‘Baby Driver’ Review

Director: Edgar Wright

Writer: Edgar Wright

Cast: Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Eiza Gonzalez, CJ Jones, Jon Bernthal and Kevin Spacey

Synopsis: After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway drivers himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.

 

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

 

I’m not going to make this a secret – I love Edgar Wright. Every movie he’s done I’ve either loved or thoroughly enjoyed to no end. So when he dropped out of Ant-Man and moved on to Baby Driver, I was both a little upset (I was really looking forward toward his Ant-Man) and excited to see what he was going to do with this. Thankfully, from the very first trailer I was completely in. Then the early reviews and reception came out and everyone was saying how great and awesome it was. However as the release date loomed, and the reception kept getting better and better, I started wondering, is it really that good? Yes, yes it is.

Baby Driver centers on Baby (Ansel Elgort), a skilled, but reluctant getaway driver working off his debut to Doc (Kevin Spacey). However, he’s a not a normal getaway driver, he constantly listens to music to drown out his tinnitus in his ears that was a result from a car accident where he lost his parents as a child, and it’s his inner soundtrack that makes him the best. One day he meets waitress Debora (Lily James), and finally sees a future where he doesn’t have to be a getaway driver. However, as he and Debora get closer, Doc ropes him back into the game on a big job alongside Bats (Jamie Foxx), Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Darling (Eiza Gonzalez). What follows is Baby trying to escape in more ways than one.

Like I mentioned, Baby is constantly listening to music and acts like not only his own personal soundtrack but ours as well, giving us a sense at what Baby is feeling at the certain times. At one point, during Baby’s second job working with Jaime Foxx’s Bats – when he’s introduced – JD (Lanny Joon) and Eddie (played by Flea), Baby restarts a song because the timing in off. The funny thing is that it doesn’t come off as awkward or weird, it comes off as funny and almost necessary. I read somewhere that the film is almost a reverse musical, instead of people bursting out into song, its Baby’s music that pushes the story forward a bit.

I don’t know how people will feel with music almost constantly playing, but Edgar Wright makes it work so well that it is rather impressive. Also, the fact that the music syncs with the action and the choreography to perfection makes the film that much better. Speaking of the action and the choreography, it’s highly impressive what Wright was able to bring out of everyone, and what he’s able to accomplish with all the car stunts is damn cool.

When it comes to the cast, they are also all fantastic. I’m not the biggest fan of Ansel Elgort, but he’s not that bad here as Baby. He’s a man of few words – expect when he’s talking to Debora – and lets his soundtrack and driving do the talking for him. Kevin Spacey chews up every scene he’s in, which isn’t many, but he does leave his impression felt. Jaime Foxx as Bats is, well, crazy and a bit unhinged and does act as the primary villain, although you can argue that they’re all bad guys, expect Baby who’s a reluctant bad guy. Jon Hamm and Eiza Gonzalez play the happy couple of Buddy and Darling, who are crazy about each other and Buddy actually likes Baby and sees something special in him, which plays a bigger factor than you think in the film near the end.

Lily James as Debora is, unfortunately, a little underdeveloped. She does have a story behind her, but it’s only her telling it so it could have helped if we’d see a little more of her. Jon Bernthal isn’t underdeveloped, he’s underused. Bernthal is part of the opening heist of the film, but isn’t seen after that. It’s a bit of a shame, but he’s great in the time that he’s there. CJ Jones also appears as Joseph, Baby’s deaf foster father who wishes Baby would leave the criminal life.

All in all, Baby Driver is a fantastic film with great car chase sequences with an awesome cast and an equally great soundtrack that perfect fits with the action and how Ansel Elgort’s Baby is feeling. Moreover, while Baby Driver isn’t as personal as Edgar Wright’s other films, it is as stylized as them and filled with more action. Do yourself a favor and go watch Baby Driver in the biggest and loudest theater you can find.

Baby Driver

4.5 out of 5

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?

‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ Review

amazing_spiderman_two_ver14

Dir: Marc Webb

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Colm Feore, Sally Field, Felicity Jones, Paul Giamatti and Chris Cooper

Synopsis: Peter Parker runs the gauntlet as the mysterious company Oscorp sends up a slew of supervillains against him, impacting on his life.

 

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review. Although one plot point from the first film (the fate of a character) will be mentioned at the beginning.*

 

*Reviewer Note #2: There is no end credits scene. However, there is a mid-credits scene that has nothing to do with The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The scene is a short and fast-forwarded scene from X-Men: Days of Future Past. And no, there is no plan to put Spider-Man and the X-Men together. The scene is a deal between Sony and Fox.

 

This is because the director Marc Webb has a contract with Fox to make another film for them after the first Amazing Spider-Man movie, but instead of doing so, he signed to do TASM2. This was allowed by Fox, IF Sony would agree to promote their next X-Men movie, for free. So there you go.*

 

 

Marc Webb’s rebooted Spider-Man was a mixed bag. There was a lot to like – Garfield’s take on Spider-Man, for one – but also plenty of things that were unsure and to be skeptical about. The sequel will likely make people feel the same way. There’s great action and performances, but there’s also an obvious feeling to expand the Spider-Man universe that derails the film at points.

 

The movie starts off in an interesting way. It shows us the accident that befalls on Peter’s parents, with Campbell Scott’s Richard Parker being the focal point. It also shows us how far Oscorp will go to keep their secrets as well. Fast forward and we see Peter (Garfield) still haunted by the death of Gwen’s father and the promise he failed to keep (to protect his daughter by leaving her alone). In some ways he’s moved on, graduating high school, enjoying his relationship with Gwen (Stone) and embracing the role of being New York’s protector.

 

There’s a lot going on in Amazing Spider-Man 2, and sadly it doesn’t always come together. There are four arcs going on and all of them come and go which make the movie feel unorganized. There is Peter and Gwen’s strained relationship, Peter still trying to figure our the secret behind his parents leaving him and dying, Harry Osborn (DeHaan) coming back to see his dying father (Chris Cooper), finding out a family secret and restarting his friendship with Peter, who haven’t seen each other since they were kids. Finally, Max Dillon becoming Electro and wanting all the power in New York.

 

Like, I said, a lot going on. But even with a running time of 142 minutes it’s strange that some small stuff –that is mention– is left our. Peter might be in college even though we never see him in class. He’s starting to submit pictures to the Daily Bugle, but he never steps through the doors of that publication. There are even mentions of Jameson. It might be nit-picky but it is one of the problems of the movie. I know they are setting up for future sequels and spin-offs, but it would have been nice to see just little bits of this. Also, something I won’t spoil but there is a moment near the end that is utterly jarring that I can’t even imagine why they made that decision.

 

Webb has no problem tapping into the superhero’s humor and warmth.  But, when you strip away all of the problems, you have the Spider-Man we want to see.  He’s the people’s hero, and he relishes being the good guy.  Spider-Man is incredibly funny, although sometimes the reliance on humor has weird and maybe bad timing. One of them is his banter with Aleksei Sytsevich (Giamatti) rather than just stopping him he play around with him. But this is at least forgivable because the scene is kind of funny and there is some sense of excitement to the scene.
 

Speaking of Giamatti, his Aleskei character is a bit too hammy for the movie. His Russian mobster character isn’t really nothing more than a glorified cameo and leaves little to be desired, which is a same since Giamatti is such a great actor.

 

The film’s main villain is Max Dillon (Foxx) who later becomes Electro. Max is a lonely, nerdy and completely unappreciated Oscorp engineer who wants to be noticed. He then becomes a Spidey fanatic after being rescued by him early in the movie. The movie does try to make feel sympathy for Max, and a part of us does. However, his arc isn’t that interesting either. Foxx’ performance is a bit to cheesy, even for the movie. And I know some people are comparing him to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin. I think that’s a bit much but I guess I can’t blame people for thinking that.

 

Although the promotional materials have shown Electro to be the main villain, he’s never established as that. His motivations seem sound at first. He wants to be noticed and when idol Spider-Man comes in to save the day, he feels betrayed. Although his fight with Spider-Man in Time Square (I’ll get to that in a bit) is a great action sequence that’s as far as the character will go. Later on he just becomes Harry’s lackey. Also, adding to the cheesiness of the character, during the Times Square scene, dubstep plays and at first it sounds like it’s voices in his head but you find out it’s a song, which would have been better if they went with the voices.

 

DeHaan is creepy yet appealing as Harry Osborn. The friendship between Peter and Harry feels pushed but when the two are together they do feel like old friends. The arc with Harry is interesting and different from Raimi version but I don’t see why they didn’t decide to just make Harry the villain. DeHaan’s scene with Chris Cooper who plays Norman is eerie, emotional and cold and it’s a shame that they didn’t share more scenes together. Harry’s Green Goblin – which they never call him, in case you’re wondering – is (again) different from Raimi’s and it will most likely divide the fans. I didn’t mind this version but it did feel a bit rushed, and knowing that Sony is trying to expand the universe, including the Sinister Six spinoff, it does kind of die down the excitement of seeing him.

 

Leads Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone continue to be the highlight of the rebooted universe. Their chemistry is fantastic and probably the saving grace for the movie that is already crowded. If people weren’t convinced that Garfield is a good Peter Parker/Spider-Man they hopefully will with this outing. Stone does have more to do this time around and even gets in on some of the action which is nice to see.

 

As for the action, the standout sequence does have to be Times Square scene. Despite the Electro dustep soundtrack, it showcases Spider-Man’s set of powers and his spider-sense, which I don’t recall being in the first movie. The final fight is okay, it does show Electro’s powers but it comes a little too late in the movie to care.

 

All in all, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a bit too crowded for its own good. Garfield and Stone are the best things about the movie, which is weird thing to say considering we are watching a Spider-Man movie. The movie is horrible and thankfully it doesn’t feel like another Spider-Man 3. But it is kind of a let down considering that all the movie is a set up for future movies.

 

 

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

3.5 out of 5

‘White House Down’ Review

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Dir: Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012)

Cast: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, Joey King, Nicolas Wright and James Woods

Synopsis: While on a tour of the White House with his young daughter, a Capitol policeman springs into action to save his child and protect the president from a heavily armed group of paramilitary invaders.

 

*Review Note: This is a non-spoiler review as always.*

 

Well here we go again. The White House is under taken and gets taken over from the inside and it’s up to one man to save the President and the world. Only a few months after Olympus Has Fallen we get the “master of disasters” White House Down. Although it sounds like I’m bashing the movie I am truly not. I did think I wouldn’t enjoy it because of Channing Tatum (sorry Tatum fans, I just don’t completely see it) and because I’ve already seen the story. But, Emmerich’s version isn’t too bad.

Capitol policeman to Speaker of the House Ralpheson (Jenkins) John Cale (Tatum) is determined to impress his estranged and government-trivia-obsessed daughter (King) by becoming a part of the Secret Service. Following an ill-fated interview for the position, the White House is taken over by a paramilitary force whose aim is to kidnap President Sawyer (Foxx). Cale must rise to the occasion and against all odds rescue the president, his daughter and the world.

There are a lot more players in the game, like Secret Service deputy Finnerty (Gyllenhaal), leader of the bad guys Stenz (Jason Clarke) and Secret Service chief, Walker (Woods). The script, thankfully, never gets bogged down in its loaded cast and instead uses them to create a long narrative that is constantly flipping between the various players rather than resting solely on Cale and Sawyer.

Emmerich is known for balancing his movies with drama, humor and action when need be, this is no different. The drama-centric scenes do make some of the stakes much higher and bit emotional but never to the point where it overpowers the humor between Tatum and Foxx’s characters. The action should please some fans. It varies from multiple shootouts to some good ol fashion fist fights. However, most of the action is better when it sticks in the House than outside, excluding the decently fun limo chase on the front lawn.

All in all, White House Down is a dumb-fun summer action movie. Some of the CGI is a bit off which is weird to say when reviewing a Roland Emmerich movie.
White House Down

4 out of 5