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It's terrific FX but not compelling (no serious spoilers)
So, I got to tell 'ya here: This is a monster movie. Does that qualify as a spoiler? I guess it must because the movie starts with a vacuous yuppie going away party with just about the least interesting (though still handsome / pretty) set of Millennials ever... And suddenly they're thrust into a run-for-your-life disaster movie staring huge robots that can transform themselves into cars and such and there's a very distracting babe...oh wait, wrong movie but nearly the same idea. There's random, needless, and apolitical destruction everywhere and the Millennials are on the run with only one slightly guilty (and enormously dumb) rescue operation underway. Hey: They're the only ones left running around, practically, is a city of zillions. Why the seven stars: I loved the FX. Wow. It's 2008 and it look real and was filmed in cinema verité. Impressive! You could easily imagine yourself right there (but, unfortunately, with a less pretty girl friend or less handsome bf, but who's counting). Other than moderately irrational behavior by the protagonist, the other actions are real in context (btw, there's no way this could have happened in LA because everyone would be giving the monster a shoulder shrug and a kumbaya and, besides, the monster would have been stuck on the 405 FOR HOURS ON END). Ultimately, as many other reviews have said, this is not much more than Blair Witch with a bang.
Best Day Ever (2014)
Just a day in the life w/o editing (but with background music)
This has all the earmarks of a home video, except there's a corny/trite soundtrack that doesn't belong in this small gay pastiche telling of one typical day in gay-relationship-dom. Blessedly, it's not over-acted, nor over-scripted...but it's also underwritten to a certain degree so we're left wondering about some of the setup...and this rolls along in stereotypical fashion, but w/o typical gay drama....so it's refreshing in that way. I can see many folks getting uncomfortable watching the plot unfold but, hey: Everyone knows what's going to happen and, guess what: It Does.
Mars Attacks! (1996)
Relentlessly boring and unfunny
What a colossal waste of time and talented actors. I haven't been so bored in a long, long time. There's nothing even remotely funny or interesting going on in this movie...and even what could have been a funny moment regarding one certain musical selection isn't funny either. This is a huge miscalculation on the script-writer and director's part. I was going to blame the bad editing but the movie is < 2 hrs so it's not as though someone let this drivel drag on longer than necessary. If this is supposed to be a spoof, it's a totally wasted, boring effort of one.
Stunning cinematography mixed with pathos and a boring story line
For the most part, watching Roma was about as interesting as watching paint dry...but not just *any* paint, but the most perfect, precious, beautifully applied paint imaginable. And not just paint in any room, but a room designed to be the best room with the best lighting and the best layout...and, oh, this was paint drying under high humidity conditions so you needed to watch the paint dry in a single, long-flowing take to appreciate the reflective nuances of the paint in all its evolving glory and often from unusually low angles of perspective since that yields special visual treats. Best Director. Best Cinematography. Best Paint Job. Ultimately not engaging.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Extremely inventive but derivative and totally predicatable until its finale
What a colossal jumble of CGI / FX and complex character interactions. This film has everything and then some more from the kitchen sink. I was half-way expecting a cavalcade of Disney characters to come romping through this movie. Where were the Transformers? Where were the Jaegers from Pacific Rim? I feel cheated!!
I had cinematic issues with some very derivative visuals / plot issues: The initial villian assisting Thanos looks an awful lot like Lord V from Harry Potter. The nasty animals trying to overrun Wakanda towards the end were directly borrowed from Lord of the Rings (the CGI looked identical, too). In the scene where the Avengers seem so close to overpowering Thanos, it was wildly over-telegraphed that Starlord was going to ruin it...and that cliched scene has been repeated over and over elsewhere. Yawn.
But can we talk about the overarching plot here? So, why is Thanos a Malthusian? What's the evidence for an overpopulated Universe anyway? What's Thanos' beef? Consider: At least with Hitler and the Germans, they had a legitimate grievance (no matter how incredibly exaggerated into unconscionable and despicable action) regarding their treatment after WWI. We hear Thanos pontificating at various points to justify his quest to indiscriminately wipe out half the Universe...geez...that makes a lot of sense. It makes NO sense and he espouses no coherent viewpoint or justification, no matter how ill conceived, to back up his request. Well, is that any different than any insane villain? Perhaps not...but I thought the stones would at least give him some smarts...clearly not.
So, I'm giving Infinity War eight stars based on the rapturous FX and outrageous character mashups but still find the plot unnecessarily weak on the essentials. BTW, I have no beef with the sad ending: It's about time reality struck. The Earth is on course to an overheated oblivion, too...we better get used to unhappy endings.
Range 15 (2016)
Are you completely wasted on strong THC?
Then by all means see this homage to all things cinematically indecent and dumb. I'd like to know how this POS ever got green lighted. The only redeeming feature was watching Linda Blair get done by a broom handle.... oh wait... that didn't happen in this movie...and that's why this movie is bad.
Call Me by Your Name (2017)
Ersatz romance in isolation
Armie Hammer found himself grossly miscast as the diffident hunk and it doesn't work for me. There's less than zero chemistry between Oliver and Elio, despite a valiant (and Academy Award nominated) acting performance by Timothee Chalamet. The entire affair reeks of forced airs in a way never required in a Merchant/Ivory concoction. When Elio gets his explicitly telegraphed call at the end, it's a 100% groaner. Well, duh. But at least Timothee gets his Oscar try at the picture's end and I can't fault his acting...but Armie Hammer is out of his element...he can't convince me he has a gay bone in his body nor has he convinced me he has any feelings for Elio, sexual or emotional. It's an intellectual effort in non-onanistic pleasures. It's impossible for me to imagine Oliver wanting to do anything in that way with Elio given Armie's performance.
The Florida Project (2017)
Beautiful scene scripting, cinematography, screen play. All too real acting but ultimately Very Depressing
Impressive acting...and the only person who looked like they were acting was Willem Dafoe (who still acquitted himself well). I found the camera work mesmerizing and Brooklynn Prince's acting totally stunning (she's the heart of this movie, perhaps in counterpoint to her mother, convincingly played by Bria Vinaite). The director carefully crafted each scene but without the expected histrionics. It's a sweet and innocent story set in a cultural garbage dump. The ending seemed a bit too simplistic...I'd have like to see a bit more resolution even though you know exactly how things are going to turn out.
If this movie doesn't make a strong case for fully funding Planned Parenthood then nothing ever ever will.
A Quiet Place (2018)
A fun, if somewhat short ride, but certainly with major scary moments. (Contains Spoilers)
An interesting premise but I'd really like to see the director's cut...so much background / explanatory information was likely left on the cutting room floor. I'm sure I'm repeating many other comments but I'll just add to the chorus. So, the creatures attack things that make sounds...but I'm guessing only certain kinds of sounds. But: If a tree branch falls in the woods does the creature go berserk and attack the branch? Nature makes tons of sounds in all frequency ranges! What the heck do these creatures eat? I guess I could (and should) level the same criticism at Alien/Aliens. Those Aliens got awfully big and I didn't see them eat anything...maybe they got into the cat food or something. If the creatures ate things that moved/made noise as it would be lots scarier...but we saw at least one scene where the creature merely killed its victim. It's not adding up. Then let's talk about guns. In America, like everyone's packing an AK if not multiples. Those creatures should be toast unless they have (as one post mentioned) protective armor. And since they seem to attack things making noise, seems someone would put 2+2 together and attack the creatures with high-frequency sound to see what happens (it's kind of like, duh). I bet a couple of dog whistles form PETCO would have stopped the creatures cold lots earlier in the movie (by disabling the creatures' protective mechanisms where could then be shot). It's these kind of plot holes that make Sci-Fi movies weak. And, btw, why the heck are you conceiving in the middle of a Creatures War? Like, gosh, put that thing away! Kinda dumb. That said, had Emily Blunt and John K run around with a lot less clothing on it would have been lots more entertaining (like, did you see his bod in that Benghazi movie?!?...dear lord). So, I do hope there's a much much more extended version...the film was only a crisp 90 min long.
Damages the franchise but entertains the generic masses
As much as I'd like to gang up on SWTLJ and give it an appropriately damning "1" ratings, I can't do that. Sure, as many (the entire universe, et.al., ad nauseum) have tirelessly pointed out, this exercise in Disney dysfunction shows the force isn't with them nor the director: Inexplicable plot holes, an overload of deus-ex-machina rescues, characters acting wildly out of character, PC run amok.
I found the acting by Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill particularly on point (regardless of whether you agreed with the script) with Adam Driver not far behind. All acquitted themselves well. The special effects were far from amateur despite being used in the service of much silly, needless nonsense. The only actor that truly needed to be light-sabered was Domhnall Gleason. Who told him to overact so badly? Disney execs taking the dope left over by Carrie Fisher? And speaking of the near-dead and the truly dead, CF, R.I.P., was a big bore. Other waste of talent: Laura Dern.
So many needless pointless side-stories. Gosh...maybe I should rethink my very generous rating .
If you can handle an absurd setup, this film delivers on many levels
Passengers is almost a set piece given how few characters inhabit the screen at any time. Only JLaw's "Hunger Games" histrionics jarred me (she always seems to be shouting with the same intensity and with the same facial expressions)...but otherwise she was spot-on. I found the acting, especially by Chris Pratt, very believable. Chris Pratt has some absurd facial prosthetics which are rather laughable, but he has a very natural demeanor though a bit too teary-eyed at times. He plays a hunk who's not self-aware of his hunkiness. // Anyway, what truly bothered me throughout the movie was the total ridiculousness of the setup that propels the story forward. You have to buy an absurd premise for the rest of the movie to make any sense. Very annoying and shows, IMHO, lazy script writing. BTW, beautiful special effects throughout.
Alien: Covenant (2017)
Not as bad as the many super negative reviews would have you believe
I'm a big fan of the Alien franchise and have watched all the extras of the first four films and can repeat lines from the movies, particularly Aliens, etc. etc. I found Prometheus sorely disappointing in all possible ways...and after reading the many caustic reviews here on IMDb, I was about to write off A:C as well...but then I started to read the many 8~9 star reviews and changed my mindset <---which is key.
A:C is, at heart, a horror film only loosely connected to the Alien franchise. It's a great piece of entertainment with terrific visuals and excellent special effects with plenty of action, a nasty, nasty villain and sufficient slimy henchmen.
That said, if you're an Alien purest and demand logic and reason within the Alien Universe, this movie will be a HUGE disappointment. My goodness...what HUGE plot holes, physically impossible goings-on, key missing scenes (note Fox's mea culpa by releasing some prologue materials on Alien Day (4-26)) and far, far too much irrational behavior. The screen writers should be sent to LV-426.
To enjoy this movie (to the extent it can be enjoyed) you must check your Alien-centric brain at the ticket kiosk. This is a horror film with a requisite amount of gore and action. Go with that attitude and sit back. Over-analysis will just make you angry.
What a silly movie!
Why do so many of these so-called serious sci-fi movies have ridiculous setups, assumptions, and stereotypical responses to all-but-telegraphed scenes? I was really hoping Amy Adams would hold up a sign that read "You: Our future calamari". Let's start with the problems: 12 spaceships land all over earth and everyone's given a permanent work holiday...like life just suddenly stopped because 12 overpriced (hey, they're imported!!) fuzzy pickles situated themselves over future Whole Foods locations? Don't people still need food, hospitals, education, etc? Life can't simply stop waiting for Whole Foods to place a UPC on the spaceships. Next: Any alien ship that can suspend gravity and travel through space is going to have vastly superior technology to our own; plus the aliens wouldn't have landed if they were the least bit worried about the Earth's existing weaponry. Duh! You really think guns and bombs pose any worry? When did Neil Blomkamp become the director? So, we have a military know-nothing direct the language interaction program and call the shots? Not likely. As though there's anything to "give away" to these aliens. Lastly, any species enabled with space faring ships won't have too many problems with basic communication...I know that's a grand assumption but, really. The whole approach to "teaching" the aliens wasn't much more sophisticated than training my neighbor's one-eyed dog. Piloting spaceships across the void requires lots and lots of incredible technology AND communication (certainly between the spaceships). Lastly, this whole idea of time travel and time distortion as being a necessary component of "teaching" humankind to interact is surely a stretch into the absurd (though this didn't stop many other movies from doing this, such as Interstellar). Oh, I should also mention that HP and Epson are running a special on squid ink this month in case any of the 12 ships are running low.
Galaxy Quest (1999)
Excellent, Underrated sci-if classic
This movie should be in the canon of movie classics, at least in the sci-fi genre. So many great character actors with an interesting (if rather derivative plot -- but it's a spoof with a twist, so that should be expected). Tim Allen nails the main character and so many others, Alan Rickman as others have mentioned, and Sigourney Weaver in a comical tone, deliver fine performances. It's worth watching multiple times as you're bound to have missed something along the way. Ultimately, it's a feel-good sci-fi without cursing (at least in the expurgated current version) and hardly any gore and a minimum of violence. The visual effects don't look wildly dated either. A great movie!
Ying xiong (2002)
Stunning visuals, fully realized story-telling, excellent acting
A cinematic tour-de-force of the highest order. One ups Crouching Tiger in the visuals dept. Some think this is just Chinese propaganda, but I'm not here to judge the historical accuracy of what is clearly a martial arts fantasy film. Terrific acting all-around, even from the rather stiff Jet Li. Excellent fight scenes that don't bore in the least bit and can be watched over and over again. The care and attention brought to each of the fight scenes shows a master at work; the visuals used to show the skill levels of the various combatants exhibits equal mastery. I should note: Very little gore anywhere and no cursing.
La La Land (2016)
Insipid, uninspiring and totally contrived. LaLa tries to be a love letter to LA but instead became rather dreary and predictable (and LA wasn't particularly shown to best advantage either). It was Moulin Rouge without the excitement, pizazz, or pacing (and that's not a particularly high bar). After the opening scene, which has been done elsewhere, it devolved into more cliché with mediocre dancing and singing. The saddest part for me is that I love romantic movies and I found no genuine chemistry between the main characters. Every note rang false, except for the energetic musical performances which contrasted sharply with the low energy elsewhere.
But is this as good as Pacific Rim?
The similarities between Pacific Rim and Sharknado go far beyond their lithe, telegenic screenplays and nuanced character-driven plots. Practically Shakespearean in their world- views and intricate family dynamics, both movies will keep you on the edge of your seat as plot twists have you guessing right up until the end on the big "who done it" question. Oh certainly, first-rate special effects added to well-crafted acting with so many layers of emotional depth you'd think its respective sea creatures were pipe-lined straight from Citizen Kane, or perhaps The Godfather, or maybe a bit of both. Really, who's to say which picture will garner the most Golden Globes or Academy Awards this year. My bet's on ILM's splendorous work in Pacific Rim although I've got to say Sharknado's sharks really projected tremendous amounts of fear-inducing horror that weren't quite the equal of the more anime-inflected denizens of Pacific Rim. I suggest you see both films in a double feature and decide for yourself.
Star Trek Beyond (2016)
Only Star Trek in name
If you were wondering when Star Trek was going to be watered down / dumbed down into nothing more than a CGI action fest, then you've arrived at that moment. The movie is all about wild kinetic action interspersed with dull drivel dialog with none of it having any particular deeper meaning or a point. The insipid plot coupled with the hyperactive CGI made for a surprisingly boring movie. There's nothing Star Trek about this movie whatsoever. Just a bunch of action figures moving around quickly. Even if I revealed the plot in full, it wouldn't hurt your movie-going experience in any way because the plot was irrelevant. Let's just say things happen in order to move the CGI forward. It's one big green-screen fest. Next up: Replacing the now equally irrelevant cast with animatronics.
The Maze Runner (2014)
Ill-conceived; ridiculously plotted "boys" movie
The entire premise of this silly excuse to do a boys' adventure movie lacks the one thing that would really matter: A valid reason for making it. Nothing in this movie makes any sense, and you find out at the very end why nothing makes sense and then you realize you've been ripped off: The idiots who created/wrote this movie don't give a hoot about rationality, don't give a hoot about consistency, and nothing in this movie matters to any degree....all they wanted was an excuse to do some CGI and some action sequences that involve each and every male coming-of-age cliché imaginable. How they roped Patricia Clarkson into this sad movie is beyond me (perhaps Dame Judy Dench laughed too loudly when she read its premise).
I really disliked this movie
I didn't "enjoy" this movie though I don't fault the fine acting. Movies successfully pitch an alternate reality when internal consistencies makes the unbelievable believable. In the movie The Matrix, as in many Sci-Fi flicks, the director establishes environmental rules and all the characters operate within that framework. My objections to Whiplash focus on its extreme examples of behavior which are so extreme as to make them conspicuously inconsistent with the movie's time and place. Those extremes strain the credulity of nearly every key player.
I couldn't take the movie seriously despite its fervent desire to make a case about over-the-top efforts / sacrifices and what some people think it takes to win. There was little / no back story to convince me any of the characters would either act like that, be allowed to act like that, or be the recipient of those same actions. It's caricature upon caricature.
The movie's conclusion provided some semblance of redemptive believable cohesion but by then it really was too late and I found the whole setup very contrived.
Blasts stereotypical gay themes out of the water and into reality
This is a movie more about the juxtapositioning of surface thematics than about anything else...and you have lots of them: the innocent narcissist versus the vapid sex toy; the inherent sadness of loneliness versus the snarky adulation of the crowds; indulgent hero worship versus a pure insouciance. The movie uses a lot of interspersed video which itself is a commentary on the initial fragmentation of the characters into those thematic caricatures.
Without needing a Pygmalion (Shaw) transition in either direction, the leads Go and Doc find themselves drawn towards each other on their own terms. They integrate rather than further fragment and find common ground right in the middle. The truly fabulous tour-of- NYC make-out scenes are celluloid-melting in a deeply romantic and convincing manner in the most egalitarian kissing yet filmed. They are equals and need no excuses.
In the end Doc got exactly what he sought from the beginning: To know himself better through the non-judgmental eyes of a lost (but very sexy) soul.
Into the Woods (2014)
Note: This movie is faithful to the stage production, for better or worse
Into The Woods (2014) isn't a reimagining of Steven Sondheim's musical -- instead, it's a mostly faithful transposition of the stage production onto the big screen (blessedly shortening the 2nd act). In that respect, it's a triumph of reasonably careful casting and a restrained use of special effects. The actors, most of whom have singing parts, acquit themselves very well (the baker less so in terms of singing). Certain pacing problems arise naturally from the approach taken: Everyone wants to clap after the many musical numbers. The flow stops after each song, breaking the continuity and giving the movie an unnatural pace. This was especially true after the Princes' big number -- clapping burst out spontaneously (and deservedly). Some musical numbers seemed to lack Sondheim's dark intent, in particular the Witch's "Last Midnight" where someone in the audience actually laughed afterwards. Ouch. And if you haven't gotten the message from other reviews, let's just say this isn't your typical end to a Disney movie. I suggest this movie is inappropriate for anyone under 12/13. Sondheim's mature themes won't play well with the little ones. // That said, I still give this 8 / 10 for a very good rendition of the stage production. If you like this 2014 version and haven't seen the 1997 filmed version with Bernadette Peters and Johanna Gleeson, you owe it to yourself to check it out.
Far better than the reviews let on
First, I'm assuming that you've seen the other two Hunger Games movies...else there's not much point to sit through Mockingjay Part I (MJPT1). Second, I'm assuming that you're not a huge Transformers fan and/or didn't think that Pacific Rim nor Sharknado were the height of cinematic perfection.
After the first two movies, we already know a lot of back story and setup/conflict between Katniss and Pres Snow. Mockingjay PtI then introduces us to District 13 (her destination as mentioned at the end of Catching Fire) and the District 13 society (only lightly limned in MJPT1). We know there's a war coming and MJPT1 sticks to the story line as outlined in The HG book(s) to a great degree.
In terms of the movie and expectations, I never got the least bit bored nor did I feel I was just being dragged through Pt1 primarily to suck money out of me. There's a lot of there-there to be discussed, outlined, and philosophized about and, if you pay any attention, lots of action, too. Sure, this installment is a lot darker but that's how the story plays out.
If you compare the structure of THG to LOTR, you know what the protagonist has to do: The Capital is Mordor; Katniss is Frodo; she's the Mockingjay and he's the ring-barer. Neither has an enviable job -- just a sadly necessary, burdensome one. You know where Katniss eventually has to go and MJPT1 does an excellent job of setting this in motion.
The Hunger Games (2012)
Gary Ross is a Genius; It's the best movie possible from the material
Let's separate out the source material itself from the extreme dedication of the production team to get the nuances of Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games right in tone while shrinking the novel into the confines of cinema. In the latter regard, Gary Ross did a superb job in script writing / directing. He's balanced the need to keep the storyline moving with the need to keep true to the novel's underpinnings.
I've watched the movie a couple more times before writing this review. I find nothing superfluous, bloviated, unnecessary. It's a compact story that's equally divided between setup and execution. What's truly sad: Imagine had Gary Ross been the director of Prometheus. Yes -- Gary Ross is a genius.
What about the acting? The only weakness is the lack of chemistry between Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Liam Hemsworth (Gale). Liam seems a miscast hunk out of place in an ugly dour world. Too bad they didn't cast Miley Cyrus as Katniss's younger sister.
But there's a much larger problem: The source material. The audience has to keep swallowing incredible incongruities just so we can be continually hit over the head with multi-level anti-authoritarian messages. This is an amoral society on steroids that exists only as a foil to propel the thematics. We can't help but become angry at the atrocities foisted on Katness and her conscripted compatriots. Maybe I would have understood better if Katness had worn a six-pointed star.
So, I'm giving this movie 9 stars largely on the excellent execution / beautiful realization of Gary Ross's vision.
The Starving Games (2013)
Of course it's bad! But it's very funny in places
What does one really expect regarding this kind of spoof outing? The Hunger Games is certainly an above-average target given how serious it takes itself. What's too bad in terms of the humor used in The Starving Games is the amount of low-brow fart/elimination/kick-to-the-nuts stuff that seems to show up in lowest-common-denominator humor. Yes, it's a bunch of sight gags, but many are fun and well-done. The leads are pretty/handsome and very well matched to the characters in the Hunger Games. I imagine this movie benefits from lots of beer with some amount of pizza...so you won't starve while watching this outing and a bit of judicious inebriation will certainly help elevate this movie.