Category Archives: Movies

Movie Review: The Snowman

Image result for the snowman movie poster free useThe Snowman should work on a fundamental level. Presented next to the stark contrast of a Norwegian winter, it has the atmosphere for an investigative mire through paranoia, a devoted episode in the coldness of murder. With a backdrop splayed with the natural chill of the season, that unnatural rise of the hair on your back can easily be confused for the environment, only to be verified that your life is in jeopardy, your human instinct to fear the cold was correct and all is not right in the snow. There is a predisposition, a seemingly unproven rationale, to view the cold as a negative. Many do not like it. Many connect the word “cold” with removed, isolated and unstable. Those connotations come into play here. You are alone. It is cold. Whether it’s in the field covered in snow or on the frozen lake, no one is going to hear you scream.

This is the conventional basis for a murder mystery and with talent like Michael Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson at your disposal, you should, in theory, be able to convey these emotions whilst diving into the terror created by an unseen psychopath bent on torturing not just those around you but your identity as a person.

What you have read above is a far more intriguing set of lines than will ever be read in Tomas Alfredson’s film. Wildly panned by all forms of human beings, The Snowman went straight to limited showings after two weeks and by this point, it had become difficult for me to find a place to see it. It was such a displeasure that theaters seemed to be going out of their way to save their customers’ time. I appreciated that as a viewer but hated it as a critic. I just wanted to see how bad it truly was.

The Snowman comes as advertised, or rather, not. It comes as audiences have advertised it, not as the studios have. It is barren but not in the context that it’s meant to be. It’s an empty film, with scrawled-out pages of script reserved for only the most mundane of collegiate textbooks.

Based off a series of crime novels, Alfredson’s film is swallowed by the sinkhole that is doing too much and also too little, embedding too many plot points into his narrative and then failing to develop any of them, leaving the lot elementary and the tale as a whole as intriguing as a pot of three-day old porridge, lacking any consistency and being of so little substance that it holds no sustenance and contains no adjective other than the word “bland”.

It is a picture that misses out on the power of cinematography, forgoing the tool that would best demonstrate the serenity of the landscape contrasted with a murderer with a pathological obsession with death and snowmen. Mixing sociopathy into this character’s origin would likely make for a more complex menace, one not easily understood but with loads to say.

This is a concept I would love to brainstorm, a script I’d love to write. We have a lot of options here, a lot of nerve endings to tap into and memories to create. That might be why The Snowman is so bothersome for me. It is specifically this type of film that should be attempting to numb our primal feelings and agitate the receptors we would rather not embrace like paralysis, dread and the foresight of knowing that our characters’ actions, and possibly our own, might be meaningless and lead to the same result regardless of their/our efforts. It should have the steadfastness to remain after viewing for a time and cause us to examine the reactions we had from the material.

Yet despite the movie’s ability to speak, it does not speak. Despite its ability to write, it does not write. Despite its ability to shred us, it leaves us reserved and removed.

Michael Fassbender’s Harry Hole is a washed up detective and now full-time alcoholic. He was the real deal back in the day but now is fully off the tracks and the allure of a possible serial killer is the only thing that might have him on his last wheel. Only, we spend no time learning about how real of a deal he might have been, nor how important this case is to him. He seems reluctant to even peruse it let alone pursue it, giving me the inkling early on we have a less than interested protagonist, which isn’t exactly enticing to an audience.

We also have his ex-girlfriend and her son in the picture, for some reason, and we have Rebecca Ferguson’s Katrine Bratt, who still has the itch for crime-solving but also feels like yet another sediment to an already overloaded concoction. It is a spider web spread out too far and with strands that clearly hold little significance. Notwithstanding, the camera will continue to spend valued time on said threads that to any somewhat seeing person hold zero intrigue.

Ferguson and Fassbender’s characters never seem to be on the same page nor in the same book, telling two separate tales rather than one complete one, only halving a film that already feels halved. There is an absence of a meaningful music score or any semblance of flow because of the rampant character flips, bouncing back and forth like a disorganized ping-pong game at a frat house on a Friday night. There’s also no regular communication between Hole and the assailant. The trailer hints at messages engraved in the ice. That doesn’t happen and there’s only one letter sent to the investigator.

I haven’t yet mentioned how dull this film is. Suspenseful crime should be a piece of sharp-edged cutlery. It can be quick or drawn out and yet just as lethal, just as effective. This blade is rusted. It lacks grit, style, finesse and aggression. It is apathetic. I am not. I’m pissed off.

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. (SinisterOlympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the Sun)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Ip Man 2Ip ManKong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHush)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Doctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

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. (Death NoteTrue Memoirs of an International AssassinThe Great WallRobin HoodUnderworld)

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. (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsport)

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. (Most Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the Apes)

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 Snowman: 26.

This 2017 entry fails in every category. Fassbender is collecting a paycheck, the direction is awful, the reveal at the end unveils a huge problem with the culprit’s motivations and worst of all, I haven’t even mention that the great J.K. Simmons is sitting in the damn corner waiting to be given something to do. Won’t miss this one.

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Movie Review: Death Note

Image result for death note netflix movie poster free use“Shall we begin?”

I need to watch more anime. It offers a lot to film as an art form, in terms of cinematography, character design and visual depiction. It is its own genre and we have many Japanese innovators to thank for it.

Death Note is an anime I am now interested in watching, not because of Netflix’s Death Note, but in spite of it, because the two are not one in the same.

The film has some going for it. For example, all of the original material that it’s based on, of which it holds zero responsibility for, is compelling, offering deadly deeds, moral dilemmas and a seemingly playful but actually cunning death god. Imagine what carnage and creation can be formed with a few names on a piece of paper from a book that kills people. All you have to do is write a name down and poof, gone. Look at the sludge. Visualize the products of one’s ambition.

There’s a lot of narrative promise here and a wide variation of thematic content. There’s a chimerical quintessence present. There’s a vicarious lust here. There’s….. a lot going on.

Netflix’s Death Note doesn’t. Not really. It’s actually rather amorphous.

We have a lead character that’s shortchanged both by actor Nat Wolff and the script. He’s portrayed as a punk, actually, an immature teenager with family troubles who’s screaming for freedom and independence. A bit conventional.

The book falls out of the sky and once the rules are explained, he decides to write the school bully’s name first. A bit conventional.

Once discovering his new power, he finds the attractive girl he’s been trying to date and immediately tells said girl about a book that can kill people. Lazily conventional. It loses a lot of tension due to this and once again, chooses a romantic subplot over a story that carries far more gravity.

In any story, the strongest portion should be saved for the conclusion but here, one of the strongest scenes comes at the beginning with the introduction of Ryuk, voiced by Willem Dafoe.

You can never have too much Willem Dafoe, nor does it ever feel bad to have him around, as is once again the case here. Ryuk is the death god, the man behind the book. The book that makes one think of ambition is actually one full of artifice, one composed of madness, but Ryuk, in his calm and yet clearly unsafe demeanor, lures our hero in like a spider and its web. This seductiveness is alluring and while you know something’s up, as I’m sure Light does here, you can’t help but wanna try it, right?

Possibility is a strong motivator, and we get to see the primal instincts of humanity through this device. We get to see what it truly feels like to be all-powerful. It is a Greek tragedy with the stylus of a Japanese artist, or at least that’s what the anime is.

This supposed love interest ends up chewing up more than she has any right to consume, clearing her plate and then Dafoe’s and then some of Light’s before all is said and done. Mia, this girl, is a sociopath, the more interesting character, the person capable of bringing the carnage and vileness of the Death Note to its full potential, making Light’s presence unwarranted. We have two main characters fighting for possession of both the Death Note and the camera, and Ryuk, who should be playing the role of the puppeteer above, is instead sitting on the couch throwing back apple cores, enjoying the festivities, a complete misuse of the character’s time and actor’s talent.

Something about adaptations tells me there is no girl in the anime. Something tells me this is another Hollywood attempt at Americanizing material. That something is memory.

I’ve seen it too often, slogged through it many a time, written about it here and there. Who would think it was so pervasive in our film industry? And look, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this is in the anime, but it’s so divisive and corrosive to what is initially planted in the framework that it definitely does not belong in this film.

Another crucial part of the movie, when Light realizes the difference he can make with the Death Note, is put into a montage, a stylistic atrocity. A centerpiece of the film and you’re speeding through it rather than stretching it out? It’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for ’em.

It doesn’t. It’s nerve-grating. Some of Adam Wingard’s decision-making here in the story’s fabric don’t mesh with the elements illustrated. There’s also not a high enough premium paid to the patterns and peculiarities of the anime design, leaving the material distanced from its maker.

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. (SinisterOlympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the Sun)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Ip Man 2Ip ManKong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHush)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Doctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

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. (True Memoirs of an International AssassinThe Great WallRobin HoodUnderworldThe Do-Over)

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. (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsport)

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. (Most Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the Apes)

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 Death Note: 59.

All in all, I enjoyed this at points for the content it presents, not for how it adapts it. If you know nothing of the anime, as I did, watch it, get heated, and then bathe in the glory that the anime provides. It’s quite good.

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Movie Review: True Memoirs of an International Assassin

Image result for true memoirs of an international assassin movie poster free use“Why would an actual assassin write a book about being an assassin? It’s beyond stupid.”
“Or is it so beyond stupid, it’s brilliant.”

I love this line. I really do. It’s the type of insert that slithers its way into comedies, presenting a line of thought that causes a burst of joy and also drops a trinklet of apparent wisdom into the minds of its viewers. You have to take a double take and think. Would it really be stupid or is it jaw-dropping how genius it is?

True Memoirs of an International Assassin is a Netflix original that from the beginning, demonstrates this same wit and charisma.

Sam Larson, an accountant who’s dove into the cobwebs of assassination and writing, has created an alter ego for himself, one in which he feels he truly gets to live. Mason Carver is everything he’s ever wanted to be. And unknown to him, that chance at a more exotic lifestyle has arrived.

The introductory phrases of Jeff Wadlow’s Netflix special deals with vicariousness and journalistic integrity, offering both food for thought regarding ethics and some life advice that, while endlessly cliché, doesn’t seem to ever be heard by some. Do something worth your time. Live life.

These points are accompanied with a quiver of writing jabs and a parlance for dialogue that has the versatility to be both thought-provoking and worthy of a gigglefest. It’s whimsical but also odd in an amusing enough way that you’re willing to put up with it.

That’s generally the basis for Kevin James videos, to be honest. How much are you willing to endure?

You can see the prototype for Kevin James’ career in Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Is it a good movie? Hell no, but like Sandler has come to do, it tiptoes the trapeze of the funny and the galatically stupid. It hits and misses and at the end of the run, it’s up to the viewer to decide if the shooting percentage was worth their time.

What you see with True Memoirs of an International Assassin is a film that shows signs it wants to take itself seriously but then quickly retracts and goes back to being the fun, silly movie that certainly attracts younger audiences, but dampers the chords trying to be played.

This is what holds it back. Its insistence on keeping a younger audience engaged prevents it from being a tempting thriller, showcasing what can happen when life steals you away from your comfort zones and your routine that affords you the peace of mind you desire. In some ways, its failings are similar to Sandler’s The Do-Over, creating an appetizing adventure and possessive writing style that’s forced to run concurrently with ill-timed humor, interrupting the pleasant balance the film is trying to maintain. As the movie proceeds, True Memoirs of an International Assassin becomes more of an slog through comedy tropes than it does that endeavor we signed up for at the beginning. There is a direct rift between the first and second halves of this piece, one that allows its drama and personality to run freely, unleashed, and the one that feels the need to act like someone other than himself. That second part can only be viewed sympathetically for so long before the damn breaks free and that’s what comes here. Its flamboyance downplays the narrative drive and its continual detours for quick ad libs from James and crew do not provide the productivity that would warrant them. It leaves it in a run in pig slop or a tractor trying to mull through the fields after a downpour. It’s a mess and requires too much effort for too little gain. Difference is, True Memoirs of an International Assassin didn’t have the effort either.

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. (SinisterOlympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the Sun)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Ip Man 2Ip ManKong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHush)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Doctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

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 Great WallRobin HoodUnderworldThe Do-OverX-Men: Apocalypse)

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. (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsport)

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. (Most Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the Apes)

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 True Memoirs of an International Assassin: 57.

While certainly containing its own batch of cleverness, I can’t help but wish this was a film that took itself seriously.

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Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Image result for pirates of the caribbean dead men tell no tales movie poster free useBeen a long time. Here’s to the return of WisTim.

Great cinema is precious, as sovereign as an angel and at times, a true blessing to behold. Such grandeur is not created unilaterally but by a team of stars both before and behind the lens. Such performance requires a certain deftness and composure. Superb film making mandates a chimerical touch, both a fascination and a mind willing to push forward both conceptually and contextually. It takes both aplomb and humility with a few pinches of stoicism.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is the pole opposite of these accolades. Dark and desolate, overused and washed up, a stain on the record of a talent beyond his years. That is what POC 5 has to offer. It presents the marketing of a new chapter to one of the better franchises of the 21st century and promptly violates the pureness of it. It is what could have happened to The Force Awakens if the people who became a part of the project decided a tonal shift or crude humor was a missing part of the single most important franchise in film history. Instead, one of the better franchises of our times has been soiled like a sacrificial lamb, though the term sacrificial suggests this was something that needed to happen and it certainly did not. Literally no one was asking for this. No one was asking for a Seth Rogen-esque script writer, one fully reliant on his audience’s enjoyment of ill-mannered bacchanals.

There is one asteroid-sized problem with this scope: a small minority of Pirates of the Caribbean fans walked into a theater, not once, twice or thrice but four times and thought, “I hope this one is like Billy Madison but pirates and Depp.” It seems fair to make this claim because Pirates of the Caribbean had made billions from its loyal fan base that, presumably, enjoyed the content as it was. I do not recall reading a protest online from viewers decrying any Pirates film, vehemently berating the producers for not including more raunchy retorts and less substance in both character and narrative. Who asked for this?

If you haven’t caught the drift yet, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a shipwreck of what was a quite glamorous creative vessel that now, hopefully, has seen its final days. Like many great athletes that can’t bear to leave the game even if it is clearly time, POC5 is a reminder that the end of something beautiful is usually quite ugly.

Johnny Depp’s most critically acclaimed role, at least in these critic’s eyes, is blinding in this installment, a nearly severed connection to the lively, clever swordsman we have come to love. The quick-witted Captain Jack Sparrow is nowhere to be found. Instead, a drunk who’s lost his edge enters from behind the curtain. The envious Sparrow never failed to be one step ahead of us or to keep us enthralled in his parlor tricks. He was a tactician with a smirk of metal as much as he was a coach with near flawless decision-making, traits quite rare among seafarers. He was a king of the dramatic and a prince of the perverse.

That beloved character is physically present but mentally unavailable. The bedrock of this persona isn’t here, nor does it ever feel like Sparrow shows up. Johnny Depp is on the screen dressed as him but the character glorified over four films is not.

It’s especially painful to watch because I can’t emphasize enough how natural this role seemed to come to Depp. It allowed him to show his polished, witty delivery and there’s no doubt Captain Jack Sparrow is the most articulate pirate I’ve ever seen. Look at this. This scene is so Jack Sparrow it’s silly. I could watch this all day.

It does nothing in terms of plot, aside from get Captain Jack to a new location, but it’s premier Johnny Depp, utilized by a scriptwriter who clearly understands the heart of the man and his character.

You’ll be hard strung to find a scene even remotely as good as that here.

I have not been beguiled. Pirates of the Caribbean 5 is not arcane, some great mystery that critics and viewers alike can’t solve. It’s simply a generation that didn’t inherit the praised talent of its ancestors and can’t help but leave a taste of disappointment in all who hoped for more.

It’s hard not to be churlish here. With another captain at the helm of the project and writer at his side, Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Men Tell No Tales falls into the pit of off-color humor, which is so tonally off the mark. Pirates of the Caribbean was flamboyant, excessively melodramatic, making a show out of life. That presentation and exuberance doesn’t arrive and neither does the type of cinematic treasure we’ve come to expect.

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. (SinisterOlympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the Sun)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Ip Man 2Ip ManKong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHush)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Doctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

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 Great WallRobin HoodUnderworldThe Do-OverX-Men: Apocalypse)

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. (Power RangersUnderworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsportWar, The Ridiculous 6)

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. (Most Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the Apes)

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 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales: 46.

Prosaic rather than poetic, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales seems to miss the heart of what made Pirates of the Caribbean intriguing: that both Sparrow and the script could always add something extra that we didn’t see coming, like the scene above to surprise us. It’s a film that has betrayed its identity, and concurrently, its audience.

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Movie Review: Sinister

Image result for sinister movie poster free use2012’s Sinister was written and directed by Doctor Strange foreman Scott Derrickson, who has spent his career on a carousel of horror. Clearly more of a talent here than in the coliseum of superhero novella, Sinister is one of the more notable films of the genre in the last decade.

Sinister was sponsored by Blumhouse, a company that is both a beacon and blot on the brand. Blumhouse has demonstrated that the need to throw millions at a movie in order for it to succeed does not exist. A film can succeed on its merits alone, an important statement. Great ideas should not be skipped over because a major studio has no interest in producing them. It is of great value that art not be controlled by the business moguls, but by the artists themselves. In a way, Blumhouse gave that power back to them, while also giving studios a lesson in theatrical enterprise. The less your story costs, the easier it is to make a profit.

The downfall to this noble approach is some expulsion of honest theater and the arrival of swindlers seeking to make a quick pay day. One of the more attractive qualities to art, at least to me, is its honesty and the pedigree to which it and its practitioners hold themselves. It’s purposefully free, restricted only by the artist’s hand. Blumhouse has unintentionally spoiled the soil.

And look, film making has never been perfect. There have always been hacks trying to discover how to cheat the system or novices that throw scripts together to get a project over with, but I find the horror scene has been overflowing with them, which is a shame, because horror used to be so good. I think it can be, but if there was a staple that needed a renaissance, it would have to be horror (with comedy not too far behind).

What made horror so great back in the day was character. Yes, there were great slasher flicks back then as well, but even character drove those. Halloween is nothing without Michael just as Friday the 13th is nothing without Jason. Character is what drives a story, no matter the mode. I’m talking about movies like The Shining and The Silence of the Lambs, movies with characters so dynamic and so twisted it made your blood flow like a river.

Sinister isn’t a classic, but it does rely heavily on lead Ellison Oswald, played by Ethan Hawke. A true crime writer with an attraction to the grotesque, Ellison moves into the house where a family was murdered with the hopes of discovering what happened to the girl who vanished from the family.

In addition to being a film about mass murders and the vile routes one will go to end a life, it’s also about the seductiveness of ambition. Ellison finds a rack of 8mm tapes, all showcasing a family execution, but driven by his desire of fame and fortune, decides not to report it to the police. Ellison once had great success with Kentucky Blood, his best work, but has been unable to find that grandeur since and he’s thrust himself into obsession chasing it. The story is as much about the paranormal and ghastly crime scene details as it is about the psychological torture that Ellison is putting himself through trying to capture this nagging feeling of resolve. It clouds his judgment and very quickly, he realizes he has screwed up. There’s a scene later in the film where Oswald is watching interviews he did following the release of his big hit, a questionnaire where he talks about how the justice of the victims is far more important than his individual accolades. It’s at this point that he realizes he’s changed, and yet still, he doesn’t turn back. This character dilemma produces a reason for Oswald to push forward in circumstances where nearly everyone else would do the opposite. The scenes where you’re asking, “Why doesn’t he leave?” or “Why would you open the door?” aren’t here. This is a genuine person whose job and life purpose has become going forward.

As seen above, Derrickson does not allow his characters to be the mortar of the story, an important distinction. Characters, in my eyes, should never be the filler. They should be the fountainhead, the first thing that comes up in word association. If you’ve ever watched a slasher flick, you know that is not always the case. Blase characters are easy to remove and almost effortless to write. A true penman possesses the equanimity to pore over his work for days on end, fine tuning his art with the compulsiveness of an addict and commitment of a soldier. With writer C. Robert Cargill molding a capacious lead and hypnotizing creation, Derrickson is free to devote his time to tone and lighting. The film features plenty of shadow work and red-tinted shots to add an unsettling atmosphere to the main cogs of the piece, only drawing you in more.

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. (Ip Man 2Ip ManKong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHush)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Doctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

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 Great WallRobin HoodUnderworldThe Do-OverX-Men: Apocalypse)

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. (Power RangersUnderworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsportWar, The Ridiculous 6)

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. (Most Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the Apes)

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 Sinister: 85.

Sinister‘s best allegory is a black hole. It is enormously dark but increasingly enticing and soon, it’s pulling you in and it’s too late to escape. Like the abyss, Sinister is complex and inquisitive, the equilibrium of curiosity and patience. It’s one of my favorite horror films of late.

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Movie Review: Power Rangers

Image result for power rangers movie poster free useI don’t want to write about this. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen it and I still don’t want to write about it.

Power Rangers was one of the most prevalent shows of the 90’s. It was hip in the same way a stereotypical surfer dude is. It paraded histrionics and embraced comedy. It was the Schwarzenegger of kid’s television. Cornier than corn-on-the-cob and as lighthearted as an action show can be, Power Rangers, if it knew anything, knew its tone. It understood, without any reservations, its identity.

Power Rangers starts off with a sex joke. Nothing like a brazen, out-of-left-field sex joke to welcome an audience of 8-year-olds.

It is a sledgehammer to the mirror of reality for fans. I actually turned to my friend and was like, “Wow. Really? This is where we’re going with this?”

It’s a slow and long way down from that point forward and that point wasn’t too far from the start.

It wipes the floor with the concept of the Power Rangers before it even began. It was never meant to be a character exploration nor did it ever dissolve into a puddle of cheap filth, but our screenwriters and director here, in their infinite wisdom, decided sex jokes were the proper introduction of a Power Rangers movie.

It is simply disrespectful to the material. 90’s television was innocent and genuine. The dialogue was the food equivalent of cotton candy. There was never much substance there but the humor always kept it sweet and worth watching. You certainly could never say the Power Rangers was jaded. If anything, it was unnaturally enthusiastic, to the point that it was near impossible to take the show seriously. Rather than try to change that perception, the original crew carried it along, feeding into an adventure that caused no serious consequences. The world was at the brink of destruction, but I as a viewer was never concerned. The Power Rangers would get it done.

Dean Israelite decides to add a fresh spin on the saga. Rather than collude with the previous makers and look to manifest an allusion of the past, of this time when things weren’t so serious, Israelite decides he wants a dire story and then, along with RJ Cyler’s “strategic” weirdness, try to package it together into this antique with a fresh polish job and, somehow, a new feel to it.

If anything, Power Rangers is a movie that clearly wants to be taken serious but also wants to stay loyal to its predecessors, and to do both takes a surgeon’s hand and scientist’s attention to detail, neither of which a director who just made his film debut in 2015 possesses.

I’m perplexed by producers handing blockbusters to inexperienced directors and have been for quite a few years now. If I ever figure out the rationale, I’ll let you know. Until then, I’ll keep mentioning it, like I did a few weeks ago when I wrote Kong: Skull Island.

Not only is this Power Rangers a different animal from its parent, it’s a whole different species altogether, and worse, clearly out of its league.

There never was enough character concrete in the originals to allow for adult discussions on anything. Yes, we would have the adolescent lessons of loyalty and staying true to your values, but these teachings do not require an anthology to understand, nor a lot of inner turmoil for the viewer. Israelite wants to say something more meaningful, but he never gets around to saying what that thing is. If he does, it skipped past me because the movie doesn’t do much to keep you looking if only to see when this train wreck is going to end. The acting is withdrawn and without characters to feel for, audience engagement is difficult. I at no point feel a part of this experience. I hesitate to even use the word. Seems like an injustice to utilize it in this context.

It’s a reboot that’s formulaic rather than artistic and scientific rather than illustrative. Compromised by the expositional hose, Power Rangers doesn’t feel like a movie so much as it is a traversing of the lifeless and dormant. I’ve been on this ride more than a few times and it lost its entertainment value long ago.

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. (Ip Man 2Ip ManKong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHush)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Doctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

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 Great WallRobin HoodUnderworldThe Do-OverX-Men: Apocalypse)

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. (Underworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsportWar, The Ridiculous 6)

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. (Most Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the Apes)

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 Power Rangers: 47.

This movie has Bryan Cranston in it, by the way, if you were looking for another reason to cry yourself to sleep. Israelite misses on the power of nostalgia with this one. Like, completely, and without that thread from the past and that alchemy those crews performed in the 90s, Power Rangers fails to be itself.

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Movie Review: Ip Man 2

Image result for ip man 2 movie poster free useIp Man 2 takes us to Hong Kong following Ip Man’s escape from China. There, we see Ip Man abandon his reluctance to teach in the hopes of spurring a new generation’s ethics and values as well as passing on the vast amount of knowledge he possesses. Ip Man finds Leung, a loyal student committed to his teachings, who slowly brings more students to Ip Man’s doorstep. Teachers in the area, determined to prevent this newcomer from overtaking their territory, do all they can to make Ip Man’s life difficult, especially Master Hung, the most respected among them.

The original Ip Man carried a tone of a well-respected figure beset by the problems of a vast population, a tone not far-reaching but one that does well to create its own niche. Ip Man 2 is a near replicant of The Karate Kid. Ip Man is entering a foreign land (If you recall, Danny LaRusso moves from New Jersey to California in The Karate Kid) and finds a trusted student, whereas in The Karate Kid, LaRusso finds a noble mentor. In both cases, the dominant school of thought feels threatened and the ensuing conflict is the duo of teacher and student strengthening their bonds as friends, growing as people and beating the bad guys, of course.

In most cases, I am not a fan of repeated story arcs. It’s often lazily attempted and haphazardly executed, and while Ip Man 2 is stealing a few tips from director John Avildsen (who also directed Rocky), it feels foreign (Get it? Because it’s a foreign film?) because of sly if not subtle adjustments by director Wilson Yip. Some creative locations help divert our attention and the focus of the film is not afraid to bounce from character to character, from student to padawan. Ip Man, who admitted to feeling useless at one point in the last chapter of this series, has redefined himself while still carrying that same mantle.

And if that was all we had, this bond between master and pupil, the further adventure that is visiting Ip Man’s character and the inclusion of what is still impressive fight choreography, we’d have a pretty good kung fu movie on our hands. You’ll notice the fight choreography goes at the end because of its importance on the totem pole. It is a dessert, not a main course. Can you eat dessert for dinner? Yes. Should you do it often? No. The same applies to movies who make action first and the rest second. If your dessert/action is really good, exceptionally so, you can pull this off. Otherwise, usually not a recipe for success.

Thus far, none of the Ip Man movies have used this recipe, properly organizing its elements in order of true narrative importance. It’s thematic devices are rather straightforward and ultimately succinct, but never to the point of thoughtlessness or the abandonment of personification, just not to the tier of contemplation one would prefer in a movie reliant on a character of this magnitude.

It stays true to its identity throughout its first half, never backing away from putting its tenacity on a platform and showcasing its performers, but some odd anecdotal choices create fissures in the work. Yip is insistent on keeping recurring characters, two of which are there for the pure sake of recollection.

Where Ip Man 2 really sours for me is when the film divulges itself into a culture war. It had a Karate Kid vibe going, a teacher-student bond, etc and it abandons this for this needless flamboyance of Rocky IV. In what is evidently an epiphany, the teachers decide to stop giving Ip Man a hard time and focus on a boxing match sponsored by the British Empire. This pretty much causes an earthquake in the film’s fabric, disturbing all that has been accomplished and pushing it to the side so we can have a match of Rock’em Sock’em Robots at center stage. It’s a very rough transition that Yip does his best to smooth out but he can’t obscure the splicing of two different stories though and that does hurt this film. Two incomplete movies assembled as one does not make one complete movie.

This embattled eastern culture spinoff isn’t bad, either. It’s a little eccentric and predictable, but probably would have sustained itself over the course of a full run time. We’ll never know though because of this rather sporadic diversion from character story to posturing of Chinese martial arts.

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. (Ip ManKong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHushGhostbusters (2016))

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Doctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

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 Great WallRobin HoodUnderworldThe Do-OverX-Men: Apocalypse)

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. (Underworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsportWar, The Ridiculous 6)

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. (Most Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the Apes)

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 Ip Man 2: 72.

While befuddled by some of the decision-making, I still find Ip Man 2 warrants a watch both as a continuation of a series and as a film all its own. Donnie Yen and a compelling score are here to assist you in your travels.

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Movie Review: Ip Man

Image result for ip man movie poster free useFilm is a transcending medium. In spite of language disparities, film is understood. Sadly, there will always be a small disconnect. Subtitles are an annoyance that can’t be ignored, not to mention that one mistranslated portion can significantly alter a message. With that said, the foreign film industry is one that should be respected and investigated. They have something to offer to film the same as anyone else.

The Asian film market is no different. Perhaps its biggest hit, Toho’s Godzilla is the longest continuously running movie franchise. Godzilla was a key component in creating the monster genre that is now popularized today and also demonstrated what at the time were one-of-a-kind special effects from Eiji Tsuburaya.

Other Asian industries have become known for their superb stunt choreography, especially in martial arts films. The Raid films, which I have sadly not seen yet, are examples of recent memory while Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee and Jet Li became Asian superstars many years ago. While stuntwork has become the staple of the Asian market, they’re capable of more than that. Every country’s theatrics are greater than any one aspect.

And so I introduce you to Ip Man.

Centered on the true story of the Kung Fu master that taught Bruce Lee, Ip Man is as much folklore as dramatic fiction, neither of which is problematic. Ip Man is both a character and a cultural icon, shouldering both the weight of his family and of his city. As the region of Foshan is enveloped by the Japanese during World War II, this struggle becomes heavier and widened. Ip Man is the beacon for a lot of people and through all this turmoil, he knows its his duty to stir hope.

This, sadly, is about as dramatic as our main plot is going to get. Director Wilson Yip doesn’t dive into anything more than that, taking a cautious but thorough route with a beloved figure. I imagine he may have been looking at the long-term possibilities here, knowing that trying to say all there was to say about Ip Man in one feature-length film simply wasn’t feasible.

And look, the plot may not be doing much for me, but I enjoy this movie. I really do. Each time I watch this, I gain more respect for it. There is some dramatization at points that takes away from the legitimate lens the camera is shooting with, but it does not erase the natural quality this movie possesses. It’s a finely crafted film from a visual standpoint. It’s just not an overly substantial one. It’s an interesting story because of what we see, not because of what we hear (in this case, read) or feel, at least most of the time. It’s rather basic storytelling presented with exaggeration at points, leaving us little contextual themes or underlying messages to chew on.

Donnie Yen is a more than competent martial artist and actor but his acting repertoire seems to fall by the wayside in favor of the action sequences. While Ip Man is doing an amazing job balancing his struggles, the pendulum of the film moves only one way: those action portraits.

The action novellas are pretty solid. For example, there’s a scene where Ip Man, armed with a feather duster, beats a man with a sword. These fighting sequences take both the stuntwork to execute and the direction to capture and frame them in a smooth rhythm. This process, for the most part, takes a lot of patience on the editing floor and from the actors themselves and so, whenever I see a practical stunt segment like this, I can only grin from the technique being displayed by the crew.

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. (Kong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHushGhostbusters (2016)Batman)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Doctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

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 Great WallRobin HoodUnderworldThe Do-OverX-Men: Apocalypse)

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. (Underworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsportWar, The Ridiculous 6)

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. (Most Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the Apes)

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 Ip Man: 76.

Ip Man is a film that shows some of the best of Chinese cinema, but also never hits its full stride, leaving me hopeful for future installments but content with what I have here.

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Movie Review: Kong: Skull Island

Image result for kong skull island movie posterKing Kong will forever be a blot on Peter Jackson’s filmography. I will be watching that movie this week and I’m not looking forward to it. King Kong‘s pacing never falls into sync, nor does the movie ever become about King Kong, which is probably the most fatal of all the flaws that movie has.

Where King Kong dramatically fails at presenting King Kong as this monstrosity to be feared, Kong: Skull Island commits the opposite cardinal flaw: character writing.

If you want to see a good old-fashioned monster movie, Kong: Skull Island is for you. We have a monster tearing stuff apart and beating things senseless at will with no collateral damage to be concerned about. You can watch this film completely unabated. That also means there is no tension here, which is a rather monster-sized problem for a monster movie. A behemoth is certainly threatening on size alone, but the suspension of those killing strokes is the difference between a good and great movie, a distinction that director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, swinging the baton in only his third concerto, doesn’t have the experience to recognize.

Watching Kong smash things and find creative ways to shoot helicopters out of the sky is certainly interesting. Watching an ape punch other monsters in the face will certainly lead to giddy rounds of applause and shocked exclamations of “NO, HE DIDN’T” from the crowd, but watching Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson and John C. Reilly get together for a character lineup as depressing as the Browns depth chart is ultimately a mortal wound.

Brie Larson won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2015, yet the script gives her nothing to work with. The intimidating presence that is John Goodman is given a few introductory scenes to rev up the engine that is the plot before falling into the shadows, never to peek out again. Tom Hiddleston is underused to an absurd proportion, leaving only Jackson and Reilly to instill some sort of human presence through their charisma alone.

Vogt-Roberts made his name via Kings of Summer, a coming-of-age tale predicated by human interaction. Kong: Skull Island is the exact opposite of that, and not in a positive way. It makes you wonder if the writer of Kings of Summer, Chris Galletta, deserved the credit.

I’ve held on to this review a while, longer than I had planned to, but it has allowed me to ponder what I’ve seen a while longer and the more I think about it, the more I realize there’s no human connection here. Jackson’s version had human connection to the point of overdramatization and eventually became a disorganized piano, with keys switched all over the board that no one could play a coherent tune on it, only select phrases via luck. Vogt-Roberts, with a finely tuned organ, has, essentially, slammed on the keys like a raging toddler, producing such a weak plot line that he then got up from the organ, went up to a chalkboard and wrote, in crayon (just because), “KONG SMASH THINGS.” Again, if you want a stereotypical monster movie, the theaters have one for you, but if you’re looking for a great Kong movie, this isn’t it. It’s quite a ways away from that.

If it wasn’t for the masterpiece that was Logan (I want to watch it a second time before writing a review, but if you haven’t seen it yet, strongly encouraged), it would appear 2017 is the year of the non-existent character. By that, I mean star-studded casts assembled with the visage of potential but are actually more of an obscene gesture to people who pay to see this content. It’s rude and, more importantly, at least to me, blatantly negligent.

This is why I’m grateful for Kong here, just as I’ve been thankful for Godzilla in plenty of movies and the rather large distraction he provides to the apparent anarchy around him. 2014’s Godzilla had a pull over its audience begotten by command and tease. It had the ominous wind, the pounding of the unseen drums and the horror that Bryan Cranston’s dialogue can provide. It had the pulse-pounding fear and the violin strings. Hell, it had a score that did something for the film. Watch the trailer and remember what this film offered audiences. Kong doesn’t have any of it.

The tone is more, “Action movie for seven-year-olds! Rawr, Slam, Clunk” than “This could be the end of life as we know it.” There’s not much drama here to bring us to the realization of this discovery. I mean, we just found a skyscraper-sized ape. There’s one character in the movie saying, “Wait. Are we really not gonna talk about what just happened?” The line is in there for comedic relief, but it’s a legitimate question for a moviegoer who wanted a true experience. Completely unintentionally, the writers poked a hole in the fabric.

And look, that fabric is pretty much shredded by the end. There aren’t any consequences. There’s no love lost for even one character, though at least Jackson and Reilly are given something to work with. They are by far the most worthwhile personalities here. It’s just a movie that you could get away with watching once and never seeing again. Besides, it’s not like there are any characters asking for you to come back.

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 InvitationHushGhostbusters (2016)BatmanFree State of Jones)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Doctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

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 Great WallRobin HoodUnderworldThe Do-OverX-Men: Apocalypse)

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. (Underworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsportWar, The Ridiculous 6)

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. (Most Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the Apes)

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 Kong: Skull Island: 79.

Kong: Skull Island is an improvement from Jackson’s version. The action sequences are entertaining, the visuals competent though not overreaching and the zoo of creatures we run into is enough to keep some fascination along for the ride, but once that adrenaline wears off when you leave the theater, you realize there wasn’t a character you could care about. You also realize that it doesn’t have a dramatic gut punch, something that just feels needed in a movie with a monster of that proportion.

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Movie Review: The Great Wall

Image result for the great wall movie poster free useThe Great Wall isn’t great and I doubt anyone’s surprised. The trailer for this film looked awful, showcasing awkward line delivery and rather straightforward character arcs. While I am going to spend a fair amount of page bashing this film, I want to say up front this movie isn’t apocalyptically bad. I was expecting it to be, but it does offer some surprises.

Director Zhang Yimou, who’s been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film three times, has a solid resume, producing most of his work in China and Hong Kong. Known for his color palette and cinematography, Yimou demonstrates these attributes in The Great Wall, though neither to the quantity or splendor most of us would prefer. A drama would have been nice but Yimou can’t prevent himself from being a storyteller that wants to awe and shock people through vision rather than capable filmmaking or a conscious script.

Although, I will give him credit for avoiding what I felt would be this film’s biggest hurdle: taking itself too seriously. There are plenty of films I want to take themselves seriously and don’t. It’s unfortunate that’s how it turned out but sometimes it works itself out in the end. Concurrently, there are directors that want to turn everything they do into the most dire of affairs in every aspect, to the point their ambition hinders their product. This is often the case when I sit down for a foreign film. I am well aware that all foreign films are not like this. I just seem to find all of the ones that are, for some reason. All of this goes to say, I was thankful when Matt Damon and his compadre started cracking jokes. That moment of recognition, when you know your film doesn’t have the gravitas to pull off the compelling, is uber-important.

Yimou doesn’t give up on the seriousness, nor do I think he should have, instead trying to balance the seesaw of tension by himself between what may be too much humor and what needs a laugh dropped on top of it to simmer everything down a little. While I commend the effort he puts in to try to keep this ship straight, it’s as difficult as it sounds and he can’t pull it off, mostly because his script writers are sawing off half the contraption with some straight invalid characters (I still, after more than a week, can’t explain why Willem Dafoe is in this) and nauseating line delivery. Watch the trailer above and try to tell me Damon’s “We came to trade” line belongs in any movie. Try to make a semi-decent argument and put it in the comments. That line in the trailer might be the iceberg to the film, honestly. Don’t get me wrong, this ship takes plenty of hits along the way, but this behemoth is the one that puts her down for good.

Which means, most of the talking in this film isn’t relevant. Usually, when I review a foreign film, I have to talk about the already inherent disadvantage it’s at because of the need for subtitles. This film doesn’t have that wall, though it does have the wall of relevancy to face up against and doesn’t fare so well with that. Some narration is needed for the organization of the plot but otherwise, a majority of the dialogue could be removed and you’d still get as far with the story as you would with it in. The characters just don’t mean anything. Yes, we get a few chuckles early as I mentioned above, but there’s a substantial difference between a one-liner machine and a character and we don’t even have a machine here. More like a one-liner chicken having a seizure in the middle of a species war.

Some of the action sequences are attractive enough to hold one’s attention though nowhere near the command of focus a movie that essentially doesn’t have characters requires. Some are plain illogical but at least it warrants a laugh. There’s one scene in particular where Damon’s buddy throws an ax off target and Damon shoots it three separate times with three separate arrows to correct its trajectory. If you enjoy this type of content, you might find yourself halfway to the road of enjoyment. You just need to decide how large the chasm is between badass and stupid.

There are some nice shots from the cinematographer here, with Yimou no doubt having some influence given his past experience as one. There’s also some knowledge passed on about the Great Wall that peaked my interest and shows you some of the inner workings of one of the world’s greatest wonders, though a quick look on Wikipedia may disappoint you either a lot or a little, depending on how much of it you believed.

Despite how underwhelming this film is, I am glad to see it do well at the box office (thus far, $320 million on a $150 million budget) because it means more foreign films will get money thrown at them and, more importantly, it means a real shot at the world spotlight.

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 InvitationHushGhostbusters (2016)BatmanFree State of Jones)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Doctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

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. (Robin HoodUnderworldThe Do-OverX-Men: ApocalypseD-Tox/Eye See You)

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. (Underworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsportWar, The Ridiculous 6)

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. (Most Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the Apes)

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 Great Wall: 52.

Great legends have great characters: Achilles, Leonidas, Robin Hood, King Arthur. The Great Wall doesn’t have one and that’s what drags this film down more than anything. All we can hope for is a better movie in the next worldwide chapter of Chinese cinema.

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