WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES:
THESE “APES” GO OUT ON A SERIOUS HIGH NOTE!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: **** out of 4
20TH CENTURY FOX
Andy Serkis is back as Caesar in War for the Planet of the Apes
Motion capture wizard, Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong(2005), Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes director, Matt Reeves (Felicity, Cloverfield, Let Me In) return in the third installment of the rebooted Planet of the Apes film series, War for the Planet of the Apes. This new series of Ape films have been a thrilling experience from beginning to end, 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes breathed new life into a dead franchise after the dreaded Tim Burton remake from 2001, and 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes expanded on the first film’s story and delivered a grittier and darker sequel that managed to surpass its predecessor.
Now I can say with all seriousness that War for the Planet of the Apes is the Return of the King and Bourne Ultimatum of Ape movies. That’s right, it’s the best in the series and quite possibly the best Planet of the Apes movie since the original 1968 Charlton Heston classic.
While the film has its moments of dazzling visuals and thrilling action, it is not the most action-packed installment or even a fun movie. War for the Planet of the Apes is pretty much the equivalent of an Ape-casted Academy Award® nominated drama type of movie that really cranks up the grim tone from the last movie, heavily character focused, and at times it can get pretty intense.
The film follows genetically enhanced ape Caesar (Serkis) and his clan at war with a human military faction called the Alpha-Omega led by a ruthless Colonel (Woody Harrelson-Zombieland, The Hunger Gamesfranchise, Now You See Me). Caesar offers the human peace if they leave his apes alone, but it turns out the former ape followers of the deceased, Koba have joined the Alpha-Omega after being disillusioned by Caesar’s leadership.
After the apes suffered many losses at the hands of the humans, Caesar battles with his darker instinct and begins his next quest to avenge his kind. Caesar eventually comes face to face with the Colonel and the two of them are pitted against each other in a battle to determine the fate of their species and the future of the entire planet.
The film also stars Steve Zahn (Happy, Texas, Stuart Little 1 and 2, Captain Fantastic) as Bad Ape, Karin Konoval (Supernatural, 2012, Tower Prep) as Maurice, Terry Notary (The Cabin in the Woods, The Hobbit trilogy, Kong: Skull Island) as Rocket, Ty Olsson (X2: X-Men United, 2012, Godzilla (2014)) as Red, Judy Greer (Archer, Jurassic World, Ant-Man) as Cornelia, Devyn Dalton (A Fairly Odd Christmas, Legion) as Cornelius, Sara Canning (Slap Shot 3: The Junior League, The Vampire Diaries, Remedy) as Lake, Michael Adamthwaite (X-Men: Evolution, Death Note, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex) as Luca, Aleks Paunovic (Arctic Air, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, iZombie) as Winter, Alessandro Juliani (X-Men: Evolution, Battlestar Galactica, Death Note) as Spear, and newcomer, Amiah Miller as Nova.
Overall, War for the Planet of the Apes is a thrilling yet poignant final installment of a reboot trilogy that was probably a lot better than what it had the right to be. Seriously, I’m still shocked they were able to reboot something as iconic and nostalgic as Planet of the Apes and somehow make it work.
Thanks to some groundbreaking motion capture effects, clever writing, strong characters, and a film crew that understood the source material just enough to make something different out of it without rehashing the same old stuff because people liked it before, these movies completely surpassed my expectations each and every time and with a few callbacks to the original film they made me remember how much I enjoyed the 1968 classic. The effects in the last two films were very impressive but the motion capture in this one is Oscar worthy, not just Serkis’ performance but the animation on Caesar and the apes are so good I almost forgot I was looking at computer animated apes, now that’s how you do CGI correctly.
What I really appreciate about this movie is that despite having impressive visual effects and action scenes, they don’t overshadow the story and characters. The story is definitely darker than its predecessors and at times reflect real-life events such as World War II Nazi concentration camps and slavery and is more character focused than action-packed and honestly, I think that’s for the best.
Don’t get me wrong the action sequences are spectacular but what really makes this movie shine are its characters and themes. Despite the conflict with humans, Caesar isn’t made out to be the bad guy but he doesn’t want anything to happen to the apes even if it involves battling humans to keep his clan safe.
Maurice is a much more developed character in this film and even has a side-plot involving him adopting a young orphan human girl and starting an inseparable bond with her. He might actually be my favorite character in the new movies besides Caesar and Maurice doesn’t even talk much in these films.
War for the Planet of the Apes definitely feels more realistic than any of the other Planet of the Apesmovies and it manages to tackle themes of prejudice and war without making both sides human. It’s a great sci-fi movie but it’s an even better war drama and a satisfying conclusion to the 2011 Planet of the Apes franchise, if you’re a fan of the new series or the Planet of the Apes saga as a whole this is a “War” not to be missed.
SPIDEY’S FIRST MCU OUTING IS QUITE POSSIBLY THE BEST SPIDER-MAN MOVIE EVER!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: **** out of 4
COLUMBIA PICTURES AND MARVEL STUDIOS
Tom Holland as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Homecoming
You read that description right people, Spider-Man 2 has been dethroned as the best movie based on the extremely popular Marvel Comics superhero, Spider-Man. That has officially been changed to Spider-Man: Homecoming, the second reboot of the character and the first Spider-Man film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe starring Tom Holland (In the Heart of the Sea) reprising the titular character from last year’s Captain America: Civil War.
The film is a result of a collaboration between Sony’s Columbia Pictures which owns the film rights to the Spider-Man character and Disney, the current owner of Marvel. Like many people I was very excited but at the same time I was a little worried the film would have been studio-driven and come off as underwhelming *ahem* Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Well, thanks to director, Jon Watts (Clown, Cop Car) and Holland blowing me away the previous year in Civil War not only does Spider-Man: Homecoming surpass my expectations but it is quite possibly the best Spider-Man movie we’ve ever had (That’s right, better than Spider-Man 2!). The film doesn’t rehash the plots of the 2002 Spider-Man movie with Tobey Maguire or the first reboot from 2012 with Andrew Garfield, The Amazing Spider-Man and gives us a different kind of Spider-Man movie that doesn’t rely on the earlier film tropes.
This movie assumes you already know Spider-Man’s backstory and doesn’t go to the trouble of reminding you for the hundredth time and instead focuses on Spider-Man learning to become an Avenger and trying to make it through high school as Peter Parker. I wouldn’t say it’s as action packed as Sam Raimi’s original trilogy and the film does have a lot of down-time to establish Parker’s character but it gives Spider-Man a human touch and makes him a more three-dimensional character.
The film follows nerdy high school student, Peter Parker (Holland) returning to his studies after being drafted into the Avengers by Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.-Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Tropic Thunder, Sherlock Holmes) to help with a dispute he had with Captain America. Peter is eager to become an Avenger but Tony tells him he is not ready yet and suggests being a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
He tries to return to his normal life but is constantly distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just a local vigilante. However, a new threat known as the Vulture (Michael Keaton-Beetlejuice, Batman, Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)) emerges, a black arms dealer under the name of Adrian Toomes who turned to a life of crime after being driven out of business as a scavenger for the New York attack by Tony Stark’s Department of Damage Control and is armed with a flying metal suit and Chitauri weaponry.
Upon hearing about the Vulture Peter thinks stopping him could be a chance to prove himself as a hero. So, he dons the Spider-Man suit that was given to him by Stark and swings into action before everything he holds most important is threatened.
The film also stars Marisa Tomei (Chaplin, The Lincoln Lawyer, The Big Short) as Peter’s Aunt May, Iron Man 1 and 2 director, Jon Favreau (Elf, Zathura, The Jungle Book (2016)) as Tony’s bodyguard, Happy Hogan, Zendaya (Shake It Up, Frenemies, K.C. Undercover) as Michelle “MJ” Jones, Donald Glover (Mystery Team, Magic Mike XXL, The Martian) as Aaron Davis, Jacob Batalon (North Woods) as Peter’s best friend, Ned, Laura Harrier (Big Morning Buzz Live, One Life to Live, 4th Man Out) as Peter’s love interest, Liz, and Tyne Daly (The Enforcer, The Aviator, Hello My Name is Doris) as the head of the Department of Damage Control, Anne Marie Hoag.
Overall, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a zany, exciting, and most important of all fun second reboot of the character. The movie doesn’t rehash the bitten by a spider or Uncle Ben getting killed plot elements from earlier Spider-Man movies and gives the audience a new outing with the character and definitely a more self-contained movie than most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films.
Sure, the movie does have references and callbacks to the rest of the franchise and Robert Downey Jr. is in it as Tony Stark but they’re very downplayed and the movie remembers to be a Spider-Man movie first and an extension to the Universe second. Though I did feel the timing of its release to be a little odd because we just got done with Andrew Garfield’s portrayal a few years ago, but this movie destroys it.
The movie has a great balance between Spider-Man action and Peter Parker getting through school and honestly, I enjoyed the scenes with Peter in school just as much as the Spider-Man scenes because Holland’s performance as the character feels very natural and like a real kid. I also really liked the chemistry Tom Holland has with Robert Downey Jr. in the movie, we know how snobby and full of himself Tony Stark can be but here it shows that he cares about Peter and wants to see him succeed in being a hero and he’s almost like a fatherly figure to Peter.
Of course, Michael Keaton kicks ass as the Vulture, the film shows why he turned to crime in the first place and his motivation behind it so he’s not just another throwaway villain. I’d be lying if I said he wasn’t the best Marvel Cinematic Universe villain since Loki.
I still think Spider-Man 2 had better pacing for action but Spider-Man: Homecoming beats any previous Spider-Man movie out with its story. The film almost makes up for the sins of Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and gives Spidey fans and movie-goers the best Spider-Man movie in over ten years, Holland this was your chance to prove yourself…you did it.
CONGRATULATIONS TO ME FOR WRITING THIS REVIEW WITHOUT MAKING BIRDMAN REFERENCES! Wait, doesn’t this count?
DESPICABLE ME 3:
NOT MUCH IS NEW HERE BUT TREY PARKER AS THE FILM’S VILLAIN IS MORE THAN WORTH THE PRICE OF ADMISSION!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** out of 4
Gru and his Minions are back in Despicable Me 3
Ex-supervillain, Gru (voiced by Steve Carell-The Office, Anchorman 1 and 2, Date Night) and his mischievous Minions are back in the third installment of Illumination Entertainment’s successful Despicable Me franchise. The first film released in 2010 sounded generic kiddie material at first glance but ended up being very clever and hilarious with its concept, until DreamWorks ripped it off with Megamind a few months later, but I digress.
Thanks to the kids adoring the Minions the film made enough money to get a sequel, Despicable Me 2 in 2013 which was also very funny and like the first movie it also had plenty of heart and emotion in between the juvenile fart jokes and wild action scenes. However, I felt the second film focused a little too much on the Minions and almost played like a full-length ad for the Minions movie that came out in 2015.
Now we have Despicable Me 3 which in my opinion is the weakest installment out of the three films. I didn’t think it was bad but the plot felt like it was on repeat several times and what was hilarious in the first two movies came off as predictable and awkward here.
The film takes place after the events of Despicable Me 2 and Gru is now an agent for the Anti Villain League with his new wife, Lucy (voiced by Kristen Wiig-Bridesmaids, The Looney Tunes Show, Ghostbusters(2016) sent off to foil the plans of 80s themed supervillain and former child star, Balthazar Bratt (voiced by Trey Parker-South Park, Team America: World Police, The Book of Mormon) who portrayed a supervillain on a popular TV show before it was cancelled due to puberty. Gru manages to stop Balthazar from stealing a very expensive diamond but he gets away resulting in Gru and Lucy getting fired.
They reluctantly tell the girls, Margo (voiced by Miranda Cosgrove-School of Rock, Drake & Josh, iCarly), Edith (voiced by Dana Gaier), and Agnes (voiced by Nev Scharrel) but assure them that they will find new jobs. The next morning Gru is approached by the butler of his long-lost twin brother, Dru (also voiced by Carell) and stunned by this realization Gru longs to meet him.
So Gru and his family are taken to a country called Freedonia (Sounds like a reject name for a Storm Hawks Terra) where they finally meet Dru who turns out to be an insanely wealthy pig farmer with an eccentric personality and he literally looks exactly like Gru but with dreadlocks. It is revealed that Dru’s wealth actually came from their father being a legendary supervillain who constantly dismissed him in disgrace.
Dru turns to his brother to teach him how to be a villain but Gru left that life behind me but is tempted after a joyride around Freedonia in their father’s old car. MEANWHILE AT THE LEGION OF DOOM, Balthazar plots to steal back the diamond to power a giant robot so he can destroy Hollywood as an act of revenge for cancelling his show…Oh, and the Minions are in prison.
Overall, Despicable Me 3 is a serviceable sequel and something that will probably entertain your kids more than the parents. The animation is still colorful and visually appealing, the voice acting is still funny, and there’s enough cutesy Agnes and Minions to keep the little ones’ quiet.
Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t do much new with its story and almost feels like a repeat of what happened in the earlier films. The basic plot is like the first one in reverse but it also recycles similar plot devices and situations from both movies.
They rehashed the Margo and boys plot from the last movie and the first half of the climax is very similar to the one in the first film. Thankfully it’s not an insulting rehash unlike the Michael Bay Transformersmovies but it is a little distracting.
Not to mention the pacing isn’t great either mainly with the introduction of Dru, the chemistry between him and Gru is passable but it’s mostly played for laughs and could have used more heart and better development. I would have liked to see more of their backstories explored more and where their villainy motivations came from but when you really get down to it Dru is basically a screw-up, more enthusiastic version of Gru.
But with that said the person who steals the show around here is Trey Parker as Balthazar Bratt which is the South Park creator’s first venture into family entertainment and he did not disappoint. Sure, he’s not nearly as edgy here but he puts a lot of effort into voicing the character and every time he’s on-screen I am laughing hard and it’s not just because he sounds like an evil version of Randy Marsh.
Aside from a few laughs, talented voice cast, and Trey Parker, Despicable Me 3 doesn’t amount to much. The plot isn’t that original and a lot of character arks are thrown off to the side and forgotten about like Margo and the boy, Agnes’ quest for a unicorn, and the Minions quitting their job with Gru in hopes to return to villainy, there’s a lot happening here without much focus.
Despicable Me 3 is sure to entertain your kids and it has some imagination and laughs but it lacks the heart of its predecessors. It’s harmless family entertainment that’ll hopefully give a fair amount of belly laughs but if you want a more engaging family film I’d suggest waiting for Pixar’s Coco.
A NEAR-PERFECT BALANCE OF ACTION, HUMOR, AND TYPICAL EDGAR WRIGHT INSANITY!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** ½ out of 4
Ansel Elgort as Baby in Baby Driver
This movie gives Fate of the Furiousand XXX: Return of Xander Cage a run for their money, that’s my review of the new movie Baby Driver directed by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End) in a nutshell. I was already a huge fan of Edgar Wright’s work in the past and one of the few people who actually saw Scott Pilgrim VS the World in theaters but this film alone could make Wright go down in history as one of the best movie directors working today.
He takes a concept as generic as a heist movie about a getaway driver and directs the Hell out of it. Baby Driver is a cinematic marvel; every shot is visually appealing, the action is beyond exhilarating, the characters are so good, the writing is clever, and the way the story is told and how the film is directed it feels as though I’m hearing this type of story again for the first time, not to mention its kickass soundtrack.
The film follows a young man literally named Baby (Ansel Elgort-The Divergent Series, The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns) who is a getaway driver for criminals paying off a debt he owes a mysterious kingpin named Doc (Kevin Spacey-Superman Returns, Moon, Horrible Bosses) and relies on the beat of his soundtrack to be the best at what he does. Baby is partially deaf due to an accident that occurred when he was a kid and killed his parents which left him with permanent tinnitus that he uses music to block out.
After a successful bank robbery with his crew, Griff (Jon Bernthal-Fury, Daredevil, The Accountant), Buddy (Jon Hamm-Mad Men, Friends with Kids, Million Dollar Arm), and his girlfriend, Darling (Eliza González-Sueña Conmigo, Almost Thirty, From Dusk till Dawn: The Series) Doc informs Baby that his debt will be paid off after one last job. Between jobs he meets a beautiful diner waitress named Debora (Lily James-Downton Abbey, Cinderella (2015), Pride + Prejudice + Zombies) and the two of them strike a friendship and a desire to leave the city with only the road, music, a car they can’t afford, and a plan they don’t have.
The next day Baby runs his next job which is an armored car robbery with his new heist crew, Bats (Jamie Foxx-Collateral, Django Unchained, The Amazing Spider-Man 2), No-Nose (Flea-Back to the Future: Parts II and III, My Own Private Idaho, The Big Lebowski), and JD (Lanny Joon-Takers, Black Gold, Lucky Bastard) with Mike Myers masks and his debt is finally paid off. However, one night after he takes Debora out for dinner Baby runs into Doc who needs him for another job which he agrees to do so he can keep Debora safe.
Now he must face the music when he is tasked with a heist that could threaten his life, love, and freedom.
Overall, Baby Driver is one of the best action films I’ve seen in a while and one that manages to blend its wild action sequences with a good sense of humor, strong characters, and smart writing to boot. A lot of people forget silly action movies can be smart and clever with the right amount of thought and care put into it and that’s what Baby Driver did, it gives the audience crazy car chases and stunts and still treats them with intelligence.
The action is well-choreographed and brilliantly shot and edited, there’s no shaky cams and the camera is focused on one car at a time and it feels like such an adrenaline rush. But with all the insanity that’s happening this movie surprisingly has a lot of heart and it never loses focus on its characters.
Ansel Elgort knocks it out of the park as Baby, he’s got style and badass stunts but at times will show off his softer and sillier sides of his personality. Almost like a deaf version of Ryan Gosling’s character in Drive.
Of course, the supporting cast is just as great, Kevin Spacey as a ruthless kingpin obviously that works and sometimes you don’t know that to make of his character. Jamie Foxx as the leader of the heist crew manages to be both threatening and funny at the same time and a huge improvement over his performance from Annie.
The plot is a typical heist story but the way it’s told is absolutely brilliant, a lot of heist movies come off as predictable if you’ve seen a lot of them before. Baby Driver was one of those heist movies where I had no idea where it was going and I was hooked until the credits, never bored and never making fun of it.
Now let’s talk about that soundtrack without giving away the songs that are used but whenever Baby is listening to his music it somehow relates or connects to what’s going on and they’re never added in just for popularity or marketing. There’s actually a purpose for the music here and it’s such a clever way to use music in film.
Baby Driver is a thrilling, humorous, and thoroughly fun experience and one of the best summer blockbusters of the year. Except this is one of those blockbusters not done in an obvious way and can be much more entertaining than a big budget Fast & Furious or Transformers movie.
TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT:
MICHAEL BAY GOES OUT WITH A BANG, BUT DO WE REALLY CARE!?!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: * ½ out of 4
PARAMOUNT PICTURES AND HASBRO
Optimus Prime is back in Transformers: The Last Knight
Ten years ago, director, Michael Bay (The Rock, Armageddon, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi) and executive producer, Steven Spielberg (Indiana Jonesfranchise, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park) brought the world of Transformers to the big-screen and was a massive hit and even won several critics over. The first Transformers movie released in 2007 was an ambitious film especially because of Michael Bay’s reputation as a director, but with Spielberg onboard as well as some dazzling special effects and thrilling action sequences he turned out a decent product, undeniably flawed but a fun dumb movie with some impressive effects and action; one of my favorite films from that summer.
I was down for a franchise after the spectacle of the first movie, sadly none of them were able to live up it. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen offended, Transformers: Dark of the Moon just existed, and Transformers: Age of Extinction kept the audience hostage for nearly three hours.
Now Michael Bay has given us his supposed final Transformers film, Transformers: The Last Knight, the fifth installment in the franchise and the second movie to star Mark Wahlberg (The Italian Job, Deepwater Horizon, Patriot’s Day) as inventor, Cade Yeager. You’d think with this being Bay’s final movie in the series he’d put more thought, effort, and care into it…he doesn’t.
Transformers: The Last Knight is a rusty rehash of the exact same things we’ve seen in the earlier films. Despite being shorter than the previous sequels, the film is clocked in for a two-and-a-half-hour runtime with a thin script stretched out and filled with overblown action sequences, poor character development, obnoxious and at times pointless side characters, an incredibly stupid plot even for Transformers standards, and really, REALLY bad humor.
After the events of Age of Extinction, Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) has left planet Earth and the Autobots in search for his creators on the remains of planet Cybertron. He confronts the creator of the entire Transformers race, a sorceress named Quintessa (voiced by Gemma Chan-Doctor Who, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) who corrupts Optimus Prime so he can do her bidding to bring Cybertron back by destroying Earth.
Meanwhile the rest of the Transformers remain outcasts on Earth and as more of them arrived the government formed the Transformers Reaction Force (TRF) to hunt and destroy them whether an Autobot or Decepticon. After a few kids sneak into a war-torn part of Chicago and stumble upon a crashed alien ship that was piloted by a Cybertronian Knight they get attacked by a TRF Walker and shortly saved by Cade Yeager and the Knight gives Cade a metallic talisman.
Yeager has been hiding out in a junkyard which serves as a sanctuary for many of the surviving Autobots including Bumblebee, Hound (voiced by John Goodman-Monsters Inc., 10 Cloverfield Lane, Kong: Skull Island), Drift (voiced by Ken Watanabe-Letters from Iwo Jima, Inception, Godzilla), Crosshairs (voiced by John DiMaggio-Futurama, Kim Possible, Batman: Under the Red Hood), and Wheelie (voiced by Tom Kenny-SpongeBob Squarepants, The Powerpuff Girls, Adventure Time), and while there he finds out one of the kids he saved named Izabella (Isabela Moner-100 Things to Do Before High School, Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, Legends of the Hidden Temple) followed him home because she has nowhere to go due to her family being killed by Decepticons during the Chicago battle and she wants to stay and fight them.
An astronomer and historian named Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins-The Silence of the Lambs, Thor, Hitchcock) calls in Cade and an English Literature Professor named Viviane Wembly (Laura Haddock-How Not to Live Your Life, Da Vinci’s Demons, Guardians of the Galaxy) to explain the history of the Transformers and the purpose of his talisman. Apparently, the Transformers have been around since medieval times and fought alongside King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable and have battled in many of the world’s wars.
Burton tasks Cade and Viviane to obtain a powerful staff to prevent an ancient machine from being activated and a collision between Earth and Cybertron that could result in the end of the world. It’s up to Cade, Viviane, Izabella, and the Autobots to find the staff, bring Optimus Prime back, and stop the Decepticons, led once again by Megatron (voiced by Frank Welker-Scooby-Doo, The Transformers, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns) before they obtain Cade’s talisman and destroy the planet.
The film also stars Josh Duhamel (All My Children, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton, Life as We Know It) as former N.E.S.T. commander and unwilling member of the TRF, William Lennox, John Turturro (Barton Fink, Mr. Deeds, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan) as former Sector 7 agent, Seymour Simmons, Santiago Cabrera (Heroes, Merlin, The Musketeers) as TRF commander, Santos, and comedian, Jerrod Carmichael (Neighbors,The Carmichael Show, The Disaster Artist) as Jimmy, and features the voices of Omar Sky (The Intouchables, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Jurassic World) as Hot Rod, Mark Ryan (The Bill, Charlie’s Angels, Black Sails) as Bulldog, Steve Buscemi (The Sopranos, Monsters Inc., Hotel Transylvania) as Daytrader, Jess Harnell (Animaniacs, The Emperor’s New Groove, Cars) as Barricade, Reno Wilson (Heist, Crank, Mike & Molly) as Sqweeks and Mohawk, and DiMaggio also provides the voice for Nitro Zeus.
Overall, Transformers: The Last Knight is just another lousy Transformers sequel and quite possibly the one I disliked the most. Yeah, I thought it was worse than Revenge of the Fallen despite this one being less of a pain to sit through, because the action sequences have gotten stale, the humor is really terrible this time around (Not once did I laugh), and the inclusion of the Mohawk Decepticon; without saying much imagine the Twins from Revenge of the Fallen combined together into one robot and evil (Every time he appeared onscreen I wanted him dead).
On a positive note, the climax doesn’t rehash the desert and city battle and despite looking like Transformers and Top Gun crapped out Avatar it’s actually kind of a fun sequence and a refreshing location change for a Transformers fight scene. Sadly, the movie doesn’t improve on its character development Wahlberg’s just doing his usual shtick, Haddock is just another Megan Fox/Rosie Huntington-Whiteley clone, Optimus Prime is barely in it, the side characters are forgettable, and the only standout character is Anthony Hopkins for reasons I dare not ruin here, also Michael Bay manages to make kids dumber in this movie.
This is it, the worst Transformers (and Michael Bay) movie I’ve ever seen and I really hope Bay sticks to his word on his departure from the franchise. Because he managed to “Transform” a huge 2007 action spectacle with a lot of potential into a complete joke and lazily rehashing the exact same stuff.
I’m sure kids and tweens will eat this movie up, buy the toys, and be thrilled by watching giant robots punching each other with fiery explosions in the background, and they’re such troopers. After you’ve watched the exact same thing for ten years now with little variety or new things put in, it’s time to throw it into the scrapyard.
RESIDENT EVIL: VENDETTA:
BRINGS THE HORROR ASPECT ON TOP OF INSANE ACTION SEQUENCES AND STAYS FAITHFUL TO ITS BELOVED SOURCE MATERIAL!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** out of 4
STAGE 6 FILMS AND CAPCOM
Chris Redfield is locked and loaded in Resident Evil: Vendetta
You wanted a faithful Resident Evilmovie? You got it with Resident Evil: Vendetta, the third CG animated film based on Capcom’s popular Resident Evil video games, the first two being 2008’s Resident Evil: Degeneration and 2012’s Resident Evil: Damnation. The movie completely scraps anything Milla Jovovich or Paul W.S. Anderson related and delivers a thrilling and dazzling film that is sure to put a smile on any fan’s face.
Set in between the events of Resident Evil 6 and Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, the film follows BSAA, Chris Redfield (voiced by Kevin Dorman) as he enlists the help of American government agent, Leon S. Kennedy (voiced by Matthew Mercer-Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos, Kill la Kill, Sailor Moon) and Professor Rebecca Chambers (voiced by Erin Cahill) to stop a death merchant named Glenn Arias (voiced by John DeMita) with a taste for vengeance and plots to spread a new deadly virus on New York City. After a tragic incident on his wedding day Arias seeks revenge by transforming everyone in New York into flesh-eating zombies and undead mutant experiments.
Chris, Leon, and Rebecca lock and load and blast their way through the zombies and other threats to stop Arias and find a cure for the virus. What follows is action overload with gunplay, gore, motorcycle stunts, and some encounters with horrific zombie experiments.
Overall, Resident Evil: Vendetta delivers everything fans want, over-the-top action sequences, familiar characters, terror, winks and references to the games, and some imaginative zombie designs as well as dazzling computer animation. The film’s animation was created by Sega’s Marza Animation Planet who will also be providing the animation for the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog movie, and it’s absolutely stunning and energetic especially during action scenes, had my eyes glued to the screen and couldn’t look away haven’t felt like this since Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children.
I really applauded this movie for not making up their own protagonist like what the live-action films did. They stuck with characters from the games and nothing more…Well, okay there are some characters made just for the movie but no Alice.
It pisses me off that this film only has a one-night theatrical run while the live-action movies were given wide releases. The original Resident Evil movies aren’t the worst adaptations of a video game but they’re action/sci-fi-driven movies by name only with characters from the game as side characters…Weak.
This on the other hand is a thrilling action extravaganza with some zombie scares thrown in that understands its source material and delivers what most video game movies don’t. It probably won’t sit well with mainstream movie-goers, if you have no idea what Resident Evil is like I wouldn’t recommend watching it on its own.
Resident Evil: Vendetta is the best Resident Evil movie I’ve ever seen, one of the best video game movies I’ve seen, and a film I’d buy on Blu-Ray when it comes out. It’s no masterpiece but a movie based on a video game turning out to be good is so rare today and I’d rather be watching this several more times than any of Milla Jovovich’s movies.
Hopefully this will lead to more CG films based on video games in the future and it shows that adapting a video game into film is possible with the right amount of thought, effort, and understanding of the material it’s based on. If you don’t understand it then you’re no less evil than the Umbrella Corporation.
A RARE CARS SEQUEL THAT DOESN’T GO OFF COURSE!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** out of 4
Lightning McQueen is back in Cars 3
Pixar Animation Studios has been known for creating some of the best animated films of all time through the eyes of both children and adults. However, they are also the studio responsible for one of the biggest movie cash grab franchises of all time, Cars which pretty much exists just to entertain little kids and boost some profits for both Pixar and Disney.
The first film released in 2006 was definitely a step backwards for the studio after the first all-human character Pixar film, The Incredibles was released two years prior. Cars wasn’t terrible or even bad but it wasn’t great either, mostly harmless kids flick with some colorful animation and a few likable characters.
The 2011 sequel, Cars 2 on the other hand marked Pixar’s first and so far only dud and while the film did well financially it was widely despised. A secret agent car movie with tow-truck, Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy-Blue Collar Comedy Tour, Delta Farce, Comedy Central Roast of Larry the Cable Guy) as the main character was insufferable and had a confusing environmental plot that left no impact.
So, after that travesty and two pointless Planes spin-off movies (Because Money!) Pixar gets back on the track with Cars 3, the third installment of the Cars series and their second film trilogy after Toy Story. Thankfully this film learned from what worked in Cars 2 and what didn’t and pushed Mater off to the side again and brought the focus back to racecar, Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson-Zoolander, Wedding Crashers, Night at the Museum trilogy) becoming the best again, much more tolerable than last time.
After being blindsided by a new generation of racecars and a fatal accident on the track Lightning McQueen is pushed out of racing and possibly forced into retirement. To get back in the game McQueen gets the help of an eager race technician named Cruz (voiced by Cristela Alonzo-Mind of Mencia, Cristela, The Angry Birds Movie) with her own plan to win and was heavily inspired by the Fabulous Hudson Hornet himself, Doc Hudson.
With Cruz’s skills and the support of his friends from Radiator Springs, Lightning McQueen will train long and hard to outrun his new rival, Jackson Storm (voiced by Armie Hammer-The Social Network, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Free Fire) and go down in history as a Piston Cup Racing legend.
The film also features the voices of Bonnie Hunt (Rain Man, Jumanji, The Bonnie Hunt Show) as Lightning’s girlfriend, Sally, Chris Cooper (Adaptation, The Muppets, August: Osage County) as Smokey, Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Castle, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2) as Sterling, Tony Shalhoub (Spy Kids, Monk, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) as Luigi, Pixar visual effects supervisor, Guido Quaroni as Guido, Kerry Washington (Bad Company, The Last King of Scotland, Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer) as Natalie Certain, Lea DeLaria (The First Wives Club, One Life to Live, Orange is the New Black) as Miss Fritter, Lloyd Sherr (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star VS the Forces of Evil) as Fillmore, Paul Dooley (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Insomnia, Sunshine Cleaning) as Sarge, Cheech Marin (Cheech & Chong Up in Smoke, The Lion King, The Book of Life) as Ramone, Jenifer Lewis (Beaches, The Preacher’s Wife, The Princess and the Frog) as Flo, Formula One racer, Lewis Hamilton as Hamilton, sportscaster, Bob Costas as Bob Cutlass, Bob Peterson (Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, Up) as Chick Hicks, Katherine Helmond (Soap, Who’s the Boss, Everybody Loves Raymond) as Lizzie, John Ratzenberger (Cheers, Toy Story, Monsters Inc.) as Mack, Michael Wallis as Sheriff, Tom and Ray Magliozzi as Dusty and Rusty, Isiah Whitlock Jr. (The Wire, Gotham, Chi-Raq) as River Scott, former NASCAR driver, Junior Johnson as Junior “Midnight” Moon, and Margo Martindale (Days of Thunder, The Rocketeer, Secretariat) as Louise “Barnstormer” Nash.
Overall, Cars 3 almost makes up for the taint of Cars 2 and despite existing only for the sole purpose of making money, the filmmakers and studio decided to put some thought and effort into it to at least make it serviceable for parents. The plot isn’t nearly as ludicrous as the second film, has a few decent jokes, and at times has some touching moments put in.
However, at times the film feels like a rehash of the first movie, think about it Lightning McQueen starts off as a superstar (Literally starting with his opening monologue from the first film), then he becomes an underdog again, and must work his way back to the top. Sounds familiar doesn’t it, well at least it makes more sense than throwing in secret agent cars and forced environmental messages.
Something that I praised about the movie was the inclusion of flashbacks and unused audio recordings from the late Paul Newman as Doc Hudson that was originally intended for the first movie. Sure, Doc doesn’t actually appear in the film but it’s a touching tribute to the actor and character.
This is what I’d like to consider the true follow-up to Cars, Cars 2 never happened folks and if this was the second movie I’d probably be satisfied. Definitely not one of Pixar’s best and not quite as good as the first film but you live and learn from your mistakes and can get out of a ditch with a solid follow-up, something I doubt Michael Bay will listen to when Transformers: The Last Knight comes out next week.
IT COMES AT NIGHT:
A CLEVER, CREEPY, AND UNFORGETTABLE NIGHT!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** ½ out of 4
Something creepy is coming in It Comes at Night
From director, Trey Edward Shults (Krisha) comes his second feature film as a director, the new horror film, It Comes at Night. This is another one of those atmospheric horror films where it’s what you don’t see that’s scary than what you do, so if you watched the trailer expecting constant jump-scares and gore you might be disappointed.
But with that said it allows more time to flesh out the film’s characters and be more creative and imaginative with its scares and give audiences a fresh throwback to classic horror and a strong story. The film succeeds and is another one of my favorite horror films in recent years, it’s no It Follows or The Witch but a smart, slow, and thrilling scary flick that kept me hooked from start to finish.
A terrifying and highly contagious disease is spreading across the world, a former teacher named Paul (Joel Edgerton-Star Wars: Episode II and III, The Gift, Midnight Special) lives in seclusion in his home with his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo-Selma, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Alien: Covenant), teenage son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.-A Sort of Homecoming, Dancer and the Dame, The Birth of a Nation), elderly father-in-law Bud, and their dog Stanley. Suddenly Bud gets infected by the disease and Paul and Travis carry him outside wearing protective gloves and masks, shoot him, and burn his body in a shallow grave causing Travis to suffer from nightmares about the disease and his grandfather.
Soon the tenuous domestic order Paul established with his wife and son are put to the test when a desperate family arrive and seeks refuge. Despite good intentions from both families, circumstances of paranoia and mistrust occur as the horrors outside get closer and closer and unleashing something monstrous within Paul as he learns that protecting the ones he loves come at the cost of his soul.
Overall, It Comes at Night is a satisfying throwback to classic horror, a creepy forest, a family you don’t know how to feel about, disturbing imagery, and production design and music that feels like you’ve gone back in time to watch a horror movie from the 80s. The movie isn’t a jump-scare filled gore-fest but more of a psychological thriller where you’re not sure what’s real and what’s not.
These aren’t typical horror movie character stereotypes but instead two families trying to survive under dark and catastrophic circumstances. There’s no real hero or villain in this movie just two families under the same roof surviving and you care about these characters.
A minor issue I had with the movie’s pacing is sometimes it feels like it’s trying to set up a big scare when really, it’s either a kid having a nightmare or one of the family members working on something. It doesn’t bother me or affect my opinion on the film but there are times in the movie where I think they could have added some more scares in there.
This film is destined to become a new horror classic and follow in the footsteps of The Witch, It Follows, The Conjuring. It’s got suspense, atmosphere, strong characters, low budget effects that look very impressive, and a frightening soundtrack that sends shivers down your spines.
This is my “Go To” horror movie of the summer, forget The Mummy just go see this instead.
THIS “MUMMY” SHOULD HAVE STAYED IN ITS TOMB!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: ** out of 4
Sofia Boutella is The Mummy
You know that scream Tom Cruise (Mission: Impossible franchise, Jack Reacher, Edge of Tomorrow) makes in the trailer for the latest reboot of The Mummy? Yeah, let that set the mood for the entire film, the second remake of classic 1932 Boris Karloff film of the same name the first being the 1999 film starring Brendan Fraser, and the first installment of Universal’s Dark Universe (Apparently, Dracula: Untold is not the first installment anymore!).
Tell me if this set-up sounds familiar several standalone movies all tied together with a big team movie. Well, Universal who pretty much invented the “Cinematic Universe” from the start with its classic monsters is now copying Marvel and bringing yet another obvious cash grab of a Universe.
The first film in the Dark Universe directed by Alex Kurtzman (Transformers 1 and 2, Star Trek, People Like Us) which will be followed by remakes of other Universal classic monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Creature from Black Lagoon, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is ambitious but an unfortunate mess. It’s not as bad as the third installment of the Brendan Fraser trilogy, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor but aside from a cool Mummy portrayed by Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Star Trek Beyond, Atomic Blonde) and a few action sequences that stand out, there is very little in this movie to recommend.
An ancient Egyptian princess named Ahmanet (Boutella) was first in line to succeed her father and become queen only to be replaced when his second wife gives birth to a son. Determined to claim the throne she sells her soul to the god Set, kills her entire family, and attempts to sacrifice her lover but she is captured, mummified, and buried alive for many years.
In the present day, the film follows a former U.S. Military officer named Nick Morton (Cruise) and his team, Jennifer “Jenny” Halsey (Annabelle Wallis-X-Men: First Class, Peaky Blinders, The Brothers Grimsby) and Sergeant Chris Vail (Jake Johnson-A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas, New Girl, Drinking Buddies) unintentionally discovering the tomb of Ahmanet in Iraq while on the run from armed insurgents. Nick and his team bring the sarcophagus aboard an airplane and in no time the plane gets attacked by a vicious wave of crows and crashes.
Nick wakes up and is greeted by Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe-Gladiator, 3:10 to Yuma, The Nice Guys), the head of Prodigium, a secret society dedicated to hunting supernatural threats and their base is located inside the National History Museum of London (Okay, I’ll admit that’s actually kind of clever), who informs him that he has been cursed by Ahmanet to become the key to her conquest of Earth which is supposedly why he survived the plane crash.
So, it’s up to Nick to put an end to Ahmanet’s wrath and save the world before she fulfills her destructive destiny.
The film also stars Courtney B. Vance (The Preacher’s Wife, Space Cowboys, Final Destination 5) as Colonel Greenway, Javier Botet (REC franchise, The Conjuring 2, Alien: Covenant) as Set, Marwan Kenzari (Wolf, Ben-Hur, The Promise) as Malik, Selva Rasalingam (Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Doctor Who,Risen) as King Menehptre, Rez Kempton (The Bill, The Mystic Masseur, Amar Akbar & Tony) as Foreman, and Chasty Ballesteros (The Newsroom, Think Like a Man Too, Constantine) as Kira Lee.
Overall, The Mummy is a chaotic effects-driven mess and a lousy film to kick off the Dark Universewhich is very unfortunate because a lot of talented people worked on it. The characters aren’t engaging at all, as soon as Tom Cruise’s character stabbed one of his teammates’ water container I knew I was going to be invested in him, sure Brendan Fraser was a jerk and smart-alecky in the 1999 trilogy but he was still a likable and charming character.
Really the only character I was invested in was Sofia Boutella as the Mummy and she’s the antagonist, whenever she’s onscreen it’s a lot of fun to watch and because of the unengaging protagonists she’s pretty much the best thing in the movie and you’re just waiting for her to wipe them out. Cruise isn’t very likable here, Crowe was pointless, everyone else is just there, and nobody makes an impression besides Boutella.
But with that said some of the action sequences can be fun, the plane crash in the beginning is exciting and there’s an awesome scene where Cruise and Wallis are running from a bunch of broken glass and debris in the museum when the Mummy is unleashed. Unfortunately, everything else is generic, CG-driven nonsense that we’ve seen a million times before in other movies.
Hopefully Universal’s Dark Universe will get better, it took DC a while to get it right with Wonder Woman so perhaps the same thing could happen here. Because as of right now this movie will just make you want to watch the original Boris Karloff film again instead so skip it and watch It Comes at Night this weekend.
CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE:
A POOP-JOKE FILLED NOSTALGIA TRIP THAT STAYS FAITHFUL TO ITS SOURCE MATERIAL!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** ½ out of 4
Captain Underpants ready to save the day in Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
Out of all the movies coming out this year one that I was very concerned about was Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie based on the beloved children’s books by Dav Pilkey. It’s not that I didn’t understand the appeal of these books, far from it I was a huge fan of the Captain Underpants books growing up but I was a little skeptical about whether or not they would translate well to film when I first heard a movie was in development.
Fortunately, DreamWorks Animation, who in my opinion haven’t made a great movie since Kung Fu Panda 3 (Yeah, I wasn’t a fan of Trolls or The Boss Baby, sorry folks) surpassed my expectations with a consistently faithful adaptation of the books that delivers everything a Captain Underpants purist would expect. Simple cartoonish animation, wacky pranks, poop jokes that surprisingly never overstay their welcome in this film, and 4th wall jokes and homages to the books and it ends up being one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen all year (And I’ve seen most of the superhero movie releases this year).
The film follows two elementary school boys named George Beard (voiced by Kevin Hart-Top Five, Central Intelligence, The Secret Life of Pets) and Harold Hutchins (voiced by Thomas Middleditch-Being Flynn, The Campaign, Silicon Valley) who are the best of friends and pretty much inseparable. They pull pranks together, make each other laugh, and more importantly write and sell their very own comic books featuring their greatest creation, Captain Underpants.
Unfortunately, their principal, Mr. Krupp (voiced by Ed Helms-The Office, The Hangover trilogy, The Lorax) isn’t their biggest fan and he gets fed up with their shenanigans to the point where he tries to place them in separate classes in hopes to annihilate their friendship. George and Harold take action and use the magical device known as the 3D Hypno Ring to hypnotize Mr. Krupp and transform him into the greatest superhero of all time (Well, at least in their world), The Amazing Captain Underpants.
So, with Mr. Krupp under their control George and Harold will never be separated as they can just snap their fingers and turn him into Captain Underpants whenever they want. This leads to hijinks, pranks, shenanigans, and chaos galore from punching mimes, fighting an inflatable gorilla, and a carnival style recess with sugar rushed kids.
Things get even more chaotic when a mad scientist named Professor Poopypants (voiced by Nick Kroll-Date Night, Kroll Show, Sing) goes undercover as the new science teacher at the school and plots to rid the world of laughter (For understandable reasons). It’s up to Captain Underpants, George, and Harold to stop him and save the day before everyone becomes dull, lifeless zombies like that annoying twerp, Melvin Sneedly (voiced unrecognizably by Jordan Peele-Key & Peele, Bob’s Burgers, Storks).
The film also features the voices of Kristen Schaal (Toy Story 3, Bob’s Burgers, Gravity Falls) as Edith the school’s shy lunch lady with a crush on Mr. Krupp, Dee Dee Rescher (The King of Queens, Malcolm in the Middle, Star VS the Forces of Evil) as Ms. Ribble, Brian Posehn (Pom Poko, Surf’s Up, The Big Bang Theory) as guidance counselor, Mr. Rected, Mel Rodriguez (George Lopez, Getting On, The Last Man on Earth) as science teacher, Mr. Fyde, Grey DeLisle (The Fairly OddParents, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, Avatar: The Last Airbender) as secretary, Ms. Anthrope, and Fred Tatasciore (TMNT, Ultimate Spider-Man,Power Rangers) as gym teacher, Mr. Meaner.
Overall, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is one of those movies that probably should have just been a cash grab for kids but it ends up being one of the funniest and most imaginative animated films in recent years. The animation is kept simple and resembles the character designs from Pilkey’s books but in my opinion the style of the animation and energy is just as appealing as Pixar or traditional DreamWorks CG, it’s fast, frantic, and the comedic timing is through the roof.
But what really sells it is the voice cast, I thought Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch did fine as the voices of George and Harold but at times their voices get a little distracting and might have worked better if they were voiced by kids but I understand getting celebrities in there. Who steals the show here is Ed Helms as Mr. Krupp/Captain Underpants, I was onboard for the movie as soon as he was announced and he did not disappoint, I’ve seen his humorously angry side many times before in The Office so casting him as mean old, Mr. Krupp was some of the best casting I’ve ever seen in a children’s book adaptation since Jim Carrey in The Grinch.
The humor is beyond juvenile but fits the tone of the story and I applaud the film for managing to make something as low-brow as poop and fart jokes funny because a lot of kids movies in the past have abused them to the point where they become tired and stale. Something about the cartoonish animation, tone, and timing make them go from funny to flat-out hilarious, if it was in the animation style of something like Toy Story or Shrek it wouldn’t have been nearly as funny so simple animation wins over cutting edge here.
Besides the crude humor the film brilliantly throws in 4th wall jokes and callbacks to the original books. George and Harold at times will freeze the scene and talk to the audience about what’s happening, transition to hand-drawn animation scenes, and there’s even a reference to the Flip O-Rama that’s flat out hilarious (It’s like the kids version of Deadpool, if Ryan Reynolds went bald and ran around in his underwear).
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is a silly but extremely faithful adaptation of Dav Pilkey’s books that will release the inner child in all of us. To be honest this film is just as entertaining as any comic book movie and this movie is about a superhero who fights bad guys in his underwear and has an evil genius named Poopypants, don’t judge a book by its cover.
GAL GADOT SAVES THE DC EXTENDED UNIVERSE AND FEMALE SUPERHERO MOVIES!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** ½ out of 4
WARNER BROS. PICTURES
Gal Gadot ready to fight as Wonder Woman
For the longest time, comic book movies with a female protagonist had a very rough start, pretty much rock bottom for the superhero film genre. There was the dreaded Supergirl movie from 1984 with Faye Dunaway as the titular character, 1995’s Tank Girl starring Lori Petty, Marvel’s 2005 disaster, Elektra with Jennifer Garner, and probably the most infamous of all the much despised 2004 Catwoman film that gave Academy Award winner, Halle Berry a terrible outfit and a Razzie.
But out of all the superhero franchises I was expecting to fix this long problem I was not expecting it to be the DC Extended Universe (Yeah, the franchise that had three miserable releases prior). Well after those three strikes DC has given us a homerun with Wonder Woman, the first live-action film adaptation of the character.
Gal Gadot (Fast & Furious 4-6, Date Night, Triple 9) reprises her role from last year’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice as Amazon warrior princess, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and Patty Jenkins (Monster, The Killing, Betrayal) directs and the two of them deliver so far the best installment of the DC Extended Universe and the best female superhero movie of all time (What Catwoman movie?). Yes, the movie has some Zack Snyder taint in there, understandable since he’s producing it, but his trademark use of slow-motion doesn’t overstay its welcome and there’s more of a variety of action and thrills to even it out (Maybe he should just stick to producing the rest of the Universe).
The film follows Diana, a princess in the Amazon who as a child dreamt of becoming a warrior to protect her people. However, her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen-Gladiator, One Hour Photo, Nymphomaniac) forbids it and tells her stories about how Ares (David Thewlis-Dragonheart, Harry Potterfranchise, The Theory of Everything), the god of war corrupted mankind and killed all the gods except Zeus, but she disobeys her and trains in secrecy with her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright-Forrest Gump, Nine Lives (No, not that one!), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) until she discovers her true powers.
As a young woman, Diana rescues a World War I pilot named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine-Star Trekfranchise, Unstoppable, Hell or High Water) being pursued by German soldiers who is revealed to be an Allied spy and has stolen weapons information from the Germans about a new deadlier form of mustard gas in development. Diana is certain that Ares is responsible for causing the war so she arms herself with a shield, sword, and the Lasso of Truth, becomes Wonder Woman, and goes with Steve to find him and end the war before it destroys mankind.
The film also stars Danny Huston (The Aviator, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Hitchcock) as ambitious German army General Erich Ludendorff, Elena Anaya (Van Helsing, Point Blank, The Skin I Live In) as mad scientist, Doctor Isabel Maru/Doctor Poison, Lucy Davis (The Office UK, Shaun of the Dead, All About Steve) as Steven’s comical but loyal secretary, Etta Candy, Said Taghmaoui (Three Kings, Hidalgo, The Kite Runner) as master of disguise, Sameer, Ewen Bremner (Trainspotting, Snatch, Snowpiercer) as heavy drinking sharpshooter, Charlie, and Eugene Brave Rock (Hell on Wheels) as opportunist, Chief.
Overall, Wonder Woman is a satisfying blast from start to finish and the best DC Extended Universe and female superhero movie ever. I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t the best film based on a DC Comics character since The Dark Knight (The Lego Batman Movie doesn’t count here!), the story is solid, the action is thrilling from beginning to end, there’s COLOR here yes DC acknowledges that it exists, and the acting and character development is spot on.
Gal Gadot owns the Wonder Woman character and she’s given much more to work with than being shoehorned into Batman v. Superman, which was already pretty busy in terms of plot. She kicks plenty of butt while showing an image of women empowerment and a curious personality and the chemistry she has with Chris Pine is undeniably charming.
The movie’s focus is mainly on Wonder Woman, pretty much where it should be but I really appreciate that the film takes time to make its side characters just as likable. Chris Pine isn’t a Mary Jane type character despite the roles (stereotypically) being reversed and he helps her just as much as she helps him, Lucy Davis is very funny as Etta, and Ewen Bremner is a joy to watch as Charlie probably because it’s basically his Trainspotting character in a World War I setting.
My only real issue with the film is the villain, without giving anything away I didn’t really find him that interesting and he comes off as a bland, cliché character out for power and destruction. But I’m really nitpicking here and it’s far from ruining the movie, it’s spectacular no matter what.
Wonder Woman is one of those superhero movies that I recommend to anyone, even if you’re not a fan of superhero movies there’s much more substance and engaging characters here than in any of the flashy MCUor other DCEU films. The story, acting, action sequences, characters, and writing are more than enough reasons to give it a watch, and I’m willing to go see it again, something I’d never say about Catwoman or Elektra, well played DC.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES:
ASIDE FROM A FEW THRILLS AND LAUGHS FROM JOHNNY DEPP, THIS FIFTH INSTALLMENT IS STUCK IN SHALLOW WATERS!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: ** out of 4
(From left to right) Geoffrey Rush, Kaya Scodelario, Johnny Depp, Brenton Thwaites, and Javier Bardem in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbeanfranchise has officially “Jumped the Zombie Shark” with the fifth installment, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Produced once again by Jerry Bruckheimer (Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, National Treasure) and directed by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg (Max Manus: Man of War, Kon-Tiki) with Johnny Depp (Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Alice in Wonderland) reprising his beloved role as drunken pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow, Dead Men Tell No Tales is thankfully nowhere near as long as the third installment, At World’s End or as forgettable as the last film, On Stranger Tides but sadly it’s not much of an improvement.
What happened to this franchise? You start off with a movie that probably shouldn’t have been very good to begin with, made a surprise hit with Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and gradually make its follow-ups worse, increase the run-time to near Lord of the Rings length, and add a lot of awkward moments. Don’t get me wrong there’s some fun action and some funny moments from Johnny Depp but none of the sequels were able to live up to the fun and magic of the first film, and this one’s no different.
The film follows Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites-Home and Away, Oculus, Maleficent), the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom-The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Black Hawk Down, The Hobbit 2 and 3) and Elizabeth Swan (Keira Knightley-Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Love Actually, The Imitation Game) on a quest to find Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) and set sail to locate a powerful artifact that could break his father’s curse and free him from the Flying Dutchman ship. Henry finds Jack and an astronomer named Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario-Skins, Clash of the Titans, Maze Runner 1 and 2) accused for witchcraft and they set off to the Devil’s Triangle to locate the Trident of Poseidon which grants its possessor total control over the seas.
Unfortunately, an old enemy from Jack’s past resurfaces, a powerful undead pirate hunter of the Spanish Navy known as Captain Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem-Before Night Falls, No Country for Old Men, Skyfall) who was trapped in the Devi’s Triangle seeks the Trident to wipe out all piracy and exact revenge on Jack. So, it’s a race at sea as Jack, Henry, and Carina are on the hunt by Salazar’s crew as well as Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush- Shine, Shakespeare in Love, The King’s Speech) on their journey to find the Trident and lift Will’s curse so he can return to his family.
The film also stars Kevin McNally (Johnny English, Valkyrie, Legend) as Jack’s First Mate, Joshamee Gibbs, Golshifteh Farahani (Body of Lies, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Rosewater) as sea-witch, Shansa, Stephen Graham (Snatch, Gangs of New York, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) as former Blackbeard crew member, Scrum, David Wenham (The Lord of the Rings trilogy, 300, Lion) as British Royal Navy officer, Scarfield, Martin Klebba (Van Helsing, Oz: The Great and Powerful, Jurassic World) as Marty, Angus Barnett (Finding Neverland, Hugo, Jack the Giant Slayer) as Mullroy, Adam Brown (ChuckleVision, The Hobbit trilogy, The Limehouse Golem) as Jib, Danny Kirrane (Walking on Sunshine, Critical, Doctor Throne) as Bollard, and former Beatle, Paul McCartney as Uncle Jack.
Overall, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is an example of a Pirates sequel that came out too little too late and fails to do much new with the series. Aside from a few implausible stunts, thrills, and laughs it’s pretty much a rehash of what we already saw in the earlier films, undead pirates, Jack swinging around on ropes, being attacked by Geoffrey Rush, and pirate crew members acting like idiots (Seen it four times prior!).
The plot goes from generic Pirates of the Caribbean storytelling to ridiculous and just plain silly. Apparently, there’s witchcraft, sparkling rock piles that replicate the stars in the sky, and Poseidon’s Trident in Pirates of the Caribbean now, when did this become Percy Jackson?
But with all that said it’s not nearly as drawn out as the third film and has its moments of fun action and once in a while Jack Sparrow will get a funny line. Javier Bardem shines as the villain, Salazar, he’s creepy but he balances it out with some humor and it looks like Bardem is having a lot of fun with his performance, not as engaging as his Skyfall performance but worth the price of admission.
Unfortunately, the action, Johnny Depp, and Javier Bardem aren’t enough to save Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales from its generic and ludicrous plot, lackluster character development, and just rehashing what people liked about the earlier films with very little variety. It’s not terrible but it isn’t very good either, if you have kids who love the franchise or if you yourself is a fan of all the movies you might enjoy it, everyone else however should abandon ship.
IT’S NO ALIEN OR ALIENS, BUT IT’S GOT PLENTY OF SPACE TERROR AND SOLID ACTING!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** out of 4
20TH CENTURY FOX
The Xenomorph is back in Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant
Director, Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Gladiator, The Martian) returns to the franchise that made him, Sigourney Weaver, and the term “Alien” household names with Alien: Covenant, the sixth installment of the classic Alien franchise and a follow-up to his 2012 prequel, Prometheus. After the much-disliked Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection, not to mention the Alien VS Predator movies, Ridley Scott manages to bring the franchise back on track with Prometheus and Alien: Covenant.
No, it’s not nearly as amazing or scary as the first two movies but in terms of summer popcorn entertainment Covenant was a solid addition to the series. The film dives deeper into the mythology and origins of the Alien creatures and covers events that followed Prometheus, the acting is solid, the characters are developed well for a horror film, and the Alien action and scares are very effective.
After the events of Prometheus, the film follows a crew aboard the colony ship, Covenant bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy in search for a place to call paradise. The crew consists of terraforming expert, Daniels “Dany” Branson (Katherine Waterston-Being Flynn, Steve Jobs, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), first mate, Christopher Oram (Billy Crudup-Princess Mononoke, Big Fish, Watchmen), chief pilot, Tennessee (Danny McBride-Pineapple Express, Tropic Thunder, This is the End), head of security, Sergeant Lope (Demián Bichir-A Better Life, Savages, The Hateful Eight), biologist, Karine Oram (Carmen Ejogo-Away We Go, Selma, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Tennessee’s wife and lander pilot, Maggie Faris (Amy Seimetz-The Killing, You’re Next, Lucky Them), medic, Upworth (Callie Hernandez-Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Blair Witch, La La Land), her husband, Ricks (Jussie Smollett-On Our Own, Ask Me Anything, Empire), Lope’s husband and member of his second unit, Sergeant Hallett (Nathaniel Dean-Always Greener, Farscape: The Peacekeeper, Wild Boys), security unit member, Leonard (Benjamin Rigby-Neighbours, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Lion), and Walter (Michael Fassbender-X-Men franchise, 12 Years a Slave, Steve Jobs), an updated android build in the image of David 8 of Prometheus.
However, what the crew think is a possible contender for paradise turns out to be a dark, dangerous world inhabited by the horrific Aliens. Crew members get infected by mysterious dust that transforms into new Alien species, attacked by Facehuggers, Alien babies bursting out of their chests (John Hurt style), and a confrontation with the Alien in their attempts to discover dark secrets behind the Alien species and most important of all, escape from the planet alive.
Overall, Alien: Covenant is a chilling and entertaining addition to the Alien franchise, even if it isn’t as terrifying or well-made as the first two films. The movie ignores the sins of the past and brings the franchise back to its sci-fi/horror roots as well as make more connections to the first movie since Prometheus left so many questions unanswered.
The film has much more of a connection to Alien than Prometheus for one reason, it actually has the Alien and is filled with more references to the other films. While I thought, Prometheus was a decent film a lot of the Alien details and references were put in the background and it felt like it was trying harder to be a standalone movie with traces of Alien movie DNA.
The acting is surprisingly pretty strong for a horror movie, Michael Fassbender reprises his role from Prometheus as David 8 as well as the updated Walter and he really knocks it out of the park with portraying them both at the same time, the best way I can describe it is if both sides of his Magneto performance took human forms. Katherine Waterston’s no Sigourney Weaver or Noomi Rapace but she makes a decent female lead that can kick some intergalactic ass, and all throughout the movie I was rooting for her to survive, I really appreciate the acting and writing in this film for making me care about the humans, not everyone is there just to die and you get emotionally attached to plenty of them.
If you’re a fan of the Alien franchise (or at least the first two) you’ll have a great time with Alien: Covenant. It answers more questions about the origins than Prometheus while still delivering plenty of space action and terror to make you scream, especially if you watch it on a Large Screen or Motion Seat format, I saw it in the Regal 4DX format and it blew me away, this is one of those movies that really exploits the format and makes you feel like you’re really there.
Don’t expect an Alien or Aliens but a satisfying addition to the franchise that delivers the space scares. Just remember “In space, no one can hear you scream”.
KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD:
THERE AIN’T NO LEGEND OR KING HERE!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: * out of 4
WARNER BROS. PICTURES
Charlie Hunnam takes sword in hand in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
READER ADVISORY: The following review contains some risqué humor and language
Director, Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, Sherlock Holmes) tackles the famous Knights of the Roundtable story of King Arthur, the man who successfully removed the sword in the stone and became a legend in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. A unique failure and an unfortunate misfire for Ritchie as a director, There, Review’s Over!
Nah, I wouldn’t do that to you but WOW is this movie bad? The movie takes this classic story that’s very interesting and thrilling and reduces it down to the most generic and laughably bad fantasy film you could find (Seriously, does a fantasy movie have to be J.R.R. Tolkien to be good these days?).
This movie is far from being a king but I can definitely name it the Dungeons & Dragons of the 2010s. With a ludicrous plot that doesn’t make sense, poorly written characters with even worse performances by most of the cast, a chaotic overuse of CGI, and some of the worst pacing and editing I’ve ever seen in a movie…and yet it’s a delightful turd of unintentional laughter.
The film stars Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy, Pacific Rim, The Lost City of Z) as King Arthur on his journey from the streets of Londinium to claiming the throne. After his father was murdered when he was still a child, his scheming uncle Vortigern (Jude Law-The Talented Mr. Ripley, Cold Mountain, Sherlock Holmes) seizes the crown and robs Arthur of his birthright without him knowing.
Because of that Arthur grows up in the back alleys of London as an ordinary man but once he pulls the sword out of the stone his life changes forever and must find his true destiny with the help of an enigmatic woman named The Mage (Astrid Berges-Frisbey-Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, I Origins, Alaska). Arthur must learn to master Excalibur, fight his traumatic past, and unite the people to battle his uncle and claim his place as king.
The film also stars Djimon Hounsou (How to Train Your Dragon 2, Guardians of the Galaxy, Furious 7) as Sir Bedivere, Aidan Gillen (The Dark Knight Rises, Maze Runner 2 and 3, Sing Street) as Goosefat Bill Wilson, Eric Bana (Hulk, Troy, Star Trek) as Uther Pendragon, Tom Wu (Shanghai Knights, Batman Begins, Skyfall) as George, Freddie Fox (The Riot Club, Pride, Victor Frankenstein) as Rubio, Mikael Persbrant (The Hobbit 2 and 3) as Kjartan, Lorraine Bruce (Dark Corners, Eden Lake, The Scouting Book for Boys) as Syrena, Hermione Corfield (Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation, Mr. Holmes, XXX: Return of Xander Cage) as Syren, Annabelle Wallis (The Tudors, Pan Am, X-Men: First Class) as Maid Maggie, Katie McGrath (Merlin, Jurassic World, Supergirl) as Elsa (No, not the one from Frozen!), model, Poppy Delevingne as Igraine, Kingsley Ben-Adir (Vera, Midsomer Murders, Trespass Against Us) as Wetstick, Neil Maskell (Basic Instinct 2, Atonement, Utopia) as Backlack, Millie Brady (Legend, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, The Last Kingdom) as Princess Catia, footballer, David Beckham as Trigger, and Michael McElhatton (Zen, Game of Thrones, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag) as Jack’s Eye.
Overall, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is one of those special kinds of bad movies that you watch with your friends, have a few drinks, smoke a little weed, and laugh your ass off at how terrible it is. I cannot see anyone possibly defending this as a good movie but I can perfectly understand enjoying it because of how bad it is, at least that’s what I got out of it.
The story is ridiculous and hard to follow, the characters are developed poorly, and most of the performances are awful but the saving grace of entertaining failure is Jude Law in one of the most spectacular failed performances I’ve seen in a while. I love Jude Law as an actor but here his performance comes off as pure lunacy and it’s funny to watch him go so over-the-top and not try to the point where he becomes the highlight of the entire film, imagine Jeremy Irons from Dungeons & Dragons with a splash of Eddie Redmayne madness from Jupiter Ascending.
Besides hilarious overacting the film also delivers some hilarious underacting with Astrid Berges-Frisbey’s performance as The Mage. Nothing against the actress though I haven’t seen in her in that many films aside from Pirates of the Caribbean, her performance as The Mage is so half-ass and the accent she gives the character makes me burst into laughter every time she speaks, give her a Razzie because she’s like Tommy Wiseau with a Snatch *Obligatory Guy Ritchie Joke!*.
The editing of this film is beyond terrible and some of the worst I’ve ever seen, constant jump cuts that feel very unnecessary and it looks more like you’re watching a compilation of trailers for the movie rather than the movie itself. It’s terribly stitched together and really needed a better crew, not to mention the timing of the opening credits is incredibly bad and I laughed the moment the title showed up…I’ll just leave it at that.
Seriously what happened to this movie? A lot of talented people behind it and it somehow bombed big time. This actually could have been a much more fun movie if it wasn’t called King Arthur, Hell, the Jerry Bruckheimer produced movie was a more faithful telling of the King Arthur story, EVEN SONIC & THE BLACK KNIGHT DID A BETTER JOB WITH THE STORY, YES, I WENT THERE!
If you’re looking for a so bad it’s good movie to watch with your pals one night, give King Arthur: Legend of the Sword a watch, you shouldn’t be disappointed. However if you’re not one of those people who like to make fun of movies and try to take films seriously, don’t even try, go see Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2or The Lost City of Z instead, at least you’re promised a movie.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: VOL. 2:
A (SLIGHT) STEP BACKWARDS FROM ITS PREDECESSOR BUT IT’S STILL A FUN, SATISFYING SEQUEL NONETHELESS!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** ½ out of 4
(From left to right) Drax, Gamora, Star-Lord, Baby Groot, Mantis, Nebula, Yondu, and Rocket in Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2
Everyone’s favorite space adventurers from Marvel Comics are back for a second dose of campy fun in the anticipated sequel to the 2014 surprise hit, Guardians of the Galaxy. I’ve already gushed over how much I loved the first movie so I won’t go into much detail about it aside from “Second Favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie After Avengers!”.
So, I was hyped to see the sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 with James Gunn (Scooby-Doo 1 and 2, Slither, James Gunn’s PG Porn) returning as director and Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation, The Lego Movie, Jurassic World), Zoe Saldana (Star Trek, Avatar, The Book of Life), Dave Bautista (Riddick, Spectre, Blade Runner 2049), Bradley Cooper (The Hangover trilogy, Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle), Vin Diesel (The Iron Giant, Fast & Furious franchise, XXX), Michael Rooker (JFK, The Walking Dead, Super), Sean Gunn (Angel, Gilmore Girls, Pearl Harbor), and Karen Gillan (Doctor Who, Oculus, The Big Short) reprising their roles. It would be hard to top the originality and brilliantly crafted wit of the first movie, then again not all comic book movie sequels need to be Spider-Man 2, The Dark Knight, or Captain America: Civil War to be good.
I would say out of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe sequels that weren’t as good as its predecessors like Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, and Avengers: Age of Ultron, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 is the best one so far. Is it as fresh and funny as the first one? No, Is the pacing a little off at times? Sure, Does the story rehash the same familiar Marvel movie plot? Often, but the humor and imagination is still present and the likable characters and great writing are charming and funny enough to look past any flaws.
After the events of the first movie we find Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Pratt), Gamora (Saldana), Drax (Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (Cooper), and Baby Groot (Diesel) officially labeled as the Guardians of the Galaxy and together they go on their own missions to save the universe. One day after an encounter with the Ravagers led by Yondu (Rooker), the Guardians encounter a strange looking man who claims to be Peter’s father named Ego (Kurt Russell-Death Proof, Fast & Furious 7 and 8, The Hateful Eight) and informs him about a goal to preserve the universe by using their powers (The same powers that allowed Star-Lord to hold the Infinity Stone without dying).
Meanwhile a race of gold skinned Sovereign beings are on the hunt for the Guardians after Rocket steals some of their valuable and powerful batteries and the other Guardians realize that maybe Ego isn’t quite the person they thought he was. So, it’s up to the Guardians of the Galaxy with new members, Mantis (Pom Klementieff-Delicacy, Oldboy, Ingrid Goes West) and the unexpected recruitment of Gamora’s sister and arch nemesis, Nebula (Gillan) and Yondu to save the universe before a powerful entity destroys everything faster than you can say “I Am Groot”.
The film also stars Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Everest) as Ayesha, Sean Gunn reprising his role from the first film as Kraglin, Chris Sullivan (The Drop, The Knick, Morgan) as Taserface (Brilliant name!), and Sylvester Stallone (Rocky franchise, Rambo franchise, The Expendables trilogy) as Staker Ogord.
Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 is a satisfying sequel to a great comic book/sci-fi adventure movie. It’s not as refreshing the second time around because I knew what to expect when I walked into this movie, it’s hard for a sequel to add new takes on what made the original so enjoyable.
Guardians of the Galaxy had a pretty simple story but the space action, humor, and characters were pretty much the highlights of the entire movie. However, there was definitely more story in Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2, we find out more about Star-Lord’s dad as well as Nebula’s backstory and why she became evil, I’m only scratching the surface, all the characters feel more realistic here than in the first movie.
But more story doesn’t stop the movie from having fun, the action is still great, the majority of the humor hits bullseye, most of it coming from Drax, and the characters are still a lot of fun to watch. Not to mention the film’s climax is better and uses Cheap Trick better than anything in Pixels (If you’ve seen the movie you know what I’m talking about).
One of the best Marvel Cinematic Universe movies of all time? No, but if you enjoyed the first Guardians of the Galaxy or the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe you’ll probably enjoy Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2. It may not be as thrilling or clever as the first one but for something as fun as this, it really doesn’t matter.
I AM GROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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