Monthly Archives: June 2016

Movie Review: Underworld: Evolution

Two words: character development. (Say it like you’re in an echo chamber for dramatic effect)

Underworld: Evolution isn’t an evolution nor a revolution. It’s a destabilizing presence, one that pushes me to the precipice of tolerance.

Wiseman’s second departure from the set is a clogged drainage pipe filled with convenience and cliché, sealed together with a solemn dialect of common abandonment that it itself created. It’s no wonder a community doesn’t want to be associated with a product of formidable fabrication. A puppet act is fruitless if you can see the mind pulling the strings.

This is why all of the goals this film attempts to accomplish are so brazenly obvious, leaving Evolution falling on its face like a drunk girl on five-inch heels at a rave. With the little dignity it possesses, Evolution goes on a pleasant stroll through the park while discussing a near 600-year war that is of little consequence to us. While unfettered, Evolution is more than content to walk in the same footsteps that it did the last time they went through this debris field. Undeterred by feedback and uninfluenced by common sense or basic luxury, Wiseman remains stringent in the detailing of this absurd fiction that gets more complex as it progresses rather than less.

The plot bounces on a trampoline, believing motion, not weight, equates to intrigue. Wiseman’s proclivity for plot twists rivals Shyamalan here, although to Shyamalan’s credit, he always knew how many was enough. I’m using past tense because Shyamalan is in my corner of no return. He’s dead to me.

Wiseman is not a wise man here, parading plot twist after plot twist with the apparent objective of seeing how many times he can flip us on our heads rather than give us a coherent story that makes any semblance of sense.

After revelation after revelation, Evolution becomes a Clue gameplay more than a movie. It’s more about finding the answers than it is about the natural growth of the characters and slow but adept formation of the plot. Evolution is a poorly done television crime drama, not a movie.

In between following the bread crumbs, Kate Beckinsale is left with a character who changes at the whim of a pen stroke. Random traumas are thrown in for giggles it seems while Beckinsale is supposed to filter through all of it and find some worthwhile message, lesson or trait to stir up any halfhearted appeal.

Underworld:Evolution gasps for air the entire running time and all I could wish for was that some magician would come into the production and do this film a mercy by instilling some talent into this or that a doctor would arrive and put it out of its misery. Clearly no magician found this 2006 fantasy worthy of his talents. Doctors evidently labeled it a lost cause not worth treating. It’s hard to blame either professional for hightailing it out of there after viewing ominous red flags.

As I mentioned earlier, the phrase character development remains ringing in my ear. 2003’s Underworld didn’t have much advancement in terms of character and yet for reasons unknown ($), here I am again, sitting in front of a presentation that has more questions but not more answers, except for the five-minute excerpt in which one character obviously has all the answers and proceeds to rattle them off like an expositional megaphone or an overly intoxicated person that happens to know everything there is to know about everyone. I’m unsure if this person is a Jeopardy champion in this universe or if Wiseman has a screenwriter come on screen for this part of the action. It’s as off-putting as it sounds, destroying any natural rhythm that Evolution might but probably never did have.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Captain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe Babadook)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Olympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of Tomorrow)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (The Running Man10 Cloverfield LaneCreedScouts Guide to the Zombie ApocalypseCrimson Peak)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Batman ForeverThe CrowHardcore HenryBatman v Superman: Dawn of JusticePride and Prejudice and Zombies)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (UnderworldThe Do-OverX-Men: ApocalypseD-Tox/Eye See YouConstantine)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Batman & RobinBloodsportWar, The Ridiculous 6The Lost Boys)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (The Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemption)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (Avalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe VisitThe Fantastic Four)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for Underworld: Evolution: 48.

Teetering on the brink of extinction but adamant to remain, Underworld: Evolution breathes desperation. It’s a film willing to do anything in the name of survival, the sad, lonely and pitiful existence that it is.

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Movie Review: Batman Forever

Batman Forever, the Joel Schumacher Batman endeavor that happened before the “please make it stop” Batman & Robin, is far better. I’m so thankful for that. I was thrilled to look at the cast list and see Jim Carrey as the Riddler. A brilliant casting choice.

The 1995 blockbuster plays like a moving comic book sketch. It carries light-footed dialogue and the heart of an admirer with it from scene to scene, bathing in the air created by someone who held a fondness for the characters and storylines created by comic book legends Bob Kane and Bill Finger. It shows in the product’s craftsmanship and in the attention to detail. Said attention earned this film three Academy Award nominations for cinematography, sound and sound editing.

Certainly more colorful than most comic book films, Batman Forever‘s atmosphere is unique in film making but sentimental in stirring memories of the original works. Throughout Schumacher’s invention, one will find the tone, crisp scenery and character makeup associated with direct storytelling.

The whole cast is an upgrade when compared to what came two years later. Val Kilmer serves as a more composed and oriented Batman. Some screenwriting that held some semblance of competence certainly helped. As Kilmer wrestles with elusive but persistent dreams, Carrey stars as the Riddler, an inquisitive scientist with an unhealthy fascination with Bruce Wayne that turns hostile when his latest invention is rejected by the billionaire. I’ve always found the Riddler to be a charming presence in the Batman universe. A man with a dire need for control and an ego fed by a superiority complex, Edward Nygma is a wild card in a universe that at times feels a little too predictable. Batman writhes in growing pains and the enduring trauma of his parents’ death but this regular character conflict never feels taxing. This does leave the villain with a need to develop chemistry with the audience rather quickly and tilt the scales back to a more even playing field.

There’s a suitable blend of humor in the work and all in all, Batman Forever has a couple of quality gibes and laughs.

Regardless, it’s also a work that shows wasted potential. Again.

I feel like I discuss this every day, the phrase “wasted potential.” It’s simply stunning how many films put their feet in the water and nothing more.

Schumacher, in his stout stubbornness, refuses to let his film truly fly. Jim Carrey was the perfect actor for the role of the Riddler. You could argue it was the role he was born to play. When I watch Carrey at times force himself into performing a reshoot of The Mask, I am both entertained and frustrated, entertained because of what he gives to the film and frustrated by what he’s never afforded the opportunity to give.

Schumacher is just as much of a control freak as the Riddler, hypnotized by the glory of his childhood dreams that he never bothers to make Batman Forever his own. He’s precise and clearly has an undefinable work ethic, but once he reaches the goal he has set for himself, he’s done. That’s a shame because Batman Forever‘s goal should have been higher. Schumacher’s insistence on the comic comedy placard both reveals his expertise and firmly places his film in a straitjacket, leaving it utterly constrained by the director’s death grip like a domineering father who tries to live his dreams through his son rather than allow his son to become his own man.

It is in Batman Forever that you see Schumacher’s vision and why, in my eyes, the failings of Batman & Robin should have been expected. If you don’t let something breathe, what happens to it? You don’t have to be a brainiac to figure it out.

Hopelessly constricted, Carrey can only run so far in the Riddler costume before Schumacher throws a wall of cement in front of him and tells him he’s not allowed to go any farther, leading to a finite game of mazerunning that I’m sure left Carrey thoroughly disgusted. Meanwhile, Tommy Lee Jones’ Two-Face is a lunatic who raves and revels during every second of screen time. Harvey Dent is a sticker too easily ripped off and aside from that sticker, nothing connects Tommy Lee Jones’ character with the villain he’s supposed to be. Trigger-happy and reactionary, it’s hard to believe Two-Face was ever Harvey Dent. Rather than a cunning iconoclast, Two-Face is reduced to the stereotypical comic book villain: a crazed fiend of a man who has nothing removed from witty banter to say. To put the crazy label on anything demonstrates a lack of understanding. Crazy is a term used when someone is radically different from you and you can’t be bothered to learn more. True villains are more than the crazy label. They are calculated, collected and merciless. The crazy label doesn’t carry any of these things with it.

Our writers may have been uneducated about how to write a villain but I also wouldn’t doubt Schumacher might have handcuffed them to a table and told them what to write. Bullheaded and clearly reluctant to consider outside advice, Schumacher’s vision rings true: you can make a comic book movie like a comic book. It’s also true you’ll never get anything more than that from Schumacher.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Captain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe Babadook)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Olympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of Tomorrow)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (The Running Man10 Cloverfield LaneCreedScouts Guide to the Zombie ApocalypseCrimson Peak)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (The CrowHardcore HenryBatman v Superman: Dawn of JusticePride and Prejudice and ZombiesThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (UnderworldThe Do-OverX-Men: ApocalypseD-Tox/Eye See YouConstantine)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Batman & RobinBloodsportWar, The Ridiculous 6The Lost Boys)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (The Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemption)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (Avalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe VisitThe Fantastic Four)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for Batman Forever: 66.

Both entertaining and frustrating, Batman Forever is a mixed bag of treats. It accomplishes the feat of the perfect “comic book movie exactly like the comic” task. Schumacher, meanwhile, is a horse wearing blinders. His ambition takes him down the racetrack straight away but leaves him ignorant to the talent and repertoire he had around him. He was too busy mushing them forward to notice.

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Movie Review: Underworld

Len Wiseman’s Underworld is another page in the vampire/werewolf fantasy genre that doesn’t fit.

The problem with this oversaturated platform is everyone’s desire to distinguish themselves as individuals. Almost universally, creating your own identity is a good thing. It simplifies or further complicates your product, both of which can work if executed correctly. It gifts your own space to create without other similar entities invading your work space.

The complication with this niche is the space allotted to it is the equivalent of the closet Harry Potter lives in at the Dursley’s. The creative balcony is spacious but due to overpopulation, the cupboard under the stairs metaphor works quite nicely here. There are too many people fighting for the same real estate.

Everyone who enters this business, specifically the vampire/werewolf enterprise, is bent on forming their own mythology. In addition to becoming a mandatory part of every exercise into these woods, it shortens screen time and leaves some films stuck in the mud, specifically those who don’t properly detail the rules in their realm.

Underworld‘s title is almost ironic because Wiseman’s world is so underwhelming. It’s amorphous and vague. What are the rules? In your imagination, what can vampires and werewolves do and what can’t they? These are basic questions and yet by the end they’re still there. This film’s backdrop was not designed by a showman or creative mind. It was made by someone in a hurry.

Disagree with me if you will but this isn’t rocket science. If anything, I’d think it would be the fun part. You get to be the architect of your movie’s formation, the interior designer of your sets and the illustrator of your story. Why do I get the impression the blueprint for Underworld was scrawled on a used napkin in a crumbling Burger King?

Between Wiseman’s hesitation to say anything thematically to the lack of Gothic aesthetic that you would think would be pummeled down my throat during a vampire/werewolf combo to the stunt choreography that feels written to the beat of a Taylor Swift pop anthem to the acting gigs stolen from a soap opera, Underworld is a mess.

Back when the vampires vs. werewolves plot line was still running rampant in the early 2000’s, Wiseman put together this farce. Werewolves and vampires in a war…..wait for it….using guns.

Why? Why would vampires and werewolves use guns? Guns are expensive. Changing into killing machines is free and timeless. What possible rationale do you have for using guns?

In the opening monologue, we’re told this war has been going on for nearly six centuries. Given their accuracy, I can believe that.

There seems to be a time in every film where our hero is put in a perilous situation and manages to somehow, through physical prowess or by the grace of the screenwriter, get out of it. Imagine watching a film where this constantly happens. It steals tension from the grips of movement and rips the emotion from the dance of vicious choreography. It is an offbeat arpeggio more than it is a synchronous chord.

Underworld is out of rhythm though the argument could be made they never started one. They were a conductor who stepped onto the stage and never bothered to finesse his magical wand to the flurry of instruments and talents available to him. They awkwardly postured, almost modeled but what impression can a body in a tuxedo make when compared to the masterpiece of an orchestra’s output?

Underworld is an oddly placed sculpture on a New York City sidewalk. There are moments of curiosity but the question, “Why is this here?” persists.

Built on mythology that we are never gifted to, its watch-as-you-go approach is overly aggravating and many components of the story’s tale seem unlikely if not impossible. For example, we are told vampires have been winning this war, but for the entirety of the film, the werewolves dominate, which makes sense because werewolves are werewolves and vampires have little fangs and in this universe, no ability to fly.

It’s a plot-driven story with little to no emotion. Kate Beckinsale’s role is attempted but not steered. As a whole ensemble, Underworld‘s stakes aren’t sold as dire. The characters are never in real danger of anything, made all the more evident when random bodies are strung over the set in an attempt to add any sort of suspense.

As you sit through Beckinsale monologue after Beckinsale monologue and follow a vampire who evidently has an unhealthy obsession with Sherlock Holmes, view Scott Speedman play clueless protagonist number one and watch Bill Nighy do what Bill Nighy does, you start to slowly piece together the shards from other ideas and previous makings and realize Underworld is neither creative nor a world of its own, yet the title is still appropriate. This movie is Underworld in the sense that it belongs under the world or at the very least in an alleyway next to a sewer cap.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Captain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe Babadook)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Olympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of Tomorrow)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (The Running Man10 Cloverfield LaneCreedScouts Guide to the Zombie ApocalypseCrimson Peak)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (The CrowHardcore HenryBatman v Superman: Dawn of JusticePride and Prejudice and ZombiesThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (The Do-OverX-Men: ApocalypseD-Tox/Eye See YouConstantineRace)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Batman & RobinBloodsportWar, The Ridiculous 6The Lost Boys)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (The Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemption)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (Avalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe VisitThe Fantastic Four)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for Underworld: 52.

Riddled with misfirings, all audiences can do is watch Underworld clomp along in the muck like a depressed artist drowning himself in hopelessness, dreaming of what could have been as he makes his long journey home empty-handed.

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Movie Review: The Do-Over

Breathe…breathe it in. It might be the best Sandler ever gets.

In my review of The Ridiculous 6, the first of four films Sandler has to complete with Netflix, I questioned Sandler’s relevance. It’s been a while since the Brooklyn boy delivered comedy gold. 2011’s Just Go With It was fun, but exclude that and you have to go to 2006’s Click before you find the talent that Sandler used to deliver like alcohol at a frat party. I went so far as to say there’s only so much nonsense I’m going to put up with before I stop watching, as I’m sure some Sandler loyalists already have.

The Do-Over has lit the embers in me again, my fire for Sandler. It’s solidified my status as a Sandler loyalist for life.

Funny thing is, The Do-Over isn’t good. It’s still plagued by Sandler’s familiar missteps: catering to the drunk college crowd, being unnecessarily sexual and parading childish jokes that have frankly gotten so redundant I can probably write them verbatim for Sandler’s next voyage.

And yet a part of me likes this film. Some scenes accomplish nothing and should have been cut, but there are other sections that I can’t help but smile because it reminds me of why I used to love Sandler. The running gags that don’t quit and yet still stick, the trinkets of dialogue that have enough shine on them that I can’t help but grin. I remember how rambunctious all his films used to be. They were ebullient.

What Sandler used to do was remind people of what it was like to be a kid again. He allowed us to reminisce. Sandler doesn’t do that anymore, not until The Do-Over. I haven’t laughed at a new Sandler film for five years. I can safely laugh now.

It makes me glad to know the well hasn’t dried up just yet but also leaves me a little distraught because it confirms that Sandler will never return to what he was. He’ll never produce the material that glistened off the page again. I’ll never shed tears or utter silent laughs from gasping for air. I don’t think I’ll ever fully see the old Sandler again. Potential will continuously be squandered and promise skipped over in favor of potty jokes or poorly timed one-liners. This film confirms to me that the Sandler we knew and love isn’t coming back.

I take solace knowing he’s still around and that I can wring out a couple droplets of joy from his films. The luxury I used to enjoy is aplenty no longer but still exists if I’m willing to stick around. For those few drops, I’ll stay.

Here, Sandler conquers another genre that he hasn’t managed to get his hands on in all these years: action comedy. You would think with his expertise he would have done one of these but I’ve looked through his filmography and can’t find any. While the western intrusion of The Ridiculous 6 was unwelcome and essentially void of just about everything, the action comedy feels better suited to Sandler’s talents. Where dead air, buzzards and vultures were circling the script of The Ridiculous 6, The Do-Over is a story we’ve all seen before: an underappreciated guy who’s taken advantage of meets an old friend/stranger who causes him to reach an epiphany: life doesn’t have to be like this. I can stand up for myself. I don’t have to put up with this crap. I can start over. Sound familiar?

It’s not an atypical plot. I can think of two films off the top of my head that meet this criteria. Films with cookie cutter storyboards rely on the singularity of their specific adaptation and the connectivity of their characters. The Do-Over struggles with both these options. A plot that takes a few too many u-turns in its attempt to separate itself and characters that can’t breach the field of originality, The Do-Over doesn’t carry well nor does it ask us anything aside from, “Are you really living?” not that Sandler’s films have ever been known for strong motifs. No, Sandler’s new trick is randomness. How much random, unconnected material can we smash together to create some laughs? I imagine Sandler in a brainstorming session crashing handfuls of Play-Doh together, desperate to make something out of nothing.

Sandler takes the sidecar to make room for David Spade as our bumbling, socially awkward and purposeless shut-in. Spade as well as Sandler aren’t personalities so much as they are themselves. Actors are supposed to pretend to be other people. Instead, our characters seem keen on acting like Spade and Sandler.

Remove the same childish joke plugs that Sandler must have written in his contracts these days, however, and you find some natural sunlight peeking through the cracks of monotony. In what is by far the best scene in the film, a fight scene is laid over top of Madonna’s “Crazy For You”, a combination so unusual and yet so fitting that I found it impossible not to enjoy. I’ve watched this scene at least five times now. It’s too funny, too stereotypical Sandler not to smirk.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Captain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe Babadook)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Olympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of Tomorrow)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (The Running Man10 Cloverfield LaneCreedScouts Guide to the Zombie ApocalypseCrimson Peak)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (The CrowHardcore HenryBatman v Superman: Dawn of JusticePride and Prejudice and ZombiesThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (X-Men: ApocalypseD-Tox/Eye See YouConstantineRaceEverest)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Batman & RobinBloodsportWar, The Ridiculous 6The Lost Boys)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (The Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemption)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (Avalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe VisitThe Fantastic Four)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for The Do-Over: 51.

The Do-Over‘s score reflects its too often plodding pacing, lack of production from its characters and loosely controlled plot but I also can’t go without saying there is some material that’s worth looking at even though you have to wade through the polluted run time to find the cream of the crop.

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Movies in 2015

Feature Friday as promised begins with my long overdue recap of 2015. 2015 was a helluva year, wasn’t it? In some ways, it was superb and in others, it was downright disgraceful. A look back at what impressed and what didn’t. A reminder: I haven’t written reviews for some of the films on this list.

Best Picture and Four Runner-Ups

Last year’s winners5) Godzilla 4) Transformers: Age of Extinction 3) The Judge 2) Guardians of the Galaxy 1) Gone Girl

This year’s winners:
5) Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Iconic and solidified, Star Wars is one of the greatest franchises ever created, which is why the hype and concern for The Force Awakens was so high. A tarnished legacy or a reunion of the storied history’s best and brightest? It’s Star Wars. They couldn’t possibly mess that up, right?

Following my viewing, this quickly became one of my favorite tweets on Twitter:

“No longer will you be called J.J. Abrams; your name will be J.J. Abrahams, for you are the father of many successful reboots”-@liamthatcher

Abrams’s experience into some of film’s most hallowed grounds did not go unrewarded. With a tad more humor and a modern touch for younger audiences, The Force Awakens established itself without taking a lot of risks. It’s close to a re-run of the plot of A New Hope but introduces original characters who ask new questions of each of us. More importantly, it reminded us of what was and still can be.

4) The Hateful Eight

It’s near impossible for me to not put a Tarantino movie on this list. He’s directed only eight features but every film he does gets mass media attention and for good reason. I know of no director who can write dialogue like Tarantino.

It amazes me how little goes on in his films and despite that, I’m hook, line and sinker invested in every one of his projects. The opening scene of Inglorious Basterds is an example of what I’m talking about.

The Hateful Eight carries with it that same commanding presence while showcasing the talents of Samuel L. Jackson, still very alive and animated. I thought he should have gotten a nomination for Best Actor.

A murderous mystery with some ostentatious personalities, The Hateful Eight is classic Tarantino and a must-see.

3) Avengers: Age of Ultron

My initial impression of Age of Ultron was that it was better than original. I started playing a different tune after a few days.

While still impressive, Joss Whedon’s second outing can’t quite match with the first. That hardly makes it a disappointment. Age of Ultron has the same keys to the proverbial kingdom that it had the last go-around: starkly contrasted characters, superb visuals and finely crafted themes and comedy.

Speaking of Whedon, when’s he gonna make another movie? I miss his work.

I also can’t say enough about Marvel. What a monstrosity they’ve become. It’s incredible what they’ve accomplished since Iron Man.

“…let me sum it up like this: Avengers: Age of Ultron is a boss film. It’s the pump that runs our heart, the blood that runs through our flesh, the bones that comprise our body. It’s that type of awesomeness. If living was watching Avengers: Age of Ultron on loop, I wouldn’t be upset. I’d be thrilled and you would be, too.”

-excerpt from my review

2) Jurassic World

2015 was the year of the remake and the year of the sequel. Jurassic World might have been the year’s best.

Chris Pratt could do no wrong and while not the most humorous of the summer, this blockbuster got its licks in. With some great visual splendor and some worthwhile subplots, Jurassic World, like The Force Awakens, reminded us of what was and still can be.

I think that might be what made 2015 so memorable. The sequels and remakes that some feared would ruin prior monuments weren’t that bad. Some of them were great. Some of them have made a spark in a dormant volcano.

The Force Awakens was one of them. Jurassic World was another.

2015 was great because I doubt we’ll see a year soon where this many remakes and sequels succeed at such a high level.

1) The Revenant

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s true tale survival epic displayed some of the best cinematography of recent years. Di Caprio at long last won his first Oscar in a captivating role playing a left-for-dead man in a serene, chilling environment.

The film’s visual storytelling is one-of-a-kind, emitting both emotion and wonder.

The Revenant wins my award for Best Picture for its original plot line, ruthless characters and some of the strongest acting performances of the year.

 

 

 

Worst Picture and Four Runner-Ups

Last year’s winners: 5) I, Frankenstein 4) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3) X-Men: Days of Future Past 2) A Haunted House 2 1) Open Grave

5) The Ridiculous 6

This film was nearly the end. It almost meant Shyamalan was going to have company in the corner of no return. Adam Sandler’s company.

The Ridiculous 6 knew what it mean to toe the line of my breaking point. Sandler’s had a lot of chances with me over the last decade and I was getting tired of the door in my face. Sandler’s cartoonish antics and no shame attitude were wearing thin on me, especially because I knew he had better. If anything, The Ridiculous 6 is an embarrassment on the filmography of all involved and a blight on 2015 cinema.

“Like a pinata waiting for you to smash the life out of it, The Ridiculous 6‘s material begs for a beating and by film’s end, critics like myself will have all the ammo they need to unleash hellfire upon it.”

-excerpt from my review

4) The Gunman

This movie is one of the least interesting movies about an assassin I’ve seen. It hurts thinking about it, honestly.

It’s a metastasizing ailment that lingers far longer than it should. Insufficient in every way imaginable, Pierre Morel’s studiousness as a cinematographer is absent and his direction topsy-turvy. The action’s mellow, the characters are suffocating from a lack of oxygen and the dialogue leaves me morose.

“The Gunman is that Christmas present that you don’t want to open and you do your very best to slowly push it into a corner and hide it under a blanket or anything within reach. You know what it is, you don’t want that and you want it to go away. Problem is, the present is obnoxiously large and so out of place that there’s no way to hide it and so you’re called out on it, are forced to open it and do so begrudgingly with a look of disgust and frustration on your face as you unmask this abomination.”

-excerpt from my review

3) The Boy Next Door

Jennifer Lopez is a celebrity who has transcended multiple arts. This inevitably makes me question why she’s here.

Lopez’s agent did a doozy with this one. The Boy Next Door feels like a direct-to-DVD copycat of a genre that already has more than enough of those. Stretched too far for its own good, it manages to find every puddle and pothole on the street, making you wonder if it ever wanted to succeed in the first place.

“Cliche-ridden dialogue, cold cut-thin acting and plot conveniences out the wazoo, The Boy Next Door is a dull knife with no impressions made nor marks left behind. The constant throttling of the theme of “don’t cheat on your wife” could not be more abundantly clear albeit distracting from the film. A podium and microphone would have been a more appropriate course of action if that was all that writer Barbara Curry wanted to talk about.”

-excerpt from my review

 

2) Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four, or as I like to call it, Quacktastic Ducks, is the worst superhero film of recent memory. It’s probably worse than Green Lantern.

To this day, I don’t know what the marketing pitch was for this film. With all of the other franchises and superhero films we have at our fingertips, why would we want to watch a Fantastic Four reboot? The world will never know went on in that board room but we’ll forever have this….thing. (Get it, because the Thing’s part of the Fantastic Four??? I’ll walk myself out.)

“There are so many mortal wounds in this brainchild that it’s hard to mention them all but one last one that I have to mention is how boring this film was. At a 100-minute run time, Quacktastic Ducks is already ridiculously short for a superhero flick, but when you watch it, it feels like you were in the theater for barely an hour if that. Nothing happens in this film. There are two action sequences the whole movie and only one of them holds any tension. Its reliance on a plot held together by paperclips is mind-numbing and makes you feel comatose. The script has clearly been rewritten so many times that it’s directionless with no theme clearly standing front and center except for “THE GOVERNMENT IS EVIL.”

-excerpt from my review

1) The Visit

The worst of 2015 and deservedly so, The Visit was the final straw. It was the film the put Shyamalan in the corner of no return with me and there he will stay for the rest of his days. I’d talk more about why this film is so bad but my review of this film is one of my favorites and one of my best works. I’d encourage you to click on the link below. Here’s a snippet.

“The character writing from Shyamalan is so weak that it’s genuinely difficult for me to blame the participants in Shyamalan’s latest debacle. Our two young protagonists who decide to visit their grandparents are so odd and out-of-place that it contrasts with what the tone of a horror film should be. It is a film removed from ominous decorum. Shyamalan mixes such a contrast of off-putting humor and desperate scares that he creates a concoction that hinders anything it could have achieved. Its chemistry emits such an imbalance that it’s like riding an off-kilter seesaw. Bumbling up and down with no center of gravity, remaining directionless (play on words intended), the purpose is lost in the chaos and all you can think about is when you can get off this outdated charade of a contraption.

This movie was so scarring I could feel my mouth hang agape and saliva collect in my mouth like a baby engrossed in a trance. My brain, had I been able to look at it, probably looked like scrambled eggs underneath a magnifying glass in the Orlando heat. It was roasting and by the film’s conclusion, it was an ashtray.”

-excerpt from my review

Best Actor

Last year’s winner: Robert Downey Jr., The Judge

Leonardo Di Caprio, The Revenant

The wait is over. Di Caprio’s performance in The Revenant is not the best of his career but it was the one that finally got him over the hump.

Worst Actor

Last year’s winner: Sharlto Copley-Open Grave, Maleficent

Sean Penn, The Gunman

Not talking about this anymore. Moving on.

Best Actress

Last year’s winner: Rosamund Pike-Gone Girl

Jennifer Lawrence, Joy

Haven’t seen this but read a lot of positives about Lawrence’s strides in this one.

Worst Actress

Last year’s winner: Megan Fox, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Jennifer Lopez, The Boy Next Door

Not really any eligible candidates to give it to. Just the luck of the draw I’m afraid.

Best Director

Last year’s winner: David Fincher-Gone Girl

Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, The Revenant

His second consecutive Oscar for Best Director, Inarritu is officially on Hollywood’s radar. I’m eager to see what he churns out next and look forward to visiting Birdman for my Best Picture Journey series.

Best Special Effects

Last year’s winner: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Mad Max: Fury Road

I gave this film a lot of hate in my review and I regret doing that. As an overall film, it struggles from a complete lack of plot and the seemingly abandonment of the Mad Max character for Charlize Theron’s Furiousa. In terms of practical special effects, incredible and for that alone it deserved more points than I gave it.

Best Cinematography

Last year’s winner: None, new category!

The Revenant

Not even a challenge. The equivalent of a nature scrapbook included in a film that also has the “picture says a thousand words” motif.

Best Screenplay

Last year’s winner: Gone Girl

Hateful Eight

Can’t go wrong with Tarantino.

Best Score

Last year’s winner: Guardians of the Galaxy

Hateful Eight

Ennio Morricone’s score was freaky, attentive and passionate. No score stood out to me as much as Morricone’s did.

Best Trailer

Last year’s winner: None, new category!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

It was the trailer that gave us hope. A new hope. (I’m hilarious XD)

Also need to give recognition to The Revenant‘s trailer. Great work there as well.

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Movie Review: Batman & Robin

Image result for batman and robin movie poster free useIt’s time to see what Batman is all about or in this case, what he isn’t.

Christopher Nolan’s Batman saga is the only Batman I’ve ever known. I was more than content to enjoy the bliss those masterworks provided. I still am, but as a critic and cinefile, I have to step out of my comfort zone and discover what was. Batman is a wide personality, one that can be portrayed in a number of ways without being incorrect. That’s what’s great about theater, film, art, writing. It can be performed and manifested in a multitude of mannerisms and manipulations.

That’s why it’s hard not to excoriate George Clooney for yet another insipid tour. Clooney is one of my least favorite actors and a film like Batman & Robin gives me more than enough scrap metal to start tossing his way. Batman is a hero, an inspiration to the city of Gotham and yet Clooney couldn’t be any less inspiring. Every line is a force feeding of a nauseating entrée created in an Easy Bake Oven as much as it is an incessant reminder that Clooney is getting paid to portray Batman like a thoroughly disinterested bachelor.

Clooney might be the least interesting Batman of all time because of the lollygagging Schumacher lets him get away with in this caricature. There’s no moral dilemma, troubling past, battle of wits, questioning of self-worth, future uncertainty or intimidating action sequences to lynch onto. Clooney would serve better as a piece of wall art than he would a superhero, he’s so disengaged. What is driving Batman here? Hell, what makes him Batman aside from a flimsy rubber suit?

Batman & Robin fails in a lot of areas, with Clooney’s Batman one of the most egregious errors. It’s impossible to take him seriously nor are we ever witness to why we should fear the caped crusader. The problem with this is further explored because Clooney isn’t any fun either. You can’t laugh and the exhibitions of a high school drama club aren’t appetizing.

I really can’t say enough about how bad Clooney is here. He’s excessively awkward, displaying such a disconnect between the Batman character and Bruce Wayne that someone unfamiliar with the hero would have all the right in the world to question what makes Batman special or why Wayne is a notable person. There are no golden nuggets of dialogue and not an action sequence that can get past the outdated gaucherie of a corny 60’s comic nor can it find the heart to say anything in terms of theme aside from a kindergarten scolding to get along with your friends. It’s either unknowingly patronizing or outright ignorant of its storyboard. Every plot point finds a way to be trivial if not plain irrelevant like most of Alicia Silverstone’s Batgirl role. This is made worse when she takes time away from our main character, Batman, although given how clueless Clooney is here, that might have been a mercy.

No performance from any of these characters hits with the exception of Michael Gough’s Alfred. Alfred Pennyworth is the best written character in a movie that includes Batman, Robin, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze and Batgirl and Gough is the best actor in a cast that includes Clooney, Schwarzenegger and Thurman.

Batman has never been more useless in his own movie before while Chris O’Donnell’s Robin makes Joseph Gordon-Levitt look like a godsend. Schwarzenegger gets some punny jokes to showcase once again but feels aimless in his performance. Mr. Freeze’s moral compass doesn’t arise aside from a quick atonement line at the end of the film that feels thrown in for giggles, leaving Schwarzenegger close to nothing to build to

Thurman’s Poison Ivy is the most complete character of the main cast but even her role feels over the top at points and sprinkled too heavily with the “Earth=good, people=bad” cliche given to radical environmentalists, leaving her too easy to understand and a character base that doesn’t carry enough complexity to stir any interest.

Bane, who Tom Hardy seemed to so effortlessly dive into in The Dark Knight Rises, is left a practically braindead meathead, which means no character. I understand the technique in drawing a character like this but have yet to find the execution of such a practice beneficial in film. John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men is an example of how to do it right. There are qualms and questions regarding Lennie’s character and often we even sympathize with him. Why do we fear Bane? He’s huge. What else? Nope, that’s it. Pretty basic comprehension of a villain, a character that should demonstrate as much complexity as humanly possible and at times be farther down the road then our heroes.

Then there’s Joel Schumacher. The idea I’m gonna have to watch what could be another discombobulated orchestration of capable actors in Batman Forever thrills me, especially when the casting of Jim Carrey as the Riddler, on paper, is genius. I hate to see a film with so much promise and yet so little payout as much as the next moviegoer.

Batman & Robin is that guy. It’s that stubborn guy who picked the wrong puzzle piece and rather than go back and find the right one, he smashes it into the crevice, leaving a deformed piece meshed where it doesn’t belong, an obvious blight on what is still a forming picture. Over the course of an hour, he’ll do this a couple more times. The finished product, a disarray and disorienting mess, is only a few pegs better than when the pieces were piled in a heap. It’s the millennial stereotype that we only do what it takes to get things done, that our goal is to get it finished, not finished well.

Look at these clips:

I’m unsure what Schumacher’s game plan was here. Batman & Robin isn’t arcane. It’s just flat-out obfuscation. Schumacher seems more apt to cause us to respond with vulgar bewilderment than provide us with genuine entertainment. I’m still struggling, days after my viewing, to get #13 to make any sense to me. Mr. Freeze, in polar bear slippers and a robe, conducts his henchman to sing “I’m Mr. White Christmas, I’m Mr. Snow”. This is one of the most awkward scenes my memory can recall. Schumacher was insistent. This had to make it in. I don’t know if Schumacher has a peculiar sense of humor or if he’s so off-base in his style that it seems impossible to indoctrinate it. #10 is so misplaced it’s cringeworthy and the suit up scenes have an uncomfortable sexual undertone to them. Those suit up scenes are the first images we get in Batman & Robin. Of all the selections he had to choose from, that was the first impression he went with.

One could argue this is an ode to the old comic book style but if it were, why does it feel like it was hastily made in a factory? What made the aged comic book style fun was its naturalness. It gave the notion of a childlike creativity, a sense of wonder that Batman is capable of something more. Those films and television shows were easy to poke holes in but no one ever did. They never did because they believed in the ideals that Batman personified. There was a sense of awe.

Schumacher long ago lost that childlike talent to believe in anything. Most adults do, which is ostensibly why this film doesn’t stir those emotions. That’s why it’s easy to pick holes in this. It’s because we’re never given a reason to believe that Batman & Robin gets shanked to death.

The set designs aren’t bad and Schumacher’s visual technique is the only thing I can outright commend. There a few dialogue transactions between Alfred and Batman that hold some purpose but don’t carry enough weight to be impactful. Props for Mr. Freeze’s costume design. If only his character could have been shown as much care.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Captain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe Babadook)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Olympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of Tomorrow)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (The Running Man10 Cloverfield LaneCreedScouts Guide to the Zombie ApocalypseCrimson Peak)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (The CrowHardcore HenryBatman v Superman: Dawn of JusticePride and Prejudice and ZombiesThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (X-Men: ApocalypseD-Tox/Eye See YouConstantineRaceEverest)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (BloodsportWar, The Ridiculous 6The Lost BoysZombeavers)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (The Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemption)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (Avalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe VisitThe Fantastic Four)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for Batman & Robin: 44.

A film with no heart, Batman & Robin struggles in nearly every department. With the cast list and characters it had at its disposal, there’s no excuse for this film’s descent into directorial madness.

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Movie Review: The Crow: City of Angels

The Crow: City of Angels is a wannabe doppelgänger of its older and more prominent sibling. In its quest to better itself, it only succeeds in being a lesser replicate of the cult film that started it all.

The problem that plagues sequels is their stubbornness to piggyback on their relative rather than demonstrate how they differ and can be successful in their own right. I’ve seen it too many times. I think we all have. Sequels are meant to build off the original, making additions and further insulating the piece while constituting itself as an individual feature. Too many times sequels have played their cards the same way as their predecessors did, formulating a creation that is as mindless as a clone. It only knows what it has been taught by its elder. It has no cognitive function or inner direction. It just follows the script.

This leaves a film or any art for that matter rehashing the footsteps of another, going through the paces with the lifelessness of a weathered doll. It’s stodgy. There are no wheels turning or current of energy flowing through it. It’s as animated as a mannequin, faceless and without an identity to distinguish it from all the others. It’s practically invisible at its own party because all of the guests that have been invited have naturally been attracted to the superior, The Crow, which has more energy and enthusiasm than his woebegone brother.

City of Angels is a prime example of why every promising film does not need a sequel regardless of the established fan base. Based off a plethora of examples, I think we’ve seen we can’t count on Hollywood to make sequels that do justice to the original work. Sadly, critical acclaim from sequels is not a certainty, no matter the sometimes glorified state the original finds itself. Sequels become remakes, the opposite of what a sequel should be.

The Crow didn’t need a remake and it didn’t need a sequel. As I hashed out in my review, The Crow has a unique aura surrounding it, even perusing the mystical but amorphous Crow. The lack of knowledge of the character at times worked in the film’s favor, spurring curiosity. City of Angels spurns all that with a new director who lacks the vision that Proyas had. It’s obvious this film is under the control of a different hand. This project’s brokenness is ubiquitous. The production is more depressing than the atmosphere. The acting, especially by the man beneath the spotlight, Vincent Perez, is a fresh serving of histrionics, quips and dialogue so malignant I feel I should be wearing a hazmat suit. It’s hard to find Perez culpable, however, given the character write-up.

The motif of the film overrides the players trying to carrying the film and with no calling to the audience, there’s little reason to stick with it or find any value in the banners it does manage to raise. It’s a message taken verbatim from the 1994 work, but with no new composition.

The bug that crawls all over this piece is the lack of productivity. Like the wheels turning on a bike with no chain or a car left in neutral on the plains of the Midwest, the vehicle is left stagnant, milling in the limited space it’s afforded and susceptible only to its own gravity. City of Angels weighs so little that gravity doesn’t have a reason to act upon it and so it’s left still on a remote campus.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Captain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe Babadook)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Olympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of Tomorrow)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (The Running Man10 Cloverfield LaneCreedScouts Guide to the Zombie ApocalypseCrimson Peak)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (The CrowHardcore HenryBatman v Superman: Dawn of JusticePride and Prejudice and ZombiesThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (X-Men: ApocalypseD-Tox/Eye See YouConstantineRaceEverest)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (BloodsportWar, The Ridiculous 6The Lost BoysZombeavers)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (Avalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe VisitThe Fantastic Four)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for The Crow: City of Angels: 34.

A short review for a short film, it’s been a little too long since I’ve seen this to write a thorough piece, not that City of Angels deserved that anyway.

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Movie Review: X-Men: Apocalypse

I’m tired of the X-Men and it’s as simple as that. They’ve been making X-Men films since 2000. For over half my life, there have been X-Men movies and each further installment has pushed me farther and farther away from ever becoming an invested member of its fan base. As Bob Chipman puts so eloquently in his dissertation on the subject, the X-Men franchise seems to have progressively gotten more mundane with each Singer-inadequately-directs-a-superhero-film episode.

All that I struggle to find entertaining in this universe is on display in Apocalypse, which thank God is nowhere near as torturous in its plot conveniences as Days of Future Past, but leaves me with the same sense of abandonment and hopelessness as all of the others. With the exception of First Class, the X-Men franchise is a constant reminder of the only standard we thought was possible back in the early 2000’s: mediocrity. A couple of scenes of Wolverine’s furious slasher fests, ho-hum CGI sequences and character dialogue was enough for us then. As both we and the industry have grown, we’ve discovered that we can and very well should expect more of our superhero blockbusters and if anything, it would be wrong of us not to expect big market film companies to showcase their best efforts. As we continue to be enthralled with practically every Marvel creation and remain somewhat engaged with haphazard DC makings, it’s impossible for me as an audience member to view an X-Men film and remain content with what I saw in 2009 and even before that. The same characters go through the same growing pains they did four films before, with no resolution to the conflict nor growth from all the conflicts beforehand. Magneto is still a sad and angry man who loses his loved ones, goes on a murderous temper tantrum for close to the remainder of the run time and just before the film is out, decides, “Okay, guys. I’m sorry I just tore up half the world/killed JFK/tried to turn all the humans into mutants. I’ll try to save the world now.” For Magneto being such a powerful man, he is not wise nor does he learn from his past experiences. It is a rinse and repeat of his character every two years for the last decade-plus and I’m sick of it and I don’t think that’s unreasonable. Every movie we have to hear the same discussion. Xavier believes humans and mutants can coexist, Magneto doesn’t, Magneto kills some people and comes within minutes of destroying life as we know it, where Xavier/another X-Men gets to him just in time and gets him to change his mind with seconds to spare. Magneto is either easily manipulated or is traveling along an all-too-familiar character arc that the screenwriters haven’t bothered to change since 2000. The same can be said of Mystique. You would think a universe wouldn’t dare clone and glue the same character arc onto another hero/villain/who knows anymore but you would be wrong. Mystique goes through the same internal conflict.

With two characters who seem no closer to closure, it’s no wonder the performances of Fassbender and Lawrence come across as so one-note. While Fassbender is still trying, Lawrence couldn’t appear anymore excited to get off the screen and it’s hard for me to blame her. If me as an uninvested viewer finds these experiments tiresome, imagine what kind of work environment she must be in? I doubt it could be as morbid as these characters but I could be wrong. A recent review I read suggested that a problem with the X-Men franchise is the hopelessness that every character seems to share. For there being as large an assortment of X-Men as there are, you would think we would have some varying worldviews, perspectives and personality traits. You would think we could find a youngster or two who was so comfortable with his talent that he felt he could be of real use in any situation or perhaps a somewhat cocky adolescent who irritates his colleagues. With the exception of a still growing Quicksilver, these pawns aren’t here. They’re nowhere to be found. It’s hard not to wonder why that is.

I’m tired of X-Men discovering their powers and utilizing them at the last possible moment. I’m tired of James McAvoy giving the same “world is good” speech that he did in the last installment. I’m tired of Beast being present. I’m tired of Hugh Jackman arriving for Wolverine cameos and being promptly excused from the set. I’m tired of Singer delivering what amounts to the same movie as I saw two years ago, four years ago and so on. I’m tired of deja vu interactions with my brother who when asked if he wants to see the new X-Men movie, says wearily, “I guess.” I’m tired of this seemingly endless repetition. Movies aren’t meant to be formulaic. Art is not meant to be a science. It’s meant to be art. True art is never stagnant. It’s a continuously bobbing line, the pulse of the heart and the soul. The heartbeat of this franchise has been in cardiac arrest for years. How long are we going to keep this thing on life support?

The merciful thing to do would be to let it pass away in peace and be remembered for the good it did. The X-Men franchise made imperative strides for comic book films despite all of the brutal slip-ups it has made. I’m not the only critic saying it’s time for this to end. However, Fox isn’t going to do that. Fox is going to leech the life out of it until there’s nothing left.

It’s not that Apocalypse doesn’t have some good in it, only that there’s not enough quality nor improvement from the last installment to leave all that large of an impression. Oscar Isaac isn’t a bad villain as some critics have said, but he isn’t thoroughly thought out. Like many of the Marvel villains we’ve seen, Apocalypse leaves fans wanting more. Apocalypse doesn’t feel like the end of the world so much as it feels like the end of the franchise, the final nail in the coffin.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Captain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe Babadook)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Olympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of Tomorrow)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (The Running Man10 Cloverfield LaneCreedScouts Guide to the Zombie ApocalypseCrimson Peak)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (The CrowHardcore HenryBatman v Superman: Dawn of JusticePride and Prejudice and ZombiesThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (D-Tox/Eye See YouConstantineRaceEverestHercules)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (BloodsportWar, The Ridiculous 6The Lost BoysZombeavers)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (Avalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe VisitThe Fantastic Four)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for X-Men: Apocalypse: 54.

With no panache to its products anymore, the X-Men franchise is either comatose or long gone and given Apocalypse, I have to believe it’s the latter.

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Year Three of WordsofWisTIM

May 13, 2016. The third anniversary of WordsofWisTIM.

Now a far better critic and experienced writer, I still enjoy looking back at the pieces I’ve put together over the years for this platform. Some were bad and I shake my head reading them, but that’s how we grow, how we evolve. Now a college graduate, I feel refreshed and free. I’m ready to fly. There’s more of a flow to my writing and I look forward to the continued expansion of that, to my endeavors in journalism, my continued attempts to ascend to something greater, to transcend and to be the best critic I can be here on WordsofWisTIM. If you’re still here after all these years, thanks. Hope it’s been worth the ride.

2015 was quite the year for movies and I’ve been pushing off my review of 2015’s brightest and mundane for a while. 2015 had some true gems and I still find it hard to believe that the cinema of 2015 is behind us. With that said, the Best of 2015 feature will be up on what I’m now calling Feature Friday. Don’t expect features weekly because it’s not happening but I think Feature Friday would be a nice way to end the work week.

You’ll see some posts on my ongoing series, including Best Picture Journey, BVF and Winners and Losers. Now, it’s time to take one final look back at what made Year Three so great. Some of these pieces I didn’t get to review. Reviews will be linked when the reviews are published.

Top Ten

1. Captain America: Civil War: 98

2. The Revenant

3. Jurassic World

4. Avengers: Age of Ultron: 95

5. The Hateful Eight

6. Deadpool: 93

7. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

8. Chappie: 92

9. Ant-Man

10. Concussion

Worst of the Worst

10. The Ridiculous 6: 40

9. The Gunman: 29

8. The Boy Next Door: 28

7. Fantastic Four: 28

6. Catwoman: 26

5. The Visit: 25

4. Avalanche Sharks: 21

3. Cyborg: 14

2. The Coed and the Zombie Stoner: 13

1. The Forbidden Dimensions: 9

And now, here is the all-time top ten. A disclaimer: This list is imperfect, as are my scores. As we grow, things imprint upon us differently. I’m no longer as high on Miracle or 42 as I once was, but Miracle still made the cut. If it was up to present-day Tim, it wouldn’t, but this is an ongoing, changing list. Want to have a discussion about your favorite flicks? I’d be up for that. A reminder that I will update this list once I write reviews on The Revenant and Jurassic World.

The Return of the King remains at its rightful throne. Hands down the best film I’ve reviewed on this blog to date. With the exception of Miracle, everything on this list is where I’d put it if I had to do it over, although a few points might be shaved off of some of these scores. The sewage suckers, however, will receive no mercy from me. They can stay in the basement forever and rot. No regrets there.

New arrivals to the list include Captain America: Civil War, probably The Revenant and possibly Jurassic World. On the wrong side of the coin, Cyborg and The Coed and the Zombie Stoner were real horror shows, but were outdone by The Forbidden Dimensions, scoring my second single-digit score here on WordsofWisTim, an astounding nine out of 100. This will be my 351st post. The goal is to surpass 400 by May 2017, an easy benchmark. As long as I’m averaging 100 posts a year, I can be happy with that. Here’s to an amazing fourth year!

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