movie review

[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] ‘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] ‘Arrival’ Stirs Up All the Emotions

arrivalposter_tgofLife is a beautiful thing. It’s complex, subjectively fulfilling and in various ways, sad. Denis Villeneuve excels in conveying humanity and emotion in the most beautiful and hideous ways. Prisoners, Enemy and Sicario are incredible examples of just how dark the filmmaker views the human condition so it’s only right that with Arrival he introduces extraterrestrials to have a heady and heart-wrenching talk with us humans.

Arrival is high end science fiction. A thinking person’s genre flick. Villeneuve drops a handful of alien spacecrafts into our world and a less discerning movie-goer salivates while waiting for the eye-popping VFX and ariel dogfights. However, when your main character, Louise (Amy Adams), being a linguist and her side kick, Ian (Jeremy Renner), a theoretical physicist, sent to decrypt and analyze alien language to engage in deep conversation there just isn’t room for devastating city-wide explosions and laser beams.  (more…)

Blu-ray Review: High-Rise

highrise_bluray_tgofBen Wheatley’s High-Rise carries a dreamlike look and feel, but is as far from euphoric in its overall impact. Boosted by breathtaking cinematography High-Rise is all at once a marvel to look at and frustrating to experience.

The film follows the exploits of residents within one of newly erected high-rise, with Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) being the newest inhabitant. Not long after Laing takes up residence the folks on lower floors begin to revolt against the building’s creator and residents of the upper floors.

It would be lovely to expand upon the premise, but essentially that’s the crux of High-Rise, in spite of the higher minded hijinx that Wheatley conducts with an elegant ease. Perhaps though, his intentions of the J.G. Ballard adaptation never feel entirely clear. There is of course socioeconomic implications abound, the problem is that there isn’t much in the way of structure to anything happening on screen.  (more…)

TGoF Hangover: Fantasia Film Festival (Final Round)

anotherevil_posterThe last batch of Fantasia Reviews is a doozy, so why don’t we just hop right in, shall we?

Another Evil

As a huge fan of HBO’s Silicon Valley I was extremely intrigued to check out one of the show’s sporadic writers, Carson Mell’s, directorial debut. Another Evil explores the uncomfortable world of bringing in an emotionally fragile individual into your vacation home to exorcise ghosts that are cramping your style–we’ve all been there, am I right?

The film is bolstered by a uniquely unsettling performance from Mark Proksch as Os, the socially challenged exorcist on the verge of divorce and a potential midlife crisis. In many ways his work calls to mind the great Mark Duplass and his performance in Creep, except…ya know, there are demons. As the audience we know there’s something supernatural afoot so Os’ intentions at first seem on the level, but after a while it’s unclear if he really has a gift or if he’s a lunatic with a glove that emits radio static. It all culminates with a troubling finale that drives home the ultra dark comedy by transforming into an even darker horror/thriller–with a touch of drama. (more…)

Movie Review: Hell or High Water

hellorhighwater_poster_tgofSmall town USA is rarely captured with the authenticity represented in David Mackenzie’s latest, Hell or High Water. Taylor Sheridan’s masterfully written screenplay certainly drives it all home and spot on performances from Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges are just icing on the dusty cake.

A western in the time of conceal carries, iPhones, and security cameras. Hell or High Water’s contagious aesthetic lends to the timely economic message at the center of the film. Pine stars as Toby a poor rancher with a plan to rob a branch of banks, with the help of his brother Tanner (Foster), before the bank can foreclose on his ranch and seize control. Standing in their way is a grizzled Texas Ranger, Marcus (Jeff Bridges), hot on their trail.

There’s more to the story, but it behooves oneself to let Mackenzie and Sheridan settle you in and experience their story with as few details as possible. If it helps, picture Hell or High Water as the west Texas cousin of Ben Affleck’s, The Town. A handful of small town bank robberies low on gunplay and casualties allow the tension to slowly build. With the help of a wicked sense of humor the last act hits like a ton of bricks. (more…)

TGoF Hangover: Warcraft, Angry Birds, Captain America: Civil War, Neighbors 2, TMNT 2, and More!

It’s been a while and there are plenty of movies in my rear view so to conserve some space you can check out my reviews of some recently released flicks all in one place- as well as beer recommendations to go with. Read on to check out some reviews for the following: Warcraft, Angry Birds, Captain America: Civil War, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Manson’s Lost Girls, and The Ones Below!

Warcraft

Zero. That is exactly the amount of not hours, not minutes, but seconds I’ve spent playing World of Warcraft. So what business have I to attempt to review a film that is so obvious in its attempts to please its fans? Technically none. As a fan of cinema and someone who tries to see anything and everything that I possibly can it behooves oneself to have a voice amongst those who are like me, but maybe are on the fence about spending money to see it.  (more…)

Movie Review: Green Room

greenroom_tgofRoad weary punk rockers run afoul with backwoods Oregan skinheads in Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room– the director’s follow up to his surprise indie hit, Blue Ruin. Maybe it’s jumping the gun a bit and at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, but this could end up being the best movie I see throughout 2016.

Now, how can someone make such a bold statement just five months into the year? It’s actually pretty simple: I can’t find one thing that I do not like about this film. You read the bare bones premise in the opening of the review, and quite frankly, that’s all you need to know. That’s not to say that knowing the how the punk rockers run afoul with the skinheads will ruin the movie, it’s just that sometimes a one sentence slug is sufficient enough to sell a movie. Especially one with as simple a set up as Green Room. Saulnier isn’t out here trying to weave a complicated mystery that is trying to be one step ahead of the audience with twists and turns. The filmmaker simply slams a scenario down on the table and says, “What would you do?”  (more…)

Movie Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane

10cloverfieldlane_posterThe way 10 Cloverfield Lane came out of nowhere (at least the marketing) just a month or two before its release reminds one of an exciting time. A time when we didn’t have a year or more to stew about an upcoming release and let the excitement slowly fade by the time it saw the light of day. A time where mystery can still exist in our theatrical experiences.

The less one knows about 10 Cloverfield Lane the better, but here’s the bare minimum just to cover all my bases. Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a woman running away from a relationship when she is in a terrible car accident. When she wakes, she finds herself in a stuffy bunker held by the mysterious and potentially dangerous, Howard (John Goodman). Howard informs her of an attack that happened and that she and another guest, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) may be living together in his shelter for what could be as long as two years. Michelle, must decide if Howard is indeed looking out for her best interest, or if her savior is harboring some questionable and unstable motives.  (more…)

Movie Review: Deadpool

teaser-one-sheetIn 2009, if someone had mused about the possibility of a Deadpool movie, X-Men Origins: Wolverine almost singlehandedly put those hopes to bed. The fact that we are here now, means of course the fate of the “Merc with a mouth” wasn’t quite as grim as previously feared. Comic fans and non-readers alike can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the gleefully profane Deadpool not only found the light of day, but shattered box office records even with its much needed hard R rating. Breathe a double sigh for the fact that the film is pretty f*ckin’ awesome too.

A superhero movie decidedly not for the kiddos, but don’t worry, when they are of age they’ll seek this bad boy out and you can finally share in the love. Deadpool follows the origin story of the anti-hero played wonderfully by Ryan Reynolds. Before he was Deadpool though he was Wade Wilson, a mercenary for hire who meets and falls in love with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). Things seem to be going perfectly when he’s hit with a bombshell- he has cancer. Facing certain death and unwilling to make Vanessa endure the pain he accepts an invite from a mysterious man proclaiming he has the cure and can turn Wilson into a hero with extraordinary abilities. The process leaves him horribly scarred and Wilson embarks on a revenge mission to find the man who turned him into an invincible monster.  (more…)