In Theaters: I Feel Pretty, Truth or Dare, Sgt. Stubby, Rampage, The Miracle Season, Blockers, A Quiet Place, Acrimony, God's Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness, Ready Player One, Sherlock Gnomes, Pacific Rim: Uprising, Isle of Dogs, I Can Only Imagine, Tomb Raider, Love, Simon
Coming Soon: Super Troopers 2, Traffik, Avengers: Infinity War, Bad Samaritan, Tully, Overboard, Breaking In, Life of the Party, Deadpool 2, Book Club, Show Dogs, Solo, Action Point, Adrift
★★★½: Very Good
★★½ : Eh
★★: Could've Been Worse, Could've Been Better
★½: Is It Too Late To Get A Refund?
★: Hope You Have A Good Date
½: Little To No Redeeming Value
No Stars: Rethink Your Life Choices
Image: Wait, I feel funny.
This is another one of those subjects I don't feel that I'm quite qualified to talk about. I mean, a film aimed at female empowerment that has a message about being comfortable with your looks and body that is generating controversy from the intended audience who claims that the film doesn't "Get it?. Not touching that one, because I'm a dude without such problems. There's also the usual controversy with a bunch of sexist male dicks who just hate Amy Schumer, but that's normal. Hey, if you aren't sexist, you can voice criticism without the use of derogatory language. It's not that hard.
"I Feel Pretty" follows "Renee" (Amy Schumer), who struggles with anxiety over her own looks, always comparing herself to others who she considers more beautiful. An accident with a stationary bike results with her bonking her head, which gives her the impression, (At least in her own mind, that she is "Beautiful"), despite nothing about her having changed at all. Due to her supposed new appearance, Renee also gains a newfound sense of confidence, getting the receptionist job she's been wanting at a cosmetics company, run by soft voiced airhead CEO, "Avery LeClaire" (Michelle Williams), and finds herself a nice boyfriend, "Ethan" (Rory Scovel), who just likes her for the person that she is.
Of course everything starts to go to Renne's head as she lets her new success and popularity take over, ignoring her friends "Jane" (Busy Phillips) and "Vivian" (Aidy Bryant), spending more time flirting with Avery's brother, "Grant" (Tom Hopper), and just becoming a bit of a selfish person in the process. Renee has to learn that the people that matter really never cared about how she looked, but instead appreciated the kind of person she is and the positive impact her confidence should have on her life.
The point behind "I Feel Pretty" is a strong one, with the message and the good intentions of the filmmakers being noticeable. The issue is that the film's tone is a bit all over the place, not in the sense that's it overly serious, but more because for a film that occasionally appear to be set in reality, it becomes pretty cartoonish really quickly. Now you still get some laughs here and there regardless of that, though it can feel a little distracting. With that said, there is some genuine charm to the film, with the more heartfelt, sweeter scenes that actually work more often then they don't.
Amy Schumer, (Who I get can be a bit of a polarizing figure because of her brand of humor), does show how much better of an actress than we give her credit for. (And to a certain degree, better than even she realizes.) And she is far more toned down here than she usually is (Mostly due to the PG-13 rating), Schumer is very much likable, delivering comedic moments well, and even showing more of her acting chops in the film's more serious moments. She also has great chemistry with Rory Scovel, who also has a lot of likability himself. Their scenes together make for the most enjoyable, because it comes across as sweet and actually pretty adorable. Michelle Williams looks like she's having a lot of fun being weird and getting to act in a comedy for once. (After something as depressing as "Manchester by the Sea", I can see why), while Emily Ratajkowski (As "Mallory", the pretty girl Renee aspires to be) gets to be cute, but not much else.
"I Feel Pretty" has been accused of body shaming, being called hypocritical in it's own message. Like I said before, I'm not really the person to talk about this, but I guess I can kind of see the points of both sides to this argument. Amy Schumer has become known for making fun of herself often and does so here, though honestly, there's never been anything wrong with her looks (I always thought she was pretty anyway). Sadly, movie is just far too long, and it's not quite funny enough to make it all work. (Also, if we're being realistic, her character is basically insane.) However, it's still a sweet film with some heartwarming moments and feels more charming than actually humorous. It's a film that's mostly just be left up to the intended audience to decide if they like it or not.. But it did make me feel better about my own looks. I feel, almost....Pretty? 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Humor, Bikini Contests, And Failure To Diagnose A What Clearly Was A Massive Concussion.
Blumhouse Productions, known for mostly horror flicks and franchises, is really letting that Best Picture nomination for "Get Out" go right to their heads aren't they? I mean, I get wanting to promote that fact as much as possible, but forcing your production studio's name all over the trailer and poster, while also constantly reminding everyone that you guys released "Get Out" is a bit silly. Especially when your film certainly isn't going to be getting any Oscar consideration in the slightest.
"Truth or Dare" opens with a disposable group of college character types, with nice girl, "Olivia" (Lucy Hale) going on a Spring Break trip to Mexico with her best friend, "Markie" (Violett Beane), Markie's boyfriend who Olivia also likes, "Lucas" (Tyler Posey),the gay one, "Brad" (Hayden Szeto), the promiscuous one, "Penelope" (Sophia Taylor Ali), and the complete dick, "Tyson" (Nolan Gerard Funk). While there, Olivia meets a guy named "Carter" (Landon Liboiron), who invites the group an old, abandoned mission, along with the annoying comic relief, "Ronnie" (Sam Lerner), who tags along despite nobody wanting him around. Carter invites the group to play a game of Truth or Dare, revealing that the game is real, he lured them all there to force them to play in a desperate attempt to survive, and they will have no choice but to play or die. Everyone mostly shrugs this off, with the exception of Olivia, who starts to hallucinate weird distorted faces and voices. Once the bodies start to pile up, the friends realize they're stuck in an endless game controlled by a demonic entity, "Calax", that really just wants to screw with them. (Honestly, I have no idea what the Hell his goal was).
Aside from the tropey characters, who have little to them outside from their archetype,"Truth or Dare" does start off almost promising, with an idea that could of made for a fun little short. The problem is that the premise is stretched out far too long, you begin to poke holes in everything that happens, and eventually realize just how freakin' stupid it actually is. The rules to the demented game our characters are forced to play constantly change and contradict previous moments that it becomes obvious the writers, consisting of four people (Including Director Jeff Wadlow), wrote themselves into several corners and had trouble finding ways around it. (So wait. The demon can just kill people whenever it chooses now? Then what's the damn point with all the games if that's what it's endgame is all along?)
Lucy Hale is a capable lead, who really just does what she can with what material is given. Tyler Posey is a completely blank slate of nothing, with the rest of the cast serving as cannon fodder for those looking to watch people die in typical PG-13 gruesomeness. (Meaning, you can't really show much of anything.) As for scares, the movie far too generic, relying on the most standard attempts to scare the audience. You mostly just get an onslaught of jump scares, loud noises, and weird faces. (The faces themselves look more silly than actually scary.)
"Truth or Dare" takes itself way too seriously, with the goofy premise getting old quickly, and the motivations and rules of the game constantly changing to the point it's not any fun anymore. There are moments where you can possibly see what enjoyment could of been hard here, and maybe if it was more of a comedy, it would of worked better. But the movie tries to incorporate talk of suicide, parental issues, sexuality, and other out of place dramatic elements, that it's just going to be lost on the audience who normally would watch a movie like this. Be honest, you guys just want to see as much over the top death as possible. Too bad the movie can't even give you that. You had ONE JOB! 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Random Acts Of Violence, Demonic Possession, And Shiny, Happy People.
Image: "Come on. You know I'm adorable."
Unless you're Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, Illumnation, or any of the major animation studios, known for big names, big budgets, and blockbuster hits, it's hard to take anything coming from lesser studios too seriously. Granted, movies like "Spark: A Space Tail", "Norm of the North","Free Birds", "Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return", the list really does go on. (Oh, remember "Delgo"? Ewww!) So count me as surprised when this little movie aimed at the littlest of the little found a way to thoroughly charm me.
Inspired by true events during 1918, "Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero" follows an adorable little Boston Terrier, "Stubby", who wanders into a military camp, where he instantly finds friendship with a young soldier, "Robert Conroy" (Logan Lerman). Stubby ends up becoming a mascot of sorts to the men. When Robert and his fellow soldiers, including the wisecracking "Elmer Olson" (Jordan Beck) and German-American, "Hans Schroeder" (Jim Pharr), end up deploying to France. Stubby, fearing he will lose his best friend, ends up becoming a stowaway, but is allowed to stay simply because he's too darn lovable. Along with Robert, Stubby becomes partnered up with a bushy French infantryman, "Gaston" (Gérard Depardieu), with the three of them becoming close friends during their time in the trenches of battle. Stubby eventually proves himself to be an important part of the battles to come, showing true bravery and courage, even against difficult odds.
ot boasting the same level of spectacular animation that we're used to from more well known studios, "Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero" comes to us from "Entertainment Studios" (Still a lazy name) and something called "Fun Academy". Director Richard Lanni makes up for this by simply telling it's story simply, but not insultingly, while incorporating plenty of heart and sensitivity. The true story itself is actually a wonderful one, and while some aspects were likely fabricated for the animated film, you'll be surprised to see what elements actually happened in real life. Apparently this little guy saved many lives during his 18 month deployment, brought comfort to many of the wounded, and even captured a German spy. (Okay, that's pretty awesome right there.)
The cast is small, but made up of likable characters that get just enough depth to make you care about them. Logan Lerman is good in the film, with Helena Bonham Carter (as Robert's unseen sister, "Margaret", who serves as the narrator) feeling a bit out of place, but serving an educational purpose. Gérard Depardieu makes for one of the most memorable characters, providing a few laughs, mixed in with heartwarming scenes that show the comradery between the soldiers. The real star of the film is Sgt. Stubby himself, who has got to be one of the cutest critters to ever appear in an animated film, with the most adorable design you'll ever see and plenty of spunky personality to boot. You'll fall in love with the small, but big heated hero instantly.
Even without stellar animation, "Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero" is lively and at least has a pleasant look to it. You root for the characters, and despite going for a tame, kid friendly approach, the film doesn't shy away from the reality of war. It's a small, but gentle kids film that doesn't talk down to them and somehow has more maturity than most films aimed at adults. (How is it that this does a much better job honoring real life heroism than Clint Eastwood's "The 15:17 to Paris"?) You may laugh at the name and wonder why the heck it has a wife theater release, but that lovable dog is definitely worth your time, especially if you want to take your kids to something that won't straight up insult their intelligence. 3 stars. Rated PG For Some War Related Reality, But Perfectly Safe For Kids Of All Ages.
Image: The Rock and his hairy friend engage in another late night bar brawl.
The biggest question, aside from if Dwayne Johnson's muscles are real or if he would make for a valid presidential candidate (By this point, anything is possible.), would be if "Rampage" is the one to break the video game cur....No. It's not. Can't even finish that sentence (Told you guys a few weeks ago with "Tomb Raider. It's never gonna' happen.). But unlike those other failed attempts, at least this musclebound lug of a movie knows exactly what it is, advertises itself as such, and just goes ape sh*t crazy. It's the only way to go.
"Rampage" starts with the explosion of a satellite in space, that leads to three canisters full of an experimental gas, that messes with one's genetic code, to crash onto Earth. Animal loving primatologist, "Davis Okoye" (Dwayne "Still The Rock Regardless" Johnson), who prefers the company of animals over people, learns that his best friend, a albino silverback gorilla, "George" (Portrayed through motion capture by Jason Liles) has gotten a whiff of the gas, becoming more giant and aggressive with every moment. This is all the work of dastardly villains, "Claire Wyden" (Malin Åkerman) and her dumbass brother, "Brett" (Jake Lacy), whose organization created the gas. They send their military guy, "Burke" (Joe Manganiello) to track down one of the cannisters, only to find a monstrous, giant wolf with wings, nicknamed "Ralph".
Meanwhile, Davis is met by a former genetic engineer with connections to what's going on, "Kate Caldwell" (Naomie Harris), who comes to help, just in time for George to break loose and cause some havoc. This leads to the arrival of smarmy government agent, "Harvey Russell" (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to come and attempt to take George, which goes about as well as you would expect. Now George is on the loose and is on his way to Chicago with Ralph and a terrifying, mutated giant crocodile, nicknamed "Lizzie", with the intent of pure destruction and a fun day in the windy city. It's up to Davis to use this bulging muscles, bald head, and powerful smolder to save the day, along with his furry buddy.
Like most video game adaptations, "Rampage" doesn't quite resemble it's source material (Though in the original game, the giant, mutated animals were people. So they changed that for the better.). In terms of intelligence, lets just say the film is lacking in that department. Luckily, the film knows that and simply embraces what it is, going for pure, unapologetic insanity, right down to the climax where buildings are destroyed, while giant animals do their absolute damnedest to kill each other. You get some occasional obvious green screen work, but most of the effects, while at times cartoonish (Which may of been intentional), are rather impressively detailed. The creature designs are clever and the scale of the destruction on screen is massive and explosive, which looks stunning on IMAX screens.
The busiest man currently working today in Hollywood, Dwayne Johnson is as reliable an actor as you can get for a film like this. He has the look of an action star, with plenty of charm to deliver silly, but also funny dialogue, and his relationship with George is actually fairly sweet, making for some of the film's most endearing moments. Naomie Harris is fine in her dumb role, though it's way less embarrassing than her even more nonsensical role in "Collateral Beauty". (I see a lot of good actors in bad movies, don't I?) Malin Åkerman and Jake Lacey are both pretty terrible, portraying incompetent villains with a plan that makes no sense. On the bright side, they aren't in it much and become pretty much unnecessary as the movie goes along. Then we have Jeffrey Dean Morgan practically devouring the scenery with a fork, hilariously smirking his way throughout the entire film, and stealing every scene he's in.
"Rampage" lives up to it's title and gives you exactly what it promises. The plot is a little jumbled and is undeniably dumber than a pile of smashed buildings, but you already expected that going in. It's a crazy, monster sized blockbuster that doesn't try to be something it;s not and thankfully doesn't have the intention of insulting it's audience's intelligence in the process. While others are still probably waiting for that first great video game movie, I'm sure we'll all be fine settling for a giant crocodile leaping into the air to catch a fighter plane with it's mouth, a giant wolf unleashing a barrage of projectile spines from it's tail, and a giant gorilla taking on the both of them, while Dwayne Johnson blows crap up. We get what we pay for sometimes. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Violence, Constant Destruction Of Property, And The Senseless Annihilation Of A Perfectly Good Dave & Buster's.
Image: "Boy I'm really going to...Uh...Volley that ball this time....I guess."
Just going to throw this out there, this is gonna be a short review. Sometimes there just isn't much to say when your movie isn't so much bad at all as its kind of unnecessary to pay modern ticket prices for. Think of it more as a TV Movie Of The Week.
Based on a True Story, "The Miracle Season" takes place in 2011, at the West High School in Iowa City (In Iowa obviously), where the town celebrates the chance of their high school girls volleyball team getting a chance at state and possibly winning for the second year in a row. The film follows best friends "Kelley Fliehler" (Erin Moriarty) and the beloved star player, "Caroline "Line" Found" (Danika Yarosh). After a party, Line ends up tragically being killed in a motorcycle accident, which affects the whole town, especially Line's father, "Ernie" (William Hurt), who also ends up losing his wife, "Ellyn" (Jillian Fargey) not too long later. The whole town seems to struggle with moving on, in particular Kelley and the rest of the volleyball team, who can't even bring themselves to play anymore. It's up to the uptight, but eventually well intentioned coach, "Kathy Bresnahan" (Helen Hunt) to get the girls back together, hoping to pull off a nearly impossible, but spectacular comeback for team, while also honoring their deceased friend and player.
"The Miracle Season" takes the easiest route you can possibly take with the whole inspiring family drama genre, but there's nothing particularly wrong with that as it does it's job as well as a glorified TV movie possible could. It's a very small, simple story, which I feel is basically the point. It lacks any real ambition to be anything more than what it is, thanks mostly to cheesy writing, flat characters, and slow pacing. Despite this, it's hard to fully dislike due to the film's heart being the right place and for at times working effectively. Though I think it's more of a credit to the cast, rather than the direction. (The film was Directed by Sean McNamara, who previously made "Soul Surfer" and um, "Bratz") Erin Moriarty is a cute, likable lead, whose relationship with the personality filled Danika Yarosh in the opening scenes ends up working quite well and makes the devastating outcome all the more sad. William Hurt does some fine work with the generic script, along with Helen Hunt, who gives it her all regardless of the material.
"The Miracle Season" is one of those movies where you do get more inspiration from simply reading or hearing about it's real life events, rather than watching an overall mediocre kids film. With that said, there's nothing outright wrong with it. It is a sweet story, that will probably find an audience, such as with young girls who will certainly enjoy the female empowerment. Not much else to really add because there's not much there. Hey, they can't all be long, descriptively written rants like "Acrimony". I only have so much energy and rage. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG For Tearjerky Moments And The CGI Volleyball.
Image: John Cena, about to give a teenage boy an attitude adjustment.
We seem to be going through somewhat of a rejuvenation of the comedy genre right now. Granted, it's still pretty early in the year, so for all we know it could all go downhill in a fiery blaze. But with recent releases such as the dark comedy, "Game Night", the political satire, "The Death of Stalin" (The movie set in Russia, where nobody is Russian), and now "Blockers", a genre that always seems hit or miss (Or even in some cases, just constant misses.), it seems studios appear to be succeeding in what comedies should aspire to do. Make people laugh. So somebody call John Cena.
"Blockers" starts with three best friends deciding to make a sex pact on Prom Night with "Julie" (Kathryn Newton) hoping to go all the way with her boyfriend, "Kayla" (Geraldine Viswanathan) mostly doing it because it sounds fun, and "Sam" (Gideon Aldon) going along with it despite the fact she is secretly a lesbian.The parents, Julie's single mom, "Lisa" (Leslie Mann), Kayla's protective, musclebound dad, "Mitchell" (John Cena), and Sam's neglectful dad, "Hunter" (Ike Barinholtz), who used to be friends, but have grown apart over the years, come back together once they learn of their daughters' pact. So the parents proceed to go against better judgement and common sense to stop their daughters from going through with the act, all while getting into all kinds of crazy situations, such as getting into car wrecks, breaking into places, and getting things put up your butt that shouldn't go there,
"Blockers", which has a picture of a rooster on it's poster because it's obvious what that means, does not have the most original of premises. It's sort of your typical sex comedy, with the kids wanting to go through with it, without knowing much about what they're doing and the parents wanting to stop it, without knowing much about why they're doing. However, the film seems to put a more modernized spin on it (Making it for the more woke generation I suppose), which makes for a bit more intelligence than you would expect from the average raunchy comedy. Because the film is smart about it's characters and the writing, that makes the film much funnier and certainly more lovable.
Aside from some excellent gags, which vary from gross out to just plain bizarre, "Blockers" has an excellent cast, who all work well off of each other. The adorable Leslie Mann is always reliable in these roles, while actually being allowed to be just as funny as the guys. Ike Barinholtz steals most scenes he's in with his smarmy attitude, who attempts to be the voice of reason despite being the most unstable of the trio. John Cena (Who just continues to show an immense amount of personality as an actor) commits to being as absurdly dweebish as possible, while being as hulkingly buff as John Cena. The real stars here are the three girls, Kathrun Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan, and Gideon Aldon, who all have great chemistry with each other and have a certain level of charm and likability, while also getting plenty of vulgar laughs.
Directed by Kay Cannon (Known for serving as a writer on the "Pitch Perfect" movies), "Blockers" has more of a woman's touch, giving the film more to say. The jokes are crass and crude, but inoffensive and undeniably laugh out loud funny, thanks in part to the cast. The film also has a sweet story that gets sentimental where necessary and avoids becoming cheesy. It's one of the more adorable comedies you'll see, yet still packed with plenty of dick jokes and butt chugging. It takes an idea that should be tired and puts a whole new outlook on it. So parents, be sure to watch it with your teenage daughters. Or not. Your call. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Reckless Behavior, Unsettling Sex Games, And John Cena Nudity.
Image:QUIET!!!! CAN"T YOU SEE SHE's TRYING TO HIDE!!!!!
Imagine a big, fat guy, with a large tub of popcorn, sitting right behind you, slowly and steadily munching on popcorn throughout the entire quiet hour and a half. For the longest time I thought that was movie until I heard him cough some of the popcorn back up. I know one thing for sure. That guy wouldn't of survived in this movie for more than a minute. I would have been rooting for the monster.
"A Quiet Place" starts at some point in the future, where the world is in shambles due to the arrival of some strange, horrifying, and bloodthirsty creatures who attack and slaughter anything that makes any sound of any kind. A family, whose name is never provided within the movie (But is available in promotional material), is struggling to survive in this quiet, desolate world. The pregnant mother, "Evelyn" (Emily Blunt) and father, "Lee" (John Krasinski) are still grieving over the loss of their youngest son at the hands of the monsters, while still trying to protect their son, "Marcus" (Noah Jupe) and their deaf daughter, "Regan" (Millicent Simmonds), who feels responsible for the younger son's death. Eventually, the battle to survive becomes more difficult, and once sh*t hits the fan, the family is forced to rely on each other to defeat the monsters attacking their home.
Just as much as thriller, mixed with a family drama, as well as a horror film, "A Quiet Place" takes some concepts that you've likely seen before and brilliantly executes it, making the film feel more original. The film is mostly silent throughout, with little music, dialogue which is mostly done through sign language, or at times, little to no sound at all, adding to the atmosphere of the film and practically putting you in these deadly situation. (Be honest, we're inherently loud beings. We would all die horribly.) Director/co-writer/actor John Krasinski (Who has previously made a couple other films that never got much critical attention) shows real promise and a real eye for real suspense. (Such as the birthing scene, that literally had everyone on edge) It's a slow, silent buildup to more terrifying things to come, escalating till the last act, which is essentially nonstop terror.
Emily Blunt (aka Mrs. John Krasinski) is terrific here, giving a strong (And somewhat painful) performance, along with John Krasinski, reminding everyone how good he can be in front of the camera, while also proving to be good behind it as well. Even the kids are giving excellent performances with Noah Jupe and especially Millicent Simmons (Who is actually deaf in real life), acting like children probably would if put in a condition such as this. What makes the performances so wonderful is that due to the lack of actual talking, the film is carried by their expressions and movements, which is full of terror and dread, yet somehow adding in a heartfelt story about a family. The creatures themselves, who only appear in glimpses until necessary, are the stuff of nightmares, looking like a frightening hybrid of the monsters from "Stranger Things", large spiders, and um, giant ears. (Trust me. They'll make you void your bowels in fear.)
"A Quiet Place" makes old new again, incorporating chilling horror thrills and combining it with compelling drama in a way that feels natural. It's smart, filled with constant tension, with a few set pieces that will stick with you once you leave the movie. Next time you're alone at night, you'll likely be watching how much noise you make just out of sheer instinct. I mean, you should do that anyway in a movie theater, but if you want to get yourself ripped to shreds, be my guest. Hope the popcorn was worth it. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Scary Images, Parental Fear, And Child Birth.
Image: James said WHAT about my movie!
Tyler Perry, I want you to know something. I don't hate you as a person. You seem like a pretty decent guy actually, with some actual talent. You were great in "Gone Girl", and I've seen you be both funny in more comedic roles and solid in dramatic ones. You're not a bad actor, and with a little more work, you could be a okay director and writer. But.....How do you keep finding new and creative ways to piss me off?
Lets see if I can do this without spoiling everything. (Either way, don't see this movie. Take my word for it, you don't need it in your life.) "Acrimony" starts with "Melinda" (Taraji P. Henson) being forced to have therapy after losing her sh*t at the mere sight of her ex husband, "Robert" (Lyriq Bent). She tells her story, resulting in flashbacks showing younger Melinda (Ajiona Alexus) meeting and falling in love instantly with younger Robert (Antonio Madison), despite the fact he clearly didn't have much to his name in terms of money. Going against the advice of her sisters, Melinda continues to date Robert, while providing money for his get rich quick schemes. He ends up cheating on her, resulting in Melinda driving a car into Robert's trailer, which injures her to the point she can no longer have children. However, Robert says he's sorry and she takes him back. What follows is several years of misery, with Melinda working constantly while Robert tries to perfect his new battery power source or whatever.
Eventually, it seems that this isn't going anywhere (Much like this movie in general), which makes Melinda force Robert to actually get a job. Thanks to bumping into the girl he previously cheated on Melinda with, "Diana" (Crystle Stewart), who just so happens to work at the Prescott company, which is where Robert has been intending to sell his battery to....Ugh. So anyway, Melinda thinks Robert is cheating, when it turns out he's just being a dumbass, which ends in failure and her kicking him out after going a little crazy. But wait! That's just the first half or so of the movie. It keeps on going, with Melinda still being miserable and Robert getting some help from Diana, who sees how depressing he is now after divorcing Melinda.
Luck finally changes in Robert's favor with him getting a good offer for his battery, making him instantly rich. Robert decides to make amends for what he did to Melinda, giving her a big check of moolah and a genuine apology. Redemption and forgiveness, with the two of them going their separate ways. The end.....But wait!!! There's more! Melinda is pissed that Robert is marrying Diana, believing that she was the one destined to live this luxurious life and goes even more crazy than before. Stalking, and sending threats, that somehow end up with Melinda trying to kill people. How did we get here? Why are we here? What is wrong with this movie?
As you can tell from that attempt at a plot description, "Acrimony"is as sloppily directed as they come, with a story that keeps going when it should be moving to an end. Director, Producer, Writer, and founder of "Tyler Perry Studios", Tyler Perry, who mostly focuses his time on his irritating "Madea" films and self righteous dramas, doesn't seem to know what kind of movie he's making or what exactly it's trying to say. The film is dull and slow, with soapy dialogue and characterization, moving from one predictable plot to the next. At least, for the first two acts anyway. It's your standard, in your face melodrama that veers into comedy, mostly by accident. The third act is when everything comes crashing down in a way that can only be described as "Nonsensically, disastrous". If the film had ended before this, it still wouldn't of been good. But I could of just shrugged it off as another boring, overly dramatic, poorly constructed Tyler Perry film. However, its these last thirty to forty minutes where you see the worst that shoddy filmmaking has to offer.
Taraji P. Henson, who is an excellent and very underatted actress, is not too bad in these first opening minutes before we enter the flashback. While she's forced to deliver horrible and awkward voice over throughout, she at first appears to be rising over the material. Then like the rest of the movie, it all goes down the crapper. During this last act, she is absolutely awful. It's so over the top, stupid, and out of character, making for an embarrassing experience. Not sure if I can blame her exactly, putting the full blame on the direction and script. However, it seems to not understand the point it's seemingly trying to get across. Lyriq Bent gives a bland, thoroughly uninteresting performance, though he fares better than his younger counterpart in terms of screen presence. The rest of the supporting characters are all awful people, not fully realizing how dangerous a situation this actually is. (She's insane. Not just emotional, she's flat out crazy. Get her help! Don't just shrug it off!)
Pretentiously taking time to have a title card explain definitions because Tyler Perry doesn't think the audience knows what words mean, "Acrimony" is disjointed, painfully monotonous, and incredibly indecisive of itself. The film opens with Melinda stating about how unfair it is when a black woman gets mad that it automatically makes her a stereotype. But then the movie ends with that happening exactly. It becomes a living stereotype in of itself. (I feel like I'm not the person to talk about this kind of thing, so I'm really just doing my best to understand) It feels wrong and in a time that heavily involves women's rights, particularly involving being wronged by men, this movie has no place here. Tyler Perry's filmmaking style can't possibly sink any lower, but sadly this time takes down poor Taraji P. Henson with him. That alone just makes me mad. Great! Now I have acrimony! Thanks Tyler! No Stars. Rated R For Language, Violence, Sexual Content, And A Green Screen Of A Park. (Why?)
Image: A Trilogy of crap.
Not sure if this double feature was an Easter penance or some sick April Fool's Day joke. Either way, saying the third and hopefully final entry into the "God's Not Dead" trilogy is not the worst movie I saw today by a long shot is pretty awkward. I'm not sure if anyone would believe me if I told them.
"God's Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness" starts with recurring comic relief character, turned protagonist, "Reverend Dave" (David A. R. White) being released from prison during a time of constant bickering and division, especially involving the church still being allowed to remain on a college campus. Dave returns to the church with his buddy, "Reverend Jude" (Benjamin Onyango), ready to get some waffles. Meanwhile, a young couple is going through their own problems, with confused Christian "Keaton" (Samantha Boscarino) deciding to take a break from her atheist boyfriend, "Adam" (Mike C. Manning). Adam, who has had some personal, tragic issues with the church (Because of course he does) loses his temper and throws a brick into one of the windows.
Sheer bad luck results in the brick causing a gas leak, followed by an explosion that blows up poor Jude (And he didn't even get to have his waffles) and pretty much of the inside of the church. The snooty college superiors decide to use this as a chance to remove the church from school grounds, resulting in Dave turning to the only person who can possibly help him right now, which is his non-believing lawyer brother, "Pearce" (John Corbett). Dave must work with Pearce despite their differences to save the church from being torn down, while Adam, wracked with guilt with what he's done, turns to Keaton for help.
"God's Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness" is not good. But you already knew that. Pure Flix, who has been showing at least some signs of improvement lately, still can't help but produce cheaply made, badly written religious exploitation that continues to lack any form of subtly whatsoever. What I can say this time around, this newest film doesn't seem as angry or as hateful as the others in the past have been. In fact, some of the morals, which are admittedly good morals, seem to contradict what the first two seemed to be trying to say. There aren't any evil liberals this time around (In fact, a returning protagonist is revealed to be one), or big bad atheists who just want to destroy Christianity. (This time, they are shown to be decent people, who just disagree with the religion.) I'll even say that the film shows that there can be some crappy or hypocritical Christians out there too. Granted, the movie is kind of hypocritical of itself too, but I chalk that up to the filmmakers just showing that despite some improvement, still aren't exactly pros at what they do.
Some of the acting has also improved for the third installment. David A. R. White is not a bad actor with surprisingamount of charm, and thankfully gets promoted to the main character instead of being stuck as comic relief. He has some pretty solid chemistry with John Corbett, who gets a few funny lines and gets the most human portrayal of any non-believer in any of these movies. The younger actors are kind of weak, with Shane Harper (as "Josh", the Christian hero from the first movie) remaining bland and boring. I also deduct half a star because of the brief, but pointless appearance by Newsboys (Who are responsible for the song that plays in all of these movies.) but only. mostly, because they suck.
"God's Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness" seems to have better intentions, with less offensive moments. The film's message isn't a bad one, and it even admits that some Christians should probably take time to actually practice what they preach. However, it's still full of crap, with nonsensical situations, dumb arguments, and most importantly, a slow, boring pace that doesn't have much to offer for the non-converted. Still, I give the film credit for not being irritating. That's faint praise, but it's still praise. It's a miracle! 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG For Adult Content And For Jude Going Boom.
Image: Use the Force, Luke...Sorry, wrong film.
Nostalgia. It's everywhere lately. We have "Star Wars" making a big comeback, along with the return of "Jurassic Park", "Power Rangers", "Ghostbusters", "Jumanji", "Transformers", etc. The list goes on with the many continuations or reboots of beloved childhood properties that usually result in grown men throwing hissy fits about them that for some reason always end up having underlying themes of sexism and racism. (We can't have nice things.) But it's not just in the return of franchises, there seems to be just this love for everything old, or at least in terms of the 80s and 90s. Many of us grew up at that time and remember it fondly, which is why Hollywood of course would try to capitalize on that. Now you can make the argument that maybe this whole nostalgia train should probably stop at some point......And then you see the Iron Giant fighting Mechagodzilla. That was awesome!!!
"Ready Player One" takes place in the year 2045, where everything pretty much just sucks. (Pollution, overpopulation, all that good stuff.) The only way to escape from the harshness of reality is in the form of an incredibly detailed, virtual reality world known as "OASIS", which was created by the geek worshiped developer, "James Halliday" (Mark Rylance). Halliday eventually dies, leaving behind a special, final game for the players, which is to find a trio of keys, which will unlock an "Easter Egg", which will hand over complete control of the OASIS to whoever finds it. Our hero, "Wade Watts" (Tye Sheridan), who lives in a jenga style trailer park, is a total nerd and a complete fanboy of Halliday. Wade uses his avatar, "Parzival", takes part in the race to find the keys, along with his friend who he has never met in real life, "Aech" (Voiced by Lena Waithe).
Wade meets a well known player, known as "Art3mis" (Olivia Cooke), who he is immediately smitten with, and ends up teaming up with her to find the keys. Meanwhile, the evil corporation known as "IOI", led by the slimy "Nolan Sorrento" (Ben Mendelsohn), is determined to find the Easter Egg and takes over the OASIS by any means necessary, even if it means killing whoever gets in their way. Avoiding Sorrento's army of henchman, known as "Sixers", in both the OASIS and in the real world, Wade and his new friends, which includes brothers "Daito" (Win Morisaki) and "Sho" (Phillip Zhao), search for the clues and participate in the puzzles that will reveal the locations of the missing keys, and hopefully save the OASIS from landing in the hands of a bunch of money grubbers, who will essentially control the world if they succeed.
Based on the both beloved and hated nostalgia fueled novel by Ernest Cline (Who was also a co-writer to the film), "Ready Player One" has the luxury of being directed by the great Steven Spielberg, who was known for revolutionizing what we consider grand, but heartfelt Hollywood escapism. The film embraces it's unapologetically cheesy nature with a big smile, filling the screen with an onslaught of references and imagery that nobody could of ever imagined seeing on the big screen all at once. In terms of it's visuals, the film is a treat to look at, nearly exploding off the screen in a literal manner. Despite the focus on the special effects, which are present throughout most of the film, there is still a sweet story with a solid message underneath that makes up for some fairly standard character development.
The cast of characters aren't exactly deep, but they are easy to root for and are memorable. Tye Sheridan is suitably awkward, but endearing. (And apparently less creepy here than in the book) Olivia Cooke is absolutely adorable and continues to prove to be a talented young actress. Ben Mendelsohn is perfectly villainous, playing up the smarmy corporate dick role wonderfully, along with Hannah John-Kamen (as "F'Nale", Sorrento's ruthless enforcer) and a hilarious T.J. Miller (Voicing "i-R0k", a powerful, menacing weapons trader within the OASIS, who sounds just like T.J. Miller), essentially playing Comic Book Guy from "The Simpsons". Lena Waithe provides some humor, with a fun small part for Simon Pegg (as "Ogden Morrow", Halliday's former best friend/OASIS co-creator) and the always wonderful Mark Rylance, who gets a rather brilliant role to play here.
Ludicrously packed full of pop cultures references and Easter eggs, "Ready Player One" knows what it intends to be, and with Spielberg's knowledge and love for this style of filmmaking being a perfect fit. It's corny as Hell, but in such a lovable way that just makes you smile uncontrollably, even in the most predictable of moments. You gets some genuine laughs, a well told story, with crazy amounts of visual chaos, and an overall message of separating reality from fantasy, while also saying that there is nothing wrong with a little escapism every now and then. Which is also the best way to describe this film. And the best way to describe my reviews....No? I'm not the Spielberg of film reviews? 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Language, Chaotic Violence, And The Shining.
You know the best thing that makes up for seeing a movie late on a weekday? You get to lay down in the empty theater. That was really nice and relaxing, especially after a long day of work. Got nothing else to add. Just wanted people to know I got to lay down during this movie. Just chillin', with no one else in the theater.
"Paul, Apostle of Christ" follows the last days in the life of "Saint Paul" (James Faulkner) formerly known as "Saul of Tarsus", who himself once maliciously persecuted Christians, before eventually seeing the light and becoming one himself. After spending years redeeming himself and helping the world, he ends up persecuted himself. Paul is thrown in prison, awaiting execution. His old friend, "Luke" (Jim Caviezel), arrives to help his persecuted followers, who are all struggling to survive. Luke visits Paul in prison, and begins to write his gospel, with Paul detailing his life before converting and his eventual redemption, while his jailer, "Mauritius" (Oliver Martinez), struggles to understand who Paul is and how he has accomplished what he has.
As you can tell already, "Paul, Apostle of Christ" in terms of plotting is fairly slight. It's an interesting idea to focus on on the aged Paul, seeking the truth to if he has truly found his redemption, while incorporating the persecution of the Christian people during it. (To the makers of "God's Not Dead", this is what real persecution looks like.) However, there really isn't enough story to quite make it to the hour and forty minute runtime and it shows. The film is slow and drags along in some scenes, particularly when it takes time to deal with a few subplots that mostly feel like padding while other aspects happen offscreen or are simply sped through. (Granted, the film did only cost $5 Million. So you can tell they had little to work with.)
Unlike other films in the faith based genre, "Paul, Apostle of Christ" finds a few unexpectedly good performances. Jim Caviezel is a bit on the wooden side (From what I've been told, he always has been), but you can see he's trying and does manage to inject some personality here and there. The real star is James Faulkner (An actor mostly known for bit parts and character roles) is excellent, giving a strong, human performance, along with Oliver Martinez, who is more complex than your average faith based villain. John Lynch and Joanne Whalley (as "Aquilla" and "Priscilla", husband and wife/allies to Paul and Luke) are both good, even with their bland, exposition based dialogue.
"Paul, Apostle of Christ" doesn't have too much too offer for the nonconverted and is too slow paced to keep one's attention. (Hey, I was laying down the whole time. Of course I was tired.) With that said, the film accomplishes it's goal of teaching a good moral, which is something that's been lacking in most modern faith based films. The message of rejecting hatred and violence in favor of peace, love, and the hope of redemption is a powerful one that is told genuinely. Nothing but good intentions here, and I can't hate on the movie for that. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Some Violence And Harshness. (Most Bible Stories Are Pretty Messed Up!)
Image: Gnome Man's Land.
I've pretty much seen the trailer for this film once a week (If I'm lucky) since November. Not a new trailer. The same exact one. The one that ends with a little mankini gnome coming out and shaking it's porcelain, yet for some reason still jiggly derriere at the screen. I could pretty much quote that entire trailer considering how many times I saw it. I even saw it during movies where it didn't even belong. (Why did it play before "The Post" and "The 15:17 to Paris"?) What I'm trying to say is that the fact that the scene with the little gnome's rump isn't in the movie pretty much warrants at least half a star. Hey, I like to think I'm a fair critic who rewards credit where it's due. (Still doesn't excuse those lazy parody posters though. Shame.)
"Sherlock Gnomes" opens with the titular, vain detective, "Sherlock Gnomes" (Johnny Depp), along with his neglected partner, "Watson" (Chiwetel Ejiofor), taking on the evil pie mascot, "Moriarty" (Jamie Demetriou), which results in Moriarty's apparent demise. Some time later, "Gnomeo" (James McAvoy), "Juliet" (Emily Blunt), and um, the rest, move into a brand new garden. With Juliet getting new responsibilities, she starts to ignore Gnomeo, making him feel unwanted. After a misunderstanding, the couple returns home to find all their friends and family gone. Meanwhile Sherlock and Watson just so happen to be investigating a case involving many garden gnomes vanishing throughout the city, leading them to running into Gnomeo and Juliet. Suspecting Moriarty has returned, Sherlock is determined the solve the case, with Gnomeo and Juliet mostly coming along for the ride.
The long delayed sequel to the 2011 somewhat hit, "Gnomeo and Juliet", "Sherlock Gnomes" never finds much reason to justify it's own existence, tell it's lackluster story in the simplest, most predictable way it possibly can, with a bland script that hardly has anything particularly funny in it. While never too annoying, the film comes across as more boring than anything, and seems only geared to the littlest of kids. (Even more so than the first one) The Elton John music doesn't add much and the characters aren't exactly interesting. That animation itself isn't anything too bad, with plenty of colors and lively character expressions. The film is directed by John Stevenson, who directed the first "Kung Fu Panda", which probably explains why there are a handful of decent looking set pieces. (Even if the film hardly does anything clever or original with them.)
James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, and Chiwetel Ejiofor are all doing solid enough jobs with the voice work, at least sounding as if they're not just reading lines off a script. Michael Caine (as "Lord Redbrick", Juliet's father) and Maggie Smith (as "Lady Blueberry", Gnomeo's mother) don't get anything to do, and mostly feel like they're only just here because they're legends, and because they were in the first one. (On a side note, was the movie implying that those two characters were a couple now? But they're Gnomeo and Juliet's parents? Doesn't that make them step siblings now?.......Should I just stop thinking about it?) We get a brief appearance from Mary J. Blige (as "Irene", a plastic doll who used to be Sherlock's girlfriend), who does get one of the film's most memorable sequences. (A musical number of course) and Jamie Demetriou only gets a handful of scenes, but does bring out a couple laughs with his over the top villainy. The best part of the film is surprisingly Johnny Depp, who is actually playing a character this time around, instead of just doing a silly voice. He's a bit of a jerk, who does have some likability to him, and even some amusing moments. (There's a couple of entertaining moments involving his inner thoughts, which are shown in hand drawn animation.)
While it does feature Johnny Depp's most enjoyable performance in some time, "Sherlock Gnomes", which really doesn't have much to it to begin with, just meanders around toward it's ending. It feels chopped up and cobbled together, with no surprises or justification to make you realize the necessity of this sequel. Maybe the youngest of the young may enjoy it, but with the much better family fare out today ("Paddington 2", "Peter Rabbit", and even "Isle of Dogs", despite it's PG-13 rating), all it does is take up time and space that could of been diverted somewhere else. Like puttering around in your garden with some actual Gnomes. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG For Crude Humor And Well, The Mankini Gnome. (Destroy that thing. Now!)
Image: "So, you feel lucky, punk".
Anyone who knows me or has actually been following my site since 2013 (Or some even longer. I have been doing this for officially 8 years now), you should recall I gave the original "Pacific Rim", Directed by Guillermo del Toro, a 4 star rating. I stand by that as unironically as possible. I still think it's a great film. It's the definition of what a big summer blockbuster should be, complete with stunning effects, a variety of characters, big crowdpleasing moments, and freakin giant robots fighting even more giant monsters. There is a reason we geeks were excited for this one. Even with the long delay.
"Pacific Rim: Uprising" picks up 10 years after the first one, where the humans, used their two pilot giant mechs, known as "Jaegers" to combat the giant monsters known as "Kaiju", who were unleashed by an evil alien race using a portal at the bottom of the ocean. Long story short, the good guys won, the Alien overlords were defeated, and the portal was shut. Now we are introduced to "Jake Pentecost" (John Boyega), the son of the deceased war hero, "Stacker Pentecost" (Played in the last film by Idris Elba), lives his life stealing Kaiju and Jaeger parts to the highest bidder. Jake ends up arrested with a young girl, "Amara Namani" (Cailee Spaeny), who was illegally using her own personal mini-Jaeger, nicknamed "Scrapper".
Jake's adopted sister/fan favorite from the first film, "Mako Mori" (Rinko Kikuchi) arranges for Jake and Amara to be released, with the exception that they join Jaeger training program, with Jake serving as an instructor. While Jake is forced to work with his old partner, "Nate" (Scott Eastwood), with Mako revealing that the program is in danger of being shut down in favor of a new drone program run by "Liwen Shao" (Jing Tian), with help from manic, former Kaiju fanboy, "Dr. Newt Geiszler" (Charlie Day). When the arrival of a rogue Jaeger ends in tragedy, the new heroes must rise to the task of finding out who is manipulating events from behind the scenes, resulting in the return of the Kaiju to Earth.
Directed by Stephen S. DeKnight (Who is mostly just known for TV work, such as that "Spartacus" show), "Pacific Rim: Uprising" feels like a much lesser version of the first that at times can't seem to avoid a couple annoying sequel tropes. (Such as doing away with a character from the first movie for no reason or repeating a few popular moments that people liked in the original) The film does still deliver on all the mechanized chaos and fun that everyone loved about the first one, while doing what a good sequel should do, which is expanding on the world that's already been established. With a smaller budget, the film's effects don't look quite as real as the first, but still have a lively look to them, that shows in the action scenes, which are clear, exciting, and thoroughly original. From what the film borrows from other franchises (Such as "Transformers" and maybe a little from "Independence Day"), it does a much better job with what it takes, still making for plenty of excitement.
John Boyega is a strong, charismatic lead who dominates the film, and he gives it some heart. Boyega has great chemistry with Cailee Spaeny, who works well off of him, especially when it comes to the playful banter. Scott Eastwood looks to be enjoying himself for once, and gets to show some actual personality. (Granted, "Suicide Squad" really wasn't his fault) Jing Tian gets a bit more to her character than you at first think, and it's great to see Rinko Kikuchi back, even if she only gets a handful of scenes. There is some great comic relief from Burn Gorman (as "Hermann Gottlieb", Newt's buddy returning from the first film) and Charlie Day, who looks like he's having the time of his life. Much of the supporting cast mostly just serves their purpose to the story, and doesn't get much development outside of that. The real stars this time around are the Jaegers themselves. While we only get a couple of Kaiju, (Who are cool and menacing looking, but only appear towards the last act) the machines all seem to have their own distinctive personalities, getting more time in the limelight than in the first film, where aside from the main one, "Gypsy Danger", were all just glorified cameos.
Lacking most of the charm from the original, and most of the stakes, "Pacific Rim: Uprising" appears more lighthearted and dare I say, kid friendly compared to the first film. However, the film is still plenty of good, old fashioned popcorn munching fun, complete with a plot reveal so bizarrely hilarious, that goes to show that the film isn't taking itself too seriously. It still sets up for more to come, which if this is weaker by comparison, I'm totally down for some more Jaeger vs. Kaiju action. You know, if it makes enough money this time. (We were lucky to even get this movie the more I think about it.) 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Sci-Fi Violence, Constant Destructive Of Property, And The Most Erotic Scene Involving A Kaiju Brain.
Image: My nightmares, they're coming true!
There's something about Wes Anderson's world that's utterly spellbinding. It's so unlike anything that it defies basic explanation. But I'm gonna try to do it anyway. It's like a candy coated doll house of quirky weirdness that mixes offbeat comedy, some pretty serious drama, a genuine heart, and in the case of his newest, stop motion animated epic, complete and utter insanity.
"Isle of Dogs" begins 20 years in the future in Japan, where there has been an apparent outbreak of a canine flu. Thedog hating/cat loving "Mayor Kobayashi" (Kunichi Nomura) arranges for all dogs, including "Spots" (Liev Schrieber), the dog belonging to his own nephew, "Atari" (Koyu Rankin), to be taken away and quarantined to "Trash Island". Some time later, a group of dogs on the island, which includes "Rex" (Edward Norton), "King" (Bob Balaban), "Duke" (Jeff Goldblum), "Boss" (Bill Murray), and their stray leader, "Chief" (Bryan Cranston) live their days eating garbage and getting into fights.
One day, Atari, having hijacked a plane, ends up crash landing on Trash Island. Atari is determined to track down his missing dog, and against Chief's wishes, the others vow to help him. The group begins an adventure throughout the island to find Spots, all while the Mayor, along with his scary "Major Domo" (Akira Takayama) send out their squads of robot dogs to track down Atari. Meanwhile back in Japan, a plucky foreign exchange student, "Tracy" (Greta Gerwig) is determined to crack open the conspiracy involving the Mayor, his hatred of dogs, the Mayor's political rival, "Professor Watanabe" (Akira Ito), who is attempting to find a cure for the canine flu, and an evil scheme to wipe out all the dogs on the island.
From Director Wes Anderson (Known for his critically acclaimed filmography consisting of "Fantastic Mr. Fox", "Moonrise Kingdom, "The Grand Budapest Hotel", etc.), "Isle of Dogs" could possibly be one of his grandest, craziest film yet. And in his typical (Not so typical) style, you get some awkward laughs, a ton of creativity, and underneath it all, a sweet, heartwarming story about man's best friend and their importance to us. The film's visuals are simple, but stunning, with an extraordinary amount of attention to detail. The characters are lively, with their distinctive personalities visible simply from their designs and movements. The beautiful backgrounds and the sheer scope of the film that give it an epic feel that you wouldn't expect.
Also written by Wes Anderson, his trademark sense of humor is apparent along with the usual deadpan delivery of an incredible ensemble of actors, with this film having the biggest collection of great actors you'll likely see in any movie this year. Bryan Cranston is perfectly growly, with a heartwarming story arc, and we get plenty of laughs out of the collection of Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Jeff Goldblum, and Bill Murray, who all have their quirks. (How can that group of actors possibly not be funny?) We also get quick appearances from Liev Schreiber, Greta Gerwig, Scarlett Johansson (as "Nutmeg", Chief's love interest), F. Murray Abraham (as "Jupiter", an older dog who helps the heroes out on their journey), Tilda Swinton (as "Oracle", a pug that gets visions from watching TV), among surprise appearances from others. The Japanese cast, who all mostly speak Japanese without subtitles (With some minor translation from an interpreter voiced by Frances McDormand), and are all excellent, which is credit to the filmmakers for going in that direction.
Aside from a surprising amount of darkness and even a few tearjerky moments, "Isle of Dogs" is at it's heart, a tale about a boy and his dog (And his dog friends). The one complaint (If you would call it that), is that the film is so unlike anything you've seen before that you have trouble really figuring out how to rank it. (That explains another 4 star rating). There is a sense of wonder to the film, even with it's oddness, and a positive message of how we treat those who have nothing but loyalty and love to offer. (It might even be a little political. Granted, everything about shunning a specific group of people reminds me of politics these days.) The film has a bit of a bittersweet edge to it, but plenty of cute, lovable characters and whimsy, that you can only find in a Wes Anderson movie. Sometimes it pays to be a weirdo. 4 stars. Rated PG-13 For Some Violence And A Little Language.
Image: He can only imagine a large audience.
The critical dissonance between film critics and religious filmgoers (Particularly Christian filmgoers) is obviously pretty large. Look,to be fair to us critics, it's not our fault that they're mostly terrible. Some are okay to decent at best, while most are, well, "God's Not Dead" (Personally, I believe that a kind, benevolent God would have given it no more than 1 star.) We aren't looking to bash you guys (Okay, maybe some are. But screw those guys.), most of us want these films to succeed. I certainly do. There's nothing wrong with a little innocent, good natured faith film once in a while. It's just when you see lame, cheap, made for TV movies like this, all I can think of the whole time is "Can't I just go see "Black Panther" again?" In fact, let Marvel make a religious super hero film. I guarantee it would be great.
"I Can Only Imagine" tells the story of "Bart Millard" (J. Michael Finley) and his hit Christian song by the same name, detailing what happened in his life that led to him writing the song. The film follows Bart from his childhood, living with his abusive father "Arthur" (Dennis Quaid), his relationship with his childhood sweetheart "Shannon" (Madeline Carroll), and his eventual calling to music and singing. This leads Bart to leaving his hometown, becoming part of a band, "MercyMe", and with help from their manager, "Scott Brickell" (Trace Adkins), trying to hit it big with the other, more popular bands, despite constantly being told that they'll never make it. At some point, Bart returns home to find his father dying, and seeking to form some kind of relationship with his son. These final days with his father lead Bart to writing his song, which would go on to be one of the most celebrated faith based songs of all time.
"I Can Only Imagine" not being made by a lesser studio like "Pure Flix" does at least work out in it's favor in the sense that the film actually looks like something you would see in theaters, while not containing the horrendous acting and occasionally hidden bigotry that those movies have. It's a sweet, admittedly heartwarming story that I can understand resonating with people, especially of the Christian faith. The problem is that it's so dang lame, with a blandly by the numbers story, cheesy dialogue, and in your face attempts at uplift. It doesn't do anything new, or even that important, which is fine for the audience it's designated for. But that doesn't make the movie actually good. It just shows more reasons why these films don't get much larger of an audience. (It also explains why these films are rarely screened for critics.)
I don't buy J. Michael Finley in high school in the absolute slightest (Seriously, you guys couldn't hire a younger actor?), but he does at least have a certain level of charm to carry the film, and even does well in some of the emotional scenes. I think Dennis Quaid will forever be stuck playing grizzled, grouchy characters, but he is doing it well. The relationship with Madeline Carroll is mostly secondary (And somewhat feels tacked on), while Trace Adkins gets a funny line or two every now and then. The rest of the band members just sort of blend together, and I don't even remember who was who and what their purpose was. Cloris Leachman (as "Meemaw", Bart's loving grandma) is underused to the point it feels like the movie straight up forgets about her.
"I Can Only Imagine" will only resonate with a certain, specific group of people, and that's okay if you're part of that group. The film means well, and the message of forgiveness and redemption through faith is much better done here than others. (Such as last years unpleasantly misguided "The Shack") Being someone who doesn't really have much of a connection to the actual song compared to others, (To be perfectly honest, this review is the most I've ever thought about it) the film doesn't have much purpose or reason to be here. It just preaches to the choir, while not exactly bringing in anyone new. Its sweet natured schlock that at the very least has only the intention of teaching a good moral, despite being instantly forgettable. Maybe if Disney took a shot at the genre. And if they added lightsabres! Maybe I've gone too far. 2 stars. Rated PG For Realistic Content And Dennis Quaid's Growl.
Image: Alicia takes aim...For my heart.
I swear to God, if I hear someone say "Maybe this will be the one to break the video game movie curse" one more time! Just stop! It ain't happening. I know I'm sounding like a cynic (And I am), but by this point we've said that so many times that it's lost all meaning. "The Angry Birds Movie" is as good as we're likely ever going to get. It's time we accepted that, or at least accepted that it will be no more than okay at best. And then we can finally move on with our lives
"Tomb Raider" follows "Lara Croft" (Alicia Vikander), who after her archaeologist father, "Richard" (Dominic West) vanished seven years prior, has kind of let it ruin her life and just finds herself desperate for money and in stupid situations. Her father's business partner, "Ana Miller" (Kristin Scott Thomas) approaches Lara and convinces her to claim her father's inheritance since it's likely he's dead. Lara ends up receiving not just her missing father's estate, but also a mysterious puzzle box with a message. The message sends her on a quest to discover what's happened to her father, discovering that he was involved in a battle with a mysterious organization known as "Trinity", who was searching for the remains of "Himoko", a mythical queen who seemingly had power to kill people simply by touching them.
Richard feared what Trinity would do with this knowledge, which led to his disappearance. Lara heads off to search for him, with help from a drunk ship captain, "Lu Ren" (Daniel Wu), sailing into the obviously dangerous Devil's sea. Of course they end up crashing, resulting in the both of them being captured by "Mathias Vogel" (Walton Goggins), who leads an expedition to find Himiko's body no matter the cost. Lara eventually escapes and is now the only one who can stop Vogel from unearthing Himiko's remains and possibly endangering the world.
Directed by a guy with a sound effect for a name, Roar Uthaug, "Tomb Raider" seems to be trying to make something more than a stupid cash grab at something popular. Based on the beloved video game series, or more likely, based on the current rebooted stage of the franchise, (The one where she has more realistic breasts instead of giant triangle ones. We all noticed) the film takes it's time to develop it's story and main character, while attempting to ground it in reality. Occasionally it kind of works, with Lara Croft coming across as a likable, very strong character, who you can see handling herself in these dangerous situations. However, despite a grounded feel, the plot is basically pure nonsense, with the mystical elements feeling out of place and a little stupid really.
Oscar Winner Alicia Vikander certainly doesn't sleepwalk through the film, and even with the script's occasional failings, still gives an excellent, vulnerable performance making for a good heroine to root for. Walton Goggins also seems to be giving a bit more, remaining menacing, while injecting a slight amount of sympathy to at least make you understand where he's coming from. While Daniel Wu and Dominic West don't really get much to really do (And quite frankly, have to spout out some pretty silly dialogue), the two of them give it their very best and appear committed. Also, Nick Frost (as a pawn shop owner) appears for a minute, and vanishes far too quickly. In terms of action, the CGI is decent enough, but despite the PG-13 (And the fact that the game itself is M rated), the film still has this harsh, gritty feel that does show that there are stakes in this world. A particularly good moment is Lara getting her first kill and not knowing how to react to doing such a thing. (Granted, she later goes through bad guys like nothing, but it was still a nice moment.)
"Tomb Raider" is what you would consider a step in the right direction, but still can't seem to avoid the same flaws that plague these video game adaptations (Being that what can work on a different medium, doesn't always work on another). The film has effort and maybe even a little more depth than you would expect. It sadly also has ridiculous plot points, dumb explanations for certain scenes (Why is there a random puzzle in the middle of an actions scene), and overall has the feel that you could find more enjoyment just playing the game, then just watching a lesser version of it. Overall, the movie just being "Okay" is probably the best anyone (Especially the fans) could of asked for. And we'll have to take what we can get. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Gritty Violence And Untrained Use Of Bows And Arrows.
Image: Life can feel like it's upside down.
I remember when I had to come out to my parents about who I was. Don't get me wrong, I was scared. I wasn't sure if they would accept me. But I did it. I sat the both of them down and without hesitation, I said "Mom. Dad..... I'm a film critic". Sure they told me that the job of a film critic wouldn't pay the bills (And boy were they right on that one), but I feel much, much happier now that everyone knows who I am. Alright, seriously, I hope that my lame joke illustrates how difficult it must be for anyone to come out to their family and friends (Especially in terms of their sexuality) and to hope that this wonderful film might somehow, in it's own way, make it easier
"Love, Simon" follows "Simon Spier" (Nick Robinson), who is a closeted homosexual in high school. He is a pretty average guy, well liked, with plenty of friends, all of which have no idea that he's gay, including his best friend "Leah" (Katherine Langford), along with "Nick" (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) and "Abby" (Alexandra Shipp). Simon has also kept his sexuality hidden from his parents, "Jack" (Josh Duhamel) and "Emily" (Jennifer Garner), and younger sister, "Nora" (Talitha Bateman). Simon eventually comes across the revelation that there is another closeted gay kid at school, who goes by the pseudonym "Blue", meaning that he is no longer alone in his predicament.
Simon decides to e-mail Blue, going by the pseudonym "Jacques" and the two seem to have a connection, leading to Simon finally having someone to talk to about who he is and possibly someone he might be romantically attracted to. But Simon is forced to deal with one of his classmates, "Martin" (Logan Miller) finding out about his secret and threatens to let the entire school about it unless Simon can hook him up with Abby. Simon tries to keep his family and friends in the dark about the whole situation, all while trying to find out who Blue actually is, with his main suspects being several of his classmates, including "Bram" (Keiynan Lonsdale) and "Cal" (Miles Heizer)
Based on the book "Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda" by Becky Albertalli and Directed by Gred Berlanti, "Love, Simon" is probably one of the most honest (And less depressing) films to focus to focus on a gay romance, and it does so in a way that's heartfelt, old fashioned, and often very funny. With obvious inspirations coming from old John Hughes films, the movie takes a coming of age story and tell it in the most simplest of ways possible, but does so expertly. The fact that the film remembers to pack itself with memorable characters, plenty of good laughs, and a story that will definitely serve as an inspiration to those in the gay community doesn't make the film feel unoriginal. Instead, it gives the film more of a timely feel. Its more of a throwback to those films, rather than a movie just relying on clichés, much like other previous additions to the teen coming of age genre, (Such as "The Edge of Seventeen" and the Oscar-nominated "Lady Bird".).
Nick Robinson (Who was previously one of the better parts in last year's "Everything, Everything"), gives a winning performance that carries the film. He feels like a natural, every day person that unlike many films that seem to try to want to tell this same type of story, doesn't change his personality due to his sexuality. (People are still normal people, even when they come out.) Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel get more roles than parents often do in these kinds of films, getting chances to inject some humor and warmth to their characters. Katherine Langford has great chemistry with Nick Robinson, along with the rest of the cast portraying his friends, including Talitha Bateman (Previously showed a lot of talent in last year's "Annabelle: Creation"), Alexandra Shipp and Jorge Lendebord Jr. Logan Miller is a suitably obnoxious antagonist, while we get some laugh out loud moments from Tony Hale (as "Mr. Worth", the Vice Principal, who tries way to hard to be cool) and Natasha Rothwell (as "Ms. Albright", the drama teacher who doesn't intend to put up with anyone's crap.) It's a wonderful cast of characters that are instantly recognizable and each serve a purpose. (I'll also admit, I didn't see the reveal of Blue's identity coming. It's a pretty solid mystery.)
"Love, Simon", much like lat year's underrated "The Big Sick", is a romantic comedy that doesn't need to fake charm, but instead just naturally has it. It takes tropes that we should be tired of and makes them new again, while throwing in a few surprises. It's the kind of movie that has lasting appeal, with the smart script that balances out comedy, drama, and to be perfectly honest, all around adorableness that makes for a true crowd pleaser. Sure to be an instant favorite within the teen genre, and downright one of the best movies already this year. I'm even betting it changes minds, and even some lives. What an accomplishment. 4 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Proud Gayness.