Mini-Reviews: Headshot, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, & The Handmaiden

Hey everybody!

Welcome to the fifth edition of Mini-Reviews. This is the final installment of mini-reviews of the films I had the pleasure of watching at the Chicago International Film Festival last week. I’ll have another mini-review post up soon with films still in theaters.

 

 

Headshot

Directors: Kimo Stambeol and Timo Tjahjanto

Writer: Timo Tjahjanto

Cast: Iko Uwais, Chelsea Islan, Julie Estelle, David Hendrawan, Epy Kusnandar, Zack Lee, Very Tri Yulisman and Sunny Pang

Synopsis: An amnesiac with a serious head injury whose past comes back to haunt him shortly after being nursed back to health by a young doctor.

 

If you’re a fan of the Indonesian actions film The Raid and The Raid 2: Berandal, then Headshot is a natural progression film for you. The film brings together the same team behind the camera and in front of the camera, for the most part, and it leads to a brutally beautiful film that won’t disappoint any action fans.

Headshot follows a man (Uwais), who is found on a beach and is taken to a hospital where he spends three months in a coma. When he wakes up he doesn’t have any memory of who he is or what happened to him. His doctor Ailin (Islan) tries to help him and gives him Ishmael. However, Ishmael’s past comes back to haunt him as a mysterious and dangerous man known as Lee (Pang) comes back into the picture with his deadly army of assassins. To make matters worse, Ailin gets captured by Lee’s men and Ishmael races to save her and face his past.

Some will find the tonal shifts a bit jarring, and even I’ll admit I was a bit thrown by it at first, but Ishmael’s story and of course the action, keeps you invested through the shifts. The film does take a “breather” at one point as it gives us some backstory on Lee, which is really just an exposition dump, but right after that is when the action level goes up to eleven.

Of course, most people are going to watch this for the action – me too to be honest – and you will not be disappointed. The film gets really brutal and down-and-dirty, which is what we expected, and the film is called Headshot after all. Iko Uwais is one of the best martial arts stars we have working today, and seeing him working again with this Raid 2: Berandal stars Very Tri Yulisman and Julie Estelle is a great sight to see. Although they don’t really reach the same levels of iconic characters like Baseball Bat Man or Hammer Girl, but they do have their moments and are just as deadly.

All in all, Headshot is a brutal fighting film that is wrapped around a drama about a man trying to find out who he really is. While the film isn’t perfect, the action is what most will remember taking away from the film, and it isn’t really a bad thing.

Headshot

4 out of 5

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The Autopsy of Jane Doe

Director: Andre Ovredal

Writers: Ian B. Goldberg and Richard Naing

Cast: Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Ophelia Lovibond, Michael McElhatton and Olwen Catherine Kelly

Synopsis: Father and son coroners who receive a mysterious homicide victim with no apparent cause of death. As they attempt to identify the beautiful young “Jane Doe,” they discover increasingly bizarre clues that hold the key to her terrifying secrets.

 

The Autopsy of Jane Doe is one of those films that I personally feel the less you know the better your experience will be. The film starts off rather grisly as Sheriff Sheldon (McElhatton) discovers a brutal crime scene, but finds something out of place in a mysterious body. With no visual signs of a cause of death, he sends the body of Jane Doe (played by Olwen Catherine Kelly) to father and son coroners, Tommy (Cox) and Austin (Hirsch). What follows is Tommy and Austin experiencing things they can’t clearly understand, or want to, and soon figure out that it may be connected to Jane Doe.

The film is a hell of a lot of fun, and it also helped that the crowd was also really into it too. Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch have tremendous chemistry together as father and son, and really play off the horror elements of the film, as well as the autopsy parts where they seem to be enjoying themselves. If anything, the movie is held together by the always reliable Cox and Hirsch. However, the biggest props goes to Olwen Catherine Kelly as Jane Doe. One, for being a dead body the whole time, but the other is she still pulls off the creepiness of the role while laying on a table stiff. It’s rather impressive.

When the film picks up its eeriness is when the film becomes really fun. I won’t go too into details, but there are some pretty clever stuff that director Andre Ovredal (Trollhunters) and cinematographer Roman Osin pull off here. Also the reveal of what is causing all of this is rather interesting, and while the reveal is only limited to Tommy and Austin, I wish they could have gone more into it.

All in all, The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a hell of a lot of fun to watch. It’s funny, scary when it needs to be, and Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch keep you invested from start to finish. The film does a great job of building everything up for its finale, that will probably make you even more afraid of going into a morgue.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe

4 out of 5

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The Handmaiden

Director: Chan-wook Park

Writers: Chan-wook Park and Seo-Kyung Chung

Cast: Kim Tae-ri, Min-hee Kim, Jung-woo Ha, Jin-woong Jo, Hae-suk Kim, and Sori- Moon

Synopsis: A woman is hired as a handmaiden to a Japanese heiress, but secretly she is involved in a plot to defraud her.

 

Famed, and amazing, director Chan-wook Park has given us some great films in the past like Oldboy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Lady Vengeance, and Thirst. Now, Park has come back with a somewhat different film in The Handmaiden. Based off the novel by Sarah Waters called Fingersmith, the film is a very exotic, drama thriller that never lets go from beginning to end.

The film is set in Japanese occupied Korea and follows Sook-Hee (Tae-ri), a young theif who is part of a band of thieves, who just landed a massive job. The plan is for Sook-Hee to become the handmaiden of the wealthy Lady Hideko (Kim) and make her fall in love with “Count Fujiawara” (Ha) so they can get married, take her fortune to split it amongst them, and throw her in a madhouse. However, as the days go by Sook-Hee finds it harder to betray Hideko as she’s gotten to know her.

The Handmaiden has a ton more going on than the trailers and even the synopsis has you believe. So much so that the film’s long run time is justified, and to some extent, I kind of wish the movie was a little longer so it can drawn some more things out. Saying that, the film could be one of those films that you have to revisit to see if you can catch things you didn’t notice before.

Also, Park is back to his ways of making his audiences feel just a bit uncomfortable. Of course, most of the scenes involve the exotic scenes that Park does find a way to actually make work for the film instead of just having a random and gratuitous sex scene. It fits the story and even connects to one of the many themes the film has. I know that sounds vague, but like The Autopsy of Jane Doe, the less you know the better your experience will be watching this.

The performances are also top notch. Of course the film is driven and held together by the leads in Min-hee Kim as Lady Hideko and Kim Tae-ri as Sook-Hee, who are amazing to watch together and Kim is especially great by herself as well. Jung-woo Ha as the Fujiwara and the leader of the group of thieves has his real big moments, and Jin-woong Jo appears as Hideko’s uncle Kouzuki plays a major role in Hideko and Fujiwara’s arcs, and one of the things I wish was expanded on a bit.

Finally, one of the things I was not expecting – besides the twists – was the how funny this movie was. Even the weird and uncomfortable scenes had some humor to them, which also the film just a bit, because the film gets a little heavy at times.

All in all, The Handmaiden will definitely not be for everyone, but if you could try to avoid any more information about the film you should. The film is a beautiful, exotic, funny romance story that I was never expecting, and I’m glad I got to experience it.

The Handmaiden

4 out of 5

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Mini-Reviews: The Darkness, The Eyes of My Mother & Christine

Hey everybody!

Welcome to the fourth edition of Mini-Reviews. This time, it’s a Chicago International Film Festival Edition! The Chicago International Film Festival is going on right now, and I’ve had the pleasure of watching three films already, so I figured I’d pass along my mini-reviews for these films.

 

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

The Darkness

Director: Daniel Castro Zimbron

Writers: Daniel Castro Zimbron, Denis Languerand, David Pablos

Cast: Brontis Jodorowsky, Aliocha Sotnikoff, Camila Robertson Glennie, Fernando Alvarez Rebeil, Meraqui Pradis, and Alejandro Villeli

Synopsis: A family tries to survive a mysterious beast outside their cabin home. However, the youngest son doesn’t think the beast is their only problem.

 

The synopsis probably won’t do much for many, but there is a lot more to The Darkness, original title Las Tinieblas, The film is most set within the cabin that belongs to the central characters in the film in father Gustavo (Jodorowsky), oldest son Marcos (Alvarez Rebeil), youngest son Argel (Sotnikoff) and even younger daughter Luciana (Robertson Glennie). The film opens giving us the sense of the world. Gustavo is keeping his children safe from the mysterious The Beast outside in the forest which brings a fog with it. One day, Gustavo and Marcos go out into the woods, but only Gustavo comes back saying The Beast took him. Argel can’t let it go and wants to go looking for his brother, but his father forbids from going out in the woods by himself.

The film works on some levels, mostly the eeriness and the tone. The idea of these characters trying to survive whatever it outside the house adds a lot of tension, and when the Beast roams outside the house, it really is terrifying. Especially since the family boards up the windows so the Beast doesn’t see them in the house, and the screen is only filled with either pure darkness or a lantern.

The film does move a little slow, and it gets caught up in its own mysterious for a while, but what keeps the film going in Argel actor Aliocha Sotnikoff, who according to director Daniel Castro Zimbron during a Q&A after the film, this is his first film, along with Camila Robertson Glennie, who plays Luciana, which amazed all of us in the theater because they were very good, and you would think they’ve been doing so for a while.

All in all, The Darkness will not be for everyone. The film does move rather slow at times, and while it takes a while to figure out what the theme is, The Darkness is a nice art film with some great visuals.

The Darkness

3 out of 5

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The Eyes of My Mother

Director: Nicolas Pesce

Writers: Nicolas Pesce

Cast: Kika Magalhaes, Diana Agostini, Paul Nazak, Will Brill, Clara Wong, Flora Diaz, and Joey Curtis-Green

Synopsis: A young, lonely woman is consumed by her deepest and darkest desires after tragedy strikes her quiet country life.

 

The Eyes of My Mother isn’t that long of a film, but it sure makes a statement in its runtime. The film is also shot in black-and-white which makes it a little more eerie and a tad more disturbing when the horror shots come into play. Not only that, it leads to some amazing shots that are truly eye-popping.

The Eyes of My Mother follows Francisca (Magalhaes), who witnessed her mother being brutally murdered in their home by a stranger (Brill) at a young age. The event left a mark on her as she grows up – in the same house no less – and what follows a dark trip into her life.

The film is potentially one of those films that I would say, the less you know the better your experience will probably be. Although I will say the film will not be for everyone. It’s not even that the film is too gory or even has too many jump scares (the film actually doesn’t have jump scares), it’s just that the film acts a lot like an art film at times, and doesn’t rely on musical cues or anything like that. The film is actually broken into three parts that spans years and each tell their own little different story that makes the film – at times – move smoothly.

The Eyes of My Mother rests on the shoulders of Kika Magalhaes, who does a fantastic job of keeping you invested, even though her actions aren’t the best, but also has a look to her that doesn’t make you scared of her, it also makes you feel sorry for her in some regard. Diana Agostini, who plays her mother, only has a limited amount of screen time at the beginning of the film, but her performance is felt throughout the film thanks to Kika.

All in all, The Eyes of My Mother is filled with great shots by cinematographer Zach Kuperstein, and director Nicolas Pesce does a great job with his star Kika Magalhaes to bring all of us down a deep dark and twisted path of what I’ve seen, and somewhat agree, a horror fable.

The Eyes of My Mother

3.5 out of 5

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Christine

Director: Antonio Campos

Writer: Craig Shilowich

Cast: Rebecca Hall, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts, Maria Dizzia, J. Smith-Cameron, Timothy Simons, Kim Shaw, and John Cullum

Synopsis: The story of 1970s TV reporter Christine Chubbuck.

 

This is one will be hard to talk about, spoiler wise, considering this is a real event that happen. So if you don’t want to know anything about the film and Christine Chubbuck’s life, then don’t read this review. However, I’ll say that the film is great and has amazing performances by the cast.

Christine follows Christine Chubbuck (Hall), who works at a low-rating news station in Sarasota, Florida during the 70s. Christine wants to prove herself that she can do more than what she is doing now – although she does like what’s she’s doing – but her boss and station manager Michael (Letts) wants to push the “if it bleeds it leads” campaign. Christine doesn’t like the idea, but can’t really do anything about it. However, Christine has more personal issues going on. She has a crush on her co-worker and lead anchor George (C. Hall), health problems that her mother (Smith-Cameron) keeps bringing up, and not being able to really connect with her co-workers like Jean (Dizzia) and Steve (Simons). All of it builds up to the fateful day of July 15th, when Christine decides to commit suicide with a handgun, live on the air.

Christine is only a version of the real-life story of Christine Chubbuck, but it’s one that is very good, and is held together by the great cast. However, the film belongs to Rebecca Hall, who handles the situation fairly well. She doesn’t play Christine as just a woman with mental issues, and that’s it. We see her crack jokes and have a fun sense of humor, but she does break down with everything going on around her. In the more deeper dramatic senses, it reminded me how much I love Rebecca Hall, because she absolutely nails those scenes. You do feel for Christine, especially one scene in particular near the end of the – not the shooting herself scene by the way.

When it comes to the depression angle of the film, it’s not a movie that will give you the definitive answer of depression. This is one case, and we only get a certain block of the story. We know there is a previous event that we don’t see, so you get the idea that Christine isn’t well before the final act of the film. The film also slows down a for a bit before the final act which takes a lot of steam the film had, but not enough to takes away everything good it setup.

All in all, Christine isn’t all the way perfect, and while the cast is great, Rebecca Hall is the reason this film is a must-see. Christine Chubbuck’s story is one that should be told, and while Christine isn’t the definite story for her, it is a good one that should go on your radar.

Christine

4.5 out of 5

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‘The Accountant’ Review

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Director: Gavin O’Connor

Writer: Bill Dubuque

Cast: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Jon Bernthal, John Lithgow, and Jeffrey Tambor

Synopsis: As a math savant uncooks the books for a new client, the Treasury Department closes in on his activities and the body count starts to rise.

 

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

 

It seems like Hollywood likes giving older actors today their own action thrillers. Liam Neeson had his with Taken, and that seemed to start the trend, and while some of them work, The Accountant is its own animal, and while a lot of the film works, it falls into some, unexpected, pitfalls that makes the film not completely what you were expecting.

The Accountant follows Christian Wolff (Affleck), a small-town CPA with a form of high-functioning autism that makes him, you can say, socially awkward around others. He helps people with their taxes during the day, but at night, he works with shady organizations, gangsters and the cartels. His actions put him on the crosshairs of Treasury Department and Director Raymond King (Simmons), who brings in an analyst Marybeth Medina (Addai-Robinson) to try and find Wolff – who is “in” pictures they have, but don’t show his face.

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During all this, Wolff takes on a new client, a robotics firm, by Lamar Black (Lithgow), who says there is missing money that was found by an accountant in Dana Cummings (Kendrick). Wolff, being excellent in his job, finds out what’s wrong but subsequently puts Dana in danger and is forced to solve the mystery and going up against killers, all lead by a mysterious Braxton (Bernthal).

The Accountant rests of the shoulders of Ben Affleck, and has been shown in the past he is up to the challenge. When the film focuses on Wolff, and the flashbacks as a child with his father played by Robert C. Treveiler, is when the film works. Seeing what Christian goes through as a child and the way his father dealt with his condition flows nicely throughout the film. The other thing that works in the film is when we actually see Christian doing his day job. It surprising to see an action thriller actually make math and accounting look fun, and seeing Christian, and even Dana at one point, being enthusiastic after what he discovers on the first day was fun to watch.

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The film doesn’t go fully into Christian’s autism, and it may not be a full representation of it, but Affleck does bring a likeability and even sympathy to the character. The autism isn’t a disadvantage for him, and even when he’s killing people, it isn’t a way for him to cope – he has his own way of doing so – he does it because it’s part of his job. It a hard trait to pull that off, but Affleck does it well.

The rest of the cast handles themselves well. You would think Anna Kendrick would stick out, and while she does a bit, she hangs in there with Affleck, although her role isn’t as big as you would think. J.K. Simmons is reliable as always, and shares most to all of his screen time with Cynthia Addai-Robinson’s Medina, who does a pretty good job of hunting down Wolff on her own. Jon Bernthal, also always reliable as ever, seems to have fun playing a ruthless killer, although it would have been nice to see more of him in the film. Jeffrey Tambor and John Lithgow have small roles in the film, with Tambor getting really a glorified cameo.

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While the film works on a lot of levels, The Accountant does loses some steam when it takes on a massive exposition dump right before the third act. I won’t go into details about what the scene is about since it delves in spoiler territory, but the scene only works on some levels, and felt like shoehorned in scene that they put in so they make this a potential franchise. I’m not complaining too much, because it would be cool to see Affleck return as this character and go back to this world, but the scene itself – again, only working on some levels – felt a bit shoehorned.

Finally, there are a couple of unexpected revolutions in the film, and maybe some will see coming before they are revealed, or at least you’ll ask the question. The reveal does just kind of happening, and it never fully resolves itself, but again, if they go with a sequel it should be interesting to see how it goes.

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All in all, The Accountant is a worthwhile action thriller that sees Affleck tackling something a little different, and doing a great job at it. The film doesn’t seem like it has a lot going on, and it takes a while for things to really pick up, but when it finally does, The Accountant is a solid action thriller that could lend itself to a sequel.

The Accountant

4 out of 5

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Mini-Reviews: Masterminds, Deepwater Horizon, Storks, & The Girl on the Train

Hey everybody!

Welcome to the third edition of Mini-Reviews. This time, it’s more of a mixed than it was last time. So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

Masterminds

Director: Jared Hess

Writers: Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer, and Emily Spivey

Cast: Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Ken Marino, and Jon Daly

Synopsis: A guard at an armored car company in the Southern U.S. organizes on of the biggest bank heists in American history. Based on the October 1997 Loomis Fargo robbery.

 

Yes, Masterminds is based on a true story. Of course, I’m sure the film takes some liberties, but for the most part the film tells the story of David Ghantt (Galifianakis), an armored car guard at Loomis Fargo who wants to do more in his life. He gets the chance when his co-worker Kelly (Wiig), under orders of the town small-town criminal Steve (Wilson), convinces him to rob Loomis Fargo. David, of course does it thinking he has a chance with Kelly, even though he’s engaged to Jandice (McKinnon). The good news is that David gets it done and is convinced to go down to Mexico to hide out, the bad news is that the FBI is on to him and Steve wants to cut loose ends.

Masterminds was set to come out two years ago, until it got pushed back to this year, and even then its release was in question thanks to Relativity Media’s bankruptcy. It also didn’t help that the film had a pretty descent cast, so it’s a shame that after all this, the film didn’t turn out as good as it could have been. I will say it does seem hard to make a comedy based on a true story, since you can’t really force funny moments in true stories, but if you have the right cast I assume you could. Masterminds is sadly not one of those.

I will say I’m not a huge fan of Zach Galifianakis, but he does okay here as a somewhat lovable and gullible David, who gets fooled into robbing $17 million. Kristen Wiig is reliable as always, and is arguably the heart of the film. Owen Wilson has his small moments, but doesn’t stand out as much as Jason Sudeikis’ hitman character Mike McKinney. His part of the film is rather odd, and at times will probably make you cringe-laugh, but he goes all in for this. Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones are put on the backburner for the most part. Jones plays a detective for the FBI hunting down David, while McKinnon plays David’s soon-to-be wife Jandice as an odd and cliché trailer park women, who has only one big moment.

All in all, Masterminds is a wasted opportunity to let all these great comedic actors to cut loose. There are some genuine funny moments in the film, but overall Masterminds fails to really connect, and make you laugh the way I think they thought it would.

Masterminds

2.5 out of 5

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Deepwater Horizon

Director: Peter Berg

Writers: Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Kate Hudson, Douglas M. Griffin, James DuMont, Joe Chrest, Gina Rodriguez, J.D Evermore, Ethan Suplee, Dylan O’Brien and John Malkovich

Synopsis: A dramatization of the April 2010 disaster when the offshore drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon, exploded and created the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

 

Peter Berg has become a “based on a true story” film master. Friday Night Lights, Lone Survivor, the upcoming Patriots Day – based on the Boston Marathon bombing – and this. Berg has a way to really make the people in those films more important than the event itself sometimes, and Deepwater Horizon is another prime example of that. Not only that, he makes the film feel like a horror film at times, which is what the people onboard the actual rig probably felt like they were in on that fateful day.

The film mostly follows the Deepwater Horizon rig’s chief electrical technician Mike Williams (Wahlberg) and installation manager Jimmy Harrell (Russell) or Captain Jimmy as the crew calls him, on the day they arrive on the Deepwater Horizon along with a few BP company men and control room operator Andrea Fleytas (Rodriguez). However, when they arrive they find out that BP management, lead by Donald Vidrine (Malkovich) on the rig, want the crew to start drilling right away because they are behind schedule. Of course, Mike and Jimmy aren’t having any of it because the safety of the crew is at risk, Mike lets them know that the rig isn’t running at one-hundred percent, but Vidrine pushes them and they start drilling. What follows is the Deepwater Horizon suffering massive failure and an explosion that sets the rig up in flames. The crew then tries to survive and escape the rig at all costs.

Berg does a great job of setting everything up. He even goes into the technical side of things even though he probably knows not all the audience is going to know what the hell they’re talking about – we can get the gist considering we know what happens and they make it sound pretty bad. We also get a descent sense of these characters, so when the rig goes up in flames we care for these characters. And while most films would tip-toe around the situation, Berg tackles it head-on and does lay some – arguably all – of the blame on BP for forcing the rig workers to keep going.

The other great thing Berg does is make us, essentially, part of the crew. When the Deepwater Horizon goes up in flames, you can feel the horror that these men went through. This isn’t your typical escapist disaster film, this was a man-made disaster that isn’t filled with your typical Hollywood hero. Wahlberg or Russell don’t make big speech to comfort everyone, they get hurt and are equally affected by the rig explosion like everyone else. 11 men lost their lives that night, and the way Berg makes the event look, it’s almost hard to believe that not more people died.

The cast holds their own. Wahlberg gives one of his finest performances to date, and one that pays off at the end. I know Wahlberg may make people think of the film a certain way, but when he’s given the right material with a great director like Berg, he always turns in a great performance. Russell is as reliable as ever, Gina Rodriguez and Dylan O’Brien have their moments, but are scattered throughout the film and only really pick up during the events of the explosion. Finally, Malkovich seems to be enjoying himself playing a sleazy BP official, and while maybe that’s not how the real life Vidrine was, it does give us the general idea of greed and not caring about the consequences.

All in all, Deepwater Horizon is a very effective thriller that sometimes feels like a horror movie. Peter Berg knows exactly what to show and what kind of story he wants to tell, and instead of focusing on the oil spill – which got the most attention in the news – this highlights the people actually onboard the rig. I’ll even admit that by the end of this film, I was in tears. Something not a lot of films can make me do, and make me admit.

Deepwater Horizon

4.5 out of 5

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Storks

Director: Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland

Writer: Nicholas Stoller

Voice Cast: Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Kelsey Grammer, Anton Starkman, Ty Burrell, Jennifer Aniston, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Stephen Kramer Glickman and Danny Trejo

Synopsis: Storks have moved on from delivering babies to packages. But when an order for a baby appears, the best delivery stork must scramble to fix the error by delivering the baby.

 

I didn’t really expect anything from Storks when I first read about it. However, that all changed when I watched the film, because I really liked Storks. The film follows Junior (Samberg), who works at Cornerstore.com which is where storks now deliver packages instead of babies because delivering babies became too much of a problem. Junior is not in line for a promotion from his boss Hunter (Grammer), but before he can take the position he has to do one thing: fire the only human worker at Cornerstone, Tulip (Crown). Junior doesn’t really do so and instead puts her in a building by herself.

However, that only complicates matters as Tulip gets a letter from Nate Gardner (Starkman) who wants a sibling, and accidentally makes one. Junior already thinking he’d be in trouble with Hunter decides to deliver the baby on his own with Tulip tagging along. Of course, a grand adventure ensues.

I had a lot of fun with this movie more than I thought I would. The film never loses steam and the jokes are top notch, so much so that I was still smiling or laughing way after they were delivered. The stories are also very touching. On one end you have the human story of Nate, an only child, who wants a sibling to play with because his parents (voiced by Burrell and Aniston) are always busy with their real estate business. On the other end you have the two stories of Junior wanting to be more than a delivery man, and Tulip trying to find her own place in the world, and wanting to really help. The two stories perfectly blend together near the end that makes the finale all the more touching and heartwarming.

The rest of the voice cast is filled with Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele playing Alpha and Beta Wolf, who are one of the many highlights of the film, and Danny Trejo as Jasper, a stork that comes into play in the second half of the film. Finally, another highlight of the film is Stephen Kramer Glickman as Pigeon Toady, who will leave you laughing for sure.

All in all, Storks is a ton of fun that takes a while to bring its core theme out, but the ride is so much fun that it doesn’t matter. Storks will leave you laughing out loud and leave you wanting a bit more.

Storks

4.5 out of 5

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The Girl on the Train

Director: Tate Taylor

Writer: Erin Cressida Wilson

Cast: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Edgar Ramirez, Laura Prepon, Allison Janney and Lisa Kudrow

Synopsis: A divorcee becomes entangled in a missing persons investigation that promises to send shockwaves throughout her life.

 

Based on the popular and one of the fast-selling novels of all time by Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train is being labeled as the possible next Gone Girl. A comparison that doesn’t really help any film since Gone Girl was vastly different animal that some people haven’t seen before. While the film does show shades of that, The Girl on the Train is a completely different animal altogether that is a less effective thriller and drama than Gone Girl.

The Girl on the Train follows alcoholic and divorced Rachel (Blunt) who rides the train every morning. During her rides, she always stops and spots the house of a couple who she doesn’t know but pretends to give them names and jobs. However, one day the woman, Megan (Bennett), ends up going missing and the day she did she noticed Megan with another man. What follows is Rachel trying to figure out what happened to a woman she’s made an unnatural connection to, but her obsession also becomes a problem for her ex-husband Tom (Theroux) and his new wife Anna (Ferguson), who she has been harassing them.

Going more into detail will probably lead me into spoiler territory which is something that I obviously don’t want to do. The film does jump back in time – a few months – so we get enough scenes with Haley Bennett’s Megan before she goes missing. The film also spends some time with Rebecca Ferguson’s Anna, who shines more near the end of the film than in the beginning. All that said though, this movie belongs to Emily Blunt. I’m okay with saying Blunt is one of the best actresses working today, and this film proves it. The rest of the cast, while they have their moments, kind of fall to the wayside. Edgar Ramirez and Laura Prepon are underutilized, especially Prepon, and Allison Janney, while her character was meant to only be small, would have been nice to see more of her.

The characters are probably going to make some people not like the film. There are times when you probably want to go into the screen and smack one of them around, which is what makes the film a little more relatable – to the characters anyway. It also helps that these characters are in the thriller genre, so their actions will make us question where they fall in line to the case. Although, there are times when the film gets bogged down in its own drama.

All in all, The Girl on the Train is held together by Emily Blunt’s great performance, along with Haley Bennett. The film gets bogged down a bit by its own drama, and while some things from the book don’t carry over, they make up for it by telling their own story. The Girl on the Train isn’t the next Gone Girl, but its effective while watching.

The Girl on the Train

3.5 out of 5

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