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The Light Between Oceans (2016)
Dull and Formulaic
I decided to see this movie after reading a synopsis and review of the best-selling novel on which it's based. Unfortunately, what may work in a novel doesn't always translate well to screen, which seems to be the case here as this film was incredibly dull. Because the movie progresses chronologically, there's nothing that grabs you at the onset. It isn't until 45 minutes into the film that the main plot point is finally introduced. The movie opened with a dull, uninteresting scene of the main character being interviewed for a job as lighthouse keeper on a remote, desolate island, and ends pretty much the same way.
The director could have generated more interest if he'd opened with a more powerful and intriguing scene and used flashbacks to fill in some of the backstory. The real mother reading the letter telling her the baby is alive, the sailor keying in on the unique baby rattle, or even the wife discovering the dinghy while on a lonely walk along the beach all would have been more interesting ways to open this film. The first 45 minutes could have been cut and you really wouldn't have missed anything. Sadly, the wind-swept island is the most interesting character in this otherwise plodding movie.
The Nice Guys (2016)
Painfully Bad and Boring
I finally rented this film because of the good reviews that it had gotten. Lots of praise for the chemistry between the leads and it being a throwback to the good ol' buddy cop/PI movies of past. Wow! What a disappointment. One of the worst movies I've seen in a long time. Painfully unfunny, the film's plot is barely discernible and the story is just plain boring. Russell Crowe is still an actor I love (extra pounds and all) and he's the best thing about this movie because he basically plays the straight man and isn't trying to be a clown like Gossling is. I didn't care about anybody in this film. And, I'm tired of Hollywood glamorizing sexually precocious youngsters. Here, the 13 year-old daughter or Gossling's character is made out to be more mature than her idiot father. He's anti-porn and wonders what's happening with young people but the daughter is cool and has frank discussions about sex with porn actresses. Awful movie.
Love & Friendship (2016)
Dull But Beautiful to Look At
Even though I've never heard of this story/novella, I enjoy Jane Austen's most famous novels and loved some of the film versions so I figured this would be worthwhile. Unfortunately, despite beautiful costumes and set decoration, this film was incredibly dull. None of the characters was particularly engaging and the endless snarky dialog delivered in a civilized manner became tiresome after a while. Small crowd in my theater with a group of women who laughed hysterically at every put-down delivered by the leading ladies but I was bored silly and, despite a meager run time, found myself checking my watch on too many occasions. There was not one character that was likable or anyone that I rooted for. I was happy when the film ended but also surprised as everything just sort of shut down. I wondered what the point of the entire film had been.
Visually Stunning With Muddled Storyline
I have seen TFA twice now. Both times I came away very impressed with the visuals. TFA is a gorgeous movie to watch. The practical effects mixed with CGI where necessary created a beautiful and believable backdrop for the movie. The fault with the movie lies in the somewhat muddled story that tries to combine the old with the new and doesn't always succeed.
The story is rightly criticized for being a rehash of ANH. Once again, the good guys are out-gunned and out-manned by a tyrannical regime and the savior will be a force-sensitive youth who unwittingly gets caught up in the action. I wish the writers had looked more toward real- world historical events as a guide for writing a story about the aftermath of the downfall of a powerful empire. As history tells us, winning the battle is the easy part; the hard part is winning the peace. When empires fall, there's usually a power vacuum that various entities try to fill: good- intentioned people trying to establish democracy; warlords of various persuasions; dead-enders that refuse to accept the old order's destruction; roving bands of unemployed ex-soldiers with deadly skills that can be put to use by criminal elements, etc. TFA should have been the original trilogy in reverse.
By that I mean that the trilogy should have been about a fragile "New Republic" that after, after 30+ years, is now threatened by a growing movement called the First Order, led by a mysterious agent of the Dark Side and his henchmen, the Knights of Ren. Instead, we see Han Solo, once a respected General and hero of the Rebel Alliance, reduced to being a haggard, down-on-his-luck small-time smuggler; Leia is still leading the rebels and Luke is a hermit hiding from the world and all its problems. I enjoyed the first act of this movie the best as it set up the new characters. The entrance of Han Solo actually slowed the pace and seemed forced and his character didn't really add anything to the overall story. His death should have been the climax of the movie but instead was almost instantly forgotten because the big light saber duel between Kylo, Rey, and Finn ensued immediately afterward and nobody even referred to Solo's death when the battle was successfully concluded.
I actually did like Kylo Ren's emo tantrums and I wanna by bad like my grandpa demeanor. Darth Vader was a late-middle aged man when we saw him in the OT; Kylo is still young and petulant. It will be interesting to see how his and Rey's story progresses in future chapters of this saga.
Solid Film Lacking Dramatic Punch
This was a solid drama elevated by superior acting from a top-notch cast but I left the theater somewhat underwhelmed. The movie lacked the sort of drama that makes you wonder how the story will end even when you know how the story will end. The main problem is that the Catholic Church just doesn't come across as a particularly forceful adversary. We're told that the Church is so powerful and has kept the abuse hidden for decades, but when a group of reporters actually goes digging they encounter some roadblocks but nothing that gives you the sense that the Church was something to be feared. While I didn't necessarily need Cardinal Law to dispatch some Opus Dei goons to discourage the reporters and the victims, the movie would have been more rewarding if they'd encountered much stronger resistance from the Church, public officials, and their own family and friends.
Good but a bit overrated.
I've seen all the "Rocky" films and found them enjoyable but I would not call myself a big fan of the franchise. I wanted to see this film because of the high praise it was receiving. While I agree it's a good movie, I don't think it's a great movie. Sly Stallone is excellent as is Jordan in the title role. But, I didn't find the movie as memorable as I would have wanted and that's mostly because the motivations of the lead character, Adonis Johnson (Creed) aren't all that clear or believable.
At the onset we're introduced to a hardscrabble young Adonis, bastard son of late, great Apollo Creed, who's been in and out of foster homes but is whisked away by Apollo's wife to live a life of luxury. He's well-educated and has a white-collar job in the financial services industry. Why he decides to up and leave all that behind and pursue a life as a professional boxer is inexplicable. He says it's because he's been fighting his whole life but that assertion rings hollow when we see him pulling into the driveway of the huge gated estate that he shares with his "mom." When Adonis first meets up with Rocky Balboa, a scene that should be charged with emotion and nostalgia falls flat because Adonis already knows all the stories, having been told them by Apollo's wife. He knows more than Rocky does and the reveal that he's Apollo's son just isn't that dramatic. The romantic story line also falls a bit flat at Adonis is paired up with a clichéd character: hot and alluring singer. One of the aspects of "Rocky" that was so wonderful was the atypical romantic story line, where Rocky is paired with a mousy, decidedly unglamorous woman who slowly emerges from her shell. Rocky and Adrian's relationship felt real and the famous "Adrian!!!" cry packed an emotional wallop. Finally, the main event lacked emotional punch because I actually felt for the opponent, a working-class Briton who was facing the probability of a lengthy prison sentence and having to leave his young children behind.
The story would have been much more interesting and emotionally engaging if Adonis had been raised by his working-class mother and perhaps only learned who his real father was upon her deathbed. That would have been a believable impetus for Adonis to seek out Rocky Balboa, to learn about his father and connect with him through Rocky, and train to become a champion like him. The scene in the restaurant and in the various gyms would have worked so much better if Adonis was hearing and learning about his biological father for the first time. And , I would have been more emotionally vested in the outcome of the main event if I'd truly seen Adonis overcome major hurdles. But, despite the flaws in the story, this was a well-made and well-acted film and I did enjoy it for what it was.
McCarthy at her best!
To start off I'll say that I have not seen "Identity Thief" or "Tammy," which were Melissa McCarthy's two previous films that I gather did not do so well at the box office. I did see "Bridesmaids" on a transatlantic flight and recall laughing so hard at times that other passengers turned to look at me. That said, "Bridesmaids" was a bit too raunchy for my taste and was missing that certain something that made me really care about the characters. I did see "The Heat" and found it serviceable and fun for the moment but, once again, lacking that certain something to make a film truly enjoyable.
McCarthy's new film has that missing something. It's funny, poignant at times, and full of action. I cared about McCarthy's "Susan Cooper" character and wanted to see her complete her mission. The potty mouth comes out, but it comes out in service of the character and the plot as the story unfolds, not just as a cheap device to get some chuckles. In previous movies, McCarthy's characters seems to be rude, cantankerous and foul-mouthed to the core, but here I always felt "Susan Cooper" was in firm control of her emotions and brought out that side only when it was needed. McCarthy is also aided by a superb supporting cast, particularly Jason Statham as her hilariously over the top rival.
This may be a spoof of spy movies, but it can also be viewed simply as a spy movie that happens to have a female lead. Many of the same plot devices are used. But, as with any movie, what matters are the characters and whether or not we care about what happens to them. This movie basically ends with the lead and two other supporting characters walking off into the sunset. I wanted those three to return for a sequel because they were that funny and that good.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
Enough to get me to check out the original
Although I was a teen in the '80s, I somehow missed the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles craze. Maybe it was because I was a girl but, for whatever reason, I had little knowledge of this franchise. Having seen this film I can see why the Turtles were popular back in their hey day. The turtles are the only thing good about this film. They're adorable and it's fun to watch their camaraderie, brotherly infighting, and goofy antics. But there's not enough of them on screen. The movie's main character is April O'Neil, the reporter, and not the turtles. As others have said, there wasn't enough downtime in this movie where we get to enjoy the brothers being silly teenagers.
Out of curiosity I picked up the 1990 movie at a local B&N afterwards; it was in the bargain section for $4.99. Have to admit that I enjoyed that movie more because the turtles were the main characters and acted more like real teenagers instead of massive hulking indestructible superheroes. In the current film, the sheer size and strength of the turtles made them seem more like adults. I kept waiting for the Megan Fox character to say something motherly or sisterly like "Gosh, you're just kids!" and be protective of them. But, considering that they had superhero size and strength that wouldn't really have made much sense. It's a shame this new movie didn't build upon the best elements of original, which would be the enduring filial bond between the turtles, their relationship with their father-figure, Splinter, and the introduction of a human sister/mother figure, April, who could watch over them in a different way.
Ride Along (2014)
Fun, light, and frothy cop buddy romp
I was in the mood for a fun movie with a little humor and action and that's exactly what I got. I checked out the "professional reviews" on mrqe.com before heading out to the theater and most were very negative. This movie was supposedly trite and cliché ridden and the two stars had only "passable chemistry." But, there was one 3/4 stars review coming out of Milwaukee that sold me and proved to be right on point. Sure, the movie had every cliché in the cop buddy action movie genre. But, the two leads had great chemistry, there were some genuinely funny moments and, most importantly, I cared about the characters. Both were good, decent people. I'm glad the film was PG-13 and devoid of the really filthy language and excessive violence that pervades so many R-rated films. I saw a Sunday morning 10:40 am show that was about 3/4 full. The entire theater laughed and seemed to be having a good time, just like me.
I ran out to see this film because the reviews have been so enthusiastic here in the US. I loved Casino Royale, the only Bond film that I truly liked, but QOS was so bad that I wasn't sure what to expect here. Sadly, this film did not live up to expectations, and I can point to the exact moment this film went downhill: the introduction of Javier Bardem's clownish, cartoonish, over-the-top villain, Silva. Casino Royale gave us a baddie, Le Chifre, who was smooth and deadly but also grounded in reality. The Silva character is unwatchable. He whines about M having betrayed him, makes a pass at Bond, puts in motion a silly cat-and-mouse game that makes no sense, and comes across as someone so out of touch with reality that it's hard to see him as a criminal mastermind with a cadre of capable men working for him. You would think some of them would start to notice that the boss had a few too many screws loose and would cut and run.
The plot takes a nosedive with Silva's introduction and even the action sequences loose luster. No cool parqour (sp?)sequences or tension- filled poker game of wits. I was surprised how bored I became as the film dragged on. Even the climatic sequence, which is set in Bond's abandoned family estate in remote Scotland, is tedious, unoriginal, and flat-out boring. Rarely has a Bond film ending been so anti-climatic and ho-hum. Although there are some nice elements in this film that give one hope for future installments, such as the introduction of a younger, tech savvy Quartermaster or "Q" and Ralph Fiennes as a bureaucrat initially at odds with M., overall this is a mediocre film, which saddens me as Craig's version of Bond is still my favorite.