Friday, October 6, 2017

Gifted (2017) Speed Review

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Following the death of his sister, Frank Adler (Chris Evans) takes on the role of raising his young niece Mary (Mckenna Grace). Mary is a child genius, a secret Frank has been trying to keep a secret. Gifted revolves around his quest to do so while holding his mother at bay from trying to take custody of Mary.

For me, Gifted is a delight, an absolute sleeper for the year. Currently on blu-ray and digital, it's a great film for a fun family night. Despite a forced, random twist towards the end and the film's slightly predictability, Gifted succeeds with awesome acting performances (Octavia Spencer kills it yet again) and great blend of moments that are both funny and emotion-filled. Not only are the characters believable, they are also extremely relatable.

If you didn't get a chance to check it out in theaters, I highly recommend checking it out at home. I give it a 92.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

It (2017) Movie Review

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In the sleepy town of Derry, Maine, kids are disappearing at an alarming rate. When a 13-year-old's little brother turns up missing, he decides to take matters into his own hands and find the threat. The kid Bill and his friends, known as the Losers Club, come face-to-face with Pennywise, a terrifying clown with supernatural powers. Pennywise must be stopped or It will continue to feed on countless lives.

When newcomers to "The Walking Dead" ask me whether or not they should watch the show if they don't like zombies, my reply is always, "Watch it. It's not about the zombies." It mirrors that thought in the sense that the movie is not about the terrifying clown, but rather the relationship between the kids. The story centers completely around them and the horrors they deal with on an everyday basis which, in some cases, are worse than Pennywise. The film doesn't hold any punches in this aspect and it allowed me to give it the proper respect it deserved as a FILM, not just a mere horror movie. The kids and their stories were powerful, definitely a successful adaptation from the source material from acclaimed author Stephen King.

Of course character development means nothing without a good cast. It absolutely delivers in this respect. I was worried with the film talking place in the 80's that the kids would too closely resemble the cast of "Stranger Things", but the Losers Club hold their own as a distinct crew. Each and every one of the cast members nail their respective roles from a determined Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) to the loud-mouthed Richie (Finn Wolfhard). Even the minor roles, those of parents and school bullies, were done extremely well. Spectacular job all around.

Which leads me to the clown of the hour: Pennywise. While I mentioned the film may not revolve around him, it doesn't make him any less creepy. Bill Skarsgard plays the absolute heck out of the role, controlling the mood like a puppet master. Little twists of his face can make you cringe, but, strangely enough, he can also make you laugh in the same breath. The best part about his approach to the role was it felt extreme effortless. Not effortless in the sense that he didn't try, but moreso in the sense that he didn't have to. He didn't go out of his way to be terrifying as he knew his presence alone would be creepy enough. I honestly find it hard trying to imagine anyone else playing that role and doing it so flawlessly.

And here's what I didn't like about the movie: Pretty much nothing. I'm not saying the movie is perfect, but like Logan Lucky, it comes pretty darn close.

There is a scene in the beginning of the film where we first meet Pennywise in a drain pipe. As he is talking to a young kid who couldn't have been more than eight, you are immediately introduced to how creepy he is. You can sense the excitement in his voice as he speaks, see the spittle coming from his mouth as he tries to compose himself. He wants to eat this kid. And badly.

It is the beginning of what turns out to be a very wild ride. Masterful job. I give It a 98 and a very slight edge over Logan for the year's best film.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Movie Subscriptions and the Future

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For all my movie lovers out there, I'm sure you may have heard of the new thing going around: Moviepass. 

Ok, so it's not new. Moviepass has actually been around for about seven years now. For those of you that don't know, Moviepass is a subscription service that gives moviegoers a chance to see one movie a day every single day for a monthly fee. Sound too good to be true? It may or may not be depending on who you are and what you like when it comes to movies. Whatever you decide after reading about my experience, for only $9.95 a month, it's definitely worth considering. I ordered my pass on August 15th, 2017, the day the major price drop was announced. I previously considered it a couple years ago when they offered it for $50/month but didn't think it lucrative enough or enticing enough for me to consider. $9.95, however, is cheaper than what I used to pay at Planet Fitness so I figured I had nothing to lose. It took my card awhile to get in my hands which, to be fair, Moviepass themselves warned me it would take longer due to the uptick in new memberships. I received it three weeks later on the 5th of September. 

Excited to get started, I decided to try it out the following day at the closest theater to me, an AMC theater. The first thing I had to do was check in to the theater via the Moviepass app once I got within 100 yards of the theater. Easy peezy. The app asked me to enter the last four digits of my Moviepass card they sent me (which is an average Mastercard) and that activated the card. Once you check into the theater and select which showing you want to view, the app tells you you have thirty minutes to purchase your ticket and the exact amount of the ticket is loaded onto your card. I was definitely skeptical of this, but gave it a shot. 

I walked up to a kiosk at the theater and swiped my Stubs card before swiping my Moviepass card. Presto! It worked! Not only did the Moviepass card work, but I got rewards points for the purchase. The ticket would have normally cost me $13.91 so I was already up $4! First purchase worked like a dream. 

The second purchase, however, was a little wonkier. You see, when you're using the Moviepass App, you have to have a decent enough internet connection in order to check in to the theater. This second theater didn't so I spent about five minutes trying to connect to a wifi. Once I did, I was able to check in just fine. The second issue came when the ticket price that Moviepass had on file was off by $0.02. This meant having to use my Moviepass card first then pulling out my debit card for the final two pennies. A little bit of a headache, but at this point I'm $26 ahead so I'll take it. 

For the third purchase, I had to get a little creative. 

I wanted to see It on opening weekend. Usually for a movie that I expect to be sold out, I buy tickets way in advance, but you can't do that with Moviepass. It has to be a day of purchase. So (again getting creative) I went to the theater at midnight when my day reset, checked in with the app (no problems here) and went to purchase my ticket. This time, the price was off by $0.21 so I had to pull out the debit card again for the change. Not ideal, but at this point I'm up almost $40 so I'm on cloud nine! My fourth purchase at yet another different theater went just as smoothly as the first so no complaints there. All this in mind, I spend $9.95 for movies that I would have normally dropped almost $50 on. 

AND I can still use my Stubs and Regal Rewards card! If you're seriously considering this, here are some things to keep in mind:

1. You can only use your Moviepass for one movie a day. Every single day. 365 days a year. No blackouts.

2. You have to purchase your ticket same day. At least that's what the company says. For $10/month, I have no intention of violating this rule and potentially getting my card revoked.

3. If your concern is cheating a theater, first off, stop it. These theaters make a killing in profit and it's not off of the ticket sales. It's off their concessions. So, really, you should only feel bad if you're sneaking food in. Besides, Moviepass pays full retail price on every single ticket you buy. You might not, but they most certainly do.

4. If you're thinking of sharing this pass with others, think again. Your card is linked directly to the app which is on your phone.

5. There isn't anything in place for couples (yet). If you and your boo are going to the movies and want to use Moviepass, both of you will have to have separate cards.

6. While you can go to the movies once a day, you can only see one movie one time. So, if you're thinking about going to see Thor: Ragnorak repeatedly with Moviepass, not gonna happen.

7. Moviepass is for plain jane 2D movies only. No 3D. No Dolby theaters or IMAX. 

8. If you're visiting a theater with a bad internet connection, you either have to connect to a local wifi or you're screwed. You can only check in on the app with a solid internet connection. Keep in mind, you only really need this connection for about thirty seconds and you just have to be within 100 yards of the theater to check in.

9. You have to be an adult to use Moviepass. 18 and up.

So, if I was scoring this like I was a reviewing a movie, I would give Moviepass a solid 81

Not only will it help me save a lot of money in the future, but it allows me to go see movies that I wouldn't have normally taken a chance on when paying out of pocket. This is great for all parties involved, including theaters. They're still getting normal ticket value AND people will now be more willing to spend money on your astronomical concession prices when they get in for free. Companies like Moviepass and Sinemia are the wave of the future.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Hitman's Bodyguard (2017) Movie Review

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Due to the underwhelming consensus from critics, I was going to pass on The Hitman's Bodyguard. Then a beautiful invention named Moviepass showed up and I decided to add this gem to my theater queue. The result? A wonderful moviegoing experience that I would have otherwise missed.

I'll put it simply: The film is just good fun. It will never blow you away or make you say, "Wow." Where it succeeds begins with the cast. Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds are a match made in heaven. Their comedic styles clash in the film throughout producing some awesome moments. Ryan Reynold's character Michael Bryce expresses himself through sheer frustration with the whole ordeal while Jackson's character Darius Kincaid will have you cracking up with his mastery of profanity. Personally, I thought both of their performances paled in comparison to the smaller role that Salma Hayek played as Sonia Kincaid. Every scene she appears in gives you another reason to burst into laughter. Her fire and pure rage is priceless.

Besides its comedy, the film is packed with action from beginning to end. Dead moments were rare which I appreciated. These scenes may not reinvent the wheel, but there are a couple moments that stand out above your typical action movie.

Yes, I read what the critics have been saying and some of it I agree with. The action, while awesome, is pretty formulaic. Don't expect a lot of surprises. The film is also a bit cheesy in spots. These are typically moments where I thought the dialogue between Jackson and Reynolds could have been a bit tighter. It is a film that is perfectly content with staying in its swim lane and I'm ok with that.

The plot is pretty straightforward. Darius Kincaid is a contract killer who is needed to testify in court against a major corrupt politician. Michael Bryce has been assigned with keeping him alive until his day in court.

What ensues is pure hilarity. Extremely happy that I gave this movie its fair shake. I give it a 91.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Atomic Blonde (2017) Movie Review

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My one gripe of Atomic Blonde is solely based on what my expectations of the film were. I expected a knock-down, drag-out fight from beginning to end, nothing but high octane action. What I got instead was a clever spy film with loads of action in between. So clever that I found myself having to pay more attention than I was hoping to. Fair warning now, if you're going to see Atomic Blonde, keep both eyes open or you could miss something important.

Atomic Blonde hits hard while being sexy and sleek at the same time. I think this pretty much sums up Charlize Theron's character Lorraine in a nutshell. She is quite the beast in this movie. I have never seen someone kick so much butt and look seemingly disinterested with the whole affair at the same time. She's the kind of person that you'd want to have along for a drink while always being in fear of saying the wrong thing. Theron commands the role as the female hero, even moreso in my humble opinion than Gadot with Wonder Woman. While both can be applauded for doing exceptional jobs, I have to give the butt-kicking award to Lorraine.

The plot is smooth with a handful of bumps in the road. There are just enough twists and enough intrigue that keep things moving along without muddling things too badly. Theron plays the role of hardcore spy Lorraine who is on assignment in Berlin to take down an espionage ring. What ensues among deceit and lies are long, well-directed actions sequences that show how well Lorraine can take a punch.

And boy does she take a lot of them. It's one of the most noticeable things to love about the movie, the fact that Lorraine can not only hang with the big boys, but she surpasses them in every way. She is as ruthless as John Wick and as nimble of foot as Black Widow. She gets hit (and hard), but manages to bounce back and destroy her opposition. Girl power at its finest.

Shot in an interesting contrast of grittiness and bright colors, Atomic Blonde is another awesome work by director David Leitch. I give it a 90.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Wonder Woman (2017) Movie Review

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I hate that my favorite action scene in Wonder Woman is the one I can't talk about without spoiling things. It's a climactic battle between good and evil and it fills the big screen from one end to the other. It's amazing to watch. Almost makes you think: Where has this been all this time, DC?

Mind you, this isn't the only pleasing action sequence, just the best. Wonder Woman's power is on full display throughout the entire film as she tosses tanks with ease and flies from one building to the next taking out a slew of dudes along the way. A lot of the coolest fight scenes ever done in film include the One Versus Many scenario and our superheroine of the hour finds herself in this situation more than once. While it doesn't quite meet the same level of excitement as watching Logan slice through enemies like paper, I give a lot of credit to director Patty Jenkins for ensuring that these scenes were carefully crafted to the point of being memorable.

Yes, DC fans, Wonder Woman is here and it's the movie you actually deserve. To those of you that didn't see Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice: 1. Be thankful; 2. All you need to know is that this film follows the origin story of Wonder Woman and how she went from a young girl growing up in the Greek-centric Themyscira to the powerful heroine who is symbol of love and truth. For those that did see BVS, this film answers the question: What's the deal with that old-timey picture that Bruce Wayne found?

While DC movies lately have been missing the mark with their humor, Wonder Woman finds its target quite a few times. I loved that the funny wasn't forced like it could be at times in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Because it came naturally, it was naturally funny. The film didn't just rely on Chris Pine to carry the comic relief load as a lot of the characters managed to get their quips in some form or fashion, even Gal Gadot.

Speaking of Gadot, I must give her all the props in the world for doing the character of Diana (Wonder Woman) justice. Gadot is sensational in her role. She offers the perfect blend of naivety and fierceness that makes Wonder Woman who she is. Maybe there's another actress out there who could have played the role just as well, but Gadot is by no means forgetful. She breathes life into a franchise badly in need of resuscitation.

For all of the things the film did right, there were a number of tiny things that kept it from excelling into greatness. I'll just touch on two. They failed when they tried to throw a love story into the mix. Again, I won't ruin anything, but not only did I feel like it was unnecessary, I also thought it was very contradictory to Diana's personality and her philosophy of life. They had already established (in a pretty funny way) that she had no need for a man. Why ruin things by forcing the issue?

Finally, the slow motion sequences were a little too much for me at times. There were a few moments where it heightens the moment, but there were too many times where it felt over the top a la Transformers. I hope they play with this a little bit for the sequel.

Is Wonder Woman the best superhero movie of the year? No and it's not even close. I actually laughed when I heard they were pushing for a Best Picture nomination. It's a solid film, but not nearly as good as what Logan gave us. Much needed win for DC, though! I give it an 89.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) Movie Review

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Sure, a movie critic could come in and pick Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets apart, frame by frame. One thing that won't be a part of that discussion is the visuals. The film takes you on a tour from scene to jawdropping scene. You'll explore a space beach with titanic seashells decorating the water. Oceanic depths where alien creatures abide. Chase scenes with so many visuals you will blink and miss something. Director Luc Besson has never been one to shortchange creativity and Valerian is no exception.

The visuals go a lot further than the actual depth of the movie and that's a part of the problem. Valerian is pretty straightforward so don't expect a whole lot of twists and turns. It felt like Besson was trying to get from Point A to Point B with as straight of a formulaic arrow as possible. Mind you, there are other films that do the same. John Wick is the most recent that comes to mind. However, when you take this approach everything else has to be spectacular in order for the film to work. That doesn't quite happen here.

The main characters, Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) were about as deep as cardboard. They were there for one thing and one thing only: advance the plot. Not sure if it was the acting or the poor script, but the execution could have been so much better. Going back to John Wick, Wick's character has a similar lack of depth, but he's got something the rest of the audience can reach for and relate to: Rage. He's beyond angry and you get it. You root for him to see his rage and revenge exacted. With Valerian and Laureline, on the other hand, there's not enough motivation to really care about what happens to these characters. Not to mention, they have zero chemistry yet viewers are supposed to believe there is a spark of romance there.

Regarding the plot, a dark threat is trying to attack the City of Alpha and Valerian and Laureline have to get to the bottom of it. The film doesn't do everything wrong, which is the reason I didn't rate it lower. The action is fun at times. You'll also find yourself laughing a bit if you like a drier wit. A few tweaks would have made the film as good as its visuals. As it stands, I give it a 75.