Monday, May 22, 2017

Sleight (2017) Movie Review

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At the heart of Sleight is its characters. Strong relatable characters that make you become personally invested in the high stakes in which they are involved. Bo (Jacob Latimore) is just a kid forced into manhood early after his mom dies. You feel for him as he struggles to try and take care of his younger sister while maintaining his moral compass at the same time. Holly (Seychelle Gabriel) finds her way into Bo's life with a heart-tugging story of her own. Both characters are on an unavoidable collision course that you can only hope ends for the best.

With superhero movies being all the rage for well over a decade at this point, I've gotta give credit to the rare ones that offer fresh takes on the genre. Sleight is extremely original, something you will walk away saying you haven't seen before. Where most origin stories start off with the main character already having a somewhat decent life (Batman, Thor, Iron Man), Sleight thrusts you into the inner city where drugs, nightlife, and violence are at the forefront. It's not long into the film you realize just how badly Bo's world needs a hero.

Part-time street magician, part-time drug dealer, Bo's goal is simple: Make enough money from the latter to buy his way out of the seedy life and focus on raising his sister. He's playing a dangerous game, however, as his boss Angelo isn't the easiest of dealers to get away from. The decisions Bo has to make are like little land mines effecting every single slice of his life. I won't ruin how the superhero aspect comes into play, but I will say it's both cool and refreshing.

Latimore delivers a strong peformance as does Gabriel playing Holly. Believability is everything and both actor and actress managed to capture the strength and vulnerability of their respective characters. On the flipside, Dule Hill's performance as Angelo was not nearly as believable. His role as crime boss didn't quite scare me as much as other notable actors in a similar role.

This film is a definite sleeper and I was glad to be a part of the circle of people that have viewed it. I saw this film and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 two days apart. Sleight was better. I give it a solid 89.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) Movie Review

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There is so much to like about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and it doesn't really surprise me much as James Gunn hit a home run with the first one. Marvel has been on such a roll over the past few years and I'm sorry to tell the haters: They're not out of gas yet. I knew it would be funny from the trailers, but the humor hits you in different ways from the monumental to the subtle. It's sci-fi action that succeeds because of the funnybone at its core. For the most part it never takes itself too seriously.

Again, the trailers left me with certain expectations, one of which being that I had seen a good chunk of the good parts. Not so in the least. In fact, you remember that trailer scene where the Guardians are battling it out on the platform with the massive space monster? Yeah, that's just the first ten minutes. The movie is jam-packed with cool surprises that keep you on your toes even as the credit rolls. My lips are sealed, but be sure and stay on the lookout at all times for cool easter eggs.

I'll get off my praise horse for a moment to address my one gripe. While the film was excellent bordering on brilliant at times, I thought there were other times where it tried too hard. There were a handful of sentimental moments that were over the top reminding me of something I might find on a Lifetime movie. Gunn was forcing it, just as he found himself doing with a handful of the jokes that tried a little too hard to be funny. In his defense, there are few movies that get this completely right. In a film that feels like a walking punchline, there's bound to be jokes that fall flat. Not to mention it's better to try to hard than look like you never really tried at all.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 succeeds without there being any kind of plot to drive the ship. The cast's familiarity with each other shines onscreen. You have a better feel for these guys this time around which makes their actions and dialogue even funnier. Everyone will rave about how awesome and cute Baby Groot was, but I personally think that Drax steals the show this time around. He's over impulsive and his decisions tend to drive the direction of the group, mostly in directions they never wanted to go in the first place. The blunt way he puts things will leave you cracking up.

Not quite as good as the first, but still a strong sequel. I give it an 86.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Colossal (2017) Movie Review

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I kept waiting for a deep, profound message to hit me while I was watching Colossal. I thought it was leading to something major. When it was over, only one message remained: This world is full of awful people. Not exactly something you would find in a fortune cookie.

After Gloria's (Anne Hathaway) boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) dumps her and kicks her out of their apartment, Gloria heads to her small hometown to get her life together. Meanwhile, a monster has surfaced in South Korea. Gloria soon discovers that her own movements control that of the monster. How she handles this dictates where the rest of the story goes. 

The film has a light-hearted feel to it at first, but switches to a darker tone around the second act. Too dark in my opinion. The mod shift is both jarring and unwelcome. You come to have a certain expectation, or hope rather, as to how things are going to turn out and you soon realize you will probably be disappointed.

There are a lot of unnecessary occurrences in Colossal that are only there for the sake of advancing the plot. Normally I wouldn't mind this if there were other strong points to provide a balance. Instead it was almost two hours of watching characters that weren't even remotely likeable. Even villainous characters typically have enduring, redeeming qualities at times. Not this crew. It felt like Director/Writer Nacho Vigalondo took what was supposed to be a short and turned it into a full-length film.

For all of its faults, I will say that Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudekis succeeded with very strong performances. Both are tragic characters, flawed by the choices they have made in life. Unfortunately, their respective performances weren't enough to save the film.

I applaud the film's originality, particular in today's film landscape where piggyback and remake are the words of the day. I think Colossal had potential, but it fell flat for me. I give it a 52.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Power Rangers (2017) Movie Review

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There will be moments in Power Rangers where you might roll your eyes. These moments usually are a result of headscratching occurrences that are only there for the sake of advancing the plot. On the flipside, this is also a part of what makes the film successful as it never manages to take itself too seriously (like a failed Transformers or Batman Vs. Superman). It succeeds in standing on its own while paying the proper homage to the tv show.

For its minor flaws, the film overall is both entertaining and fun. For those of you that never watched the tv show (shame on you!), it's about five kids that find special stones that were buried after an alien war ages ago. They soon learn that they must become the Power Rangers to stop an evil force that wants to destroy the world.

Sure, the concept is the same but the film takes things a step further by putting a strong emphasis on character development. Each one of the characters' situations is directly relatable to what's going on in today's society. A misunderstood bully. A screw-up jock who can't seem to stay out of his own way. A kid that has to become an adult before he's ready because he's taken on the role of man of the house. Those are just three of the five stories. I don't want to ruin the others for you. Side note: Not only do I not have a problem with the character choice for Billy, I thought it was a good touch. 

Power Rangers does suffer from some cheesy moments that interrupt the flow of the film at times. Think of it as a cold, however, not a flu. I was also hoping for a bit more action, but again, I think the goal of this film was to make the audience actually care about the characters, something a lot of other action movies is severely lacking.

I can't wait to see what happens if they do a sequel. The budget should be bigger (which hopefully means better CGI) and they've already indicated some characters we can expect to see (stay for the post credits scene). With a funny yet serious tone to it, Power Rangers is a solid watch, worth your theater dollars. I give it an 85. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Life (2017) Movie Review

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While there are some movies out there that fail because they move at a snail's pace, Life suffers from being on the other side of the spectrum. The progression of the new species from Mars, the centerpiece of the film, feels far too rapid and extremely unbelievable. As it grows from a microscopic organism to something much bigger, its thinking power far exceeds feasibility. What results is a film compounded with too many headscratching moments for it to be enjoyable.

On the plus side, if you're going to see this film for thrills, Life definitely offers up some legitimate scares. The "creature" from Mars (no spoiling) is terrifying because of its abnormal look and its lightning quick speed. As you come to find out, the thing could literally be hiding anywhere and that's frightening in and of itself. In that respect, director Daniel Espinosa deserves proper credit.

For those of you that don't know Life is the story of a six-man space crew that has embarked on a mission to retrieve evidence of life on Mars. What they run into is far worse than what they ever could have hoped for. That last cliche of a sentence is an ode to the noticeable amount of horror cliches you will find in the film.

Life starts with a bang that captures your interest, then manages to fizzle out as time goes on. It feels like you're watching a bad magician that's really good at setting up his tricks. Once you see the trick, you're not amused. I've seen worse in the horror genre, but I have also seen much better. I give it a 67.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Kong: Skull Island (2017) Movie Review

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Monster movie. That's what you have to remind yourself before you sit down in your chair at the movie theater (and, yes, go see this in theaters). Don't expect a lot of depth, but still expect to have a really good time.

The plot is somewhat rehashed from the original. A group of explorers come upon a mythical island where they suspect it could be a major discovery. What they find ends up being way more than what they bargained for. 

The answer is Kong. They find Kong.

The characters are about as hollow as a cardbox box. The cast is actually pretty stellar on paper, but none of them really do enough to make one stand out over the other. Their sole purpose is to run, scream, and basically get out of Kong's way while he does his thing. Screenwriters Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, and Derek Connolly tried to add some depth to Samuel L. Jackson's character by making him the eventual antagonist, but Jackson's motivations made the story seem even more farfetched. Makes me wonder why it took three guys to write this.

All that being said, let me reiterate that you're insane if you go to a monster movie for the characters or the story. No, you go for the action and Kong: Skull Island absolutely delivers here. The explorers and military team that get stranded are faced with danger left and right which makes for some pretty cool scenes. And let's not forget about Kong, the star of the show. He walks around with undeniable swagger, destroying anyone or anything that opposes him. The just ruler runs a tight ship and doesn't take kindly to being screwed with. It's just plain fun watching him battle gargantuan monsters and take on multiple bad guys at once.

The visual effects were done extremely well. The 2006 King Kong did an amazing job of capturing the emotion in Kong's face and Skull Island definitely replicated that success. In addition to the titanic ape, the film boasts an abundance of creative creatures, including a spider that looks like it's walking on tree-high stilts.

Kong: Skull Island succeeds in giving you strong action scenes that you'll remember for a long time. I give it an 86.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Moonlight (2016) Movie Review

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Moonlight is the story of Chiron and his harsh life in Miami where he's trying to find both himself and a way to survive. The film follows Chiron through three phases of his life, all of which are pivotal in shaping the man that he becomes. I've heard from others that Manchester By the Sea has a very depressing feel to it. Well, Moonlight is no stranger to the darker side either. It suffocates you with sadness. You want it to stop but at the same time you know it's necessary.

I question some of the stylistic choices at times, my only gripe in addition to the fact that there are no cheer-worthy high points to look forward to. The film jumps around a bit, which would be fine if I didn't have to already contemplate the things I just saw. At times it felt like I had just eaten a healthy plate of food then went for a run directly after. 

For its flaws, however, Moonlight is highly original. It does more than offer a fresh perspective on a story that's already been done. Rather it takes you inside a story you've never heard of or seen before. How does one survive in Chiron's living conditions? Furthermore, how does one survive in Chiron's living conditions AND struggle with sexuality at the same time? These are just one of many questions this film challenges you to try and answer.

The film excels in a number of things, evoking emotion being one of the leaders. You would be hard pressed for your heart not to break as you watch Chiron grow in all three phases of his life. You want this kid to get a win so bad, but life continues to hand him a raw deal. I loved the consistency that all three characters used to bring this character to life. As he gradually developed into a man, he was still the same lost kid at his core. Awkward. Shy. Man of little words. One can't help but wonder how differently his life would have been had he grown up in the same environment the characters from La La Land did.

The real world isn't a fairytale and Moonlight does an excellent job of capturing this truth. It's a film that will stick with you long after you have watched it. I give it an 84.