Thursday, June 2, 2016

Daddy's Home [2015] review

Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg partner up in this comedy movie about the best step dad in the world verses the absent biological father.  Unfortunately most of the writing falls flat as there aren't really any jokes, but situations that are supposed to make the audience laugh. 

One of the most eye rolling moments is when Will Ferrell attempts to ride a motorcycle, loses control, goes into the house and the motorcycle comes out the window and lands on the family car.  The CGI was horrible and then finding Will Ferrell stuck in the wall inside the house yelling for Mark Wahlberg to put a shirt on elicited no laughter. 

Will Ferrell's boss played by Thomas Haden Church tells three random stories about his ex-wives that are supposed to be funny too, and where some might get a slight chuckle, most of the time the stories felt forced and out of place.  Also, since the boss character bonds with Mark Wahlberg, it just adds another character that is against Ferrell. 

Actually, even the kids don't bond with Ferrell for apparently no reason other than the fact that he's simply the step dad.  The daughter makes it plainly clear that they don't like him which one might find funny, but the childish humor from the child didn't land for me.

Hannibal Buress is shoe horned into this movie as the repairman who ends up living with the family.  He adds no humor in this movie and I'm not a fan of his standup in the first place, so he was already starting in the negatives and never reached positive.

The movie is essentially Meet the Parents where instead of everyone being against Ben Stiller, everyone is against Will Ferrell, and where Meet the Parents can be enjoyable on subsequent viewings, I don't see myself revisiting Daddy's Home ever again.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

It Follows [2015] review

The crux of the movie is that something follows you and it can take any form it wants. The only way to stop it from following you is to have sex with someone else, then it will start following that person. Unfortunately, if it kills that person, then it will come back after you again. Unfortunately, only you can see it so if your friends try to help, you just look like a crazy person running from nothing. "It" takes a couple bullets in the film but keeps coming. "It" walks towards you so you can get away from it, but if it touches you, you're pretty much a goner as it has super strength.

I found the movie pretty creepy, but not super scary. The soundtrack is just a series of repeated creepy sounds like you'd hear walking through a haunted house; it became slightly comical as the movie progressed. If you like fantasy horror mysteries, you'll like this film, otherwise you'll probably want to steer clear.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Hateful Eight [2015] review

As expected, the movie was very Tarantino, with the violence and the cursing, which I loved, but also very slow at parts.  I felt it spent a little too much time in the carriage.  I didn't realize that essentially the carriage and the Haberdashery would be the only two set pieces, but I enjoyed the mystery of it all once everyone was at the Haberdashery.  The use of the N word seemed a little overboard than usual, but only because my girlfriend pointed it out which made me more aware of it during viewing, otherwise it didn't bother me.  Most of the acting was excellent save for Jennifer Jason Leigh who seemed to be channeling Melissa Leo, Tim Roth who seemed to be doing a poor impression of Christoph Waltz, and Zoe Bell who seemed a little too over enthusiastic for her small part in the flashback scene (the scene itself felt very similar to the scene before the Massacre at Two Pines in Kill Bill V2 - needed, but too much happy in it and less normalcy if that makes sense).

Despite the above little nitpicks, I enjoyed this film and would choose to watch this again soon over Django.  Sam Jackson definitely steals the show and I loved the idea of the Lincoln letter.


My ratings of Tarantino's 8 films:
(best to least)
Pulp Fiction, (1994)
Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2, (2003-04)
Reservoir Dogs, (1992)
Inglorious Basterds, (2009)
The Hateful Eight, (2016)
Django Unchained, (2012)
Jackie Brown, (1997)
Death Proof, (2007)

Monday, May 9, 2016

Captain America: Civil War [2016] review

"Captain America:  Civil War" definitely felt like Winter Solider 2.0 to me which isn't bad.  I loved Winter Solider more upon subsequent viewings so I expect the same for this film. 

At first pass, it felt sad. I knew going in the good guys would be divided and I looked forward to those actions scenes, but at the end of the day, you don't want to see your "friends" fighting. You want to see the good guys fighting the bad guys. It didn't feel like anyone won in the film, but that they all lost, especially when the movie ended with Bucky going back on ice.

Other thoughts:
 Where was Vision during the battle against Crossbones? Did they say Crossbones in the movie? If they did, it must of been during the chaos of the first act and I missed it.

 I didn't like the use of the shaky cam with all the action going on in the first act. While on the vehicles, maybe, but once off the vehicles I would have preferred a more steady shot, but during the part with Black Widow it seemed like the camera was just shaking just to make the scene more intense for someone with no "powers".

 So did Bucky remember Steve in their first scene together? Was Bucky aware of his actions when he was brainwashed or not? Was there just brainwashed and non-brainwashed Bucky or was their a third personality? I wasn't sure when we were dealing with what Bucky especially since we were getting a lot of his back story which I think was the point. I think this will definitely help with future viewings.

 Tony Stark was funny, but not as funny as Tony normally was in other films. Not only were he and Pepper on a break, but he was fighting with his best friend. Then when you think things are looking up they hit you with the twist.

 Spider-man was great. I thought it was really good that the movie took the time to have the Tony/Peter scene in his bedroom before throwing him into the fray. Very smart and very well done. Once he appeared in his suit, I think he acted accordingly and was very true to the character. One of the best exchanges was between him and Steve about him having a lot of heart and booth of them mentioning where they were from (Brooklyn/Queens connection).

 Everything Ant-Man was very funny and the trick up his sleeve took me by surprise and I was smiling the whole time. I'm glad that it wasn't spoiled in the trailers.

 The end scene where you thought Captain America might decapitate Iron Man and then left behind the shield that his father made for him. Very powerful scene and very well done.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Creed [2015] review

The movie was decently entertaining.  I hadn't heard a bad thing about it, so I expected it to blow me away.  When it didn't, I was a little let down. 

1)  I appreciate that the movie decided to give Michael B. Jordan's character a love interest, but I don't think he needed one.  The movie could have been shorter and they could have expanded on his and Rocky's (aka Unc's) relationship.

2)  Speaking of Rocky, I didn't get why he just suddenly decided to train Adonis.  I appreciate him going to the grave of his late wife and brother in law, but it would have been better if he visited Apollo's grave or even visited Apollo's wife in LA to have a battle on conscience.  It would have served the story better to actually see him battle with the decision and see the weight of Apollo's death being put back into his mind, but I just didn't feel it.

3)  The stat cards for each boxer - what was the point?  As a person that doesn't follow boxing, I don't know if these were real boxers based on their real stats or if this was just a way to quickly show that this untrained kid was way over his head because everyone he was fighting had flawless, near perfect records. 

4)  The Adonis battle to fight to make a name for himself and not live in his father's shadow when paralleled with Rocky's battle with cancer was good writing.  The movie took a small step back at the end when his mom left him a present and the note said make a name for yourself, and the boxers said Creed on them (as well as Johnson) and were the same color as Creed's from Rocky IV so probably not the best way to make a name for yourself by mimicking your dad's style.

5)  When Adonis's eye was swollen, I was half expecting a "Cut me, Rock" to mimic the famous "Cut me, Mick", but it never came, so again, maybe my expectations were too high but this movie was just ok and I can kind of see it as a reboot to the franchise if they powers that be wanted to do it that way and make a Creed II.  Michael B. Jordan was great in the roll and if he does play Creed and Stallone plays Rocky again in the future, then hopefully both and not just one of them will get an Oscar nomination.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Doctor Zhivago [1965] review

+ all around good acting, but Julie Christie stood out as the star, it's a shame she wasn't in it as much as it follows the doctor

- the back drop of the movie was the Russian Revolution, but I didn't think the movie did a good job explaining the sides and if having a czar was a good or bad thing until the everyone in the movie was happy that there was one, while the "enemy" was still operating under their own agenda and did whatever they wanted without an apparent opposition

+ the movie was essentially a flashback as Alec Guinness explains to a girl who may or may not be his niece the story of his brother, the doctor. The movie is bookended by those scenes with Alec Guinness and the girl and the end ties together a certain "Rosebud"-esque theme found in the movie

- I didn't understand how the doctor had a brother when he wasn't present at the funeral. I think they mentioned something about he being with their father, but if that was the case, why wasn't the doctor with his brother and father instead of a family that took him in. If it was explained, I missed it

+/- The movie is beautifully shot similar to "Lawrence of Arabia", but just like it, this movie has a run time of 3 and 1/2 hours.

- Musically, "Lara's Theme" stands out and I felt was a bit over used in the film

Friday, March 25, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice [2016] review

Director Zack Snyder continues his story about a man, a Superman, trying to find his place in the real world. Superman, not being of this world, believes he owes it nothing and he will continue to operate as he sees fit. We see Superman save people throughout the movie, but he also gets blamed for killing people in the desert when he saves Lois early on in the film. The people were shot with guns and bullets. Superman doesn't use guns so I don't understand how he gets blamed for it. He also doesn't answer for his crimes against Metropolis from the events of "Man of Steel". He does finally decide to go to Washington DC in front of a council of senators, I believe, to only answer to the recent desert event and nothing more. The scene is then flushed away due to the machinations of Lex Luther.

Lex is introduced early in the film as well, playing basketball at his company. He explains to some senators that he has acquired a small piece of Kryptonite and a large sum was found in the Indian Ocean and he would like to have it delivered to him but he needs embargoes lifted. His intentions are to have it as a just in case measure. For some unbeknownst reasons, he is given the remains of Zod and also access to the ship that crashed in Metropolis in "Man of Steel" where employees leave him work unmolested and unquestioned to his own devices. Regardless of the embargo, he gets his shipment anyway which Batman later steals.

So Superman, Lois, Lex, Batman, and the government are all operating their own agenda. BUT, this is Batman verses Superman, so we need to throw Batman in the mix and show his agenda besides stealing Kryptonite.

We are treated to Batman's origin story yet again, and I believe it's via a dream sequence, and most of the time in this movie, Batman appears to be dreaming. He is also branding criminals for no reason which is branding him the movie's villain. But the American public hates Superman as a whole or at least that is portrayed via the media so he's also the villain. Then thanks to the real villain, Lex, the two villains of the movie - Batman and Superman battle for 5 minutes when those 5 minutes could have been better spent on the situation at hand which was Martha Kent's capture.

Superman eventually finds his place in the world - six feet under the ground. Batman finds Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborb in Lex's files, and WW decides to show up at the final battle against Doomsday to help out I guess. She's sprinkled randomly throughout the film as well for unknown/unexplained reasons.

In the end, I didn't understand Lex's entire plan as it wasn't clear on what events he manipulated and what events happened naturally and to what end he was trying to accomplish. The movie seemed to interrupt itself with every scene and it felt like a person waiting to speak instead of actually listening. Perry White had a few funny lines to break up the seriousness of the film, and Alfred felt like he was cast to do that as well but most of his humor missed the mark. Unfortunately, there wasn't much fun to be had and I'm glad I don't live in Snyder's universe.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Spotlight [2015] review

I'm not sure why this movie won Best Picture.  There was a lot I liked, but there was a lot I didn't.  This movie, as well others that were nominated, was based off a true story.  Therefore, this movie had two jobs:  (1) to entertain and (2) to inform. 

(1) How do you make a movie about priests raping young children entertaining? 

Well, what the movie did was it made the priests, and ultimately the Church, the bad guys while the newspaper team known as “Spotlight” was the good guys.  Did it do the best job at executing that?  Unfortunately, no. 
The Spotlight team was alleged to be this group that secretly and separately would uncover the facts that they needed to write their story, a story so strong that the Cardinal couldn't deny or poke holes in it.  The way the movie was shot, it felt like everybody knew what they were doing, even the people in their office that weren't supposed to know.  As the team began prying others for information, I wasn't even sure who those people were, but all were being very difficult about giving any information on first or second meeting.  Then finally, by the third meeting, each source decided to help for seemingly no reason.  The only part that really made sense and the part that was most entertaining was the unsealing of the documents and that process.  The movie could have focused on that process and it would have been a better, probably more exciting movie.

(2) The movie needed to inform me on what is going on, and who the important players were.  Here’s an example of dialogue VERY early on in the movie:

Marty Baron: Did everyone read Eileen McNamara's column this weekend?
Boston Globe Worker: That's the Geoghan case?
Marty Baron: Yeah, what's the follow on that?
Ben Bradlee Jr.: It-It's a column, what kind of follow are you thinking?
Marty Baron: Uh... well apparently this priest molested kids in 6 different parishes over the last 30 years and the attorney for the victims, a Mr...
Eileen McNamara: Garabedian
Marty Baron: Thanks Eileen, Mr Garabedian says Cardinal Law found out about it 15 years ago and did nothing.

Wait, so who's Eileen?  She doesn’t work for Spotlight.  Who's Geoghan?  Who's Garabedian?  Eventually, we find out who these people are, but then the movie starting shoving other characters down our throat.  Who was the guy that Michael Keaton's character was meeting with and why his sudden change of heart at the very end?  That came out of nowhere.  And who exactly was the guy that Mark Ruffalo's character was talking to on the phone -- a former priest who married a nun.  What?  Oh hi, Rachel McAdams's characters husband.  And here's her Nana.  Everyone was in the film.  I wouldn't have been surprised if Spider-man swung in for a scene.

Joking aside, this movie had a tough job and I think it stumbled on the execution.  It wasn’t a bad movie, but I don’t think it was worthy of the Best Picture win. 

The subject matter of this movie was very powerful and very disturbing.  I believe it was handled well and I appreciate the “survivor” actors that were used to portray the pain and frustration.  In a small way, I was almost reminded of Netflix's "Making a Murderer" and how the corrupt system was being put on trial, but the trial would be played out in the newspaper, a trial we would never see as the movie ended with the publishing of the story. 

The acting was phenomenal by the main cast.  Liev Schreiber appeared blasé, but I assumed that's how Marty Baron acted in real life.  Maybe Schreiber should have been more of a Perry White for entertainment's sake.

In the end, I think the movie needed to highlight the good people of "Spotlight" more and made them a tight knit group.  If they weren’t in real life then maybe they should have been for the movie and the truth could have slightly bended.  What also didn’t help was since the beginning of the movie it was implied that the Boston Globe could have broken this story years ago, but it got missed and the person that missed it was the head of Spotlight, Michael Keaton’s character.  The movie took that fact and went in the direction that it happens sometimes, stories get missed, but what was important is that the paper finally did the right thing by releasing the story and doing good investigative work, work that put a strain on their personal life, but it was only mentioned for one specific character and not a focus like I believe it should have been.

Final thought:  The said folo a lot in the movie, but it sounded like follow.  Is folo short for portfolio or something else?  I didn’t understand the term and if it was explained I must have missed it.


Best Pic noms in order of enjoyment:
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Big Short
The Martian
The Revenant
Bridge of Spies

To view:

Monday, March 21, 2016

Steve Jobs [2015] review

Fassbender, Winslet, Rogen, Daniels, Stuhlbarg, Waterston - all did an excellent job.  I truly felt I was watching a documentary on the characters that they each represented and not the actor him/herself.  The movie is constructed as a play, in a way, with three acts, all taking place before an unveiling of a new product, but as a viewer, I didn't know that until the movie was over.  With that said, when the movie was building up towards the first presentation and then it cut away to sum up the events and time jump, I felt robbed as a viewer. 

When I found myself at the "NeXT" presentation (pun intended), I was semi waiting for the same thing to happen again and I don't know how invested I could get because I didn't want to feel robbed again so I put up a wall.  Thankfully, the plot knocked it down as it focused on the aftermath of Jobs termination and the anger he still felt about it.  Coupled with the events of his personal life with his estranged daughter, and the fact that Jobs himself was adopted as a baby, I did feel sorry for him, but at the same time I kind of hated him and it appeared that everyone in his life at the time did too so the viewer was on the same page with the supporting cast against the main actor so props to Boyle and Sorkin for a job well done. 

After a strong second act, I had renewed hopes for the end of the movie and while I enjoyed parts of it, it just kind of ended.  Maybe I craved more.  Maybe I wanted a fourth or fifth act.  I'm not sure.

In the end, I don't know what I expected or wanted from this movie.  I'm glad it wasn't like Justin Long's portrayal in "iSteve" and I have yet to see Ashton Kutcher's performance in the 2013 movie "Jobs" and at this point I don't know if I will, but I guess I wanted to be entertained as I do with every movie I see and I was for the most part.  I suppose I was left with wanting more and I didn't feel fully satisfied.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Big Short [2015] review

This movie takes the very confusing concept of the housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s and makes it slightly less confusing using humor that combines 3 different yet similar stories into one semi cohesive storyline. The first follows Christian Bale's character, one follows Steve Carell's character (and his group), and the last follows Brad Pitt's "friends". Ryan Gosling's character is associated with Carell's group and he brings a lot of laughs.

At first I was kind of lost. Then the movie takes the gamble by insulting you, but then has Margot Robbie playing herself explain what is going on while she sits in a bubble bath. Hilarious, and thankfully the laughs continue. Director Adam McKay does a great job of keeping you invested in the story, but I found myself fighting it. I was rooting against the characters because I didn't like them and they appeared to be betting against the US economy. Then you realize that they are actually betting against the banks, and at one point I felt sorry for them, so I started rooting for them. Unfortunately, rooting for them meant rooting for the eventual collapse of the US economy due to the then-stable housing market so it was quite the journey.

McKay did a good job putting a face on some of those affected, "the poor and the immigrants" and I genuinely felt sorry for them. He also showcased how dumb and/or ignorant people were concerning mortgages, bonds, and other financial products.

The movie definitely had a "The Wolf of Wall Street" vibe, and I find myself wanting to watch it a 2nd or 3rd time to maybe understand it more, but at the same time I don't want to watch it because it's so freakin' sad. People saw the tragedy coming and everyone just laughed at them. It's truly heartbreaking.


Best Pic noms in order of enjoyment:
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Big Short
The Martian
The Revenant
Bridge of Spies

To view:

Friday, February 19, 2016

Big Eyes [2014] review

Props to Tim Burton for 1) not casting Johnny Depp, 2) not casting Helena Bonham Carter, and 3) exploring a movie filmed not using his "normal" style, even though it does have a tinge of Edward Scissorhands coloring at parts.

Amy Adams does a good, not great job as Margaret Keane.  Christoph Waltz does a fantastic job as Walter Keane, but I wish the script explored a little bit more of his motivations other than just making him look like a clever ass hole.  Both take you on a interesting journey of this story inspired by true events, and it kept me captivated for most of the movie until the end courtroom scenes that just felt silly.  It's definitely worth a watch, as I enjoyed it, but don't rush out and rent/buy it.  3 out 5 stars.

Monday, January 4, 2016

No Escape [2015] review

The Dowdle Brothers do an excellent job in creating a real sense of fear and urgency in this film, but that's really where the praise ends.

I think the casting was the biggest issue. There were some very serious, very realistic events portrayed in this movie and I felt that maybe Owen Wilson's character was cast to alleviate the tension when those situations got intense, but I don't think it came across as expected/desired. Maybe it was just the writing. Also, I understand the need for the children and the mother figure in this movie, but I felt they could have added much more to their roles. Ultimately, they just felt like baggage. Pierce Brosnan was added as the "action star/inside guy" since Owen Wilson was playing the "father/out of his element" role; sadly, Mr. Brosnan didn't add much to the overall experience, but his final scene was pretty cool.

Plot-wise, the overall mystery of "why is this happening" added to the realism, and while there were some hints once things got started, I think holding off on the reveal until the final act was a mistake. Since the reveal was so simple and expressed nonchalantly, it lacked any real punch, and by that point, I was just waiting for the movie to end.