Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Spiderman: Homecoming set photos

So something big happened when I saw "Captain America: Civil War" last month, I saw a Spiderman that was perfect. Tom Holland completely encompassed Peter Parker and Spiderman and did in a time span of maybe a half hour. That is a mesmerizing accomplishment. For the first time in what seems like years, I am absolutely rabid for a Spiderman movie.

I am very much looking forward to "Spiderman: Homecoming." I have fallen in love with Holland as the title character. I can't wait to see how Robert Downey Jr's interacts more with the little web-head. I like the cast they have assembled, which includes Michael Keaton, Donald Glover, Logan Marshall-Green, Bokeem Woodbine, Marisa Tomei, Tony Revolori, Kenneth Choi, Hannibal Burgess, Abraham Attah, Martin Starr, and Michael Mando. That is a wonderful cast, and I am curious to see who these actors end up playing.

There were some set photos that flooded the internet. Here are some of them below:










I can't even imagine what is going on in this set photo. But if I had to guess, Spiderman is late for school, so he jumped onto a truck? Time shall surely tell.

These are not even close to being all of the set photos, you can find the rest and more here:

http://www.looper.com/17116/exclusive-spider-man-homecoming-set-photos/

The Fate of Mace Windu

Who remembers seeing "Revenge of Sith?" It was a pretty big movie back in 2005.

I knew going in that only a handful of people would survive the movie, knowing full well what is in store with episdoes four, five and six. I also didn't expect many Jedi to walk out of the movie alive, except Yoda and Obi-Won. That meant, as much as I loved Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu, I figured he'd bite it by the end of the movie. That prediction was right on. I did appreciate that he was given a dramatic exit for a character who was pretty important throughout the prequel trilogy of "Star Wars."

The only person, seemingly, who was frustrated by the death of Mace Windu is Samuel L. Jackson himself. I honestly did not know this about him, but he never once believed that Mace was truly dead and that he somehow survived his encounter with Darth Sidious and Darth Vader. He recently brought up the prospect of Mace Windu being alive. The catch is that recently, George Lucas himself said that's okay.

"I am okay with that, you can be alive" so said George Lucas, at least according to a conversation Lucas had with Samuel L. Jackson. This came from Jackson during a recent interview, not Lucas himself. I really doubt that Samuel L. Jackson is the type of person who lie just to generate buzz. I mean, the guy stars in about six movies a year, its not like he NEEDS the publicity. But yeah, according to Samuel L. Jackson, George Lucas gave the blessing of Mace Windu being alive somewhere in the "Star Wars" universe. The continuity is so wacky these days. Several writers and artitsts created a massive expanded universe in the years after the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy, and it was all canon within itself. Then, on the dawn of the new trilogy (episodes VII, VIII and IX), George Lucas just confirmed that only the movies are canon, which gave those making these episodes creative freedom. But it destroyed all the hard work done with the expanded universe. I have no connection to the expanded universe at all, so it didn't both me that much. But I do know people who were enraged by it. And even though George Lucas said only the movies are canon, apparently all TV shows coming out are canon to the story as well (i.e. Star Wars: Rebels). So figuring out what is or is not canon is a little difficult now.

George Lucas isn't the driving force behind "Star Wars" anymore. Sure, he's a creative consultant but that's as far as his participation goes. So I guess Mace Windu in hiding somewhere isn't completely out of the question. I am also not sure Lucas has to give anybody blessings in order to use or not use a character. So perhaps Mace did survive his fall, he did survive his electrical shocks, and he's in hiding somewhere. Or maybe he took a break from Jedi peacekeeping altogether. Who knows. This isn't confirmation that we will see Mace in the next movie. Apparently, all this entails is that if Disney really wanted to use the character, Lucas wouldn't have a problem.

Too farfetched? Does it seem cool? 

Fire away in the comments section!

SOURCE:
http://www.aintitcool.com/node/75576

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Finding Dory Review

Finding Dory Review
Sequels are a bitch. It don't matter which studio they hail from. 

While I have enjoyed a grand number of movies under the Pixar banner, I find their sequels to be lacking. This blows me away that the same studio who delivered "Toy Story," the best trilogy of all time, also gave us "Monster's University" and "Cars 2." There seems to be a lackluster quality to their sequels, and for a studio that has set the standard for American animation never seems to nail the sequel. I used to love the prospect of a "Incredibles 2," now I am not so sure.

With that said, I feel finding "Finding Dory" is a step in the right direction as far as Pixar sequels go. We are at the height of American animation and just looking up at "Finding Dory" feels like a childlike fever dream. The visuals will make you reminisce just how amazing it was to view this underwater world over ten years ago. The movie is quite charming, featuring laugh-out-loud moments as well as plenty of tearful moments. If Pixar can do anything right, they know how to tug on your heart-strings. The opening moments of Dory losing her parents for the first time and spending an unknown amount of time trying to find them is brutally sad. Some of the most heart-wrenching imagery Pixar has conjured so far. The studio loves to play with your emotions and it does so in equal measure.

But the thing is, did "Finding Dory" really need to be made? Did any type of sequel to "Finding Nemo" need to be made? Could Pixar really catching lightning in a bottle twice with a hide and seek premise? Do we really need to sit through Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) splitting from her new friends Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolance)? I hate sounding overly-critical and down on a animated movie, and speaking as just a general movie-goer, "Finding Dory" definitely delivers. But as somebody who has appreciated the entire catalog of Pixar films, "Finding Dory" just feels like going through the motions. What made the "Toy Story" films so unique was that each chapter set up a different scenario for the toys, and even though each lesson wound up being about how the toys needed to be there for Andy, the toys grew in a different ways, they matured, they learned something new. I don't think anybody can say that the "Toy Story" films tread water, but I think you can say that of "Finding Dory."

I think the cardinal sin that "Finding Dory" commits is that so much of the film takes place in a Marine Life Institute, not the ocean. The underwater world is part of what made "Finding Nemo" what it was. I feel like the studio was challenged by making "Finding Nemo," because we really never had a movie take place completely underwater in such a rich, detailed manner. The biggest drawing point to a "Finding Nemo" sequel is missing for roughly 87% of the movie. Part of the reason I wanted to see this movie so badly was to be engulfed in that underwater world once again, and I was wholeheartedly disappointing to learn I wasn't going to spend much time there. I feel I would be equally disappointed if Batman just didn't keep Gotham City safe for an entire movie.

Nothing can beat the delightful charm of DeGeneres, Brooks or Rolance though. They are faithfully supported by a host of wonderful actors. This includes Idris Elba, Ed O'Neill, Diane Keaton, Ty Burrell, Eugene Levy, Kaitlin Olsen, Bill Hader, Allison Jenney, Stephen Root and Sigourney Weaver. The film is something you should see in theaters, just so you can witness those beautiful animations on a big screen, its just what those animations represent that personally rubs me wrong. I wish we could have got another adventure completely underwater, and I wish these fish had a little more to do.

I think my expectations for Pixar sequels maybe a little more wavered moving forward. They can still dish out exceptional original content (see "Inside Out"), but for some reason, they never do much with their sequels. I figured the promise with "Toy Story" would lead somewhere, and so far it has not. Maybe Pixar should remain a "one and done" studio, because their stand-alone films are always breathtaking for several reasons. Or maybe they need to spend more time putting these sequels together. Whatever the case, "Finding Dory" is a family-pleaser, lovely to look at, but definitely Pixar-Light when it comes to comparing it to their other filmography.

FINAL GRADE: B

Monday, June 27, 2016

Lights Out Trailer

James Wan is a name that is slowly beginning to rise in the world of horror filmmaking. He happens to be somebody I get excited for. I loved "The Conjuring" as well as the sequel that followed it. Its nice to see somebody indulge in something that isn't found footage. Its nice to see tropes from the genre that helped define the genre itself.

"Lights Out" looks like it could possibly be a spooky good time.


The Fundamentals of Caring Review

The Fundamentals of Caring Review
The slice of life movie. It can be a tough cookie. Being able to tell an engaging story among non-linear or offbeat story-telling can be tricky. The biggest complaint I would have against this type of movie is how alike they all are. Especially when they revolve around some kind of road trip. Dysfunctional people go on a field trip, they discover new things about them or things they kept inside, then the film ends. I have seen so many of them that they mostly don't register to me anymore. They have to do something special just to hold my attention.

I didn't know what I'd think of "The Fundamentals of Caring." In storyline, it seems a little too close to "Me Before You." Instead of a woman falling in love with a man who was paralyzed, "The Fundamentals of Caring" is about a man caring for another man who is paralyzed. Ben (Paul Rudd) is a former writer who takes up a job as a caregiver after experiencing a horrible tragedy. The boy Ben takes care of is Trevor (Craig Roberts), has a really bad disease that affects one out of 3500 males and it could claim his life before he turns 30. When Ben first begins this job, he helps Trevor use the restroom and makes sure nothing happens to him. Ben notices that Trevor wants to travel to see some close-by tourist spots, but anything could happen to him on the road, which makes his mother (Jennifer Ehle) nervous. Ben plans an impromptu road trip so that Trevor can visit the places he wants to. Sure enough, they learn some new things about themselves that they didn't know before and it turns into an adventure.

I know what your thinking, seems like every other independent roadie movie you have seen. Well, I an say that "The Fundamentals of Caring" is a confident, bright movie. It doesn't exactly work the way you'd think it would, which makes the movie full of surprises. For starters, Trevor doesn't have the personality you'd think he would. When Ben and Trevor first start hanging out together, Trevor purposely acts like he is going to die just to prank Ben. I like that Trevor is an upbeat jokey character, it would have been too easy to just be an angsty young person who gave up. It also sets up a fun dynamic between Trevor and Ben. The movie is clever in the way it plays with expectations. 

What gives this movie a positive leg up is also the acting done by Paul Rudd and Craig Roberts. They make a heartwarming, good team. Because the movie goes out of its way to give both of these men actual characters to play, instead of mere types, "The Fundamentals of Caring" ascends farther than expected. Rudd has played unsuspecting fellows like Ben before, but he always brings a unique charm to his roles, as if they are different from each other and he doesn't disappoint here. Craig Roberts comes off like a God onscreen, completely confident in the character he is playing.

Now, some of you may say, "is that Selena Gomez?" Yes, its Selena Gomez. She's in the movie. She plays a hitchhiker that Ben and Trevor decide to help because Trevor has a crush. I've been no fan of Gomez for anything. She's one of those actresses that has killed entire experiences for me simply for being in the cast. How is she here? Fine, I guess. I do feel any girl her age could have played the character she plays. I don't think she brings anything particularly exciting to the role. The best thing I can say about her is that she doesn't derail the picture by any means, which is a miracle.

While the movie does play with expectations, its only in a matter of degrees. There is still so much to this that feels like standard operating procedure that I couldn't love it completely. The lessons learned from all characters involved you could predict a mile away. But the movie does such a good job making you smile and even making you laugh. Its hard not to like it. 

FINAL GRADE: B+

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Independence Day: Resurgence Review

Independence Day: Resurgence Review
Of all my memories I have over the course of my life, one of my most cherished is going to see "Independence Day" in theaters. It was a movie that seemingly chemically rewired me. On Saturday mornings, I did not watch cartoons, I watched "Independence Day." I had every toy, I had every action figure, I had every piece of memorabilia I could get my little hands on. I used to stay up all night, hoping for a sequel that never came. Five years passed, and then ten years passed and I figured the sequel would never come. After fifteen years passed, I had not thought about a sequel in a long time.

Now, a sequel to "Independence Day" is finally here, and my biggest curiosity was going to be "is this sequel twenty years too late?" Yes, "Independence Day" was one of the biggest movies of 1996, even of the 1990's. Does that mean we revive the franchise twenty years later? Even though I was very young in 1996, I remember seeing "Independence Day" in a pact theater. Tonight, I bet less than half was filled for "Independence Day: Resurgence." 

Why did I like the first film so much? Well, for starters, I was and continue to be fascinated by aliens. So a big, crazy alien invasion movie was super-cool to me at the time. I liked that the film was slow burn, I liked that we didn't catch a glimpse of the aliens until deep into the movie. Even though it was a silly and adventurous movie, I liked there was a small authenticity to it. I liked the action and the characters and how the movie really got you to care about all of it. Up to that point, we never really saw an invasion movie on that scale. Seeing flying saucers the size of entire cities had never been done before, and how the aliens destroyed the cities was big fun.

Everything that made "Independence Day" special and memorable is completely missing in "Independence Day: Resurgence." The movie feels almost like a student film, or like one of those fan films you find on YouTube only with an impressive budget. Everything about this sequel is so radically different that I am dumbfounded that the same team who made the first film are behind its sequel. Characters who we grew to love in the first film act radically different in the sequel, some come back, do absolutely nothing then vanish. We connect with new characters in the laziest of character tropes (one guy begins caring for a girl because he's attracted to her, another character is a rival with another character who he will have to work with in order to survive). The film bulldozes through itself, rushing anything resembling story-arc and character development. The effects look so fake that you'll prefer the puppet versions of the aliens. Worst yet, "Independence Day: Resurgence" is just plain boring.

In the first movie, aliens attacked us with city-sized spacecrafts. They had shields, mini-ships piloted by aliens, and the aliens themselves had psychic powers. "Resurgence" picks up twenty years later, the world has come together after surviving the alien attack, we have used the alien technology to enrich our military and lifestyles. But there was a ship left behind from 1996 that sent a stress call to their planet after David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) and Steven Hiller (Will Smith) destroyed their mothership. The aliens come back, with even bigger spacecrafts and even bigger weapons to destroy our planet once more. Levinson reunites the world, including former president James Whitmore (Bill Pullman) to battle the aliens once again. Its what you'd expect from a sequel, just a bigger version of the first film. What made "Independence Day" good was the story was simple, in "Resurgence," they introduce other aliens, more characters, new character story lines, new alien weapons and ways to destroy those weapons all in a much smaller time frame compared to the first film that it almost becomes overwhelming. The first movie may have been two and half hours, but at least got to know the characters and understood what they were doing, here its too much.

Director Roland Emmerich also decides to make up new qualities of the story that completely contradict things in the first film. There was a character in the first film named Dr. Okun played by Brett Spiner. It was pretty clear that his character died in the first film, but apparently we learn he's been in a twenty year coma and wakes up as the aliens arrive on Earth again. I've never been to medical school, but I figured with his eyes were dead and wide-open and he since he had no pulse he'd be dead. I guess I was wrong. James Whitmore also makes it clear that the aliens are like locusts, but evidently, they work as a hive and we meet the alien queen in this movie. I almost wanted Levinson to ask Whitmore "so how were the aliens like locusts" at some point in the movie. Why the contradiction?

Characters we liked in the first film barely register in this movie. One character shows up for not even five minutes, then dies. Another character just sits in a chair and waves for a minute. Pullman's Whitmore has a couple bad visions of aliens attacking, then gives another inspirational speech to rally the humans near the end of the movie, then he's done. Goldblum's Levinson doesn't come off nearly as smart or resourceful as he was in the first movie. Judd Hirsch, returning as Julius Levinson, is not given nearly as much to do as he should have. Dr. Okun is just a typical mad scientist we usually see in these movies. Sadly, the new characters aren't much better. Liam Hemsworth is playing a type. William Fichner is playing a type. So is Sela Ward, Charolette Gainsbourg and Patrick St. Esprit. Plus, these characters aren't nearly as heroic as they were in the first film. When people died in "Independence Day," the characters mourned. In "Resurgence," characters crack jokes about the aliens destroying landmarks and hoping the houses they want to buy are still standing when the war is over. Nice to know mass destruction and death is a joke to these people.

How are the special effects in this movie? They are painfully mediocre, I liked that the weapons still looked the same as they did in the first film, but the aliens themselves looked too fake as computer generated characters. Had this movie come out in 1998, I'd probably be a little more impressed by the chaos and carnage on display, but after twenty years of cities being destroyed in a variety of ways, seeing destruction is becoming less and less impressive. It seems special effects workers aren't challenged enough, because there are only so many ways one can destroy New York before its no longer interesting. In speaking of the sequel being made in 1998, "Resurgence" feels like a movie made in the 1990's. Nobody behaves or acts like they are living in the twenty-first century, and it gives the film an odd vibe.

I had a bad feeling this movie may not be good, but I did want to kind of like. But sadly, I didn't know that there would be no hope to love it. "Independence Day: Resurgence" fails as a sequel, and it even fails as dumb, summer entertainment. Its a movie that looks and feels twenty years too late. It whimsically forgets everything that made the first film great and sprints to the end of the film like The Flash. Telling from how big the audience was tonight, and after the returns for "Alice Through the Looking Glass," I hope Hollywood is getting the idea that they need to stop reviving things for no reason and stop making sequels nobody is asking for. There is a big set-up for a third film in this franchise, hopefully Emmerich can reevaluate his franchise and what he wants to do with it. I am not sure this film will make enough money to warrant a third outting.

FINAL GRADE: D-

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Doubleback Review: 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Doubleback Review: 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
Modern warfare is something we see quite a bit from Hollywood, especially in recent years. So much so, that we see one perhaps once a year. I am not saying we should ever have more or less of a genre, I like anything and everything. The one thing I hope for each year is that filmmakers challenge themselves and bring us something we haven't seen before. If not, then goddammit, tell us a good story.

That is the joy and curse of a modern warfare movie. So much of it is so much of the same that I wonder what we can get from it. I know that's almost sacrilegious to say, being an American. We are hardwired to love anything and everything being made about the United States military, and if one person even has the faintest of criticisms against them, then a million of people will jump down your throat, not caring about your message. Because, you know, those people died for your freedoms. I appreciate my country's military, I have family and friends who currently serve or who have served in the military. What I say about any military movie is about the movie, not the military. No movie is above criticism, no matter the subject matter.

I hope my dear readers can understand that, but "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi" is just a mediocre affair. It's well-acted, its beautifully shot, and there is sincere (yet familiar) story about bravery and goodwill. But being directed by Michael Bay, lots of Bay-isms bleed through in this production. It's an editing nightmare, its overly-long with several stretches that could have easily been taken out of the movie and once again, Bay is more invested in the mechanics of the hardware instead of the characters. The final stretch of the film is one ongoing action piece, and it feels like I am watching someone play "Call of Duty." The villains of the film are targets that seemingly pop out of nowhere, and are easily shot down. 

On Sept. 11, 2012, Islamic militants attack the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and Sean Smith, an officer for the Foreign Service. Stationed less than one mile away are members (James Badge Dale, John Krasinski, Max Martini) of the Annex Security Team, former soldiers assigned to protect operatives and diplomats in the city. As the assault rages on, the six men engage the combatants in a fierce firefight to save the lives of the remaining Americans. The men played by Dale, Krasinski and Martini are brave men, and they overcame impossible odds going behind enemy lines when they were told by the CIA to stand down. But so that is so similar to just about every war movie coming out these days that I feel I need more. I also need to feel emotionally invested in these characters. That is a harder to do when these former soldiers feel like every soldier we have ever met in a movie before. Yes, they have cute families and yes they are attuned to popular culture, couldn't we get a little more to identify with? The actors do what they can to make these characters count and they try to mold some realism in them, but this feels so much like going through the motions that I didn't care.

There is a scene early in the movie where Dale and Krasinski's characters are trying to get to their CIA base and are stopped by a makeshift toll road for inspection. Its unclear if these are good Libyans or bad Libyans, because there are plenty of both in this movie, but the American's don't like being stuck in a toll and so they threatened to bomb the toll and the workers families. Yes, I get it, they had guns in their face, but I feel getting the entire family involved would have been a PR nightmare at home, even for Fox News. Usually in these movies, American soldiers are actually quite noble, the men in this movie are a depressing lot.

There is a lot of boring stuff in this movie, material we really didn't need, before we get to the rescue mission. The fight to protect the rest of the American personnel is boring, disorienting and confusing. As I stated above, there are good Libyans and bad Libyans, and when the characters can't even figure out which is which, that's a problem for the audience. I don't look for exciting fight scenes in a war film, but I don't want to feel the intensity and feel the stakes of the movie. The last stretch of film feels so much like a video game that I don't know why I should care. With characters that already have paper-thin characterization, I don't feel close to anybody.

The great war films are great because they created stakes that make us care. They don't tell us that the men and women we are seeing are brave, they show us why they were brave. They flesh out their characters and make sure the audience cares about them. After so many fine examples made over the years, I figured making a movies in this genre would be easier, but Bay missed the boat almost completely. It a movie that tells us so much without showing it that its a rather infuriating experience. Sure, it looks pretty, but I need more than the pretty pictures, especially for a movie about our military.

FINAL GRADE: C-

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Justice League Tuesday!

Above is the official logo for the upcoming "Justice League" film coming in 2017.

So something interesting happened today. I have been reading all over the net today that several film bloggers and writers were privately invited in London this passed weekend to take a set visit of the upcoming "Justice League" movie. What's interesting about this is that many of these bloggers were people who didn't have very kind things to say about "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice" back in March. Look, you may have liked that movie, but the truth of the matter is it didn't do as well critically as Warner Brothers hoped, and while it made a gigantic amount of money, it probably could have broken the billion dollar mark had it been better. So why would a studio invite a bunch of BvS haters to a set visit for a movie that is essentially the next chapter in BvS' storyline?

It seems they were invited because Warner Brothers is trying to show people that they are trying to right their wrongs. That they are trying to get their back on the right track. If you read this set report from Aint It Cool News, you'll see that this story will be taking a brighter side for "Justice League." It already looks like the heroes of the DC universe won't be so dark and dour and we will get a more adventurous superhero movie. I am curious to see how Ben Affleck, Ezra Miller, J.K. Simmons, and Gal Gadot all clash together onscreen, but I just hope they don't overuse the humor. The problem with "Batman vs. Superman" wasn't really the tone, except for the tone of Superman. Its problems lied nearly everywhere else. I don't need DC to become a Marvel clone simply because of what the haters say. But this shows growth, it shows that a studio is trying to get up from the rubble of their last release and get their franchise back on track. 

Could this be why we aren't getting a "Justice League: Part Two?" Oh, most definitely. I knew many years ago that if "Batman vs. Superman" failed, that it would affect all the other movies in the Warner Brother slate. Had "Batman vs. Superman" been worse, Warner Brothers could have scrapped the entire DC Universe of movies they had planned. But now, we are not getting a Part Two to "Justice League." This is going to be one huge event. Which I think is a good thing, because after how the studio handled cliffhanger endings with "Batman vs. Superman," I am not sure I needed more of that in "Justice League."

Here is the official synopsis for "Justice League:"

"Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat. But despite the formation of this unprecedented league of heroes—Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash—it may already be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions."

What "awakening threat" are they talking about? Well, they are talking about Steppenwolf and his need to obtain the Mother Boxes. Whose Steppenwolf? Well, if you an internet dweller, you may have found a scene deleted from "Batman vs. Superman" where a horned monster disappears from Lex Luthor's tent where he makes Doomsday. That horned monster is Steppenwolf and he works for Darkseid, the big bad we will eventually meet in these movies. It sounds like Steppenwolf will be the big bad of the first "Justice League" movie, and he will have an army of "parademons" with him searching for the Mother Boxes. What are the Mother Boxes?

From what I gather, they are boxes of power that were given to human, Amazonians and Atlantians during ancient times, which give their users some kind of great powers. I am not as well versed in the DC comics as I am other comics, so I am not the person to ask. But when reading about them from what I could, I don't see a huge difference between them and say, The Infinity Stones. The Mother Boxes will essentially be the films' McGuffin, the big doodad that the League will be pursuing in order to stop the world from entering oblivion. Funny how so many of these superhero movies end up resembling each other.

I am curious to see how the film does with C-list supervillain as the main threat in the film. I am also curious to see if we do see Darkseid at all in the film. I am curious to see how these actors bring these characters together and if the humor will ultimately help or hurt the film. Since I left the theater back in March, I haven't thought much of "Batman vs. Superman," but I am willing to give the Ultimate Edition a try later next month. The longer, magical version of the film that apparently fixes all the problems of the original movie. We shall see if that happens. But if so much positive feedback coming from this set visit, its hard not to get excited for this again. I don't hate DC, I want all of these superhero movies to be good. I want Warner Brothers to get their shit together and get back on track. DC fans have been rabid for these characters onscreen for so long. I am hoping for the best out of all this. Then again, I am always cautious. Did Warner Brothers just tell a bunch of people exactly what they wanted to hear in order to get good press flowing for this movie? It could happen, so I am always cautious.

These set visit reports are actually interesting reads, definitely crack into them.

SOURCE:
http://www.comicbookresources.com/article/first-justice-league-film-plot-details-logo-revealed
http://uproxx.com/movies/justice-league-set-visit/
http://www.vulture.com/2016/06/zack-snyder-set-justice-league.html

Clown Review

Clown Review
Whether he's directing a movie or providing the money for one, Eli Roth has carved a nice career for himself in the horror genre. You may like him, you may not, but nothing can deny what he's been able to accomplish over the course of his career so far. "Clown" is a horror movie that has to do with a clown. Yes, a killer clown, but it doesn't work in a fashion that we recognize. Not necessarily. The film was released in Italy (of all places) in 2014, and finally made it to United States distribution this year thanks to Dimension Studios.

Andy Powers plays Kent, a loving father who is late to his son's birthday party after a long day at work. Not only that, but the clown him and his wife hired for their son's party is double-booked (who double books a clown?). Not wanting to ruin his son's birthday party, he finds an old clown outfit, puts it on, and saves his son's birthday party! His son clearly knows its his dad, but he gets to be a good father and save his party at the same time. He's had such a long day that Kent doesn't take off the clown suit before he falls asleep. When he wakes up the next day, he realizes he is still in his clown garb. 

When Kent tries to wash off his make-up, it doesn't wash off. When he tries to take off  his clown wig, it doesn't come off. He breaks knives and electrical cutters trying to get the suit off. He cuts open his nose trying to get the clown nose off. By Kent's astonishment, the suit nor the make-up is coming off. When he researches the house in which he found the suit (he's a Realtor), he meets Karlsson (the always perfect Peter Stormare) who breaks some bad news on Kent. The suit is possessed by a demon and the only way to get it off is for the demon controlling the suit to consume five kids or Kent must commit suicide by decapitation. Such wonderful choices, no?

"Clown" turns out to be two styles of horror movie wrapped in one. Much of the movie, to my amazement, is a body horror movie. It is very similar to Jeff Goldblum's "The Fly" movie that David Cronenberg in 1986. Every time we see Kent again, he's more disgusting looking, more gruesome, furthering himself from the loving father he once was. It's great acting on Any Powers part and the make-up design, handled by a 15-person department is beyond impressive. Had the movie kind of stayed in body horror mode, I probably would have liked the movie more. Because the conundrum we find Kent in is powerful and dark. At the last moment, the movie turns into just another slasher movie, as Kent starts hunting down children to eat. The hunting and eating of children could have been dreadful in its own right, but director Jon Watts decides to make it cartoonish and overly-gory that it feels thrilling and not scary. Nothing about the killing of children should ever feel thrilling.

My biggest problem with "Clown" is that its not very scary, and its actually kind of boring. We learn pretty early in the movie how Kent can make his problems go away. But there are so many scenes of his wife (Laura Allen) grappling with this problem, so many scenes of Kent trying to figure out his problem, so many scenes of family friends stating the obvious to Kent's wife that it all ends up being repetitive. Its not until the final five or so minutes of film that Kent's wife finally grows a brain and does what she should have done a half-hour ago. Like I said above, the movie is never really that scary. But boy, does it try. There is an unforgivable scene when Kent's wife is driving a family friend's child home and in a desperate effort to try and save Kent from the demon, offers the child to the demon-clown Kent has become. Its as jetblack bleak a scene as I have ever seen in a horror movie, but its so overly-acted and so quickly done that it doesn't matter. The film basically boils down to a bloody mess, which to me just isn't scary.

I have always been kind of blown away that for being a household name in the world of horror, I am ultimately underwhelmed by most things on Eli Roth's resume. "Clown" sadly ended up being no different, but "Clown" isn't really a bad movie, just a frustrating one. There are good scenes and some interesting concepts, but they lead us through a boring, bitter end.

FINAL GRADE: C

Sunday, June 19, 2016

RIP Anton Yelchin

RIP Anton Yelchin
When I had just finished my junior year of high school, a movie came in my mailbox from Netflix. That movie was called "Alpha Dog." The movie that told the true story of Jesse James Hollywood, a low-level drug dealer who kidnapped the younger brother of one of his buyers because they owed lots of money in drug debt. A brother who was eventually killed in captivity. The actor who portrayed the boy who gets kidnapped was played by Anton Yelchin, an actor who I had not heard of at the time. Yelchin stuck out in a big way for me while watching the movie. Which was impressive, considering the movie starred Bruce Willis, Sharon Stone, Emile Hirsch, Olivia Wilde, Amanda Seyfried, Harry Dean Stanton, Ben Foster and Justin Timberlake.

That wasn't the first film Anton Yelchin starred in, but it was the movie that got him on my radar and ever since I've been blown away by his talent. No matter if he was in a major blockbuster or something made with a micro-budget, Yelchin brought something special to all of his roles.

"Terminator: Salvation" was a movie I didn't really care for when I saw it, and I haven't thought much of it since. But one thing, the only thing, that stuck out of that movie was the work done by Anton Yelchin. He brought a certain life to a young Kyle Reese, and he was absolutely amazing to watch. Being one of the best talents of his generation, he easily showed up Sam Worthington in all of his scenes.

But even in the "Star Trek" movies, and "Like Crazy," and "Charlie Bartlett," and "Odd Thomas," and "Fright Night," and even "The Beaver," Anton Yelchin brought something special to all of his roles. He was truly one of the best talents of his time and age. Completely underrated in terms of recent work done. It is sad that freak car accident took his life today. If you only know him from "Star Trek," I urge you to seek out all of his movies, and enjoy this guy for everything he did.



Central Intelligence Review

Central Intelligence Review
The buddy comedy movie. It could be a genre all unto itself at this point. There is at least one made every year and almost always, they aren't very special. They have become the same thing every time, two unsuspecting men come together, not liking each other at first, but then saving the day from the bad guys, all the while making good jokes. Its a standard sub-genre, but every once in awhile, something special comes out of it. "Central Intelligence" is something special. I am shocked that I found myself enjoying this today.

I guess I shouldn't be that surprised. Both The Rock and Kevin Hart are charisma machines at this point. They bounce off of each other like they've been working with each other for years. In "Central Intelligence," we get the Rock as Robbie, who was a fat, misunderstood kid in high school who got picked on. The only person who ever came to his aide was Calvin (Hart), who was the most popular kid in high school. Twenty years later, Calvin isn't where he imagined himself. Sure, he married his high school sweetheart, (Danielle Nicolet). But he is just an ordinary accountant and doesn't really do much in his life and it kills him. Then on the eve of his twenty year high school reunion, Robbie gets in contact with Calvin after many years and the two catch up. But this isn't all for nothing, Robbie needs Calvin's accountant skills to stop secret codes from getting in the wrong hands, and Robbie's already been framed for it. Oh, almost forgot. Robbie is a fit and a dangerous CIA agent.

Its a standard set up for a buddy comedy, but as I suggested above, The Rock and Kevin Hart are ripe for material like this. They make it matter more than they should and the result is an enjoyable action comedy. It features some predictability at every corner. We know how this story will affect its characters. We know pretty much from the get-go who the real villain of the story is and who framed Robbie. But the movie is so much fun that we don't much care about the predictability. Plus, its such a good ride getting to the end that only a churl could find fault.

This isn't the typical Rock character we usually see in his movies. Yes, I know The Rock did lots of questionable material at the beginning of his career. But once he got out of that funk, he started being the tough guy I felt he needed to be. Even in the comedies he's in these days, he is still the tough guy with the one-liners. Not so much in "Central Intelligence" and at first, that scared me. The Rock's Robbie is a goofy, happy-go-lucky and socially inept character. Its not something I'd ever picture The Rock excelling at, but he actually makes the character work in a big way.

Kevin Hart plays the usual Kevin Hart character. He's easily agitated, he's unsure of himself, he's witty and when things get crazy, he immediately starts screaming. Hart has been perfecting his own craft for a few years now, and I think he does a good job. You may weep that Hart appears to be a one-trick pony, but his dramatic work here isn't bad. I believe in his relationship with his wife slowly turning estranged. I believe in his character being haunted by his former glory and wrestling with never getting out of high school. Hart finds the right details in his character, but he's still Kevin Hart all the way. But I don't mind, because he's very funny in this.

There are some fun action scenes that I think people will dig. I also think people will enjoy the cameos made by Aaron Paul (who gets a big laugh with his particular "bitch" moment.), Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy and Thomas Kreachmann. But most of all, I think you'll enjoy a buddy comedy that isn't like the others.

FINAL GRADE: B

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Conjuring 2 Review

The Conjuring 2 Review
When a great movie comes along that is ripe to become a franchise, its easy to get hasty about a sequel. Usually when a movie plays the sequel game, it usually ends up treading water or sucking so bad that you wish sequels had never been created. This especially happens in the horror genre, there are very limited horror franchises, and those that do exist usually run out of steam fast despite the number of movies they possess. Horror is a tough game to play, and it takes a special team to keep an ongoing story relevant.

"The Conjuring" franchise could be the answer to this, and it could very easily break the mold as far as horror franchises go. "The Conjuring 2" is a marvelous horror sequel, something we don't see too often in the genre. It tells a story full of chills and creeps, its brought to life by a fantastic duo, its different enough that it isn't the same thing as the first film, and for a horror film it is scary. If the franchise keeps pushing movies out that look as good as this, "The Conjuring" could be a worthwhile horror franchise. 

Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga return as Ed and Lorriane Warren, paranormal investigators who are looking into the Amittyville case at the beginning of the movie. Eventually, the church asks them to go to London and look into the child of Peggy Hodgson (Frances O'Connor), an overwhelmed single mother who has been noticing strange activity from her daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe). The Warrens must find out for the church if Janet is possessed by something evil or if it is a hoax. I think we know where this is going.

What makes "The Conjuring 2" work so well is that it is very scary. Its full of tension, boo-scares, and slow-burns that will plague your nerves for the entire running time. The make-up effects are very impressive and the spooky atmosphere that builds over the course of the film is almost unbearable. The work done by director James Wan is beyond impressive and he does a good job of making this film stand out as not just another sequel. Now, I will say this, I am not sure its as scary as the first film. But there is enough horrific good times in this movie that it certainly matches up well against its predecessor. 

But the film's secret weapon is the work done by Wilson and Farmiga. They are a tough team that makes their work believable. Something that could have been cheesy but ends up being the glue to the film is how their characters reflect the human side of this. I don't know how many of you believe in paranormal activity or not, but its clear the Warrens believed in what they were doing, and they believed that they put their lives on the line to help others. That is beautifully translated to the screen thanks to the work done by Wilson and Farmiga. We see their relationship as something real, not as something being acted out. They make us feel the stakes of the storyline and they make these characters identifiable. It is elegant acting for a horror movie, and I am glad they took the time to make it matter.

Oh, and the voice work by Robin Atkin Downes is terrifying.

If you were a fan of the first film, definitely give this second movie a shot. We maybe on the eve of the next great horror franchise.

FINAL GRADE: A

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Pete's Dragon Trailer



There is nothing I love more than when a film that wasn't on my radar sneaks up on me.

I didn't know anything about this at all up until today, but right now I think I am excited. Yeah, it looks like a warm-blooded version of "Free Willy," but I would be lying if I didn't say that this trailer certainly did the trick for me. Esepcially with such a strong cast including Bryce Dallas Howard, Wes Bentley, Robert Redford, Karl Urban and Isiah Whitlock Jr.

I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for this.

Cell Review

Cell Review
I have been a huge Stephen King fan all my life, I think I have probably said that about a dozen times since beginning this blog, but that doesn't make it less true. I love his work, although I am more a fan of his older work than I am a lot of his newer stuff. He just can't match up a story like he used to. With that said, I gave newer Stephen King a shot ten years ago when Cell came out. Cell was Stephen King's version of a zombie story, but with cell phones. Its amazingly eerie to think back reading that book in 2006, just on the eve of the cell phone craze and meditate on how relevant a movie adaptation would be today. So many of us have essentially become slaves to our cell phones that it wouldn't be surprising if they did kill us one day.

Cell, the novel, was a book that started off surprisingly awesome, then began to fall short as it went on. It was almost like Stephen King had a really good, really haunting, really strange story on his mind but it somehow got away from him, so he tacked on a frustrating ending. My experience with the book made me more curious about this film adaptation more than anything. Could a film crew right the book's wrongs? Could the movie be the grand metaphor King saw coming ten years earlier? I hoped for the best, and when I heard that John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson (I'll admit, I actually have a soft spot for "1408," another King adaptation both these actors starred in) were on board, I got a little bit giddy. But I took pause, I knew how long this film has been played around with and sometimes when a movie hits VOD, its usually not a good sign.

While I love "Stand By Me," "The Shawshank Redemption," "The Green Mile" and even "The Shining," I detest most Stephen King adaptations, whether they are on the silver screen or small screen. I am not sure how a writer with such a creative mind can't have his own work adapted properly. I think to myself, is Stephen King one of the greats whose work will never fit another medium? I am starting to think more and more that this revelation maybe true, because "Cell" the movie isn't very good.

I'll say this, "Cell" has got some good moments in it. There are some memorable parts of the book that are adapted beautifully. I think Cusack and Jackson make an outstanding team and they certainly came to play when they signed on for this. But much how I felt about the book, the movie "Cell" opens with all barrels blazing, then slows down to become a lazy and somewhat of a predictable affair. Plus, the ending they substituted for the book ending is such a huge cop-out that I almost couldn't believe what I saw once the credits rolled. The movie seems convinced that it must bulldoze through its running time to showcase the "greatest hits" from the book that anything resembling a movie goes out the window. Its too bad, because I think the opportunity to make something haunting, entertaining, and relevant to today was all here, but nothing was made out of it.

Cusack plays Clay Riddell, a graphic novel writer who finally got his big break with a publishing company in Boston. His estranged family lives in New Hampshire, and he really wants to go back to them and work things out. Too bad, because suddenly the world goes crazy. Somebody somewhere releases a pulse across all cell phone lines, which turns anybody using their cell phone into raging killer. They aren't dead per se, but they are like the infected from the "28 Days Later" movies, just with superpowers. The "phoners" as they are referred to, start to become a hive-mind and they turn healthy humans into "phoners" at will. The opening scene of the movie takes place in the airport, instead of the Boston downtown from the book, but much like the book, this is the best scene in the entire movie. It sets the stage perfectly for one crazy thrill ride of a movie.

Clay meets Tom (Jackson) and Alice (Isabelle Furhman), the threesome forms a bond that protects one another. But all Clay really wants is to head back to New Hampshire to make sure his family is okay, Tom and Alice agree to follow him. The rest of the movie feels like episodes of "The Walking Dead" stacked on top of each other. The trio goes to a place, bad things happen, they leave. Within the hour and a half running time, it never really feels like much is accomplished. Plus with such a short run-time, the book is never properly adapted. The King of the Internet wasn't a character in the book, but he's based off of The Raggedy Man, who was the book's Big Bad. The King of the Internet should have had a huge spotlight in this movie. But sadly, he appears a couple of times and then he's gone. Its a huge waste of a central character that could have been horrifying if developed correctly.

And again, there is the ending. I heard a month or so ago that Lionsgate planned to right the wrongs of the book. If the ending to the movie is any indicator, they failed big time. It is such a throwaway ending, such a plain and pedestrian ending that it killed the entire experience for me. While I wasn't crazy about the book's ending, its ambiguous end was rather ambitious. The ending to the movie only showed me what a waste of time the movie actually was.

I still hope for the day that we get a Stephen King horror adaptation that actually works, sadly it isn't "Cell." Yes, a few things about it work, but this could have been so much more that the thought of missed opportunity infuriates me. The filmmakers never understood the fun or the metaphor of what they were making, they just went through the motions for no apparent reason. They did absolutely nothing with this material except show me that this is just another horror movie, ripe with a lazy, horrid ending. I didn't know what to expect with adaptation, but I certainly expected this.

Sorry, Mr. King. But "It" and "The Dark Tower" are just around the corner. Personally though, I ain't holding my breath.

FINAL GRADE: D+

Monday, June 13, 2016

Moana Trailer

For many years, I never thought Disney would compare to its subsidiary Pixar. I thought Pixar created the better animated moments, told enriching stories, and blended it all with a big splash of fun. In recent years, Disney has been catching up with its subsidiary, as Pixar has begun to play the uneventful sequel game. I have really enjoyed Disney's "Wreck-It Ralph," "Big Hero 6," "Tangled," and yes I even loved "Frozen" the first time I saw it before it became a seemingly cultural phenomenon. If this years "Zootopia" is any indication, Disney has no plans of slowing down their winning streak. 

A teaser trailer for their upcoming film, "Moana" hit last night and it looks like tremendous fun. It seems to be some kind of Maori style story and I can't wait to see it unfold. It looks beautiful, it looks like it will be funny. Plus, any movie that casts The Rock to lend voice talent then has his character give the People's Eyebrow is something I feel I need to see!



Warcraft Review

Warcraft Review
I've never played a minute of "World of Warcraft," but I have had several friends who became wildly immersed in the game in middle school all throughout high school. The game was on a particular rage at the time, and I can remember not being able to go anywhere without hearing people talk about it. It was a phenomenon and I am not sure its going anywhere anytime soon. So when it comes to watching this movie, I have no biases or baggage. I don't know much about the game, having not played it. So I don't have any real connection to it. While I haven't read any reviews, I have heard that the critical response hasn't been very good.

My reaction to the film is somewhere in the middle. There is a lot to like about "Warcraft." Once again, ILM showcases just how abundantly awesome digital affects work is becoming. The digital work used to create orcs, floating cities and magic is all quite impressive. There is an incredible cast that includes Travis Fimmel, Dominic Cooper, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Clancy Brown, Tobey Kebbell, Ruth Negga, and Robert Kazinsky all of whom throw themselves at the screen. If you are a Warcraft fan and you missed this one last weekend, I'd say definitely go. I think you'll be taken aback by the dreamlike visuals and the creation of a beloved land that you've been waiting to see unfold for countless years.

I'd also argue that you see the movie, because clearly you are the target audience. Much like "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice" earlier this year, "Warcraft" is a movie that markets itself for everyone, but only made a movie for the small percent of a particular fandom. When it comes to making movies with a large mythology, I think its important to make create a simple story if you are going to introduce a massive mythology. I like how "Warcraft" slowly introduces things in this film, and they do a good job of creating a simple enough story. But eventually there is so much for audiences to juggle that the film feels overwhelming. Its strange how the film has a fairly easy-to-follow storyline, yet there are so many locations, so many details, so many characters and so many twists that it feels like the film looses itself. Fans of the game will already be in heaven as things start to unfold in the story line, but what most fandoms seemingly don't understand is that Hollywood doesn't make movies just for a fandom, they make them for everyone. If you alienate a good portion of your audience off the bat, you are automatically off to a bad start.

"Warcraft" also fails in structure as well, also much like "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice." "Warcraft" doesn't have an ending, its a story merely put on pause. There is no conclusion to any type of story here, the characters could have easily looked at the camera and said, "JOIN US NEXT TIME!" I am continually getting tired of seeing this in major franchise filmmaking, so much so that if it persists, I may stay away from blockbusters altogether. I am really being serious here. I can't stand it when movies skate by, not telling a complete story, expecting a sequel to explain everything later. I hate that franchise filmmaking has lent its hand to creating big television shows instead of actual movies. Because there is so much to juggle in this movie, I don't know if I care enough to follow these characters into another adventure. This movie did an uneven job of creating a foundation for a franchise, so why are they getting a free pass to make more movies? Maybe once Universal sees how this fumbled in American markets this passed weekend, they will rethink their plan, and how they make franchises in general. When "Star Wars" came out in 1977, there was no guarantee that there would be a sequel, so George Lucas told a complete story. "Lord of the Rings" may feel episodic, but that is intentionally by design. There are three books that make up "Lord of the Rings," Peter Jackson said he'd make three movies and three movies is what we got. I don't mind episodic storytelling in films, but each film needs to feel like a complete whole. I can't say this about "Warcraft."

What does work about the film? Well, the performances are great. I have loved Travis Fimmel from TV's "Vikings" and he doesn't disappoint here. I have also loved Paula Patton, Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga for awhile and they dish out good performances. Ben Foster deserves special recognition for his work in this. He plays a Guardian, a person who is really great at magic, and taken Foster's usual style, he positively soars as this Guardian. As his character takes its twists and turns, he keeps with it and continually does good work. Tobey Kebbell plays Durotan, the lead Orc in this film, who has a crisis of conscience and turns away from the other Orcs' evil plan. Kebbell has had motion capture digital experience before playing Koba in "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" and he fits very well into the rhythms of this character in "Warcraft." He makes his character believable. There are some kick-ass fights throughout the movie, fights that I feel I'll be looking up on YouTube for many months to come, to look forward to that.

"Warcraft" is an interesting movie to look at in general. It features a world not grounded in realism like say "Game of Thrones" or even "Lord of the Rings." The world of "Warcraft" is colorful, stylized and exaggerated. I think fans of the game will appreciate this approach, but those who have been shrouded in realism thanks to HBO may not like the massive, artful canvass "Warcraft" offers.

Duncan Jones has made two of my favorite science fiction movies in recent years, "Moon" in 2009, and "Source Code" in 2011. I was curious more than anything about him diving into such a big, high-fantasy blockbuster. I think some of the usual Jones nods are on display here. But there is a authentic, corporate feel to much of "Warcraft." I don't necessarily think "Warcraft" is a good or a bad movie, its merely a frustratingly uneven movie. At times it feels like art that has come to life, and there is much to it that is wonderfully ambitious. But its screenplay makes its characters appear wooden, the story has a sloppy structure and a trending Hollywood feel. This is at least, a step in the right direction in adapting video games to movies, but its also an example of how far we still need to go.

FINAL GRADE: C+     

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Me Before You Review

Me Before You Review

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!



Ever since I started this blog, I've tried to show just how open-minded I am when it comes to cinema. I like all genres and I give pretty much everything a fair chance. I take pride in leaving my baggage and biases at the door. Sometimes it is difficult, but I give everything a fair shot, I need to and I have to. There is no way to run a more successful blog about anything if you aren't going to go to everything with a clear mind and heart. Sure, there are genres I like more than most, and there are some genres I can't stand. 

I have never been much of a romance fan. I don't like it because its too lovey-dovey or because I would feel like less of a man if I liked romance movies. In fact, there are several good romance movies out there. I love films like "(500) Days of Summer," "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "10 Things I Hate About You," "Moulin Rouge!" and "Before Sunrise." I love romance movies that have a slither of realism in them, that aren't just the same Hallmark card after another. Sadly, I feel too many movies in this genre are all the same. They feel artificial, engineered as if there is so little to say in the genre, when there is plenty. Every romance movie just feels like a Nicholas Sparks novel these days, and in fact, I feel like they all are.

I didn't know what to except when my girlfriend and I sat down to view "Me Before You," but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. "Me Before You" definitely isn't a Nicholas Sparks type affair, despite what marketing may tell you. This is an elegant motion picture, filled with exquisite performances by a wonderful cast of characters. This isn't a romance movie that jams its themes down your throat, even though the movie feels like it could do that at any moment. Its actually kind of amazing how "Me Before You" plays with expectations, then completely burns those expectations to the ground. Funny, because in the end, burning down those expectations is what lead to my problems with the film.

Sam Clafin plays William Traynor a successful business seller and buyer who lives a lavish lifestyle in the UK. One fateful day, he is hit by a motorcyclist, which paralyzes him from the neck down. He is confined to a wheelchair, and can only move his thumbs, which barely work themselves. Meanwhile, we are also introduced to Louisa Clark (Emilia Clarke), he bubbly personality who recently loses her job. She works to support her poor family and needs to get another job fast. Thankfully, at a local career-center, she finds work as a caregiver for William Traynor. Traynor's parents hire Louisa. At first, Lousia and William can't really stand each other. But, as these movies go, they eventually get to know each other, like each other, teach each other a life lesson, and then eventually come to love each other. (Despite Louisa having a boyfriend played by Matthew "Neville Longbottom" Lewis).

Sound like the typical romance fair? On paper it sure does. But the way the film unfolds feels organic and authentic. It helps that the film is brought to life by two stunning leads. Clafin and Clarke do incredible work together. We believe in their relationship, they make it real. I loved Clafin in "The Hunger Games," and I figured he'd be great here. While there is a only a mere a hint of Finnick in his performance, this feels positively fresh. And how was I not going to like Emilia Clarke? I would bow before the Mother of Dragons any day. (Just read my review of "Terminator: Genesys") Its an cleverly written script for the most of the running time, and like I said it plays with expectations we usually have with these types of films. The entire cast is very good. Not only are Clafin and Clarke good, but the entire supporting cast is good. There are wonderful performances by Matthew Lewis, Janet McTeer, Jenna Coleman, Steve Peacock and Charles Dance. Oh yes, Tywin Lannister shows up in this, and if you've ever wondered how he'd interact with Khaleesei, well it wouldn't have looked like this but the thought did put a smile on my face.

The romance genre is prone to being tearjerkers, but "Me Before You" really starts having problems when you find out just how depressing an ending this movie is going to have. You see, William Traynor is bound to his wheelchair, he no longer works, he's in incredible pain, the woman he was in love with marries his best friend, he can't really do anything. He finds no need to really live anymore, but gives his family six more months of life. It is Louisa's duty to change Traynor's mind and the whole movie revolves around Louisa showing Traynor just how much of a life you can live despite having an unfortunate, unplanned disability. Its not enough though, and Traynor ends up dying in the end.

The movie keeps setting up the illusion that Traynor will change his mind, but no such luck. The big theme of the story is that you must live your life to the fullest, never hesitate to travel everywhere, laugh too hard, and be yourself. While that is a remarkable and positive outlook on life, it puts a downer on the whole thing as the film ends with Louisa traveling to Paris by herself once Traynor dies. Yes, I get it. Its a realistic approach, and I give massive credit for that. But I go to the movies to be entertained, and I don't find much entertainment in feeling like crap leaving the theater. And yes, if you were to go over my entire track record, I have liked some very sad, very dark movies. But even the "Hotel Rwanda's" and the "Room's" and the "No Country for Old Men's" and the "Boy In The Striped Pajama's" had a small beacon of light at the end of the dark tunnel. "Me Before You" is just sad.

But any romance movie that chooses realism over melodrama is good in my book. I think people will find more to like with "Me Before You" compared to your average romance film. It has a huge host of great actors who keep things lively. It just falls a little shy of greatness, sinking in the weight of its own expectation.

FINAL GRADE: B

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Jack Reacher 2 Stills

I was pretty surprised by "Jack Reacher," when it came out.

I don't exactly know why though, I love myself a good film noir with a hard boiled detective type character. "Jack Reacher" hit all the cool and awesome points it could possibly make and I enjoyed the hell out of it. Say what you will about his personal life, but Tom Cruise delivers as an actor. So I am definitely excited for a sequel. The film will be titled "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" and we got a couple photos from the film.

I have discovered that this film will be a much better adaptation of the books in which the character is based off of. So that should please fans.



Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows Review

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows Review
If you remember back in summer 2014, I was one of those weirdos who actually liked it. Its not a perfect film, its far from my favorite TMNT film overall. The flaws are quite simple. I never really bought Megan Fox as April O'Neill and I couldn't really stand that the turtles never really felt like a team. Though individual character moments worked, there was a fun energy to the whole movie. Also for a film produced by Michael Bay, I was impressed by how much the film embraced the original source material and nothing got sexed up in the final result, and no turtles had un-needed, obnoxious, potty-mouths. 

The first film was directed by Jonathon Liebesman, and while he made an admirable first effort, I very much prefer the work done by Dave Green. In this new movie, the turtles feel like a team, their personaltities are on an even finer display and the energy of the film is much better. Is this a flawless sequel? I am afraid not. There are still plenty of goof-ups I noticed throughout the film. But taken as a whole, I don't think I understand why critics can't connect with these movies. "Out of the Shadows" is another fun turtles movie. Its full of goofy humor, goofy interactions, big action and colorfully crazy bad guys. This feels much closer to the original 1990's movies and the cartoon on TV. I am not sure what people aren't getting from this. These movies are supposed to be big, weird, oddball tales...they are about teenage mutant ninja turtles!

When we pick up with our characters in this sequel, the teenage mutant ninja turtles are still keeping New York City safe, but they are still operating in secret. Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett) took the credit for ridding the city of the Shredder (Brian Tee). The turtles thwart a mission by the Foot Clan to break Shredder out of imprisonment while he is being moved between prisons. Instead, Shredder is transported to another dimension, where he meets the alien warlord Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett). Krang makes Shredder a deal, build a portal from his dimension to Earth using pieces Krang hid on Earth and he will kill the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Shredder accepts and is given an mutated ooze to help keep the turtles off of his tail. This eventually leads to the creation of the animal versions of Rocksteady and Bebop, two criminals who escaped imprisonment with Shredder. The turtles, with the help of April, Vern and a new friend Casey Jones (Stephen Amell), plan to stop Shredder from building the portal to Krang.

The action scenes are just as exciting as the first film, in fact, I'd argue that they are better. There is a more seamless quality to this film that I felt was missing from the first film. I think Green gets the dynamic of this group better than Liebesman did, there is stronger character development and bigger emotional payoffs. For example, when the turtles find out about the mutant ooze in Shredder's possession, they argue over whether or not they should use it to become human. That is a major theme throughout the entire film and I think it works overall. Whether its for story purposes or fun purposes, its just plain fun to watch these characters interact. I think the voice talent by Pete Ploszek, Alan Richton, Noel Fisher, and Jeremy Howard is very good.

I am a huge fan of "Arrow" on TV and I was curious to see how Stephen Amell would do as Casey Jones. It turns out he does a damn fine job. Casey Jones is nothing like Oliver Queen from that show, nor should he be. There is a spunk to each of Jones' step, he's a witty character, a fun character and he kicks all sorts of butt. I am sure kids will find a lot to like about this Casey Jones. Amell meshes with these characters easily, and does a good job of etching in the details. I also have to give a special shoutout to Tyler Perry, who plays mad scientist Baxter Stockman, a man who allies with Shredder and turns Rocksteady and Bebop into animals. When Perry isn't cross-dressing, he's actually a very charming and charismatic actor and I liked him in this.

The problems start with Megan Fox, I think she can demand a powerful presents at times, but she's still no April O'Neil. I think as a character, Fox still leans to highly on sex appeal, and that was never really April's character. While she's a little better than last time, she's still no April O'Neil. While I think Brad Garrett does good voice work for Krang, he's a little too goofy of a bad guy. Yes, I know this is a movie geared towards kids and I dig it. But when we initially meet Krang for the first time, he's way too much of a cartoon villain to be treated as a serious threat. Why Shredder would be intimidated enough to join forces with him is a little hard to believe.

But, these movies are getting better and better. I am hoping by a third movie, this franchise will be just right. 

FINAL GRADE: B

+teenage mutant ninja turtles

+megan fox

+stephen amell