My Worst, Disappointing, Least-Like Movies of the Year

It’s the end of the year boys and girls, you know what that means? It’s list time!

I’ll put up my list of “Best/Favorite” movies of the year later, but with all those best and favorite movies I have, I had to sit through some stinkers. Some of these I knew weren’t going to be any good walking in, but I ended up taking the hit anyway. The list ranges all over the place, so don’t think I’m attacking certain movies because it’s easy. I walk into every movie with a clear mind and soaking up the movie for what it’s worth. Good or bad.

The list will have the movies in alphabetical order, just to be fair, and because I really don’t want to go through the trouble anymore of picking a number one because they weren’t good enough to make it on my other list. Like all lists, this is my opinion! So if you don’t agree that’s perfectly fine, and probably justified. Finally, there are other movies that could have gone on the list, but these are the ones that truly stuck out. Alright, let’s get this over with.

 

Dishonorable Mentions

Blackhat (Universal Pictures/Legendary Pictures/Forward Pass)

Hitman: Agent 47 (20th Century Fox/TSG Entertainment/Infinite Frameworks Studios/Fox International Productions)

Hot Tube Time Machine 2 (Paramount Pictures/MGM)

Taken 3 (20th Century Fox/EuropaCorp/Canal+/TSG Entertainment/M6 Films/Cine+)

The Transporter Refueled (EuropaCorp/Fundamental Films/TF1 Films Productions/Belga Films/Canal+)

 

 

Disappointments/Least-Liked/Worst Movies of the Year

Aloha (Sony Pictures/Fox/Columbia Pictures/Vinyl Films)

Cameron Crowe’s latest film was hit with criticism with “white-washing” and keeping the film from critics to review just a couple days before release (not the only film on this list that did that). However, watching the film you can see why they kept it away from critics. Aloha had a great cast of Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, John Krasinski, and Bill Murray. Sadly, they couldn’t save this. The film tries to have high stakes, but only when it wants to, and it even felt ridiculous at times. Overall, the film was very uneven that at times made the film boring.

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Fantastic Four (Fox/Marvel Entertainment/Marv Films/TSG Entertainment)

This one definitely goes into the disappointing and worst section. 20th Century Fox can’t nail down “Marvel’s First Family,” and it is strike three for them. Of course, it didn’t help that there was so much behind-the-scenes drama between the studio and director Josh Trank, and the troubling reshoots and scenes in the trailer that are nowhere in the film. Despite all that, like I said in my review: The fans lose in this, not Fox or Trank, us because we want to see a good Fantastic Four movie and what we got crap. Started out good, but crap nonetheless.

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Jupiter Ascending (Warner Bros./Village Roadshow Pictures/Dune Entertainment)

I really wanted to like this movie more than I did. There are some great scenes in there, but the film felt way too big for its own good. The Wachowskis seemed like they were doing a lot of world building, but it all felt too condense and rushed with nothing having time to breathe. Dare I say, it probably would have worked better as a mini-series instead of a movie, but that’s just my opinion. The first sign was indeed the release date switch, when they pushed back the release date by a year.

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Maggie (Liongates/Roadside Attractions/Grindstone Entertainment Group/Gold Star Films/Lotus Entertainment/Silver Reel/Gold Star Films/Matt Baer Films)

I wasn’t expecting too much of Maggie, but I walked in open-minded (as always) to watch a different take of the zombie genre. Arnold Schwarzenegger as a father dealing with his daughter, played by Abigail Breslin, being infected with virus that is turning people into zombies was interesting to see. However, Maggie’s slow burn didn’t really do the film any favors as the film felt too slow at times and when something powerful happened it took me a while to actually register it because I had to catch up at times. One thing that made me put the film on the list was the ending. The ending looked like it was going to go down a very powerful route, but instead went out in a whimper, and didn’t take the risk that that film could have really made and where they were potentially hinting at. I will say that Arnold as a father figure was great to see.

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Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (Paramount Pictures/Blumhouse Productions)

I was a fan and defender of the Paranormal Activity films up until the third installment, and I enjoyed most of the spinoff The Marked Ones, but the series showed signs of losing it during the fourth installment. It seemed like the series just didn’t care anymore, and while it tried to add new things to the series, it just never kicked off the way they probably thought it would. As for The Ghost Dimension, the last of the series, it just didn’t do it for me. The supposed answers we were promised were rushed and lackluster, and the ending was just weak and not a good end to the series at all. The movie felt like just another installment that was setting up the real final installment. Another case of a good series losing it momentum by the end, and overstaying its welcome.

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Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Happy Madison Productions)

I didn’t walk in really expecting much from this. I’ll admit, I enjoyed the first Paul Blart: Mall Cop. It had its funny and goofy moments, but it knew what it was and didn’t take itself too seriously. Unfortunately, the sequel did take itself a little bit too seriously for its own good. The jokes fell flat the majority of the time, and to be honest it just wasn’t that good. All the charm and goofiness the first film had was stripped away and replaced with unnecessary fat jokes and lame/awful jokes.

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Point Break (Warner Bros./Alcon Entertainment/DMG Entertainment/Studio Babelsberg)

Despite my slight optimism for remakes in general, Point Break was a shallow and pointless remake that didn’t do much for me – and probably anyone – and while it had it’s very short and brief moments and a great performance with Edgar Ramirez, Point Break failed on all spectrum’s.

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Seventh Son (Universal Pictures/Legendary Pictures)

Seventh Son felt a bit messy. The movie isn’t horrible, but the movie sometimes feels like you’re already familiar with some aspects of the world and it’s a little off-putting at times. One scene in particular threw me off only because they made the scene feel like it was really important, but emotionally it didn’t come out that way because there was no real investment in character involved.

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Terminator Genisys (Paramount Pictures/Skydance Productions)

Terminator Genisys had some potential, Arnold Schwarzenegger came back, after some fans wanted him back, Alan Taylor was directing, and the film was going to add some new things to the timeline that we all know. Then that second trailer came out. You know, the one that gave away what could have been the biggest twist in the series and potentially a great moment to watch onscreen for the first time. Yeah, that one. Knowing that going in really hurt the movie, and despite their being another layer to the twist, it still wasn’t enough to forgive them for spoiling that big plot point in the trailers, TV spots, and posters.

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The Gallows (Warner Bros./New Line Cinema/Blumhouse Productions/Management 360/Tremendum Pictures)

Another addition to the Found Footage horror subgenre was The Gallows, and like some of the films before it: it wasn’t good. Despite some cool and eerie shots in the movie, one of the characters – mainly holding the camera – was annoying to the point that it took me out of the movie. I can handle annoying characters, but holy hell did he reach a whole new level. Moreover, the motivation and reveal of why the events happen ended up making no sense whatsoever and seemed like a last minute thing. The Gallows may be the worst Found Footage movie I’ve seen.

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The Green Inferno (BH Tilt/High Top Releasing/Worldview Entertainment/Dragonfly Entertainment/Sobras International Pictures)

I’m not the biggest Eli Roth fan, but I’ve slightly enjoyed some of his movies in the past, but The Green Inferno was rough to watch, and not in the way it was supposed to be rough to watch. None of the characters were really all that likeable, with the expectation of maybe two, and even the slow burn and waiting for everything to go to hell isn’t worth the wait. Some of the gore is good – that’s what the film is really about anyway – but overall this wasn’t good at all. This is definitely one of the worst films of the year.

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The Lazarus Effect (Lionsgate/Blumhouse Productions/Relativity Studios)

This one had a ton of potential and even had the cast lead by Olivia Wilde and Mark Duplass to back it up. Unfortunately, the potential of the film disappeared once the film became a supernatural slasher-esque film in the last act. The Lazarus Effect had a great premise behind it, but the execution of it lacked power and left the film underwhelming to watch.

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Tomorrowland (Walt Disney Pictures/A113)

This one hurt. I was actually conflicted to put Tomorrowland on this list and not put it as an “Honorable Mention” on my “Favorite/Best” movies of the year. However, that wouldn’t be extremely fair to the other movies. Tomorrowland had ton of potential, had a great team behind the camera and in front of the camera, but ultimately it was the lack of execution and beating over the head theme (which I loved, but sill) that made this probably one of the biggest disappointments, if not the biggest, of the year.

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So, what were your biggest disappointments, worst, or least-liked films of the year?

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‘Point Break’ Review

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Director: Ericson Core

Writers: Kurt Wimmer

Cast: Luke Bracey, Edgar Ramirez, Teresa Palmer, Clemens Schick, Matias Varela, Tobias Santelmann, Nikolai Kinski, Max Thieriot, Ray Winstone and Delroy Lindo

Synopsis: A young FBI agent infiltrates an extraordinary team of extreme sports athletes he suspects of masterminding a string of unprecedented, sophisticated corporate heists.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

I’m sure I have posted this in the past: I don’t mind remakes/reboots/reimagining’s. It’s bound to happen people, get over it. Hollywood has been redoing stuff for years, but even I’ll agree that it is happening more than usual, and even more noticeable because of the internet. That’s one reason I don’t get upset or throw a hissing fit when a remake is announced. The other reason is that I always give movies the benefit of the doubt. I don’t mind remakes/reboots/reimagining’s if the team behind it does something that makes that movie worthwhile and makes the movie its own thing, and that I can respect. However, some of those movies don’t follow that logic, which is why most remakes suck. That can be said for Point Break.

Point Break takes most of the core story of the original 1991 Point Break in that it follows Johnny Utah – although Utah is a nickname this time around – who is a former extreme sports athlete who has left that world and is now trying to work his way up the FBI. When we meet him, he and the FBI find out that a group of thieves are using extreme sports-like qualities as their getaways, which leads Utah to believe they are indeed extreme sports athletes. This finding eventually lead him to tell FBI Instructor Hall (Lindo) that he thinks they are trying complete The Ozaki Eight, a fictional series of eight ordeals that intend to honor the forces of nature and give back to the world, of course the group’s way of giving back to the world is targeting big banks and giving the money to the poor. Hall, after some convincing, sends Utah to track them down and use his former extreme sports skills to weave his way in and take them down.

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One of the biggest difference between this and the original is that the remake is much more of a globe-trotting film with bigger stunts and bigger set-pieces. Some of which are okay, but don’t really move the story forward, they’re just there for the sake of having an extreme sports scene, like snowboarding down a dangerous mountain, or surfing a massive wave. The group of thieves, lead by the charismatic and dangerous Bodhi (Ramirez), are also much more than surfers this time around, which sort of adds, well, is supposed to add an extra layer of depth, but the group is interchangeable and none of them really standout. The only ones that really ever get significant screen time is Clemens Schick’s Roach and Mathias Varela’s Grommet, and while the actors do just fine, Bodhi is the one that gets the more meaty scenes.

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Clemens Schick’s Roach (left) and Mathias Varela’s Grommet (right)

The only real standout to the cast is Edgar Ramirez. He’s always reliable in everything he does really, and he does the best he can with what he’s given. Luke Bracey is rather blah, he has moments, but for the most part, he’s not that great of a lead. Teresa Palmer’s Samsara, the only woman in the core cast doesn’t really do too much and the brief love story feels a bit forced and doesn’t really carry any real weight to it. It’s kind of shame really because Palmer is a great actress and is wasted here. Ray Winstone pops u as Pappas, who also has his moments and alongside Ramirez, Winstone is a standout too.

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Point Break also feels a bit longer than it really is. The whole middle of the film is rather slow and nothing really happens aside from the really pointless big stunts. In fact, when Utah enters the group, they don’t steal anything! They sit around talking and bond, but the bonding has no real effect like the original did. Utah’s struggle to betray the group after he’s gotten to know them, doesn’t really exists, and whatever is there passes over fairly quick.

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What the movie also fails to do is really capitalize on what the original did. The iconic moments, like the presidents masks, which only appears once in security cameras, and the other two big moments from the original do appear, but they feel a bit forced and corny. Those moments make the remake feel shallower than it already is.

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All in all, Point Break doesn’t bring anything really new or good to the table. The cast is serviceable with the expectation of Edgar Ramirez, who is the real highlight of the film. The big stunts and bigger set-pieces do nothing for the sake of story and are just there to make the film probably feel more “extreme.” Despite my slight optimism for the film – and for remakes in general – Point Break fails for the most part on all spectrums.

 

Point Break

2.5 out of 5

Spoiler-Filled Discussion/Thoughts/Mini-Review of ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

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AGAIN, SPOILERS AHEAD! 

LAST WARNING!!

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Okay, so obviously Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out last weekend, and it was a huge hit with a great opening box office haul. The film has, and to some extent still is, shadowed by secrecy. No good fan of the series and of movies wants to ruin it for anyone. I already did a spoiler-free review, and a friend asked if I was going to do a spoiler-filled review. If you’ve been following the blog, you know that all my reviews are spoiler-free, because I never want to ruin an experience for someone watching a movie.

In fact, I don’t like spoilers – at all. I don’t know why anyone wants to everything about a movie before they watch it. Why ruin the experience for yourself? Why bother watching the movie at all if you know everything? I don’t see a reasonable logical explanation behind that. Spoiler Rumors are a tad different. I’m indifferent to them because they are rumors first and foremost. Look at all the rumors going around for The Force Awakens, a lot of them were way off. But I digress.

So this post will be a SPOILER-FILLED Star Wars: The Force Awakens discussion/mini-review. I’m going to mostly focus on some of the big things that happened and some cool things that I liked. So let’s get starting shall we. Oh, and I’m avoiding all canonical Expanded Universe material – for the most part – because this is the movies, not the comic and novels.

So, let’s start off with the beginning. Luke Skywalker has disappeared and has been for awhile apparently, how long? We don’t know, but it seems like whatever The First Order has planned, it apparently means Luke Skywalker has to go…or does he? All we know is that The First Order wants the map that leads to Luke, we are just assuming that they want to kill him because they’re the bad guys. Even General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) tells Kylo Ren, or should I say, Han Solo’s son(!), who was trained by Luke and went to the Dark Side, that he shouldn’t let his personal agenda get in the way. So does The First Order/Kylo Ren want Luke dead, or do they need him for something? Nonetheless, it looks like Luke will play a key factor in the new trilogy as well…maybe.

But instead the focus will be on a new patch of characters. There’s the now former Stormtrooper in Finn, who is rather interesting character himself, since there hasn’t been a character like this in the movies. Finn, despite doing heroic deeds: like helping Poe escape and trying to help Rey and BB-8 on Jakku, is for all intent-and-purposes is a hero. He did grow up under The First Order and was trained by them. It’s not until the end that he finally becomes the hero when he stands up and fights Kylo Ren. Speaking of Kylo Ren, what a character huh? Not only is he the son of Han Solo and trained by his uncle Luke Skywalker, he’s turned to the Dark Side and follows new trilogy villain Supreme Leader Snoke (voiced and motion captured by Andy Serkis). He’s also got a weird Darth Vader thing going on as he keeps his grandfather’s burnt helmet in his room like a shrine, and wears a (heavy ass) helmet that looks like a knockoff of Vader’s.

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Of course, the big moment for Ren was the scene with this father. What a bittersweet scene it was. Harrison Ford finally got his wish: Han Solo dies. The bad thing, Han Solo is dead. The scene works for a few reasons in that it finally shows Kylo Ren has chosen the Dark Side. Despite the “pull” to the Light Side, Ren has made his choice and sealed it by killing his father, who wanted to help him. However, it also sounds like his training isn’t complete when Snoke tells Hux to bring Ren to him to “finish his training.” Now it looks like Ren is going to be an all powerful Sith? I ask that as a question because The Sith are gone remember? And no one refers to Kylo Ren as a Sith. I thought Adam Driver did a fine job and I think he’ll be a force (no pun intended) to be reckoned with, especially with his cool ass lightsaber. But let’s talk about Harrison Ford. Did he show up! It looked like he was having fun all over again. However, with Han Solo dead, what does that do to the series? Sure Han Solo is a lot of people’s favorite character, but the series can survive without him, despite not having him around could be a bummer. Was killing Han the right move? At first glance, yes, because it helps elevate the character of Kylo Ren and was a fitting end to the Han Solo character. However, the question will be how does it change the characters going forward?

Finally, there’s Rey, a scavenger from Jakku who is waiting for her potential family to come back for her, hence the markings on the wall, which could easily be overlooked on first viewing. However, that fact that she’s wide-eyed, vulnerable, and badass all at the same time makes her character so much cooler and much more relatable. However, the biggest thing about Rey is that we still don’t know who the hell she is! We know she has the Force, but is that it? Is she just Force sensitive or is she Luke’s daughter as it’s somewhat hinted at? Or someone else’s daughter? You could have made the argument that she was Han’s daughter, but he or Leia – even though Rey and Leia have only two scenes that the end together – never mention or hint at having a daughter, but you can tell that Han knows who she is by the way he acts and looks at her. Also, she’s been apparently training her whole life for any situation she’s thrown into. She knows how to pilot a ship and make adjustments on them, she also apparently knows how to really use her Force powers as she uses the Jedi Mind Trick on the Stormtrooper (played by Daniel Craig), or has she heard the stories of the Jedi for long enough that she took a shot in the dark to see if she could do it? She also knows how to speak droid and, well, Chewbacca. Not everyone knows how to do that.

Whatever the case, Rey is undoubtedly the main hero of the trilogy. Unless, they pull a massive swerve on us but I doubt it. Rey, like Finn, has her own journey. The only difference is that Rey doesn’t want to acceptable her heroic deeds, until the end, when she also fights Kylo Ren and has no choice. It isn’t until she touches Luke’s lightsaber that she starts to be able to use the Force (hence the title perhaps). And she gets visions? What’s the deal with that? The vision seem pretty damning themselves too. We see Luke with R2-D2, looking possibly defeated and we see Kylo Ren with what we can assume are The Knights of Ren, which are only mentioned but never seen (what’s up with that!). Anyway, you can see she’s a little scared about using the lighsaber against Kylo Ren. The main thing however is that we never find out who she really is, which I can see why people would hate that, and if fact after watching the movie the second time, I felt that way too. Then I realized, why should I feel that way? We didn’t find out that Vader was Luke’s father until Empire Strikes Back. Now, I’m not saying this new trilogy has to do something big like that, but not finding out who Rey was could be – and is to some – a sour issue. Personally, I don’t mind not knowing who Rey is just yet. I like the mystery, but as long as they give us enough, or answer, who she is in the sequels, then let her character continue to grow and be the badass she was in The Force Awakens.

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Speaking of growth, let’s talk about the new characters that didn’t get a ton of screen time, I’m looking at you Captain Phasma! Seriously, the costume is so cool looking and the character has less than ten minutes of screen time. Hell, the Stormtrooper that Finn fights with the lighsaber had a cooler moment than Captain Phasma. Although, J.J. Abrams admitted that he cut a descent chuck of stuff out, maybe Captain Phasma is one of them since she is the most noticeable. There is also Poe Dameron, played by Oscar Isaac, and shares the first scene with the great Max von Sydow who play Lor San Tekka. Which is a bit odd, because Sydow seems like an important character because its assumed that he’s known Leia since the original trilogy AND he has the map to Luke, yet he has about five minutes of screen time and gets killed by Ren, who he apparently has known since a child since Ren knocks how old Tekka has gotten, maybe we’ll find out later or not. Anyway, Isaac is always great and his character had a lot of charm and swagger, I mean come on, “So who talks first you or me?” That was awesome, but I do wish there was more of him in the film. Again, just another thing of begin the first of a trilogy: characters are going to get put on the backburner until the sequels.

Then there is Lupita Nyong’o’s character Maz Kanata, who for some reason, has Luke’s lightsaber. Why? Who the hell knows, or according to her “a story for another time.” I don’t know where they will go with the character, but I hope it’s somewhere good. Let’s go to the villain side, Domhnall Gleeson’s General Hux. There’s something off and simple about his character. Hux has a General ranking amongst The First Order, but he seems a bit too young, is he related to someone powerful or high up in The First Order or the now fallen Empire? He certainly gave a powerful speech to his army of Stromtroopers when they fired their new weapon. Maybe I’m over thinking it, but Hux is still a wild card on the villain side for me. Finally, there is Supreme Leader Snoke. Who some fans believe is really the character named Darth Plagueis. He was actually mentioned in the prequels by Palpatine saying that he was a powerful Sith that could cheat death. George Lucas even described the character in the past and his descriptions sound a lot like Plagueis. Will Snoke be Plagueis? Again, who knows, but Snoke does look to be the big bad in the new trilogy, despite only seeing him as a hologram.

Look, I loved The Force Awakens, but I also see the big burning Starkiller Base issues with the movie. The big one being we got very few answers to questions we’ve wanted, but in return we got more questions and get sidetracked on some which usually would have been a bad thing, but in this case, it’s actually kind of cool. Just remember this is the beginning of a new trilogy. It will take time to find out these answers. I’ll go back to my example of the original trilogy. We didn’t find out about Vader until the second film, and even then we still loved the series for what they did. I’m not going to compare the original trilogy to The Force Awakens because one, it wouldn’t be fair since IT’S ONLY THE FIRST MOVIE, and two, The Force Awakens really is the beginning of the this new story, with new characters and their own story and adventure to tell and explore.

Is the Force strong with this new trilogy? Let’s wait until we see episode eight to make that decision. For now, just enjoy the fact that we have more Star Wars movies, and spinoffs, on the way.

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‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Review

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Director: J.J. Abrams

Writer: J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt, and Lawrence Kasdan

Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, Anthony Daniels, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Max von Sydow, and Mark Hamill

Synopsis: 30 years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat rises. The first Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a ragtag group of Heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: I have already seen the movie twice, and the review was ready to go on Friday. However, I wanted to wait until this week to post the review. The review is spoiler-free, but still.*

 

Look, I’m not even going to pretend that this review is going to be easy to write. Not because I thought the film was bad, because it wasn’t, but because this film is so surrounded by secrecy that most of you probably won’t read this until after you watch the film – and I wouldn’t blame you. So, I’ll keep my promise to you that this will be a spoiler review and I’ll do my best to not even hint at any possible spoiler or could be considered a spoiler.

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The Force Awakens starts off like every Star Wars film before it, with the crawl. The crawl lets us know the important thing and the plot point that will set up the new trilogy: Luke Skywalker (Hamill) is missing – hence why’s he’s not in any promotional material – and in his disappearance a evil arises called The First Order lead by Supreme Leader Snoke (Serkis) and his generals in General Hux (Gleeson) and Kylo Ren (Driver). The one thing standing in their way is the Resistance which is lead by General Leia (Fisher) who has been fighting them since they rose to power after the Empire feel. In the middle of all this are our new heroes and lead in a Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Isaac), a scavenger Rey, a former Stormtrooper who’s now on the run, and a droid in BB-8. Along the way they meet up with familiar faces in Han Solo (Ford) and Chewbacca (Mayhew) who also help them out to fight off the First Order and their new weapon that threatens the galaxy.

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It’s hard not to see the familiar structure of other Star Wars films in The Force Awakens, but what director J.J. Abrams was able to do with the similarities was create something that still felt fresh and was excited to watch from beginning to end. Abrams doesn’t rely too much on nostalgia, although there are scenes that are oozed in it, but instead takes what the series has already given us and adds to it. The Force Awakens has great action, cinematography and more importantly, it’s a ton of fun and lets us get to know the characters that we want to root for them and follow their journey to the end. You can arguably say that maybe The Force Awakens relies too much of the similar story structure, but it works nonetheless.

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The new characters are great, and not a stinker in the bunch. Oscar Isaac is the first new character we see and he brings a nice swagger and charm, that to be honest, I was not expecting and that’s coming from a Oscar Isaac fan. John Boyega’s Finn also brings his own swagger and charm and even brings some of the funniest moments in the film. At the same time, we’re seeing a different side in the battle between the Dark Side and the Light Side. Finn leaves the First Order and abandons his role as a Stormtrooper. We’ve haven’t really seen that side before, and given that Finn is probably one of the characters you really can’t nail down. Sure, he does heroic things in the film and is on the side of the resistance, but he was a Stormtrooper too. Boyega handles it well and if your first exposure to Boyega was Attack the Block like mine, you know he was able to rise to the challenge.

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Finally, Daisy Ridley as Rey is one of the best characters in the film. She feels like a real person and is a character that you can easily root for. She’s not just a badass character, but one that can be vulnerable, funny, and naïve. Rey, similar to Finn, is looking for more in her life. She’s also heard the stories of Luke, Han and Leia, and is wide-eyed to find out that all of it was real and she’s now going on her own adventure. Rey will definitely be a highlight for many once they watch the film. Of course, there’s BB-8 as well. I mean come on, have you seen the commercial’s, have the droids in the past not been great? BB-8 was awesome too.

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Now let’s talk about the Dark Side. Kylo Ren gets most of the screen time and attention so Domhnall Gleeson’s General Hux, Andy Serkis’ Supreme Leader Snoke and even Gwendoline Christie’s Captain Phasma are just a bit underdeveloped and are clearly saved for the future films, but it still would have been nice to see them a little more, especially Captain Phasma. It’s understandable, obviously, considering this is the first movie of a new trilogy, but it was a little frustrating considering all the secrecy for the characters just to be saved for future films. However, Gleeson’s Hux does get a fair amount of screen time and you really tell there is something about him and the fact that he’s younger than other Generals we’ve seen in these films.

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Thankfully, not all of The Force Awakens is CGI (I’m looking at you George Lucas!). Abrams goes back to the roots of Star Wars and has a ton (!) of practical effects and physical creatures so the cast can interact with. It could have been easier to go with CGI creatures, but the fact that Abrams and producers Bryan Burk and Kathleen Kennedy went the route of building creatures makes the film feel so much more special. Sure there are CGI creatures, but there isn’t an over abundance of them. One of those CGI creatures is Maz Kanata, who Lupita Nyong’o does the voice and motion capture for. Her character appears right in the middle of the film and while her character doesn’t feel important, she does play an important role, and is one of the characters I’m sure we’ll see more of in the future.

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All in all, what makes The Force Awakens undoubtedly work is that the film is fun. It really is fun and funny. Abrams is always able to find a nice balance of action and comedy that they serve their purpose equally and one doesn’t overpower the other. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve had this much fun and laughed with a movie since the summer and Mad Max: Fury Road. The most importantly thing the film does however is that it doesn’t lean toward or on its past. It embraces it future while paying respect to the past. Disney, Lucasfilm, Abrams, who ever deserves the credit, should be given all the credit in the world for making that move. It was great to see the old cast come back, but it was even better to see a brand new cast of characters, especially John Boyega’s Finn and Daisy Ridley’s Rey.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens is truly a great addition, and continuation, to the Star Wars franchise. It will make you feel like a kid again, it will make you cry and more importantly, it will make you happy that there is another Star Wars movie in our lives.

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

4.5 out of 5

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‘Macbeth’ Review

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Director: Justin Kurzel

Writers: Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie, and Todd Louiso

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine, Sean Harris, Jack Reynor, David Hayman, James Harkness, Ross Anderson, and David Thewlis.

Synopsis: Macbeth, a Thane of Scotland, receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders his king and takes the throne for himself.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Based on the William Shakespeare play of the same name, Macbeth may be one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, because I love the complicated characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. It also lends itself to be interpreted in many different ways – like all Shakespeare’s plays – Hollywood has made many different versions of the character from Orson Wells directing and starring as the character himself, Roman Polanski’s take starring Jon Finch, and even a modern-day gangland iteration from Australia which starred Sam Worthington. However, director Justin Kurzel and the cast take a more visually impactful, grim, gritty and artistic film that would probably make Shakespeare himself proud (too much?).

Michael Fassbender plays Macbeth, the Thane of Scotland, who at the beginning of the film leads King Duncan’s (Thewlis) army to victory in a bloody battle that gets him a better place amongst Duncan’s court. After the battle however, Macbeth along with his friend and battle partner Banquo (Considine) encounter four witches – three adults and one child – that tell him Macbeth he will one day become King of Scotland. Macbeth curious of their prophecy goes back home and tells his wife Lady Macbeth, played by Marion Cotillard, of what he was told and she convinces him to fulfill his destiny and kill the king himself, rather than wait to let the crown be passed on to Duncan’s heir, Malcolm (Reynor).

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If you know the play – or watch the trailers – Macbeth eventually convinces himself, of course with much convincing from his wife, and kills Duncan in his sleep. Macbeth becomes king, takes the throne and slowly grows paranoid of everyone around him, including his own friend Banquo and Macduff (Harris). What follows is his and Lady Macbeth’s own descent to madness and paranoia that lead them deeper into darkness with no way of coming back.

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I’ll be honest, it’s hard to review a film based on a play that maybe most of us, if not all of us, read in high school or maybe even college. But, like I mentioned, the play happens to be one of my favorites and when I found out that this was being done with Fassbender and Cotillard, I got really giddy and excited. Thankfully, the movie didn’t disappoint. Sure they changed some things around, like the fact that there are four witches instead of three, even though the youngest witch which happens to be a child never speaks, or even that some events are tweaked, omitted or even added, but truth be told, the changes they made really make the film work.

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I’d dare say that of all the Macbeth films I’ve seen this is the most moody and grimiest take I’ve seen. That could be thanks to cinematographer Adam Arkapaw who does a fantastic job of making every scene feel different from the next and giving the film it real dark, gritty and down to the bone artistic type of the film that sometimes make you wonder if what you are seeing is all in Macbeth’s head or if it’s really there. Hell, some of the scenes and shots look like a moving painting and are stylized in such a way that brings you into the gloomy atmosphere of the film. One of the big highlights is the last act of the film that involves the “Birnam forest” and the final battle which has a fantastic atmosphere that I loved being a part of. Add that with the amazing production design and wardrobe, Macbeth is probably one of the best looking films of the year. It truly is probably the best looking Shakespeare adaptation ever made.

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But, when it comes down to it, Macbeth works because of two people: Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. Taking on these two characters isn’t the easiest task – especially in the Shakespearian verse – but both Fassbender and Cotillard are and were highly capable to bringing these two twisted and complex characters to life in their own way. Fassbender’s portrayal slowly unravels as the film goes on. You can see him become paranoid of everyone around him and the grand diner scene is something that was truly great to witness. Even the famous “O, full of scorpions is my mind” speech is something that Kurzel and Fassbender bring to life so well that Macbeth is literally saying the lines as he’s clenching his teeth and is about to crack.

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When it comes to Cotillard, some of her scenes are just amazing to sit through. For most her scenes, including the “to bed” scene, Kurzel simply just lets the camera linger and slowly move in on Cotillard as she delivers her lines. Her take on the character, for me, proves that Lady Macbeth is much more of a tragic character than Macbeth himself. She can see that monster that she created and the monster than she allowed herself to be. She wanted the power and pushed and manipulated her husband to kill the king so they can take it all, but the cost is something she didn’t think of. Dare I say, Cotillard steals the film from Fassbender, which is not an easy task nowadays.

The supporting cast aren’t too bad themselves, but with Fassbender and Cotillard having most of the screen time it’s reasonable why they’d be overlooked. Sean Harris, who plays Macduff, plays Macduff as a more silent type at first, but when pushed to his own breaking point he becomes a mad and rage-filled man himself. Paddy Considine is almost unrecognizable as Banquo and delivers a great, short and sweet performance. The same can be said for Elizabeth Debicki, who plays, Lady Macduff. She only in about three scenes total, but one of those scenes completely delivers and changes everything for one of the characters.

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All in all, Macbeth is a great atmospheric, gloomy, artistic iteration and approach to the famous characters. Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard bring their A-game with director Justin Kurzel to deliver a great film that like all Shakespeare material will probably have to be watched multiple times absorb everything.

 

Macbeth

5 out of 5

‘In the Heart of the Sea’ Review

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Director: Ron Howard

Writer: Charles Leavitt

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland, Frank Dillane, Joseph Mawie, Gary Beadle, Charlotte Riley, Donald Sumpter, Richard Bremmer, Jordi Molla, Michelle Fairley, Ben Whishaw, and Brendan Gleeson

Synopsis: Based on the 1820 event, a whaling ship is preyed upon by a giant whale, stranding its crew at sea for 90 days, thousands of miles from home.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Based on the book by Nathaniel Philbrick of the same name, Ron Howard takes the books basic premise about the whaling ship Essex in the 1820s that goes out to sea and encounters a massive whale that leaves some of the crew stranding at sea for 90 days and leaving them to fight for their lives against the elements, each other, and the massive whale that inspired Herman Melville’s classic epic Moby Dick. Now, the film – despite the ads – In the Heart of the Sea is not a film about Moby Dick, it’s about the inspiration behind Moby Dick. It’s also not so much about the whale itself, its more about the crew as they survive. So does In the Heart of the Sea stay aloft or does it sink hard? Well, it’s a give and take relationship.

The film has a nifty framing device as it starts in 1850 when author Herman Melville (Whishaw) goes to speak with Thomas Nickerson (Gleeson), the last living survivor of the Essex, to hear the story – which has become a somewhat myth and tale – of the Essex so that he can write his new book. Thomas is reluctant at first, but with a push from his wife (Fairley) he tells Melville the story. We then flashback to the 1820s and the focus changes to Owen Chase (Hemsworth), an experienced whaler who is eager to get his own ship, but has to serve as First Mate to Captain George Pollard (Walker), who is the son of a prestigious whaling family. Both men are eager to prove themselves and but their conflicting personalities and backgrounds have to be put to the side as their ship is attacked by a whale that they have never seen before. Left shipwrecked, the crew have to resort to anything they can to survive.

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In the Heart of the Sea is really more of a film about survivor, and what you are willing to do to survive. For those hoping for a big whale versus ship film will be slightly disappointed. Sure there is some great stuff with the giant whale, especially the much promoted attack of the ship, but after that the whale pops up only a few times after that. The story of survivor is essentially what this film is really about, and it’s a mixed bag. You definitely feel and see the despair of the crew that include Matthew Joy (Murphy), who happens to be Chase’s long time friend, young Thomas (Holland), Henry Coffin (Dillane), who is Pollard’s cousin, William Bond (Beadle), and Benjamin Lawrence (Mawle), among a few others.

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The problem is we don’t get to know too much about them as the primary focus in on Chase, Pollard and Thomas. Joy gets an interesting subplot, but it doesn’t really go anywhere in the film which is a shame because Murphy is always great in anything he tackles. Young Thomas has some great moments, but the older version played by Gleeson is much more developed and well-rounded character. In fact, the only real characters we really get to know are Gleeson’s Thomas and Ben Whishaw’s Herman Melville. Anytime the two are onscreen they are remarkable, and arguably the best scenes in the film are their scenes, including one that happens after the two reveal to each other their “secrets.” It’s a rather powerful scene that really puts things in perspective.

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However, the only thing that bothered me but at the same time I can see why they wouldn’t show it, is when Thomas does reveal what they had to do in order to survive. It isn’t heavily hinted at, the audience knows what they did, but it never takes that extra step and shows it. I’m not saying the film isn’t good because they didn’t show the action, but if you’re going to go there, maybe show it, or at least part of it. Gleeson and Whishaw’s performance are great when they reach that point, but for a film to drive – or sail in this case – to this point and not really show is a bit underwhelming.

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The rest of the cast fares well too with Hemsworth proving he can be more than just the God of Thunder, and Benjamin Walker has a great moment to shine in the latter half of the film. Tom Holland – future Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – also has his moments, but again, Gleeson’s Thomas is much more developed.

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All in all, In the Heart of the Sea has its big moments that work, but also has some parts that fall really flat that hurt the momentum going in. Whishaw and Gleeson help make the film more worthwhile and Chris Hemsworth with Cillian Murphy give great performances and bring the dread and lose of faith within the open sea.

 

In the Heart of the Sea

3.5 out of 5

‘Krampus’ Review

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Director: Michael Dougherty

Writers: Michael Dougherty, Todd Casey and Zach Shields

Cast: Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrell, Emjay Anthony, Stefania LaVie Owen, Maverick Flack, Lolo Owen, Queenie Samuel, and Krista Stadler

Synopsis: A boy who has a bad Christmas ends up accidentally summoning a Christmas demon to his family home.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

I became a fan of Michael Dougherty when I saw his great Halloween film Trick ‘r Treat. The film was funny, suspenseful and had some great moments of horror, but more importantly, it was a hell of a lot of fun. So like many, I was looking forward to him getting back behind the camera and what better way to get back behind the camera with another holiday-themed horror film. While Krampus isn’t as good as Trick ‘r Treat, Dougherty still keeps the same intense but fun holiday horror.

Krampus follows the Engel family: the somewhat down-to-earth dad Tom (Scott), trying to stay sane mom Sarah (Collette), typical teenager daughter Beth (Lavie Owen), youthful and holiday loving Max (Anthony), and Tom’s mother or as she’s called by Max, Omi (Stadler) who only speaks in German. They are joined by Sarah’s sister, Linda (Tolman) and her family of her loud and obnoxious husband Howard (Koechner), their bratty daughters Stevie (Owen) and Jordan (Samuel), son Howie (Flack), baby Chrissy and has no filter, Aunt Dorothy (Ferrell). They all come together a few days before Christmas to be together, and while the first night doesn’t go over to well – including Max’s letter to Santa being read aloud – family bickering is the least of the Engel family’s problems: the evil spirit of Krampus – the opposite of Santa Claus – has been unleashed and has made them his target.

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For those unfamiliar, Krampus is actually based on a legend/folklore. There are many interpretations of Krampus, but most agree on the same thing: he’s a villainous, horned creature that punishes children at Christmastime for being naughty. The Krampus in Krampus like that as well, but instead of just going after the children he also targets the grown-ups, whether it be himself or using his fiendish helpers that include demonic toys.

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Thankfully, Krampus himself – and the film – isn’t completely CGI. With the expectation of a handful of scenes – one of which is a fantastic scene that takes place in the kitchen– Krampus is all practical effects and puppetry. Which is a nice touch because it makes the creatures, visually, feel more real and extra terrifying once everything goes to hell. Again, if you saw Trick ‘r Treat, Dougherty different and unique style is inject here which gives Krampus some much needed fun and humor. It may not be for everyone, but it definitely works here.

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I thing I applaud Dougherty for doing is making the film more than just a horror film. It’s a dysfunctional family film too. Krampus is a slow burn film, that does get a bit sluggish at times, but before all the horror elements start, we get to know the family, and yes, even get to hate a few waiting for them to get picked off. But, what Dougherty and the other writers in Todd Casey and Zach Shields do is give them each a different personality from each other that makes us still, somewhat, root for them. Krampus could have worked as a straightforward horror film, but it’s the extra bit of humanity and the family story that gives the film that extra bit of levity and makes it just a bit better. The other part that makes Krampus works is the comedy.

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Veteran comedic actors Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner and Conchata Ferrell bring their A-game to the sharp and witted script and really deliver on not just their comedic lines, but their more dramatic lines too. The kid actors also fare pretty well with Emjay Anthony’s Max getting most of the screen time and focus. Finally, Krista Stadler’s Omi is definitely a highlight in the film. She doesn’t speak too much, but when she does you know it means something and is also part of one of the coolest part of the film as well, which I won’t spoil or hint at.

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All in all, Krampus is a lot of fun. It’s got humor, suspense, horror, and a good dysfunctional family story that is served well by its great cast. It’s also filled with awesome looking and much needed practical effects and creatures that levitate the film to a much better place. While it’s not on the same level as Dougherty last film Trick ‘r Treat, Krampus is well worth your time and a nice holiday-themed horror film.

 

Krampus

4 out of 5

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