Thursday, June 22, 2017

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (2017) Movie Review

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Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie shows a lot of promise, even brilliance in some spots. Overall it falls well short of other movies I've seen in 2017 this year. A few tweaks here and there would have adjusted my opinion dramatically.

George and Harold are the best of friends. When they're not causing trouble and playing pranks, they are working on their comic book Captain Underpants. A twisted turn of events brings their superhero to life, but is nowhere near what they expected. They find themselves having to figure out a way to keep him from doing more harm than good.

The great movies stay in your mind for weeks, months, years even, after you watch them. In the case of Captain Underpants, while there are a few funny moments I can point to, the movie overall is forgettable unfortunately. I laughed at points, but I'm having trouble at this point remembering what exactly was so funny. I do however remember the numerous slow pockets of the movie that made it feel longer than it was. 

The film had its moments even if I can't quite remember what I laughed at. It also strives to pack a bit of heart both in its message and relationships. Parents can feel good about taking their kids to see a movie that teaches them what happens when people come together to help other people.

While I appreciate the comic book stylistic aspect of the film and its originality, Captain Underpants wasn't memorable enough to fully stand out. It won't immediately hook you, nor will it hold your attention. I give it a 66.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Straight Outta Compton (2015) Movie Review

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Straight Outta Compton follows the rise of controversial rap group N.W.A. Their journey to stardom is easily a story worth retelling as it hits on topics all over the spectrum from gang violence to race wars to the atrocities that exist in the music business. While it's not a film you'll be pushed to watch more than once, it's definitely one that everyone should see at least once.

You can't talk about a film about a music group without mentioning the music itself. Straight Outta Compton not only provides a solid soundtrack, but gives you deeper insight into how some of the songs were created. We're used to the finished product, but it's rare that we get a glimpse into the process of the song and the reasoning behind its creation. While a song like "Fuck the Police" might be pretty self-explanatory in its inception, a perfect chain of events brought the song to life.

The film captures your attention from the beginning. Easy E (Jason Mitchell) enters a dope house to collect on some money owed to him. It's a tense interaction that ends in a S.W.A.T. swarming the house. You see Easy running from rooftop to rooftop while helicopters scan the perimeter. Just another day in Compton.

N.W.A. lived out a sensational career from their freaky beach parties to their crazy tour bus antics. Yet in still, as you're watching it unfold on the big screen, none of it ever appears to be oversensationalized. I never found myself saying, "Ok, that's probably a stretch." That's a big reason as to why it was so enticing to watch.

Strong performances from the cast helped carry the movie as well. The group members weren't granted equal screen time, but each played their role in excellent fashion. I honestly can't say that I favored one over the other.

Here's where the movie could have used a little bit of a boost: It refused to ever dive under the surface of the relationship between these five young men. Sure we saw the houses, the partying, the tours. However, I never got a full sense of who these characters were as brothers growing up in a less than appealing environment. What were they like when they weren't around the music and the women and cameras? In a society today where terms like "Black Lives Matter" receive divisive responses, it would have been nice to see the heart that beat behind these men. To somehow show that they were more than just music, money, and parties. Missed opportunity in my opinion.

Solid movie that was good, but could have been exceptional. I give it a 77.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

A Look Back at My Favorite Movies of 2016

It's June, meaning we're about halfway through 2017. If I'm being honest, it's been an underwhelming year for movies so far. Sure, there is a lot of time left and to be fair, I have yet to see and review Wonder Woman yet. Also, there about 32 other movies that I could potentially see this year so there is still time for things to turnaround. While we're in this downtime, I thought I would take an entry to look back at my Top Ten Movies of 2017.

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10. Morris From America
What I Gave it: 94
Why I Liked it: Craig Robinson delivers an inspiring comedic performance as a father trying to raise his son in Germany. Extremely original and keeps you entertained from beginning to end.

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9. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
What I Gave it: 94

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8. La La Land
What I Gave it: 94
Why I Liked it: The music combined with the beautiful imagery of the multitude of set pieces make this one to remember.

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7. Moana
What I Gave it: 96

6. Everybody Wants Some!!
What I Gave it: 97

5. Deadpool
What I Gave it: 97

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4. Kung Fu Panda 3
What I Gave it: 98

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3. The Magnificent Seven
What I Gave it: 98

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2. Zootopia
What I Gave it: 98

1. Sing Street
What I Gave it: 100

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.