for it. It has been a long time since I went for a blind movie, meaning I choose a movie and walk into it without knowing anything. So I tried that with Their Finest and once again it worked out very well for me. Their Finest was entertaining, funny, cute, unique and a great look at early Hollywood during World War 2. It has romance and strong characters and a really great female heroine. I love strong female characters and this film really drives that home huge. The biggest issue I thought with the film was the end. Everything is going truly great with the movie, the acting and the dialog and the characters and the pacing and then at a certain point it almost all falls apart. They make a bizarre change at the climax that is simply too fast and the end of the movie falls flat. If not for that this could have been an easy 9 to be honest. Still it isn't like anything else out there and it could be classified as a dark comedy/romance/drama but has something for everyone.
The lovely Gemma Arterton is our hero. She is a writer and wife struggling to support her and her husband and finally gets in on the ground level of a potential writing job in WW2 Hollywood. She is great in this film. Her performance is subtle and moving and emotional and she's funny and real and very vivid and much of the film is all about her and her journey. Adding to the gravitas of the cast is the incomparable Bill Nighy who plays legendary actor Ambrose Hilliard. Nighy is amazing and her chemistry with Arterton is perfect for the film. Nighy does what he does best bringing this character to life and giving him ups and downs and very real faults and challenges but making him someone you root for and care for. Sam Claflin is Arterton's nemesis in the beginning and they forge a working relationship, friendship and eventually romance. Their relationship is a highlight of the film although I felt as though he was a tad underdeveloped making his turn in the film a little underwhelming. Jack Huston is decent in a smaller role as Arterton's husband (of sorts) He's important to her character development but not much else. The supporting cast are all really good and fit their roles well. The movie within the movie is such a huge part of the experience of Their Finest.
Lone Scherfig has a lot of talent as a fairly new director. She has done a handful of things with varying degrees of success but I think her talents lie in storytelling. The film has some great scenes and a good hook but the characters are what draw you in. Arterton's journey as a writer in a "man's world" is the best part about this film. I think a woman directing the movie makes a big difference and impact. If you're looking for something a little offbeat and different and away from the mainstream Hollywood blockbusters, this is great and is sure to be memorable for you. It might not be mind blowing but it is well worth being watched. 8/10
The Circle (2017)
Such incredible potential lost in a mess of editing or lack thereof
Ironically I work for a tech company that if you really bent and twisted could look a little like The Circle only way less evil...I swear... The Circle seems incredibly timely and you know 30 years from now, even as campy as it ended up being, it could be considering a classic ahead of it's time simply because it has such a pertinent message to our world right now. It could be this generations social commentary. Unfortunately for this movie it is completely lost in very poor character development, some really horrid acting and line delivery, a weak and unedited script, a horrible use of star Tom Hanks and forcing Emma Watson to try and hide her British accent meaning she has not enough lines to give her character depth. Even still, for some reason I didn't hate the film. I still found enough about it that I liked. The idea and concept behind The Circle is very believable and the tech they use while it seems a little outlandish is incredibly real. If you stop and think about Facebook/Twitter/Amazon/The Cloud things that connect the entire world, this film is not even remotely far-fetched.
I do believe Emma Watson has it in her to be a star. Fortunately for her Beauty and The Beast and it's 1B+ take will solidify her in Hollywood because it seems everything else she has tried falls flat. I don't think film makers are casting her correctly. She looks through this entire film like she is struggling with hiding her British accent. The dialog is really bad so it hurts her performance even worse. Still I like what they did with it, even if there wasn't enough time to really dig into her. Tom Hanks is the driving star power and is sorrowfully underused. Even still he comes onto screen and makes every scene he's in worthwhile. He's perfect as a low level villain of sorts who is more than close to real life. Ellar Coltrane might be one of the worst performances I've ever seen. Is this guy even an actor? As Watson's childhood best friend and sort of a focal point for Watson's development, he delivers his lines like a terrible Grade School actor. He is absolutely terrible and that is in addition to how bad the dialog is. His chemistry with Watson is literally non-existent. Glenne Headly, the late (amazing) Bill Paxton and Karen Gillan give the three best performances in the film. Paxton who plays Watson's father riddled with MS is fantastic! Similar to Hanks, Patton Oswalt is very underused as Hanks' partner in The Circle. He seems almost to have had his lines removed. And then you have John Boyega (you know the latest star of Star Wars) in an utterly pointless bizarre role where he stands in the back of rooms and looks broody. You would literally think they edited out huge portions of his character making it seem weird and disjointed.
I'm not sure who is responsible for ruining a film with such amazing potential. I know that director and co-writer James Ponsoldt does not have enough experience to handle something of this potential calibre. I would presume that Dave Eggers original novel is much better and I feel like it's probably a lot of editing and cooks in the kitchen that killed this adaptation. I still liked a few performances, I loved the message and working in the tech world for me it really was a little on the scary side. It's worth seeing but probably forgettable but the message behind it will likely cause it to stand the test of time. 6.5/10
Adorable, fun and great moral message! A unique gem
The idea of a little girl or boy wanting to do ballet is not new. Making an animated film around the passion of Ballet is new as far as I know. I hadn't even seen a single trailer for this but took my daughter to see it. Simply put, it was fantastic. Other reviews mention that it's stereotypical with shallow characters but it IS a children's film and it has such a terrific message behind it. The unique background of France and early 19th Century Paris makes this an adventure that is outside of the normal run of the mill children's film. Yes I suppose it is predictable and as far as characters or moral it's not new but you know sometimes it's nice just to see something nice! Ballerina (now renamed Leap) is not this year's runaway hit but it was a sweet, cute, fun time at the movies.
The cast is very good. The characters aren't unique but that doesn't mean they are relatable and fun and easy to connect with. Elle Fanning perfectly voices the hard headed dreamer Felicie. She is a wonderful hero for young girls and boys alike. Her passion for dance is really endearing. Dane DeHaan is adorable and perfect as her best friend (carrying a flame for her) the inventor Victor. The two characters together are perfection and their very light romance adds to the story. Carly Rae Jepsen is fantastic as the former dancer turned mentor Odette, Julie Khaner, Terrence Scammell and Tamir Kapelian round out some of the best of this case. They all fit their roles very well.
Perhaps the film is finding some trouble finding it's demographic. I think it might appear to be aimed at older children when in fact I think very young children might enjoy it even more. The backdrop of Paris and the excitement of the ballet and some of the animated dancing scenes are really fantastic. The "Rocky" type montage of Felicie honing her dance skills was fantastic. Co-Directors Eric Summer (also wrote the film) and Eric Warin are not full of animated experience so that makes this outing all the more impressive to me. I think someone with more experience in the genre might have really been able to tweak and edit this to perfection BUT that's not to say the Erics did a bad job. I think they did a great job and I will add this to my daughter's film collection the moment it comes out. I enjoyed it very much. 8/10
Topical and fun with boisterous personalities
2016 wasn't a great year for movies but animated films on the other hand... Sing looked great from the trailers and I'm amazed it took them so long to capture the "singing contest" idea considering television is full of them. But this is so much not about the competition. It's about music, and varied personalities and pulling together and working together despite differences. In the first half of the film I wasn't blown away. In fact, I mostly felt it was okay. The film actually hits it's high points in the latter part. You really get to some strong feelings and see the stories develop of all the various characters. The music is fun and fluffy pulled from some of the most popular pop songs right now. They drive the story and make sense to the scenes. Like any great animated feature nowadays, it has this amazing moral to the story about friendship and overcoming hardships to fulfill dreams. It is fun, silly, decently animated, and wonderfully voiced.
The cast includes some very big stars. Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, and Taron Egerton (as one of my favourite characters Johnny.) Nick Kroll is also fantastic as Gunter. I don't know how many of them did their own singing or not but regardless they bring personality and style to their characters and the voices just work together so well regardless of where they recorded them from. Everyone is recognizable and yet you lose them in the character which is exactly what you would hope from an animated film like this.
My daughter has had me watch this a few times now and I distinctly didn't care for it and then by the second and third viewings I liked it a lot more. It uses the typical songs but they work so well for the story and each main character has it's own little sub-story and then you have the focus on Moon and his theatre and the end just demonstrates the emphasis on friends and family and working together. It has laughs, it has emotion, it has silly moments, and there is nothing adult about it ultimately which I think is good because sometimes animated films can try to do adult undertone and it falls flat. Neither co-director Christophe Lourdelet, Garth Jennings have a ton of experience especially in this vein other than animation department but they clearly know how to strike a chord so to speak. It's fun, it's breezy and it hits the right notes (enough with the puns!) Best of all it grows on you meaning it will have a lasting effect. 8/10