Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Storks Review

Storks Review
I have been a fan of Warner Brothers Animation for awhile. I loved and adored "The LEGO Movie" when it came out in 2014. Such a wonderful little, movie that I still revisit from time to time. I have enjoyed all the direct-to-video DC movies that Warner Brothers have made, some more than others of course. But I have enjoyed them. Alas, I can't keep listing great movies from Warner Brothers Animation without mentioning "The Iron Giant." With so many great titles under their belt, its amazing to me that Warner Brothers doesn't have the same household respect that Pixar and Dreamworks have, but maybe that will change soon. 

If the WB wants that change, they got to keep making movies along the lines of "The LEGO Movie" and "The Iron Giant" and not so much movies like "Storks." Sounds harsh, doesn't it? I honestly didn't mean for it to sound so harsh. Because, by and large, "Storks" is a good movie. As far as great animation goes, its the Diet Coke of animation. Its a very slight and light affair, but it does deliver the goods when need be. This is a charming little movie. I was pretty surprised how much of the film worked and how much I was laughing through out.

The film focuses on a baby delivery group run by storks called Cornerstore. Storks used to deliver babies under Cornerstore for many years, until the company's CEO Hunter (Kelsey Grammar) decided that it would be more profitable to deliver packages. Delivering babies is now outlawed in the company. Meanwhile, The Garners (Ty Burrell and Jennifer Aniston) are a couple who choose career over developing a relationship with their son. In order to have somebody to take care of and pay attention to, the young boy Nate Garner (Anton Starkman) stumbles upon an old Cornerstone brochure and writes a letter asking for a baby brother. He sends it to Cornerstone.

Meanwhile, Hunter is about give Junior (Andy Samberg) a promotion, if he fires Tulip (Katie Crown). Tulip was the last baby created before they shut down the baby delivery department, and she grew up to be an employee of the company, just not a very good one. Despite wanting the promotion, Junior does not have the heart to fire her. In order to keep her hidden, Junior and Tulip decide to try and deliver a baby to the Garners in secret. This leads the pair on an adventure across the land and brings them into to contact with rival birds and a wolf pack.

It seems by those two paragraphs that the story is a little jumbled, but the movie does a good job explaining everything in a timely manner. Even though a movie with a plot so bloated may lose pieces of its audience. Although there was enough funny content to keep children and adults alike invested in the film. What struck with me is how the movie didn't really follow predictable norms, even though it lead you to believe it would. There are several moments in this film where you think you know where the film is headed, but "Storks" refuses to be another animal in the typical herd, and I applaud the film for that. Even though at the same time, the movie doesn't do anything different or original to help this film stand out in any significant way.

"Storks" is a pleasant surprise. But its definitely not the best animated film you've seen so far this year. Still, as the summer season is gone by, this might be a fun movie to take your children to.

FINAL GRADE: B

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Passengers Trailer



Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt are arguably two of the hottest stars out there right now. Jennifer Lawrence rose to become an it-girl pretty fast. But when you make a dent in your Academy Awards invitations year after year while juggling two massive blockbuster franchises for over half a decade, you definitely get noticed. Not to mention she won an Academy Award in 2013 for her work in "Silver Linings Playbook." And Chris Pratt? Well, I never used to believe in overnight success, but somehow it happened to Pratt in 2014. It happened with the one-two punch of "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "The Lego Movie" that made him a top name immediately. Even though he was a television success before. These two are destined for good things, and its going to be great fun seeing them work together.

What doesn't look like great fun is "Passengers," a science fiction film about a group of people who have abandoned earth and are in deep space sleep. But Lawrence and Pratt woke up early, and they can't go back to sleep. Why did they wake up early? Is there a purpose? What is that purpose?

We already know that Lawrence is a capable dramatic actress, so it looks as if this is going to be a test for Pratt. He seems a little out of his comfort zone here, but that can be a good thing. Let's see how he can handle this sort of role, I have faith in him.

What do you guys think of this?

TV REVIEW: AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. (SEASON FOUR, EPISODE TWO)

TV REVIEW

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

SEASON FOUR, EPISODE TWO- "MEET THE DIRECTOR"
At the beginning of this new season, we learned Phil Coulson is no longer director of S.H.I.E.L.D. We learned that the Sokovia Accords is in the process of legitimizing S.H.I.E.L.D. Since the world still believes that Phil Coulson is dead, a new director was appointed, because I guess The Avengers will never learn that Coulson is still alive. Anywho, Jason O'Mara is playing the new director. Jason O'Mara's character is only known as Jeff. But he is seems to be an understanding, capable director after one episode. Even though he's pretty much invulnerable and gives Melinda May a run for her money in a fight. Yes, its true, Jeff is an Inhuman. 

But let's back up a little bit. Why was Melinda May trying to fight the new director? Not because he's the new villain. Not based on this episode. In fact it would be very cliche if Jeff ended up being the Big Bad of this new season, so I hope very much that this won't happen. But last week, S.H.I.E.L.D. obtained a mysterious box. When Coulson, May and Mack tried to get Daisy back last week, the intercepted a box and May was touched by a ghost. Not Ghost Rider, a full fledged ghost. Now, whenever she looks in someone's eyes, she sees creepy faces. Its beginning to drive her mad and she is starting to believe everyone is an evil spirit. So Jeff had to knock her out, because she was beating up everybody, including Coulson. Jeff plans to help her, but his methods are, of course, classified. I already liked the character O'Mara is playing. But again, I warn not to make him the villain, that is a tired out cliche, lets see where this new storyline leads us involving Coulson being an agent again. Not just an agent, but a governmental tour guide. Ha, no joke.

The ghost that touched May is linked to the box the team recovered in Los Angeles. Soon the same ghost who touched May infiltrates the S.H.I.E.L.D. and unleashes other ghosts inside the box. Apparently these spirits are angry because "someone" put them there for years and now they need to find "the book" to free themselves again, or some such conundrum. The point is that I think we just figured out what season four's mystery will be. This season is going to have a connection to "Doctor Strange," due in theaters in November. It makes perfect sense since this show always connects the dots to the movies. There is a whole new corner of the Marvel universe that is going to get unleashed and that is something to look forward to. The ghosts were unsuccessful, because Ghost Rider appeared, after a fight with Daisy, and literally destroyed one of the ghosts. At the very end of the episode Ghost Rider admits to Daisy that he may be linked to the ghosts and the box. What does it all mean? We will find out as the series progresses. I can't recall anything from the comic books to link these ideas, so it will be interesting to see where this is headed.

One thing I also loved about tonight's episode, Ghost Rider is NOT an Inhuman. Thank God, because putting every new character in this show into a box would be a mistake. There is so much appeal to Ghost Rider that ignoring that to connect it to the show would be stupid and tedious. I am sure we will learn more about his origin as the show progresses, but for right now, job well done on doing the character right. The show went way out of its way to make sure we know Ghost Rider is not an Inhuman, so thank you Marvel.

It was evident from the first episode that this season was going to feel different, but just because it feels that way, does not mean that is how it will go. Especially when dealing with "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." Now I am truly starting to feel that this is going to be a different episode. The harder, bloodier parts of the finale were missing this time around, and I am wondering just how violent this season truly will be. Not saying that the show has to be bloody or violent to be good, but I wonder how hard this season will push the envelope. One thing is for sure, this is going to be one weird season.

What did everyone else think?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Final Luke Cage Trailer



Friday Can't get here soon enough.

Marvel has done such an exceptional job with the Marvel characters they have been given. I only hope that we can get more for the streaming service other than the four Defenders and The Punisher. This looks like its going to be another winner for Marvel and Netflix. Again, this looks like its going to be a different show compared to "Daredevil" and "Jessica Jones," which is also good.

Clint Barton For President?

I watched the Presidential debate tonight. I am pretty blown away that what we laid eyes on counts as a debate. Its doesn't help that I feel like I did not get anything out of that sorry excuse for a "debate." I can't believe that is what our campaigning has become. Belittle the other person to death and listen to two adults bark at each other, not really answering any questions we may have. Don't they know that a high percentage of people don't know who to vote for?

Last election, one thing article I came across as I was watching Barack Obama win his second term as President was which side of the political spectrum our superheroes landed on. If superheroes were real, who would they vote for? It was an amusing article. Seems fitting that around the first debate this time around, "Avengers" and "Avengers: Age of Ultron" director Joss Whedon gave his two cents on which Avenger he could see being President of the United States. His pick might just surprise you.

Joss Whedon has been busy recently, taking to Facebook for his "Save The Day" campaign he's launched. Whedon has been working with a slew of A-List stars to inspire people to vote in the upcoming election, particularly the younger generation. I think this is a wonderful initiative, and I sincerely hope he finds success in it. But anyway, he was busy with his new initiative over the weekend, answering questions on Facebook about voting when an interesting question found its way to him. Someone asked which Avenger Whedon thought should be President. This is what the Avengers director had to say about it.

"I’m probably going to have to go with Hawkeye. There’s a man who is grounded. He not only has family values, he has an actual family. He actually interacts with human people in a normal way. He has children he wants to protect. Every other Avenger? Let’s face it. They’re a little out there. A little bit disconnected from the real world."
Read more at http://www.hitfix.com/harpy/joss-whedon-makes-a-strong-argument-for-hawkeye-as-president#lhaZHECFBeCdAKVH.99"

I could see how Whedon would arrive at that answer. There are not too many superheroes in the history of comics who are just people with skills. Most superheroes have a superpower of some kind, which does disconnect them from the real world. Clint Barton isn't disconnected from the real world. He's a real person, with a real family. Perhaps that would give him a leg up in the debating scenes against the likes of Thor Odinson or Tony Stark.

Me?

I think Steve Rogers would be the best President, but that's just me.

SOURCE:
http://www.hitfix.com/harpy/joss-whedon-makes-a-strong-argument-for-hawkeye-as-president


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Power Ranger character posters

I just got done discussing nostalgia in my "Blair Witch" review. I think not only cinema, but pop culture in general can't seem to get rid of the nostalgia bug. It seems we don't allow anything original to breathe anymore and I really wonder how high of a demand for this stuff is. I grew up with Power Rangers, I was around when the first version of the show hit television sets. I loved it, I had every action figure, I had the zords, I had a tape with the music.  I talked Power Rangers to whomever would possibly listen.

Is there a market for this stuff? Will this movie do more than just scratch the nostalgia itch? Will it offer a genuine experience, or just be a retread for easy money? I hope it offers something more than we think.






Well, this certainly looks like Power Rangers, but in a world where nostalgia is king, I need more than just look. I want a good reason to revisit these titan properties from yesteryear, not just to fill cash in the pockets of studio executives.

Blair Witch Review

Blair Witch Review
Roger Ebert once said around the time "Star Wars: Episode One" came out something along the lines of "If you saw The Phantom Menace first, you'd probably think it was the best." We are always affected by what we see and most of all, when we see something. You may be blown away by something you saw recently, and you may not be a fan of something that came out a few years ago, but it may mean something to someone who lived through it. I am going to love to see how the next generation reacts to the Marvel movies, the new Star Wars movies, Ghostbusters, Star Trek and world-building movies. What will the movie landscape look like thirty years from now, and what will hold up that is coming out now?

Hollywood is obsessed with nostalgia right now, and we are constantly being bombarded by our favorite things from yesteryear. We are getting remakes we never thought we'd get, movies based off of comics, TV shows and even toys. It seemed like it was only a matter of time before we would get another movie in the "Blair Witch" franchise. I will never forget Fourth grade due to "The Blair Witch Project." Seems weird to think about right now, but "The Blair Witch Project" was revolutionary back in the day. I remember wanting to see it somehow, but there was not a single theater anywhere that would let underage children in. I had to wait for video, and it was certainly worth the wait when I saw it through an incognito manner (My source will go unnamed to protect and thank them.) The movie works for me because I saw it at the right time under the right circumstances. Before the found footage bubble burst, it was a glorious time and now everything "The Blair Witch Project" helped create is ruining the horror landscape.

So does that mean we make another "Blair Witch" movie? To create some kind of balance? I am not sure lightning can get caught in a bottle twice. I have seen "Blair Witch" the sequel to "The Blair Witch Project" and I have mixed feelings about it. There is some genuine creepiness created throughout the film. There are some images I will have trouble getting out of my mind as I climb into bed tonight. I think Adam Wingard is a highly affective horror director and its just not in him to make a sincerely bad movie. But with most found footage these days, "Blair Witch" really doesn't add up to much except a bunch of actors running and screaming at nothing. Sure, there is some more updated tech used in the movie, but in the world of Smart phones, it seems weird that group of people would get lost in the wilderness.

James Donahou (James Allen McClurre) is the brother of Heather Donahou, who was the victim of the first film. He decides he wants to venture into the woods to find answers on how his sister died. He is accompanied by Lisa (Callie Hernandez), Peter (Brandon Scott), Ashley (Corbin Reid), Lane (Wes Robinson) and Talia (Valia Curry). Of course, they see twigs shaped as people, get lost, can't find their way out and start hearing noises. It feels like a retread of the first film, except there is a huge been-there, done-that notion in the film. The film is too slick to generate the genuine unease the first film created. It does try very hard, but the old-school VHS muggy style of the first film helped the scares. Its tough to get super scared looking at High Definition images. The actors in this movie are your regular actors in these types of movies. They don't have to do much acting since they are just screaming at things we won't ever see ourselves.

The actors do try to make this count, and they do good work at times. Adam Wingard does everything to make this count. But this feels a little too close to the original, more like "Blair Witch Project" light. I will say this, hopefully Hollywood is starting to get the memo that nostalgia alone doesn't work, and that you need to have something to say before you merely just bring something back for the hell of it.

FINAL GRADE: B 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Weiner Review

Weiner Review
Familiar with Anthony Weiner? He was the prolific and colorful New York state congressman who got in trouble for sexting. It was big news for quite awhile and spurred up quite the whirlwind of controversy. In 2013, Weiner tried to make a comeback through all the backlash of his sexting scandal and tried to run for mayor of New York City that year. "Weiner" is a documentary about that campaign and how Weiner tried to stage his comeback. We see how he prepared, how he continued to fight for his candidacy despite everyone attacking his character. On the dark side, we also see how on his road to become the Big Apple's next mayor, he got caught up in yet another sexting scandal. We see people come forth and discuss their sexting lives with Weiner and we see how this begins to affect the world around him.

If "Weiner" was just a mere examination of a stern, outspoken congressman who got caught in several bad scandals, then it would have been sort of amazing onto itself. What makes "Weiner" so entertaining is Anthony Weiner himself. Right as the film starts, we see Weiner sitting on a stool, wearing a suit. He says something along the lines of "so your making a documentary about my scandals, huh?" He knew exactly what the documentarians would be tackling with their work, and he agreed to do it anyway. Weiner actually has an acute comedic timing, whether he is trying for it or not. Weiner is definitely one of those politicians who could have shown up on a late night show or Saturday Night Live and would have been surprisingly effective. Even though what Weiner did is despicable, its weird how the filmmakers are able to get us to kind of like and root for a guy who sent sexts to other women.

Whats equally amazing is how Weiner is persistent throughout the entire film. Like I said above, Weiner is cracking jokes at the beginning of this film, knowing full well he could get drilled in this documentary, but he agrees to make it anyway. When Weiner is on the campaign trail, people often ridicule and belittle him, but he continues to campaign and campaign and campaign. I may disagree with Weiner's morals, but I can understand the want to pick yourself up from something bad and keep fighting the good fight. I can understand the need to persevere after tragedy strikes our lives. I can understand wanting to look your mistakes in the eye and tell them that they will not define our lives. The New Yorkers he runs into say some pretty mean things, honest things, but mean things and Weiner just keeps on working towards his goals. In a weird way, Weiner represents what it means to be a true American, something I think most of us have forgotten already.

Its also interesting to get a look how something like this affects others, how working in the world of scandals and politics can take a toll on you. We meet Weiner's wife Huma Abedin. We see her belief in her husbands campaign and believes in his second chance. Then when she learns of a second scandal, how the mood of the entire movie changes is unfathomably shocking. These are emotions an actor can't fake, and its sometimes crazy seeing genuine life unfold in front of your eyes.

Believe it or not, "Weiner" is fascinating on a large number of ways.

FINAL GRADE: A

TV REVIEW: AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. (SEASON FOUR, EPSIODE ONE)

TV REVIEW

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

SEASON FOUR, EPISODE ONE- "THE GHOST"
This time last year, I took a look at the season premiere of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and I thought that the show has shifted. I thought that the show was turning a new lead and trying to break new ground. But then as the third season moved forward, it settled into the norms of the show. More Inhumans, more HYDRA, missed opportunities and unkept promises. Its no doubt that the show got a time slot move. I don't know how huge the ratings drop was for that show because I don't pay attention to that stuff. The third season overall was a disappointment and I am now hoping for big things with the fourth season of this show. There is still plenty of things they can do with this show, there is so much more to S.H.I.E.L.D. besides HYDRA and Inhumans, and I just hope that ABC can see that.

Its apparent that ABC does get that, its just to a huge extreme. I am a little blown away that Ghost Rider is the driving force of storytelling and marketing for this new season. Oh sure, Ghost Rider is an awesome character, just to my knowledge, the character was never connected to S.H.I.E.L.D. in any form. I was hoping badly that the character would appear in the MCU and that he would get his own series on Netflix, not get pushed in a different show, hoping to keep the show from falling apart. Its an odd move, but perhaps it could pay off in the end?

One thing is for sure, this new season is going to be a lot more rougher around the edges. Good. Because if they want Ghost Rider to work, the show can't fall on the same guidelines as ABC shows usually do. In the opening sequence of tonight's premiere, a person gets his face plastered with blood. Yeah, and the show was just getting started. This season is going to be more violent and more brutal. Not something we are used to seeing from this show. Will it work? I don't know. I don't think edgy Daisy Johnson is working for me, now going by Quake. She left S.H.I.E.L.D. at the end of last season after Lincoln died, becoming a vigilante onto herself. Coulson is trying to find her, but she doesn't want to be found. She is on her own completely now. The thing is, I still don't know if Chloe Bennett can sell it as an actress. Her overbearing eyeshadow just make her look "darker" is already annoying after one episode. I am hoping that it will work on a character level.

Things have changed for the team completely. The Sokovia Accords from "Captain America: Civil War" have legitimized S.H.I.E.L.D. and it is under an new director since everyone believes Coulson to be dead. Coulson's team have been split up in different divisions due to the events of last season. Coulson is trying to find Daisy, who is trying to destroy all the Watchdogs; the anti-Inhuman terrorist group from last season. This puts Daisy and Coulson on the trail of the Ghost Rider. Gabriel Luna plays Robbie Reyes, a man with the power to turn himself and just about anything else ablaze. He's after the Watchdogs for his own reasons. I have to say that I love that we actually got to see Robbie Reyes in full Ghost Rider transformation. The special effects work was actually kind of impressive, and it looks like we will get it for more than one episode. YES!

John Hannah's Holden Radcliffe returns this season and has been working on an android called AIDA. He showed AIDA to Fitz and Marvel fans are going to love what AIDA is going to lead to. Radcliffe is designing the early templates for Life Model Decoys, the android duplicates agents use so that they are not killed. I can't wait for the show to start incorporating Life Model Decoys!

With Radcliffe working on AIDA, Ghost Rider wreaking havoc, Daisy on the run, and Coulson under a new director, it seems like that this season is overloaded with content. I have never believed that more is necessarily better. You really need to be a talented writer in order to juggle multiple storylines over the course of a TV season, and make them flow together. Throw in a romance between Mack and Yo-Yo; seemingly the last Secret Warrior still tied to S.H.I.E.L.D. and you've got a season full of potential, but also a small percentage of failure. I hope by May, that these stories will come together with a satisfying conclusion. We are definitely going to get a grittier season, but for what purpose? Boost ratings? I hope its also coming from a storytelling standpoint, otherwise it just won't matter. Time will tell, and the agents are back!

Monday, September 19, 2016

31 Review

31 Review
Over the course of his movie-making career, Rob Zombie has made a gory astonishing name for himself. I think "House of 1000 Corpses" and "Devil's Rejects" have some good content in them, but the ultimately fail as horror movies. I thought his "Halloween" movies were completely forgettable, I saw each of them once and I have no desire to ever revisit them. I figured Zombie would always be a one-trick pony as a horror director. Then he made "Lords of Salem," an anomaly in his greater filmography, a movie that really distanced the rest of his style. From this point, I thought Zombie was really coming into his own as a mature filmmaker, and I thought he would be getting a style change.

Don't count on it now after "31," his new horror movie. Zombie has reverted back to his old ways. While "31" has some genuine style, wickedly funny situations, and plenty of blood and gore for the torture porn fans, its ultimately boring and unscary. Its both solemn and uneventful. Zombie's early work always had a stench that he was trying to hard as a writer and director, and once again that stench fills your nostrils as you watch "31." I was hoping with how experimental "Lords of Salem" was, Zombie was turning a new leave, but nope. Not anymore.

What makes the classic horror films scary isn't the blood or the gore. Movies like "The Exorcist," "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Shining" are so scary because the worlds they take place in are scary. You definitely got that vibe as you watched "Lords of Salem." It was filled to the brim with horrifying atmosphere and mood. I was hoping that "31" was going to be more than just the cheap thrills, but its all cheap thrills. Its build-up with no payoff. It features an ending that I believe will force entire audience to roll their eyes in unison. It feels like the Rob Zombie who made "Lords of Salem" was a fake Zombie, and the real Zombie has returned.

"31" follows a group of circus performers driving around on Halloween night in 1976. There is Charly (Sheri Moon Zombie), Roscoe (Jeff Daniel Phillips), Panda (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs), Levon (Kevin Jackson) and Venus (Meg Foster). Suddenly, they are caught in a trap by a group of sadistic clowns. The group is taken to Father Napoleon-Horatio-Silas Murder, played by the ledgendary Malcolm McDowell. McDowell was famous for playing Alexander DeLarge in "A Clockwork Orange" back in the early 1970's. Had Alex grown up and gone to join the circus, he'd become Napoleon Murder. Napoleon runs a cabal of gamblers and forces the circus group to partake in a game called 31. In the game, the group has to survive 12 hours in a maze-like compound, while being hunted by killers. The gamblers put wagers on who they believe will die first in each heat of the game.

If gore is your thing, there is plenty to be had. But that's vintage Zombie for you. I just wish there was reason more to care about these people, but Zombie makes everybody a one-dimensional character. The only actor who really puts forth some kind of effort is Richard Blake, who plays one of the killers named Doom-head. He breathes life into his character, even though the script gives him very little to work with. He makes himself menacing and vile. Its some of Blake's very best work to date, and he's very good about making Zombie's tedious dialogue actually sound good. The rest of the cast do what they can, but there isn't much of substance to work with.

If you were lucky enough to see "Lords of Salem" don't expect a resurrgence of new Rob Zombie. Zombie still has the same bag of tricks. its too bad because there is some clear skill in some of his work. I just wish he could channel like he did a mere few years ago.

FINAL GRADE: C+ 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Who Played It Best? REMATCH! Spiderman

Who Played It Best? 

REMATCH!

Spiderman
Our second rematch is now underway. When I first started this column, one of the first polls I created was for Spiderman. I pitted Toby Mcguire; who played the character in Sam Raimi's original Spiderman trilogy, against Andrew Garfield; who played the character in the "Amazing Spiderman" films. After a close vote, the winner was Garfield. Andrew Garfield had a huge deal with Sony. We were supposed to get an "Amazing Spiderman 3" and an "Amazing Spiderman 4." We were also going to get a movie based on the female characters in Spiderman's life as well as a movie based on "The Sinister Six," a group of Spiderman's worst six villains who teamed up to try and kill him. This never panned out because the "Amazing Spiderman" movies never reached what Sony wanted them to. A few years ago, with that huge Sony hack, we learned that Sony was secretly meeting with Disney/Marvel about using Spiderman in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This led Tom Holland taking over the part in 2016 in "Captain America: Civil War," which just hit DVD and Blu-ray last Tuesday. Now that we know Andrew Garfield is a fan favorite around here, and Tom Holland played the part now too, who played it best?

My Two Cents
When I wrote my review of "Captain America: Civil War," I dropped the "P" word when describing Tom Holland's work as Spiderman. I called Holland's performance Perfect. After seeing the movie again at home on Blu-ray, my thoughts on Holland's work haven't wavered one bit. In fact, they have only grown stronger. I am now completely rabid for "Spiderman: Homecoming" in a few years. Just as it felt like Robert Downey Jr felt like Tony Stark brought to life, it feels like Tom Holland is Peter Parker brought to life. He matches the role perfectly, capturing Peter's emotions and mannerisms to a tee. While Garfield did a pretty good job, he's nowhere near the level that Holland is on. For me, its not a question, Holland wins this.

Agree? Disagree? Sound off on the comment section below? You can also email me (bloggershawn@gmail.com) and send your votes that way. You will have until next Saturday to vote.

LAST TIME ON WHO PLAYED IT BEST?
I brought together a group of actresses that played Lois Lane, from older movies and new movies. Old television and new television. The results are in and the winner was...
Terri Hatcher


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Disappointments Room Review

The Disappointments Room Review
At this stage in the game, if you are going to make a secluded mansion horror movie, you better have something special to do with it. Its not enough, in context of the history of the genre, to just have another horror movie where a family moves into a creepy house, way too big for their family, and something horrible begins to happen to one family member. The rest of the family will not believe the tormented family member, so they will dig into the mystery of the haunt solo. They will eventually show the rest of the family that they were right all the time, while also identifying with the mystery of the film.

I have essentially already described "The Disappointments Room." Kate Beckinsale plays Dana. Dana's husband, David, is played by Mel Raido. They move into a creepy-looking house in the middle of a forest with their young son. Dana is an architect who is going to revamp their new house. She starts seeing lots of creepy things happening in the house, while nobody else experiences this, involving a family that lived there a long time ago. Wouldn't you know that she figures out the mystery of the movie?

"The Disappointments Room" is a big bag of the predictable. Sure, it tries hard to stick out from the rest of the scary mansion herd, but in doing so it makes itself more embarrassing to watch. So "The Disappointments Room" is wildly predictable, so the next big question is, how scary is it? Sadly, the film fails big time in that direction too. There are a couple of moments of decent make-up work, but even those moments could have been better, and more sinister. There are no disturbing moments. No sense of dread that captures the rest of the movie. The best horror movies out there are the best because the worlds they set up in their films is horrifying. While I am glad that this wasn't another found footage movie, its nice when movies like this put forth some type of effort.

I often wonder why Kate Beckinsale makes a decision like this. She's a capable actress, she's been given very good material in the past, she can carry a film acting-wise. I understand she's probably being offered lots of money for something like this, but is that enough to make something so tedious? You will work again Beckinsale, you can say no to stuff like this.

After a year of wonderful examples in the horror genre, and just when it feels like we are feeling a resurgence in the genre, something like "The Disappointments Room" is a diabolical step back. The thing is, the movie does have some good ideas, that get wasted within the last two-thirds of the movie. Then it looks like the filmmakers just winged the rest of it. Nothing hurts worse when ideas are wasted.

FINAL GRADE: D

Monday, September 12, 2016

Sing Street Review


Sing Street Review
I don't know if I have mentioned this before, but I love 1980's music. I love most older music in general, but I love just about everything from the world of 1980's music. There was something special to the culture and inspirations that came from that decade of music. I think its special because it was the first decade of music videos. Maybe its because, for better or for worse, it brought technology to the music world. Whatever the case, it helped change the music scene forever.

"Sing Street" is set in 1985 and takes place in Ireland. There is a family that is having personal and financial problems. The father of the family Patriarch Lalor (Aiden Gillen) is having trouble with his business and has to take his youngest son out of private school and into a catholic but state school. Its a very strict school and the boy Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) has trouble fitting in. He loves the world of music and there are several songs and bands that have a huge influence on him. So he decides to start a band, naming it after his school Synge Street, but calling the band Sing Street. Not only does he get a band together, but he gets somebody to school and help make music videos. Conor is doing all of this also to win the heart of an older girl at school, named Raphina (Lucy Boynton).

The film works like a Irish John Hughes movie. Conor is our Anthony Michael Hall-type who has a comedic yet dysfunctional home life. He is going after a woman he doesn't exactly like him back and he's best friends with all the rejects of his class. Somehow he is able to discover to go after his biggest dreams and that he is the true commander of himself. Does he get the girl? Well, I don't want to tell you that.

"Sing Street" is the best original musical in a long time. There is so much original music in the film, and its all excellent. Not just good, not just great, but excellent. The film in a way feels like a time machine into the 1980's, because the music feels authentic. Its also great that Ferdia Walsh-Peelo is a stand-out lead. The film is filled to the brim with wonderful actors, not one performance really standing above the other. This is just a remarkable ensemble.

If you've got a particular eye for John Hughes or a particular ear for 1980's music, check out "Sing Street." You will very much enjoy yourself.

FINAL GRADE: A

Imperium Review

Imperium Review
"words build bridges to unexplored regions"

That quote opens the film "Imperium" and it was said by none other than Adolf Hitler. I guess he would know, after all unfortunately, he got an entire country to reject and decimate an entire race of people with his own words. If "Imperium" reminds us of anything, its the power of words. Whether you start a group or a business or anything where you need help, you use your words. We are social creatures. How we are influenced by anything is worth words, how somebody uses their words is the basis of what we believe in.

"Imperium" stars Daniel Radcliffe as Nate Foster, an FBI agent who has dabbled in undercover work. He has a way of making prisoners comfortable to talk to them. He's so good at connecting with people in interrogations that his boss (Toni Collette) offers him a big job. There is a report of illegal imports of Caesium-137. Foster's boss believes that the illegal imports are connected to white supremacist groups in their area and Foster is chosen to go undercover to see how the imports connect with the group. Foster has never had much undercover training, but his bosses believe that he would be a good candidate due to his interrogating skills. After all, any undercover work is just influencing people and making them trust you, right? That is its true basis.

That's the grand metaphor for "Imperium," we see how white supremacist influence others. The face of the white supremacists in the film is Dallas Wolf (Tracy Letts), think of Dallas Wolf as an radical, far-right Rush Limbaugh, he uses his radio show as an influence of hate. Foster uses his own influences to a group of skin heads to trust him, who may or may not have something to do with the Caesium-137 imports. The film isn't scary because we dealing with white supremacy alone, its a scary movie because director Daniel Ragussus makes this lifestyle come off as something normal. That the slick, subtle, terrifying genius of "Imperium."

What also makes "Imperium" work is the outstanding work by Daniel Radcliffe. I think Radcliffe will definitely have a career as long as a lifetime. He's got a great American accent in the film and he makes a believable vulnerable agent as well as vile supremacist. The film is anchored under Radcliffe shoulders and he swiftly carries the film. He has a wonderful bad of support from Collette, Letts, and Nestor Carbonell. All of whom do equally outstanding work.

My only gripe is that once Foster is under cover, the film kind of becomes a case of "whose really behind the bomb plot?" We know it may or may not be the hate group who is planning to bomb, just a hint of evidence points to them. Foster has to find out for sure, this leads to a whole lot of "is it this person, is it that person?" The film is constantly trying to keep us on edge introducing us to various people in the hate group? The only problem is that its structured like a TV movie. The real bad guy of this film is standing right under your nose the whole time, which makes the entire adventure predictable.

But the performances are so strong that its hard to find too much fault in some minor structure issues. The film does a great job of highlighting the horrors of extreme hate and what they can come to. How influence and victimization can create monsters, people we may not be proud of later on in life. "Imperium" is mostly masterful.

FINAL GRADE: B+


Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Neon Demon Review

The Neon Demon Review
Does the name Nicolas Winding Refn ring a bell? If not, you might have caught a couple of his movies. "Bronson," starring Tom Hardy, is available on Netflix right now and was on my list of the 100 best movies of the 21st Century so far. Its hypnotic in the way it examines the life of Charlie Bronson, a criminal who seemed to enjoy jail more than the world outside. What Refn is most well known for is "Drive," with Ryan Gosling, the movie that really put Refn on the map as a filmmaker. It also gave him the creative license to make whatever he desired. That led him to "Only God Forgives," a movie I still have mixed feelings about. Now, Refn has made "The Neon Demon," a psychological thriller that tackles the fashion world.

The plot of "The Neon Demon" is simple. Jesse (Elle Fanning) is a 16-year-old who moved to Los Angeles to be a model. She quickly gains acceptance and popularity in the field and this revelation disrupts her relationships with her make-up and model friends Ruby (Jena Malone), Sarah (Abbey Lee Marshall), and Gigi (Bella Heathcote). Sarah and Gigi plan to stop Jesse's rise to fame by any means necessary. When Jesse arrives in Los Angeles, she is sweet and innocent and when she discovers her friends are actually her dissenters, she turns to her own dark side to protect herself.

That's essentially the movie. Sure, there is a sub-plot with Jesse's motel manager (Keanu Reeves) that goes nowhere. Jan (Christina Henricks) initially hires Jesse, but she only shows up for one scene. That is the biggest problem with "The Neon Demon." Its a half-hour short film stretched to two hours. There is a story there, just like there is a story inside each of Refn's motion pictures, its just very, very simple. So simple that stretching it out feels more like an endurance test rather than entertainment. 

So what takes up so much time? This is a typical Refn picture. His movies literally fit the bill for a definition of "motion pictures." His movies feel like real art, his scenes feel like pictures that have come to life on the canvass. It is a dour understatement to simply to say Refn's "The Neon Demon" is beautiful to look at, because it certainly is. The movie is filled with breathtaking scene over breathtaking scene. How he is able to get his actors to pose in a stylish is something remarkable I don't think many directors can pull off, Refn makes it look effortless. This is a movie also not for the faint of heart. Refn movies are naturally fairly violent, there is a scene right before the credits roll in particular that has the possibility to force you to toss your cookies. So be warned.

The performances are all excellent. Elle Fanning could emerge from this has a worthwhile, capable film actress. She delivers a potent and real performance with mesmerizing ease. Whenever there is a time when Keanu Reeves has a half-way decent performance, its also worth mentioning. Reeves is actually quite fantastic in his role. Malone, Heathcote and Marshall deliver as well.

If you've seen any of the movies listed above, you probably have a good idea whether this is for you or not. If you haven't seen a Refn movie yet, I don't know if I would start with "The Neon Demon."

FINAL GRADE: B-

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Who Played It Best? Lois Lane

Who Played It Best?

Lois Lane
Margot Kidder- 70's Superman Movies

Lois Lane has appeared in several forms of media, just as her longtime love interest Superman. We have seen her countless times on TV and we have seen her countless times in movies. Its interesting because it seems we have seen her in many different forms as well. Sometimes. she is a damsel in distress. Other times she is a hardcore journalist who has no problem taking care of herself. Sometimes, she is a little bit of both, somewhere in between. This maybe a little tight to judge when trying to pinpoint which actress played her best.

Amy Adams- DC Extended Universe

Trying to get all the actresses together for one poll who have played Lois Lane would turn out to be tough. If we are talking the greater history of the character, there have been an avalanche of actresses. In both TV and movies. I also don't know whether you want to include voice actors, or actresses who played the character in a parody. There have been plenty of actresses, and for the first time in this "Who Played It Best?" poll, I will allow write-ins during voting.

Kate Bosworth- "Superman Returns"

For tonight, we will focus on the top portrayals that I can possibly think of. I know Margot Ladder played the character in the Christopher Reeve "Superman" movies. I know Amy Adams played the character in "Man of Steel" and "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice." I am pretty sure we will see much more of her in the future. I know Kate Bosworth had a one-movie stint in 2006 in "Superman Returns." On the TV side of things, I grew up with Teri Hatcher playing the character on "Lois and Clarke: The Adventures of Superman." Finally, there is Erica Durance on "Smallville." Again, these actresses represent a wide range of versions of Lois Lane, but who played the character best?

Erica Durance- Smallville

My Two Cents
This is a loaded question, because these are some good actresses. I will say upfront that I never watched a single episode of "Smallville," so I can say next to nothing about Erica Durance's work. As I said above, I grew up watching "Lois and Clark," so there is definitely some sentimental value to Hatcher's work. But its more than that, Hatcher played the character for five years. That's a long time playing a vintage style version of the character. This felt like the Lois Lane that I read in the comics, and watched in the cartoons, so Hatcher's work feels the most authentic. As a close second, I'd say Amy Adams. I like that they made Lois Lane tougher around the edges in Zack Snyder's movies, no matter how I feel about "Batman vs. Superman," Adams did what she could, and I could totally see her walking away with it. Bosworth was okay, but her performance seemed more like an imitation of Ladder's work more than anything else, and Ladder could certainly win as well. But I am giving the edge to Teri Hatcher.

Terri Hatcher- Lois and Clark: The Real Adventures of Superman

Agree? Disagree? Fire off in the comment section below. You can also email me at bloggershawn@gmail.com your votes. You can vote up until next Thursday.

LAST WEEK ON WHO PLAYED IT BEST
 Last week, I conducted my first ever Rematch. We started Who Played It Best?" with Batman and Michael Keaton beat out Christian Bale, Val Kilmer, and George Clooney as the best Batman. This year, Keaton defended his title against Ben Affleck. The results are in and here is how our first ever rematch shook out.

Michael Keaton still reigns supreme as Batman.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Ice Age: Collision Course Review

Ice Age: Collision Course Review
The "Ice Age" movies tend to fluctuate. There have been good movies in the series and there have been bad ones. It seems that as the franchise has grown longer, the quality of the films has gone down. Where else can these characters go at this point? Can they go anywhere? If so, can the filmmakers keep it fresh? Is it something that Dreamsworks and Pixar has done better already?

"Ice Age: Collision Course" begins, as these "Ice Age" films usually do, with Scrat (Chris Wedge) trying to keep and hide his acorn. These are usually a wacky and fun way to begin all of these movies, but now it seems like there is something off about Scrat and his acorn this time around. Perhaps its because this is the fifth film in this franchise. Perhaps we are so used to seeing Scrat do his thing that its becoming uninteresting at this point. It could be a combination of both. Either way, Scrat's prologue seems to last a little too long and goes a little too crazy. Scrat somehow awakens an ancient alien ship and it launches into space. This causes the alien ship to disrupt an asteroid belt and sends several of them rocketing towards Earth.

This is when we are re-introduced to our friends Manny (Ray Romano), Sid (John Leguizamo) and Diego (Dennis Leary). They seem like old men at this point. Manny is freaked out by his daughter's boyfriend Julian (Adam DeVine) who has now become her fiance. Even though he has trouble remembering anniversaries with his wife Ellie (Queen Latifah). Manny is surprised by a big party put together by his friends to celebrate their anniversary, which Manny completely forgot about and is now trying to scramble for a gift. Suddenly, those asteroids begin their siege on the planet, and the group has to band together and protect each other. They are soon aided by Buck (Simon Pegg) a weasel who lost his home in the meteor shower.

All this does is set up a big bundle of obvious, so I hope your children enjoy the humor. Not trying to say that ALL the humor is geared towards children. There were plenty of times when I cracked a smile, began to chuckle, even laughed at loud. There just isn't too much here worth of substance. It feels like several other family films we have seen over the last decade, or even last five years. We know exactly how this is all going to end. Its not quite entertaining enough to completely recommend.

Romano, Leguizamo, Wedge, Leary, Latifah, Lopez and the rest of the cast have completely become these characters at this point, so they are all very good. I just wish they had a slightly better script to use. I wish this franchise didn't feel so quite out of breath. Even the animation itself looks a little dated. The animation of "The Simpsons" is much better than this.

But alas, perhaps I am being a little too harsh on a children's movie. Take your children, they will probably have a good time. I will warn that you can take them to better stuff as well. I work with children for a living, and the two big movies they all discussed were "The Secret Life of Pets" and "Finding Dory" this summer. When I asked them about the fifth "Ice Age" movie, they didn't have too much to say.

FINAL GRADE: C-

David Lynch: The Art of Lifef Trailer

Have you seen a single David Lynch movie? Ever checked out "Eraserhead," "The Elephant Man," "Wild At Heart," "Blue Velvet," or "Mulholland Drive?" Perhaps you were a fan of his detective show back in the 1990's called "Twin Peaks?" A show Lynch is actually returning to very soon. If you have seen any of Lynch;s work, you are likely to not forget it. Lynch is a master of bringing surreal and nightmarish images to life. His movies are often reserved for the most adventurous, as they tend to be confusing, jigsaw puzzle films that require countless views and meditation. I remember showing "Mulholland Drive" to my friends in college one night, the movie that just got named the best movie of the 21st Century by BBC's poll, and it was a disaster. Lynch's films are fun, but probably not films you want to bring to movie night with your friends.

There is a documentary coming soon called "David Lynch: The Art of Life." and it sure feels like a Lynch movie unto itself. This is a strange, non-linear, almost sinister vibe going on in the trailer. Whomever made this trailer sure was a huge Lynch fan. Whether you are a fan of his work or not, this looks to be a highly thought provoking documentary. Also a wild journey into the mind of one of our most unhinged and underappreciated filmmakers of our time.






Check out the trailers for his other work below:

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Ghost Rider is coming to "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."


Whether you believe it or not, "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I get that there is a level of frustration that comes with that realization. The entire Marvel Cinematic Universe seems disjointed between its movie and television departments. ABC's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." seems to only get the leftovers of the Marvel movies. Plus, the movies also do not seem to be connected to the Marvel shows on Netflix. Clark Gregg who plays Phil Coulson on "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." has expressed interest in showing up on a Netflix show. But because all Netflix shows are shot back-to-back-to-back-to-back, its hard to fit a character in where they shoot episodes in a less accelerated capacity. Plus, Kevin Fiege, the braintrust of Marvel Entertainment has some bad blood with the Marvel TV division.

It could be awhile before we see the movie and TV characters meet on screen somewhere.

With all of that said, that doesn't mean we can't get excited for what is in store for the next season of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." even if an Avenger doesn't show up on the show. This season, we will get Ghost Rider. Sadly, its not the version of the character named Johnny Blaze, whom Nicolas Cage played in his movies. Gabriel Luna (who previously starred in HBO's "True Detective"), will play a character named Ronnie Reyes, a different Ghost Rider in the Marvel Universe.

Will this Ghost Rider be Inhuman? I certainly hope not. There is an entire mythology to the Ghost Riders that I hope gets explored in some capacity on the show. It would be too easy and too cheap to just simply make him an Inhuman. I kind of hope that this fourth season goes in an entirely different direction. There has been a little too much going on with the Inhumans. Having Daisy Johnson on the run will be enough Inhuman fun for the whole season.

To wet your appetite even more, check out this found footage style introduction to the character.





Let's hope for a good season!

SOURCE:
http://www.aintitcool.com/node/76162

Monday, September 5, 2016

Summer 2016: A Retrospect

Is it just me or was the summer 2016 movie season a little underwhelming?

What's sad is that I feel I said the exact same thing about last summer's list of films. What is it now about our summer blockbusters that is going so preposterously downhill? Has Hollywood finally become "just" a business?

Now I know. The summer movie season has never been the mecca of perfect filmmaking. You never see me or any of the hundreds of critics working in film criticism loading their end-of-the-year best lists full of summer fair. But its always a fun time of year. A time to really enjoy the world of effects and mayhem that a summer movie season can offer. The thing is, summer movie seasons used to feature films that were actually kind of good. The studios tried to deliver, even if they didn't quite have to. If these last two summer movie seasons were to be judged, they just didn't deliver. On a film perspective at least. 

Are studios caring about making great movies for this season? Do they need to? Even though the season was uneventful, there was still a massive cash flow you could find if you follow box office numbers. I never follow box office numbers, because I don't think the rate at which tickets were bought can gauge whether or not a movie is actually good. But that's beside the point. Studios look at the money being made and they take it as an excuse to keep making these movies. If the movies themselves are so underwhelming, why go see them? Why not keep that hard earned cash on something else besides a movie ticket? Do we still enjoy the experience of the theater that we will go see movies, even if they are trash? Do we have nothing else better to do? I think if a studio doesn't have to try so hard to make good movies, why should they? They know they will see their profits returned.

Or will they? We know "Ghostbusters" and "Independence Day: Resurgence" bombed at the box office this year. We know that their respected studios were planning on making more of those films, but now that may not be a sure thing. Thanks to Marvel, DC and Middle-Earth, making entire universes of films is becoming a hot commodity. Studios are planning their entire year around two or three movies, knowing full well there will be sequels in the next few years. Planning an entire massive paycheck over the course of a decade. Will all of them work? So far, they learning the worst possible lessons from the Marvel films. Take "WarCraft" for example. That doesn't feel like a complete experience, simply because its not vague at all that we are going to get more movies. They built that into the first film, but what about the first film itself? Shouldn't we get an established world and characters before we get a sequel? Shouldn't the first film be good before we decide we want more? That's how it used to work. If we keep allowing this half-work of filmmaking to continue, it will keep right on happening.

What did work about summer 2016? Well, it was a big year for horror films. "The Conjuring 2," "The Purge: Election Year" "Lights Out," "Don't Breathe" and "The Shallows" were all well received. I may not have gone crazy for each and every one of those films. But any year that features ambitious and smart horror filmmaking is a big deal for me. When so many horror movies these days are doing so little to scare the audience, its nice to have horror movies where I can point and say, these are fine examples. Even though I just got done laying down problems with blockbuster filmmaking, that doesn't mean there weren't movies to not like. I know everybody had a good time hating on "The Legend of Tarzan," I really don't think that movie got that fair of a shake. "Star Trek Beyond" felt like vintage Star Trek and hopefully pleased all Trekkies everywhere. Then there is Marvel, a studio we can seemingly always rely on. "Captain America: Civil War" was another smash hit, proving that their ongoing franchise experiment continues to work for them.

My favorite film of the summer wasn't a blockbuster though. It wasn't a horror movie. In fact, it was a movie that barely anybody heard about. Just because it didn't have money to throw at marketing doesn't mean it wasn't a summer movie. Sometimes the best medicine in a slow summer movie season is a good indie film, and "Hell Or High Water" certainly fit that bill. I just wrote my review for the film here. I also got to say that I enjoyed the hell out of "Sausage Party." It was a good summer for adult entertainment. When the more kid-friendly, let's-get-butts-in-seats fair didn't have the same effect I hoped for.

After two slow summer's in a row, the best thing to have is hope. Hope that studios take a look at this year in retrospect and learn from it. Hope that they will take the right lessons away from what happened here. Hope that the best ingredients for a great summer movie is keep things simple, but tell a complete story, create characters we will want to meet again. Not because we didn't get their full story the first time around. I just hope by this time next year, I am telling how sorry I am to see summer 2017 go, instead of having a small opinion about it as whole. The summer movie season can be something to get excited for again. The only question is when?

Hell Or High Water Review

Hell Or High Water Review
It starts on a bright morning in Texas. A bank teller (Dale Dickey) is opening up the bank for the day when two masked hoodlum's follow her in with guns in her side, ready to rob the place. The hoodlums are brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) and they aren't your average bank robbers. The only take the money from the bank's registers, nothing higher than $20 and then they are out. Why not go for the money in the safe you say? Because that money has trackers, easy to catch those who take it. They then drive back to their family ranch and bury the getaway car in the ground.

This is the beginning of a chain of events that kicks off "Hell or High Water," a gritty and grimy cops-and-robbers thriller that ended up being the summer's best film. What makes a good summer movie? Does it have to be littered with special effects? Does it have to be full of zany one-liners? (Even though "Hell or High Water" does have plenty of those), does it have to have the top actors working in the business? I would say no. Good movies and great movies can come out at any season of the year. It doesn't matter how much money they cost and it doesn't matter who stars in them. What matters to me comes down to the simplest of things; character, story and theme. "Hell Or High Water" is a master-stroke on all three of those items that make great movies so special.

Toby and Tanner aren't your average bank robbers. They are targeting a specific set of banks for a specific reasons. These robberies put them on course with Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges), a no-nonsense, old-school style Texas Ranger. Marcus has a partner named Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham), who will help him catch the crooks. The entire movie is this tense slow burn until the moment Toby and Tanner meet Ranger Hamilton and Ranger Parker. We know they are going to confront one another, we just don't know when. That tense unease casts a shadow over the entire movie. I also have to applaud how the film plays by the normal rules of thrillers, while also shattering them. No easy feat. When the slow burn style movie works, it can be a hell of a good time. That is exactly what "Hell Or High Water" is as a movie.

What shocked me is how funny most of the movie is. "Hell or High Water" is also an astounding example of a movie that makes you slightly uncomfortable. Uncomfortable because you never know when you should be laughing or when you shouldn't be. There is a scene where Toby protects his brother Tanner from some young punk. All the while Tanner is cracking jokes about it. Should we be laughing as somebody is getting mercilessly beaten? Even if he did kind of deserve it? Should we laugh at Ranger Hamilton's old fashioned style and how he can't help put insult Ranger Parker's Native American and Mexican American heritage? It is equally impossible to make a dark movie, fill it with bad people the audience has to care about, then get us to laugh at their rough behavior.

What makes all of this work is the tremendous power of the actors. Chris Pine and Ben Foster do absolutely remarkable work together. They almost come off as actual brothers. Ben Foster in particular sticks out here. Foster is a pro at playing these psychotic fiends, and Tanner is no different. He's a dangerous man with a wicked sense of humor and an enjoyment to hurt people. The perfect match between actor and character. The work done by Bridges and Birmingham is equally profound, and they share the same type of brotherly connection that Pine and Foster share. It is amazing work by both pairs of actors. They are complimented by the subtle work of the supporting cast, which includes Katy Mixon, Kevin Rankin and Marin Ireland.

What's also amazing is how well the movie buries its characters and story in its theme. Some people may find this outplayed by now, but this film is essentially a reaction to the financial crisis and recession that followed. Just as much as 9/11 took a huge affect on the movies that came a few years after the incident, whether they were major or minor releases, the financial crisis has had the same affect. The movie isn't subtle about its theme, but it never jams it down your throat either. It perfectly compliments the movie we are seeing.

"Hell Or High Water" is definitely rough around the edges, but its easily the best movie you can find at a theater near you right now. If you like watching great actors collide on-screen. If you have a taste for cops-and-robbers, thrillers and film noir. If you don't mind a good, old slow burn. Then "Hell or High Water" is for you. A wonderful way to end the summer movie season.

FINAL GRADE: A+

Friday, September 2, 2016

War Dogs Review

War Dogs Review
Todd Phillips directed all three "Hangover" movies, as well as "Due Date" back in 2011. Even though those movies are comedies, there is a realistic, grimy edge woven into the style of each of those movies. Analyzing those film's aesthetic, its was pretty clear to me that Phillips would make a masterful dramatic director if he ever set his mind to it. So of course I am given "War Dogs," and while there is quite a bit to laugh at when it comes to "War Dogs," it is mostly a drama film, and quite an engaging one at that.

"War Dogs" tells the true story of Dave Packouz (Miles Teller) is a massage therapist living in Miami, Florida. He dropped out of college, he doesn't have any money, no family that will help him, and once he tries to launch a bed-sheet business, he miserably fails. At a funeral, he runs into an old junior high friend Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill). Efraim seems to be doing very well for himself as somebody who "buys guns at gun shows then selling them online." But Dave soon finds out that this isn't exactly what Efraim is doing. Apparently he is a low-level weapons provider. Somebody who the United States deals with in secret. After hanging out with Dave again, and showing him the ropes, Efraim invited Dave to be his partner in his weapons trafficking business. With a baby on the way with his girlfriend (Ana De Armas), Dave agrees. The rest of the film chronicles their successes and misfortunes selling weapons.

Much like I stated above, Phillips raw style is on full display here. It actually helps set the tone of the film very well. Sure, there are some funny parts (due mostly in part by Jonah Hill), but this is a drama. Dead on. As a movie its expertly directed. You get a wonderful birds-eye-view of what it could have been like being in this type of profession at that time. All of the actors involved, whether they have small or large roles, came to play and everyone does very good work here. Phillips takes us by the hand into the sweaty underbelly of gun-running and its a sometimes clever, sometimes harrowing experience.

Miles Teller and Jonah Hill do outstanding work together here. They create a sensible and tangible chemistry with ease. I think out of the two, Jonah Hill will end up sticking out the most. He plays the stereotypical American asshole and absolutely unleashes his hidden talents. I sure hope the Academy doesn't overlook this film, because Hill could get himself another supporting actor nod next year. This is really one of his better performances in quite awhile and he'll definitely be one of your favorite parts of the film. If not THE favorite. Bradley Cooper makes a couple appearances in the film as Henry Girard, a fellow arms dealer who is on a watch list who assists the duo in a big deal given to them by the Pentagon. Cooper is really good in this, even if his time onscreen is limited.

The only thing that feels a little weird to me, is the structure of the film. While the film is fantastically acted and well directed, the writing could have used a tune-up. The film opens with Miles Teller getting thrown out of the trunk of a car in his underwear, then proceeds to get beat up by masked men. All while we hear Miles Teller narrate in a voice-over. We have several scenes just like this and you can bet we the film comes full circle with Teller getting thrown out of the trunk, while learning how he got in the trunk in the first place. It feels a little too "Fight Club," to me and its dead give away for a totally predictable film. The film also echoes beats from "The Social Network" and "Boiler Room" and I just sat back, waiting for the movie to become something of its own.

But that's a curse when making something based on a true story. If we don't know the outcome of a true story, we can look it up at any given moment. Movies based on true stories are tricky, so when I see one that capture the attention of the viewers in a clever and engaging way, it feels fresh. It feels special. "War Dogs" was able to pull this off, and I think that counts for something. The structure of the film may feel a little too familiar for most audiences, but that doesn't mean it isn't one hell of a ride.

FINAL GRADE: B+