A FUN BUT AWKWARDLY EXECUTED INSTALLMENT OF THE DC EXTENDED UNIVERSE THAT DOESN’T QUITE DO THE FRANCHISE “JUSTICE”!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: ** ½ out of 4
WARNER BROS. PICTURES
(From left to right) The Flash, Superman, Cyborg, Wonder Woman, Batman, and Aquaman in DC’s Justice League
After a series of blunders and the unexpected critical success of Wonder Woman earlier on this year, we finally reach the movie the DC Extended Universe was building up to, Justice League. Marvel has already proved that superhero team-ups can be done well with their Avengers movies so it makes sense for DC to try and do the same since they own some of the most beloved and iconic superhero characters of all time.
Now I really, REALLY wanted to give this movie a chance because I love most of these characters. I may not have read all their comics but through other movies, cartoons, and even live-action TV shows every member of the Justice League have their own special places in my heart.
Wonder Woman gave me a glimmer of hope that the DC Extended Universe was starting to get on the right track and I was open to see the Justice League movie despite Cyborg, Aquaman, and Flash movies not yet existing. Unfortunately, director, Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead (2004), 300, Watchmen) didn’t take notes while watching Wonder Woman and we have yet another disjointed and awkward installment of the franchise.
I understand Snyder was having rough times with this film due to family issues that interfered and hopefully this doesn’t stop him from making movies. Fortunately, this movie is better than most of the other DCfilms in the franchise, has a much lighter tone compared to Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, and there are attempts at being silly and funny which makes sense because they brought in Avengersdirector, Joss Whedon to finish the movie while Snyder was out (What a friend?) but because they both have different directing styles it feels cluttered in its execution.
After the “Death of Superman” we find Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck-The Town, Argo, Gone Girl) enlisting the help of his new friend and ally, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot-Fast & Furiousfranchise, Date Night, Triple 9) to face an even greater enemy. An alien military officer known as Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds-Excalibur, Road to Perdition, There Will Be Blood) has been unleashed and plots to conquer and rebuild the world with the combined powers of the Mother Boxes (Think of them as 3 Tesseracts or Allsparks) for his lord and master, Darkseid.
Bruce and Diana recruit a team of heroes consisting of Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller-Royal Pains, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa-Baywatch: Hawaii, Game of Thrones, Wolves), and Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher-The Astronaut Wives Club) to combat Steppenwolf’s wrath, however they might need to resurrect their fallen hero, Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill-The Tudors, Stardust, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) to even stand a chance in this battle (PS that’s not a spoiler because they already ruined it in the marketing and in Batman v. Superman).
The film also stars Amy Adams (Enchanted, The Fighter, American Hustle) as Lois Lane, Jeremy Irons (The Lion King, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Margin Call) as Alfred Pennywise, Diane Lane (Chaplin, Inside Out, Trumbo) as Martha Kent, Connie Nielsen (Rushmore, Gladiator, The Good Wife) as Hippolyta, and J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man trilogy, Whiplash, Zootopia) as Commissioner James Gordon.
Overall, Justice League is a mixed-bag of a superhero movie, while it has plenty of good things in it like the cast, a good chunk of the humor, much more color compared to Snyder’s other work, and plenty of chaotic action, the pacing and different directing styles of Snyder and Whedon really make the film go downhill. Don’t worry this isn’t even close to being one of the worst comic book films of all time, trust me this is Christopher Nolan Dark Knight compared to Batman & Robin or Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.
However as much as I enjoyed a good chunk of this film there was a lot that left me disappointed. For starters, the character development sucks hard with the exceptions of Batman and Wonder Woman because they already had a movie that established their characters (or in Wonder Woman’s case two) and since we haven’t seen a Flash, Aquaman, or Cyborg movie yet, that leaves two hurdles the film needs to jump over, establish the new characters so the audience can grow attached to them and give all the heroes screen-time, and because of the awkward set-up of the DC Extended Universe and mediocre directing, I don’t think Justice League does that very well.
Also, the villain is extremely forgettable which adds more to the problems with the DC Extended Universe timeline, Steppenwolf has never appeared in an earlier DC film and it feels like he just got shoehorned into the movie with very little explanation outside of a backstory told by Wonder Woman at the beginning of the film. The villain in the first Avengers movie was Loki who was already established in the Marvel franchise and unlike DC’s franchise they gave the characters and worlds time to develop before their big team-up film, I’ll remember Loki far more than Steppenwolf, Hell, I’ll go on record and say I’ll probably forget about Steppenwolf in a few days he left so little impact, never thought I’d say this but Jesse Eisenberg Lex Luthor actually would have been an improvement here because at least he was already established in the universe.
Do I regret seeing it? No, I’m glad I saw it, Justice League isn’t a terrible movie or even that bad of a movie but there is something about it that gets on my nerves. This was supposed to be DC’s big Avengers-like team-up movie which should have been amazing and if you can’t get it right the first time and the finished product comes off as “Meh!” then clearly something is wrong.
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS:
NOT KENNETH BRANAGH’S STRONGEST BUT A SOLID REMAKE AND MYSTERY FILM OVERFLOWING WITH TALENT!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** out of 4
20TH CENTURY FOX
Everyone is a suspect in the Murder on the Orient Express
Do not be fooled by the trailers, this is not a film adaptation of the board game, Clue…we already had that back in the 80s. Anyway, directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh (Thor, Cinderella (2015), Dunkirk) comes a remake of the 1974 classic mystery film, Murder on the Orient Express based on the novel of the same name by Agatha Christie.
I’m not familiar with the original book but I have seen the 1974 film adaptation before that starred Albert Finney and was directed by Sidney Lumet. It was considered a classic by many, both a financial and critical success, and even nabbed six Oscar nominations with Ingrid Bergman winning for Best Supporting Actress.
We’re all familiar with the traditional reaction that occurs every time a beloved film gets a remake, I’M LOOKING AT YOU HAUNTING 1999! However once in a while a remake will come along that ends up being decent in its own way and sometimes even better than the original like the Coen Brothers’ True Grit, so where does Murder on the Orient Express fit in? Eh.
This movie probably didn’t need to exist and doesn’t come close to topping the original or even being as good as it. But like the 1974 film it has a star-studded cast, gorgeous production design, and a mystery that keeps you on your toes which results in a perfectly serviceable remake.
The film follows Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot (Branagh) boarding the Orient Express train for a vacation from his detective work. He makes the acquaintance of twelve other strangers on the train and it starts off as a relaxing ride.
That is until one of the passengers in murdered and the train gets stuck in an avalanche thus delaying their arrival. Upon realizing a passenger was killed in the middle of the night Hercule must find out who the suspect is before that person strikes again, however he’s trapped on a train with twelve other people it could be anyone and he might discover a dark truth behind the murder.
The film also stars Tom Bateman (Da Vinci’s Demons, Jekyll and Hyde, Snatched) as Bouc, Penélope Cruz (Volver, Vicky Christina Barcelona, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) as Pilar Estravados, Willem Dafoe (Platoon, Spider-Man, John Wick) as Gerhard, Judi Dench (James Bond franchise, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Philomena) as Princess Dragomiroff, Johnny Depp (Edward Scissorhands, Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) as Samuel Ratchett, Josh Gad (Frozen, Beauty and the Beast (2017), Marshall) as Hector MacQueen, Derek Jacobi (Gosford Park, The King’s Speech, Cinderella (2015)) as Edward Henry Masterman, Leslie Odom Jr. (CSI: Miami, Big Day, Red Tails) as Dr. Arbuthnot, Michelle Pfeiffer (The Witches of Eastwick, Batman Returns, Mother!) as Caroline Hubbard, Daisy Ridley (Scrawl, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Only Yesterday) as Mary Debenham, Marwan Kenzari (Collide, Ben-Hur (2016), The Mummy (2017)) as Pierre Michel, Olivia Colman (Peep Show, Hot Fuzz, The Lobster) as Hildegarde Schmidt, Lucy Boynton (Miss Potter, Sing Street, Gypsy) as Countess Elena Andrenyi, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (One for the Road, From Dusk till Dawn: The Series, The Magnificent Seven (2016)) as Biniamino Marquez, dancer, Sergei Polunin as Count Rudolph Andrenyi, and Miranda Raison (Doctor Who, Plus One, My Week with Marilyn) as Sonia Armstrong.
Overall, Murder on the Orient Express is a decently made remake even if it doesn’t quite capture the chills of the original or add much new to the story. If you’ve seen the 1974 film then you know exactly how it’s going to end and what’s going to happen which is both a strength and a huge flaw of the movie, it’s great if you’ve never seen the original and hopefully you’ll be shocked but outside of the production design (which is absolutely beautiful) and some of the performances this one doesn’t amount to much for people who are already familiar with the source material.
It’s a Kenneth Branagh production after all so of course the cinematography and production design would be epic and gorgeous to look at. And damn does this guy know how to shoot winter? He manages to make the season both beautiful and creepy at the same time and I’m shocked this movie wasn’t released in IMAX because a film like this should be on a bigger screen.
Besides the cinematography most of the performances by the film’s star-studded cast are spot on despite many of them being supporting roles especially Branagh, Depp, Pfeiffer, and Dench, they own every scene in the movie whenever they’re on-screen. It’s hard to say whether or not Kenneth Branagh surpassed Albert Finney in the role of Hercule but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t as good.
If you’re looking for a movie that has a sense of mystery and suspense as well as impressive production design and a star-studded cast this might be worth a viewing in the cinema. However, if you’re expecting a remake of the original that expands on the source material and gives a fresh new take on the story then this might be a train to miss.
THIS NEON-LIT COSMIC ADVENTURE SHOWS THOR AT HIS MIGHTIEST!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** ½ out of 4
(From left to right) Heimdall, Valkyrie, Hela, Thor, the Hulk, Loki, Grandmaster, and Odin in Thor: Ragnarok
I’m convinced Marvel can take the campy space adventure tone that made Guardians of the Galaxy an unexpected hit and make it work with all their heroes. That’s where Thor: Ragnarok comes in, the third film starring Chris Hemsworth (Star Trek, The Cabin in the Woods, Rush) as the mighty God of Thunder, Thor, seventeenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the first Thor movie to not feature Natalie Portman, Stellen Skarsgård, and Kat Dennings.
In the director’s chair this time is Taika Waititi (Boy, What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) who manages to take a world originally brought to life massively by Kenneth Branagh in the first film and adds a sci-fi space adventure tone to it resulting in quite possibly the best Thor movie ever…and also the best Hulk movie we’ve had so far. Who would have thought a director of mostly independent films could outshine Kenneth Branagh and Alan Taylor with the world of the Gods?
After the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor (Hemsworth) has been imprisoned on the other side of the universe and his mighty hammer was destroyed by the ruthless Hela (Cate Blanchett-The Lord of the Ringstrilogy, The Aviator, Cinderella (2015)) out for vengeance on the realm of Asgard. Thor must race against time to get back to Asgard before Hela unleashes Ragnarok, the destruction of his home world and end of Asgardian civilization.
Along the way he ends up in a gladiatorial battle and is pitted against his old Avenger friend, Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo-13 Going on 30, Zodiac, Spotlight) and encounters the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum-The Fly, Jurassic Park, Independence Day), one of the Elders of the Universe who rules the planet Sakaar where Thor battles the Hulk, and forms yet another partnership with his adopted brother and nemesis, Loki (Tom Hiddleston-War Horse, Crimson Peak, Kong: Skull Island) in hopes to save his home from Hela’s wrath.
The film also stars Tessa Thompson (Veronica Mars, Creed, Westworld) as Valkyrie, Karl Urban (The Chronicles of Riddick, Star Trek, Dredd) as Skurge, Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs, Hitchcock, Transformers: The Last Knight) as Odin, Idris Elba (Prometheus, Pacific Rim, The Jungle Book (2016)) as Heimdall, Tadanobu Asano (Parasyte, Harmonium, Silence) as Hogun, Ray Stevenson (Punisher: War Zone, The Book of Eli, The Divergent Series) as Volstagg, and Zachary Levi (Chuck, Tangled, Tangled: The Series) as Fandral, Rachel House (Boy, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Moana) as Topaz, and Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, The Hobbit trilogy, The Imitation Game) as Doctor Strange.
Overall, Thor: Ragnarok is a rare time where the third installment of a trilogy ends up being the best, much like last year’s Captain America: Civil War. It’s a refreshing change of pace and tone with the 80s-metal cover art design/sci-fi campy space tone mixed with Norse mythology and it surprisingly works really well, in fact I’m shocked there wasn’t a single Guardians of the Galaxy reference thrown in there because if there was any movie to perfectly connect them into the Infinity War, it would have been this film.
The action is exhilarating and in your face even when you’re not watching on IMAX or 3D and the way it’s balanced with humor is what I consider near perfection. I’m talking as fun as the Guardians of the Galaxymovies and easily the best treatment of Thor I’ve seen in terms of film.
Chris Hemsworth despite being Natalie Portman-less in this film still keeps the charm going as Thor, Tom Hiddleston still makes the bad girls scream in the theater as Loki, and this movie has quite possibly given me the best Jeff Goldblum performance I’ve ever seen. Cate Blanchett dominates as Hela and not only does she want to destroy Asgard but she steals every minute whenever she’s on-screen and it’s clear Blanchett was having the time of her life as the character, one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s best villains.
I also appreciate how the movie doesn’t take itself that seriously, it feels very self-aware of how ridiculous and over-the-top it is, the jokes range from goofy to legitimately funny, and the production design is so colorful and neon it really gives Guardians of the Galaxy a run for their money, not every superhero movie needs to be like The Dark Knight, you don’t need to be edgy and dark, sometimes you can make something corny and fun and make it work just as much.
This could quite possibly fit in my Top 10 Marvel Movies, maybe even Top 5, Thor: Ragnarok is a blast of high-octane space fun with no “I Am Groots” required. Forget Thor: The Dark World, Ragnarok is the true Thor sequel and it’d be very “shocking” if it ends up flopping financially.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE:
AN INTENSE BUT THOUGHT-PROVOKING LOOK AT THE HORRIFYING EMOTIONAL IMPACTS OF SOLDIERS AT WAR!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** out of 4
Miles Teller in Thank You for Your Service
I find it humorous that last week I reviewed Only the Brave, a drama starring Miles Teller (The Spectacular Now, Whiplash, Only the Brave) only to immediately follow it up with another one. Seriously was that intentional to release the war-drama, Thank You for Your Service one week after Teller’s firefighter drama, Only the Brave?
American Sniper writer, Jason Hall makes his directorial debut with the film, Thank You for Your Servicebased on the non-fiction book of the same name by David Finkel, and inspired by the true story of U.S. soldiers trying to adjust to civilian life after returning from Iraq. It’s always refreshing to watch a war-themed movie and not have the actual war be the main focus, this is not your Spielberg-ified Saving Private Ryan or overblown Michael Bay 13 Hours, this is a well-intended film that honors those whose lives were lost at war and analyzes the horrific emotional impacts the war may have on a soldier after returning to his/her everyday life.
So, seeing how I was pretty much blown away by Only the Brave last week I figured it would make sense to watch another Miles Teller drama afterwards. That and the reviews for Jigsaw and Suburbicon ranged from mixed to negative but I might give you guys a Jigsaw review later on.
Anyway, Thank You for Your Service is a very solid film, I don’t think it’s quite as good as Only the Brave but nevertheless it delivers the intensity and emotion that the impacts of war have on people. Add a talented cast with solid chemistry, a thought-provoking script, and even a sense of mystery and horror and you got quite an experience in the war-drama genre.
The film follows a group of U.S. soldiers, Staff Sergeant Adam Schumann (Teller), Specialist Tausolo “Solo” Aieti (Beulah Koale-Shortland Street, One Thousand Ropes, Hawaii Five-0), Will Waller (Joe Cole-Peaky Blinders, Green Room, Secret in Their Eyes), and Michael Adam Emory (Scott Haze-Midnight Special,Between Us, Only the Brave) returning from war in Iraq who struggle to integrate back to their families and civilian lives. One of them has a wife and two children to look after, another is looking for employment and benefits, one is suffering from PTSD, and one is looking for his wife and daughter who supposedly ditched him when he went into service but living with the memory of the war threatens to destroy them long after they’ve left the battlefield.
The film also stars Haley Bennett (The Equalizer, The Magnificent Seven (2016), The Girl on the Train) as Adam’s wife, Saskia Schumann, Amy Schumer (Inside Amy Schumer, Trainwreck, Snatched) as Amanda Doster, Brad Beyer (Third Watch, Jericho, 42) as Sergeant First Class James Doster, Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones) as Alea, Omar Dorsey (The Blind Side, Django Unchained, Selma) as Dante, and Kate Lyn Sheil (You’re Next, House of Cards, Brigsby Bear) as Bell.
Overall, Thank You for Your Service is a well-intended tribute to the real-life people who went to fight in Iraq and a rare instance where the intensity of the movie isn’t even during the war but rather the aftermath and how soldiers adjust to coming back to society after all this violence. It’s quite fascinating and an interesting depiction of people traumatized by war flashbacks and the lead actors really sell it.
Miles Teller keeps knocking it out of the park with his acting to the point where I pretty much forgot he was involved in the awkward and dull Fantastic Four reboot. Every time he’s on-screen he just owns the moment and he’s not made out to be some kind of hero, they allow him to make mistakes and have flaws which makes him more identifiable and relatable as a character, it’s no Whiplash but his performance works very well.
But who really surprised me was Beulah Koale as Solo, every time he experiences a war flashback he flips out and goes into this violent rage thinking that he’s back in the war to the point where he starts taking ecstasy and gets roped into doing jobs for a gang. It’s horrifying and sad at the same time and Koale really gives it his all in his performance.
Thank You for Your Service is a war-drama that will hit the feels in every sense, inspire, and make you learn more about how much a war can impact a soldier even long after it’s over. It’s no Saving Private Ryan or Full Metal Jacket and maybe that’s for the best, war movies that aren’t overblown with explosions, bullets, and carnage don’t come along often and this is a good one to look at.
ONLY THE BRAVE:
JOSH BROLIN, MILES TELLER, AND JEFF BRIDGES MAKE THIS DRAMA SHINE AS BRIGHT AS FIRE!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** ½ out of 4
Miles Teller and an elite crew of firefighters battling the Yarnell Hill Fire in Only the Brave
Who would have thought the director of Tron: Legacy and Oblivion did a better job directing a firefighter drama than Ron Howard? I can go on record and say Only the Brave is director, Joseph Kosinski’s (Tron: Legacy, Oblivion) best movie so far.
The film is based on the true story about the elite crew of firefighters who battled the Yarnell Hill Fire in June 2013. And damn, did they knock this movie out of the park? This is one of the most powerful and inspiring films I’ve seen in a long time, it captures intensity and dramatic elements without losing its heart and moral of family and doesn’t go into full-blown Hollywood spectacle mode like several other films based on real-life events.
Yes, it does have a very expensive-looking shot of a bear on fire running towards the viewer and a lot of the fire sequences do look very Hollywood blockbuster-ish but the film packs a lot of story and character and results in more substance than style. Listen Michael Bay, you can still burn and blow things up but have a strong narrative and actual characters at the same time.
The film follows the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a local firefighter unit that through hope, determination, sacrifice, and the urge to protect their families, neighborhood, and country become one of the most elite firefighting teams in the country. The team consists of Eric “Supe” Marsh (Josh Brolin-True Grit, Men in Black 3, Marvel Cinematic Universe), Brendan “Donut” McDonough (Miles Teller-The Spectacular Now, Whiplash, War Dogs), Jesse Steed (James Badge Dale-The Departed, The Grey, Flight), Chris MacKenzie (Taylor Kitsch-Snakes on a Plane, Friday Night Lights, Lone Survivor), Travis Turbyfill (Geoff Stults-D.E.B.S., Wedding Crashers, J. Edgar), Andrew Ashcraft (Alex Russell-Carrie (2013), Unbroken, Blood in the Water), Scott Norris (Thad Luckinbill-The Young and the Restless, The Good Lie, Sicario), Wade Parker (Ben Hardy-EastEnders, X-Men: Apocalypse, Mary Shelley), and Clayton Whitted (Scott Haze-CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Midnight Special, The Vault) who risk their lives every day to protect their country and especially their loved ones by instead of running away from danger they run towards it and watch over our lives and everything we hold dear.
With the support of Duane Steinbrink (Jeff Bridges-Tron, The Big Lebowski, Iron Man, who previously worked with Kosinski and Brolin on Tron: Legacy (Kosinski) and True Grit (2010) (Brolin)), Eric’s wife, Amanda Marsh (Jennifer Connelly-Labyrinth, Requiem for a Dream, A Beautiful Mind), Duane’s wife, Marvel Steinbrink (Andie MacDowell-Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Groundhog Day, Magic Mike XXL), and Brendan’s ex-wife, Natalie Johnson (Natalie Hall-All My Children, Pretty Little Liars, Star-Crossed) this team of firefighters will learn the importance of family and teamwork, prepare, and protect their loved ones by battling the Yarnell Hill Fire of June 2013 and coming out as national heroes.
Overall, Only the Brave does everything a great drama should do especially when it’s based on an actual event, have a powerful story that understands the reality of the event, well-developed characters with believable acting, and hits the emotions and make the people watching care. The performances by the lead actors especially Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, and Jeff Bridges are amazing and they sell it so well that you almost forget that they’re acting, also on a side note this is the best I’ve seen Taylor Hirsch so far and hopefully he’ll get better acting roles in the future, the guy’s come a long way since the critical and financial flop, John Carter.
Josh Brolin, Jeff Bridges, and Jennifer Connelly have become cinema darlings when it came to their acting and there’s no exception here. Brolin as the leader of the firefighters obviously that works well, Jeff Bridges as the wildland division chief of the city of Prescott who is partially responsible for creating the Hotshots and plays Ghost Riders in the Sky in a bar works to a tease since Bridges has rocked a guitar before with Crazy Heart, and Jennifer Connelly despite being a supporting role doesn’t slack off and continues to make an impression every time she’s on-screen, and even Miles Teller is following in their footsteps and already becoming a new classic film icon star.
The movie tackles the importance of sacrifice, being dedicated to your work, and family in all the right ways without getting hammy and forced and the actors nail every moment. At first it feels like a typical team of misfits who don’t get along but as the movie progresses a strong brotherhood with a near-perfect blend of fun chemistry between the characters, thrills, and tragedy and those who are familiar with the actual event already know how this movie ends.
Only the Brave honors the Granite Mountain Hotshots and a gripping drama that’ll hopefully gain some Oscar attention later on this year. It’s a powerful experience and a touching tribute to a group of men who risked their lives to save the people they loved, it’s like the Hacksaw Ridge of firefighter dramas and if Ron Howard popularized the genre with Backdraft then Joseph Kosinski perfected it here, it shines just as bright as the fire that inspired it.
HAPPY DEATH DAY:
THE GROUNDHOG DAY OF SCARY FILMS WITH A DARKLY HUMOROUS EDGE BUT FALLS VICTIM TO GORE-FREE PG-13 SLASHER FARE!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** out of 4
Apparently, the day you die can also be the day you were born…oh well, Happy Death Day
We’ve seen this concept done to death where a person lives the same day over and over again in an endless loop. From the classic Bill Murray comedy, Groundhog Day to a sci-fi action take with Edge of Tomorrow, and even former Disney Channel star, Christy Carlson Romano made her directorial debut with a Christmas special following the same formula with Christmas All Over Again, the idea is unoriginal but whenever they take a new spin on it, the idea feels fresh.
That’s where Happy Death Day comes in, the latest horror film produced by Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity franchise, Split, Get Out) and directed by Christopher B. Landon (Burning Palms, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse). Up until this point I haven’t been the biggest fan of Christopher B. Landon when it came to directing scary films, he directed what I considered the worst Paranormal Activity movie in the series and his 2015 horror-comedy Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse I found obnoxious and lacking the humor its bizarre concept deserved…It must have been his birthday because Happy Death Day was surprisingly kind of fun.
Is it legitimately scary and will keep me up at night? Probably not, it’s mostly self-aware of how over-the-top it’s being and it’s blended with a dark sense of humor. Would I consider it a new horror classic? No but I do consider it a decent scary film and there are some things about the story and takes on these old slasher movie clichés and tropes that are actually pretty unique.
The film follows a college girl named Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe-Mary + Jane, Wolves, La La Land) who isn’t exactly the nicest girl on campus, she’s often rude, snobby, and a lot of people don’t seem to like her…and it just happens to be her birthday. However, just as she’s about to go out for a surprise party her roommate put together, she is murdered by a killer wearing a baby-face mask only to wake up back in her bed on the same day again.
Tree soon realizes that she’s trapped in an endless loop of the same day and the only way to stop it is to find out who her killer is. After death, after death, and after death Tree gets closer and closer to discovering the truth and maybe that person is not who you’d expect.
The film also stars Israel Broussard (Sons of Anarchy, The Bling Ring, Fear the Walking Dead) as Carter Davis, Ruby Modine (Memoria) as Lori, and newcomers, Rachel Matthews and Charles Aitken as Danielle and Gregory.
Overall, Happy Death Day is a very tongue-and-cheek take on the slasher movie genre and the film has fun with its concept and how over-the-top it is. This is not like your Halloween or Texas Chainsaw Massacreslasher films but more along the lines of horror-comedies or self-aware scary films like Gremlins, The Cabin in the Woods, or Krampus where they have a creepy tone but at the same time a humorous touch.
The characters are all college/high school student stereotypes, in fact take out the horror element and this could have been Mean Girls Go to College. You got the mean girls, the tool, the nice guy, and the flawed protagonist, we’ve seen these characters before but here it feels intentional and adds more to the story, not to mention the actors look like they’re enjoying their roles, it’s like what Ice Cube said, “Embrace your Stereotypes!”.
What I really have to give the movie props for is doing the one thing that a lot of modern scary films miss, have me give a crap about the main character(s). I don’t care if Tree’s a rude b*tch this movie makes you root for her and you want her to stop the killer, she’s not there just to die (though she does a lot of dying in this movie) but as she’s uncovering the mystery behind her killer she’s changing as a person along with it, and Jessica Rothe really knocks it out of the park with her performance, it’s like if Bill Murray’s character from Groundhog Day as a college girl (And nobody draw that, please, I beg of you!).
The Groundhog Day references when discussing this movie are pretty much a given but at times it also reminds me a lot of Edge of Tomorrow. Specifically, because of a montage of Tree getting killed over and over set to a pop song, very reminiscent to when Tom Cruise was constantly killed during the alien war in Edge of Tomorrow.
As a whole, I had fun with this movie but I did have a problem with the tone, this is a PG-13 rated slasher movie and we all know what that means, little to no gory deaths. I’m not against PG-13 rated scary movies in general but with a slasher movie that has a body count (Despite being the same person over and over again) they’re fun because they relish in the gory deaths and exploit every bloody moment of them, had this movie gone for an R-rated bloodbath this could have been a new Halloween classic, but as is it’s a decent horror-comedy with an interesting story that’s watered-down to appeal to the 13-year-old mindset.
If you’re under 17 and not allowed to see It this Halloween then Happy Death Day is a fine alternative, it’s got your jump-scares, deaths, and a touch of humor as well as a unique plot. Otherwise It would probably be a better movie to watch during the month where everything is scary.
BLADE RUNNER 2049:
DENIS VILLENEUVE MASTERFULLY CONTINUES RIDLEY SCOTT’S SCI-FI NOIR JOURNEY!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** ½ out of 4
WARNER BROS. PICTURES AND COLUMBIA PICTURES
Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford in Blade Runner 2049
From director, Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Sicario, Arrival) comes the long-awaited sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult sci-fi classic, Blade Runner…35 years later and follows in the footsteps of Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens as one of the best sequels to a movie released several years ago. However, unlike a franchise like Star Wars where it became a hit immediately when the first movie came out, the first Blade Runner movie was not a hit film when it came out in 1982, it was a box-office flop, people criticized the original ending, and it was overshadowed by Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, but later gained recognition when the Director’s and Final Cuts were released on home video and now it’s declared a classic.
So, in 2017 we finally have a follow-up to the original film, Blade Runner 2049 with Ridley Scott (Alien, Gladiator, The Martian) returning as producer and Harrison Ford (Star Wars franchise, Indiana Jonesfranchise, Air Force One) reprising his role from the first movie as Deckard. For a sequel to a movie that’s 35-years-old it does everything a good follow-up does, expands on the story, establishes more characters, and explores more of the ideas introduced in the first movie.
Set thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling-Lars and the Real Girl, Drive, La La Land) uncovers a long-buried secret with the potential of plunging what remains of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a journey to find former LAPD blade runner, Rick Deckard (Ford) who has been missing for 30 years, and the two of them must outrun an army of bioengineered humans known as replicants out to destroy them created by manufacturer, Niander Wallace (Jared Leto-Panic Room, Dallas Buyers Club, Suicide Squad) and his lean, mean killing machine named Luv (The Storm, The Girl and Death, Renegades) and uncover the truth.
The film also stars Ana de Armas (El Internado, War Dogs, Overdrive) as Joi, Robin Wright (Forrest Gump, Unbreakable, Wonder Woman) as Lt. Joshi, Mackenzie Davis (Halt and Catch Fire, Freaks of Nature, The Martian) as Mariette, Carla Juri (Wetlands, Morris from America, Brimstone) as Dr. Ana Stelline, Lennie James (Snatch, Get on Up, Double Play) as Mister Cotton, Dave Bautista (House of the Rising Sun, Guardians of the Galaxy, Spectre) as Sapper Morton, David Dastmalchian (Prisoners, Ant-Man, Gotham) as Coco, Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips, Eye in the Sky, The Brothers Grimsby) as Doc Badger, Hiam Abbass (Exodus: Gods and Kings, The Sense of Wonder, The OA) as Freysa, Wood Harris (As Good as It Gets, Southland Tales, Creed) as Nandez, and Edward James Olmos (Battlestar Galactica, Stand & Deliver, 2 Guns) reprising his role from the first film as Galf.
Overall, Blade Runner 2049 is a visually stunning, solidly acted, and consistently thrilling follow-up to an already great film. Though I don’t think it’s better than the first one it’s definitely as good and expands on the ideas the first movie introduced however your butt may hurt by the time it’s over.
Really that’s my only gripe with this film but it doesn’t ruin the movie, it’s a near 3-hour movie, definitely longer than the first movie and there are a few scenes where I was like “Yeah you could have cut that” and some scenes do go on for a long time, but with that said it’s filled to the brim with eye candy and it’s impossible not to admire the impressive visuals.
Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford make a good team-up even if Ford doesn’t show up until the second act. They’re both developed well, have decent chemistry, and the two of them kick plenty of ass.
But who truly shines in this film is Jared Leto as the villain and I’m convinced he will forever be known for portraying psychopaths (I mean, this is the guy who played the Joker in Suicide Squad and mailed Viola Davis used…you know!). Every time he is on-screen Leto is just soaking it up and enjoying every deliciously evil moment of screen-time and he blurs the line between being naturally threatening and kind of silly.
Hopefully this movie will appeal to more people theatrically than the original cut of Blade Runner from 1982 just so we don’t have to deal with Director’s Cuts or Final Cuts of Blade Runner 2049 when it comes out on DVD. Let the movie be great from the start and keep the sci-fi geeks and film enthusiasts coming back.
If you’re a fan of Blade Runner and haven’t seen the movie yet then why are you even reading this? Go see Blade Runner 2049 it’s one of the best sci-fi sequels I’ve seen in a long time and manages to capture the 80s nostalgia of the first movie while still appealing to mainstream audiences.
WOLF OF WALL STREET IN THE AIR WITH TOM CRUISE, SHOW ME THE MONEY!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** out of 4
Tom Cruise as drug smuggler, Barry Seal in American Made
Tom Cruise (Mission: Impossiblefranchise, Minority Report, Edge of Tomorrow) and director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Edge of Tomorrow) collaborate once again in the biographical crime film, American Madebased on the true story of former TWA pilot turned drug smuggler, Barry Seal. Ever seen Flight, The Wolf of Wall Street, Top Gun, and Jerry Maguire? Put all those movies in a blender and you pretty much get American Made which isn’t Doug Liman’s best work but it’s nonetheless a thrilling, dramatic, and surprisingly very humorous caper thanks to an energetic yet compelling performance by Cruise and one of the best roles he’s had in a while.
Set in the 1970s and 1980s the film follows Barry Seal (Cruise), a pilot for the commercial airline, TWA who is contacted by CIA agent, Monty Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson-Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Parts 1 and 2, Ex-Machina, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) to fly clandestine reconnaissance missions over South America using a small plane with cameras installed. During a mission Seal encounters the Medellin Cartel and asks him to fly cocaine on his return flights to the United States.
What starts off as a simple drug smuggle ends up putting Seal in one of the biggest covert CIA operations in the history of the United States that gave birth to the Medellin Cartel and almost brought down the Reagan White House with the Iran Contra scandal as he keeps digging deeper and deeper into trouble.
The film also stars Sarah Wright (7th Heaven, Parks & Recreation, 21 & Over) as Lucy Seal, Jayma Mays (Red Eye, Flags of Our Fathers, Glee) as Dana Sibota, Jesse Plemons (Varsity Blues, The Master, Bridge of Spies) as Sheriff Downing, Lola Kirke (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Mozart in the Jungle, Gone Girl) as Judy Downing, Jed Rees (Galaxy Quest, Family Guy, Deadpool) as Louis Finkle, Caleb Landry Jones (Friday Night Lights, X-Men: First Class, Get Out) as JB, and Connor Trinneer (Star Trek: Enterprise, Stargate: Atlantis, American Odyssey) as George W. Bush.
Overall, American Made is both an entertaining movie and one of those films where you sit there and you can’t believe that what’s being shown on the screen actually happened. Good thing they reminded us that it was “Based on a True Story” at the beginning of the movie and through the marketing because unless you have a lot of knowledge regarding the actual story you’d be watching it and saying “Dayum!” every time you see what Tom Cruise does throughout this film.
Not to mention the movie is also a great nostalgic throwback to the 70s and 80s with the production design and camera work. The way the movie is shot feels like a movie from that era literally right down to using the old Universal and Imagine Entertainment logos at the beginning of the movie.
But what keeps the movie entertaining is the performance by Tom Cruise and it truly is the best I’ve seen him since Edge of Tomorrow and Tropic Thunder because it’s one of those rare instances where he’s not portraying the action hero though I wouldn’t classify him as an antagonist either. You grow attached to his character and despite that what he’s doing is completely wrong you end up rooting for him to avoid going to prison.
I also appreciate that the movie throws in a comedic tone to accompany the biographical drama genre with this movie in a similar way as The Wolf of Wall Street. There’s pausing and rewinds of the movie followed by narrations by Tom Cruise which is very reminiscent of the editing and pacing in The Wolf of Wall Street.
If you’re a fan of drug-themed crime films like Blow or The Wolf of Wall Street then you’ll probably enjoy American Made. It doesn’t follow in the footsteps of some of Liman’s other movies like The Bourne Identity or Edge of Tomorrow but it’s a solid film that manages to thrill, educate, hit your feels, and make you laugh, definitely a worthy flight.
THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE:
DAZZLING ANIMATION, EXHILARATING ACTION, AND SOME DECENT GAGS, THOUGH IT LACKS THE CHARM OF THE EARLIER LEGO FILMS!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** out of 4
WARNER BROS. PICTURES
(From left to right) Jay, Zane, Kai, Cole, Lloyd, and Master Wu in The Lego Ninjago Movie
The bricks are back in the next installment of the Lego franchise, The Lego Ninjago Movie, following the success of 2014’s The Lego Movie and February’s The Lego Batman Movie. Unlike The Lego Batman Movie where I knew what to expect I was completely blind coming into The Lego Ninjago Movie because I knew practically nothing about this particular Lego brand.
The basic knowledge I had of the property was it was Lego, that it was about ninjas, and they had a cartoon show on Cartoon Network. That’s all I knew so I didn’t know what to expect with this film, but seeing how they made The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie two of my favorite animated movies in recent years I figured they could surprise me with another solid movie.
Well get ready folks, this is so far, the weakest installment of the Lego franchise, it isn’t horrible or even bad. But compared to the previous Lego movies which were so brilliantly executed and imaginative The Lego Ninjago Movie felt rehashed and at times predictable in its story and lacked the sense of wonder of its predecessors.
Thankfully the movie makes up for its lazy story with some dazzling animation, exciting action sequences, and some funny gags and characters. Pretty much everything you would expect from a Lego movie.
Set in the fictional world of Ninjago City where an evil warlord named Garmadon (voiced by Justin Theroux-Mulholland Drive, The Leftovers, The Girl on the Train) tries to conquer the city, a secret team of ninjas are called into action to do battle with the “Worst Guy Ever” and save Ninjago. There is one catch, the green ninja happens to be Garmadon’s son named Lloyd (voiced by Dave Franco-Superbad, 21 Jump Street, The Disaster Artist) who happens to get picked on at school all the time for being the son of the villain.
One day during a battle with his dad Lloyd ends up accidentally summoning a terrifying beast that destroys Ninjago...a giant cat. In order to save their city and send the cat back to where it came from Lloyd and his ninja friends, Kai (voiced by Michael Peña-Ant-Man, The Martian, My Little Pony: The Movie), Jay (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani-Adventure Time, Silicon Valley, The Big Sick), Nya (voiced by Abbi Jacobson-Broad City, BoJack Horseman, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising), Zane (voiced by Zach Woods-The Office, Silicon Valley, Playing House), Cole (voiced by Fred Armisen-Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, The Smurfs, Portlandia), and their leader, Master Wu (voiced by Jackie Chan-The Medallion, The Forbidden Kingdom,Kung Fu Panda trilogy) must venture into the unknown and find an ancient super weapon that utilizes the ninjas’ powers within them (Kind of like a Captain Planet, Avatar: The Last Airbender, or Power Rangers type scenario).
Overall, The Lego Ninjago Movie is a fun animated film but a step backwards from the critically acclaimed Lego Movie and Lego Batman Movie. The animation is dazzling and the way it blends with a live-action kitty is hilarious, the action is just as chaotic and exhilarating as the earlier films, and there are some funny homages to classic martial-arts movies scattered throughout the film, unfortunately the plot steps into a lot of familiar territory and at times gets predictable plus if you’ve seen both The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie then you could probably figure out what the resolution is going to be like.
Sure, The Lego Batman Movie was a little formulaic but it satirized a very well-known character and property and I was able to get most of the references being made. I knew practically nothing about Ninjago and this didn’t really fix that because plain and simple Ninjago isn’t nearly as iconic as a character like Batman and it made sense to give him a Lego movie, not to mention if you’re not familiar with the material you probably won’t get a lot of the in-jokes and Ninjago references being made.
But as I said before the stuff that’s good in this movie is really good, and it helps that the voice acting is just as funny as the situations happening. Dave Franco and Justin Theroux have surprisingly good chemistry as the voices of Lloyd and Garmadon and their characters’ relationship feels like a jab at Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader from Star Wars except with a sense of humor and it works.
I’m kind of all over the map on this movie but I consider it a decent addition to the Lego franchise even if it was a little underwhelming. It’s sure to be a hit with kids and might make for a fun family night out, don’t expect a Lego Movie or Lego Batman Movie but you can expect a fun movie in the Lego universe.
KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE:
INSANELY FUN FOR THE MOST PART BUT UNDERWHELMING AND REHASHED IN OTHER AREAS!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: ** ½ out of 4
20TH CENTURY FOX
Taron Egerton is back as Eggsy in Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Director, Matthew Vaughn (Stardust, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class) returns to the world of Kingsman in the sequel to the 2015 action hit, Kingsman: The Secret Servicebased on the comic book series by Kick-Asscreator, Mark Millar and Watchmen co-creator, Dave Gibbons. At first glance Kingsman: The Secret Service sounded like a lazy cash-grab to capitalize on the success of spy films like the Bond and Bourne franchises, but little did we know we were actually getting a frantic and chaotic action movie that ended up being a blast.
So now we have the sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle featuring Taron Egerton (Lewis, Eddie the Eagle, Sing), Colin Firth (A Single Man, The King’s Speech, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), and Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes, Kick-Ass, Miss Sloane) reprising their roles as Eggsy, Harry, and Merlin. Like the first film, The Golden Circle cranks up the insane stylized action with a sophisticated edge, dark humor, and star-studded cast while expanding on the world of Kingsman and offering more bizarre homages to other spy films (When have you ever seen a Bond movie where the bad guy’s fortress is in a colorful amusement park-like setting?).
However, the movie does fall victim to a lot of sequel trappings like trying to cram as much into the film as possible, a somewhat rehashed script, overblown CGI in action sequences, and need we forget that 141-minute runtime? Yeah, that’s a minute longer than Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and it really doesn’t need to be that long.
After a missile destroys the Kingsman headquarters Eggsy (Egerton) and Merlin (Strong) must venture to the United States to gain the assistance of the Kingsman cousin organization known as Statesman to stop a ruthless drug lord named Poppy (Julianne Moore-Magnolia, Crazy Stupid Love, Still Alice) from poisoning the world with a virus in her drugs that causes death. Eggsy and Merlin soon discover that their old friend and mentor, Harry Hart (Firth) survived his bullet wound from Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson’s character from the first film) and is suffering from amnesia with no memory of Eggsy, Merlin, and being a Kingsman.
With the aid of Statesman agents, Jack Daniels (Pedro Pascal-The Adjustment Bureau, Narcos, The Great Wall), Tequila (Channing Tatum-21 Jump Street, Magic Mike, Logan Lucky), Ginger Ale (Halle Berry-X-Men franchise, Swordfish, Monster’s Ball), and Champ (Jeff Bridges-The Big Lebowski, Iron Man, True Grit(2010)) Eggsy and Merlin must jog Harry’s memory and save the world before the War on Drugs amplifies to bloody levels.
The film also stars Bruce Greenwood (Double Jeopardy, Capote, Batman: Under the Red Hood) as the President of the United States, Emily Watson (Gosford Park, Punch-Drunk Love, Everest) as Chief of Staff Fox, Edward Holcroft (Vampire Academy, Wolf Hall, London Spy) as Eggsy’s rival and Poppy’s henchman, Charlie Hesketh, Hanna Alstrom (Bert, Cleo, Crimes of Passion) as Eggsy’s girlfriend, Princess Tilde, Sophie Cookson (Moonfleet, Unknown Heart, The Huntsman: Winter’s War) as Eggsy’s best friend, Roxy, Michael Gambon (Sleepy Hollow, Harry Potter franchise, Fantastic Mr. Fox) as high-ranking Kingsman official, Arthur, and a really bizarre cameo by Elton John.
Overall, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a relentlessly fun but at times underwhelming follow-up that falls victim to sequel and spy movie cliché trappings. Plot wise there isn’t much new here, if you’ve seen the first one then you already know what to expect, a spy organization has to take down a criminal mastermind related to a New World Order.
It’s much of the same with plot structure, but everything surrounding the plot is expanded on and offers new elements that weren’t in the first movie. I loved how the Statesman was set up as the American Kingsman and that they use things like electric cowboy lassos, whips, baseballs that are actually hand grenades, and mine-detecting baseball bats which is a very clever take on what the Kingsman arsenal is like, just add American pastimes.
Julianne Moore does a solid job as the villain though at times she comes off as trying to be like Samuel L. Jackson from the first movie (minus the lisp thank Christ!). She looks all sweet at first (despite being a drug lord) but cross her back and she’ll do something crazy like throw you in a meat grinder or have her robot attack dogs rip you in half (Did I mention there are robot attack dogs in this movie that look like they were on-loan from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen?), yeah, this movie goes from what you’d expect to completely ridiculous and crazy shit.
Moore aside the rest of the cast is good, Egerton has definitely stepped up his game this time around and became an unexpected badass, Mark Strong still gets plenty of laughs, Colin Firth is impossible to despise no matter what he’s in and he still kicks plenty of ass as Harry, Halle Berry is good as the Statesman tech expert, and Jeff Bridges is pretty much if The Dude ate Rooster Cogburn…so he’s Jeff Bridges.
However, I was rather disappointed by the film’s climax because it’s more of the same, two Kingsman agents battling a bunch of guards, shooting and stabbing, and really exploitive of the camera work used in the first movie. I was hoping for more screen-time with the Statesman and thought they would play a bigger role in the final showdown but they’re pushed off to the side and we get another one of those “Unexpected Villain” scenarios that probably didn’t need to happen.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle definitely feels more like a comic book than the first film which can either be a strength or a weakness. Nevertheless, it still delivers on the crazy action sequences and fun, what else can I say but Manners Maketh Man!
NOT ARONOFSKY’S BEST WORK BUT IT’S A SICK, TWISTED EXPERIENCE THAT KEEPS YOU GUESSING!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** out of 4
Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem in Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!
After a decently reviewed yet awkward film adaptation of Noah’s Ark, director Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan, Noah) returns to his roots with the psychological horror film, Mother! Going into this movie I didn’t really have any expectations nor did I know much about the movie though I was intrigued by its trailers and marketing.
So, I gave it a watch and…wow, where do I even start with this one? I wouldn’t say this film stands as tall as some of his other films but nevertheless it was creepy, weird, had a great sense of atmosphere and mystery, well-acted, and it kept me guessing.
The film follows a married couple (Jennifer Lawrence-X-Men franchise, The Hunger Games franchise, Silver Linings Playbook and Javier Bardem-Before Night Falls, No Country for Old Men, Skyfall) living alone together and peacefully in an old house that they are spiffing up in hopes of creating a paradise. But when uninvited guests (Ed Harris-The Truman Show, A Beautiful Mind, A History of Violence and Michelle Pfeiffer-The Witches of Eastwick, Batman Returns, Stardust) arrive at their home their relationship is tested as the strangers disrupt their tranquil existence.
The film also stars Domhnall Gleeson (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Parts 1 and 2, Ex-Machina, Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Brian Gleeson (Love/Hate, Snow White & the Huntsman, Logan Lucky), Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids, Ghostbusters (2016), Sausage Party), Jovan Adepo (The Leftovers, NCIS: Los Angeles, Fences), and Stephen McHattie (Seinfeld, A History of Violence, Watchmen).
Overall, Mother! Is another satisfying yet disturbing addition to Darren Aronofsky’s filmography however your enjoyment of this movie all depends on what kind of person you are and/or your taste in movies. It starts off suspenseful and atmospheric but then it goes into sick, disturbing territory which almost felt like an artistic Saw in fact I’m surprised there wasn’t a trailer for Jigsaw shown prior to this film, but I digress.
It goes for a more artistic vision rather than a straight up scary flick which may turn some viewers off which is perfectly understandable. This is not a movie for everyone, it does take its time and slightly passes the 2-hour mark and a lot of scenes, plot elements, and themes can come off as unsettling and confusing.
Despite the movie feeling like a mixed bag in terms of appeal the stuff that’s good in this film is phenomenal. The production design and cinematography are very bleak and are almost reminiscent of those haunted house movies from like the 70s or 80s, the plot is very complex and is worthy of multiple viewings to understand its message, and of course the performances of Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem; specifically, Lawrence’s because she has most of the screen-time in this film.
I’m convinced Jennifer Lawrence can be put in a terrible movie (*ahem* Passengers) and still give it her all and make an impression. This isn’t Mystique or Katniss Everdeen Jennifer Lawrence, no, this is possible Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence I mean it she’s amazing in this movie, she’s not this tough badass character but your average woman taking care of her house and husband who is frightened (and possibly going insane) by these unwanted guests invading her home.
Javier Bardem also delivers a solid performance here as Lawrence’s husband but not quite as amazing as Anton from No Country for Old Men. He looks creepy and threatening but they don’t immediately make him out as the bad guy despite him being so calm about these visitors and unlike Anton he comes off as more mysterious than legitimately terrifying.
I don’t think this movie would go down with Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, or Black Swan as a Darren Aronofsky classic but if you’re interested in seeing this movie at all and you have some idea of what you’re getting into then Mother! Would definitely be worth a watch. It’s well-executed, scary, and throws so many unexpected twists and turns that will make you say “What?”.
THIS HORROR REMAKE CLOWNS AROUND AND DELIVERS CREEPY FUN!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** ½ out of 4
WARNER BROS. PICTURES AND NEW LINE CINEMA
Pennywise the Clown in Stephen King’s It
If there was any horror movie coming out this year I was more concerned about than Annabelle: Creation it was It, based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King and 1990 mini-series starring Tim Curry. When I first heard they were making a film adaptation of It after the campy reputation it got from the mini-series I wasn’t fully convinced and thought it would be terrible.
But as the hype train was getting quite a bit of momentum I gave it a chance and went to one of my local theaters to see it. I was pleasantly surprised, not only does the movie nail the creepy tone of its source material but it’s blended well with a sense of humor and some phenomenal young actors.
This is one of the best Stephen King film adaptations I’ve seen in a long time and it captures the spirit of its source material to a tease. The movie doesn’t fall victim to the generic horror movie trappings and offers a creepy but humorous character study about these kids overcoming their greatest fears, this ain’t your Friday the 13th or Saw scary flick.
Set in the 1980s in the town of Derry, Maine where children have mysteriously disappeared, the film follows a group of outcast kids called the Losers Club uncovering the mystery behind these disappearances. Soon enough these kids are faced with their biggest fears as they confront the murderous clown, Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård-Anna Karenina, The Divergent Series: Allegiant, Atomic Blonde) whose history of murder and violence dated back for centuries.
The film stars Jaeden Lieberher (St. Vincent, Midnight Special, The Book of Henry) as the leader of the Losers Club, Bill Denbrough, newcomers, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, and Wyatt Oleff as Ben Hanscom, Beverly Marsh, and Stan Uris, Finn Wolfhard (The 100, Supernatural, Stranger Things) as Richie Tozier, Chosen Jacobs (Hawaii Five-0) as Mike Hanlon, Jack Dylan Grazer (Tales of Halloween, Comedy Bang Bang, Me, Myself & I) as Eddie Kaspbrak, newcomer, Nicholas Hamilton as the leader of the school bullies, Henry Bowers, and newcomer, Jackson Robert Scott as Georgie Denbrough.
Overall, It is one of the best Stephen King film adaptations I’ve seen since The Shining, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Green Mile. It’s debatable whether or not the movie’s actually scary (Guess it really depends on whether or not you’re afraid of clowns) but the cinematography, production design, and story capture the creepy tone of its source material and goes balls to the wall with it.
The film is very self-aware of how ridiculous it is and will at times take jabs at typical horror movie clichés or crack a joke related to the current situation. But they never feel forced and always get a big laugh.
What truly makes the movie shine is the performances by its young cast, and damn do these kids do a phenomenal job with their roles. All the kids speak and act like normal kids and hardly ever do they feel half-ass and they’re so convincing, it’s like if the kids from South Park or The Goonies hunted a homicidal clown.
Despite Tim Curry’s performance from the mini-series being very iconic, Bill Skarsgård nails the Pennywise character. Sure, he doesn’t do the “WA-HA, WA-HA, WA-HA!” laugh like Curry did but his presence manages to be both frightening and funny at the same time and whenever he speaks you’re laughing while getting a slight chill, kind of like Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street, not often does a scary movie give me that reaction but Skarsgård won me over with Pennywise.
The story is surprisingly really deep especially for a movie about an evil clown, the entire concept of the film revolves around these kids facing their greatest fears ranging from clowns, germs, creepy characters in paintings, and even family dilemmas. This is where the character development comes from, each child has a different and unique fear that establishes their character and accompanied with the performances you feel like you’re watching real kids trapped in a scary film.
I doubt people would be praising this movie as much as The Shining or The Shawshank Redemption but It manages to capture the spirit of what made Stephen King a great author and what makes a good horror movie in general. None of the characters are there just to die, you grow attached to them, and the film has fun with its concept and results in a hybrid of fear and laughter.
This is one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in a while and will probably follow in the footsteps of The Cabin in the Woods, The Witch, and The Conjuring as a new horror classic to watch every Halloween. It has camp, strong characters, humor, and one creepy ass clown, what’s not to enjoy?
THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD:
RYAN REYNOLDS AND SAMUEL L. JACKSON SAVE THIS HIT-AND-MISS ACTION COMEDY!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** out of 4
Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson in The Hitman’s Bodyguard
Get comfortable folks, this is the closest we’ll ever get to Deadpool being recruited by Nick Fury for The Avengers. Ryan Reynolds (National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, The Proposal, Deadpool) and Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Marvel Cinematic Universe, Kingsman: The Secret Service) team up to stop a dictator in the latest action comedy, The Hitman’s Bodyguard.
The film is directed by Patrick Hughes (Red Hill, The Expendables 3) and features an all-star cast and for a movie directed by the guy who neutered The Expendables with the dreaded PG-13 rating, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is surprisingly a lot of fun. It isn’t anything great and could have used more gags between Reynolds and Jackson but for my money I had a blast.
At first my only intention of watching this movie was to see Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson being partnered together in an action comedy reminiscent of buddy-cop films like The Heat or 21 Jump Street. And yes, like the rest of the internet I’ve joked about Deadpool and Nick Fury when I saw the ads for this film.
But I was surprised at how over-the-top and hilarious the rest of the movie turned out to be, you got bloody shootouts, wild car chases and stunts, corny one-liners, and the leads are charming and witty. Sure, not every joke works but a majority of them did for me and the appeal of Reynolds and Jackson together is worth the price of admission.
The film follows the world’s top protection agent, Michael Bryce (Reynolds) being called in to guard the life of his mortal enemy, one of the world’s most notorious hitmen, Darius Kincaid (Jackson). Michael and Darius have been at each other’s throats for years but are forced to work together on an outrageous adventure from England to Hague to stop a ruthless Eastern European dictator out for blood known as Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman-Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Dark Knight trilogy, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes).
The film also stars Élodie Yung (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Daredevil) as Amelia Roussel, Salma Hayek (Desperado, Frida, Sausage Party) as Sonia Kincaid, Joaquim de Almeida (Desperado, Behind Enemy Lines, Fast Five) as Jean Foucher, Kirsty Mitchell (The Acid House, Attila, The Leisure Seeker) as Rebecca Harr, Richard E. Grant (Gosford Park, Corpse Bride, Logan) as Seifert, and Sam Hazeldine (Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, The Wolfman, The Monuments Men) as Garrett.
Overall, The Hitman’s Bodyguard may not be a total hit but it succeeds in summer popcorn entertainment. The movie does not take itself seriously except when it needs to and gives a jolting and wild goose chase with a body count and over-the-top cheesy fun.
Most of the appeal of this movie comes from the chemistry between Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, which is near perfection. Obviously the two of them don’t get along all the time and they bash heads with each other, Jackson escapes a few times, and one of them tries to annoy the other and it’s funny, but as the film goes you grow attached to both of them and gives them both as well as the audience a moment to breathe and learn a few things about their past.
However, as great as the team-up of Reynolds and Jackson is there are some problems with the movie. For starters, the plot of is pretty generic action movie fare and at times it can be really predictable and it doesn’t quite give us much new outside of its leads.
I wasn’t a big fan of the film’s pacing; the movie mostly focuses on Reynolds and Jackson which is great but when it segways to Ryan’s ex-wife or this side-plot in a courtroom it’s pretty much filler. It doesn’t ruin the movie but scenes like that just make you wish you were back with Reynolds and Jackson.
Also, some of the side characters are pretty forgettable like Ryan’s ex-wife, it’s not that the actress portraying her was bad or anything but she could have been written better and have better chemistry with Ryan Reynolds, where’s Vanessa when you need her? Gary Oldman as the villain I’m debating whether or not it’s a good or bad performance but every time he’s on-screen it’s a lot of fun to watch him go so over-the-top.
The humor is very hit-or-miss, I was laughing for the most part but there were a few gags in there that either felt awkward or could have used a better payoff. Fortunately, a bad joke is usually followed up with a good joke so the bad humor doesn’t destroy the movie.
Flaws aside, this is dumb fun and the charm of the leads shine through and make it enjoyable. The Hitman’s Bodyguard probably won’t be an action-comedy classic but for my money I’m glad I saw it.
STEVEN SODERBERGH’S COMEBACK FILM IS HIGH-OCTANE FUN AND OUTRAGEOUSLY FUNNY!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** ½ out of 4
(From left to right) Channing Tatum, Riley Keough, and Adam Driver in Logan Lucky
From director, Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s trilogy, Contagion, Magic Mike) comes Logan Lucky, the first film he’s directed since Behind the Candelabra in 2013. Imagine Ocean’s Eleven but replace all the characters and casino with rednecks and NASCAR, that’s pretty much this movie and it is awesome.
Thanks to some talented lead actors and a smart and witty script the film takes the heist movie genre and makes it feel new and very humorous. I’ve seen a lot of heist and crime movies before but Logan Lucky was unique because it blended the traditional heist movie tropes with a good sense of humor and it didn’t feel forced or overshadow the crime movie portion, pretty much a smarter version of Tower Heist by a better director.
The film follows a blue-collar laborer named Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum-G.I. Joe, 21 Jump Street, Magic Mike) whose once-promising football career was ruined by an injury, being laid off from his construction job at the Charlotte Motor Speedway due to liability issues. After a night at a bar run by his brother, Clyde (Adam Driver-Lincoln, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Silence) Jimmy explains a plan to access the Speedway’s pneumatic tube system for transporting money during an upcoming event and steal it in hopes of reversing a family curse.
Jimmy and Clyde recruit convicted safecracker, Joe Bang (Daniel Craig-James Bond franchise, Defiance, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), his dimwitted brothers, Sam (Brian Gleeson-Love/Hate, Snow White & the Huntsman, Assassin’s Creed) and Fish (Jack Quaid-The Hunger Games 1 and 2, Vinyl, Workaholics) and their own sister, Mellie (Riley Keough-Magic Mike, Mad Max: Fury Road, It Comes at Night). They plan to break Joe out of prison and return him as soon as the heist is over without anyone noticing, sounds complicated but with their skills they might be able to pull it off.
The film also stars Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy, American Dad, Ted) as Max Chilblain, Katie Holmes (Dawson’s Creek, Teaching Mrs. Tingle, Batman Begins) as Bobbie Jo Logan-Chapman, Katherine Waterston (Being Flynn, Inherent Vice, Steve Jobs) as Sylvia Harrison, country singer and songwriter, Dwight Yoakam as Burns, Sebastian Stan (Hot Tub Time Machine, Black Swan, Marvel Cinematic Universe) as Dayton White, Hilary Swank (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Insomnia, Million Dollar Baby) as Sarah Grayson, David Denman (ER, The Office, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi) as Moody Chapman, Jim O’Heir (Parks and Recreation, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Life After Beth) as Cal, and Macon Blair (Hellbenders,Green Room, Small Crimes) as Brad Noonan.
Overall, Logan Lucky is a lot of fun and quite possibly one of the best heist movies I’ve seen in a while, it’s easily the funniest. It encompasses everything that made Steven Soderbergh a great filmmaker and even has a few funny references to his other work thrown in here.
What makes most of the humor work in the film is the chemistry between the characters, Channing Tatum and Adam Driver are very convincing as the two brothers and neither one of them is made out to be a bad guy despite both of them trying to rob a racetrack, the film gives plenty of reasons to care about them and you want them to succeed in the end.
But who really steals the show is Daniel Craig, Good God this is probably the best I’ve ever seen him in a movie. Whenever I think of him I immediately picture James Bond but his character in Logan Lucky is pretty much the complete opposite and every time he’s on-screen I’m laughing and I’m laughing hard.
I honestly don’t know what else to say about this movie, it’s a crime movie that’s funny and has great characters and smart writing. I haven’t seen The Hitman’s Bodyguard yet but judging by the reviews and that this movie is more of an independent film Logan Lucky is probably more worth your money and something I urge movie-goers to see before it gets overshadowed by more Hollywood stuff.
If you’re a fan of Steven Soderbergh, Channing Tatum, and/or Daniel Craig as well as heist comedies, Logan Lucky would be your “Lucky” pick for a movie night. I can guarantee a lot of laughs on top of clever storytelling and a welcome return for Soderbergh as a director.
BATMAN AND HARLEY QUINN:
A WTF TEAM-UP, BUT A WHOLE LOT OF BAT-FUN WITH PLENTY OF ACTION AND A SURPRISINGLY DECENT SENSE OF HUMOR!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** out of 4
WARNER BROS. ANIMATION
(From left to right) Harley Quinn, Batman, and Nightwing in Batman and Harley Quinn
The Caped Crusader is back in the latest animated feature film based on the beloved DC Comics Batman series, Batman and Harley Quinn. Like last year’s Batman: The Killing Joke and Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, the film was given a one-night theatrical presentation through Fathom Events followed by a digital release the day after and then a Blu-Ray and DVD release.
I wasn’t super hyped about this one to be honest compared to The Killing Joke because when The Killing Joke movie was first announced I was on like an Avengers high and could not wait to see that movie. But still, it’s Batman how could I miss it? So, I went to one of my local theaters showing it and gave it a watch…and it really surpassed my expectations.
It’s an animated movie in the style of Batman: The Animated Series with beloved voice actors, Kevin Conroy and Loren Lester reprising their roles as Batman and Nightwing, I was expecting something really serious but once in a while some moments of comedy added in because of Harley Quinn. To me, this is pretty much the complete opposite of the infamous Batman & Robin and manages to encompass everything that made Batman so great whether comics, TV, or movies, add in some exciting action and a surprisingly decent sense of humor and you get a very fun Batman movie.
From the dark and gritty Tim Burton movie and animated series to the quirky and campy 1960s Adam West TV show, this is pretty much everything Batman & Robin tried to combine together and completely backfired and it shows that sometimes animation succeeds over Bat Credit Cards. I was very impressed at how funny this movie is and they even throw in a reference involving the comic sound effects from the Adam West show, and Joker’s not even in this picture.
The film follows Poison Ivy (voiced by Paget Brewster-Criminal Minds, The Venture Bros., Grandfathered) and Floronic Man (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson-Family Guy, Lilo & Stitch, Rick and Morty) embarking on an ecological quest to save the planet but unfortunately eliminate most of humanity as a result. To stop them Batman and Nightwing must form an unlikely partnership with one of their old foes, the Joker’s former henchwoman, Harley Quinn (voiced by Melissa Rauch-The Big Bang Theory, Scooby-Doo and the Beach Beastie, Ice Age: Collision Course) who happens to be Ivy’s BFF and frequent partner-in-crime.
However, Batman’s patience is put to the ultimate test by the unpredictable and untrustworthy Harley in an onslaught of chaos and anarchy the dynamic duo face during their bumpy road trip. Knowing Harley, she is definitely a trickster, makes sense because her former boss was the Clown Prince of Crime himself, so can she really be trusted?
Overall, Batman and Harley Quinn is a fun movie to watch that satisfies Batman fans of all types. Whether you’re a fan of the darker Tim Burton/Christopher Nolan and animated series tone or the light and silly Adam West tone, this movie has you covered, though the plot itself is pretty generic the contents inside of it is where the film truly shines.
For the most part, the movie retains its dark tone from Batman: The Animated Series but then it goes into silly and humorous territory and it strangely works. From Harley Quinn singing a karaoke song in a bar to Batman and Nightwing fighting a bunch of drunk guys in said bar Adam West style as previously mentioned.
The voice acting is solid, Kevin Conroy and Loren Lester just doing their usual shtick since the early 90s and still amazing and Kevin Michael Richardson’s voice alone is always welcome to hear no matter what he’s in. At first, I was disappointed that Tara Strong who was pretty much iconic because of her voice as Harley Quinn didn’t voice her in this film, but I was quite impressed by Melissa Rauch’s take on this psychotic henchwoman and it’s clear that she researched Strong’s work as the character to bring the same amount of chaos and fun to a great character.
My only real issue with the movie is its film rating which isn’t a bad thing but I feel this movie is a really light PG-13 movie. There’s little to no intense violence and some sexual moments but nothing extreme, I’d say it’s about on par with The Mask which is also PG-13 but not for extreme violence but because of some sex innuendos, definitely a better Batman movie to show your kids instead of The Killing Joke that’s for sure.
Batman and Harley Quinn is a fun DC animated film on its own but an even greater tribute to the Batman character. The film finds the perfect midpoint between Adam West camp and traditional dark and gritty and in both categories, succeed, if you’re a Batman fan this is one not to miss.
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