Archive for the ‘movie reviews’ Category

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Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

October 18, 2018


Director: Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods)
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Chris Hemsworth, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman

This movie had some serious potential with an electric cast in a Quentin Tarantino stylized mystery written and directed by Drew Goddard, a dude mostly known for writing and directing the unique and awesome horror flick The Cabin in the Woods and for creating “Daredevil”, easily the best Marvel series on Netflix.

I wanted to like it so much. All the ingredients for an awesome movie were there and for the first third of the movie, I was enthralled with the snappy dialogue and the intrigue surrounding all the mysterious visitors of Lake Tahoe’s El Royale hotel, which is literally split in half by the border of California and Nevada. I’ve thought about the film quite a bit and it’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly what went wrong, but I can say with certainty that the pacing was brutal at times. No one is going to criticize this movie for lack of character development, as each individual gets back story and plenty of screen time, but Bad Times at the El Royale has a tendency to reset just as things are getting really interesting. For instance, like many Tarantino films before, the movie is told in chapters and just as a chapter climaxes and something shocking happens, the scene cuts and we move on to another chapter and new point of view. Some might enjoy the slow burn of building back up to that climatic moment, but if I had to guess what made the pacing of the movie a bit excruciating it would be this tendency.

The cast is mostly great. Jeff Bridges is always very good and I enjoyed Jon Hamm also. Although I have zero interest in the 50 Shades of Grey series, Dakota Johnson has been captivating in other roles, particularly A Bigger Splash, and she is good again here. Chris Hemsworth plays against type as Billy Lee, a cult leader and possible pedophile. He’s very loose in the role, dancing, smoking cigarettes, and really seeming to enjoy doing something different. It’s a stark contrast to the stiff (although sometimes funny) Thor we’ve been watching him play for the past decade. He’s definitely villainous in this movie, but I enjoyed his screen presence.

Another point where I feel the film suffers is when Cynthia Erivo’s character is the focus. She’s an aspiring songstress that is headed to Reno for a small gig singing in a Keno lounge. I think Erivo’s acting is plenty good, but she sings at least four different songs in the film and the movie comes to a screeching halt whenever this happens. The songs are all slow, long and not particularly interesting and her performances aren’t nearly captivating enough to justify it. I know I reached a point where if I had to listen to her sing again, I was going to literally groan in agony.

Bad Times at the El Royale has some things working for it, particularly strong performances, cool and shocking moments, and plenty of intrigue, but pacing really hurts the overall enjoyment and the eventual revelations are a bit uninspired. It’s a Quentin Tarantino impression that will just make you wonder how much better it would have been if it was actually a QT film.

Replay Value: It’s not a must rewatch, but I could maybe do it again some day.

Sequel Potential: It wouldn’t make much sense to do one.

Oscar Potential: I’m going to say none.

Dina Meter: If this movie bored me at times, I’m sure it would bore Dina to death. I would not suggest that she needs to watch it.

5/10 (Decent)

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Venom (2018)

October 17, 2018


Director: Ruben Fleischer (Gangster Squad, Zombieland)
Starring: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed

Venom was a mess long before it hit theaters, so I’ve never really thought it was going to amount to much of anything. This movie has been in production since before the Sam Raimi Spider-Man franchise died and rumors of Spidey-related spinoffs abounded after the series rebooted with Andrew Garfield. So after Disney and Marvel reacquired the film rights to Spider-Man and Sony decided to plow forward with a Venom movie anyway, well, I just didn’t see how that could end well.

I actually thought this movie had nothing to do with the current Marvel Cinematic Universe, but after doing some digging it looks like I could be wrong. Maybe? As late as June 2017, Marvel’s president Kevin Feige said that Venom is solely a Sony project, but the Sony side of things have claimed that their new universe will be “adjunct” to the MCU and that Tom Holland’s Spider-Man may even appear in future films. I’m not an expert Venom historian, so I don’t know if it’s possible to pull off a Venom movie without Spider-Man and not piss all the fans off, but I imagine DC trying to do a Joker movie without Batman and – wait… that is actually happening.

Then they cast Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock and I was officially bewildered. Was there actually hope for this movie? Well, the trailers looked awful and critics were crucifying it, so heading into my viewing of Venom I was expecting to to be absolutely terrible.

Honestly, I didn’t like it much, but I have definitely seen worse. The first hour or so of Venom is brutally boring. We are introduced to Eddie Brock’s world and watch as everything quickly crumbles around him. I actually thought three different people were going to tell him to “have a nice life” in a 10 minute span, but somehow the screenwriters resisted the urge to have Michelle Williams say it during their breakup scene. Basically, the first hour of the movie is a sequence of moments that you can already imagine Eddie Brock getting redemption for in the third act. It’s very formulaic and not at all interesting.

Meanwhile, Riz Ahmed’s character is a super rich science type that has acquired a bunch of symbiotes and he’s trying to figure out how to unite them with a host so that he can… honestly, I don’t remember what he’s trying to do. He probably plans to sell them as some sort of super soldier.

The movie does pick up once the Venom symbiote finds Eddie Brock. It gets very slap-sticky and starts to feel like a buddy film and the humor elevates enough that it made me laugh a few times. Most importantly, the pace and action are picked up significantly.

I think Venom looks terrible in this movie. For 2018, the CGI is awful. Venom looks incredibly fake and the climax of the movie literally looks like two giant wads of silly putty doing battle with each other. It is absurdly terrible. The special effects in this movie are a total embarrassment.

Venom managed to exceed my expectations, only because they were very, very low. This is not a good movie. All the characters are stale and uninteresting, Eddie Brock isn’t really someone you want to root for, and the performances are very uninspired. Tom Hardy is okay, I guess, but Michelle Williams’ talent is totally wasted and I’ve seen Riz Ahmed in some great roles (Nightcrawler, “The Night Of”), but he is straight up laughable in this movie. You think these things might be salvaged a bit when Venom is on screen – and to some degree they are – but the Venom personality is actually kind of stupid and annoying. Plus he looks really cheesy.

But what do I know? This movie has a 7.1 rating on IMDB and an 88% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, all while breaking October box office records. It’s an absolute smash hit and the general public seems to really like it, so… maybe you will too.

Replay Value: The thought of sitting through the first hour again sounds painful, but I could do the second half.

Sequel Potential: It looks like this will reach $250 million domestically so a sequel is inevitable. I don’t have much interest in Sony’s superhero movies and their history doesn’t suggest they are going to step their game up.

Oscar Potential: Zero.

Dina Meter: Dina might enjoy this more than I did, but I would be surprised if she watched it and said “that was good!”

3/10 (Bad)

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A Star is Born is the Best Movie of 2018

October 10, 2018

Director: Bradley Cooper
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott

My goodness, I loved it. I absolutely loved it. I knew going in from how I perceived the trailer and from a couple of reviews that I read that it could be something special and A Star is Born did not disappoint. It’s a true marvel in the marriage of my two favorite art forms: cinema and music. I spent the first half of the film smiling uncontrollably as Lady Gaga’s character Ally is taken under rock star Jackson Maine’s (Cooper) wing and thrust into the spotlight. The entire sequence that leads up to her stepping on the public stage for the first time is remarkable. It gave me goosebumps… It made my eyes water… It made me want to stand up and clap… and there were 90 minutes left in the movie!

The second half of the film is a different beast altogether and it took me two viewings (yes, I saw this movie twice in three days) to come to grips with how I really felt about it. While the first half of A Star is Born treads through familiar territory – underdog overcomes obstacles and odds to achieve success – the second half finds the film’s characters travelling paths that may make audiences cringe. That’s a good thing. Life isn’t easy and even the most successful and famous people in the world are real human beings with real problems. That’s something that’s easy to forget in a world where we tend to place entertainers and athletes on a surreal platform where their triumphs and tragedies are merely here for public amusement. Nothing pounds this point home like sitting in a packed theater and listening to the audience laugh through one of the film’s most tragic scenes. I can see how it is humorous, but it’s a horrifying and potentially career-threatening moment for Ally and I can assure you, we aren’t laughing with her.

Bradley Cooper has really elevated his star power with this movie. He was already an A-List actor, giving Oscar-nominated performances in Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, and American Sniper, but this is the best performance of his career. He really disappears into the role of Jackson Maine and embodies a grizzled, gin-soaked rock star in convincing fashion. And he can sing? And play the guitar? What. Being able to do those things at all is impressive enough, but being able to do them at a high level is pretty mind-blowing to me. I never thought the guy that played Phil in The Hangover could possibly be this talented, but here we are, and Cooper is easily one of my top 5 or so actors of the moment.

Cooper also directs A Star is Born and helped write the script. It really is a monumental achievement as this movie is going to get heaps of Oscar nominations. The script may have roots in previous films, but the chemistry and complications of the two main characters feel entirely genuine and that is a credit to Cooper’s intimate, borderline invasive, direction as the camera is unrelentingly capturing their every vulnerable moment in extreme close up. This is particularly true of Jackson Maine as you see him absentmindedly interacting with the people around him while he’s clearly wrestling with the demons inside his own head. Until he meets Ally. Ally gets his whole attention.

And she will get yours too. Lady Gaga is a revelation. I’ve read that exact sentence about this movie quite a few times, but I don’t know how else to put it. She is absolutely remarkable. Gaga is an international superstar with over 26 million records sold. She’s as famous for being absurdly eccentric as she is for her music. And yet, she embodies Ally as a talented, but unremarkable nobody and is convincingly blown away by her newfound good fortune. It amazes me that the pop star confidently strutting around in a meat dress and the girl trying to work up the courage to step on stage in this movie can be the same person. I suppose Eminem did something similar with 8 Mile in 2002 when he was at the height of his popularity, but every moment of that movie felt like Eminem was simply playing Marshall Mathers. Ally is so far removed from how we perceive Lady Gaga that even though this movie may be semi-autobiographical it still feels like a transformative performance. Gaga is mesmerizing every moment of this movie. She will get an Oscar nomination and she seems like a favorite to win right now.

Andrew Dice Clay plays Ally’s father and Sam Elliott plays Jackson’s brother and both performances are noteworthy. There’s a scene where Elliott’s character comes at odds with Jackson and I could feel Elliott earning an Oscar nomination in that moment.

A Star is Born also happens to feature the best music of Lady Gaga’s career. “Shallow” and “Always Remember Us This Way” are amazing songs and the whole soundtrack ranges from good to incredible. Even the poppy “Why Did You Do That?” has its place and plays an important role in the course of the story. Gaga’s performances brought tears to my eyes no less than three times and even Bradley Cooper’s solo songs are quite enjoyable. That reminds me… the stage performances are incredibly shot. I’ve read that the crew shot the scenes during breaks of actual music festivals, so it’s no surprise how authentic it all seems… because they are real performances in front of real crowds.

Cooper plays an alcoholic in this movie and it really hit home with me. I’m over eight years dry now and I don’t attend meetings and I have fully rebounded from any lasting affect drinking had on my life. So most of me feels completely removed from that part of my life and the majority of the people in my life these days never even knew that side of me, my wife included. But a small part of me stays vigilant, reminding myself not to forget and not to get too confident in sobriety. I’m sure one of the worst mistakes I could ever make is to think I could possibly drink responsibly. Watching A Star is Born is the closest I’ve felt to my own personal hell in many years. It literally broke my heart watching Jackson Maine succumb to his disease. I thought the portrayal was incredibly authentic and every step of his evolution was something I could personally relate to. It’s amazing how walled off you can be to the damage you are causing to those around you.

It’s been a while since a film affected me the way A Star is Born did. It’s easily my favorite film of 2018 and, glancing at my Top 10 lists, might be the best movie I’ve seen in years. This movie really has it all. It’s an absolute must watch that may end up being viewed as a true classic a few years down the road.

Replay Value: I’ve seen it twice already and liked it even more the second time. My wife still hasn’t seen it and I’d be happy to watch it a third time in theaters with her. I will definitely be buying this movie.

Sequel Potential: No direct sequel potential, but since this is at least the fourth iteration of this film, future versions are clearly likely.

Oscar Potential: Tons. Here are your locks for nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Original Song, and Best Sound Mixing. The movie is also drawing live at Best Supporting Actor (for Sam Elliott), Best (Adapted?) Screenplay, Best Original Music Score, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Makeup, Best Production Design, and maaaaaaaaybe Best Costume Design. It’s basically drawing live at a nom in every possible category and could challenge the record of 14 total nominations. I’m not sure exactly how Best Original Song works, but if one film can get multiple nominations I expect this one to get at least three in that category alone. This movie will win Best Original Song, but I’m not sure for which song. My personal vote would be for “Shallow.” I will be surprised if someone tops Lady Gaga’s performance in this movie and I can’t imagine rooting for anyone else come Oscar night. This is also my clear favorite for Best Picture at the moment.

Dina Meter: I think the second half of this movie is a bit challenging, but I will be pretty shocked if my wife doesn’t fall in love with this movie and if it doesn’t bring her to tears.

9/10 (Phenomenal)

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Tons of Movie Reviews!!

October 7, 2018

I am so far behind on movie reviews it is ridiculous. I haven’t posted thoughts on a movie since before I left for Vegas in late May, so… my list of movies I’ve seen and haven’t rated is quite long. Some of these will be difficult to write since it has been months since I’ve seen them. I’m going to make these quick in the spirit of catching up and starting fresh.

Hellfest (2018) – This was really dumb. I can write a long list of what sucked about this movie, so I’ll just say what I liked: the ending was actually kind of cool. (3/10 – Bad)

White Boy Rick (2018) – Based on true events, White Boy Rick’s story is worthy of being shared. Dude that played WBR was solid and Matthew McConaughey was a scene-stealer in the dad role. I enjoyed it. (6/10 – Fun)

Searching (2018) – I absolutely loved it. Searching manages to tell a compelling mystery through nothing but social media, computer apps, and surveillance cameras – it’s actually quite mind-boggling how well it is all pulled off. I was entranced by the story as it kept me guessing and intrigued, even though I did pick up on some huge clues on my first viewing. John Cho was solid in the lead role, giving the best performance of his career. I think this is a must see and I enjoyed it again when I saw it a second time, but for what it’s worth, both people I saw it with the first time hated it. (8/10 – Must See)

Terrifier (2018) – This is available on Netflix right now and if you enjoy horror movies where a potentially iconic villain terrorizes random people, then Art the Clown is your dude – he was phenomenal, giving Pennywise some legit contention for the most traumatizing clown title. This movie is gruesome beyond belief and highly entertaining if you’re into that sort of thing. Even the victims are less generic than your typical horror slasher. More Terrifier. More Art please. (7/10 – Highly Enjoyable)

Alpha (2018) – What starts off as a dreary tale of survival quickly turns into a story of what could be the first canine to become man’s best friend. This was definitely a feel good movie with some great visuals. It’s slow at times but ended up being much better than I thought it would be. (7/10 – Highly Enjoyable)

Crazy Rich Asians (2018) – This was good. A testament that racism and prejudice can exist even within the same ethnicity – in this case, a lower-to-middle class Chinese-American and, well, a “crazy rich” Chinese matriarch with cultural traditions as deep as her pockets. This movie was touching, sporadically funny, beautifully shot in jarring Singapore and has a solid breakout performance from rapper Awkwafina and strong performances from Constance Wu and Michelle Yeoh. A fun movie with tear-jerking potential. I recommend. (7/10 – Highly Enjoyable)

BlacKkKlansman (2018) – Another racially charged dramedy, this one’s a bit more poignant with Spike Lee’s adept filmmaking abilities in the director’s chair. A period piece, based on true events – or at least some “fo’ real fo’ real shit” – a cocky, black rookie police officer infiltrates the ranks of the Ku Klux Klan with the help of one of his fellow white officers. This movie is funny, disturbing and sad. Adam Driver is great. John David Witherspoon is fun. I really liked this movie but the lighthearted presentation takes away from the severity of it all. I wanted to feel something more and I think that’s what holds BlacKkKlansman back from being a truly great film. (7/10 – Highly Enjoyable)

The Meg (2018) – This was a fine monster shark movie, but it obviously doesn’t execute as well as Jaws did, or even last year’s 47 Meters Down. It’s not scary or particularly interesting but it’s reasonably entertaining. (5/10 – Decent)

Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018) – A great action flick. Tom Cruise and the M:I franchise keep plugging along, pumping out high quality popcorn entertainment. This movie has multiple phenomenal action sequences and Cruise’s Ethan Hunt has been cooler than James Bond for quite some time now. Superman was a good and formidable villain. This just might be the most entertaining movie I’ve seen in 2018. (8/10 – Must See)

The Death of Superman (2018) – This is the highly touted Superman vs Doomsday death match that DC comics got tons of attention for back in the early 90s brought to animated life on home video. I thought it was great. I forgot enough about the comic book arc that it all seemed pretty fresh to me, particularly the involvement of the Justice League. Also, Clark and Lois have some iconic moments. A must watch for comic book fans. (7/10 – Highly Enjoyable)

Teen Titans Go! to the Movies (2018) – Unfortunately, the reviews for this movie make it seem way better than it actually was. Yeah, there’s a lot of meta humor going on here, but it is overshadowed by sheer stupidity. I had a number of examples of upsetting moments after watching it that escape me now… months later… but this was a tough watch for an adult fan of DC comics. (3/10 – Bad)

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) – Jurassic World was enjoyable to me but any hope that this franchise has found new life is quickly destroyed by this terrible sequel. It is laughably bad at times and utterly ridiculous throughout its duration. I desperately want this franchise to succeed because the concept of dinosaurs in the modern world is awesome, but this is the third legitimately bad movie in five tries. The setup for the next one is intriguing, but this movie jumped the shark and there are threats of worse things to come. (3/10 – Bad)

Upgrade (2018) – A high-tech revenge thriller reminiscent of Robocop, Upgrade sees a Regular Joe get some A.I. assistance after getting crippled by criminals and turns himself into a super-powered vigilante. I actually thought the film was walking a very predictable path and it ended up surprising me. Decent enough story with fine acting and great action sequences, this was a solid action flick with a sci-fi twist. (6/10 – Fun)

Baby Driver (2017) – The opening sequence of this movie had me thinking it might end up being a classic. Alas, this was the highlight of the film and everything that followed kind of paled in comparison. Still, I really liked Baby Driver. It had some awesome driving scenes, a fun and stylish tone, charismatic and likable characters, and solid performances, particularly from Ansel Elgort in the lead role. There has been a lot of praise for the soundtrack and music does play a massive role in the film, but I wasn’t blown away by the song selections. This movie is a blast and I’m calling it a must see but it falls a bit short of a true classic. (8/10 – Must See)

Batman & Harley Quinn (2017) – Animated Batman movies are on a cold stretch. This one doesn’t help matters at all. Poison Ivy and some green dude I’ve never heard of are the main foils and the world’s greatest detective inexplicably needs Harley Quinn’s assistance in tracking them down. This movie has more musical numbers than cool Batman moments. It does, however, have a one night stand between Harley and Nightwing. I’m not positive, but this could be the worst Bat-Project Kevin Conroy has been involved with. (2/10 – Horrible)

Truth or Dare (2017) – This is basically Final Destination meets “Fear Factor.” I’m a horror fan but self-mutilation? I’m good. This was bad enough that I would have been okay not finishing it. (2/10 – Horrible)

Note: I thought Truth or Dare came out in 2018. Well, it did. This one I watched and reviewed is the Truth or Dare currently streaming on Netflix, not the theatrical release from Blumhouse earlier this year. So… I guess there’s more of this in my future.

Creep (2014) – A unique take on found footage horror, Creep has comic actor Mark Duplass (“The League”) playing against type as a dying man that hires a filmmaker to videotape his last days, but slowly unveils himself to be… something else. Unsettling and surprising, with a GREAT performance from Duplass, Creep is a must see thriller. (8/10 – Must See)

Creep 2 (2017) – A very worthy sequel to the original that I can’t say much about without spoiling the first film, but it manages to both raise the stakes and find keep things original, all while keeping the same tense and ominous tone. Of course, Duplass is once again fantastic. A solid second entry in an overlooked and surprising franchise. (7/10 – Highly Enjoyable)

Would You Rather (2012) – This is basically the same quality of horror and concept of Truth or Dare, except this time actual humans are enforcing the game. I like to throw low brow horror flicks on when I’m going to bed so I end up watching stuff like this occasionally… but you don’t have to. (3/10 – Bad)

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Deadpool 2 (2018) and more

May 29, 2018

I’m so far behind on movie reviews I’m just pump them all out now before I head to Vegas.

Deadpool 2 (2018) – Lacks the fresh feel of the original, but it’s nearly as funny and entertaining. Cable and Domino are great additions, there are some amazing cameos, and Ryan Reynolds is still perfection as Deadpool.

Replay Value: I wouldn’t watch it a second time in theaters like I did with the first one, but I’d certainly enjoy a second watch sometime down the road.

Sequel Potential: I see Deadpool 3 and X-Force have been announced, both with Ryan Reynolds attached as Wade Wilson/Deadpool, but no concrete release dates or any other details yet.

Oscar Potential: None.

Dina Meter: Dina seemed to mostly enjoy this.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Wind River (2017) – A gritty, murder mystery set in chilly Wyoming featuring a great performance from Jeremy Renner, this is a movie I really liked but absolutely need to see again because I was absurdly tired while watching it and don’t feel like I appreciated the experience as much as I should have. Writer/Director Taylor Sheridan (Sicario, Hell or High Water) has proven to be quite the brilliant filmmaker.

Replay Value: I want to watch this again immediately.

Sequel Potential: None.

Oscar Potential: Many considered this film one of the biggest snubs of last Oscar season when it got zero nominations.

Dina Meter: I don’t think Dina disliked this, but I don’t remember her being too into it either.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable) *I think this might be a Must See but I need to watch it again

Thor: Ragnarok – Lots of fun. Easily the best Thor movie and one of the funnier Marvel movies to date. Taika Waititi was an inspired choice for director and his comedic touch made this movie substantially better than its predecessors, even as the story dramatically raised the stakes on Asgard. Chris Hemsworth gives his best performance as Thor to date and Cate Blanchett was great as the villainous Hela. The reveal of The Hulk would have been a lot cooler if it wasn’t included in the trailers.

Replay Value: The only Thor movie I feel is worth watching more than once.

Sequel Potential: Thor just appeared in Avengers: Infinity War and will be in the next Avengers movie as well, but who knows after that.

Oscar Potential: None.

Dina Meter: She was a fan.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Good Time (2017) – I gave this one of the most disrespectful watches I’ve ever given a film. First, I rented this movie and let it sit around my house for nearly four months before finally trying to watch it and then I watched bits and pieces of if over what must have been 6-7 viewings over a two week span. Needless to say, whatever I have to say about it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. The story is about two brothers that rob a bank and wind up separated when the mentally handicapped one of them falls behind and gets arrested and the other one spends the night trying to keep his brother out of Riker’s Island prison. It’s a pretty grimy movie and the two lead characters aren’t likable at all, although Robert Pattinson is terrific in his role. I didn’t know he had it in him. The way the score is done reminded me a lot of It Follows – it’s jarring and loud and definitely increases the tension of the picture. This movie made it on my radar by appearing on a number of top ten lists and I don’t think it was nearly that good, although I can’t say I got the full experience either.

Replay Value: Not really something I’d want to see again.

Sequel Potential: None.

Oscar Potential: None.

Dina Meter: No way Dina would make it through this one.

5/10 (Decent)

Amateur (2018) – This was a Netflix movie I decided to watch because it was about basketball. Not much to see here. It’s about a junior high phenom that becomes a victim of the dirty politics that can happen when parents and coaches exploit young athletes. None of the performances are noteworthy and there are only a few cool basketball moments. This was a pretty forgettable flick and not even a must see for basketball fans.

Replay Value: Basically zero.

Sequel Potential: I can’t imagine.

Oscar Potential: None.

Dina Meter: Dina could probably tolerate this but I can’t imagine she’d like it too much.

4/10 (Forgettable)

Super (2010) – Before James Gunn became a household name with Guardians of the Galaxy, he made a very little seen flick called Super. Rainn Wilson stars as a regular guy that decides to become a superhero after his wife starts preferring the company of a drug dealer. This movie has similarities to Kick-Ass in that a regular dude with no powers decides to dress up in a costume and fight crime, but this movie isn’t as outlandish and the humor is darker. Ellen Page is a scene stealer as Crimson Bolt’s foul-mouthed and absurdly eager sidekick. This movie is certainly worth a watch.

Replay Value: Worth seeing more than once.

Sequel Potential: No sequel yet and unlikely to happen.

Oscar Potential: None.

Dina Meter: I’m honestly not sure about this one.

6/10 (Fun)

Spotlight – This Best Picture winner might be a bit overrated by the Academy. While I enjoyed this newspaper movie about The Boston Globe uncovering a massive child molestation scandal in the local Catholic Archdiocese, it’s actually my least favorite of the seven 2015 Best Picture nominees that I’ve seen. Rachel McAdams and Michael Keaton give solid performances, but Mark Ruffalo is guilty of some serious over-acting in this movie, yet somehow snagged a Best Supporting Actor nomination. This is a good movie, but not 2015’s best film by any measure.

Replay Value: Mostly a single watch type of film.

Sequel Potential: None.

Oscar Potential: Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay winner. Also nominated for Best Film Editing, Tom McCarthy for Best Director and acting nominations for McAdams and Ruffalo.

Dina Meter: We both thought this was good, but not great.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

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Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

May 2, 2018


Director: The Russo Brothers (Captain America: Civil War, Captain America: Winter Soldier)
Starring: Half of Hollywood

I’m going to attempt to do something difficult and review a movie that a) I feel like I need to see again before I have a firm grasp on how I feel about it and b) I’m not sure I can say much about without spoiling things. Here goes…

This is what we’ve all been waiting for. If you’re still with Marvel at this point, then Avengers: Infinity War is as big as it gets. My friend I saw this movie with is a comic book fanatic and I’m pretty sure seeing this movie ranked somewhere in the top five most anticipated moments of his entire life. This is where we’ve been headed since Robert Downey Jr. first became Iron Man all the way back in 2008 – when Marvel completely changed the movie-going experience by creating a massive shared universe that has stretched over a decade now. And if you’re still eagerly awaiting Thanos’ arrival on Earth then chances are it’s going to be very hard for Avengers: Infinity War to disappoint you.

But that didn’t stop Age of Ultron from disappointing, did it? Admit it, that was arguably the worst and most forgettable film in the ten years of Marvel’s nearly flawless run of box office dominance. It was also at that point that Joss Whedon passed the directing baton to the Russo brothers, whom have proven to be the most adept filmmakers in the MCU, with both Captain America: Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War ranking in the top five Marvel movies to date.

I’ve actually read some criticism of Infinity War saying that it lacks character development. Something along the lines of the characters just show up and get involved in the story. What. Yeah, I forgot about the last ten years and previous 18 movies that have led up to this point too. Outside of Thanos, basically everyone else involved has had multiple movies worth of character development. We don’t really need it here. Hush.

So the basic premise here is that Thanos is the biggest and baddest dude from space and he has obtained what I believe is called the Infinity Gauntlet and he is after the six Infinity Stones that can be placed in the Infinity Gauntlet and when that happens, he can unlock unrivaled universe-erasing power. Not that he needs it: in the first sequence of the film, Thanos puts a severe beating on a few heroes and proves that The Avengers are already no match for him, Infinity Gauntlet or not.

It’s pretty easy to see how earth’s mightiest heroes get pulled into the fracas. If you’ve seen all the movies that have led up to this point (and you should have) then the following are not spoilers: Vision has an Infinity Stone in his forehead; Loki likely has an Infinity Stone and he’s currently traveling through space with Thor and the few surviving Asgardians; Doctor Strange has the Time Stone; and two other Stones are in space with people we’ve seen the Guardians of the Galaxy interact with. Needless to say, Thanos will have to go through some Avengers and possibly some Guardians to get all the Stones.

So that’s the gist of the plot and I have to say the execution mostly doesn’t disappoint. Infinity War is wonderful cinematic spectacle. At over 150 minutes and with a massive amount of characters to include, the film manages to be engaging and juggle screen time quite effectively. Sure, some of our heroes get less screen time than others, but when it comes down to it, this is Thanos’ movie anyways. I think I actually may have stepped out of the theater to use the bathroom at an inopportune time – particularly, when Thanos explained his reasoning for wanting to obtain the Stones and erase half of the universe’s population. So I really can’t comment on his motives, but if anyone wants to destroy half the universe, there’s probably a good reason for it, right?

I definitely enjoyed my first viewing of Infinity War. Like most Marvel movies, it blends action and humor to perfection and all the key players have an opportunity for a WOAH moment.

While Infinity War packs all the necessary punches, it also had a number of eyebrow-raising and eye-rolling moments. There are quite a few moments in the movie where a character has to make a tough (yet incredibly easy, all things considered) decision and makes an idiotic choice. What kind of hero would jeopardize the fate of the entire universe for one life? A shitty one. One that will be hard to root for in the future. Also, there’s a point where Doctor Strange looks into the future and says something along the lines of in 14 million possible outcomes, The Avengers only win in one of them. Is that really necessary? 1 in 14 million? When everyone in the theater knows the actual chance of an eventual Avengers victory is 100%? Do we need to be insulted like that? And if Doctor Strange can see into the future, and knows the one path to victory, then what is really at stake here? Nothing.

And that brings me to something I can’t really talk about. What I will say is that the film had no emotional impact on me. There are supposed to be huge moments of shock and sadness and I felt nothing. Because none of it seems real. None of it seems final. Because of the Soul Stone and the Time Stone and the nature of comic books, I just have a hard time believing that anything of massive consequence that happens in this movie can’t just be overturned at the snap of a finger. And because of that, my only emotional response was PFFFFFFT.

Still, I definitely enjoyed the movie. Fans of the genre should love it – and they do: it’s currently sitting in the top ten all time on IMDB’s Top 250 list (and that’s just absurd). If you haven’t been a fan of the MCU, this movie won’t change your mind. I’m looking forward to seeing it again and wonder if my opinion of it will change at all.

Replay Value: I’m ready for my second viewing already!

Sequel Potential: Avengers 4 has already been shot, I believe.

Oscar Potential: None?

Dina Meter: My wife enjoyed it.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

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Blockers (2018)

April 17, 2018


Director: Kay Cannon
Starring: John Cena, Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, Geraldine Viswanathan, Kathryn Newton, Gideon Adlon

Wasn’t expecting much out of Blockers other than to laugh a bit and be entertained and it mostly delivered on those fronts. The premise here is three lifelong friends making a pact to all lose their virginity on prom night and their parents discover the pact and set out to stop them – and hopefully hilarity ensues. I laughed pretty consistently, but not uproariously. One of the worst things about comedies is they tend to get really stupid and outrageous but most of the stuff in Blockers was within the boundaries of reasonable, with one exception: the butt chug scene they hint at in the trailers. I mean… really?

John Cena definitely has some comedy acting chops. He’s the best thing about this movie, but the three main adults all have pretty good chemistry together. The kids are way less interesting, but Geraldine Viswanathan, Cena’s daughter in the movie, gives a confident and promising performance. She might be worth keeping an eye on. The other two girls were more or less forgettable in their roles.

I don’t have much else to say about Blockers. It’s a decent and entertaining comedy, with a touch of heart to it, but nothing anyone needs to see.

Replay Value: I can’t imagine wanting to see this again.

Sequel Potential: Blockers has basically doubled its budget, but it’s not exactly a huge hit either. There’s certainly no need for a sequel, but if this crushed at the box office they would obviously make one.

Oscar Potential: Zero.

Dina Meter: I’m honestly not sure. I think it was entertaining enough that Dina would enjoy it, but it’s not like she’s missing out if she never watches it.

6/10 (Fun)