2017

[Mega Movie Review] Catching Up on 2017

13886469_1267046413328617_7042198926381498825_nBusy time of year folks, so apologies to anyone who actually looks forward to my latest reviews. I didn’t want everything I’ve seen to fall by the wayside, so here are some brief thoughts on everything I’ve seen so far in 2017 but haven’t had time to sit down and put full write ups on. Sit back relax and “enjoy” some candid hot takes on these 2017 releases!

Kong: Skull Island – Come for the star studded cast then shove them aside for the awesome creature fights. Kong is visually impressive, but it lacks humanity in a pretty comical way. The characters very much feel like empty shells taking us from one place to another to be bait for the eventual breathtaking spectacle of the Kong fights. In spite of the lack of characters to hang your hat on this was still a pretty tremendous and crowd pleasing theater experience. Rating: B+

Gifted – Sort of let this one get lost in the shuffle. This is a very understated film. There was almost no marketing push and it just sort of appeared in theaters with little to no fanfare. If its still out there though, get out and see it. I could have used a little more closure for some of the relationships and perhaps a little more emotion out of Chris Evans’ character, but this has been the most affective dramas so far this year that also happens to have a pretty delightful sense of humor. Rating: A-

Raw – Coming out of the film festivals the press on this was touting how extreme it was and how it was causing audience members to faint or throw up. When the credits rolled I had one question: What kind of p****** were attending these screenings? I can’t fathom anyone watching this and feeling sick. The sound design is effective, but never to the point that I felt even the slightest bit nauseous. The film looks great, the central performance is quite good and the themes are intriguing…but color me disappointed that this is apparently what gets people worked up these days. Rating: C+

The Blackcoat’s Daughter – I have watched this film at least 4 times now. Each viewing has made it grow on me a little more each time. You’ll want to have been a fan of moody slow burns such as It Follows and The Witch for this one to be in your wheelhouse and if it is you’re in for a treat. Oz Perkins has a knack for creating an uneasy tone and depth to story without over explaining and hammering themes down your throat. Horror fans should quickly familiarize themselves with Perkins…that’s the moral of the story. Rating: B+ (inching ever so close to an A-)

The Devil’s Candy – When The Loved Ones FINALLY came out there was little that would convince me that Sean Byrne wasn’t going to be a horror breakout filmmaker and that his next film wouldn’t be my favorite one of the year. Get Out is going to make it tough for anything else to take that title this year, but even then I still don’t think The Devil’s Candy could pull it off. That being said, it is still pretty great. Byrne’s sophomore flick is tense and totally metal, but could have benefited from a more energetic sense of momentum. Rating: B+

Detour – If you don’t know the name Christopher Smith no one–including me–would blame you. If you haven’t seen any of the movies he’s made, shame on you. The director’s name is so plain that remembering it is understandable, but if you’ve seen and love his movies like I do you’d remember. Detour is just another road of twisty mind games to add to the road map of his career that’s also well worth your time–even if I don’t enjoy the acting chops of Tyr Sheridan. Rating: B+

The Girl With All the Gifts – Those clamorong for a The Last of Us film should know that you kind of already have one–and this is it. The storyline is not the same, but the film has so many aspects that mirror the game that it’s sort of surreal. The emotional resonance is lacking, but the thrills and mythology are more than enough to draw you to this one. It seems as if the creative team involved envisioned something even more ambitious, but budget constraints hold it back at times. Rating: B+

XX – The anthology genre over the years has been cluttered with some singularly focused male visions so it was about time we got some fresh female voices a space to shine. Sure, the final product ends up being about as mixed as most other anthologies, but there is some serious talent on display in each segment in some way shape or form and XX should definitely at the very least be on your radar when it’s released on DVD/Bluray May 23rd. Rating: C+

John Wick: Chapter 2 – The fist installment of the John Wick saga came out of nowhere with its weird comic book hitman universe. The sequel just stacks on the crazy around every corner with some clever set pieces and a sh*tload of headshots. If you don’t walk out ready for Chapter 3 then maybe you just really really hate dumb stylish fun. Rating: B+

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter – The Resident Evil franchise hasn’t been my thing for quite some time now. Each new film seems less connected to the actual video game than the next and instead opts to force in characters and foes from the game with little to no context. The Final Chapter is more of the same and the best part about it–assuming the title is a promise–is that it’s the last time we’ll have to endure any of it. Rating: D- 

A Dark Song – There are a lot of reasons why I don’t practice in the occult. A Dark Song just added one more pretty big reason–it’s friggin hard. Another reason on top of that–it takes a really long friggin time. A brooding character driven horror film that really swings for the fences during the finale which is as divisive as it is emotionally resonant. This is one that most will love or furiously hate. Somehow I was just on the outskirts of love. Rating: B

The Void – As a movie watcher I gravitate toward the horror genre. It’s a world I feel like I know and am comfortable in–in spite of having quite a few gaps in knowledge in the classics. When it comes to horror I’m a sucker for some crazy gore and awesome practical effects, both of which The Void has in spades. However, that’s about all it has. There’s a solid creepy villain near the end, the cult figures are cool looking and the idea is solid. Yet, there’s something lacking in the overall plot and the characters just feel flat. Still, you should probably check it out–at least once–when it hits Netflix this July (2017). Rating: C

Small Crimes – Speaking of Netflix, how about all the original content they’ve been churning out this year? Crazy right? When you tell me the director of Cheap Thrills has a sequel that came out via Netflix I couldn’t hit play fast enough. When it was all said and done, I probably could have waited a little bit and not rearranged my whole schedule to watch it. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s bad, it’s actually quite good. Not as good as Cheap Thrills though. The dark humor and sudden bursts of violence would make this a perfect middle movie for a Netflix Triple feature of Shimmer Lake (scroll down for that ‘review’), Small Crimes and I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (which is fantastic and there might be a ‘review’ below but as of writing this I haven’t added it to the backlog). Rating: B

Free Fire – After High Rise my stock in Ben Wheatley took a mild dive. Kill List is still a work of bleak art so no one can take that away. Then Free Fire happened. Holy cow, you guys. This movie is a blast. It’s also mostly kind of a one trick pony. It’s a good trick, but the circumstances at which all the mayhem goes down is pretty petty and ultimately uninspired. That doesn’t change the fact that watching things escalate and turn to sh*t wasn’t some of the funnest nonsense I’ve seen this year. Rating: B+

Colossal – I go to the movies to have a good time. Sometimes I go to be moved. Sometimes I go to learn a little about myself. Rarely do I get all three. Colossal isn’t the most profound movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s one of the most unique. I got some chuckles, it has some moving realizations and it more than once made me think about my own actions and words with some reverence. For that it is well worth your time and money, even if it is a little weird for its own good. Rating: B+

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – I was tempted to just link to my review of the first movie and call it a day. Volume 2 is very much just a repackaged version of the original, but with a few more gadgets and upgrades attached. There’s sequences that I could have easily done without near the middle, but the end is enough to tweak everyone with a soft heart in the feels. Also, because it was so much like the original I couldn’t help but feel it wasn’t as fresh and surprising. Rating: B

Wonder Woman – Right in front street, Wonder Woman is hands down the best DC movie of the new batch–aka since the Nolan Batman movies. The bad news is that the bar was not very high–even I could limbo under that rotten stick. However, even that is undermining what WW accomplishes. The action is good, Gal Gadot is great as is her chemistry with Chris Pine on screen. The finale is dogsh*t. It’s so bad and unoriginal that it made me wonder if everything before it had tricked me. I don’t think that’s the case so in the end I think what we got was a genuine attempt at righting the ship at DC even if it forgot to drop some of its dead weight. Rating: B

It Comes at Night – Whenever someone asks me about this movie I always say simply this: good movie, sh*t marketing. Except to call out specifics of the marketing could spoil part of the movie for some, even if it would serve to align their expectations. It Comes at Night is a depressing movie. It’s misery porn at its most basic levels. The performances are great, the idea is solid and the director seems to know that less is more when it comes to making us scared and feeling dirty. However, the film shows us so little and tells us nothing that would make enduring the misery all that profound. Rating: C+

Rough Night – Have you seen Very Bad Things? Well, it’s that, but with a cast of women. The case could be argued that Rough Night is considerably less dark than VBT, but let’s face it, were taking about a comedy with a murder at its center. Once there’s a dead body it is tough to pick back up the funny and lets just say the cast tries very hard to do so with mixed to mediocre results. By mixed I mean mixed decent jokes that are still to easy to be considered that clever. All in all you’re money is best spent grabbing a bag of dick straws and having your own party at home. Rating: D

Shimmer Lake – Shimmer Lake, another in the growing line of Netflix Originals, is a weird little flick that for those patient enough to stick it out should feel at least a minicam of appreciation. For those like me, you’ll get a kick out of it. The film is a botched robbery told in reverse and if you are invested enough to not ask why it’s being told in reverse then you, like me, won’t feel like you guessed what was going on from the beginning. It’s certainly not perfect, but I found myself laughing and impressed by a first time filmmakers grasp on reverse storytelling from beginning to end. Rating: B

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore – I know, I’m not a fan of long bizarre titles either. But once you watch this movie you probably couldn’t think of a more appropriate title either. Fantastic performances end to end and a near perfect yarn of normal people in over their heads in a mostly realistic scenario. Macon Blair wow’ed everyone his performance in Blue Ruin, might as well let him do it with his directing chops as well. Rating: A

47 Meters Down – You can thank The Shallows for giving hope to the possible theatrical success of this one. Saved last minute from a direct-to-DVD release at zero hour this Mandy Moore vehicle’s most redeeming aspects come in the form of those who have a fear of being trapped underwater with sharks in nearly pitch black conditions. Bad CGI sharks and questionable twists hinder the movie’s ability to be all that effective, making it similarly pulpy when compared to The Shallows. Rating: C+

[Movie Review] ‘Logan’ Infuses Heart and Violence into a Potent Cocktail

logan_poster-tgofWhile superhero fatigue still has me in its icy grip, along comes Logan to warm that chill–at least temporarily. Perhaps it’s the, at times, overwhelming violence or the emotional vulnerability of being a new dad that makes the arc Wolverine’s final chapter that much more effective. Whatever way you look at it, Hugh Jackman’s curtain call as the claw wielding potty-mouth is a fitting and emotional bow that might rely a little too much on its R rating and hero cliches.

Picking up in 2029 where mutant residency has since passed, Logan spends his days driving a limo for drunk brides and frat boys chanting ‘Merica near the US/Mexico border. South of the border Logan lives with Caliban (Stephen Merchant) and an aged Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart with his most powerful portrayal as Professor X to date) suffering dementia and the occasional population crippling seizure. With his health steadily declining and his body unwilling to heal like it used to Logan begrudgingly accepts to transport a young mutant, Laura (Dafne Keen), with powers strikingly similar to his own, North across the Canadian border and hopefully to safety away from the research facility tracking her down. (more…)

[Movie Review] ‘Get Out’ is an Enthralling Exploration of Social Fear Through Liberal Racism

getout_tgofposterJordan Peele, a name synonymous with clever biting commentary on social issues, has stepped into the cinematic ring and delivered a one-two punch that’s more potent than anything audiences have seen in a wide release horror flick in quite some time. Get Out leans a little bit more studio than recent critical darlings such as The Witch or It Follows, but has a punch all its own that rivals some of the best genre films of all time.

Whether or not Peele’s debut feature will stand the test of time is yet to be seen, but it’s hard to imagine something this sharp and witty to get pushed back in the annals of cinema history. No, it’s not just possible, but likely that Get Out is going to be talked about amongst critics and audiences alike for the foreseeable future. Exploring the simple yet all too real awkwardness of an African-American male meeting his Caucasian girlfriend’s parents and the weird stuff going on within the grounds of the family’s sizable estate. From scene one, Peele sets an uneasy yet humorous stage with an intro that features a black male waltzing in a suburban neighborhood at night before befalling something a little spooky. The racial factor is of course not lost on an audience of any race or gender, but is in fact a fear I’m sure we’ve all had walking late at night in unfamiliar territory–the possibility of being stalked by someone with less than noble intentions.  (more…)

[Movie Review] ‘Fifty Shades Darker’ is Heavy on Cheese and Light on Kink

fiftyshadesdarker_postertgofLet’s be honest with one another–the Fifty Shades series is an easy target for snarky critics. There’s not much of a challenge in sitting down and pinpointing every illogical turn the movie takes and every laughable line of dialogue uttered by actors who seem as tickled about what they are saying as we are hearing it. It’s hard to take a breath, collect oneself and approach a movie like Fifty Shades Darker and pick out why you should see it–and trust me, no one involved has made it easy.

For every one thing good you can say about James Foley’s film there are a handful more pushing into the spotlight to ruining it for the rest of us. Yet we march on–Fifty Shades Darker picks up shortly after the first film as Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) continues to creepily pine for the plain Jane, Anastasia (Dakota Johnson). After a half-hearted attempt to brush him off, Anastasia agrees to meet with Christian to renegotiate the terms of their “arrangement”. As they embark on their new relationship Christian’s past and Anastasia’s vanilla sex appeal proves to be a little more complicated than they anticipated.  (more…)

[Movie Review] ‘The LEGO Batman Movie’ is the Hilarious and Heartfelt Hero We Deserve

In 2016 we saw Batman twice in theaters and for most of us, we left those two encounters less than enthusiastic. With Warner Bros. flailing wildly in need of a hit, in steps some tiny plastic toys to save the day. Even with as good as The LEGO Batman Movie is, it also amplifies how inept Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad were at the most fundamental level–being entertaining. In a way, the latest in the Batman universe acts as a sincere apology for the aforementioned disappointments.

To be fair The LEGO Batman Movie has the benefit of irreverent humor that leans heavily in meta territory. The film exists in a world where Gotham City and its citizens are kind of tired of Batman’s shenanigans. Years of fighting bad guys and yet crime rates are as high as ever. Even Batman’s greatest enemy, Joker, has decided that he must concoct a new scheme to get the Caped Crusader in touch with his emotions. With the help of a recently adopted orphan, Dick Grayson, and the city’s new commissioner, Barbara Gordon, Batman embarks on a mission to save his tarnished reputation and the city.  (more…)

[Movie Review] M. Night Has ‘Split’ Personalities

split_tgofposterAdvice for Split…just sit back, relax and enjoy the one man show that is James McAvoy. Don’t wait for a twist. Don’t expect M. Night to drop the ball at some point. Just find a comfortably groove in your theater seat and picture yourself at one of the greatest one man shows you’ve seen in recent memory–maybe ever.

M. Night Shim Sham has certainly made a name for himself over the last decade or so–and not all in a good way. After breaking onto the scene and becoming known as the master of the twist it then quickly became his Achilles heel. When The Visit was released last year people were giddy with the idea that the filmmaker had reinvented himself–that the filmmaker who had grown to be waaay into himself as an artist and the twist machine was running on empty had finally turned a corner. Split continues that progression, but in a much different way.  (more…)