tom hiddleston

[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+

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…)

Mini Reviews: Escape From Tomorrow, Haunter, 2 Guns, Thor: The Dark World and More!

thor2_posterThor: The Dark World – Following THE AVENGERS, my excitement for new Marvel movies has both grown and lessened. I can’t wait to get more of the adventures of my favorite characters (Iron Man and Captain American) but I also never really cared if I saw more Thor adventures. I don’t hate the character, in fact I actually gave the first THOR a pretty favorable ranking. In retrospect I would probably scale down my review of the first film having tried to rewatch it and barely be able to get halfway through before losing interest.

It didn’t bode well for my viewing of THOR: THE DARK WORLD, but I did my best to view the sequel with virgin eyes- pure and unburdened by my preconceptions of what to expect from the experience. The result being that I again didn’t hate the film, but it did nothing to make me second guess my thoughts on seeing more Thor sequels in the future.

Frankly if not for Tom Hiddleston as Loki, I’m not real sure if I’d have committed to watching the sequel at all. That of course is not entirely fair because Chris Hemsworth actually makes a pretty great Thor and he does a great job at bringing some of the comedic aspects of the character to life. Beyond the funny moments though I don’t particularly find almost anything else about THOR: THE DARK WORLD at all interesting or exacting. (more…)

Movie Review: The Avengers (2012)

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This movie is awesome! There you go that’s really all I have to say- but at the risk of wasting space with just a short sentence I’ll indulge further. THE AVENGERS isn’t just the best action movie of the year- so far- it’s better than all of the previous Marvel superhero movies released to date. So good in fact that it almost seems pointless to make any sequels to the previous films or spinoff hero films because people will probably just wish the rest of the Avengers showed up and wrecked shop. It’s also safe to say that I think Joss Whedon should be tapped to direct every superhero movie from here on out- maybe even every action movie from here on out. So hopefully his schedule is clear.

By now everyone is likely aware the film combines the heroes from previous Marvel films to form what are known as The Avengers. Thor’s brother Loki has conspired to bring an army, the Chitauri, to Earth in hopes of ruling the planet with the help of a cube of energy, the Tesseract, which opens a portal that summons the army from another world into ours. It’s up to S.H.I.E.L.D. to assemble a handful of heroes- Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Captain America and The Hulk to stop the threat from taking over the world.

Enough of that though, I’d rather just take time to go on and on about how awesome it was to see each of these heroes working together in all their unique ways. Each character is introduced perfectly, with the exception of Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) who comes and goes here and there till the end when he has a bigger role. The film doesn’t lean on any one of the characters specifically and instead does something even better by showing them together as a group as much as possible. What’s even better than that is showing them at odds with each other which makes them uniting to fight Loki and the Chitauri even more satisfying.

THE AVENGERS is extremely action packed and when it’s not its laugh out loud funny. The script is incredibly smart and clever in the set up for action but also with very funny jokes. During the action there are also moments of snarky comments from none other than Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man while he’s taking out enemies or funny physical gags- the best involving The Hulk and his massive physical presence and brutal strength. The relationships between the characters build so well that their chemistry by the end is incredible which is remarkable in and of itself with the star power involved and the amount of screen time it takes to get each character time to shine.

The special effects are top notch- providing several money shots within the action scenes themselves and often blending seamlessly with the environments. Good special effects being key for a movie with such fantastic ideas and out of this world characters, but the entire movie plays out like what a child would vision in their head while playing with their action figures, except maybe even more imaginative. Even the more intimate of action set pieces have elements of pure adrenaline and excitement- which comes across in large part due to how connected we are to the characters which is just another way to praise Whedon and company for how well everything is fleshed out.

We couldn’t have asked for a better cast- even if most were obligated to reprise their roles based on their previous appearances. Downey is hysterical as always as the billionaire playboy, Tony Stark/Iron Man; Evans is phenomenal once again as the soldier with a heart of gold, Steve Rogers/Captain America. I guess the only real question mark for me was bringing in Mark Ruffalo to play Bruce Banner/Hulk- but my worries were needless because his turn as the green beast with serious anger management issues was my favorite use of the character in film yet and his green Mr. Hyde side gets plenty of applause inducing moments.

I’d hate to sound overzealous, but the truth be told at the moment I can’t think of a single aspect of the film I didn’t like. I also hesitate to call it perfect because in all honesty I don’t believe in calling any film perfect. THE AVENGERS though is one of those exceptions I believe is rating proof as one I can give my full approval and not feel bad about it. Even as long as the film is it moves like a freight train and is always fun and exciting to watch. I fully expect the film to play extraordinarily well on multiple viewings even once it is released for home video consumption.

On spectacle alone THE AVENGERS would have my full recommendation, but as a whole the film is a smart, funny, exciting and even dramatically engaging summer blockbuster- and one of the best in recent years. Anchored by an all-star cast that turn in fantastic work, amazing special effects and a script that is paced perfectly allowing for a long but always exciting runtime t and when it was over I was ready to plant myself in my seat and watch again. THE AVENGERS is a midyear marvel that is one of the brightest shining stars of an already promising year of cinematic adventures.

Rating: 10/10