Category Archives: Movies

Review: The Fate of the Furious

fate poster
via Coming Soon

The Fate of the Furious (2017)

PG-13 / 136 mins.

Action / Crime / Thriller

Starring: Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson

Director: F. Gary Gray


Things are changing in the world of the Fast and the Furious.

Paul Walker has passed away due to a tragic car accident, meaning his character Brian is not returning in future installments.  The stakes continue to rise as Dom and his crew get their selves wrapped up in global conflict.  Dom has turned on his family!?  Things are certainly changing as the street-racing-turned-blockbuster-action-franchise returns with its eighth installment, The Fate of the Furious.  Even though Fate serves up a delightfully fun and silly experience its beginning to feel like there is an onset of series fatigue.

Of course, this is a natural for a series that has been around for sixteen years.

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via Universal Pictures

In the franchise’s eighth ride, directed for the first time by F. Gary Gray, Dom (Vin Diesel) is placed under the grasp of an international terrorist who goes by the name of Cipher (Charlize Theron).  She meets up with the former street racer in Cuba and all it takes is a single photograph for Dom to change sides, supposedly betraying his “family” in the process.  This is the narrative hook that has been captivating fans of the series up until its release.  It is an outlandish premise, and at times unbelievable, but the reasons for his “betrayal” are satisfying and make sense.  In fact, this is probably the most coherent plot the series has offered in a while.  What is even more satisfying is the secret plan that Dom formulates while working for the other side and the way in which it all turns out in the end.  It is a ton of fun and there is some fan service that will make any Fast fan giddy with excitement.

Charlize Theron’s Cipher is one of my favorite villains this franchise has seen.  She is equal parts cunning and ruthless.  She does some pretty messed up things during the movie’s run time and you will end up hating her by the end.  Past villains in the series have been hit or miss, but I am confident when I say that Cipher cements herself at the top.  Unfortunately, the worst part about her character is that we do not see enough of her in action.  She spends the lion share of her time in the movie aboard her plane within the confines of her headquarters.  She is rarely on the ground getting her hands dirty and we certainly never see her behind the wheel.  Charlize Theron is an actress who is going to be starring in the action-thriller Atomic Blonde (who’s trailer we see before the movie) so it is quite a shame that she never throws a punch or swings a kick.

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via The Hollywood Reporter

Despite Dom and Cipher being the centerpiece of this movie’s plot, it is the other characters that make this movie such a delight.  Dwayne Johnson reprises his role as the super-cop Hobbs.  He has a ton of great moments and this movie would not have been the movie it is without his presence.  What is most entertaining is his relationship with Deckard Shaw, played by Jason Statham.  The two despise each other (which is understandable) so when forced to work together, things get interesting.  Jason Statham is one of my favorite parts about this movie.  He is a fusion of humor and seriousness and he plays both parts amazingly.  The fact that the team is totally cool with him despite his murder of Han in cold blood is a little weird, but the movie does a respectable job at making him a redeemable character, especially during a laugh-out-load scene involving a plane gunfight towards the end.  Then there is Roman, Tyrese Gibson’s character.  Did you think there was not enough Roman in previous installments?  If you said yes, then you are in for a treat.  Roman reprises his role as the comic relief and his character is constantly a joy.  Every line he mutters made me laugh.  Just wait for the Barents Sea scene…it is tough to not laugh.

The rest of the cast is fine.  Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is now happily back with Dom.  Tej Parker (Ludacris) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) are still the hackers of the group.  Kurt Russell makes a return as Mr. Nobody, along with series newcomer Scott Eastwood, who plays the “little nobody.”  His character did not do much for me.  I am sure he is going to be in future movies, so good for him.  He has some funny moments but he ultimately seems like a boring stand-in for Paul Walker’s character.

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via iMDB

The action sequences in Fate come from the same brand of ridiculous that the Fast movies have become famous for, but they pale in comparison to previous movies.  There are only so many things you can do with cars, which is the inevitable problem with a series like this running for so long.  It is hard to top set-piece moments like the aircraft scene in Fast 6 and the skyscraper jumps from Furious 7, but Fate still has its fair share of crazy action moments.  There is a zombie car sequence in New York which is essentially Day Z but with cars and the submarine chase that has been heavily featured in the trailers offers some insane excitement.  Reality is constantly thrown out the window and the approach to some of these situations can be laughable, but that is what makes these movies so special.  I am not here to question the physical plausibility of such scenes.  I am here to eat popcorn, turn off my mind, and enjoy the blockbuster action in front of me.  That is something these movies tackle perfectly.

Another complaint I have with the movie is its recycled gags and plot points that it comes to.  Hobbs gives a stern speech in the beginning but it is revealed that he is giving said speech to a girls’ soccer team.  Roman and Tej are still vying for the admiration of Ramsey.  Those are just two examples.  Of course, this is a symptom of series fatigue.  The series’ writers are falling back on the same tricks that they have pulled in past movies, which is a little concerning.  The movie switches things up by placing Dom on the villain’s side, but with two more movies left, the writers are starting to run out of places to go.  The Fate of the Furious is a very familiar feeling movie, but maybe it is starting to become a little too familiar.  This familiarity does not just stop at gags and plot points.  The movie falls into a lot of similar tropes that have been common for the series.  This is not necessarily a terrible thing considering how great the past three movies have been, but this sort of laziness is not going to fly for much longer.

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via Dark Horizons

Despite inklings of fatigue, The Fate of the Furious still manages to take viewers on a thrill ride, offering a lot of dumb, silly action.  If you are coming into this series fresh without any knowledge of the previous movies, your mileage may vary with this movie but if you have been a ride-or-die fan since day 1, you will find a ton to love with this movie.  With a ninth and tenth installment imminent, I am eager for this franchise’s future.  I am hoping it sets up for a strong finish.

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Review: Power Rangers

power rangers poster
via IGN

Power Rangers (2017)

PG-13 / 124 mins.

Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

Starring: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler

Director: Dean Israelite


I like to have fun at the movies.  There is a place for more complex and deeper stories, but a big fun, dumb action movie acts as tasty junk food from time to time.  The reboot of the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, simply titled Power Rangers, is that type of movie for me.  It is a ton of fun and the cheesy b-tier action sequences will keep a grin on your face from beginning to end.

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Photo by Kimberley French

Am I the biggest Power Rangers fan?  Definitely not.  In fact, I do not have the same affinity that some have for the beloved Saturday morning TV show.  I have watched the show a couple of times in my youth, but it was not something that I truly cared for.  I understand the show on a basic level, but never went out of my way to dig deeper.  Because of this, my expectations for the movie were at an absolute minimum.  I also had a couple of beers before the feature, so this might have attributed to my liking of this movie.  Let’s face it…beer can help make a lot of things better.

One of my favorite things from the movie, as well as one of my biggest issues, are the characters.  The five unlikely rangers include Jason (Dacre Montgomery) as the Red Ranger, Kimberly (Naomi Scott) as the Pink Ranger, Billy (RJ Cyler) as the Blue Ranger, Zack (Ludi Lin) as the Black Ranger, and Trini (Becky G.) as the Yellow Ranger.  The cast gels well together and they are all really likable.  They are quippy and humorous, especially Billy, who often steals the spotlight.  What makes his character even better is the fact that he is on the spectrum.  Most movies are hit or miss with their depictions of characters on the spectrum, but Power Rangers actually nails it and produces a fantastic character.  Despite how likable this crew is, almost all over their backstories and character moments are botched.  The first half of the movie, the weaker half, mostly serves to introduce the characters and their backstories.  It plays like a glorified YA novel.  There were a lot of character moments, besides Billy’s, that just felt flat on their face and could not get back up. Becky G’s character missed the mark. Zack’s story? Ehh…. Kimberley’s backstory? Kind of unimportant…and the same goes for Jason’s. I just could not get behind their stories. They were either poorly written or just plain uninteresting.

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Photo by Kimberley French

But what about the other characters?  Bryan Cranston voices Zordon, the Ranger’s mentor in their endeavors.  There is also Alpha 5, Zordon’s trusty robotic assistant, who is voiced by Bill Hader.  The two do a great job with their respective performances, especially Hader who serves up some of the movie’s more humorous moments.  The final notable character in this band of 90’s cartoon characters is Rita Repulsa, played by Elizabeth Banks.  She acts as the main villain in the movie, and god bless her for it.  Elizabeth’s character ranges from serious to tacky, hamming it up for the majority of the movie.  I really liked her performance and thought it brought along its fair share of laughs, but I might have preferred her character to take a more serous tone, especially during the movie’s final act.  I thought some scenes lost their intended tone because of her.

Power Rangers takes some time to morph into high gear (sorry…bad pun) but the final act is where it begins to take off.  There are some nostalgic callbacks that will make any Power Rangers super fan giddy with glee and the action that ensues fits perfectly with the show’s attitude.  The final fight includes some great shots and it is especially hard to not get hyped when Kanye West’s “Power” makes its way onto the soundtrack.  It was a full thirty minutes of B-movie action that just made me smile.  Sure it was corny. Sure it was laughable at times.  Sure, I had some beers in me so maybe it was the alcohol talking, but I really enjoyed the final act. There was even a galactic bitch slap that left me dying of laughter in the theater.

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via IMDB

Power Rangers never takes itself too seriously with its lighthearted fare, which might be a negative to non-fans. However, the original series was just as corny, so for the reboot to mimic that style is all the movie really needed. If you’re not a fan of the Power Rangers, then maybe this is not the movie for you. I went into this movie not expecting to be a fan…but I walked out pleasantly surprised. This movie is not winning any Oscars…but it was big, dumb fun…which I need every once in a while.

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Review: Beauty and the Beast

batb poster
via Pop Sugar

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

PG / 129 mins.

Family / Fantasy / Musical

Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans

Director: Bill Condon


When the adaptation of the classic Disney animated musical Beauty and the Beast was first announced I was instantly sold.  Not only was Beauty and the Beast released during Disney’s golden era of musicals, but the remake was set to star Emma Watson as Belle, the musical’s lead lady.  When you add in the fact that it was being directed by Bill Condon (of Dreamgirls and Chicago fame), it did not take much more for the remake to become a must-watch for me.  Now that the movie, a tale as old as time, has finally arrived, I can report that the live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast has met my expectations, delivering an experience more magical than the original.

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via Digital Spy

If you have watched the original, then the remake should have you feeling right at home.  Aside from a few minor changes, the remake walks in lock step with the source material.  The Beast, played by Dan Stevens, is still under a curse that has trapped him in his own castle as a monstrous beast and his friends as a collection of inanimate objects.  He is still in search of someone who will love him before the last petal of his rose withers away.  Belle is still the young woman who, after going to search for her father, finds herself a prisoner in the Beast’s forgotten castle and soon begins to fall in love with the beast himself.  The rest is history.  It is still an endearing tale, only made better by the fact that Belle is not a damsel in distress this time around.  By Emma Watson’s demand, Belle is a more intelligent and capable character.  She is an independent and bookish woman, who will most likely act as an inspiration for a generation of young fans for years to come.

It is obvious that Emma Watson’s performance serves as the seat-filler, but the rest of the performances compliment her well.  Dan Stevens plays a good Beast, who shows both a beastly side as well as a charming side in his performance.  I think both him and Emma worked well together.  Then there are everybody’s favorite talking objects, Lumiere and Cogsworth, played by Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellan respectively.  The two acts as the comic relief throughout the entire movie and share some of the movie’s best moments.  Gaston, the narcissistic and charming antagonist played by Luke Evans, also does a wonderful job with his role.  He is even better than the original in that he starts off as a rather harmless goof and then quickly turns into a terrifying figure blinded by rage in the end.  It is still a fun character arch to watch develop onscreen.

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via Gamespot

Emma Watson not only plays a good Belle, but it also turns out that she has a great voice as well.  Her performances, especially her opening number “Belle,” show off her great musical talent.  There were times where it seemed like her voice was digitally enhanced or modified, but it never felt too egregious.  The rest of the songs are just as great as the original classics.  Some songs have modified lyrics to fit the story while some songs are completely new.  While I don’t know how I feel about the modified lyrics, they never go too overboard with it.  Songs like “Beauty and the Beast” performed by Emma Thompson (who plays Mrs. Potts) and “Be Our Guest” sung by Lumiere and the rest of the castle crew feel livelier this time around and they will surely bring back some nostalgic memories.

The biggest differentiator (if it was not apparent already) is that the remake is live action.  CGI is the name of the game and it is well done in this movie, for the most part.  Lumiere and Cogsworth, as well as the rest of the castle objects, look amazing in CGI.  They are more fluid and move around with ease.  Mrs. Potts might look a bit creepy, though.  (What is even creepier is her Funko Pop figure) Then there is the Beast, who looked a little too rigid.  His movement did not feel natural which was especially evident in scenes like the ballroom dance.  CGI aside, there are some very nice looking shots throughout the movie.  It is a colorful film that is really pleasing to the eye.  There was some great cinematography that brilliantly captured the picturesque beauty of the original.

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via ComicBook.com

While it might not be a popular opinion to most, I think that the adaption easily surmounts the original Beauty and the Beast, despite some of its technical issues regarding the Beast and some pacing issues in its story.  I really enjoyed the original movie, but I do not highly regard it as some do.  In my opinion, the original provides a good backbone while the adaptation takes the story and runs with it, filling it with more energy and magic.  While it might not seem instantly apparent, there are going to be a new generation of kids that look at the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast and they are going to view it as the definitive version.  While this might seem like a bonkers idea, it is not necessarily a terrible thing.

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Review: By the Sea

by-the-sea-poster
via IMP Awards

By the Sea (2015)

R / 122 min.

Drama / Romance

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent

Director: Angelia Jolie


A French seaside resort sounds like the perfect locale for a romantic getaway weekend.  The fresh and salty breeze kisses your face as the sound of the waves crashing upon the beach fills your ears.  It is relaxing just thinking about it.  It sounds a lot better than this damp and foggy day I am currently experiencing.  Unfortunately, By the Sea, directed and written by actress-turned-director Angelina Jolie is anything but romantic…or a good movie for that matter.

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via The AV Club

The film, starring Angelina and her ex-real-life husband Brad Pitt, is a reflective piece on the subject of grief and love.  It is a deeply personal film about a couple, Vanessa and Roland (played by Jolie and Pitt), at a crossroads in the relationship who decide to go to a French seaside resort to perhaps sort things out in their marriage.  Instead, things seem to take a turn for the weird when they begin to meet some new friends around the town, two of which happen to be a newly-wed couple next door.

What brought me to this movie was the obvious draw of a voyeuristic look into the real-life relationship of Jolie and Pitt.  It was no secret that their marriage was hanging on a thread and that things were not all roses and dandelions between the two of them.  By the Sea was advertised as a personal art-house piece about a couple going through a rough patch.  It does not take a genius to connect the dots and theorize that perhaps the movie is a story about the director’s marriage.  Despite these theories, we get nothing of the sort.  Instead, we get a rather odd voyeuristic look into the sex life of the couple next door thanks to a hidden peep hole that offers Vanessa a view into their life.  Feelings of jealousy and lust begin to creep into her thoughts as she becomes addicted to the peep hole while Roland is off getting drunk at the resort’s bar.

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via Rolling Stone

This fascination with the couple next door is certainly something I was not expecting, but it is just too bad the overall plot is boring.  The film never managed to grab me like I thought it initially would.  It does not help that 75% of the movie is one big moan fest full of self-loathing and blank stares.  Everyone just lies around drinking and acting all mopey-dopey.  The performances feel lifeless, especially from Jolie and Pitt.  The dynamic and chemistry between their two characters is the backbone that the movie relies upon but the two never feel invested in their characters.  For a movie so personal it was surprising how detached the two felt from it.

There is one department of the movie that deserves praise and that is its cinematography.  Angelina Jolie is a great director who looks to have a future ahead of her that does not solely include acting.  She takes a simplistic angle on the film, with some great minimalist shots and a lot of silence.  It was at least pleasant to look at, despite the boring travesty that was taking place in the resort.  There was also a nice orchestrated musical score that added to the movie as well.

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via Collider

Things only get worse as the movie creeps towards its conclusion, but I never found it in myself to care.  By the Sea must have been tough to create given the circumstances of what Jolie and Pitt were going through at the time, so I have to commend them for attempting to put something like this out there in the wild.  If you came into this movie looking for an irresistible look into the two’s love life however, then you are going to be madly disappointed.  It is quite possible you might self-loath yourself just as much as the characters in the movie.

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Review: Doctor Strange

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via Nerdy Rotten Scoundrel

Doctor Strange (2016)

PG-13 / 115 mins

Action / Adventure / Fantasy

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams

Director: Scott Derrickson


I am pretty much at the point where I will go to see any Marvel movie when it comes to theaters.  I have reached a level of confidence with these movies, knowing full well that I am going to enjoy the product that is presented to me on screen.  Maybe I am going to get burned one of these days, but that has not stopped me yet.  Doctor Strange was one of the few Marvel movies that I was not totally hyped for.  I have no affinity or familiarity with the character, so I had absolutely no clue what I was getting myself into in terms of the story it was going to tell and the characters it was going to present.  These preconceptions quickly fell to the wayside as Doctor Strange turned out to be one of my favorite movies of the year.

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via Wallpapers Insider

There was a brand of complexity to this movie that made it enticing and engaging from the start.  We are quickly thrown into a world were reality is promptly turned on its head as sorcerers manipulate the world around them in alternate dimensions.  Based on the trailers that I saw before going into the movie, I knew that this movie was going to be complex and abnormal.  It only took a couple of minutes before what looked like London was being manipulated as if it were a kaleidoscope.

But let us get this out of the way right off the bat: Benedict Cumberbatch makes a great Doctor Strange.  Going into the movie I was unfamiliar with the superhero, his origins, and his personality.  After some conversations with some people, I was told that he is intelligent, egotistical, and kind of a wise-ass.  I quickly made connections, relating him to Tony Stark, who happens to be one of my favorite characters in the Marvel universe.  After seeing Cumberbatch deliver a role that matched these traits down to a T, I quickly realized that I was going to enjoy this character.  He sells the role perfectly which makes him instantly likable, or not likable if you are not a fan of wise-cracking know-it-alls.

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Although the movie is structured around him, his supporting cast is great as well, especially when you look at the names that adorn the cast list.  Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Mordo, a master sorcerer who finds Doctor Strange, a broken (both physically and emotionally) neurosurgeon on a quest for healing, and takes him to a secret place where he learns about things like mysticism and alternate dimensions.  There’s also his love interest Christine, a fellow surgeon who’s played by Rachel McAdams.  Although her role in the movie is semi-small, she still does a great job with it.  Tilda Swinton plays the role of the Ancient One, a mysterious sorcerer who’s essentially the teacher, bringing Strange under her wing.  Finally, Mads Mikkelsen (of Hannibal fame) plays Kaecilius, the movie’s primary villain.  He has the looks of a fallen sorcerer turned evil, but he was the one character that had me wanting more.  There’s not much to his character, which was unfortunate.

The story involves Doctor Strange looking for healing after suffering from a bad motor accident that heavily damaged his nerves in his hands…his tools on the surgeon’s table…his claim to fame.  His ego drives him to find curing, but he is essentially put in his place by the Ancient One who opens his mind to the world of mysticism and sorcery…a world Strange never knew existed.  He then takes on the path of knowledge as he quickly learns about the world of sorcery.  In his studies, he starts to learn about darker magic and begins to uncover some darker secrets that spell trouble for the Marvel cinematic universe.

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via Just Jared

In my opinion, it is the movie’s visuals and cinematography that really make Doctor Strange shine.  Like I mentioned before, the world is constantly being manipulated by the sorcerers in the mirror dimension (a dimension that “mirrors” the real world but the actions that take place in it have no effect on the actual real world), giving the movie an Inception-esque appearance.  There were multiple times throughout the movie where I was like, “huh, this would make for a really bomb-ass wallpaper!”  There are some other scenes, like the surgery scene in which Strange’s astral body (I’m not going to explain that) is directing Christine who’s operating on Strange’s physical body.  There’s some cool cinematography going on in some of these scenes that really make this movie a visual delight.

After going into Doctor Strange with absolutely zero expectations, I can officially say that I am sold on Doctor Strange as a character and I am excited to see his role in the larger Marvel cinematic universe.  The movie’s cast is nothing to scoff at and the movie delivers some of the best visual effects that I have seen in a long time.  Even if you have no familiarity with the characters, like I did, Doctor Strange is still worth checking out.

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Review: Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

mike-and-dave-poster
via Cinergetica

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016)

R / 98 mins

Adventure / Comedy / Romance

Starring: Adam Devine, Zac Efron, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza

Director: Jake Szymanski


Craigslist is a wonderful thing.  It’s easy to post and sell your things without having to worry about shipping costs and all the other stuff that comes with shipping packages around the world.  Instead people come to you and buy your stuff with cold hard cash.  I’m oversimplifying it (a lot) but it really is a great thing.  As it turns out, you can also use the website to find wedding dates.  In Mike and Dave Needing Wedding Dates, the movie from writers Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien (Neighbors), Mike and Dave…well, need wedding dates so they go to Craigslist to find their lucky ladies.  Just like their idea, the movie is stupidly funny but not that great.

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via College Movie Review

Mike (Adam Devine) and Dave (Zac Efron) Stangle are a pair of party-hard brothers who always seem to screw up every family function they attend, whether it’s a birthday, anniversary or family reunion.  They always cross the line and things go south really quickly, as shown in the film’s introductory moments.  By the request of their father, the two are asked to attend their sister’s (Sugar Lyn Beard) wedding with two wedding dates that will keep the pair in check.  After a tedious and thorough process (involving Craigslist and a gross amount of blind dates) the two stumble upon two very “respectable as f***” ladies, Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza).  The girls are a wild pair but they keep themselves under control just long enough for them to get the chance to attend the wedding in Hawaii with Mike and Dave.  Let the shenanigans begin!

As far as story goes, Mike and Dave is pretty boilerplate when it comes to crazy wedding comedies.  The movie gives us nutty family members, a stressed out bride, a rehearsal dinner gone wrong, and lots of alcohol-fueled antics.  The film doesn’t do anything to change up the formula and as a result we get a largely uninteresting story.

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via Tribute

Despite the unoriginal script, there’s a lot of stupidly hilarious R-rated insanity that leads to a good bit of laughter.  Moments like a weird massage and a pre-wedding ecstasy trip gone too far make for some hilarious moments.  Writers Cohen and O’Brien are no strangers to R-rated comedic romps so anyone who’s a fan of the Neighbor movies should feel right at home here amongst the shenanigans.  There’s some downtime, sure, but there are definitely some humorous scenes that make up for it.

The most puzzling thing about this movie, however, are the two female leads, Kendrick and Plaza.  It’s almost as if they put no effort into their characters.  The girls, despite their slightly insane nature, are actually pretty boring and the two don’t do a good job of selling their characters at all.  It’s a shame because their male co-stars, Devine and Efron actually work pretty well together.  Their chemistry shows on screen and some of the movie’s funniest moments come when the two are together.  It’s just too bad this same type of chemistry can’t be said about Kendrick and Plaza, who are two very funny people.  This film could have been a lot stronger if everybody pulled their weight.

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via Main Echo

Despite the movie’s absurd moments, Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza, as well as the uninteresting story, hold it back. I really wanted to like Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, but I was expecting a lot more out of Kendrick and Plaza.  Luckily the movie’s humorous moments prevent it from being a total wash.  I had a good time with the film, but it’s not a movie that’s going to stick with me in the long run.

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Review: Jason Bourne

jason bourne poster
via Live for Film

Jason Bourne (2016)

PG-13 / 123 min

Action / Thriller

Starring: Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander

Director: Paul Greengrass


Everyone’s favorite misguided CIA operative is back and he’s looking for more answers.  Jason Bourne has been away from the game for a while now, almost ten years.  The CIA wants him back in the force, but Bourne has other plans.  He’s moved on and he isn’t going to make it easy for the CIA to bring him in.  Director Paul Greengrass brings the dormant hero back to the big screen in his plainly titled summer thriller Jason Bourne, a film that sticks to its guns and packs a punch.

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via Digital Trends

Matt Damon is back and fits comfortably back into the role of the blank-slate Jason Bourne.  It’s been a while since we’ve seen him in the role.  He’s older now and has a grittier look, but he’s still the same guy, looking for answers.  He’s laying low…keeping a low profile everywhere he goes, but this doesn’t last long when CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) demands that he’s brought back into the light.  Aiding him in the hunt, Dewey enlists the help of fresh-faced and capable hacker Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) who’s pretty confident that she has what it takes to bring in the elusive weapon that is Jason Bourne.  Coincidently the CIA aren’t the only ones interested in Bourne’s whereabouts.  A familiar face to Bourne fans, Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), is also looking to meet up with Bourne with the interest of handing over a bunch of top-secret files that could put the CIA, and its operatives, at odds.

The movie’s central plot is very much a game of cat-and-mouse.  Jason Bourne is on a mission looking for answers in his past while the CIA is constantly on his tail trying to catch him with the upper hand.  The action is very much by the books and should be familiar to anyone who has seen a Bourne film, but that doesn’t take away from the movie’s thrills.  The action sequences are tightly planned out and were very fun to watch come together, especially the bits in Vegas and Germany.  Director Dewey entrusts the help of a certain Asset, played by Vincent Cassel, who has a history with Bourne and wants nothing more than to be the guy that takes him out.  There’s nothing overtly special about Cassel’s rough and tough performance, but he still managed to be one of my favorite parts of the film.

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There aren’t too many breaks to be had in the roller coaster ride that is Jason Bourne’s action, but there are some pauses in between the dust that attempt to establish character and dive deeper into more complex issues in today’s modern society.  The character building?  Nothing to really write home about.  We get some backstory behind Bourne’s father, the main drive behind his question-seeking, but it doesn’t really go deeper than what most fans already know.  There’s some new answers brought to the table, but nothing earth-shattering.  On the other hand, Greengrass pokes at ideas like internet privacy and hacking culture, even referencing guys like Snowden, in an attempt to bring relevance to the film.  I admire these ideas, but nothing is really done with them.  They’re constantly brought up but then quickly forgotten about in the presence of guns and bullets.  Jason Bourne wants to say more, but instead lets its self-settle into familiarity, which is a tad disappointing given the presence of such ideas.

As far as performance go, this is Matt Damon’s movie and his only.  There isn’t much to Bourne’s character to begin with, as he’s painted with a blank slate, but Damon still does a bang-up job at portraying the figure.  Although Damon steals the light, Alicia Vikander brings a much welcomed fresh face to the table.  She’s a strong-willed and very intelligent hacker that is working to bring a change to the CIA.  As the film runs deeper, Bourne and Lee’s relationship gets a lot more interesting as the two work together to bring down the CIA’s internalized sinister dealings.

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Despite it’s by the book plotting and inability to tap deeper into some of the more relevant issues of today, Jason Bourne still manages to provide exhilarating fun.  It was fun seeing Matt Damon slip back into one of his iconic roles, even though nothing has really changed about the character this time around.  I would have liked for Greengrass to have gone deeper than the surface level on things like Snowden and internet privacy, but who knows where that story could have gone.  The movie sticks to what it does best, which works out in the end.

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Review: Independence Day: Resurgence

resurgence poster
via Trailer Addict

Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

PG-13 / 120 min

Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman

Director: Roland Emmerich


It’s been twenty years since the aliens attacked the earth in Independence Day: Resurgence.  The fabled attack, which put humankind in jeopardy, took place on the United States’ Independence Day, an attack which gave America more than just fireworks.  Fast forward twenty years later and the aliens have come back, conveniently on the Fourth of July, to mount an invasion much bigger than the first rodeo.  With the absence of Will Smith and the presence of many issues, Resurgence doesn’t amount to anything more than a major letdown when stacked up to its predecessor.

INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE
via Entertainment Focus

I don’t think it’s fair to say that Resurgence would have been a better movie with Will Smith, but his absence left the cast feeling a tad bit emptier.  There are some returning actors that reprise their roles, like Jeff Goldblum as David Levinson, Bill Pullman as President Whitmore, Judd Hirsch as Julius Levinson, Brent Spiner as Dr. Brackish Okun, and more.  Unfortunately, most of the screen time is dedicated to the new cast of characters, who are generally boring and not very interesting.  Liam Hemsworth plays the young hotshot Jake Morrison while Jessie T. Usher plays Dylan Hiller, the son of Will Smith’s character.  There’s some others, but frankly I just didn’t care about them.  Maybe the one exception to boring new ensemble is President Whitmore’s daughter, Patricia Whitmore, who is played by Maika Monroe.  She has some great moments throughout the film that outshine anything that Hemsworth or Usher bring to the table.

A second coming of this deadly alien species is no laughing matter.  They essentially blindside the nations of the world, causing mass destruction and hysteria around the world.  The stakes are high as this is no laughing matter.  This is what made me question the film’s overall tone, which came off as, well…goofy.  There was an unhealthy layer of cheese that was splashed over every single aspect of the movie.  Characters were delivering punchlines and groan-worthy one-liners left and right.  I get that this is a summer blockbuster and that most people show up for the action, but c’mon, we deserved a little more.  The writing is laughable with many a plot-hole to be found amidst the rubble.  It’s one big cheesy mess that stumbles all the way to the finish line.

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via Japan Today

Another aspect that doesn’t do the film any favors is the plethora of characters that all vie for screen time, both old and new.  As I mentioned before, the returning characters seem to get overshadowed by the new.  This is surprising given the amount of odes and references to the original movie.  To be honest, I would have much preferred having a movie devoid of any of the new characters.  I was a little disappointed in the ample usage of guys like Goldblum, Pullman, and Spiner.  These characters had their moments, which make up most of the movies most solid pieces, but I just wanted an experience with more of these characters.  Sure, some of the new characters are integral to the story’s main plot, but if it were me, I would have written them entirely out of the plot, with no offense to any of their acting skills. The writing and the characterizations were the problem.

Despite everything I have laid out so far, it’s hard to deny the fact that this movie’s biggest draw is it’s set-piece moments and its grand scope.  With a Roland Emmerich film, you should know what you’re getting at the door.  The movie’s visual destruction is one of its few redeeming qualities.  Destruction of areas like downtown London make for some eye-popping visuals full of bleak wonderment.  A lot of the fight scenes that take place in the air can get messy a times but there’s usually never a dull moment, visually.

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via Actucine

Just because something is bigger and more epic, doesn’t mean it is always better.  Independence Resurgence is a perfect example of this sentiment.  The marketing campaign behind the movie pushes the movie as a grand epic of destructive proportion.  The movie’s scale overpowers the original film, sure, but in terms of quality…this is about as bargain bin as it gets.  The movie is a visual treat and had its sparse moments, but everything else about the movie is as gross as the sloppy goo that spurts out of a dead alien carcass.  You welcome for that visual.

Independence Day Resurgence

Review: The Aviator

the aviator poster
via IMP Awards

The Aviator (2004)

PG-13 / 170 min

Biography / Drama

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale

Director: Martin Scorsese


Let’s talk about Howard Hughes, one of the most financially successful individuals in American History.  He was a business tycoon first, but his interests reached much farther than the business realm.  He was an aviation genius as well as a film aficionado.  He practically did everything from creating big Hollywood pictures to designing military-grade planes for the US.  He’s a fascinating figure that has been explored multiple times in pop culture.  Maybe the most prominent look into his life was Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator, a biographical drama that takes a glimpse into Hughes’ younger years and his rise to prominence.

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via Film Reviews n’ Such

The film begins in the 1920s with Hughes’ filming of his big war epic Hell’s Angels.  The multi-faceted tycoon is played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who does an amazing job at capturing the businessmen’s keen attention to detail, as well as his other peculiar quirks.  His accent might be a little grating at times, but it’s undeniable that DiCaprio takes the role by the throat and destroys it, in a good way of course.  Over the course of the movie, we discover the type of person Hughes is and how he does things.  The film spans twenty years and shows us his personal life as well as his dabbles in the film and aviation industries.  Some of the stuff might be dry, but it’s really captivating stuff.  I was constantly questioning whether the movie’s events were true, but Scorsese did a pretty good job at staying true to the story of Hughes.  He’s a really unique man whose instincts lead him to greatness, as well as some dark places as well.

Scorsese has assembled himself an ensemble cast that really complements DiCaprio’s performance.  Cate Blanchett and Kate Beckinsale play Katharine Hepburn and Ava Gardner respectively, Hughes’ two love interests.  They both give great performances, especially Blanchett who went on to win an Oscar for her performance.  There’s also Noah Dietrich and Juan Trippe, Hughes’ business associates, played by John C. Reilly and Alec Baldwin respectively.  These are the recurring characters that we see over the course of the movie’s story, but there’s a bunch of other important players that serve important roles as well.  I don’t think there was one bad performance in the movie.  Everyone was strong and really sold their characters.

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via Miramax

I’m always a big sucker for period pieces taking place in the 20s, and The Aviator did a bang-up job at recreating the period.  The movie looks great, with eye-popping visuals and rich colors.  The film just feels like an epic, in both scale and appearance.  It’s full of glitz, glamor, and spectacle, present around every turn in the movie.  I got to give some credit to Scorsese and the filmmaking that went into the look of this movie, because it sure was a treat to watch.

The only misstep The Aviator makes on its journey through Hughes’ life is in its pacing.  And when I say journey, I mean it’s a long one.  The movie almost cracks the three-hour mark, which is more of a detriment than an advantage.  Most of the film’s material is captivating and intriguing stuff but there are some lulls, especially during the film’s middle ground.  The first and third acts are really engaging, but the journey in between these acts is where the film slows down.  Trimming some of the fat would have kept the film a lot more compelling through and through.

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Despite some of its pacing issues, DiCaprio and the rest of his adjoining cast keep the movie going.  It’s a riveting, and at times sobering, tale of triumph and failure.  It’s no secret that Hughes, despite his massive successes, was a troubled man, especially during his later years.  Numerous flying accidents did a number on him and drove him deeper into a state of physical and mental instability.  Scorsese does a fantastic job at taking us through a vertical slice of Hughes’ life with The Aviator.  It not only captures his good side, but his more unfortunate side as well. It’s dynamic and engaging, and well worth your time, despite its intimidating runtime.

the aviator score

Review: Central Intelligence

central intelligence poster
via Good Film Guide

Central Intelligence (2016)

PG-13 / 114 min

Comedy / Crime

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Amy Ryan

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber


When you put Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson in a movie together, it should be pretty clear what kind of movie you’re going to get.  The two actors have some great off-screen chemistry, so buddying them up in a movie like Central Intelligence just seems like the right way to go.  In fact, the movie might not have been as good without the two stars.  Central Intelligence largely works because Hart and Johnson’s chemistry is what carries the movie.

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via Filmonic

The fun begins in high school, where we are quickly introduced to Hart and Johnson’s characters.  Hart plays Calvin Joyner, the all-around cool kid at Central High.  He’s practically involved in everything and has been voted as “most likely to succeed.”  He’s the model student.  On the other hand, we have Johnson’s character, Bob Stone.  Bob Stone is his alias that he goes by, but frankly I forget his actual name. (I know it’s something similar to “weird dick”) Anyway, he’s a fat kid (The Rock was actually transformed into a fat kid, yeah I know, surprising!) who’s the target of every bully at school.  After being thrown out onto the gym floor in front of everyone at an assembly, naked, Calvin helps out Bob by giving him his varsity jacket to cover up his special parts.  This plants the seed for a future friendship.

Twenty years later, we find Calvin looks exactly the same, but he’s working as an accountant.  Not exactly the type of job he would have wanted after being voted most likely to succeed.  After sending Calvin a Facebook message asking him if he wanted to meet up, Calvin finally meets up with Bob Stone who now looks like…well, the Rock.  How did he get so jacked?  Well, he worked out six hours a day, every day for the past twenty years.  Pretty simple right?  Later that night Bob Stone, who happens to be part of the CIA, ropes Calvin into a matter of national security…one that he can’t get himself out of.  Thus, hilarity ensues.

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The Austin Chronicle

The movie is about as formulaic as a mismatched buddy comedy can be.  If there was a golden slate listing all the common tropes that these films need to contain, Central Intelligence follows it to a T.  The thing that makes the film seem fresh is the scattered bits of bullet-spraying gunplay that usually involve Johnson’s character doing all the work while Hart somehow manages to flail around without getting hit.  No surprise there, but it still leads to some funny moments.  This is the kind of movie where a banana is a credible weapon that can do some serious damage.  The movie isn’t trying to be sophisticated.  That’s not its mission.  It’s a lot of dumb fun; a movie where you turn your brain off for a little while.

There’s a lot of laughs to be had throughout the movie thanks to the signature brand of Kevin Hart comedy.  Some might find it gets old, but I personally still enjoy every minute of it.  There’s also lots of movie and pop culture references to be found, more than I was expecting, that lead to some great moments as well.  16 Candles anyone?  Some of the film’s best moments however come from the interactions between Hart and Johnson’s characters.  The actor’s chemistry shows and they instantly become very likable.  Like I previously said, the movie would have been a bore if it weren’t for these two actors taking the top spots.

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via The Wrap

Where Central Intelligence starts to break down a little is towards its ending, where plot-wise the movie starts to become a mess of who’s who. The movie’s main plotline is the identity of the mysterious Black Badger, the guy who is trying to buy some top secret intel from the CIA on black market auction sites.  Calvin and Bob’s mission is to find this guy, but there seems to be a bunch of people who are thought to be the Black Badger.  You don’t really know who the big baddie is until the movie’s final moments.  It becomes hard to follow, but once again it’s the humor from Hart and Johnson that pulls it all out of the water.

Central Intelligence isn’t a groundbreaking comedy by any means.  With a Hart and Johnson comedy, you should be well aware of the type of movie you’re signing up for.  There’s still a bunch of fun and laughs to be had however that makes this a comedy that works.  The movie might not be for everyone, but if you like Kevin Hart’s previous big-screen comedic efforts, then this should be a movie for you.

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