Tag Archives: 2016 movies

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: Doctor Strange

Image result for doctor strange movie poster free useI said it in my review of Captain America: Civil War earlier this year: How long can Marvel keep this up? How long will it conjure stellar scripts, vivid visuals and diverse character dissertations? Will its streak ever end?

It was bound to happen eventually. The greats of every pursuit have a bad performance from time to time in their quest for endless perfection. Unilateral consistency to that level is hard to duplicate but the greats always find a way. They continue to leave us in disbelief because there’s a natural tendency to discredit them and expect the opposite. “Surely it can’t be done again,” we say, yet how gratifying it is to be proven wrong, is it not? Disbelief is sometimes more than belief. Sometimes, we welcome what we can’t process and revel in the emotion of what we deem otherworldly. Eventually, the cycle comes back around and the greats remind us they’re human, which at first breaks the illusion but also redeems them, making their achievements all the more impressive.

Doctor Strange is the cycle coming back around and reminding us Marvel is manned by humans just like ourselves. They are not beings from a galaxy far, far away, or an interstellar species. They are just like you and I, and like humans do, they screw up sometimes.

Director Scott Derrickson’s Marvel debut is a screw-up. It has potential like a budding juvenile but thus far has neither the focus or awareness to put those pieces together. It is ambitious but not properly equipped to get the job done.

Doctor Strange could and should have been serious. It has all the reason to be. We’re dealing with sorcery and the end of the world. Marvel has already humored the hell out of end-of-the-world scenarios. Doctor Strange was their chance to make something of a drama. Captain America: Civil War was a drama and perhaps not coincidentally, the best thing Marvel has ever made. It has yet to make a good, serious drama with one compelling character, with the exception of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Doctor Strange seemed more than ripe for that honor. Benedict Cumberbatch is certainly capable and Marvel threw Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen and Tilda Swinton into this. These are actors that can do things and yet Marvel let the opportunity slip by.

A cast this talented with material this competent should be fine but Doctor Strange ends up reminding me of The Incredible Hulk, a film without much pull, character strokes or panache to show for its efforts. Doctor Strange is a film that, surprisingly, doesn’t have a lot to say.

It should be talking about otherworldly elements that our minds can’t process, that perhaps there are things outside our world that we don’t understand or grasp. It should be portraying Doctor Strange as a character of his own making, not a rehashing of Tony Stark. It should be discussing the errors of humanity and at least attempt to make the argument that the world isn’t worth saving.

Any of these things would have been appropriate. One of these things would have been nice. We don’t get any of them, but yes, we get the obligatory “these are the rules and this is how everything works” scenes, which are then followed by things that have yet to be explained and won’t be during this run time.

Doctor Strange, from the opening credits onward, is shown to be a man gifted with extraordinary abilities and vision but the same cockiness and arrogance that always brings those people down to street level at one point or another. This is far too like Stark. Whether these are supposed to be similar characters, I don’t know. I never read the comics, but from a storytelling perspective, it’s a poor choice. You have two heroes that are practically twins and without stark (play on words) differences in their motivations, side characters or backgrounds, it’s going to be hard for an audience to enjoy it as its own experience. This film doesn’t bother to demonstrate those variations.

This lack of attention to detail and rather depthless writing leads to a mundane episode, one that, despite numerous Cumberbatch attempts, struggles for character originality. This notable elephant in the room is covered with humor that is largely off-base, leaving an emptiness of narrative flow in the theater.

A brief round of applause will be granted for a film that awes in the visual department but does not accentuate this talent enough to overcome the inherent flaws in the movie’s remaining parts.

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. (Johnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman ForeverThe Crow)

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 Doctor Strange: 64.

2016 was a disappointing year and with Doctor Strange, Marvel couldn’t help but add to the pile. Thank God for Civil War.

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Movie Review: The Invitation

Image result for the invitation movie poster free useThere’s something very unsettling about The Invitation. From its pacing to its characters to its fancy dinner parties and extravagant setting, something just feels off, making it feel less helter-skelter and more controlled insanity. Every interaction is so dubiously awkward that there’s got to be something afoot. It is a horror movie after all.

The Invitation does all it can to invite you to the table and take you out of the comfort of your couch, bed or wherever you may be watching and for the most part, I have to say it succeeds. It accomplishes the feat of interactivity.

We’re left with Will, a man who’s in a disheveled and confused state when he receives an invitation from an ex-wife who he hasn’t seen or spoken to in two years. Will is understandably suspicious but decides to go with his girlfriend, Kira.

He hasn’t seen any of his old friends in 24 months and here they are in his former house. It’s just too perfect for Will’s liking, mostly because he’s a broken person. Will’s fear bridles the audience, giving them the same understanding of the circumstances. Everything is so out-of-place that Will, and hence we, become curious of everything.

Will, played by Logan Marshall-Green, is the film’s magnetic center. Nothing succeeds in this film without him. As an isolated, disturbed character skeptical of everything, he brings a tinge and perception of the story’s events that the audience otherwise would not have. With the point of view of any other character, the things Will notices seem like an overexaggeration, an extrapolation that isn’t there, but Will is a defensive person, for reasons that are later revealed in the script, allowing for the detective-like focus this movie prides itself on. Director Karyn Kusama’s narrative focus frames the evening’s events in a magnifying glass. There doesn’t seem to be a need for one but after a little time, you’re glad you have that magnifying glass around.

Consumed by paranoia and uneasiness, we’re in for a slow drag thriller from the beginning, The Invitation‘s pride and joy. It boasts its writing and exudes confidence in its seemingly unwavering tact for the imaginative. It is a thin line, the line between delusion and confusion. If you’re confused, you still have control of your sensibilities. If you’re deluded, you’re convinced there’s something there when all the other signs point to the opposite. By the middle of the film, Will and ourselves are completely deluded. We have become obsessed. There is something wrong here. We won’t accept otherwise. We, ourselves, have become deranged.

This is an impressive feat. Few films can imprint a schizophrenic mindset and this film gets very close to doing so. It is a testament to the film’s writing and the weaving of Kusama’s baton behind the camera.

But…

It devastates me to even write it. The Invitation may be too good for its own good because the final third can’t hold the narrative weight and talent that has been demonstrated thus far, collapsing under the task that it is now expected to complete. Up to this point, The Invitation has said, “Yeah, we’re that guy” like a trash-talking pool swindler. He has performed up to the goals he has set himself. That also means that he feels he has to outdo himself with each shot, climbing the metaphorical ladder towards absolute perfection. The rungs get farther and farther apart the more he climbs, so much so that he has to start jumping to reach them. The third act has arrived, the final bar meters away but it outstretches his reach and he falls down the side of the cliff.

The payoff, after all this build, is not remotely close to enough. This film, to this point, has been borderline hypnotic. There’s not much plot-wise going on but you don’t dare take your eyes off it. It is magnetic, attracting all sorts of psychological tortures to it. It is as if someone shut off that magnet.

The tension slowly erodes and when the payoff comes (far too late, by the way), it has lost a lot of its grip.

This film could have been great, 80’s material. The payoff really hurts the memory of the film after you watch it though and that can’t be ignored.

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. (HushGhostbusters (2016)BatmanFree State of JonesThe Running Man)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Jason BourneSuicide SquadBatman ForeverThe CrowHardcore Henry)

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. (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. (Independence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the ApesStonados)

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 Invitation: 71.

Logan Marshall-Green is a capable actor and Kusama clearly a deft hand at directing and yet with all that The Invitation offers, it wipes out in the clutch. It throws a lot of punches but disappears when those punches would have mattered the most. Still certainly worth a viewing and I’m more than likely to visit it again.

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Movie Review: Hush

Image result for hush movie poster free useIn a year of abusively bad pieces, 2016 has offered some horror treats. That hardly justifies the year we’ve had to suffer through at the cinemas but at least it’s something. When you’re desperate enough, you’ll accept any respite.

Over the last few years as a film critic, I’ve gained an appreciation for the horror genre that I initially did not have, mostly because it is quite easy to stereotype the horror genre as a found footage, directionless and sometimes gory, sometimes plain uninteresting behemoth. Horror is the niche that has struggled the most in film as of late. There’s no John Carpenter or George Romero to keep it afloat, but that is not to say that the horror table is vacant. There have been some successes, though not nearly as many as there should have been.

With all that said, most of the highlights of 2016 cinema have come from this dish and they’ve tasted fairly well, too. The Witch, 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Conjuring 2 and Don’t Breathe were all noteworthy and thus far all have a legitimate case to make the top ten best films of the year. Last I checked, 10 Cloverfield Lane still breaks my top five.

All of this goes to say that Hush should not have been a surprise to me. I should have expected more but I’ll be blunt when I say the horror genre has instilled some false hope in me more than a fair share of times, as has every other genre. I try to stint my anticipation to protect myself from disappointment.

Hush comes from the same vein as Don’t Breathe. It plays to our eyes, not to our ears. Our eyes show us a mute and deaf author alone in the woods. A killer on the loose becomes infatuated with her disabilities. Her helplessness intrigues him and he keeps her alive like a bird in a cage.

Maddie, our main character, lives in her own bubble, seemingly oblivious to the world around her. Unable to perceive sound or communicate with her voice, Maddie seems as pitiful as a lost puppy to both the killer and us as an audience. The killer can do all he wants whenever he wants. Maddie is completely incapable in this situation. These specific circumstances allow for a more complicated scenario and ambidextrous villain.

For one, our point of view in horror movies is normally skewed by all of the stupidity surrounding our character. Yes, living by yourself is dumb, especially when you’re disabled, but this loss of control can happen in any setting. The ability to choose is slowly tugged away from you like a thread pulled through a weave. We are paralyzed, unable to act.

Second, this murderer doesn’t want to kill Maddie, at least not right away. We see it early on as he slowly paces around the house allowing her to lock all the doors. He is stunned how clueless Maddie is. He loses interest in his first victim because of how distant and disconnected Maddie is. She is completely alone both in location and as a person and this second tidbit is probably what drives the killer to toy with her the most. He is alone, too. Where he has grown strong in his individuality, Maddie appears directionless and what’s worse, doesn’t have a compass. Our killer is both a psychopath and a man with some sense of value. He thinks so little of Maddie that he feels she isn’t even worthy of death. Instead, he cages her.

This is simple and developed all at once, a preliminary sketch and a developed blueprint. This conundrum is what I find most fascinating about Hush.

Director Mike Flanagan made headlines for his 2013 picture, Oculus. I have yet to see it but I’m certainly more likely to view it now. While I have no plans to see Ouija: Origin of Evil, that is Flanagan’s newest project. He may become one of the genre’s gargoyles.

It’s that Hush manages to accomplish so much with so little that attracts my attention as well. Few characters, small budget and none of it matters. They are numbers. This film isn’t about numbers. It’s about quality. Flanagan’s studious with his pen and perhaps more so with his director’s chair. It’s a mostly silent ride but one that you leave talking about.

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. (Ghostbusters (2016)BatmanFree State of JonesThe Running Man10 Cloverfield Lane)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Jason BourneSuicide SquadBatman ForeverThe CrowHardcore Henry)

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. (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. (Independence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the ApesStonados)

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 Hush: 75.

Hush thrills while leaving you short of breath at points. Like with Don’t Breathe, you can’t breathe. You can’t make a sound. You, like Maddie, can’t hear. All you can do is see and what Hush manages to offer is quite impressive.

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Movie Review: Jason Bourne

Image result for jason bourne movie posterIt works because it’s the same and it doesn’t because it isn’t.

Layered beneath geopolitics, conspiracy, surveillance, espionage, corruption, identity and discovery is Jason Bourne the character, the spy of the 21st century. It is this envelope of themes that developed a parallel to run alongside Bourne’s chase of his own identity and it is this same parallel that defines the trilogy. While Bourne carries his own narrative weight, it’s the diabolical societal aspects that keep the motor running so smoothly and make the trilogy what it is.

Ultimatum was a clean conclusion because Bourne had discovered all there was to uncover about himself and about the United States’ elaborate labyrinth of special ops branches. The stunt work was never questioned, the tenacity never reviled, the character lines never misconstrued and the supposed fears never questioned. It just made sense. In a post-9/11 world, all these things seemed possible. Despite the negative glow surrounding their actions, there are plenty that would still support the government if they were to act in this manner, only adding to the complexity of the story and conflicted protagonist.

All of this is to say the moment Jason Bourne hit the river, the credits should have ruled on the film and the series. If you want to make a similar character and continue with the same parlance, by all means do so. Bourne has run his course. Pass the baton.

As we’ve seen with Hollywood, they don’t like to pass the baton. Their confidence in their own ability turns to arrogance, eventually tarnishing the image they once had and the character they once symbolized. We’ve seen sequels discredit original properties (A Good Day to Die Hard comes to mind) and in some cases do irreparable damage.

Thankfully, we don’t need to enter the war room and decide if this saga has entered the domain of no return yet but what Jason Bourne affirms is it’s fast approaching.

For all that it is, Jason Bourne can’t help but feel like a run-of-the-mill action chapter rather than a once-in-a-lifetime experience that the original three provided us. The trilogy is by no means beyond reproach but it is certainly memorable and sticks out of the long array of titles you’re bound to see on your bookshelf as you exit the house. It’s prominent.

The same carefully marinated verve we see in Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum is not here. Greengrass does all he can to try and conjure that same flavor but it’s hard to articulate a taste that you last lavished in nine years ago. Some volcanoes should stay dormant. Jason Bourne only echoes that sentiment.

That’s not to say that there isn’t some fine work done here. Alicia Vikander, fresh off her Academy Award for her work in The Danish Girl, brings a much-needed change of pace character to the table, adding a thin filament of distraction to veil the abrasions from a script that is fighting itself.

The choreography can’t help but feel like something we’ve all seen before rather than original, lacking the fine execution that makes art and food what it is. The exquisite touches are what stick out to both critics and audiences. The main course is fine, essentially average, but the particular and specific sculpting we usually see in these Bourne movies just isn’t there, made all the worse when your film is titled Jason Bourne.

Matt Damon seems in search of himself once again but this time in an unorthodox way that the storyline forces him to observe. We all know who Bourne is by this point. The idea that the film tries to suggest otherwise is just silly, which might be and probably is why this plot feels distant to its viewers. Like a salesman that’s already sold you on the merits of a product but insists there’s more he has to talk about, Bourne begins to become taxing at points, mainly when it becomes confirmed that we’re not having anything new presented to us. Like that salesman, he’s telling us stuff we already know. That’s fine. We are enamored with the product but we don’t need to hear it again. It comes across as a waste of time more than anything else.

There’s some entertainment to be had seeing Damon as Bourne again and reliving the themes of this 9/11 world but it would be far better if Damon wasn’t ask to chase his character for a fourth time and instead could just be his character. Jason Bourne’s whole backstory was already revealed to us. There’s no need to reveal it to us again.

Imagine a magician who makes a rabbit appear. It’s quite magical and impressive. Said magician then puts a blanket in front of the bunny and expects you to be amazed again, surmising that he can recreate the same reaction by using a strip of cloth and then is mystified when his audience doesn’t applaud. That’s what we have here.

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. (Ghostbusters (2016)BatmanFree State of JonesThe Running Man10 Cloverfield Lane)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Suicide SquadBatman ForeverThe CrowHardcore HenryBatman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)

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. (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. (Independence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the ApesStonados)

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 Jason Bourne: 68.

It has some fun to offer, most evidently the nostalgia it affords, but Jason Bourne doesn’t have the best Bourne can offer, making its title inconvenient and unearned. Adequate turns from Vikander and Tommy Lee Jones ain’t gonna change that and neither can Matt Damon, despite all of his attempts to do so. In a year at the theaters that continues to disappoint, Jason Bourne is yet another example.

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Movie Review: Suicide Squad

DC couldn’t help themselves.

The same way they made Batman v Superman mimic The Avengers, they had to turn Suicide Squad into a game of Pictionary.

Suicide Squad is DC’s version of Guardians of the Galaxy. The character parallels are visible but the actual characters less interesting, the story yet another doppelgänger of something Marvel has already done and to a better degree, and the synopsis as depressing as I’m making it seem.

Not horrid but certainly not good, Suicide Squad is yet another mirage in the deserted streets of DC Comics that presents false hope yet again to the fans who have been waiting since the early 90’s for something that can universally be called good theater. DC had little to no role in Nolan’s Batman trilogy, I’m not sure I would call V for Vendetta a superhero film and while I would make an argument for Man of Steel, there are plenty who wouldn’t.

Since we’re on the topic, let’s take a look at what DC has churned out since 2004: Catwoman, Constantine, V for Vendetta, Superman Returns, Watchmen, Jonah Hex, Green Lantern, Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and this. That’s a shoddy list, folks.

That’s more than a decade’s worth of missing the target. At first, it was laughable. Catwoman and Constantine back to back? Superman Returns, Watchmen, Jonah Hex and Green Lantern in a cage match of incompetence? Now, it’s just sad.

DC has become a vacuum for disappointment and a magnet for mockery. It’s become a charade of itself, a mime of Marvel that all the practice in the world can’t make convincing. DC used to be dark, one of the reasons Nolan’s Batman saga received so much praise and why I think Man of Steel is the closest that DC has gotten to being themselves. Like an adolescent girl, DC is preoccupied with being someone she’s not, unsatisfied with the talent she possesses and jealous of what the other girl has. This attitude isn’t the end of the world if we’re talking about a prepubescent teen. It is a problem when we’re talking about a multi-billion dollar company.

Suicide Squad is sad because it makes me acquiesce that DC may never be what it was again. It may and looks likely that it will never return. The dreams film journeymen and DC fanboys have had will never come true. All hope seems to be lost. DC seems preordained to fail us. We’re actively frustrated now but it won’t be long until that agitation breeds lackadaisical indifference and further down the road, complete neglect.

Suicide Squad‘s first half is a never-ending music montage flavored with a roulette of character expositions. Every three minutes, we’re moving on to the next stage and putting the next guy on a pedestal, giving us a brief backstory synopsis before the timer reaches three and it’s time to move on to the next contestant. It reminds me of a first-time driver who continuously pumps the brakes when there’s no reason to, the instructor heaving back and forth from the momentum shift. That is what the first half of this movie is like, disrupting any natural flow that could have been manifested.

I was looking forward to this film and I was hoping for the best but there is an active depression taking hold of me right now as I write this. DC has become obsessed with taking a razor to the fine points of their products and an ax to any tree that bears fruit. The only respite offered is that we never got to see what could have been and watch them drain the life out of it, though sometimes our imagination can be much more crippling than our eyes.

Suicide Squad should have been a chimerical bacchanal, a chaos-torn environment with unchecked villains to invest some of their own chaos. Instead, we get something that is far too well-coordinated and formulaic as we watch villainy transform into heroism. Our characters lack interest for this very reason. Will Smith’s Deadshot is never shown as a pure serial killer nor El Diablo painted as a mobster with anger management issues. Killer Croc is a vestibule for one-liners more than a character and Jai Courtney has gone completely off the deep end with his role as Captain Boomerang (what a stupid name). Jared Leto’s Joker is disappointing and a sideshow, words that no one should have had to ever communicate regarding the Joker. The Joker is not meant to be a sideshow character, ever, but you can bet your salary DC managed to pull that off, too. Rather than the Joker, we get a gangster who seems unhinged rather than a true psychopath.

Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is the true highlight, accompanied by Smith’s Deadshot and Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller. Robbie’s performance is a breathing fantasy, a temptress who uses her appearance to her advantage. It’s one of the few things from this movie I will miss. Smith’s Deadshot turns into a buddy cop and while it makes no sense with the character we’re gifted, Smith is likeable enough to keep his character on the radar. He’s also slipped some of the film’s best one-liners.

None of this comes comparatively close to delivering what we should have had: an unbridled fun house. Instead, we get a film that’s far too neat and orderly, the opposite of what we are led to believe these characters are.

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. (Ghostbusters (2016)BatmanFree State of JonesThe Running Man10 Cloverfield Lane)

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. (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. (Independence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the ApesStonados)

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 Suicide Squad: 66.

The trailer promised so much and the film delivered so little. As expected, 2016 has been yet another year where Marvel has taken a collective dump on DC and remember Marvel still has Doctor Strange coming in November to increase the size of that dump. The DCEU is in real trouble and no, I’m not looking forward to Justice League.

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Movie Review: Ghostbusters (2016)

I can’t recall a blockbuster that received so much hate prior to its release. I really can’t. Let’s be honest for a minute here. Ghostbusters is not a franchise enshrined in the hallowed halls of Hollywood. Let’s stop kidding ourselves. Ghostbusters was a great experience, Ghostbusters 2 noticeably less so. That is the end of the story. Seems short for a franchise, especially when we are readily acknowledging that 2.0 didn’t have the same charm as the original. Remaking the Lord of the Rings would be criminal. Remaking Star Wars would be criminal. Remaking Ghostbusters? That’s just expected.

Do not confuse the words expected and necessary. They’re on opposite sides of the track. The world would have moved on without Ghostbusters 2016.

Alas, Ghostbusters 3.0 isn’t apocalyptic in quality nor blasphemous in its execution. What’s great about Paul Feig’s film is the long chain he affords both his writers and cast. It leaves him little stopping power if his project descends into madness but the free roam approach in this comedy begets natural growth with some appropriate artifacts left through the screenplay to rekindle the 1984 experiment.

Ghostbusters otherwise hardly resembles the classic. It shares a title and the premise of ghosthunting. An organic dialogue transcript that is character (not plot) driven ensures a first time tour that carries a pinch of nostalgia. Feig wanted a similar, not linked, feature, a film that could succeed on its own.

Unlike Independence Day: Resurgence (thank God), the newest Ghostbusters relies on its own value, displaying a self-confidence that requires no special effects crutch. If anything, I would say at times the visuals are purposely average, almost a direct slap in the face to all of the critics, myself included, who have come to expect a remake/sequel to stutter step its way in front of the stage and display a silent dance behind a seizure-inducing light show and green screen extravaganza.

In what has been a dismal year in cinema, Ghostbusters is a welcome addition. A comedy that doesn’t take itself seriously is certainly a treat these days. Ghostbusters has the advantage of being released during a down year for movies, which may make it more appealing to me than it really is, but I don’t think so. I think Ghostbusters female edition is genuinely good.

The cast is fine. Melissa McCarthy is not as large a presence as she usually is. She’s sharing the camera, allowing everyone to get their licks and kicks in. Kate McKinnon impresses me the most, presenting one of the most awkward and quirky characters in recent memory. You never know what’s coming from her. Easily the movie’s most likable character.

Although, the argument could be made that Chris Hemsworth is the star of the show as the bumbling idiot secretary. This is probably my favorite Hemsworth role. He, as well as the rest of the cast, reflect a laid-back attitude that relaxes audiences’ fears early on that this is going to dissolve into a massive taxicab pileup in Times Square.

Feig’s film is light on its feet, bypassing any possible themes this production could have suggested, which I was okay with for this outing. Sometimes, a comedy with no message is just fine.

That doesn’t mean I plead ignorance here. There are a few items that are bothersome, especially when our villain is painted as a bully victim. The word “superficial” comes to mind. His character is drawn on tracer paper. Look, I loved tracer paper when I was a kid. As someone with little artistic talent, I found gratification in drawing something decent, even if it wasn’t my own. I stopped doing that because I grew up and realized how much more rewarding my own achievements could be.

Feig’s lack of caring in his characters’ nemesis would be startling if this wasn’t a comedy. With comedies, I can’t say I’m surprised by a general refusal to create character depth. At their most basic, comedies are meant to make us laugh. They often skip the story part. When taking into account how disastrous 2016 has been, I’ll take Ghostbusters for what it is: a fun time to the theater.

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. (BatmanFree State of JonesThe Running Man10 Cloverfield LaneCreed)

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. (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. (Independence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the ApesStonados)

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 Ghostbusters: 73.

Ghostbusters is an average film that I wouldn’t praise so much if I didn’t have such an entertaining experience with it. The cast is funny, Hemsworth unabashedly so, and overall has the wit and charisma to succeed on its own scripture. Considering what the summer has had to offer, Ghostbusters has been one of the highlights.

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Movie Review: Free State of Jones

Free State of Jones is a film with composure and contrivance, the control required to manifest a civil war portrait but the deft hand necessary to allow fluidity and vibrance. Gary Ross, who has served as both a writer and director in some notable productions such as Seabiscuit and The Hunger Games shows the same tactfulness that has earned him four Academy Award nominations. This 2016 war novella highlights a group in the south who defied their defectors and the social norms of the time, fighting for their freedom and revealing the aftermath of that fight.

Matthew McConaughey stars as Newton Knight, a man who overlooks social divides and upends predispositions. He was a liberal before there were liberals, a freethinker in a time when the country needed more of those. Knight is not a complicated man nor is he one who, based purely off what the film tells us, got a first-rate education, but it does not take an educated man to understand ethics. Knight was a philosopher who acted on what he believed, upheaving an establishment of corruption.

What makes Knight so relatable is his sense of fairness and his want to do something about it. Despite his circumstance and his spot on the totem pole, he believes that any man can influence society. Knight understands the war that is being fought and knows he has nothing to gain from it. There’s a war he’s more interested in: a war for equality.

McConaughey is well-suited to the role, conveying the basic principles of humanity that one would think would have been universally accepted by then. His calm but concrete demeanor coupled with a soft-spoken yet adamant fire reveals a man who’s had enough and will do what it takes to set things straight.

Commanded by a strong presence from McConaughey, Free State of Jones is not anchored and left at a standstill as some war dramas are. With the same acute awareness that he has used to steer some of his finest projects, Ross manages to accentuate and articulate the messages that’d you hope to see in a script of this magnitude. With some compelling exchanges and binding tension, this film, as well as Knight, make a clear statement. The picture carries relevance despite the centuries that have passed since these events occurred, not just because of the history but because of the racial partition in our culture that continues to persist.

With building, boiling racial tension, we’re reminded of the history we’ve left behind and many have forgotten or taken it upon themselves to overlook. Free State of Jones is a true story as much as a reminder of how far, or how little, we’ve come. It is a film about race as much as it is about the civil war.

As the story progresses, conversations stir up the narrative but this film is about ideals and principles more than it is about the compelling exchanges between characters, though there are some of those here. Filled to the brim with thematic material, it overflows and actually begins to cause a problem.

Ross is stern in his desire to preach a clear, direct message. There’s nothing wrong with that, unless that message starts to get in the way of your story, as it does in Free State of Jones‘ final third. The final slice of pie is no longer fresh nor is it the same flavor. What should serve as a conclusion to Free State of Jones is more of a stitched fabric to the main article we’ve adorned for the last hour and a half, something sewn on that clearly doesn’t need to be there. That’s not to say all of the ending is forced. It reveals the aftermath of Knight’s fight and the bitter pill he has to swallow knowing that really nothing has changed, that they are not much closer to equality than they were before. This would be great for character but Ross doesn’t go there. Instead, there are some courtroom drama sequences that, in my opinion, have no place here. We came to the theater to see McConaughey do his thing and rather than watch how he deals with what has transpired, knowing the south is no more inclusive and no less racist and unfair than it was before he picked up his gun, we’re left watching a lifeless courtroom drama that serves as a poor and misplaced creative choice. While it doesn’t ruin the end product, it stifles our protagonist and only half educates us as to how everything turned out.

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. (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. (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 Free State of Jones: 71.

Despite a bothersome climax, Free State of Jones is a capable drama filled with lecterns. The supporting cast is proficient and there’s certainly plenty of emotion to be expected both from them and from the audience. I was more than heated when I got out of this. It’s the stutter step at the end that throws this for a loop along with what at times uncertain direction.

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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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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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