‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ Review

Director: Matt Reeves

Writers: Matt Reeves and Mark Bomback

Cast: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, Ty Olsson, Michael Adamthwaite, Gabriel Chavarria and Amiah Miller

Synopsis: After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mystic quest to avenge his kind.

 

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

 

Planet of the Apes was a movie that changed the movie scene due to its amazing practical effects, visual storytelling – apes of horses! – and vision of the future. Sure the series went to some crazy places and out there ideas. No serious watch them or look it up, but the series always had a special place in people’s hearts, and after a lackluster attempt with Tim Burton’s version – although credit where credit is due with those practical effects – the series got a much needed shot-in-the-arm with the reboot back in 2011 in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Lead by motion-capture pioneer Andy Serkis with WETA Digital helping with the groundbreaking special effects, Rise became an instant hit with fans and nonfans alike. Serkis’ Caesar was a compelling character that made us feel and root for him to win, which meant yes, humans are the bad guys and had to be stopped. We then got Dawn of the Planet of the Apes which added an extra layer, it wasn’t humans vs. apes, it was humans vs. apes vs. apes, thanks to Toby Kebbell’s Koba, who hated what humans did to apes, and Caesar, who saw the good in humans once and believes that there could be peace. Now, of course, we get War for the Planet of the Apes, a great end to a great trilogy.

War picks up a couple years after the events of Dawn, and we now sees Caesar (Andy Serkis) with the remaining apes living in hiding in the woods from a group of soldiers lead by The Colonel (Woody Harrelson). After two attacks on their home, Caesar has had enough and decides to get revenge. Breaking away from the apes, and sending them to a new promised home, Caesar is followed by his trusted and closest friends in Maurice (Karin Konoval), Rocket (Terry Notary) and Luca (Michael Adamthwaite). Eventually they come across a young girl, played by Amiah Miller, who has lost the ability to speak, and Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), an ape that has learned to talk just be being around humans. What follows is Caesar struggling with his darker side to get revenge, but also still trying to remain the leader to his people

Despite the summer releases of all the films, and the massive – and impressive –special effects, this Apes franchise never really feels like a summer movie. They could have easily turned this into a full-fledged apes vs. humans series, but instead they made every film about making Caesar a fully fleshed out and complex character. The film could be looked at as character study on both sides. Are the apes the heroes, or are the humans. Yes, there are good humans like James Franco’s Will or Jason Clarke’s Malcolm, but for every good few humans, there are extremely bad humans like Harrelson’s The Colonel, who take the extreme.

Caesar fights for his people and to keep them safe, but so do the humans, and in this case Woody Harrelson’s The Colonel has a reasonable case for his actions. Although anyone in that kind of position will probably say their position is right, but in this case, he’s somewhat right. That said, that is another reason why I love this rebooted trilogy. It gives you both sides of the argument and lets you choose, but Caesar is such a great character and seeing his journey for three films now, you have to root for him.

Of course, some of that goes to Andy Serkis. Serkis’ subtle nuances always made Caesar feel more human, if that makes some sense. Here it’s the same, Caesar is still conflicted, but still has his purpose but is stuck figuring out if he wants to continue doing things his way or if he falls for the darkness that Koba told him he would and should do. That’s why his advisory here in Harrelson’s The Colonel is a great one. Like Caesar, The Colonel only has one purpose and will do whatever it takes to complete it.

When it comes to the rest of the cast, it’s hard to really judge all of them considering they are mostly all motion-capture. When it comes to the new characters in Bad Ape, he brings some humor to the otherwise dark toned film, and all of it works and is not forced. Then there’s Amiah Miller’s character who is a huge homage and Easter Egg to the original series that ties in where the future of the series can go, but also do their own version. Also, credit to Miller, who’s still relativity new to Hollywood, on what she was able to pull off here given that she doesn’t talk at all.

Speaking of homage and Easter Eggs, War does have a few more besides Miller’s character, but there is something that I really liked that they added that connects to the original. It was something that feels small, but when you look at past films, and potentially future films, it completely works and makes sense – although part of me kind of wishes they don’t make any more after this.

All in all, War for the Planet of the Apes has it all; action, drama, humor, beautiful cinematography by Michael Seresin and score by Michael Giacchino. More importantly, War is a fitting end to a near perfect trilogy that gave us a great character in Caesar played by Andy Serkis. While part of me would somewhat like to see where this franchise goes from here, the other part of me hopes they leave it at that.

War for the Planet of the Apes

4.5 out of 5

‘Ghostbusters’ Review

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Director: Paul Feig

Writers: Paul Feig and Katie Dippold

Cast: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Neil Casey, Cecily Strong, Andy Garcia, Michael Kenneth Williams, Matt Walsh, Annie Potts, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver and Bill Murray

Synopsis: Following a ghost invasion of Manhattan, paranormal enthusiasts Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann, and subway worker Patty Tolan band together to stop the otherworldly threat.

 

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

*Reviewer Note 2: Stay for the credit sequence and for the post credits.*

 

Ghostbusters for some reason, although justified for some, received a lot of hate when it was announced. It didn’t help, for those against it, that they decided to gender-swap the leads from male to females. Many thought, for some reason, this lessen the Ghostbusters franchise and automatically went out of their way to make sure they spread their negativity to anyone that would listen or read their comments. Thankfully, some remained optimistic or at least open-minded to the idea of the reboot – because that’s what it is, a reboot – and gave it a chance. With a pretty descent cast and a reliable director in Paul Feig, Ghostbusters to me looked to be in good hands. Then again, I’m not against remakes or reboots like most people, especially if it does something different to elevate itself, but let’s be honest too, some movies could use a reboot/remake. Was Ghostbusters one of them? Probably not, but it’s here and guess what? It’s not that bad.

This Ghostbusters follows physicist Erin Gilbert (Wiig), who finds out her former friend Abby Yates (McCarthy), has put their old paranormal activity book online and when she goes to try and convince her take it down, she is informed of a ghost-sighting. Erin then lets it slip to Abby, so Abby, Erin and Abby’s engineer Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon) go to find the ghost and when they do their finding goes public. However, the event is only the start as they find out ghost appearances are happening more often, when MTA work Patty Tolan (Jones) goes to them and shows them her findings. She eventually joins the team and they form the Ghostbusters, along with the dim-witted assistant Kevin (Hemsworth), they learn someone is actually causing ghosts to appear, and they are more dangerous than they thought.

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The team does a great job of making Ghostbusters their own, but they do make a healthy amount of nods to the original, including the cameos by the original cast – not including Rick Moranis, who retired from acting – and some plot points. But, for the most part this new version establishes itself as the new Ghostbusters. The movie doesn’t try to make the characters new versions of the old characters, they all have their own strengths and different personalities that makes their characters their own. It does have some tonal confusion as the film tries to balance comedy, action and horror. Some of the combinations in the scenes work, while others are a bit jarring, but overall the tones do fit for what the film is trying to accomplish.

Of course, some people won’t see that. All they will see is actresses playing the new Ghostbusters, which is sad and, I’m not really that sorry, pathetic. Having the leads be female does nothing to change what Ghostbusters is all about. Wiig, McCarthy, McKinnon and Jones have great chemistry together, and are one of the reasons – if not the only reason – this reboot works. McKinnon is definitely one of the highlights of the film as the weird, enthusiastic about her science, and bursting with energy in every scene she’s in Holtzmann. She also has probably one of the coolest scenes in the final act of the film that I, obviously, won’t spoil here, but it was pretty badass.

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The other casting highlight is the much talked about Chris Hemsworth as Kevin. Hemsworth already showed he had comedic chops in Vacation, but here, he plays the dim-witted character so well, I won’t be surprised if we see Hemsworth casted in more comedies down the line. Wiig and McCarthy do their usual best, and this also “proves” that McCarthy doesn’t have to use her weight to be funny. Jones is as equally funny, and while many feared that she would be screaming her lines, it does happen, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that she’s funny as hell in the film too.

Neil Casey plays the “villain” in the film, Rowan North. I put villain in quotes because you can arguably saw the ghosts are the bigger threats throughout, until we realize what Rowan’s plan really is. Rowan’s arch in the film is underdeveloped and since we only get a few scenes with him in the film before he does he reveal-evil-plan-to-heroes thing, we get enough time with him. The rest of the supporting cast is played out by Andy Garcia playing the Mayor, Cecily Strong playing his assistant, and Michael Kenneth Williams and Matt Walsh playing government agents. Of course, the original stars make cameos in the film, but I’ll leave you to experience those first-handed.

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One of the things I was really impressed with was the CGI. It was one of the things I noticed in the first trailer and had me at least hooked. Thankfully, the CG works and never looks wonky or unfinished in any way, and it does add to scenes. It also helps that whenever the ghosts appear, especially in the great final act Times Square face-off, the film pops with color. This is the other big thing that sets this version apart from the original. Feig makes his version standout when he gets the chance, and when he does, that’s when the film works the most.

All in all, many people won’t give the film a chance because the main characters are female and because it’s a reboot – I stress again, not a remake – of the original film. But screw those people; Ghostbusters is well worth the watch especially when Paul Feig goes out of his way to make this version his own. The cast is great and delivers their comedic lines to perfection. Some jokes do fall flat, but that’s the case with all comedies. I thoroughly enjoyed Ghostbusters, and yes, can’t wait to see what they do with this new potential franchise.

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Ghostbusters

4 out of 5

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

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

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

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

 

Dishonorable Mentions

Blackhat (Universal Pictures/Legendary Pictures/Forward Pass)

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

Hot Tube Time Machine 2 (Paramount Pictures/MGM)

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

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

 

 

Disappointments/Least-Liked/Worst Movies of the Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Seventh Son (Universal Pictures/Legendary Pictures)

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

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Terminator Genisys (Paramount Pictures/Skydance Productions)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tomorrowland (Walt Disney Pictures/A113)

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

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

September Movie Releases

Hello everybody!

Another month has gone by and we’re on to another packed month full of great films. September seems like it’s going to be great by the end of the month, and may even have some early Academy Award nominees. I know, too early to think of that, but you know what? When you look at these films, you’ll be saying the same thing too. Let’s take a look at what’s coming out this month.

 

 

2nd

A Walk in the Woods

Ken Kwapis (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Episodes of The Office) directs this film that follows Billy Bryson (Robert Redford), who returns to the U.S after living in England for two decades. As a way to “reconnect” again with his homeland, he decides to hike the Appalachian Trail with his oldest friend (Nick Nolte). I hadn’t heard of this until the trailer dropped, and honestly it looks alright. I don’t know if I’ll end up watching it, but I’m sure it will find its audience. The film also stars Emma Thompson, Kristen Schaal, Nick Offerman, and Mary Steenburgen.

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4th

The Transporter Refueled

A reboot of The Transporter series that sees new transporter Frank Martin (Ed Skrein) gets caught up in a mix up when a job he pulls for femme-fatale, Anna (Loan Chabanol), ends up involving the Russian kingpin. Frank’s not the only one caught in the middle, his father (Ray Stevenson) gets kidnapped and Frank, along with Anna and her group, go on a mission to take everyone down. I wasn’t completely sold on rebooting The Transporter series – although The Transporter 3 was terrible – but the trailers have sold me on the idea and the film looks to being its own thing and not rehashing scenes and ideas from the past films.

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11th

90 Minutes in Heaven

Based on the book by Don Piper, 90 Minutes in Heaven follows a man involved in a horrific car crash is pronounced dead, only to come back to life an hour and half later, claiming to have seen Heaven. The film is following the string of faith-based films to come out around the same time every year, and the films always find an audience so good for them for keeping their audiences happy. However, I’ll be missing out on this one. The film stars Hayden Christensen and Kate Bosworth.

 

The Perfect Guy

After a breakup, Leah (Sanaa Lathan) jumps into a new relationship with a charming stranger (Michael Ealy). When her ex-boyfriend (Morris Chestnut) resurfaces in her life she has to decide to go back with him or stay with her new boyfriend, who isn’t all he seems to be. Honestly, I feel like we’ve seen this movie every year now. Girl breaks up and falls for another guy and the guy turns out to be unstable. And I’m not saying this because I’m not interested in watching the movie – also because it’s not marketed toward me – but it does feel like it is just a rehash of what we’ve seen before. And I’m only basing this off the trailers of everything.

 

The Visit

Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, the film follows two children (Ed Oxenbould and Olivia DeJonge) whose mother (Kathryn Hahn) sends them to their grandparents (Peter McRobbie and Deanna Dunagan) place to they can spend time with their grandchildren. Once there, the kids start to witness strange behavior from their grandparents. Okay listen, I’m probably going to end up watching the movie, only because it’s the only thing that comes out this weekend, but I’m not looking forward to it. In my mind, Shyamalan isn’t a director I look forward to seeing anymore. If The Visit ends up being good, then so be it, but M. Night’s track record isn’t all that great recently.

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18th

*Sicario and Everest get limited releases this week with an expansion next week. So check out next week’s releases for my thoughts about the film*

Limited Release: Pawn Sacrifice

Edward Zwick (Glory, The Last Samurai, Blood Diamond) directs his biopic about American chess champion Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire) as he prepares for a big match-up against Russian chess champion Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber). The film looks like it could be good and looks like it’s going to focus on Fischer’s real life mental problems happening before the match. Also starring is Lily Rabe, Robin Weigert, Sophie Nelisse, and Peter Sarsgaard.

 

Captive

Based on a real event, a single mother, Ashley Smith (Kate Mara) struggling with a drug addiction is randomly taken hostage in her own apartment by a man, Brian Nichols (David Oyelowo), on the run from the law for breaking out of jail and murdering the judge assigned to his case. The event took place in 2005 in Atlanta. I didn’t hear about this film, until I started looking up what was coming out this month, and I have to say, this cast looks pretty great. Mara and Oyelowo are joined by Michael Kenneth Williams and Mimi Rogers. Hopefully, this one turns out to be good and not just one that is swept under the rug. Although I recently saw the trailer, and it didn’t do much for me personally.

 

Black Mass

Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace) directs this film based on the life of one of the most infamous crime bosses in Boston during his day, Whitey Bulger. The film looks highly impressive and has an amazing cast lead by Johnny Depp playing Bulger, Benedict Cumberbatch playing Bill Bulger his state senator brother and Joel Edgerton as John Connolly, his old friend and FBI agent. The film follows Whitey Bulger making a deal with the FBI to be an informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf. Seriously, the film looks great and this is one of those early Academy Award nominees I was talking about. The rest of the cast includes Dakota Johnson, Juno Temple, Corey Stoll, Jesse Plemons, Adam Scott, Peter Sarsgaard, David Harbour and Kevin Bacon.

 

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trails

The first Maze Runner film really surprised me. With the expectation of the ending that was simply building up the sequel, Wes Ball created a pretty great world and set of characters from the novel written by James Dashner. This time around the Gladers, having escaped from the Maze, they find themselves facing a new challenge in a desolated landscape with new obstacles and people. The second trailer really sold me on this and it looks like the world is only going to get bigger and I, surprisingly, can’t wait to see what they do this time around. Dylan O’Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ki Hong Lee, Kaya Scodelario, Dexter Darden, Alexander Flores, and Patricia Clarkson are set to return and set to be joined by Aidan Gillen, Giancarlo Esposito, Rosa Salazar, Nathalie Emmanuel, Katherine McNamara, Barry Pepper, and Lili Taylor.

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25th

Limited Release: Stonewall

Roland Emmerich directs this film that revolves around the 1969 Stonewall Riots, the violent clash that kicked off the gay rights movement in New York City. The film will be seen through the eyes of Danny (Jeremy Irvine) who flees to New York, leaving his sister (Joey King), after he’s kicked out of his hom by his parents due to his sexuality. When he finds the Stonewall Inn, he meets Trevor (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) before catching the eye of Ed Murphy (Ron Perlman), manger of the Stonewall Inn. Eventually the police and the patrons of the Inn get into it, which leads to one of the most violent and dangerous movements ever. The film is a depiction of a famous event that lead that had major implication in the LGBTQ community. So much so that the community is already trying to boycott the movie because the lead in the movie is white and comes from middle America and is focusing on more white characters and actors when the real riots had people of color involved and were even the leading force of the riots. I don’t mind people getting passionate and even legit angry about this important event in their history is getting disrespected. The film also stars Jonny Beauchamp, Caleb Landry Jones, and Matt Craven.

 

Expansion Release: Sicario

This movie looks great, plain and simple. Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners) it tells the story of an idealistic FBI agent (Emily Blunt) who is enlisted by government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico. While there she encounters some questionable people like Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) and Matt (Josh Brolin). The trailers make this film look great and filled with great tension and with a cast like this, and also include Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Donovan, and Victor Garber, Sicario could be a hell of a film to watch.

 

Expansion Release: Everest

Baltasar Kormakur (2 Guns) directs Everest and it looks like it’s going to be one of those films, we should go watch. The film tells the story of a climbing expedition on Mt. Everest that is devastated by a severe snow storm. The film is said to be based on various book about a disaster on the mountain in 1996 including Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air” and survivor of a Mt. Everest disaster Lou Kasischke’s book “After the Wind.” But more importantly, the cast looks great. Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Sam Worthington, Michael Kelly, Martin Henderson, John Hawkes, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright, Elizabeth Debicki and Emily Watson. Plus, the film looks like it’s going to make its atmosphere as much as part of the film as the cast.

 

The Intern

Nancy Meyers (The Parent Trap (98), What Women Want, The Holiday) directs and write The Intern which follows 70-year-old widower Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro), who finds out that retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. So he goes back to work as a senior intern at an online fashion site, founded and run by Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway). I wasn’t really looking forward to this, but I ended up seeing the trailer and it actually looks pretty funny. De Niro and Hathaway seem to have great chemistry and it doesn’t look like De Niro is phoning it in. Nat Wolff, Adam Devine, Zack Pearlman and Rene Russo also star.

 

Before I Wake

Mike Flanagan (Oculus) directs this creepy looking thriller about a couple (Thomas Jane and Kate Bosworth) who adopt an orphaned boy (Jacob Tremblay) whose dreams – and nightmares – manifest physically as he sleeps. Watching the trailer, you do get the creepy vibe and Flanagan has proven he can bring that creep factor and mess around with a scene (in a good way) with Oculus. Hopefully the film turns out to be good. Before I Wake also stars Annabeth Gish and Dash Mihok.

 

The Green Inferno

Eli Roth returns to the director’s chair for his Cannibal Holocaust-inspired film, The Green Inferno. The film follows a group of student activists that travel to the Amazon to save the rain forest and soon discover that they are not alone and that no good deed goes unpunished. The film has been finished for a while and has even been seen at film festivals. The film was originally set for a release earlier this year (I believe), but was pushed back when that studio backed out, but thanks to Blumhouse Productions the film will be seen on the big screen. The film is said to be highly disturbing and unsettlingly and even has a trailer devoted to only showing audience reactions to the film. Those kind of trailer really have no effect on me and personally are kind of dumb, since sometimes those audience are watching the film for free. The film is getting mixed reviews, so let’s see what a wider audience thinks.

 

Hotel Transylvania 2

A sequel to the surprise hit, Hotel Transylvania 2 follows Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) and his friends trying to bring out the monster in his half human, half vampire grandson in order to keep Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez) from leaving the hotel. I didn’t watch the first film, only because I wasn’t too interested in it too much, but when I finally heard good things, it was gone from theaters. Watching the trailer for the sequel though, I might go back and watch the original before I probably end up watching this. The film have the voice cast of Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Keegan-Michael Kay, Andy Samberg, Fran Drescher, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Molly Shannon, Rob Riggle, and Mel Brooks.

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So, what are you looking forward to?

August Movie Releases

Can you believe it’s already August? Seriously, where has the all the time gone geez. Anyway, August is filled some films that could have potential. It’s also the last month of the Summer Movie Season, also known to some as studios’ “dump month”  or just dumping movies they don’t have complete faith in. Let’s hope that it is not the true case.

 

 

7th

Limited Releases: Dark Places & The Diary of a Teenager Girl

 

Ricki and the Flash

Everyone’s favorite Meryl Streep goes a little against type playing a rock-and-roll musician who left home and her family to follow her dreams, but returns home when her daughter’s, played by Mamie Gummer, husband leaves her. I like Meryl Streep as much as the next person, but I feel like I’ve watched the whole movie on the trailer. So maybe avoid the full trailer if you want to watch it. The film also stars Sebastian Stan, Rick Springfield, Audra McDonald, and Kevin Kline.

 

Shaun the Sheep Movie

A stop-motion movie based on TV show of the same name which follows titular character Shaun trying to get some of his friends back to the farm. The adventure leads to Shaun and some of his other sheep friends to the “Big City.” I’ve actually heard of the show in passing but never watched it for myself, but I like stop-motion work so I might give this a shot.

 

The Gift

Jason Bateman, Joel Edgerton and Rebecca Hall star in this mystery thriller as a married couple’s (Bateman and Hall) lives get thrown into a tailspin after an old acquaintance (Edgerton) from the husband’s past brings gifts and starts to act mysteriously around the couple. This one kind of popped out of nowhere for me. The cast is great and I’m interested to see what exactly the mystery is and hoping it’s not too cliché.

 

Fantastic Four

Fox is giving another go at the most popular family in comic book history. The movie is directed by Josh Trank (Chronicle) and is taking the grittier approach from the first look at the trailers. The movie is taking a lot of crap because of the tonal shift, the weird casting, changing Dr. Doom’s name and origin, and the race changing of Johnny Storm/The Human Torch being played by Michael B. Jordan (although I don’t remember anyone giving any flake to Reg E. Cathey for playing Franklin Storm, the father of Johnny and Sue Storm (Kate Mara)). Nonetheless, the movie could end up surprising us, so let’s see what they bring to the table. The film also stars Miler Teller, Jamie Bell, and Toby Kebbell.

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14th

Underdogs

An animated film that is pretty self-explanatory. The film follows Amadeo, a local top Foosball player, as his town is about to be taken over by an old rival. Amadeo challenges his rival to a game of real soccer; the catch is that Amadeo has help from the players in his Foosball table that have come to life. The movie looks okay, I’m not really excited for it too much, but I’m sure it’ll find an audience.  Rupert Grint, Ariana Grande, Nicholas Hoult, Anthony Head, John Leguizamo, and Belle Throne voice the cast.

 

Straight Outta Compton

The biopic about one of the most popular and outspoken groups in music history: N.W.A. The film has been in the works for a few years now, but it wasn’t until recently that it started to pick up steam, and now, we’re finally getting it. The movie is being produced by members Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, so we can expect something close to and maybe some sort of inside look to the group life we didn’t know. The movie also feels a little more personal since Ice Cube’s son is being played by his actual son. The rest of the cast is filled out by only a few familiar faces like Paul Giamatti playing the group’s manager, Jerry Heller, but is filled with most newcomers to the scene like Corey Hawkins (Dr. Dre), Jason Mitchell (Eazy-E), Neil Brown Jr. (Dj Yella), Aldis Hodge (MC Ren), R. Marcos Taylor (Suge Knight) and Alexandra Shipp (Kim).

 

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Superman and The Lone Ranger partner up, well at least the actors. The film is based on the show of the same name that ran from the mid 60s about a CIA agent (Henry Cavill) and a KGB operative (Armie Hammer) have to work together to stop an organization from setting off a nuclear weapon. The film is directed by Guy Ritchie and the film does have his style all over it, so let’s hope that The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is good enough especially with the rest of the cast of Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Jared Harris and Hugh Grant.

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21st

American Ultra

Max Landis wrote this film that stars Jesse Eisenberg as a stoner store clerk that actually happens to be a sleeper government agent, but his programming is phased because of all the drugs. Trouble brews when he becomes a target and the government also captures his girlfriend (Kristen Stewart). I’m going to watch the movie, but I’m actually a little tired of seeing Eisenberg playing a stoner-like character. The rest of the cast fills out to Topher grace, Walton Goggins, Connie Britton, John Leguizamo, Tony Hale, and Bill Pullman.

 

Hitman: Agent 47

Fox has decided to reboot their video game adaptation of Hitman. This time the film is called Hitman: Agent 47 which sees the titled agent (played by Rupert Friend) teaming up with a woman to help her find her father, who may have had a hand on creating the program that made him an assassin. I had no problem with the last film – it had its moments – but I will say this reboot looks pretty action-heavy. Friend is from the Showtime show Homeland, which he’s pretty good in and I think he’s going to nail to nail this role. The rest of the cast is Hannah Ware, playing the woman mentioned earlier, Thomas Kretschmann, Emilio Rivera, Ciaran Hinds, and Zachary Quinto.

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28th

Limited Release: Z for Zachariah

The film opened at the Toronto Film Festival to rave reviews and with three strong leads – and possibly the only cast members – I can see why. The film follows three survivors (Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejifor and Chris Pine) who are bought together after a disaster wipes out civilization. The film isn’t going to be like most post-apocalyptic films, as the movie looks to be a straightforward drama with some thriller aspects thrown in.  Can’t wait to see it.

 

We Are Your Friends

Zac Efron plays an aspiring DJ who looks to make it in the electronic music (EMD) scene. The trailer doesn’t do too much for me to be honest. It’s not even that I’m not a huge fan of EMD, but the trailer doesn’t make the movie seem that appealing. The rest of the cast is filled out by Emily Ratajokwski, Jon Bernthal, Jonny Weston, Shiloh Fernandez, and Wes Bentley.

 

Sinister 2

The horror sequel will see the urban legend Bughuul return to haunt a new family of a single mother (Shannyn Sossamon) and her two sons. The movie is said to have Bughuul involved more – possibly even more about his history, along with the spirits of his past children victims. The only help they have will be from the returning character of Deputy So & So (James Ransone). I don’t know how I feel about the movie after watching the first trailer. Not because it didn’t look any good, but because it looks like it gave just a tad bit too much away. Although, the last film looked like it gave a tad bit much in the trailers, but it didn’t.

 

Regression

Emma Watson and Ethan Hawke star in this suspense thriller that finds a detective (Hawke) trying to solve a mysterious case that involves a girl (Watson), her family and a possible cult. I didn’t know too much about the movie, but once the trailer came out I was fully on board. The trailer is creepy and it looks like the film will keep us guessing until the very end.

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So, what are you looking forward to?

‘Vacation’ Review

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Dir: John Francis Daley & Jonathan M. Goldstein

Writer(s): John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein

Cast: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Chris Hemsworth, Leslie Mann, Catherine Missal, Charlie Day, Ron Livingston, Keegan-Michael Key, Regina Hall, Beverly D’Angelo, and Chevy Chase

Synopsis: Rusty Griswold takes his own family on a road trip to “Walley World” in order to spice things up with his wife and reconnect with his sons.

 

 

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

 

 

The Vacation movies have always had a loyal fanbase and in some cases have a special place in people’s hearts. To be honest, I was never a hardcore fan of the movies – I’ve actually only watched two – but I could see why they are well liked. So when Vacation was announced, I wasn’t up in arms like most people. In fact, I wasn’t really anticipating much from it. So, does Vacation really stand on its own like Rusty claims in the trailer? For the most part yes, yes it does.

 

Vacation follows an adult Rusty Griswold (Helms), who sees that his family is in a funk, and doesn’t want to take them on their annual vacation spot, which happens to be a cabin, decides to take them and recreate his trip to Walley World. So he rents a foreign car, that is truly outrageous once we see all its “features” and tells his wife Debbie (Applegate), oldest and a bit nerdy son James (Gisondo) and youngest who actually picks on his older brother, Kevin (Stebbins) to pack up and get ready for an adventure. Of course, in classic Griswold fashion, it all goes downhill from there.

 

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Writers and directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (who will write the new solo Spider-Man movie for Marvel and Sony) show that they do love and respect the original films with small references to the original movies, but never going over-the-top and hitting us over the head with them. Even if you didn’t watch the original movies, you’ll still enjoy, or at least hopefully enjoy, the movie. It never tries to copy the original beat for beat, which honestly helps the movie be its own thing. Of course there are obvious callbacks like the flirty beautiful girl in the convertible.

 

Vacation does fall into the more common raunchy joke territory that some comedies are doing, and while some work, others just fall flat or aren’t even funny. The movie also has some “dirty” (poop and puke jokes) humor that, again, work every now and then. In fact some of those jokes – at least to me – worked better than the raunchy jokes that felt thrown in just for shock value. Then again, comedy is subjective, so you may find more jokes funnier than I did, but I will say I laughed a lot watching this.

 

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However, the jokes wouldn’t be funny without the delivery of the cast. Thankfully the cast works together. Ed Helms, who I’m not the most huge fan of, is relatable as Rusty here. All he wants is to get his family together and try to have a fun experience, but he’s funnier reacting to the situations that are going on around him. Christina Applegate isn’t the overbearing, non-supportive wife but has her moments to shine and holds her own. The brother dynamic is flipped on its head as the older brother is actually getting picked on by the younger brother. Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins work really well off each other and are given great material to play out. The great thing about the family is that they are all given different personalities and we can see them as individuals instead of just being a family unit. I know that probably sounds dumb, but sometimes we just know a family in the movie because they all act similar to each other, here, we know each character separately, which helps when they’re paired off with each other or have their own moment to shine.

 

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The supporting cast is also pretty great, but also feels like some opportunities were missed over just passed over. Chris Hemsworth looked like he enjoyed himself playing Rusty’s brother-in-law and full of himself TV weatherman Stone Crandall, who is married to Rusty’s sister, Audrey played by Leslie Mann. Hemsworth’s extended cameo adds some great laughs to the film, while the always reliable Mann is underused to the point that it feels like they wanted another big name to the movie or are hoping that sequels are announced so she can have a big role. There is another part to two that is merely touched upon that I kind of wanted to see more of, but seeing that movie is about Rusty and his family, it makes sense that they are not a focus.

 

There are some other cameos like Charlie Day’s water rafting guide, which is actually a better scene than I would have thought. Keegan-Michael Key’s scene happens early on in the movie and is just okay. There are two other cameos that I didn’t even know was going to happen so I’ll just leave you to enjoy them. However, the “big” cameos are from original stars Beverly D’Angelo and Chevy Chase as Ellen and Clark. Unfortunately, this element of the movie is lackluster. Chase feels like he’s trying to hard in the small amount of screentime he has and D’Angelo is barley seen. The scene is near the end of the movie and it actually derails the movie. Again, the movie is about Rusty and his family, but these two character of Clark and Ellen were what started all this, and to see the two characters essentially pumping the brakes on a movie that is for all intent-and-purposes a continuation of the legacy they paved.

 

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All in all, Vacation works on most levels. The main cast is great and gel really well together while delivering their lines to almost perfection. Some of the humor works better than others, but for the most part you’ll be laughing with your theater. There are some missed opportunities here and there, but overall, Vacation is worth the watch.

 

 

Vacation

3.5 out of 5

‘Terminator Genisys’ Review

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Dir: Alan Taylor

Writer(s): Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons, Dayo Okeniyl, Byung-hun Lee and Matt Smith

Synopsis: John Connor sends Kyle Reese back in time to protect Sarah Connor, but when he arrives in 1984, nothing is as he expected it to be.

 

 

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

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a brief mid-credits scene*

 

 

Terminator 2: Judgment Day is one of my favorite movies of all time, and dare I say one of the best actions movies ever. Of course I’m not the only person to share that feeling and it’s because of that reason that the Terminator series holds a special place in many people’s hearts. However, after Terminator 2 the series took a bit of stumble with the lackluster Rise of the Machines, and the not reaching its full potential with Salvation, so when it was announced that another installment was coming fans were right to be weary. However, when news that Arnold Schwarzenegger would be returning, some of those fans become a little less weary and curious to what they were going to do.

 

Fast forward – or time travel? – to earlier this year and one of the biggest twist that could have probably happened in the series was ruined in all the marketing. So what happens when you know the big twist to a highly popular series and once-was anticipated movie? You go in and try your best to enjoy it. So, was Terminator Genisys good? Terrible like the majority of film reviewers are putting it? Or something else? Well, bit of everything actually.

 

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Terminator Genisys isn’t just another installment to the series; it acts as a prequel, sequel and reboot. So in case you’re brand new to the series, don’t worry you’ll be thrown into the world that many have enjoyed for years. The movie starts with letting us know the events that led to our downfall: The day Skynet became aware and the day Judgment Day happened. We hear the story of one man that lead a resistance against the machines, and that man was John Connor (Jason Clarke). We see him leading the resistance with his right hand man, Kyle Reese (Courtney) to take down a harvesting farm, which is a cover for a weapon that John knows is there: The time machine.

 

Fans know the story: John sends Kyle back in time to 1984 to protect his mother, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), who is targeted by Skynet as they send back a Terminator model T-800 to kill her before she can give birth to John. However, something happens when Kyle is sent back and it changes the timeline in a dramatic way. When Kyle ends up in 1984, Sarah isn’t a fragile and scared woman instead she is a strong fighter that knows about Terminators and the future. She also has someone that has protected her, a model T-800 Terminator that she happily calls Pops (or named Guardian in the credits). Kyle is of course confused about this and Sarah tells him that everything has changed and that they have been preparing for him. Another problem they have is a new T-1000 (Lee) is there and is hunting them down.

 

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However – again ruined in the marketing – Kyle and Sarah eventually come face-to-face with John himself. The reunion is cut short when Pops shoot John to reveal that John is in fact some sort of new Terminator. Kyle and Sarah make it their mission to not only save the future, but also try figure out what happened to John.

 

Like I mentioned before, the twist of John being a Terminator is a pretty big and nice twist to the series, and it would have been awesome to see it play out on screen for the time first. Instead marketing – and not director Alan Taylor – made the decision to give away the big twist to the movie killing any sort of tension to not only the scene, but for the rest of the movie. Yes, it is commonplace for studios to show off or reveal a few of their key sequences to make sure you go buy a ticket, and some studios have even tricked the audience into going to watch the movie by showing a really cool moment, that just so happens to be the end of the movie. But giving away the “John is some sort of new awesome Terminator” twist really hurt the movie going in.

 

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Also, we’re dealing with time travel. Just know going in that you’re going to deal with three different timelines that thankfully don’t get too murky. At one point, it’s explained by Pops that the timelines have changed and thankfully it doesn’t stop the movie dead. The alternate timeline does change a few things up and it should be interesting to see where they go with things from this point forward. Although at this point I’m not sure how many fans want to stick around after the new “twist.” Yes, there is another twist to the movie that only starts off in the third act and is obviously set up for future sequels. I’m not going to get too into it because it does go into spoiler territory.

 

So let’s go in the cast. Arnold steps right back into the role without fault. Yes, he is older and the movie goes into why that is, but there is a lot more to his character this time around. Like I’ve mentioned, Sarah calls him Pops and his official character name in the credits is Guardian, by that you know a lot of things have changed. On the other side of the coin, Jason Clarke as John Connor/new Terminator – no official name, just his quote that he’s “something more” – has to pull double duty as the John Connor legend, who gives a pretty impressive speech at the start of the movie and has a great relationship with Kyle before he sends him back, and the Terminator, who is like he says “can’t be bargained with.”

 

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Again, the twist would have been really cool to see for the first time while watching the movie, not only because it’s a massive spoiler, but also because it changes the dynamic of the character that we’ve known is the face of resistance against the machines and the mythos of the series. John Connor is no longer the good guy, the man that we root for. Instead he is our primary villain out to kill our heroes and has fallen into become a machine!

 

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As for John’s parents, Jai Courtney – who I’m not a real fan of to be honest – does okay as Kyle Reese. He doesn’t really go beyond anything we’d suspect from his character. Sure he has a standout moment when talking to Sarah early in the movie, but other than that nothing stands out. As for Emilia Clarke’s Sarah Connor, I’ve seen some reviewers say she’s been miscast or doesn’t do anything special for the role, and I don’t think that’s the case to be honest. Clarke is stepping into big shoes yes, but at the same time, this is a different Sarah Connor from the original The Terminator. Instead we get the Terminator 2 Sarah Connor, the one that is ready to fight anything that stands in her way and Clarke holds her own for the most part. She does work better off Arnold than Courtney for the most part and but overall she’s does fine playing the part of badass warrior.

 

J.K. Simmons as a small supporting role that doesn’t really add much to the overall movie, but you can clearly tell his character will have some sort of role in the potential sequels. Sadly, Byung-hun Lee’s T-1000 character doesn’t get a ton of screen time and is underused. Luckily, his part is rather enjoyable but you feel his missing presence throughout the movie.

 

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The action in the movie is actually pretty enjoyable, and there is quite lot more than I suspected. The other thing the movie had that surprised me was humor. It’s not like the movie is cracking jokes every minute, but humor is sprinkled throughout the movie and it makes sense. Of course, the movie has many more references and subtle additions from the previous movies – and yes, even the TV show – that fans can appreciate.

 

One thing that will bother people – even me to some extent – is the movie has a lot of questions that it asks, but never really answers. If they do, they don’t give you the full answer. The movie suffers a bit from setting things up for sequels instead of making the movie stand on its own. Some things make sense, but for the most part, the studio makes sure that they want the audience back for another go-around.

 

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All in all, Terminator Genisys isn’t as terrible as many people out there want you to believe. There are some enjoyable moments scattered throughout and the action is pretty great to watch. The cast work well together for the most part, with Jason Clarke and Arnold being the standout. The movie may act as a prequel, sequel, and reboot, but make no mistake that it is another addition to the series. Let’s hope that fans will want to keep coming back.

 

Terminator Genisys

3 out of 5