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Crimson Peak (2015)
Del Toro's officially on a roll...of failure.
Del Toro officially loses any and all confidence I had in him as a director as he managed to follow up the disastrous "Pacific Rim," easily one of 2013's worst movies, with yet another epic failure.
Even beautiful costumes and Charlie Hunman cannot save how ridiculous this film is.
Not scary in even the most remote sense of the word, no logic in the production design, no real logic in the narrative. Just scene after scene of eye-rolling...and thinking "Doesn't she feel she needs a sweater?" No, it's not a horror film in the least, but it is most certainly horrific.
Catering to the lowest common denominator
Disastrous. Juvenile. Insulting.
Three words that perfectly describe the latest offering from Neill Blomkamp, three words that would not have been expected to describe a film directed by this man.
Blomkamp is best known for the absolutely brilliant "District 9," a reflection on apartheid, but also responsible for the almost equally fascinating "Elysium," which was a sci-fi look at the ongoing 1% debate.
So, expectations for his third feature, "Chappie," were understandably considerably high.
However, the expectations are sadly unfounded as this film does not even remotely live up to expectation. In fact, it doesn't live up to anything. At all.
In short, "Chappie" is the story of a "broken" robot from a fleet of robot police now protecting Johannesburg, which gets rebooted by fully self-sufficient artificial intelligence installed by the developer of the police robots, Deon Wilson (Dev Patel, "Slumdog Millionaire"). Having been "kidnapped" by a ridiculous gang of wannabe "gangstas," played absolutely horrifically by members of South African rap group Die Antwoord (Ninja, Yo-Landi Visser), with absolutely no acting ability whatsoever, Chappie, which needs to learn from scratch like a baby, is "raised" by these bumbling idiots to help them pull off a huge heist.
After screwing up a drug deal for Hippo, one of the few worthwhile characters in the film played with brilliant, anarchic, shirtless hotness by Brandon Auret, Ninja and Yolandi owe him $20 million. And they have a week to get it to him.
And thus, this film then wants you to believe, without actually showing you how it is actually accomplished, that this robot named Chappie, in the hands of idiotic, failed gangsters and with limited input from the wasted Dev Patel, could go from zero and baby-like to an almost full-fledged, heist-worthy "adult" in about a week. Because "gangstas" would have time for this.
All the while, teaching him to "act gangsta," making the film a complete joke while practically verging on racist gansgta clichés diving head first into a pool of utter ridiculousness.
With its amateur soundtrack, its "gangsta" stupidity, its horrific acting, complete lack of logical narrative and deflection of all its shortcomings through the use of explosions, this film truly caters to the absolute lowest common denominator.
In fact, it expects its audience to be so truly uneducated, when Hippo speaks, the film features English subtitles. Um, Hippo speaks English.
This film was so dumb, and assumed its audience would be so uneducated, they put English subtitles under a guy speaking English. The film, in all its stupidity, actually manages to directly insult the intelligence of its audience.
So, where do big names Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver fit into this? Jackman plays Vincent Moore, a spoiled brat with a horrific haircut who designed a similar type of police robot which was deemed far too big and expensive to be used, so he devises a plan to knock out Wilson's robots so his will be implemented. Weaver merely plays Wilson and Moore's boss at the company which created these droids.
Why they wanted to be involved in this film is beyond me.
So, listen to me when I say, avoid this film at all costs. Unlike the strong, important political messages of his first two films, on his third outing, Blomkamp has achieved absolutely nothing but creating a film that wants to show an audience just what an epic failure looks like.
If Chappie was humanity's last hope, may a god help us all.
Jupiter Ascending (2015)
An Embarrassment of Riches!
and what I mean by that is that this is a film about rich people that is just an embarrassment.
"Jupiter Ascending" is the latest film from the Wachowskis and, despite what you read about their under-rated previous efforts ("Speed Racer," "Cloud Atlas"), this one truly is .utter disaster.
Remember when Hollywood seemed to start putting effects ahead of stories and starting insulting the viewers intelligence until some directors (read: Cameron, Nolan) started injecting mindblowing effects into incredibly intelligent stories.
Well, guess who is insulting our intelligence again.
What this movie is "about," and I use the term loosely, is a young woman in Chicago who cleans toilets for a living who finds out she is actually a genetic descendant of the most powerful dynasty in the universe and simply needs to claim Earth as her own, which she left to herself thousands of years prior, before her "son" harvests humans to make a potion that keeps other beings in the universe young You got that? No? Who cares.
The entire film is completely about special effects and scene after scene that shows elements ripped off directly from any one of the Star Wars films. It is clear the entire film was thought of from the perceptive of "how could we get this cool scene in the film?" with very little focus on a story that is chronologically and logistically ridiculous.
Case in point: Jupiter Jones, played by Mila Kunis, in the span of about 24 hours, finds out that aliens exist, that she is galactic royalty impervious to the sting of bees and survives the most ridiculously unlikely air-chase ever shown on screen without a seat belt .without even batting an eyelash or one moment of hyperventilating. I mean, I think most of us would freak out to actually meet an alien, first and foremost even a muscular, hot one in the form of Channing Tatum never mind the rest of what was thrown at her. Yet, she takes it in stride, like it is completely normal.
Truly, the entire narrative rolls out like this with space, time and basic logic (and gravity) being completely ignored in the development of a story so completely ridiculous, Oscar-front-runner Eddie Redmayne must be crying himself to sleep for accepting to be a part of this and giving such a silly performance. In June 2014, when this film's release was pushed back by almost seven months from July 2014 to February 2015, what they should have done was rewritten the script.
On the upside, the film is visually stunning, and they certainly used 3D technology to their advantage, not to mention that Tatum's extended shirtless scene is, indeed, very entertaining while I don't think I have ever seen Mila Kunis look so beautiful. Unfortunately, she is at her best when she is dressed to the nines as a total rip off of Padmé.
Jennifer Aniston has been robbed of an Oscar.
Jennifer Aniston has been robbed of an Oscar.
And a Golden Globe and a Screen Actor's Guild Award, for that matter. In a year that gave us an extraordinary array of lead roles for men and an even more extraordinary roles for supporting women, 2014 proved to not offer too many truly memorable roles for leading women.
And with all due respect, as much as I utterly adore this year's award-snagger and Oscar front runner Julianne Moore and think she has been deserving more than once for the little gold guy, it is officially an outrage that Jennifer Aniston did not get an Oscar nomination. Because she should have won.
"Cake" is an utterly heartbreaking yet breathtaking look at the pain of loss, both physical and emotional, and the seemingly impossible task of finding the strength to go on. Or even get up.
Aniston is nothing short of astonishing as Claire Bennett, a woman who has just about lost everything but a slim will to live, a loyal housekeeper, crippling remorse and the ability to find reasons to just barely get through her day through the help of Percocet, wine, arguments and awkward casual sex.
And then she stalks Roy.
The less you know about the film, no doubt the more you will gain, but this study of pain and loss and stumbling upon that one little thing that might just give you a little more strength than you had yesterday is one of the most astounding films of this year or any in recent memory.
Not only will Aniston leave you in awe like she has never done before in the single best role of her career thus far, both Sam Worthington and Adrianna Barrazza are utterly brilliant in their supporting roles and both could easily have garnered nominations in a less competitive year for those categories.
"Cake" didn't just move me
it sunk right into my soul and gave me a better understanding of the human condition of sorrow
the likes of which I hope I never have to experience myself.
St. Vincent (2014)
St. Vincent the completely implausible story of a single mom who leaves the care of her only child in the hands of the obnoxious, grumpy, unemployed, hard-drinking old man that she JUST moved in next door to.
So the movie must be ridiculous, right?
Not really. As absurd as the premise may be, the unlikely story of how the man and this kid come to teach each other about the better things in life ends up actually being really quite funny, entertaining and, as much as you'll hate to admit it when it gets you in the end, very emotional.
All of this absurdity is helped in spades by yet another exceptional performance by the Golden-Globe nominated Bill Murray, who has perfected the character of the comedic curmudgeon, practically raising it to an art form while the kid, played by Jaeden Lieberher, is actually point on a performance that is neither overly kitchy, immature or irritating which is very impressive for a young actor in such a film.
And then, of course, there is Melissa McCarthy as Oliver's mother, who is, once again, pitch-perfect in her usual role as the sarcastic, strong-yet-vulnerable woman who goes toe-to-toe with Murray's bastard. And does not get lost in his enormous shadow.
All in all, an absolutely excellent film, albeit ridiculous, which is well worth it for the strong performances and funny one-liners it's got Murray, so just go.
Mockingjay Reminder: The FIRST PART of the THIRD Book...
After two utterly fantastic films, The Hunger Games returns with the third installment, which is the first part of the third book of the trilogy.
Got it? Good.
And the film delivers exactly what I expected. And because of this, it is, indeed, the weakest installment thus far.
Why? Well, reread my first sentence. It is the first part of the third book....which means that, from the third book, all the good stuff is going to be in the SECOND part and this whole film is all about ramping up to the (what will most assuredly by) the epic conclusion of this series.
That being said, this film still has many strengths, including Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence as she continues to shine as Katniss, this time as the woman who needs to rise and lead District 13 into a full on rebellion against The Capital while still trying to overcome the mental stress of all she has been through. And, of course, the very odd inclusion of the always great Julianne Moore as the rebellion leader, President Alma Coin.
The groundwork which is set by the film no doubts raises expectations of the final film very high, but I could not also help by feel that there seemed to be things even I missed as I watched this film. As I sat there, taking it all in, I wondered exactly what Effie (Elizabeth Banks) was doing there....it kind of went unexplained. Exactly how much time passed between the last film and this one? And it seemed like a lot of my questions stems from items that were, indeed, somewhat changed from the book. Effie should not be such a prominent character this early on in the final story, but Banks' character proved to simply be too popular to ignore.
That would be the only major downfall of this installment, and that is the lack of clarification of key points brought up in the film. But beyond that, everything else was right on par and I am most certainly looking forward to the final installment hitting theatres next November 20th.
The Theory of Everything (2014)
Less Science, More Humanity.
If you cannot imagine how a film about Stephen Hawking could be utterly astounding and heartfelt and touching, don't imagine and see "Theory of Everything." In short, the incredibly touching back story of Hawking is presented here less science, more humanity and it is absolutely beautiful.
However, Redmayne completely steals the show as Mr. Hawking in an utterly pitch-perfect, transformative performance that will most likely nab him his first Oscar nomination with a win looking pretty darn good as well as he goes from upright man to wheelchair-bound.
Redmayne is mesmerizing.
As is this whole incredibly beautiful film.
Maps to the Stars (2014)
Another incomprehensible installment
I have never been a big fan of Cronenberg because I have found many of his films make no sense at all and are utterly pointless. On occasion, there has been "A History of Violence" or "Eastern Promises," but usually, it's more "Crash" and "Dead Ringers." "Maps to the Stars" did not help me become more of a fan.
Yet another film that made no real sense to me and left me wondering..."WTF did I just watch?" I really hoped this would be a satirical look at Hollywood through the eyes of a Canadian nut job, but instead, what could have been a truly disturbing and great film spiralled into typical Cronenberg incomprehensible ridiculousness.
However, Pattinson? Not so bad here....for reals.
The long-await, yet underwhelming, return of Nolan.
After a year of waiting and hype, "Interstellar" finally hit theatres with....well, not quite a roar. Written as a love letter to his daughter, Nolan's latest sci-fi epic isn't quite as depressing as his usual films, but it's not as monumentally mesmerizing as we have come to expect from the man who brought us "Dark Knight" and "Inception.".
The story is a little cheesy, with mushy questions about love being able to cross time and such, and there are moments that the special effects reminded me of "Clash of the Titans." No, not the remake...the 1981 original. I found that quite shocking and sorta dismaying...and confusing. As confusing as it was at times trying to wrap my brain around the concepts of relative time and black holes and dimensions.
However, the film is ultimately still entertaining, made me verklempt at moments and has a really nice message about the future of our planet being in our own hands and no one else, not even whatever god you might believe in, is going to save us if we don't save ourselves.
If I Stay (2014)
Anyone interested in this film already knows the premise by now if they have read this far, so I won't rehash it.
All I will say is that this film could have easily been contrived and cheesy and hokey and clichéd but rather, the end is result is truly one of the finest, most real representations of youth and love I have seen in a long time. And the fact that it seemed so genuine is exactly why I have not cried in a film so much since...."The Perks of Being a Wallflower." Chloe Grace Moretz has already proved she is a force to be reckoned with, but by an accomplishment like playing the key character in a film that was made to be a tearjerker without coming across as completely laughable shows what a strong actress this young woman truly is.
Excellent, relatable script, wonderful direction and perfectly edited, the fact the a bunch of tween girls went "Huh? What? That's the end?" when the credits began to roll proved that R.J. Cutler knew exactly when to end this film at the precise moment. There was no need to overstay the welcome.
Make sure you have some Kleenex.