‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ Review

Director: Michael Dougherty

Writers: Michael Dougherty & Zach Shields

Cast: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Ken Watanabe, Ziyi Zhang, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O’Shea Jackson Jr., David Stratharin and Charles Dance

Synopsis: The crypto-zoological agency Monarch faces off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collies with Mothra, Rodan and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah.

 

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

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a post-credit scene.*

 

The Gareth Edwards-directed Godzilla in 2014 divided many fans over how it handled our beloved giant monster. While many wanted more kaiju action, the slow-build worked for me. So when it was promised that the sequel King of the Monsters would have more giant monster fighting, fans were eager to watch. Then it was announced that we’d be getting three of the most well-known kaiju’s in film history – Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidorah. Needless to say, fans flipped and wanted to see all four of these behemoths go at it on the big screen once more. So, does the massive sequel live up to the hype, or does it trip over its gigantic feet?

Picking up years after the first film, “titans” are on the rise and the organization Monarch is on a tight leash with the government, who wants to kills all the titans, where as Monarch thinks that humans and titans can co-exist. This introduces Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), a scientist for Monarch, who has built a device called the ORCA to communicate with the titans somehow. However, after Emma and her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) are kidnapped by eco-terrorist Jonah Alan (Charles Dance), along with the device, Monarch brings in Emma’s estranged husband Mark (Kyle Chandler), who also has experience with the machine, to track everyone down. This puts everyone on track to go face-to-face with the new taints, Rodan, Mothra and the new three-head beast, King Ghidorah, and the only hope for everyone is Godzilla.

Like I mentioned, King of the Monsters gives fans that were not pleased with the 2014 Godzilla – giants monsters beating the crap out of each other. While the sequel does take its time to show off Godzilla himself, once it does, it doesn’t keep him hidden. It shows him in all his glory as he goes toe-to-toe with Ghidorah on multiple occasions. Mothra and Rodan also have their moments, but talking more about them would get into spoiler territory. Needless to say, seeing all of these three together on the big screen with big-budget effects is truly a sight to see – especially if you see it in IMAX like I did.

It’s when we get to the human characters were things get a little iffy. We get our returning characters like Ken Watanabe’s Dr. Ishiro Serizawa and Sally Hawkins’ Dr. Vivienne Graham (who thankfully gets a little more to do this time around), who help drive the grand scale of everything that is going on, along with new Monarch characters played by Bradley Whitford, Thomas Middleditch and Ziyi Zhang. We also got our military characters in Aisha Hinds and O’Shea Jackson Jr. who provide some help, but they don’t really have anything real substantial to add other than some quips.

The main human story revolves around the Russell family. Although I won’t get too into it, but the reasoning behind some of their actions don’t make too much sense and kind of goes a bit too far. It’s not against the actors, but more of what was given to them. There are also probably too many characters in the movie for its own good, and even though almost all of them have their moments to shine, their moments come right after a monster battle, so the air kind of gets sucked out of the room a bit. There’s also one character that gets quickly introduced that feels more important than it should, but it’s kind of glossed over that I sat there confused for a second that it took me completely out of the movie.

All in all, Godzilla: King of the Monsters delivers on the monster mayhem that fans will love. While the human characters story muddles and slows things down a bit – and some are not used properly – director Michael Dougherty (Trick ‘r Treat, Krampus) keeps everything tight enough for audiences to enjoy. The ending also opens up this universe a lot that should be really interesting if done right.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

3.5 out of 5

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Mini-Review – Underworld: Blood Wars, Sleepless, Patriots Day, Live By Night & The Bye Bye Man

Hey everybody!

Welcome to another edition of Mini-Reviews. This is a longer one than usual, due to me falling behind. So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

Underworld: Blood Wars

Director: Anna Foerster

Writer: Cory Goodman

Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Tobias Menzies, Lara Pulver, James Faulkner, Peter Andersson, Clementine Nicholson, Bradley James, Daisy Head and Charles Dance.

Synopsis: Vampire death dealer, Selene fights to end the eternal war between the Lycan clan and the Vampire faction that betrayed her.

 

The Underworld series started off as an interesting franchise that had some cool mythology and made Kate Beckinsale a big name to those not familiar with her. The sequel came along and was just okay which lead to a prequel for the third film. Then the fourth film came out and things took a turn for the worse. The series had lost its footing and became lost in its attempt to make itself relevant. This now leads us to Underworld: Blood Wars, which is more of the same, but thankfully better than Underworld: Awakening, which isn’t saying much really.

Blood Wars starts off by giving us a bit of a refresher on the series so far – leaving some things out – but also shows that Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is now a fugitive from the remaining vampires and new Lycan leader, Marius (Tobias Menzies), who wants the location of Selene’s daughter. The problem is that even Selene doesn’t know where her daughter is, and with the help of David (Theo James), his father Thomas (Charles Dance), and a vampire council member Semira (Lara Pulver), Selene is brought back into the fold to help deal with Marius.

Like I mentioned, Blood Wars is more of the same from the previous films – stylized action set-pieces, new mythology and characters being introduced and Kate Beckinsale in tight leather kicking-ass. Other than that, the film doesn’t really do anything that feels substantial. Things are brought up that would be considered twists or could have landed bigger if written better or anything the film did actually mattered.

The film is too rushed for its own good. Everything lands too quickly, and the final act of the film just happens. One particular part in the final act does mean something since it’s connected to the beginning of the film, but other than that the final act is structurally not sound.

When it comes to the cast, they all do the best they can with what they are given. Kate Beckinsale is the only real saving grace of the cast since she’s played the part so many times now. Theo James is just as bland as he was in the last film, while Tobias Menzies’ Marius is supposed to be this great Lycan leader, but doesn’t really do anything that frightening – also his cheap two dollar CGI wolf character doesn’t do him any favors. Lara Pulver as Semira could have been a great character if she had more screen time as could have Clementine Nicholson’s Lena, who is part of a new vampire clan, Finally, Charles Dance’s Thomas should have had more time, because you know, its Charles freaking Dance.

All in all, Underworld: Blood Wars is a passable sequel, and a better one than Awakening, but again, that’s not saying much. Things feel like they just happen, and the structure of the film is just off that you can never really feel any sort of enjoyment. One thing that really bothered me is the ending. I obviously don’t want to spoil it, but considering how it ends, it just felt like the whole film was for nothing.

Underworld: Blood Wars

2.5 out of 5

underworld_blood_wars_ver8

 

 

Sleepless

Director: Baran bo Odar

Writer: Andrea Berloff

Cast: Jamie Foxx, Michelle Monaghan, Scoot McNairy, Gabrielle Union, Octavius J. Johnson, T.I., Dermot Mulroney, and David Harbour

Synopsis: A cope with a connection to the criminal underworld scours a nightclub in search of his kidnapped son.

 

A remake of the French film Nuit Blanche, Sleepless takes place mostly in one location and is surprising a little better than I thought it would be, even though I had watched the original film years before.

Sleepless follows Las Vegas officer Vincent Downs (Jaime Foxx), who along with his partner Sean (T.I.) steal a bag of cocaine at the beginning of the film. Little do they know, the cocaine belongs to a crooked casino boss Stanley Rubino (Dermot Mulroney) who is going to sell the drugs to the dangerous Rob Novak (Scott McNairy), the son of a local mob boss. In order to get the drugs back, they kidnap Vincent’s son Thomas (Octavius J. Johnson) and demand he return their product. Of course, things don’t go over smoothly as Internal Affairs agents Jennifer Bryant (Michelle Monaghan) and Doug Dennison (David Harbour) become involved.

Like I mentioned, the film is a little better than I thought it was going to be, but Sleepless does run into some issues throughout. The film doesn’t do Jamie Foxx any favors besides making him look like an action hero. Foxx’s usual charisma is put on the backburner so he can be almost stoic at times, which is a bit of a shame. Although, the result does lead to impressive fight scenes, including a kitchen scene and a highly impressive hotel room fight.

The rest of the cast do their best with what they are given. Scoot McNairy is one of the best underrated and unknown actors around, and while he plays a villain well, they could have done just a little more with him. Michelle Monaghan plays the straight-laced IA agent who has her moments, and after watching this, I hope we see more roles like this from her, and her chemistry with the always reliable David Harbour is spot on. Dermot Mulroney looked like he enjoy playing a slimy villain, Gabrielle Union only has a handful of scenes, so her casting feels wasted and T.I. also has only a few scenes but all of his scenes feel the same when you look back afterwards.

All in all, Sleepless feels a bit hallow at times, but it does have its moments that make the price of admission worth it.

Sleepless

3.5 out of 5

sleepless

 

 

Patriots Day

Director: Peter Berg

Writers: Peter Berg, Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Michelle Monaghan, Kevin Bacon, Alex Wolff, Themo Melikidze, Jimmy O. Yang, Rachel Brosnahan, Christopher O’Shea, James Colby, Michael Beach, Vincent Curatola, Jake Picking, Melissa Benoist, and J.K. Simmons

Synopsis: An account of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath, which includes the city-wide manhunt to find the terrorist responsible.

 

Considering Patriots Day is based off a real event, and one that I’m sure most of us remembering watching on TV as the events unfolded, I’m going to play with the “no spoilers” rule here a bit. The film follows the events at the Boston Marathon and what the first responders and FBI did to find and capture the Tsarnaev brothers.

The film has a lot of players on the board, we mostly follow Boston Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg), a made up character based on several people, who is at the finish line of the marathon when the first bomb went off. The events bring everyone is like Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman), Governor Deval Patrick (Michael Beach) and FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) to find Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Themo Melikidze) and his brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff) which involved shutting down all of Boston and lead to a dangerous shootout in Watertown.

Peter Berg really does have a knack for true-story films, Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon were great films, and all star Mark Wahlberg, but the thing that makes these films, along with Patriots Day is how he handles the material. Berg treats the events with tremendous respect and never tries to feed the audience a political agenda or lean the audience a certain way. He lets the story tell itself and lets the characters come to life in their own way, even though most of the characters are based on real people. It’s also a credit to the great cast that they are able to do so.

However, with a big cast like this, the film does have a lot of characters to follow that a lot of them don’t get real time to breathe and don’t get the justice they deserve. J.K. Simmons has a small, but good, role as the Watertown sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese, Rachel Brosnahan and Christopher O’Shea play couple Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes who were close to the first blast sight, Jake Picking plays Officer Sean Collier, who was shot by the brothers, and Jimmy O. Yang plays Dun Meng, who has a dangerous encounter with brothers halfway through the film. Another thing Patriots Day falls into is some pacing issues before the final act of the film, but again, it’s the cast the keep the film together.

Two of the highlights of the film, if that’s what you want to call it considering the nature of the real life events, is the aftermath of the bombing. How Berg moves the camera through the destruction and through the eyes of Tommy is both horrifying and telling on how the first responders probably felt when they helped so many that day. The other is the shootout before Dzhokhar runs and hides in the boat he was later recovered from.

All in all, Patriots Day isn’t an easy film to watch due to the nature of the events and how Berg was able to recreate it. The cast, despite being one person too many, does a tremendous job paying respect to people they were playing and to those affected by the actions that happened that horrible day and what happened afterwards.

Patriots Day

4 out of 5

patriots_day

 

 

Live by Night

Director: Ben Affleck

Writer: Ben Affleck

Cast: Ben Affleck, Chris Messina, Sienna Miller, Elle Fanning, Zoe Saldana, Robert Glenister, Remo Girone, Chris Cooper and Brendan Gleeson

Synopsis: A group of Boston-bred gangsters set up shop in balmy Florida during the Prohibition era, facing off against the competition and the Ku Klux Klan.

 

Based off the novel by Dennis Lehane, Ben Affleck writes and directs what has become a bit of a passion project for him, so it’s a bit odd to see what became of the film. Affleck has shown he’s a great to solid director with films like Gone Baby Gone, The Town and Argo, but Live by Night will be – hopefully – the only blemish on his resume.

Ben Affleck plays Joe Coughlin, a former World War I soldier and son of a police officer (Brendan Gleeson), who returns home and starts to see himself as an outlaw and runs heists throughout Boston. He eventually falls in love with Emma Gould (Sienna Miller), who happens to be the mistress of Irish mob boss Albert White (Robert Glenister). This puts him on the sights on White’s rival, Italian mob boss Maso Pescatore (Remo Girone) who wants Joe to work for him. Joe eventually does and Maso sends him down to Tampa to run his bootlegging operation. Once there, and reunited with his old partner Dion Bartolo (Chris Messina) and they make a nice empire for themselves. That all changes when Joe starts falling in love with Graciela (Zoe Saldana), and struggles to keep his moral code in place.

Live by Night is unfortunately a bit of a mess, which is odd considering Affleck was passionate about getting the film made, and took so long to make. That’s not to say there is some great stuff within the mess, but it is the scattered material that keeps the film from being great. Not only that, the film has a bit too much going on that by the end, it feels like the film is forcing itself to tie-up the loose ends that were introduced beforehand. It’s a bit of a shame too, considering Affleck has shown he can handle himself with great material.

The cast itself is great, but it’s a shame that some characters don’t have time to expand and get developed more. Chris Messina, who is always great with the right material, playing Joe’s right-hand man Dion Bartolo could have used more time onscreen as could Elle Fanning’s character Loretta, the daughter of Tampa sheriff Figgis played by Chris Cooper. Especially considering Fanning is involved in a big subplot. Zoe Saldana also pops in but doesn’t really do much after her initial introduction, and reminding Joe that he doesn’t need to be cruel to do the life he’s involved in. Brendan Gleeson’s glorified cameo suffers just a bit due to him using his natural Scottish accent that makes it a little hard to understand. Sienna Miller’s character could have been an interesting character, but her arc gets cut too soon.

Affleck does okay as the Joe, and even though we follow him throughout the film his moments of doubt and morality being tested are usually rushed to the point that it just feels like Affleck is trying to get to the next scene, which is odd considering the film is over two hours. When it comes to working with his production designer and cinematographer, he works well. Every scenic shot is beautiful to look at, and the sets look amazing.

All in all, Live by Night has some issues that could have been avoided, but sadly they aren’t which hurts the film in the long run. The cast is great, but none of their characters are developed fully or pushed to the wayside to tell Ben Affleck’s Joe story. While the action scenes are top-notch, Live by Night is just a tad underwhelming in the long run, but in no way should change your view on Affleck’s directing ability.

Live by Night

3.5 out of 5

live_by_night_ver2

 

 

The Bye Bye Man

Director: Stacy Title

Writer: Jonathan Penner

Cast: Douglas Smith, Lucien Laviscount, Cressida Bonas, Jenna Kanell, Michael Trucco, Cleo King, Leigh Whannel, Doug Jones, Carrie-Anne Moss and Faye Dunaway

Synopsis: Three friends stumble upon the horrific origins of the Bye Bye Man, a mysterious figure they discover is the root cause of the evil behind man’s most unspeakable acts.

 

It’s a bit of a shame that after the great year horror had last year – finally – a film like this comes along and washes all that away. Apparently based off a story called “The Bridge to Body Island” by Robert Damon Schneck, The Bye Bye Man has an interesting concept that falls apart once the film gets going. That’s only the beginning of this film’s issues.

The film follows three college friends in Elliot (Douglas Smith), his girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas) and their friend John (Lucien Laviscount) who buy and move into an old house off campus. Everyone seems okay at first until Elliot finds an old coin on his nightstand left by the previous owner. He then discovers writing underneath the drawer that says “Don’t Think it, Don’t Say it” and under that are craved words “The Bye Bye Man.” At first he laughs it off, but when the three start experiencing strange things in and out of the house, they soon learn The Bye Bye Man (played by the awesome character actor Doug Jones) is indeed real, and after them.

One of the problems with The Bye Bye Man – one of many – is we don’t get a sense of the characters, and hardly care for them. Elliot is the closet one to actually having a backstory, while Sasha is just the girlfriend who, at the beginning, tries to convince Elliot that what is happening is real, but after Elliot goes along with it, she becomes a bit annoying, and John somewhat disappears for a bit and we really don’t miss him. Jenna Kanell pops in as Sasha’s friend Kim, who is a psychic of sorts and, based off the trailers, is the one that gets killed by the train, which is the highlight of her character.

However, the saving graces of the film – cast wise – is the small roles by Carrie-Anne Moss, Faye Dunaway and Leigh Whannell. Faye Dunaway appears near the end of the film and adds to some backstory of The Bye Bye Man, Carrie-Anne Moss plays a local detective that could have been played by really anyone else, but Moss adds some gravitas to the role. Leigh Whannell plays Larry Redmond a writer that “discovers” The Bye Bye Man and is involved in the best scenes in the film: flashbacks. Finally, Doug Jones does this best he can with what he’s given as the titular character.

All in all, the concept of the film sounds good at first, but once we start seeing what he does and really think about it afterwards, The Bye Bye Man fails to execute on its promise. The characters are bland and are never developed and a muddled story doesn’t help. The Bye Bye Man is almost passable film while watching, but nothing you’ll remember.

The Bye Bye Man

2 out of 5

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Let me know what you think.

January Movie Releases

Happy New Year!!

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, we have a new year in front of us which means one thing: new movies! Now, January is usually referred to as Hollywood’s “Dump” Month. Meaning they will release movies that they don’t think will perform well or are not confident in. Sometimes that is the case, but sometimes a movie will shine through. January is also filled with expanded releases of movies that came out in December so there is also that to look forward to.

You’ll notice that I will put the companies attached and responsible for releasing the film as well. Just trying something new to expand the page a bit and instead of posters, now you’ll be seeing trailers. I’ll try to update whenever new trailers come out.

 

 

6th

 

Wide Release: Hidden Figures

Based on the book my Margot Lee Shetterly, a team of African-American women provide NASA with important mathematical data needed to launch the program’s first successful space missions. I had the opportunity to watch the film on its limited release late last year, and I have to say it is a fantastic film. Do yourself a favor and go watch this. The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Kirsten Dunst, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge and Glen Powell.

 

Wide Release: A Monster Calls (Fantasy Drama – Focus Features/Participant Media/River Road Entertainment/Apaches Entertainment/La Trini)

Based on a script and book by Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls follows a boy as he seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mom terminal illness. The film stars Liam Neeson as The Monster, Felicity Jones as the Mother, Sigourney Weaver as the Grandmother, Toby Kebbell as Dad, and Lewis MacDougall as the boy and Lily-Rose Aslandogdu as Lily.

 

Underworld: Blood Wars (Action – Screen Gems/Lakeshore Entertainment/Sketch Films)

Selene (Kate Beckinsale) returns to once again try and end the war between the Lycan clan and the Vampire fraction that betrayed her. Blood Wars does look like a step-up from the last film, but I don’t know how the film will actually turn out. The film also stars Theo James, Tobias Menzies, Lara Pulver, and Charles Dance.

 

 

13th

Wide/Expansion Release: Patriots Day

 

Limited Release: The Comedian

A look at the life of an aging insult comic played by Robert De Niro. The film also stars Leslie Mann, Danny DeVito, Cloris Leachman, Harvey Keitel, Eddie Falco and Billy Crystal.

 

Wide Release: Live By Night

Based off the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, Ben Affleck writes, directs and stars in this great looking film that is set during the Prohibition and follows Joe Coughlin, the son of a prominent Boston police captain, as he rises through the ranks of the criminal underworld and the trouble he falls into along the way. Besides the film looking great, it has a great cast in Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, Sienna Miller, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Sullivan, Anthony Michael Hall, Titus Welliver, Max Casella, Chris Messina, and Chris Cooper.

 

Wide Release: Silence 

Based on the book by Shusaku Endo, Martin Scorsese directs this historic drama set in the seventh century when two Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor (Liam Neeson) and propagate Catholicism. Based off the trailer the film looks very powerful, and the early word from its limited release has made that statement true. Now tith its wide release, hopefully we’ll get a chance to experience that. Silence also stars Tadanobu Asano, and Ciaran Hinds.

 

The Bye Bye Man (Horror Thriller – STX Entertainment/Intrepid Pictures/Los Angles Media Fund)

An adaptation of the short story “The Bridge to Body Island,” by Robert Damon Schneck, the story centers on three Wisconsin college students in the 1990s, who move into an old house off campus. They unwittingly unleash a supernatural entity known as The Bye Bye Man, who comes to pretty upon them once they discover his name. The friends must try to save each other, all the while keeping The Bye Bye Man’s existence a secret to save others from the same deadly fate. The film looks okay, and a bit cheesy based on the first trailer – at least for me. This is actually the third move for the film as it was set for an October release, then a June release, then a early December release, and now this date.

 

Monster Trucks (Sci-Fi Adventure – Paramount Pictures/Paramount Animation/Nickeldeon Movies)

Another film that was moved three times now, although this one was done to complete post-production, Monster Trucks takes the idea of the popular derby and flips it on its head by making it literal. There are alien monsters that take over trucks and are on the run. Of course humans help them and what follows is some insane looking over-the-top action. Stars Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Rob Lowe, Amy Ryan, Barry Pepper, Samara Weaving, Holt McCallany, Frank Whaley, Thomas Lennon, and Danny Glover.

 

Sleepless (Action Thriller – Open Road Films/FilmNation Entertainment/Vertigo Entertainment/Riverstone Pictures)

A remake of French film Nuit Blanche (which I highly recommend you watch), a cop with a connection to the criminal underworld scours a nightclub in search of his kidnapped son. The film look okay, I was a huge fan of the original film, and this one does look like they’re upping the action, which is fine if the movie turns out good. The film stars Jamie Foxx, Gabrielle Union, Michelle Monaghan, David Harbour, T.I., and Scoot McNairy.

 

20th

Limited Release: The Red Turtle

Produced by the famous Studio Ghibli, the dialogue-less film follows the major life stages of a castaway on a deserted tropical island populated by turtles, crabs and birds.

 

Wide Release: 20th Century Women

 

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone (Family Romance Comedy – High Top Releasing/WWE Studios)

Gavin Stone (Brett Dalton), a washed up former child star, is forced to do community service at a local megachurch and pretends to be Christian so he can land the part of Jesus in their annual Passion Play, only to discover that the most important role of life is far from Hollywood. The film also stars Neil Flynn, Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, Liam Matthews, D.B. Sweeney, and WWE Legend Shawn Michaels.

 

The Founder (Biography Drama – The Weinstein Company/FilmNation Entertainment/The Combine)

Michael Keaton stars in this film that tells the story of McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc. I don’t think I’ve ever actually thought about the story of McDonald’s and since I’ve seen the trailer, it’s peaked my interest and I’m sure to many others as well. Also, the studio has high hopes as they moved the film from its release date last year in August to prime Oscar contention time. The rest of the cast includes Laura Dern, Patrick Wilson, Linda Cardellini, Nick Offerman, B.J. Novak, and John Carroll Lynch.

 

 

Split (Thriller – Universal Pictures/Blumhouse Productions/Blinding Edge Pictures)

M. Night Shyamalan is back at it. The film stars James McAvoy as Kevin, a man with at least 23 different personalities, is compelled to abduct three teenage girls. As they are held captive, a final personality – “The Beast” – begins to materialize. The film also stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Sterling K. Brown and Betty Buckley. Honestly, this doesn’t look that bad. McAvoy looks like he’d nailing the role and it actually looks like a cool and effective thriller.

 

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage (Action Thriller – Paramount Pictures)

Directed by D.J. Caruso (Disturbia, Eagle Eye, I Am Number Four), Xander Cage (Vin Diesel), thought to be dead, is bought back by his handler Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) to lead a team to stop a massive attack. The film also stars Nina Dobrev, Donnie Yen, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Toni Collette, Rory McCann, and Deepika Padukone.

 

27th

A Dog’s Purpose (Dramedy – Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment/Walden Media/DreamWorks SKG)

Based on the novel by W. Bruce Cameron and directed by Lasse Hallstrom (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Dear John, The Hundred-Foot Journey), the film follows a dog (voiced by Bradley Cooper), who looks to discover his purpose in life over the course of several lifetimes and owners. The film also stars Britt Robertson, Peggy Lipton, John Ortiz, and Dennis Quaid.

 

Bastards (Comedy – Warner Bros./Alcon Entertainment/The Montecito Picture Company/DMG Entertainment)

Upon learning that their mother has been lying to them for years about their allegedly deceased father, two fraternal twin brothers hit the road in order to find him. The film stars Owen Wilson, Ed Helms, Glenn Close, Ving Rhames, Terry Bradshaw, and J.K. Simmons.

 

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (Screen Gems/Constantin Film International/Capcom Entertainment)

The last installment of the Milla Jovovich and Paul W.S. Anderson Resident Evil series, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on how you feel about the series. The Final Chapter picks ups immediately after the events from the last film and follows Alice (Jovovich) returning to Raccoon City where the Umbrella Corporation is gathering forces for a final strike against the only remaining survivors. The film will bring back Ali Larter as Claire Redfield, Iain Glen as Dr. Alexander Isaacs and Shawn Roberts as Albert Wesker with new cast members Ruby Rose, William Levy, Eoin Macken, and international star Rola.

 

Gold (Drama Thriller – TWC-Dimension/Black Bear Pictures/Living Films/Hwy61)

An unlikely pair venture to the Indonesian jungle in search of gold. The film is giving off a semi-American Hustle vibe and seeing Matthew McConaughey lose himself in the character should be interesting to watch. The film also stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Edgar Ramirez, Toby Kebbell, Rachael Taylor, Corey Stoll, Bruce Greenwood, Bill Camp, and Stacy Keach

 

What are you looking forward to?

‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ Review

pride_and_prejudice_and_zombies_ver3

Director: Burr Steers

Writer: Burr Steers

Cast: Lily James, Sam Riley, Bella Heathcote, Ellie Bamber, Millie Brady, Suki Waterhouse, Douglas Booth, Sally Philips, Charles Dance, Jack Huston, Matt Smith, and Lena Headey

Synopsis: Jane Austen’s classic tale of the tangled relationships between lovers from different social classes in 19th century England is faced with a new challenge – and army of undead zombies.

 

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

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a very short scene in the middle of the credits*

 

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has had a very troubled and long production. Natalie Portman was originally set to star until she dropped out because of scheduling conflicts – although she stayed on as a producer – and David O. Russell was going to direct until he dropped out due to scheduling conflicts as well. Lily Collins was then going to replace Portman but turned it down, and then the studio landed on Burr Steers to finally direct. What we finally ended up getting was a better than expected adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s take on Jane Austen’s classic story of “Pride and Prejudice.” Of course, one has to get over the concept that zombies are added into a classic novel, and if you can get over that, then you’ll enjoy the film a hell of a lot more.

Just like the original – the Jane Austen story – Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is set in 19th century England and places its focus on Elizabeth Bennet (James) and her sisters: Jane (Heathcote), Lydia (Bamber), Mary (Brady), and Kitty (Waterhouse). Their mother, played by Sally Phillips, is determined to find them wealthy and eligible suitors so they can get married, since once their father dies, they get nothing. Of course, Elizabeth is very independent and headstrong with little to no interest in giving up her swords and martial arts training to be a married woman and to follow the norm of society. However, during all this, zombies – a term they actually use in the film – are overtaking England. This is where changes into the Austen’s story take place and where Grahame-Smith’s take kicks in.

From Left to Right: Ellie Bamber, Bella Heathcote, Lily James, Suki Waterhouse, and Millie Brady

The Bennet Sisters have been trained since they were girls and thanks to their father, played by Charles Dance, were sent to be trained in China, were the “wise” parents send their children to train as opposed to the rich parents who send their children to Japan. Certain families have gone the countryside to hide under their lands which includes the Bennet’s. When Mrs. Bennet finds out a new wealthy suitor in Mr. Bingley (Booth) has arrived from the warfront, they go to a ball where Bingley and Jane fall for each other. At that same party, Elizabeth meets Mr. Darcy (Riley), now a general in the army against the undead. The love story between them starts off as standoffish and trying to up one another every chance they can get. However, when George Wickham, a lieutenant in the army and one that has a past with Darcy comes into town, Elizabeth starts to fall for him, and where the love story starts to take place. Of course, everything comes to head once the story picks up in the final act that leads to an explosive and its own spin on the love story ending.

Sam Riley and Douglas Booth

Again, if you can get past the concept of zombies being injected into the story and the fact that now all the characters know martial arts and fight with swords, then sitting through the movie will be a hell of a lot better. However, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a pretty enjoyable and fun movie anyway. Director Burr Steers and Co. do a great job of balancing the different tones of action, horror, and comedy and make them blend together fairly well. The tonal differences could have really hurt the film, but thankfully Steers control the tones and make them work for the film instead of against it.

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That’s not to say that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies isn’t without its faults and missteps. The film is good, but could have been better with some better pacing in the middle of the film and expanding some of the new concepts they bring in that includes a Horsemen of the Apocalypse angle that leads nowhere expect some nice visuals. Some visuals do work, while others fall flat especially an early one in the film, but for some it doesn’t help that some scenes are very poorly lit. The low lighting really makes one particularly scene hard to see anything, which doesn’t help since the scene feels like it’s important scene, but since we can’t see anything, the scene just fails.

Lena Headey

Jack Huston’s Wickham also falls a bit flat, although his story with Darcy is solid, it’s a bit rushed so the emotional impact and feeling fails to grab a huge amount of attention. Also felling underwhelming is Lena Headey’s character Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Heady also has a few scenes in the film, but none of them really stick out too much. It’s a shame really since her character is described as one of the deadliest and most skilled swordswomen in England, which is accompanied with a nice visual, but other than that, the character doesn’t really go anyway.

Riley, Matt Smith and James

As for the rest of the cast, they all do well with the material presented in front of them. Lily James nails Elizabeth Bennet is every way possible, making her easy to root for and a kickass character at that. Sam Riley’s Mr. Darcy is one of the characters you grow to like as he comes off as a bit full of himself, but sees his actions as necessary to protect everyone from the zombie plague. Bella Heathcote’s Jane Bennet gets really the third billing of the movie since her arc with Douglas Booth’s Mr. Bingley is the main arc in the first act of the film, although they both disappear during the middle of the film in order to drawn Elizabeth and Darcy’s arc. The other three sisters are a bit interchangeable unless you remember who’s playing who. Matt Smith, who plays Parson Collins, is a big highlight in every scene he’s in and could easily steal the film for some people.

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All in all, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies a hell of a lot of fun and more enjoyable than some will give it credit for. While it fails on some levels, like pacing and some underdeveloped scenes, that stop it from being great, everyone involved make the crazy concept worth the watch. If zombie action with a little classic romance is your thing, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies should fill that right up.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

4 out of 5

‘Dracula Untold’ Review

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Dir:  Gary Shore

Cast: Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon, Dominic Cooper, Art Parkinson, Paul Kaye, Diarmaid Murtagh, Noah Huntley, and Charles Dance

Synopsis: Facing threats to his kingdom and his family, Vlad Tepes makes a deal with dangerous supernatural forces – whilst trying to avoid succumbing to the darkness himself.

 

 

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

 

 

Dracula is probably, if not, the best known vampire of all time. His story has been told many times in the past and has always been connected to the historical figure Vlad ‘The Impaler.” Dracula Untold is no different. While, I have seen the character of Dracula as a somewhat tragic figure – having to live with immortality and the need to drink blood all the time – director Gary Shore’s movie tries to bring that to the forefront, but the way Shore goes about it was not the best way to go about it. It also doesn’t help that Shore also relies on CGI bats to carry an action scene.

 

The movie starts with a narration telling us that in the 1400s, the Turkish Empire stole young boys to fight in their army. Among them was Vlad (Evans), who become a legendary warrior for killing so many and for impaling them to wooden spikes. When the war ended, he went to live a quiet and peaceful life as Prince Vlad in Transylvania with his wife Mirena (Gadon) and son Ingeras (Parkinson). We then go to the Vlad and his men encountering what is Turkish Scout armor in a river but no sign of the actual men. It turns out that lived in peace with the Turkish Empire but soon a Turkish ruler Mehmed (Cooper) comes to claim the young boys from the castle, including Ingeras.

 

Vlad takes offensive to this and ends up killing the troop sent to collect his son. When he realizes he has sign his people’s safety, he goes to the mountains to make a deal with the Master Vampire (Dance). Vlad wants the power to protect his family and people but the Master Vampire tricks Vlad into drinking his blood to get his powers but with a catch: he has to resist feeding for three days to become mortal again, or stay as a vampire forever.

 

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It’s hard to suspend some disbelief for the movie knowing how it’s going to turn out. And if you think that’s a spoiler than well I’m sorry. However, it’s the journey that counts, and for some parts, Dracula Untold did have some great moments, and I use some very loosely. Like I said earlier, I do see Dracula as a somewhat tragic figure, and the movie does try to play with that. Vlad isn’t a villain, although he has done bad things, he saw them as a way to stop more bad things from happening. All he wants his family to be safe and to live in peace, but is constantly reminded that he has done evil things and as a character says to him “you’ll always have that in you.” So it makes his decision to make a deal with the Master Vampire slightly understandable.

 

The meeting between Vlad and Master Vampire, I think is one of the best scenes in the movie. Despite the small amount of CG involved in the scene, it’s a great back and forth between two great actors in Luke Evans and Charles Dance. The scene involves a lot of mythology and starts to turn the movie into a fantastical territory. I also wish there was a lot more of it and sometimes it did feel a bit rushed but it serves its purpose.

 

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Speaking of the acting, Dracula Untold belongs to Luke Evans. He gives Vlad the perfect amount of humanity to makes feel his suffering, but can also makes us a bit uneasy when he vamps out. Dance, although only having a couple scenes is terrifying as the Master Vampire. Sarah Gadon’s Mirena thankfully isn’t a forgettable character and actually serves some purpose to the story, although I wish she did have some more to do. Unfortunately, the always reliable Dominic Cooper fails as the villain and just shows up from time to time to remind us there is someone that Vlad has to kill.

 

Unfortunately, Dracula Untold does have many missteps. One of them sadly falls into what should, and could have been, a highlight of the movie. It’s when Vlad takes on a big group of soldiers on his own with his newly equipped superhuman powers. Instead we get a massive amount of shaky cam, CGI, and quick moments that really don’t allow you to enjoy it the way you’re supposed to. I don’t mind shaky cam as much as others do but the amount of it in the scene really bothered me. The other issue, even though it’s a small one, is the rules of the vampirism in this world are not established. Vlad seems to be able to go out during the day time, even in an overcast, as long as he doesn’t step into direct sunlight. Silver also bothers them but doesn’t necessary kill them and one character even attempts to use a wooden stack that seems to show some effect. Maybe it’s nitpicky but rules do need to be established.

 

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The movie does have some cool visuals. The CGI bats, which are heavily advertise, are okay but the effect works better when Vlad uses them to disappear and reappear. Some shots look like cool screensavers and costumes are pretty damn impressive. Overall the movie does have a gothic feel and look to it, which is pretty welcomed considering Vlad is being presented as a somewhat dark superhero.

 

All in all, Dracula Untold isn’t a perfect movie but does have very few redeeming qualities to it. It also serves as the first movie in the Universal Monsters shared universe they are setting up. While it doesn’t totally feel like it was a complete setup, it is there. Out of the whole movie Evans and Dance’s cave scene is the best thing about the movie.

 

Dracula Untold

3.5 out of 5