Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Everest Review

Everest Review
The most climbing I have ever done in my life came from rock climbing in silo somewhere in central Illinois. I have never climbed any actual mountains or wildlife. But I admire people who make it a very powerful part of their lives. Climbing mountains, big and small, seems like a lot of fun and it takes a certain kind of person to be able to do that all time. "Everest" is a movie about those types of people, and how they chose to survive when Mother Nature decided to pull a fast one of them.

"Everest" tells the story of a real 1996 disaster that claimed the lives of eight people. Two separate expeditions went up to tackle Mount Everest that year, and a violent snowstorm came in just as the some of the climbers reached the top of the mountain. The snowstorm was so terrible, it completely destroyed the trail back down the mountain, leaving the expeditions stranded and no way for an easy or appropriate rescue. One of the bodies of the climbers who passed away in the affair is still there today. Its a harrowing story about survival, and that is exactly what you get, a harrowing story. This story is brought to life by a wonderful cast that includes Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, Robin Wright, Keira Knightley, Emily Watson, Sam Worthington, John Hawkes, and Martin Henderson. 

One thing I think people will appreciate is that the science of climbing and surviving on the highest peak in the world plays a big part in the movie. This doesn't feel like dumbed down Hollywood movie just to grab lots of cash. This is a carefully researched and equally carefully drawn out thriller. Yes, once the storm hits, things get pretty tense, but the movie takes its time setting things up. I would not really call "Everest" a slow burn, but I like that it takes time setting up the characters. I like that it gives the audience a chance to care about them before plunging them into the cold abyss. So few movies do that anymore, and it feels like a breath of fresh air when a movie remembers that its story is driven by its characters. The more the audience cares about them, the better.

There is great acting all around, but the two performances that stick out the most are Jason Clarke and Josh Brolin. I think Clarke has been gearing up to become a superstar for quite sometime now, and you may think he's already there. He delivers another fine performance here, creating a character we can all relate to. He is perfectly matched with Josh Brolin, who is always reliable. The two actors have a near perfect dynamic and they drive the movie well together. I don't want that to sound like a buddy movie, because it isn't. Every piece of this film's ensemble is perfectly selected. You could pick any actor on the list and I could tell you with open honesty that they deliver. There is nothing like a group of talented people laying it down for their audience.

The actors are in a good looking movie. This is a movie where Everest is the backdrop, so the setting had to be stunning, and believe me it is. The cinematography is absolutely masterful, some of the very best I have seen all year. If you like movies for the pretty pictures in the background, then definitely go and find the best screen you can to see this on. I have no clue how authentic the sets are, but they certainly fooled me, and that is an achievement all to itself. 

While I personally appreciate the care it took to bring this to life, some of you may not like a movie that is more on the talky side. Even though I liked all the character development, there were a couple parts of the movie I think were a little lagging in some areas, and could have possibly been made more appropriately. No matter, so much is right here that's its hard to feel too let down. See this at the best theater you can find. You won't regret it.

FINAL GRADE: B+

TV REVIEW: "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." (Season 3, Episode 1)

TV REVIEW

AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.

SEASON 3, EPISODE 1- "LAWS OF NATURE"
I love September for many reasons, and one of them is the return of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." The show has begun its third season tonight, and you can expect full coverage of the entire season here on this blog. The show takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it shares continuity with the Disney Marvel movies, so that is why I like to cover the show here. Here is a recap of tonights episode.

The first scene that opened the first episode of this third season begins with ruin. Something is ripping up downtown Seattle, and much like the beginning of the series, we find a seemingly normal man running scared. This man is Joey (Juan Pablo Raba), and Joey has taken a few too many fish oil vitamins, and he has unleashed his inhuman powers. If you remember from the ending of the second season back in May, S.H.I.E.L.D. stopped the evil Inhuman siege, but the terrigan crystals (the elements that unleash the powers in all Inhumans) fell into the water, unleashing the terrigan mists into the ecosystem. That effected the creation of the fish oil and Joey is just one of the ever increasing group of people who are discovering they are Inhuman. Every time Joey touches medal, it pretty much self-destructs and he is accidentally causing lots of havoc in the city. This is met with an armed government response, one that does not mind using lethal force. The killing of Joey is thwarted by S.H.I.E.L.D., in particular Daisy (Chloe Bennett) and Mack (Henry Simmons). They take Joey to a safe house and break the news that he is part-alien.

This already feels like its going to be an entirely different style of season compared to the previous two seasons. Yes, it seems like it will still be pretty spy heavy, which I love. But this is going to feel different. The show has slowly and surely been working in its more comic book elements, and I think its starting to payoff in a big way. It doesn't feel forced, because we are now used to this world, and we have now become very immersed in the Marvel world. I like the idea of S.H.I.E.L.D. trying to find the Inhumans and help them develop and control their powers. I also like that the government response isn't HYDRA, but a team put together by the President. It seems our government is getting tired of all the recent superhuman activity going on at home and abroad, and since much of the world still sees S.H.I.E.L.D. as a threat, a new government response is put into affect to protect the world from the Inhumans. It looks like the show is already planting seeds that will be a precursor to "Captain America: Civil War" and that's really exciting. Overall, I really dig the science fiction fun going on in this first episode, but the spy fun has remained intact.

I liked the subplot of Fritz (Iain De Caestecker) who is traveling the world for something. You may also remember that the big rock under S.H.I.E.L.D. oversight swallowed Jemma (Elizabeth Henstridge) whole at the end of the season finale. Fritz is traveling the world to find an artifact that will hopefully open the rock and get Jemma out. Its eating Fritz from the inside that Jemma disappeared and its some of the very best acting Caestecker has done so far. Fritz and Jemma have been the heart and soul of this team, and I like that they have been given something to do.

I also liked seeing Lincoln again (Luke Mitchell), who Daisy met at the Inhuman haven last season. Even though he's not really apart of the team yet, its clear he will be. But his brief scene allows us to meet Lash (Matt Willig), a huge monster of a Inhuman, and it seems he will be one of the big bad's this season. He's hunting other Inhumans for a mysterious purpose as of now, but he's put a thorn in the side of Lincoln, S.H.I.E.L.D. and the new governmental team created by the President. We are told that the terrigan mists not only got spread into the ecosystem, but also could have effected the life under the sea. It definitely looks like Lash is some kind of fish guy, and it will be cool to learn more about him.

So far, I like this new direction the show is taking. I am instantly pulled back into this world after a long hiatus and I am eager to see what's next. What did everyone else think?

Monday, September 28, 2015

TV REVIEW: Minority Report (Episode 2, Season 1)

TV REVIEW

MINORITY REPORT

EPISODE 2, SEASON 1: "Mr. Nice Guy"
Last week, I discussed the pilot of "Minority Report," the new show based off of the 2002 movie of the same name. I called it a standard cop show with scientific fun, and that's pretty much what the second episode showcased as well. This looks to be just another cop show, a cop show with a psychic. The psychic and the detective get together, the psychic sees visions, the detective studies them and finds the perp, and they both save the day. It looks like "Minority Report" will be another "Freak of the Week" type of show, and I don't know if that is good or bad yet. 

One thing that did make me happy was Daniel London showing up in this show again. If he becomes a series regular, then I will be excited. He was a great in the movie and I like his little scenes in the show. I wish he was less comic relief and more of a character like he was in the movie, but hopefully they can flesh out and even out his character a bit more in the upcoming weeks. I also liked that this episode did not make several nods to the movie. Because I thought that was way too gimmicky and silly. I hope the show does not revert back to that at all.

I think there are a couple threads that could make the show prosper, and they are threads that could make "Minority Report" much more different compared to the regular "Freak of the Week" show. Something that includes the Precog Agatha. Something involving Agatha and Dash revolving his new detective friend. I don't know what it is or what it could possibly be. But it looks like its going to be the big mystery of the first season. I hope this leads to something worthwhile, instead of something that just lasts until it gets old. So far, "Minority Report" is still just another cop show, now lets see if they can take the "just" out of that sentence.

What did everyone else think?

The Visit Review

The Visit Review
When I saw "The Sixth Sense" for the first time, I was up all night not being able to sleep. When I saw "Unbreakable" for the first time, I revered in the awesome it created. When I saw "Signs" for the first time, I was with my older brother and our family friend for a midnight movie and "Signs" was everything I was hoping for. By that time, M. Night Shyamalan was being hailed as the next Steven Spielberg, and at that moment in time, I would have believed it. I saw "The Village" with the same family friend, and we were definitely let down by it, but when you see a filmmaker make three amazing movies right in a row, you get a certain high that is unquenchable and its easy to overreact when they step off their game. I don't think "The Village" is the worst thing I've ever seen anymore, there is some good stuff in it, but Shyamalan's weaknesses showed through in a big way with that movie, and at the time, I hoped it was going to be a misstep in an otherwise sensational career. But then he got worse, and worse and worse and worse to the point that he has become a self-parody. I have read that "The Visit" is suppose to recreate our faith in Shyamalan.

Its a pretty simple story and Shyamalan funded and shot the movie itself. It revolves around two siblings (Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould) are sent by their mom to see their grandparents, even though their mother has had a rocky relationship with them for some years. The oldest sibling has decided to record the entire trip in order to get answers to why there is a wedge in her family. Their grandparents (Peter McRobbie and Deanna Dunagan) are welcoming and warm, but there is definitely something off about them. That off feeling gets worse and worse as the week progresses and it leads to a profound revelation.

Yep. M. Night Shyamalan has gone back to his twist ending with "The Visit," the thing that kind of became a trademark through his first four movies. Though, while so many people are calling the ending of "The Visit" as a twist ending, this is not a twist. It is an explanation to what is going on so that the movie itself holds up. Also, by Shyamalan standards, its a pretty low budget "twist," or what I call explanation. We know right off the bat that not all we see is what it seems, but when the big moment is finally revealed, you really can't think of another scenario that would have been more surprising or shocking. The way in which the scenario plays out is so quick and on-the-nose that I wondered why Shyamalan did it in the first place. But for fans of his older work, something of a curveball is thrown near the end.

Like I said above, the film was funded by Shyamalan himself. So I understand why he did found footage, because its cheaper than shooting with a studio camera. Here's the thing, Shyamalan doesn't improve upon any of the found footage cliches. His movie is not innovative enough, or scary enough to be found footage. Okay, let me back up a bit. There are a couple of effective boo scares in the movie, but overall there was not much scary footage or ideas in the movie. Shyamalan doesn't illuminate his movie to a higher standard with the device. Its just used because its a cheap tactic. In fact, "The Visit" would have been a much better movie if Shyamalan just decided to not do the found footage thing, and that is what is most disappointing.

I can say that Deanna Dunagan plays one creepy grandma. There is a scene in the middle of the movie when the kids hide a camera in the living room an when grandma goes downstairs to go crazy, its such a powerful scene. I usually don't scare with the boo scares, but this one was too good not to get a reaction from it. Dunagan really amps up the creepy in scene after scene after scene and there is much reason to look away, not wanting to look at the screen in order to save your dreams for the night. The performances all around are pretty solid and I think the cast does what they can. But this movie feels so much like every other found footage movie that merit just kind of bounces off of me, especially when Shyamalan's worst traits are alive and well here.

Shyamalan has proved that his writing skills are what killed most of his recent offerings, and "The Visit" is no different. There is a stupid trait with the boy in this movie about him wanting to be a rapper and the subplot goes nowhere and is a dead end from minute one. There is also a couple gross out parts in the movie that walk the tightrope of being funny. I have seen several horror-comedies and horror tends to tip in either direction at times. It seems to me that Shyamalan was trying to make a legitimate horror movie, but when he makes his movies unintentionally funny, well it comes off rather odd. Its too bad, because there are actually a couple good tense moments in this, but some odd writing choices really anchor the movie down.

I don't think Shyamalan will ever compare to Steven Spielberg, and while I think "The Visit" is better than "The Happening" or "Lady In The Water," but its a minor step up than a major. Its a movie that would have been much better as a regular movie than a found footage movie. I also think if Shyamalan committed to a tone, it would have been stronger overall. Will we ever see another masterpiece from this guy? I don't know, but telling from this latest entry, it seems he's still a long way off.

FINAL GRADE: C-

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Big Short trailer


I think there is still so much shrouded in mystery regarding the financial collapse. I watched a documentary a few years ago called "Inside Job" and I found quite fascinating how this thing fell into place. At the same time, I did feel bad that it did happen. I also think the documentary raised some questions while it also answered several of them.

"The Big Short" will be a movie that tackles this subject. It stars Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, Steve Carrell, and Ryan Gosling. Yep, you read that right. Now that is a cast of players right there. Put those four in anything, and it will be pretty awesome and them leading a movie about the financial crisis is something I am instantly interested in. The trailer itself also looks pretty good and this looks like something I am going to be wildly excited about.



Keith Richards: Under The Influence Review

Keith Richards: Under The Influence Review
I have been a Rolling Stones fan all of my life. One of the very best Saturdays of my entire life was when my family took me to Soldier Field in Chicago to see The Rolling Stones live. Oh my God, it was a wonderful concert and an equally wonderful evening. It was everything I was hoping to experience and so much more. They are a great band, and they will be part of my life forever. When we think of The Rolling Stones, we normally think Mick Jagger, we associate most with Mick Jagger. He is the face of the band, and while the rest of the band is quite popular, he does seem to get all of the glory. So I found it a little amazing when I sat down to watch a documentary about Keith Richards, and what inspired him, what influenced, what allowed him the tools to become the rock star he still is today.

We go on a mini-odyssey with Keith Richards. He plays music with individuals who influenced him. We sample and listen to the tunes, beats and songs that inspired him to play music. We pretty much take a noise dive into the psyche of Keith Richards. We get into the nitty gritty of what makes Keith Richards the person he is, and the chain of events that brought him to The Rolling Stones. When we watch the scenes of listening to Keith muse on the history of his life, we feel it. Like a wise storyteller letting out his best story ever. More than anything, this documentary felt like flying through someone's brain and finding out who they truly are.

That is what this documentary says best though. We are all destined to find who we truly are and what allowed Richards to find that information was through music. There is a moment in this movie when we listen to Tom Waits speak and he says "Rock music is like Houdini in reverse, we don't want to escape, we want to be let in" and the whole movie almost plays to that theme. There is almost a religious sensation these rock stars get, and Richards made sure we felt that sensation. It comes through loud and clear when he discusses his life and its sort of bracing.

A lot of the movie is relatively unexciting. Its just Keith Richards talking and playing music for an hour and a half. There is no clever tricks in editing, storytelling or filmmaking, but its really cool. It is also kind of informative. I did not know Richards was a multi-instrumentalist. I did not know he did so much work on his own. This was all new to me and I allowed myself to soak it all up. Not only did the movie feel like I went on a journey, but I learned something and you can't go wrong with that.

If you like classic rock. If you like music in general. If you want to see what its like to get into the head of a rock star, check this out on Netflix.

FINAL GRADE: B

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Boulevard Review

Boulevard Review
I miss Robin Williams very much. I find myself still reeling from his death, still wondering what these days would look like if he was still walking above ground. It was a massive heartbreak when I heard he died. When I realized there were a couple more movies to see featuring him, I have been eager to see them. There are still a couple more to see, and it seems these last few movies by Mr. Williams, I have noticed that even after such a long career, we were just seeing how deep his ranges went. "Boulevard" is a perfect example of that.

In "Boulevard," Robin Williams plays Nolan. Nolan is a successful banker, who has a loving wife. It seems Nolan has hit the jackpot, it seems he has the perfect life. But something about him seems sad, like there is something secretly eating away at him and he can't seem to figure it out. His father is in the hospital, but we can't tell if that is truly it. There is something that is unfulfilled about him, and we can't figure out what. We see Nolan driving down a road he's never been down before and he almost hits Leo (Roberto Aguire), Leo seems like a normal kid and Williams feels terrible about how everything happened, and he offers a ride for Leo. We then learn a powerful secret about Leo, and even though Nolan is married, he's mysteriously drawn to Leo. Nolan finds himself going to Leo to just hang out. That's all, yet he feels guilty not telling his wife about him, but he can't stop himself from visiting him every night.

"Boulevard" is a movie about discovering who you truly are. Its a movie about finding out that no matter how perfect your life is, if you are not who you truly aspire to be, you will never find happiness. Its also a movie where a man discovers just how far he is willing to go in order to find that happiness. This is not at all a role I would ever imagine Robin Williams playing, and he plays him well. Sure, Robin Williams has played good dramatic roles before, but this is absolutely nothing like anything he's done before. Its a role like this absolutely kills me Williams is not of this world anymore.

The rest of the cast is pretty solid. Aguire is a true discovery here. He has great chemistry with Williams, as they share about 80% of the films screen time with each other. He puts a very human signature on his role and he helps the audience buy into the presence. Bob Odenkirk shows up as Nolan's best friend and I liked him here. Odenkirk usually is pretty funny, but he does really good serious work here.

The movie itself is pretty pedestrian though. The entire movie hinges on this relationship between Nolan and Leo, and its pretty clear what Leo wants from this strange relationship. Its never really discussed what Nolan wants, but a twist within Nolan's wants and needs is kind of paved over quick. I wish it was more explored, and it didn't just happen. This was the pinnacle of the movie's story, and they pushed over it like it didn't matter. That kind of bothered me. But still, it was a movie that kept me guessing. Its always a fun experiment to watch a movie only by name, and overall this experiment paid off.

FINAL GRADE: B

Monday, September 21, 2015

TV REVIEW: MINORITY REPORT (EPISODE 1, SEASON 1)

TV REVIEW

MINORITY REPORT

EPISODE 1, SEASON 1- "PILOT"
I love "Minority Report," its such a great movie. That's right, I said it, "Minority Report" is a great movie. Of all the great movies that came out in the 2000's, somehow "Minority Report" gets swept under the rug and forgotten about. Funny, because I don't understand how some people remember "War of the Worlds" by Steven Spielberg, but not "Minority Report" by Steven Spielberg. I am always a sucker for a great crime mystery, and I am always a sucker for a good science fiction movie. Spielberg is a master of the latter, but the way he blended the former was absolutely captivating and instantly underrated. Its a movie I will enjoy forever and I feel no shame over it.

That doesn't necessarily mean I wanted a television series based on the movie. Especially a movie that takes place after the movie, but in the same timeline. I felt the movie ended as perfect as it could get, I still wish Spielberg didn't cut the final line Tom Cruise's voice-over had, which would have lead to some fun debate after leaving the theater, but that's okay. For what it was, it ended beautifully, how could a television show do that justice? How could they successfully continue a story that ended so well? Well, that notion at least had my attention. 

This show takes place years after the movie left off. The Precogs, three sibling psychics who helped the Washington D.C. stop murders before they happen, have been living in solitude for many years. Now, they all have stomped off the cabin, and they are doing their own things. The Precog we follow on the show is Dash (Stark Sands), who has basically become a costume-less superhero. Literally. He has returned to our nation's capital to stop murders once more, all by himself. This grabs the attention of Detective Lara Vega (Meagan Good), who recognizes who Dash is and hopes for his cooperation in finding murderers and stopping killings before they happen. 

So far, that seems to be all you need to know. I could be wrong, and perhaps I am, but that is all you need to know. "Minority Report" looks as if its going to be just another cop show, only this one is set in the future and features a psychic. But other than that, it looks like just another cop show. I know that's an awful lot to pin on a show based on one episode. But it had the same formula as other cop and detective shows. Once Vega and Dash hook up, the rest of the show is them solving a murder and stopping it before it happens, just like every other cop show. I hope the show plans to implement some things to make unlike other shows in the herd, but that may not be.

One thing that was instantly distracting was all the throwbacks to the movie, all crammed in the show's pilot. If you haven't seen "Minority Report" the movie, then I am sure you won't worry about what i am saying. But those of you who have seen it will be instantly distracted. There is so much "HEY REMEMBER THIS FROM THE MOVIE" and "HEY REMEMBER THAT FROM THE MOVIE??" that it instantly becomes annoying. The show also does that thing where you think you'll see another movie reference, but they tweak it a bit. In the movie, the police used mini, bug-like robots called Spiders. The Spiders read your eyes in order to confirm your identity. In the tv show, Vega uses a version of Spiders called "Lenses," instead of crawling, mini-robots, they are flying mini-robots. But they do the exact same thing, to the exact similar music. I find it distracting when a show or a something-or-another goes out of its way to force the audience to remember the source material. This show is overly guilty of it so far.

Does the show have potential? Well, kind of. They are setting up a subplot involving Dash's other siblings; Arthur (Nick Zano) and Agatha (Laura Regan). Aparently Dash helping this detective will eventually put all the Precogs into harm, this could be interesting. I hope it works out and turns into something cool. That little piece will keep me watching. I hope the show tries to add a little more to the show to separate itself from the other cop shows, because I don't know if putting an ordinary cop show into a science fiction setting is the right move. I liked seeing Daniel London, who played Wally in the movie, show up and I hope there is more to his presence than just a quick cameo. There are some pockets of potential here and there, and I hope that pans out. Right now, it feels like "Minority Report" is just another cop show.

What did everyone else think?

The 5 best Bill Murray Movies (Besides Ghostbusters)


Bill Murray quietly turned 65 today.

I really love Murray as a performer, he's easily the best onscreen clown of his generation. He is also somebody who nearly always reliable. Which makes picking his best movies for any type of list a chore. But, in order to celebrate this man's birth in style, I am going to crown his five best movies. Just in case you guys are planning a mini-Bill Murray fest. 

Now, there is one movie I am going to purposely leave off and that movie is "Ghostbusters." Not because I hate it, far from it. "Ghostbusters" is my second favorite movie of all-time, a movie that has been part of my life forever. If you've been following this blog, I have written hundreds and hundreds of words of my love of the flick. It would be a no-brainer to make it my number one pick. The thing is, Murray's career has been so rich, so full of life, that I purposefully wanted to include other movies. This is definitely my numbers 2-6 of favorite Bill Murray movies and "Ghostbusters" is my given that will be missing in the top spot. With no further ado, my favorite Bill Murray movies.

5. The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou
This list could be overloaded with Wes Anderson movies, but I think "Life Aquatic" is the movie where Murray was given so much to do. With that material he was more alive in this than any other Wes Anderson. Not only that, but I love all the colors, all the style and all the energy on display in this little gem. The film maybe offbeat humor, but Murray picks it up and runs with it, and with an impeccable cast with him, he surely shines.

4. Quick Change
This movie is barely talked about and rare to find, and I think that's a shame. I saw this movie on cable when I was really young. I remember clearly the opening scene of Bill Murray stepping into a bank, dressed as a clown. I hated clowns all my life, but something drew me obsessively to Murray's character. That was Murray's greatest achievement, he could get you to buy into any character he played, whether they were good or bad, and that was just one of the many greats in this little comedy.

3. Caddyshack
This maybe a movie that Murray only has a couple scenes in, but the scenes he's in are so good that you have to see them. Even though this is a movie flooded with great comedic performances, Bill Murray's battle with beavers sticks out in a very big way. I love every moment Murray is in and sometimes I will skip right to his scenes.

2. Scrooged
"A Christmas Carol" has been redone and redone and redone over the years. You can bet that it will be redone and redone and redone more in the future. Of all those interpretations of this classic story, I like Murray's movie the best. Not only is incredibly creative, but you can feel, literally feel, Murray's character and his complete transformation. He earns every emotion he creates in this movie, and I feel it every time I watch the movie. This is a Christmas movie I can't help but watch every year.

1. Groundhog Day
 I love this movie. While I think that "Scrooged" is an incredible performance, I think the character Murray plays here is just as great, if not better. Murray is a master in adapting into any background or style that he chooses to get himself in. He isn't just a goofball in every movie. In this, he's just an ordinary man who finds himself in an extraordinary situation. His performance feels very human and natural, even though the premise is a little crazy. Murray is good at getting the audience to buy into any situation he's in, and this was no different.

So there you have it, my favorite five Bill Murray movies, minus "Ghostbusters." What do you guys think?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Black Mass Review

Black Mass Review

I've kept tabs on the "Whitey" Bulger story ever since I saw "The Departed." That Scorsese movie had very little to do with Bulger, but Jack Nicholson's character, Frank Costello, was loosely based on Bulger. My "Departed" DVD features documentaries about the real "Whitey" Bulger, a Boston-based criminal who lead the Irish Mob to prominence in the state of Massachusetts. The secret weapon to Bulger's success was his secret alliance with the FBI, as Bulger became an official informant. The deal was Bulger gives the FBI information on the Italian Mafia in Boston, and Bulger is left alone. This lead Bulger to rule the Boston underworld for several decades, until the FBI tried to clean itself up, which lead Bulger to go on the run for sixteen or so years. During that sixteen year absence, "Whitey" Bulger was number two on the FBI's Most Wanted list, loosing the top spot to none other than Osama Bin Laden. Ironically in the same year that Navy Seals killed Bin Laden, Bulger was captured. 

Its a fascinating story, a great story for a movie and you can bet that "Black Mass" is fascinating. "Black Mass" almost feels like a time machine of a movie, because every detail, big and little, feels absolutely authentic. Its a story that is brought together by the very best cast of the year so far; Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Juno Temple, Kevin Bacon, Peter Sarsgaard, Corey Stoll, Adam Scott, Rory Cochrane, Jesse Clemons...like I said, an impeccably casted movie, whose participants throw themselves at their material. Anybody who is fan of gangster movies needs to find the best screen possible, sit back and enjoy.

The film begins with Kevin Weeks (Clemons) sitting at a interrogation table, with a recorder in the middle. He's being asked about Bulger, and he's willing to tell the whole, truthful story, just as long as its not on record that he is a rat. While a familiar motif in gangster movies, "Black Mass" is all about rats. No matter how much organized crime prides itself on loyalty, when facing a hefty prison sentence, these guys will say anything. It doesn't matter what group you look at, immunity talks and "Black Mass" embraces that as its theme. The movie is all about what we tell people and what we choose to hide and how that can make or break us as human beings. Much of the film is told through flashbacks, of Weeks, of Steven Flemmi (Cochrane), the right-hand man of Bulger (Depp) and of Martoano (W. Earl Brown) the reliable trigger man.

They tell the story of how James "Whitey" Bulger went from small time criminal to the biggest kingpin in Boston. Bulger used his relationship with lifelong friend John Connolly (Edgerton), who became a high-ranking FBI agent, and the movie details their alliance. Bulger also had the help of his younger brother Billy Bulger (Cumberbatch), who was the most powerful politician in the state at the time. Through Whitey's alliance with the FBI, he rose to power quickly. 

Johnny Depp has recently pegged himself as the goofy guy. That has always disappointed me because I think a truly magnificent actor is buried inside of him, an actor he only lets out to play every once in awhile. His obsessive need to be the goofball has lead to an ultimately underwhelming career, with beams of light showing here and there. Depp allows all of his greatest strengths come pouring out of him, and the result is one of the finest performances (if not, the finest) he's ever given. I know its early in the Oscar race, but Depp should at least get nominated for Best Actor and he's got all the potential to win it. The way he talks his different, the way he walks his different, his make-up and hair is all top-notch. Oh, and those teeth, that is the material of nightmares.

In fact, all the actors in this deliver incredible performances. If this is your first Benedict Cumberbatch movie, then it will surprise you to learn that he's British, but he will make you believe he's from Southie. I am now so excited to see him as Dr. Strange next winter! Joel Edgerton also gives a career-high performance as Connolly, a quasi- Henry Hill of the movie.  I have liked Edgerton nearly his whole career, but much like Depp, he's never been this alive onscreen before and it is awfully bracing. I think I could write an entire book on the merits delivered by Bacon, Cochrane, Clemons, Johnson, Temple, Stoll and especially Sarsgaard, but that could take all day. This was willfully picked cast and each actor brought their A-game.

As far as gangster movies go, "Black Mass" goes through a lot of the motions. There is a flashback voice-over here, a gruesome killing there, and some really gritty talk over there. As far gangster movies are concerned, "Black Mass" feels like another one in the herd, instead of something that stands separate. There isn't anything about this movie that particularly surprised me, and there isn't much that I would say shocked me. Don't get me wrong, the film is entertainment of the highest order, but if you have seen lots of movies in this particular genre, you'll see that there isn't much that separates "Black Mass" from other gangster movies.

Despite its familiarity, the performance by Depp is enough to buy this for home viewing. The look and grandeur of this movie is a marvel to look at and its always awesome to watch great actors throw down. I can only hope that this is Depp's future, because this is the Depp I really want to see, the Depp I think we all secretly want to see. I know I will watch this one many times in my future, just because its a such a fine example of great acting.

FINAL GRADE: B+

Friday, September 18, 2015

Cooties Review

Cooties Review
Just when you think you have seen it all, somebody comes along and throws a curve ball in a particular genre and completely changes things. I know that is not the first time I have said that, but especially in recent years, it seems several people are playing with the zombie genre and seeing what they can do to make it special. After all, there is only so much you can do with slow-moving (sometimes fast-moving) undead people who feast on live people. I never would have guessed that I would see a movie that resembles anything like "Warm Bodies," a movie I liked much more than I would have thought, but there it is, our first zombie love story. I think several artists are beginning to show just how much longevity this sub genre has, and with the right force, it can be wildly creative.

"Cooties" is a horror comedy about zombies. Yes, that sounds like a faint praise, but honestly its anything but. It takes the zombie story in a completely different direction than we are used to. It is also a movie that plays up its sense of humor. There is plenty of fun to be had with "Cooties" and there were several moments when I laughed out loud. So, what is the new direction? Well, the film opens with a horrifically brutal look at the way chicken nuggets are made. We see an unnamed farmer kill a chicken and get it ready for processing, then we witness the disgusting creation of chicken nuggets ready to be shipped to schools. The thing is, something is off about one particular nugget, its read and gooey, not even close to being appetizing. We see the small hand of a little girl pick this nugget up and eat it.

We then meet Clint (Elijah Wood), a substitute teacher at an elementary school. He's having a particularly hard first day of substitute teaching, and that's before all the young children become infected with a virus that forces them to eat people. Clint along with several other teachers barricade themselves in the school, while trying to formulate a plan of survival. I liked how the movie played up why kids can be so creepy in horror movies, and while the movie is a comedy, eerie child laughter is something that creeps me out, and there was several moments of that type of laughter throughout the movie. 

The acting is good across the board, and there are several good actors involved in this. Elijah Wood is good and has some great comedic timing. Rainn Wilson, who seems to have been missing from comedy for a couple years now, playing the tough-as-nails gym teacher. Wilson is superb in this, and I particularly loved the moment between Wilson and Wood where they talk about hobbits and orcs, I was in stitches. Allison Pill of "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" makes a good appearance here as does Jack McBrayer and Jorge Garcia. This is a funny group of actors, and they make this material better than it needed to be. 

As with most zombie stories, there is plenty of blood and guts. There are some wacky one-liners and even wackier situations. But what won me over was the utter confidence on display. This was something that was much better than it needed to be and vastly more fun than it needed to be. If this is the future of zombie movies ,then I will be completely on board and I love that something like this exists alongside something like "The Walking Dead." I would take something like this over the crappy found footage movies any day.

FINAL GRADE: B+

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Who Played It Best? Jed Eckert

Who Played It Best? Jed Eckert

The first "Red Dawn" was awfully scary when it came out. In 1984, the Cold War was in full swing and after several moments in history when the Cold War nearly went hot, an invasion of the United States really wasn't out of the realm of possibility. We made propaganda movies during the second World War and you better believe that we made propaganda movies during the Cold War. Something had to keep our spirits up while the battle for the world to become communist or democratic hung in a shaky balance. The best of them was "Red Dawn," which was as simple what if story. It said, what if Russia invaded us? It follows a small group of young Americans as they create a militia to fend off the communist invasion. A version of this movie was remade in 2012...wait, what? If the Cold War ended in 1991, how could the movie be remade? In 2012, the enemy wasn't the Warsaw Pact, but North Korea. In both movies, the militia is trained by a Jed Eckert, who was as soldier before become an American guerrilla. He was played by Patrick Swayze in 1984 and by Chris Hemsworth in 2012, so who played him best?

My Two Cents
This is a tough week, because both actors did a great job in the role. Hemsworth was one of the best parts of the remake, which is saying something because the remake was just kind of...meh. The original felt much more believable and urgent, because something like that could have actually happened at the time. I just can't see North Korea doing a full blown invasion on us and being successful at it, unless they had a tremendous amount of help. Still, I don't think they are in a place to invade us or any country for that matter, so the remake felt slightly unbelievable. That said, Hemsworth surely acted his ass off, and it paid off for him. Swayze on the other hand, did fantastic work as well. Both actors made you buy into the premise of the movie, they made themselves feel like they were war-born heroes, and both actors brought lots of weight and emotion to the roles. Its a tough decision this week, no doubt.

Agree? Disagree? Fire off in the comment section below. You can also email me (bloggershawn@gmail.com) your votes. You will have until next Wednesday to vote.

LAST WEEK: WHO PLAYED IT BEST? KAHN NOONIEN SINGH 
 Last time we revisited the realm of Star Trek, and we looked at one of their very best villains. The results are in and the best Kahn was...




Tuesday, September 15, 2015

No Escape Review

No Escape Review

I want to get something out of the way before I really dig deep into "No Escape." I think Owen Wilson is great actor, and he might have the most dimensions as a performer compared to most of the more comedic-oriented crowd he comes from. I think if the guy is ever given the right role, he could win an Oscar. If "No Escape," proves anything, its that Owen Wilson does the family man stuff superbly. If you liked Wilson in "Marley and Me" and thought he was a great dad in that, then you will absolutely love him here. I don't know much about Wilson's life outside of all acting, but he nails the family man stuff down time after time. He makes all the material shine in "No Escape," and he makes the movie seem believable, even in its most absurd of moments.

I should have read earlier that "No Escape" was going to be more akin to "Taken," because I would have skipped it completely. I could go the rest of my life without ever seeing another "Taken" movie, or any of the clones of it that Liam Neeson loves to star in. Imagine if a non-CIA version of Bryan Mills took his family to an unnamed country in Southeast Asia, and they moved in right smack dab in the middle of a political coup, that's "No Escape." Its another "Taken" drone in a long, overwhelming line of "Taken" drones. As far as action movies go, it makes all of the genre's biggest mistakes and never gets over any of its cliches. I have loved several action movies. I will go as far to say that I have loved several silly action movies, but "No Escape" is one of those movies so silly that it take me out of the movie. At no point do I believe that a big business, family man can all of sudden shoot like James Bond at the drop of a dime. I am sorry, but that type of shit is lazy to me.

Wilson is very good in it, Lake Bell who plays Wilson's wife is very good. I even like Sterling Jerlins and Claire Geare who play his daughters. They create a beautiful and believable family, and there are moments where they make the silliest parts of the movie sincere. But they can't coast. They are basically playing the typical dysfunctional family that brings itself together at just the right moment. There is also a lazy subplot about the parents not telling their youngest daughter about the day she was born, and you better believe that after the whole ordeal that was the movie ends, they resort to finally telling the story, complete with the world's cheesiest final line of a movie. There are lazy tension spots that you can predict from a mile away. Oh, and there is of course a brief, near rape scene just so we can feel bad for one of the female characters. Seriously, I think its requirement now in Hollywood that when something terrible has to happen to a woman, it has to be an "almost-rape" really, I don't get it.

Had the movie been about how a family and Hammond (Pierce Brosnan) escape a coup country, I might have liked it a little bit more. Yes, Brosnan is channeling Bond and the recent, sudden action men he's been playing recently, but he does it well, and he helps us buy into the premise. It would be much more believable if a family had to survive along side Hammond, one of those characters who sometimes appears in movies like this, a man who works as a shadowy government agent but never truly tells the audience exactly what they already know. Its much more believable than a family man, all of a sudden knowing how to shoot, but I guess that would have been a lot less commercial.

What bothered me most of all is that "No Escape" really embraces the "Taken" motif. Its another movie in the line of films that says all of the worlds hates us Americans and if we were to travel to any destination except in good old America, then we would be attacked, killed and our daughters would be thrown into the world of forced prostitution. I know not everybody loves us Americans, but that doesn't mean that LITERALLY, EVERY DESTINATION IN THE WORLD wants us all dead. That's a little extreme. If we are wondering why much of the world doesn't take us seriously anymore, whether they like us or not, well they might want to study the movies we are making right now. I am sure they get a good idea of what we think of the rest of the world.

So while "No Escape" features some outstanding performances by its ensemble, there isn't much else to recommend. "No Escape" is an action movie that embraces the wrong action cliches. Its a movie that is dopey, illogical and xenophobic. Here's to hoping that Hollywood quits recreating "Taken" because that ship has long passed.

FINAL GRADE: C-

The Jungle Book Trailer


I have to admit that I had been getting tired of all of these Disney classics turned live-action remakes. It just seemed like an excuse to make more money, and I thought it was treated as such. Not many of them have really tickled my fancy and some have even push misplaced politics into the movies where I feel it doesn't belong. I haven't been really looking forward to many of them, and every time I hear that Disney is going the live-action route with this, or Disney is going the live-action route with that, its enough to cause a migraine. 

But, I can say with honesty and pride that "The Jungle Book" is something I am very much looking forward too. 

I was already on board when the voices of Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyongo, Idris Elba and Christopher Walken were announced. I also liked that Jon Favreau was directing. Now that I have seen the first trailer, I am completely sold.



2016 is looking like a great year at the movies, I can't wait.

Monday, September 14, 2015

I Am Chris Farley Review

I Am Chris Farley Review

God, do I miss Chris Farley.

His comedies were always poorly reviewed, but I didn't care. There was something about him that always made me end up in tears of laughter. His style was outrageous, no doubt, but there was a genuine method to his madness that grabbed me and never let go. He was a behemoth of a performer, not just in size but in amount of laughs issued. It was a crying shame that he left us so early in what would have been a long-lasting and lengthy career.

"I Am Chris Farley" is a documentary from the people that knew him best. We get interviews with David Spade, Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, Molly Shannon, Tom Arnold, Dan Aykroyd, Christina Applegate, Jay Mohr, Jon Lovitz and several others. But most of all, the very best commentary in the whole documentary comes from his brothers, Kevin and John Farley. Its pretty clear that they helped mold the man Chris grew up to become. Living in the family he was raised in created a infrastructure that would define Chris' talents and styles for a long career to come. Chris Farley wasn't some kid who was abused and neglected, he came from a loving, supporting family and you can definitely feel the love as the brothers reminisce.

Some of Farley's biggest highlights are reflected in this movie. All of his best moments from Saturday Night Live, moments from "Black Sheep," and "Tommy Boy," moments from talk shows, they are all here. If you've never seen much of Farley's career, you will love the many highlights that this documentary possesses. You will definitely feel the nostalgia of what made Farley's career so good, and why it was so important in the realm of comedy.

So yes, "I Am Chris Farley" is a movie that celebrates the life of Chris Farley, his successes and his failures. Chris Farley's family and friends don't shy away from what killed him, and how they fought to rid Farley of his bad habits. This isn't a movie that jams any sort of political or social commentaries down your throat, rather it tells the story about a man from his family and friends, and it highlights why he mattered so much to so many nationwide and even worldwide. If you don't like the documentary style of career highlights mixed with discussion commentaries, you may find much of "I Am Chris Farley" boring. Since I have been a fan of Saturday Night Live for a long time and really dug what made Farley himself, I loved it. I am definitely the target audience here, and I soaked up everything everybody had to say. But it is a documentary on standard proportions.

But, it gives you a good insight on who Farley was, where he came from and how he became who he was before he died. He had a fine a journey, and after seeing this movie, there is plenty to be proud of.

FINAL GRADE: A

Incredibles 2 Update

Brad Bird made one helluva movie with "The Incredibles" and I am still exhilarated by that movie today. Out of all the movies that Pixar has created, I figured it would be the one that had a slue of sequels afterward. I was blown away that Pixar never made "The Incredibles 2" sooner, but I am glad that it is finally on its way. Brad Bird has been writing "The Incredibles 2" over the summer and it sounds like he's having a ball writing it. 

Here is what Brad Bird said about picking the right time to write and make a sequel to "The Incredibles"

In terms of the release date, we were originally—Incredibles was supposed to happen after Cars, and our wheels just happened to click a little earlier so they moved us up. Release dates are a little fluid when you’re making films so far in advance. Some films are tougher to come together and tough nuts to crack, and other ones comes together a little more quickly, and so I’m just going to work as fast as I can work well with a relatively small team because I like small teams better until you’ve got everything firmly figured out"

Here is Bird discussing how much the superhero playing field has changed in the realm of cinema and how he still plans to make his sequel different.

"But what’s changed is there were only two other superhero franchises at the time Incredibles came out. One of them was X-Men and the other was Spider-Man, and now there are 400 billion of them and there’s a new superhero movie every two weeks. What you don’t want to do is trot over the same turf in the same way everyone else is. So we’re trying to keep it focused in the area that our film was, which was a little bit more about characters and relationships and stuff like that, and see where that takes us. But we’re having a good time."

This all sounds very optimistic for me. I can't wait to see more about it. I can't wait for the first trailer, but we have ways to go yet. I hope it turns out well and Bird makes another winner!

SOURCE:
http://www.joblo.com/movie-news/brad-bird-gives-another-update-on-the-incredibles-2-script-290

Friday, September 11, 2015

Godzilla vs. King Kong coming?


There has been a "Skull Island" movie in the works since around 2014 or so, relaunching a new King Kong franchise. This "Skull Island" movie at first belonged to Legendary Pictures studio. Today, the movie moved to Warner Bros Studios, the same studio that brought you Godzilla. This obviously happened on purpose, as of now there is going to be a movie in the near future pitting the two iconic monsters against each other. There is no release date or story details yet, just a tight blueprint. We know this movie will come after the upcoming "Skull Island" movie as well as the upcoming sequel to the 2014 "Godzilla" movie. But soon, these two titans will clash onscreen once again at a theater near you.

I will be interested to see how this goes down. There have been rumors that the "Skull Island" movie will take place in the 1970's, so I guess King Kong will be a baby that grows up by the time this Godzilla vs. King Kong movie hits, as the new Godzilla took place in present day. The upcoming "Godzilla" sequel will feature a huge host of iconic monster villains that Godzilla has fought over the years. So it will definitely be interesting to see how things play out. I liked the 2014 "Godzilla" movie, it was hell of a lot better than that piece of crap that came in 1998, so now I am curious to see what happens next. 

What do you all think?

SOURCE:
http://deadline.com/2015/09/king-kong-godzilla-legendary-monster-movie-warner-bros-1201521004/

Z For Zachariah Review

Z For Zachariah Review

When we think movies pertaining to the end of the world, we immediately think of the blockbuster mentality. Perhaps we think of "Armageddon" and "Deep Impact" and how those two similar movies came out pretty much right after another. Perhaps you will think of Roland Emmerich and "Godzilla," "Independence Day," "2012" and "The Day After Tomorrow." Perhaps you will think of "The Hunger Games" or "The Maze Runner" or the fifty other novel-turned-movie-franchises that are currently making bank. The bottom line is the apocalypse seems to be a commercial seller, and there are rarely any movies in this small little subgenre that can be considered small.

When I sat down to watch "Z For Zachariah," I had no idea it was based off of a novel of the same name. I have never heard of the novel, and so I definitely have never read it. I have no idea how close it comes to being a true adaptation of the source material, if at all. All I have is the movie to judge, and from the movie, "Z For Zachariah" is small yet strong chest of wonders. There are only three actors present in the entire movie, and their performances speak volumes about humanity, courage, and survival. The movie is short and sweet, it gets right down to the point. But by the end, you feel like you have had a lifetime's worth of experience and revelation, which is what I loved most about it.

The movie follows Ann (Margaret Robbie) who has been living in solitude after some form of radiation destroyed life on the planet. She has been living alone in a healthy valley for an undisclosed amount of time, and she's been getting by. All of that changes the day a man in a massive radioactive suit barrels through the valley, thinking he has found his own personal utopia. The man's name is John Loomis (Chiwetel Ejiofor), and he goes for a swim in a creek. Ann promptly stops him as the water flows from outside the valley and is still radioactive. Much of the first half of the movie deals with Ann helping Loomis recover from nearly dying of the poison. There is a bond that slowly begins to form between the two, so much so that they very much care for each other.

That connection is threatened by the arrival of Caleb (Chris Pine), another survivor who stumbles into the valley. Caleb and Ann begin to hit it off quicker and seemingly better than she did with Loomis and you can bet that Loomis sees the instant connection. A big theme of the movie is jealousy and if any of you have ever gone through some sort of love triangle or some jealous facade, you will definitely relate to this portion of the movie. There have been times when I was growing up that I was overwhelmingly jealous about something, and parts of this movie sent flashbacks to that rotting feeling inside you when you really want something to go your way, but your best efforts don't add up. Caleb is a magnificent character recognizing the want and need in both Ann and Loomis and twisting those wants and needs whenever he can get a chance. Its a great role for Chris Pine and he displays some of his finest work in his entire career. This may sound like a perfect role for Pine, but I can assure you that he approaches this character in a way you would never expect.

The real standout in this movie is Margaret Robbie. Yes, this is the same girl from "The Wolf of Wall Street." Yes, this is the same girl who will play Harley Quinn next year in "Suicide Squad." So far, I have enjoyed Robbie's work, but at first she kind of came off like a billion other actresses. From this point on, Robbie has come into her own. She instantly becomes a master of a Southern American accent, but she treats Ann like a real person, not just some character on the page. We feel every passing minute in the shoes of Ann, which is a powerful duty of any actor, and Robbie makes it all look so easy. She bounces off of Pine and Ejiofor with a genuine amount of ease, and the result is three actors delivering every minute of every frame.

There is no big finish at the end of "Z For Zachariah." There is no CGI fest. There is no major battle with radioactive mutants or aliens or anything of the sort. But that doesn't mean nothing of merit occurs. "Z For Zachariah" is rich with character and the final ten minutes of the movie will definitely give you something to talk about after the credits start to roll. Already I am wondering if the ending meant one thing or something totally different, and its something I didn't expect from this type of movie. "Z For Zachariah" maybe different than your average apocalypse movie, but the story is told in a bold and beautiful manner. Mix that with the cinematography by Tim Orr and the score by Heather McIntosh and you've got a breathtaking tale of the end of times.

FINAL GRADE: A

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Krampus Trailer

When we think of Christmas and holiday movies, we never think of something scary. In fact, November 1st is usually when the scary stuff stops and heartwarming, wholesome holiday stuff starts overflowing every store and every commercial lot across this great nation. Why be scared when we already were scared for an entire month? The time between November and January is for love, care, tenderness, friendship and everything that makes us all feel warm and fuzzy inside. This year, that is going to be altered a bit. A movie about the legend of Krampus, a anti-Santa Claus spirit if you will, shall hit theaters this holiday season. Judging from the trailer it looks like a total blast!

Watching the trailer, I am getting a big "Gremlins" vibe, and I absolutely love it! Although the first "Gremlins" was a summer movie in 1984, it could have easily been a Christmas movie since it takes place on that holiday. It looks like "Krampus" will be a blend of horror and comedy. While I usually warn against that type of mash-up, this looks too good to pass up. It has a cast that includes Adam Scott, Toni Collette and David Koechner, a cast you can't really go wrong with. But I am digging the style of this movie.



This sincerely looks like I will be laughing in between scares, and I can't wait to set my eyes on it!

Sinister 2 Review

Sinister 2 Review
"Sinister" was a horror movie I liked very much. It didn't feel like any other horror movie I had seen in awhile. That should say something since it was a movie that featured several familiar tropes in horror films; evil children, blood, jump scares, a nice thriller, creepy tapes..."Sinister" featured it all and made it all feel fresh and original. The movie felt dangerous from the opening frame and it only heated up after that, and it has been a movie I am glad I saw. 

I was optimistic about a sequel. I liked that Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill returned to write the script. I think Bughuul has a supreme chance to become a Chucky or a Freddy Krueger or a Jason Voorhees for a new generation and I welcome more movies with open arms. For the most part, I think "Sinister 2" is pretty good. Not great, but pretty good. I don't think it gets under your skin like the first one did. I don't think it has the genuine tension and disturbing imagery of the first movie either. Much like "Poltergeist," but to a much better outcome, I think "Sinister 2" is another horror movie that uses too much make-up and too much special effects, which I think reduces the scares the movie was trying so hard to pull off.

The sequel opens just like the first one did, as we watch a gruesome death of a family happen in front of us. In the first movie, we watched a family get hanged, in this movie we watch a family get burned alive on a set of crosses. But something feels off. In the first movie, it was a great way to open the movie. The opening scene in the first movie was shot on an old-school Super 8 camera, and everything about the scene felt slow and authentic, which made the scene so much more scarier. In the sequel, there too much use of high definition that it chokes the scares right out of the scene. The hooks weren't in like they were the first time, so that was a bit disappointing.

We meet Courtney (Shannyn Sossamon) a single mother who retreats to a rural farmhouse with her twin sons Dylan and Zach to get away from her abusive ex-husband. Dylan can't sleep because he is having vivid nightmares and he is constantly being woken by a group of ghost children who force him to watch Super 8 videos of families dying, and thus starts the chain of events that lead this family in an encounter with Bughuul, the creepy entity from the first movie.

I liked Sossamon and she does effective work here as the mother. I like Robert Daniel Sloan as Dylan and Dartanian Sloan as Zach Collins. The entire cast does fine work here, its just that everything that is happening around them doesn't add up like the first one did. I wouldn't call "Sinister 2" a horrible movie or really even a bad movie, its just a movie that lacked some forward momentum. The ghost children don't work. That is a cliche I am beginning to recognize that I don't like as a horror fan. Ghost children or devil children or whatever evil children who show up in movies and have personalities don't work for me. I don't find them scary, I find them annoying, just like I didn't find this particular lot scary, just annoying. Sure, there were children in the first movie and children are a big part of why this franchise has been effective. But giving ghostly children personalities doesn't work for me, and I was sat through all of "Sinister 2" unflinching.

Like I said above, there is just too much high definition to really make feel scary. This sequel lost the authentic feel, the idea that you were really witnessing real murders and possibly real supernatural encounters. "Sinister 2" is just too sleek and too slick to be scary, disturbing or intense. This surprises me because most of the same team that was behind the first movie were behind this one. So why wasn't this one scary? Was it the new director? Did the team run out of ideas or run out of gas? Will this franchise not have the legs that Freddy or Chucky have? If so, too bad, because I thought for sure "Sinister" was going to start making a name for itself.

But hey, it still could. I am not going to even try to argue that all the "Nightmare on Elm Street" movies are good, or the "Chucky" movies or the "Jason" movies. All long franchises fluctuate with merit and I am sure "Sinister" is no different. Story-wise, I felt the sequel was still pretty interesting and I generally cared about the characters. I just wish the movie worked better as a horror movie, since that is what it is being billed as.

FINAL GRADE: B-

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Who Will Sing the Song For "Spectre"

The James Bond film series is defined by many things. Whether its the Vodkan martinis, the Aston Martins, the women or the gadgets. James Bond has several connections one could to make back to the series in some form. Another one of those connections are the music. The Bond franchise is unique in the way it blends a catchy tune with an eye-popping, awesome opening credit scenes. Seriously, as far as opening credits scenes go, they don't get better than Bond. So any year featuring a new James Bond movie on the horizon, one always asks. Who will sing the new James Bond tune.

Well the answer has been given for this years "Spectre" and an artist has already recorded his tune for the movie. That artist is none other than Sam Smith.

The song is called "Writing's on the Wall"

"It's the quickest I've ever written a song - it took 20 minutes... and they loved it!"
"I love the song so much," he added."
This is what Sam had to say about his experience working on the song. You can see more in this video below:

Me? Well, I am definitely curious to hear this song. I think Adele gets a lot of bad mouth for her song in 2012's "Skyfall." I am honestly baffled by that. I think she deserved all the praise and hype she got from that song. At first, I thought it was dumb getting Adele to do a Bond song, then I actually heard the song and was transported by the song completely. I will be interested to see how Sam Smith fairs and can't wait to hear the song he's created. But so far, as the Daniel Craig movies go, my favorite song is still "You Know My Name" by Chris Cornell.
"Spectre" will hit theaters this November.
SOURCE:
http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-34176304

Aloha Review

Aloha Review
Cameron Crowe has made so very good movies. I loved "Almost Famous" and I firmly believe that everyone should see that once before they die. "Jerry McGuire" is screen gold, and features one of the best overall Tom Cruise performances. "Vanilla Sky" was a great mind-bender in a year rich with mind-benders and also features one of the best overall Tom Cruse performances. I also have to say with pride that "We Bought A Zoo" may just be one of the biggest surprises of the last five years. So make no mistake when I saw that Crow is no slouch. The guy has been pushing great product for many years now. 

But like many great artists, sometimes something gets away from him. "Aloha" is something that got away from him. Don't let the bright cast of Bradley Cooper, Rachel McAdams, Emma Stone, Alec Baldwin, Bill Murray, Danny McBride or John Krasinski fool you. There is nothing special about this movie. "Aloha" is a movie that goes way out of its way to be cute and sentimental. It earns none of the big emotional beats it tries to display. Plus, as a story, its completely confused by what its supposed to be about.

First of all, "Aloha" completely wastes its location. I have never been to Hawaii before, but I know several people who have. I can believe the hype of beauty that location generates, but the location is completely wasted in this movie. The location is just a clever backdrop for an otherwise ordinary movie. This movie could have taken place anywhere in the world, they are just trying to draw you in with an exotic location, so please don't be fooled. There is nothing in the movie that really ties into the location. Yes, the movie tries, but it fails miserably.

Second of all, "Aloha" really makes no sense. We get Bradley Cooper plays a disgraced military contractor. He is trying to sell something that will benefit the military, a billionaire and the commonwealth of Hawaii. We get that Emma Stone plays a guide hired to keep an eye on Cooper. We also get a subplot about Cooper running into an old flame in the form of Rachel McAdams. There is this big deal near the end of the movie that ties into Cooper and McAdams' past, but it feels like too little too late and doesn't correlate with the rest of the movie. For about twenty or so minutes, "Aloha" feels like a completely different movie. And for what purpose? To merely shoehorn in McAdams subplot? To give McAdams something to do? As well as Krasinski who plays McAdams new husband? To give the "characters" more depth? What is the point of any of this?

Third of all, somebody needs to re-watch "Superbad," "Easy A," and "The Help" and absorb what makes Stone so wonderful in the first place. There seems to be a norm forming that if filmmakers just cast Emma Stone, everything will be okay, acting as if it doesn't matter if she's playing a character or not. Does Hollywood really not think the regular moviegoer won't be able to see through that? Recently, Emma Stone is nothing but empty charm. If I don't believe in someone's character, all the charm in the world won't get me to buy into the character. Somebody needs to inform filmmakers that Stone can't coast on charm alone. I know she tries to make everything she does in this movie work, but it doesn't work because she has no character to play.

As for the rest of the cast, they are in the same boat as Stone, they have absolutely nobody to play. I have never been bored by Bill Murray in my life, and now I can cross that off my bucket list. Krasinski is dull simply because his character is so dumb. Cooper does what he can to make this count, but he ends up slipping in the end. Alec Baldwin appears, gets angry in a couple scenes and then departs. McBride plays an actual nearly-normal person, and he ends up wooden as a tree. I have seen big casts fail onscreen before, but this one moment stung particularly hard.

I'd call "Aloha" one of the worst films of the year. The only thing is, I have a feeling that I will forget by the end of the week. I may even forget about it by the time I go to sleep. If I forget about it too much, I may not remember it by the time I go to make that list at the end of the year. I don't know if that makes worse or better in any form or not.


FINAL GRADE: D-