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.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Logan (2017) Movie Review

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For those of you that value my opinion on movies, even remotely, just know this: I literally just spent the past ten minutes trying to find something wrong with Logan. For the life of me, I couldn't do it. If you're reading this and you're in a hurry, I'll save you some time: Logan is one of the best films you will see all year.

It's a film that sucks you in with how real it actually feels. Sure, it takes place twelve years from now and it's about mutants, yet it still manages to capture a visceral realism that's unforgiving. Mutants, kids at that, fighting for their survival and having to take lives to keep their own. Innocent casualties. A corporation willing to risk everything to fatten its own pocket. All conceivable scenarios that gives Logan a roughness around its edges.

The year is 2029 and there hasn't been a new mutant born since 2004. Logan (Hugh Jackman) has become a limousine driver and his age is finally starting to show. His attempts to remain low-key are ruined when a woman abruptly appears in his life asking him to transport a young girl to safety.

The film was carried, in part, by phenomenal acting performances. Patrick Stewart reprises his role as Professor Charles Xavier. He's become a bit senile in his old age. Logan has to force feed him pills to keep him from having seizures that wreak havoc on the world around him. There's a lot to be said about some of the powerful scenes he finds himself in. There's even more to be said about Dafne Keen's performance as Laura (X-23). Silence is golden for her so she relies a lot on her body language and stoic facial expressions to get her point across. As a fan of the X-23 comics, I think she did an awesome job of embracing that role. Lastly, you get to see Hugh Jackman as a Wolverine that you've never really seen before, but you always knew was there. You can tell he had a lot of fun with this role as he got to utilize a lot of range. He can make you laugh then break your heart, all within a few moments.

The action will make your eyes grow big. A lot. Let's just say it's the Wolverine movie everyone has been waiting to see, or at least the one I've been waiting to see. I won't ruin even the slightest bit, but lets just say the trailers don't even come close to the bloody flick this film turns out to be. Expect to say "Ohhhhhh!" a lot.

Yes, they got it right this time around. I love that Logan never deviates from character. He doesn't change being who he is just because a kid is in the picture. On the surface, he's a jerk that has to look out for number one first. Underneath is a man who has a larger heart than he realizes, yet refuses to show it.

There's so much more I can say about this film. There's the slightly brilliant move by director James Mangold to not include a post-credits scene (about thirty seconds into the film, you will understand why and be totally happy about it). Then you have the excellent pacing among many other things. Logan is the overall package. I give it a 97.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Get Out (2017) Movie Review

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I was watching the Oscars last night with a group of people as I do every year. One of the women there, a white woman, couldn't stop talking about how horrible Halle Berry's hair was. It bothered me and became increasingly difficult for me to let it go as the night wore on. Sitting here a day later after the smoke has cleared, I can't help but wonder how differently my reaction would have been to that comment if I too was white. Or better yet, if the woman was black.

To those of you that think we live in this melting pot of a society where every race and sex thinks exactly the same way, I have a secret to tell you: You're delusional. Get Out puts that myth to bed choosing rather to tackle this concept head on in a way that's extremely creative in scope. The film isn't just about a black man getting introduced to his white girlfriend's family only to find they are secretly enslaving black people, although it is that too. It's more, layers more. What you see on the surface and the subtext make this an important film for our current generation.

Rotten Tomatoes lists the movie as both comedy and horror which I think is a fair assessment. Director/Writer Jordan Peele walks the tightrope seamlessly between funny and suspenseful, much like Shyamalan did in Split. The film's realness is what makes it hilarious and scary at the same time. It's a realistic portrayal of what someone might do when put in these uncomfortable situations. Main character Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) can sense there's something wrong with this situation and, deep down, he knows he's right. He just doesn't want to be. He ignores how strangely the other black people in the community act and turns a blind ear when his girlfriend's father mentions voting for Obama for a third term as he tries to relate. He can tell by their actions and words that something is going on, but he's a guest and doesn't want to be the conspiracy theorist. 

Some of the most uncomfortable moments come during a community gathering where people in the neighborhood are meeting Chris for the first time. One woman defies boundaries and feels Chris' biceps, not in an endearing way but rather in the same way one might inspect an animal. Another man remarks on Chris' predisposition to being stronger because of his genetic makeup. I imagine that Chris has probably heard about these type of people before but never experienced it in such close proximity, and all at once for that matter. It has to be overwhelming and unsettling for him and Daniel does an excellent job of expressing those sentiments.

The social commentary doesn't fall flat and it makes you put on your thinking cap. It plays with your mind as you start to look for little subtext, which is not unusual in real life either. When the father tells Chris not to go down in the basement because there's black mold, I'm thinking, "Why does it have to be black mold? All mold is dangerous!" Was it meant to be racist? I don't know. Does it matter? Another great question.

My only gripe was that the resolution came extremely quick, almost jarring to a certain extent. It doesn't destroy an otherwise great movie however. It's a movie that ultimately says, "You ARE different. And that's ok." We aren't meant to think the same things or act the same way. At the end of the day, coexistence and tolerance will help us unify.

I consider Get Out a must-see. I give it a 95.

P,S.--She was right, by the way. Halle Berry's hair was atrocious. I'll never tell her, though.

Monday, February 13, 2017

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) Movie Review

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John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is back, but not because he wants to be. When a fellow assassin calls in a favor, Wick finds himself in a heap of trouble after he turns the task down. If the movie stumbles, it's only slightly as a result of questionable pacing in the beginning. Once it puts its foot back on the gas John Wick: Chapter 2 never lets up.

I have to begin with the man of the hour himself, Mr. John Wick. He has a way of dominating the screen by being seemingly everywhere at once. He embodies what a true contract killer looks like with his ruthless precision and attention to detail. You watch him and you can tell as he guns down enemy after enemy that he is thinking three steps ahead which is probably what I appreciate most about his character. For example, instead of gunning down an enemy that would be at point blank range, he wraps them up and puts them in a hold they can't get out of. Why does he opt to do that? Because there are more enemies coming and he has to make sure he has enough bullets to take them all down. Wick knows he can take out the guy he has in a hold with his bare hands if he needs to. Like I said: Ruthless precision.

Amidst some of the most amazing action I've seen in a movie without CGI, there are a few funny moments sprinkled in that I don't want to ruin (and thankfully the trailers didn't either). The level of fear that this seedy underworld has towards Wick is comical in and of itself. His stories follow him everywhere he goes, yet the bad guys still expect to get a piece of him.

Along with the action and the funny, I appreciate what the film did from a stylistic standpoint. Whereas the first film has darker tones, the scenes in the sequel offer vibrant colors that pop and add flare even while the blood is spraying everywhere. There are some cool scenes here (one in particular that really stands out) that feel fresh in a genre that seems to suffer from unoriginality.

I'm happy to say that John Wick: Chapter 2 is a movie where the trailer doesn't do nearly as much justice as the movie deserves. As a viewer, you will embrace that detail that went into this work about an underworld of assassins. I give it a well-deserved 95.