Posts Tagged ‘2017 movies’

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The Love Witch (2016), Hush (2016), Little Evil (2017)

September 11, 2017

The Love Witch (2016) – Curse the Best Movies of 2016 list that I saw this film on! But it’s hard to blame one list – The Love Witch sits at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. This is one movie the critics and I did not agree on… not even a little bit. When the critics love a movie I could barely sit through, it makes me wonder what they were seeing that I didn’t. The Love Witch has gotten praise for its 1970s retro look and if there’s anything to like about this film it’s certainly the visual presentation. But I couldn’t get into the story at all and while Samantha Robinson gives a sultry performance in the lead role, she delivers all her dialog in a cadence that borders on parody and if this film is supposed to be a parody of something, I have to say it went over my head or I wasn’t paying close enough attention. I admittedly tuned out pretty early in the film and I almost quit it, so I have to admit this might not be the most fair review, but if a movie doesn’t grab my attention at all in the first 45 minutes, how good can it possibly be? The Love Witch is unrated and while it has a fair amount of nudity and sexual content, it’s not that sexy. This movie didn’t work for me as a parody, a comedy, or a horror film. It obviously has an audience, but I hated it and I doubt many of the people that read my reviews would like it either.

Replay Value: I’ve read reviews that say repeated viewings are worthwhile but that’s a hard pass for me.
Sequel Potential: The Love Witch grossed less than $300K so I’m going with none.
Oscar Potential: None

Grade: 3/10 (Skip It)

Hush (2016) – This was a solid horror thriller about a deaf woman living by herself in the woods and fighting for her life when a Jabbawockee shows up outside her window and does a killer dance routine. Just kidding. Hush is serious horror and there is nothing funny about this movie. This is a killer reminiscent of Michael Myers in the original Halloween, before he couldn’t be killed and was just your standard psychopath that really enjoyed murdering people… with a mask on. We don’t know why this man shows up outside this window or what his motives are and, let’s be honest, there are plenty of killers like that in the real world. And that’s part of what makes Hush scary: the idea that someone can be lurking right outside your bedroom window isn’t all that farfetched. Making the main character deaf certainly raises the stakes and writer/director Mike Flanagan and writer/star Kate Siegel (a married couple in real life) come up with plenty of scenarios that bring Maddie’s handicap into play. Siegel gives such a convincing performance that I wondered if she is actually deaf (she is not). Hush is a scary and fun horror film that seems to be overlooked. If you’re a fan of the genre you should definitely check this movie out while it’s streaming on Netflix.

Replay Value: I’ll probably never see this again, but it was fun enough that I would enjoy it a second time.
Sequel Potential: Horror movies always have potential for sequels… but I would imagine this doesn’t get one.
Oscar Potential: None… but Kate Siegel got nominated for Best Actress in various genre award shows.

Grade: 6/10 (Recommended)

Little Evil (2017) – Here’s another review that isn’t going to be very fair. My wife started watching this Netflix exclusive that started streaming earlier this month on her own and I sort of picked it up about 30 minutes or so into it. The gist is Adam Scott marries Evangeline Lilly and becomes step daddy to her kid, a child that may or may not be the spawn of Satan. My wife thought I would like it, but it was pretty stupid and it’s not funny enough to make up for how corny it is. Adam Scott does a fine job, but Lilly’s performance is hokey and could have been done by any run-of-the-mill actress. The kid isn’t anything special either. I may have missed the answer to this question, but I was wondering how Scott’s character decides to marry this woman while having such an apprehensive relationship with her kid. Also, the film seems to resolve its primary conflict because it’s time for the movie to end and not because of any natural progression between stepdad and stepson. Little Evil is a moderately interesting concept with a subpar execution. This movie is something to have on in the background while you’re doing something else and little more.

Replay Value: None.
Sequel Potential: Definitely potential for a sequel but who is going to want it?
Oscar Potential: None.

Grade: 3/10 (Skip It)

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It (2017): A Horror Masterpiece?

September 8, 2017

Starring: Bill Skarsgard, Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jack Dylan Grazer
Director: Andy Muschietti (Mama, Inception, Memento)

Bottom Line: I loved It. Seriously. During the first half I wanted to stand up and yell out how much I was enjoying the movie. That’s how deliriously giddy I was. Basically all my critiques about the novel are completely absent from this adaptation and all the things I hated about the miniseries are fixed (you can read my spoiler filled reviews of those by clicking here). It’s like director Andy Muschietti and his team of writers took a nice looking statue and chiseled away until it was perfection. Okay, It isn’t quite a perfect film but it’s about as good as you can expect a horror movie to be.

The cast in this movie is borderline unbelievable. It’s one of the film’s biggest strengths. I thought the character of loud mouth Richie Tozier was frequently annoying in the book – and maybe he was supposed to be – but Finn Wolfhard (from “Stranger Things“) absolutely crushes this role, with a solid assist from the writers with some hilarious dialogue writing. Seriously, he is going to make people laugh the entire movie. And while the spirit of the character is Stephen King’s creation, Richie Tozier is a highlight of this movie because of someone else’s writing and Finn’s fantastic delivery. Hypochondriac Eddie Kaspbrak is another one of the weaker characters in the book and Jack Dylan Grazer makes him quite enjoyable in this movie. I was also happy with the casting of Stuttering Bill, Beverly Marsh, and Ben Hanscom, and the kids playing Bill and Bev do a good job of carrying the film. The final two kids in The Loser’s Club, Stan Uris and Mike Hanlon, sort of get reduced roles in this movie and I was pretty indifferent about it.

Can Tim Curry’s “tour-de-force” performance in the 1990 version ever be topped? Of course it can. It was brutally campy and the construction of the Pennywise scenes were horrible. Unless you have an irrational fear of clowns there was nothing scary about Tim Curry as Pennywise. Now I’m not one that scares easily and I’m more apt to find glee in a well done horror sequence than jump out of my seat in fear, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise is scary as shit. If you’ve seen the trailers for this movie, you can probably already guess that though. Skarsgard is great and while there is some playfulness to his take on Pennywise, there’s nothing campy about it – it’s more along the lines of a child molester trying to lure a kid into his van with a piece of candy playful and he can switch to purely terrifying in a second. In addition to Skarsgard doing a wonderful job, he also looks great and Muschietti gives Pennywise’s presence the gravity that it deserves. This isn’t a deranged Ronald McDonald spouting one-liners on a bender, it’s pure evil personified and pretty much every scene involving the clown form of It are extremely well done.

I have basically no complaints about this movie. There were some things that were left out that I would have liked to have seen, like It taking the forms of the werewolf and the spider, or the scene with the leeches, but I think most of the changes that were made from the source material and the miniseries were huge improvements.

This is a movie about a group of kids squaring off against the town monster, but it’s also a great story about friendship, coming of age, and facing less supernatural terrors like bullies and abusive parents. I would have no problem with someone saying It is basically Stand By Me or The Goonies meets A Nightmare On Elm Street. That’s an apt description, but to label It an A Nightmare On Elm Street rip off would not only be a disservice, it would be misguided since Stephen King was likely writing his novel around the same time Wes Craven was writing the original Freddy Krueger movie.

I can’t recommend this movie enough. If you’re a horror fan, it’s a must watch. It might go down as a genre classic. If you enjoyed the novel or, somehow, the miniseries, I can almost guarantee this movie will make you incredibly happy. Fast-paced, totally scary, and plenty funny, It is easily one of the best times I’ve had at the movies this year.

Also, if you happen to own the 1990 miniseries, you can go ahead and toss it in the trash. There is no reason to ever watch it again now. Seriously.

Replay Value: I can’t wait to see it again. I might go again opening weekend and I will definitely add this to my movie collection.
Sequel Potential: Spoiler alert: this is Chapter One. It is a monster that reappears in Derry every 27 years and it’s no secret that these kids all come back as adults to face off again when It returns. Chapter One is a great stand alone film that pretty much wraps everything up. There is no need for a Chapter Two and the kid portion of Stephen King’s book is significantly better than the adult portion. Still, if they cast well and Andy Muschietti is involved, I will be ecstatic to see Chapter Two.
Oscar Potential: Horror movies historically get zero Oscar attention. I’m not sure It has any obvious candidates.

Grade: 8 (Must See)

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The Big Sick (2017) & Hell or High Water (2016)

August 9, 2017

The Big Sick (2017) – The poster says it all. This is one of the best romantic comedies in many years – maybe the absolute best of the past decade. It’s definitely the most touching film of 2017 that I’ve seen so far and I have no problem giving it my #1 ranking for the year as of early August. Star Kumail Nanjiani (of HBO’s Silicon Valley) and his wife Emily Gordon wrote The Big Sick about how they met and had to overcome both pressure from Kumail’s parents to follow the Pakistani custom of arranged marriage and Emily’s sudden illness that led to a lengthy coma. The Big Sick is filled with laughs and plenty of heartfelt moments. Kumail has a great sense of humor that he frequently delivers in a dry and hilarious manner and Holly Hunter really knocks it out of the park as Emily’s mom – I fully expect a Best Supporting Actress nominations. It’s probably too late to catch this in theaters, but I can’t recommend it enough as it’s probably the best movie I’ve seen in 2017.

Replay Value: A solid add to any movie collection.
Sequel Potential: I would say none.
Oscar Potential: Drawing live at Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay and I really like Holly Hunter’s chances of getting nominated.

Grade: 8/10 (Must See)

Hell or High Water (2016) – All the vibes of a modern day western, as a couple of Texan brothers set out to rob local banks in order to save their family ranch. Ben Foster, Chris Pine, and Jeff Bridges all give noteworthy performances with Bridges getting an Oscar nomination for his work. When I list my favorite actors, I never think of Jeff Bridges, but this move made me look over his resume and the guy is a beast and seems to be getting better with age. This movie reminded me a lot of Thelma & Louise, which is a borderline classic in my books, so if you liked that movie, Hell or High Water should be up your alley. This is definitely one of the stronger 2016 movies.

Replay Value: I’d watch it again.
Sequel Potential: None.
Oscar Potential: Four Oscar noms: Best Picture, Original Screenplay, Film Editing, and Supporting Actor for Jeff Bridges.

Grade: 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

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Dunkirk (2017)

July 26, 2017

Starring: Harry Styles, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh
Director: Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, Memento)

Bottom Line: This is not “the best film of Christopher Nolan’s career” or “one of the best war films ever” like many critics have made it out to be – it’s not even as good as last year’s Hacksaw Ridge, which hit me right in the feels. I’m shocked at how well received Dunkirk has been because it is absolutely hollow. Dunkirk made me feel nothing. Nolan is still a master at making beautiful films – Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises were both very easy on the eyes – but this is now the third straight film of his where I’ve left the theater thinking “eh” because of his writing.

Set during World War II in the city of Dunkirk, France, Allied forces are trapped on the beach and surrounded by German troops. The story has three different timelines: one takes place over a week following a group of soldiers on the beach, a second takes place over a single day following a man and two kids from the British Empire on a boat headed towards Dunkirk to help out, and a third takes place over the course of an hour, in the air, following a couple of pilots in dogfighters. The problem with these intertwining stories is we are completely immersed into the action, from the very first scene, and there is virtually no character development so you never really care about what happens to anyone or what is at stake. Maybe just knowing this is a true story and a number of real people were in a similar situation is enough to make some people feel something, but watching a movie, following certain characters, I want to feel something about them – and I never did.

Mark Rylance does a very fine job as the ordinary British man that sails into battle and his story is definitely the most interesting. In contrast, Tom Hardy plays one of the pilots and that entire story arc is completely devoid of any investment from the audience. How can you possibly care about someone when you can’t understand a single line of dialogue they say the entire film? That’s another issue I had with Dunkirk. Even though everyone is speaking English, subtitles felt like a requirement, particularly during the flight scenes – the sounds of the jets are so loud you can’t hear anything that is being said. While that might be authentic, the audience isn’t equipped with a headset like the pilots are. I suppose Harry Styles does a fine job as one of the soldiers on the ground, but again, I wasn’t invested in his story and even though the script follows a select group of soldiers it isn’t particularly easy to tell them apart, especially since I wasn’t familiar with the actors.

So yeah, Dunkirk is visually great, as all Nolan’s films have been, but the script falls short. Even though the movie is riveting and Hans Zimmer’s score adds lots of tension, the script doesn’t invest you in the story and there is simply no emotional payoff. Maybe I will change my mind when I watch it again but I can’t say I’m exactly excited about a second viewing. I appear to be in the minority in not loving this film, so take this review with a grain of salt and go see it for yourself, but I can promise this much: there is no way my wife, a casual film watcher, would have enjoyed Dunkirk.

Replay Value: I didn’t love Interstellar or The Dark Knight Rises the first time I watched them but I did see them again. I think a second viewing of Dunkirk would be more laborious, however.
Sequel Potential: None.
Oscar Potential: I would be appalled if Dunkirk was the film that finally got Nolan an Oscar statue, but the praise being heaped on it makes it a pretty strong contender for things like Best Picture and Best Director. I would have no problem with Dunkirk being nominated for Best Cinematography or and visual categories though.

Grade: 5/10 (watchable)

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War For The Planet Of The Apes (2017)

July 20, 2017

Starring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson
Director: Matt Reeves (Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, Let Me In, Cloverfield)

Bottom Line: Chalk up another win for the rebooted Apes franchise. War For The Planet Of The Apes continues the franchise’s trend of combining amazing visual effects with storytelling that pulls on the heartstrings and another phenomenal motion-capture performance from Andy Serkis. Caesar really has become one of the best film heroes of the past decade and it is largely because of Serkis’ nuanced acting. This role probably won’t get him that elusive Oscar nomination, but many have said it’s his best work yet. Woody Harrelson provides a worthy villain, one that will make you hate him and actively root for the apes against the humans.

The latest Planet Of The Apes trilogy has had a great run, breaking ground with its motion-capture performances and awesome CGI, while developing plenty of non-human characters. I still think the first film with James Franco was the strongest, but the last two entries have been very enjoyable as well, although not quite as memorable. This is an obvious must see if you are a fan of the franchise and an all around strong sci-fi sequel.

Replay Value: It will be cool to watch all three in sequence, but the first one is by far my favorite.
Sequel Potential: Obviously this is a franchise that will always have possibilities, but I don’t know if there are plans to continue with any of these characters.
Oscar Potential: A shoo-in for a Visual Effects nomination but the series is yet to get a nod for anything else and Andy Serkis will likely be ignored again.

Grade: 7/10 (highly enjoyable)

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The Mummy (2017)

July 13, 2017

Starring: Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Jack Johnson
Director: Alex Kurtzman

Bottom Line: Universal continues to struggle to jump start their Dark Universe, a connected cinematic world featuring all their classic movie monsters, ala the formula Marvel has made famous. Dracula Untold was the first false start and now The Mummy is supposed to finally get things moving forward but… it sucked. Okay, maybe it didn’t suck, but it was very dull and unmemorable.

We are introduced to Sofia Boutella’s mummy and Russell Crowe’s Dr. Jekkyl here and there are allusions to vampires and other possible monsters, but there was very little to be excited about. You kind of hope you get to see Crowe’s Jekkyl turn into his alter-ego Mr. Hyde, but when it happens it’s kind of an “oh boy” moment. I feel like I can confidently predict there will never be a Dr. Jekkyl and Mr. Hyde movie starring Russell Crowe – the transformation was incredibly lame.

Tom Cruise does a fine job as the renegade hero and Sofia Boutella’s mummy is whatever. You’d think that a mummy movie in 2017 would be much better than the version that came 15 years before, but it’s not. The Mummy starring Brendan Fraser had a lot more of an adventurous feel to it and the lighthearted humor made it a lot more enjoyable than this one. There are some funny moments as Cruise and Jack Johnson have some pretty good chemistry, but it’s clear that the tone of this version of The Mummy is meant to be much more serious than its predecessor and it just doesn’t work that well.

The Mummy wasn’t scary and it wasn’t all that entertaining. I don’t think it was terrible and it’s not like I wanted to leave the theater, but I wouldn’t really recommend it. Not even to huge fans of monster movies. I think Universal has no choice but to move forward at this point, but they are yet to get their cinematic universe off to the start their vault of classic monsters deserve. It’s brutal to recommend a reboot after the first movie, but I don’t want to see this mummy in future movies and I have no desire to see Crowe’s Dr. Jekkyl again. The future looks grim for Universal’s Dark Universe.

Replay Value: I would never watch this again.
Sequel Potential: This is supposed to be the first in a long series of connected monster movies. However, as of this writing, only The Bride Of Frankenstein (a weird choice for the second film) has a scheduled release date and that is two years away! Johnny Depp is reportedly going to be The Invisible Man and Javier Bardem is allegedly the Frankenstein Monster, but there’s not much on the horizon. Universal doesn’t seem to have a very good plan and after two rough starts maybe this thing never really takes off.
Oscar Potential: None.

Grade: 3.5/10 (skip it/forgettable)

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Alien: Covenant (2017)

May 27, 2017

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride
Director: Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Alien, Blade Runner)

Bottom Line: Count me among the many that enjoyed, but was somewhat disappointed, by Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel Prometheus in 2012. I only saw it once and if you’re thinking about seeing Alien: Covenant soon, I’d recommend taking another look at Prometheus first. Covenant picks up about ten years after the Prometheus’ ill-fated mission, with the crew of the Covenant landing on the same planet to investigate a signal that sounds like it could have a human origin. Having not revisited the previous film, I found myself confused about a number of things. Particularly, there’s a rather strange scene in the middle of this film that involves the alien DNA and it wasn’t clear to me whether it was some sort of dream sequence or an actual revelation. I felt like this scene was meant to tell us where the aliens really originated from, but it seemed so bizarre I wasn’t sure if we were meant to believe it. I can’t really expound on this confusion without getting too spoilery, but I’ll just say watching Prometheus again will definitely increase your enjoyment of this film.

Unlike Prometheus, Convenant is an Alien prequel through and through. If fans of the series were disappointed with Prometheus‘ audacity to veer off course and try to be something different, they will probably be happy with this film. After introducing us to the crew of the Covenant and sending them to the planet containing the alien pathogen, it’s not long before we have things exploding from abdomens and covering human faces. I have to say Ridley Scott does a great job of maximizing the tension, considering everyone in the audience understands the threat this time around. The alien scenes might not be scary, exactly, but they are taut and exhilarating and the film’s score really adds to the atmosphere.

I really have to give credit to the film’s creators for taking what started out as a very simple creature, the alien, one of the horror genre’s most notable monsters, and giving it an origin that is complex and interesting. It’s the kind of treatment that I hope Freddy Krueger gets one day. Am I the only one that thinks that there’s a great Freddy Krueger origin story out there somewhere? Additionally, Scott and the writers weave the events of Prometheus seamlessly into this film and makes them totally relevant, despite the fact that it was a film that stood completely on its own.

Michael Fassbender’s performance in Prometheus as the android David was universally acclaimed and he returns here as a new android named Walter that has some updated modifications to make him more compliant and Fassbender once again delivers top notch work. I’d go as far as to say he’s even better in this film and continues to rise of my list of favorite current actors. The rest of the cast is kind of unremarkable, but it’s worth noting that Danny McBride is in this film and he’s not trying to be funny. It’s weird and it feels miscast, but I didn’t hate him in the movie and he actually does a decent job of doing dramatic acting. Katherine Waterston’s Daniels is basically a clone of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley and it’s kind of hard to ignore the similarities – or the failure to measure up. In a way, it’s actually kind of insulting.

Alien: Covenant lacks the originality of its predecessor, but it should give fans of the Alien franchise exactly what they are looking for. It’s fun, exciting, and, like Prometheus, beautifully shot. With great action and all the tropes you’d expect from the series, plus another fantastic performance from Fassbender, Alien: Covenant is a fun, if not amazing, time at the movies.

Replay Value: Prometheus has more replay value, but I never watched that again. I suppose at some time in the future, I will watch both films again…
Sequel Potential: …because there should at least one more movie before going full circle and reaching the events of Alien. It doesn’t look like anyone is officially attached at the moment, but it’s certainly in the works.
Oscar Potential: Prometheus got a Visual Effects nom, so I guess this should be drawing live at the same category. It would be strange for Michael Fassbender to get an acting nomination for a prequel sequel, but his work here is plenty noteworthy.

Grade: 6/10 (Recommended)