GIRLS TRIP review

Ugh, I can feel my blood pressure spiking. Yup, another raunchy and unfunny comedy. Shoot me now. And didn’t we get this movie just a month or two ago? ROUGH NIGHT (2017)? Well, if it’s possible to get two Dunkirk movies in a year, it’s remorsefully not beyond the realms of possibility to get two “girls trip” movies either.

Screw it, here’s the surprisingly respectable cast. Jada Pinkett Smith (BAD MOMS [2016], REIGN OVER ME [2007], and THE MATRIX RELOADED [2003]), Regina Hall (WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS [2016], THINK LIKE A MAN [2012], and SCARY MOVIE [2000]), Queen Latifa (ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE [2016], MAD MONEY [2008], and BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE [2003]), and Tiffany Haddish (KEANU [2016]). In support, we have Mike Colter (TV shows LUKE CAGE, JESSICA JONES, RINGER, and upcoming TV show THE DEFENDERS).

Now for the crew. Directing is Malcolm D. Lee, known for BARBERSHOP: THE NEXT CUT (2016), SOUL MEN (2008), and UNDERCOVER BROTHER (2002). Co-writing the script are Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver, both known for BARBERSHOP: THE NEXT CUT. Composing the score is… oh god, why?? David Newman?! Excuse me while I let out a little cry. He’s known for SERENITY (2005), GALAXY QUEST (1999), and THE MIGHTY DUCKS (1992). Finally, the cinematographer is Greg Gardiner, known for BARBERSHOP: THE NEXT CUT, MY FAKE FIANCÉ (2009), and MEN IN BLACK 2 (2002).

Overall, no… just… just no.

This is my honest opinion of: GIRLS TRIP

(SUMMARY)

A group of four friends make an attempt to reconnect after spending years apart by taking a trip to New Orleans to party.

(REVIEW)

*Sigh* Sadly, it’s nearly impossible for me to talk about this movie without comparing it to ROUGH NIGHT. Why? Because they’re almost the same movie. The only real difference is that one deals in a murder plot, the other deals in adultery.

Both movies start off with a flashback to when they were all in college and a group of four infamous fun-loving women. But then they grow up, develop their lives, and eventually drift apart. No, literally, they both start off this way, but give ROUGH NIGHT some credit, it didn’t need to narrate that passage of time. GIRLS TRIP thinks its R-rated audience is full of children and therefore need everything explained to them, despite everything playing out clear as day for all to see. You know, I didn’t used to have a problem with narration, but the more I see how abused it can get, it’s become a serious pet peeve. And of course, the plot is that they go on a weekend getaway reconnect.

Prior to the trip itself, GIRLS TRIP has one leg up over ROUGH NIGHT. The character establishing is a little funnier, as our first character intro is arguably the funniest character in this movie, as well as its reason why I do not like it: Dina (Tiffany Haddish). She’s the raunchiest woman in the movie, bar-none, and at first there’s some serious promise. We’ve already got a better character connection than ROUGH NIGHT established, and Dina… here’s her intro scene: she’s in her boss’ office to talk about her violent reaction to a co-worker who ate her Go-Gurt. She’s being fired, but she refuses to accept that and says that she’s going on her trip to New Orleans and wants time off.

That’s another thing about this movie. Unlike ROUGH NIGHT, this movie does have good jokes in it. Smith plays an overbearing mother who probably loves being a mother too much and when she’s on her way out the door, she’s hugging her kids and milking the goodbye, and then Dina remarks, “They’re hugging you like you’re going to war.” That’s funny! I laughed! No, shit, right? But modern comedies don’t often do that for me and it’s annoying as hell to see comedy go for the bottom-of-the-barrel humor that never plays out well. There’s another bit when we find out that Stewart (Mike Coulter), Ryan’s (Regina Hall) husband, has been cheating on her. A part of their trip is Ryan promoting her book, which she’s promoting with Stewart, and they’re meeting him in New Orleans. The other women find out about the affair early on and when Dina sees Stewart at the hotel, her reaction is beyond priceless. She has arguably the most venomous glare that even the most spiteful goth girl could never equal. She marches her way to the man, grabs a damn win bottle, smashes it, and threatens Stewart with it. I can’t possibly tell you how loudly my auditorium was laughing at this bit. It was fantastic. This movie had real comedy. Something that seemed unbelievably hard for ROUGH NIGHT to accomplish. The best that its comedy could offer was a couple of reactions. Oh, they didn’t make me laugh out loud or anything, they just woke me up from boredom.

Unfortunately, this movie has an Achilles heel. As much as you’ve seen me rave about the good jokes, the ones that I’ve mentioned we the only good ones in the entire movie. For every good joke, there’s twenty horrible ones inbetween. Far too many blowjob jokes, and one gets needlessly graphic, drunk humor that was hit or miss, seeing an old pervy man’s dick, and of course, the infamous peeing scene.

You know exactly what scene I’m talking about if you’ve seen the trailers. Lisa (Smith) is desperate to find a bathroom, but she’s on a zip-line on her way to another building where the line to the bathroom is shorter, but for contrived reasons, the zip isn’t far enough and she ends up peeing on the crowd of people under her. It’s about as graphic as you’d expect. But that’s not the end of it. Dina leaps to the rescue to push Lisa to the other building and happily opens her legs and pees as well on the people below her. This… is where the movie is utterly ruined for me. I suppose it would have been one thing if it was Lisa that did the peeing and wasn’t as graphic, but no. If there’s any form of humor that immediately turns me off, it’s anything involving bodily waste. Scat, urine, and vomit are all comedic no-nos for me, no matter the context. I don’t need to see that under any circumstances. It leaves a sickening proverbial taste in my mouth that never truly washes out, no matter how good the rest of the film was.

And the rest of the film, once again, has good stuff in it. There’s a really well-written speech about not being afraid to be along and what not, but any time this movie tries to have a heart or an emotional center, it doesn’t work because it’s the same movie that delivered two fucking golden showers. So, when stacking it against ROUGH NIGHT, which do I think is better? They’re unfortunately equal. ROUGH NIGHT is consistently unfunny and never makes me laugh, I give it credit that it’s unfunny humor never truly made me feel sick. GIRLS TRIP is a technically better written flick, but it also delivers the worst of the worst type of humor that makes me incredibly angry.

I know the makers behind this were trying to make a comedy equivalent to such great films like MOONLIGHT (2016) and HIDDEN FIGURES (2016), but I’ve never known a raunchy comedy to ever achieve such heights of cinematic glory. These movies tried to say something. They had a combination of artistic writing, directing, and acting. The very premise of this comedy is exactly like every other road trip raunchy comedy. They’ve been around for decades. Maybe this isn’t supposed to be that movie where I think about it too much, but this is how I feel, despite the near overwhelmingly positive reception it’s been getting from critics. I can’t agree.

Overall, no, I don’t recommend this movie, but because of the warm reception, my opinion will likely fall upon deaf ears. So… I guess I’ll just stop there. I don’t like it. At all.

My honest rating for GIRLS TRIP: 2/5

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THE HOUSE review

Hmph…

For those of you that don’t know, I am not the biggest Will Ferrell fan. Yeah, yeah, I know, everyone and everyone’s mother thinks he’s the Jesus of comedy, but… I disagree. Like, a lot. Very few of his films were actually funny to me, and what few I did like were either not straight comedies, or it was him that I liked the movie for. STRANGER THAN FICTION (2006), THE OTHER GUYS (2010), and GET HARD (2015), and two of those titles I liked more for his co-star than he himself. The main problem I’ve had with a majority of his movies are that they’re all the same and he only ever really plays the same character: a bumbling, socially awkward man who is foul-mouthed, but acts like a screams like a child when in trouble. The repetition is annoying as hell and while I can understand his brand of humor being popular, it’s rarely resonated with me.

But there goes my rant about him. How about this movie? Does it seem to change anything? Nope. Not in my eyes. It looks like it’s more the same, but this time, we have Amy Poehler acting the same way. This is potentially a huge shame because I rather enjoy her. Of course, she was such a comedic genius in the TV show PARKS AND REC and she was instrumental in my love for my favorite film of 2015, INSIDE OUT. This woman has range like no other. Bar none one of the funniest women I’ve watched, and can rip your heart out with her penchant for drama. Ironically, that’s how I feel like Ferrell could be, if he ever went that route, but he never does, and now he’s gotten Poehler latched to him. Damn…

In any case, I’ve ranted yet again, so let’s get to the actual movie. It looks like it’s about this married couple just found out that their beloved daughter just got into her first choice college, but they just found out that they can’t pay her way to go there. In order to make ends meet, they secretly start an underground casino with a shady friend of theirs and of course, things go wrong. It looks pretty by the numbers, and on paper it looks like it could be good, but I ain’t holding my breath.

Well, here’s the cast. Starring, we obviously have Poehler (INSIDE OUT [2015], ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED [2011], and TV show THE MIGHTY B!) and Ferrell (ZOOLANDER 2 [2016], THE LEGO MOVIE [2014], CASA DE MI PADRE [2012], and the upcoming DADDY’S HOME 2 [2017]). In support, we have Ryan Simpkins (A SINGLE MAN [2009] and REVOLUTIONARY ROAD [2008]), Jason Mantzoukas (THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE [2017], DIRTY GRANDPA [2016], THE DICTATOR [2012], and the upcoming THE DISASTER ARTIST [2017]), Nick Kroll (CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS [2017], LOVING [2016], and TV show THE LEAGUE), Rob Huebel (BAYWATCH [2017], KEANU [2016], and WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE [2013]), and Rory Scovel (DEAN [2017] and TV show GROUND FLOOR).

Now for behind the scenes. Directing and co-writing is Andrew Jay Cohen, making his feature-length feature debut (Congrats, sir), but him and his partner-in-pen, Brendan O’Brien, are both known for writing MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES (2016), NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY ROW (2016), and NEIGHBORS (2014). Co-composing the score are Andrew Feltstein and John Nau, known for THE BRONZE (2016), ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES (2013), and CASA DE MI PADRE. Finally, the cinematographer is Jas Shelton, known for KEANU, JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME (2011), and CYRUS (2010).

Overall, no, I’m not looking forward to this, at all. But I’m hoping that Poehler’s energy and comedic timing will save this movie in some way for me. But… nah, I really doubt it.

This is my honest opinion of: THE HOUSE

(SUMMARY)

Johansen parents Scott (Will Ferrell) and Kate (Amy Poehler) are on the precipice of saying goodbye to their teenage daughter Alex (Ryan Simpkins), who is about to go to her first choice college school. Unfortunately, there’s a snag. The city council once had Alex on a scholarship that would pay her way into the school, but pulled it in favor of a community pool. Devastated, but determined to keep this ball rolling, Scott and Kate attempt to pay Alex’s way themselves, but they don’t have enough money, and after a wild time in Las Vegas with their depressed and near-divorced friend Frank (Jason Mantzoukas), they’re even worse off. But then Frank hatches an idea. Gambling is a ludicrous business and wants to start his own suburban neighborhood underground casino for the bored locals eager to spice up their lives, and possibly to raise enough money to send Alex to college.

(REVIEW)

Shocking! Another unfunny Ferrell movie. Not his worst, but certainly nowhere near his best.

In fact, my predictions for this movie were so on the nose that I haven’t the slightest idea what to say. There’s only so many times throughout a bad comedy that I can simply not laugh and go into details as to why the joke wasn’t funny. Sometimes something unfunny is just unfunny. Ferrell and Poehler aren’t funny. Nope, Poehler doesn’t save this movie for me. Her energy is there and I want to laugh when she’s on screen, but I can’t. In fact, she’s just as annoying as Ferrell’s character in the flick. All these two do is act like socially awkward people who don’t know how to talk like normal people, but still curse like sailors. It’s… the same role you’ve seen in every other R-rated Ferrell movie, except it’s two fold. If there’s anyone that’s even more unfunny it’s Mantzoukas. Frank is loud, obnoxious, and I’d be surprised if the word “quiet” would even register for his character. My brain felt like a it’d gone to a mental prison and got shanked multiple times by a dozen disgruntled inmates.

That’s nearly the entirety of the movie. It’s one stupid joke after another. Frank playing craps and literally wins dozens of times and the reason why wasn’t because of rigged dice, Scott chopping off the finger of a card counter and instead of doing the sensible thing of getting out of the way of the over-the-top blood squirting, he just sits there taking it into his mouth, Kate taking on the moniker of “the Burner” even though she never burns anyone until the end of the movie, and even then it’s only once, and the many opportunities that Scott and Kate could have taken the money they’ve earned off the gambling and finally pay off their daughter’s tuition for school. This movie should have been an hour long at best and this movie knew it. So to punish us further, they throw in more gimmicks and plot threads, like Scott, Kate, and Frank thinking their big shots and start treating everyone on the streets like shit to maintain a “tough” demeanor, and a mob subplot that’s resolved about as quick as it’s established.

Actually, to be fair, the mob subplot involves Jeremy Renner as the mob boss, which was admittedly hilarious, if only for the fact that Renner is reliably more funny than Ferrell. He’s arguably the best part of this movie and bar-none my favorite. But of course, when he’s gone, the movie goes back to being what it was before his appearance, much to my undying sadness.

Honestly, this is probably a good time to remind y’all that I don’t actually think this is the worst of Ferrell’s movies that I’ve seen. It’s still in the pool of schlock that I’ve come to associate with him, but I can’t deny that there are at least a few funny moments. Early on in the gambling stuff, there’s a sequence of “fight night” amateur boxing when a couple neighbors have it out for each other. The first fight is built up over the course of a couple minutes, hyping the crowd around them, and once the bell rings and they start to fight, one of them gets immediately knocked out with one punch. And there’s another fight between a pair of women who really had it out for each other and their fight is so over-the-top brutal and intense that it’s actually kind of amazing. I admit to laughing at those bits.

And also, this is probably a small reason to be happy with this movie, but I was unbelievably giddy when I saw Michaela Watkins, whom I was a fan of from the criminally short-lived TV show TROPHY WIFE. She was the hippy mom who adopted the asian boy. In this movie, she plays Frank’s wife who is trying to divorce him because he’s got a gambling addiction. I swear, all she does in this movie is show up suddenly, and then storm off out of the movie. I like to think that Watkins wasn’t acting. She was saying her lines, and angrily trying to leave the set, but her contract’s tractor beam kept catching her, pulling her in, and there wasn’t anything she could do about it. Ten points to anyone who knows what I just referenced.

Overall, no. I’m getting a headache just from thinking about this damn movie. I don’t want to be a broken record, so I’ll keep this brief. Unfunny, annoying, a little bit of good stuff preventing it from being a total trainwreck, but I don’t recommend it. Ferrell and Poehler fans will obviously ignore any negativity toward the talent and see it anyway, so if this brand of humor is to your liking, then good for you. As for anyone who likes smart comedy, or comedy that’s just, you know, funny, then this ain’t for you.

My honest rating for THE HOUSE: a weak 3/5

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LADY MACBETH review

So I’ve been seeing this trailer pop up every so often, and it’s really pushing how the audience should be paying attention to its lead actress. Can’t speak for her myself, but the movie does, admittedly, look pretty intense for a period drama. From what I can gather, it’s about this housewife, married to a wealthy man she doesn’t love, and is constantly mistreated by the men surrounding her. She winds up falling for a stable-boy and their affair becomes the subject of a lot suspicion that ultimately leads to a dramatic confrontation. Hmm… now that I’ve written that out, it sounds pretty cliché and the one trailer probably gave away way too much. Here’s to hoping that the details are what will make the movie good.

Well, here’s the cast. Starring, we have the “star in-the-making” herself, Florence Pugh, a fresh-faced English actress known for roles that I’ve never heard of, making this her big break. Congrats, miss. We also have Cosmo Jarvis and Paul Hilton, both known for unknown roles, Naomi Ackie was in an episode of TV show DOCTOR WHO, and frequent video game voice actor Christopher Fairbank, known for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014), ALIEN 3 (1992), and Tim Burton’s BATMAN (1989).

Now for the crew. Directing is William Oldroyd, known for unknown projects. Penning the screenplay is Alice Birch, making her writing feature debut. Congrats, miss. Composing the score is Dan Jones, known for SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE (2000). Finally, the cinematographer is Ari Wegner, known for short films and documentaries.

By the way… is this movie based on a novel? Hmm. Overall, this might be alright. Probably won’t be up my alley, being an English period film, but I’m always down for a good story to make up for uninteresting subject matter.

This is my honest opinion of: LADY MACBETH

(SUMMARY)

Set in England, circa 1865. Katherine (Florence Pugh) is bought into a loveless marriage to a wealthy family, her older husband Alexander (Paul Hilton) and his equally unbearable father, Boris (Christopher Fairbank). She is to maintain certain unreasonable duties as a wife, which makes her feel trapped and repressed, and the constant verbal and emotional abuse doesn’t help. Thankfully, both Alexander and Boris leave the estate for business reasons, leaving Katherine to her own devices. She eventually strikes up a sexual relationship with one of the workers on the land, Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis). Soon begins a complex romance to maintain their relationship while dealing with the men who are above her.

(REVIEW)

Oh my god! Yes! Yes, a thousand kinds of yes! Don’t let those trailers fool you. This is a delightfully twisted little movie.

Before I get into the review itself, it might be a good point to mention that this movie has nothing to do with William Shakespeare. It’s based on a Russian novel called Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District by Nikolai Lenskov in 1865. It’s not even some kind of origin story or anything. As I’ve not actually read the book, I can’t comment on the… comment that I’m about to make, nor am I overly familiar with Macbeth as a story, but if I were to guess, it incorporates themes from the character in the play and makes it his own character. Or maybe that’s not it at all and I have no idea what I’m talking about. It’s probably that.

This might end up being a fairly short review as there isn’t that much to say about it. But what there is to say, anyone can rave and rave. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do! This movie is basically about this woman who is in a loveless marriage, becomes sexually repressed, and starts fucking one dude relentlessly and spends the rest of the movie manipulating and killing people so she can keep fucking her boy toy. From the opening scene, you wouldn’t guess the movie would be that awesome. In fact, it kind of starts off… maybe “boring” isn’t the right word, but the tone definitely takes a shift at some point in the story.

It starts off about how you’d expect this movie to start off. She’s in her loveless marriage, forced to strip so her disinterested older husband can literally just jerk off to her while she’s facing the wall and told to act in a certain way by her father-in-law, who is equally disinterested in her. So then they both leave on business and Katherine finds her Alexander’s employees suspending Anna (Naomi Ackie), her closest housemaid, in an outhouse, getting… I’m not entirely sure… sexually assaulted? She’s naked and all, but no one’s raping her. They’re just… treating her like an animal. She demands Anna be let down but… for some reason finds the leader of this barbaric group attractive, even when he’s incredibly shameless toward her about it and she’s supposed to be treated as their master. Then, get this, later that night, he practically stalks her outside of her bedroom and forces his way into her room, despite resistance. You can probably guess what happens next. She totally goes for it and they have sex.

“Wait, what?” You may ask. This guy makes an obvious attempt to rape her… but it’s not a rape scene. She just accepts the situation and the two have consensual sex. Yeah, it’s that kind of movie. Totally bonkers.

Oh my god, it gets even worse. So Alexander suddenly comes home, hides Sebastian in her closet, and Alexander suspects that Katherine has been cheating on him, calling her names and all that abusive jazz. Finally at her breaking point of the belittlement, she nonchalantly and quietly walks toward that closet, pulls out Sebastian, throws him onto the bed, mounts him, and starts riding him right in front of Alexander without saying a word.

***SPOILERS***

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After Alexander watches this insanity unfold in front of him, this naturally results in a fist fight between him and Sebastian… resulting in Katherine knocking Alexander to the ground and beating the shit out of his head with a statue. Obviously, this kills him. By this point, Katherine’s also murdered her father-in-law via poison, which traumatized poor Anna into becoming a mute, and Katherine uses that to her advantage to have her affair with Sebastian in front of her and she won’t say a single thing about it.

And it doesn’t stop. In a blatantly obvious ploy to hurl an extra forty minutes into the movie, we learn that Alexander had an affair and conceived a child with her, and then comes under Katherine’s care. At first, you think, “Aww, she’s bonding with him.” But then, not only do we learn that Katherine is preggers with Sebastian’s baby, but… details barely important, she realizes that in order for their affair to continue, they need to get rid of the boy, Teddy (Anton Palmer), and his grandmother. Yes, in order for Katherine to get porked by her man, she needs to kill a five year old kid. Which she does.

But wait! The depravity doesn’t end there! Sebastian hides in the nearby woods to wait for Katherine to spin a story. However, the doctor who checks up on Teddy doesn’t believe her cover story. As if on cue, Sebastian comes in racked with guilt and confesses everything to everyone in the room. But then… it happens. Katherine turns his truth against him and claims that all the deaths were Sebastian’s fault and he had help from Anna, who is still mute from trauma. But because Anna can’t speak up, and Katherine is the official “lady of the house” and therefore has status above her victims, her word is taken over his, and both Sebastian and Anna get hauled away, presumably to get executed for their “crimes.” The final shot is just a close-up of Katherine, alone in her house… with her unborn baby.

Fuck, that’s going to be a messed up kid.

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***END SPOILERS***

Okay, so it wasn’t that short a review.

Lesson for the day kiddies, do not underestimate the power of lady-boners! The high praise for this flick is warranted, but I do recommend going in with a certain mindset. If you go into this with the expectation of watching some sort of high-society story full of hoity toity sophisticated storytelling, ehhh dial it down a few notches. This is a trashy flick, but it’s such delightful trash. Is all the hype for miss Pugh warranted? Oh, shit yeah. Usually, I get annoyed with roles like this: debuts featuring gratuitous nudity and sex to show how brave and edgy the actress can be. Having said that, this was a fun role that had a lot of sick bad-assery thrown in. She’s great and I look forward to seeing her in more pictures in the future. I do recommend this movie purely for the “what the fuck” factor. If that sounds like your thing, you’ll have a blast watching this.

My honest rating for LADY MACBETH: 5/5

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WISH UPON review

Oh god! Somehow I’ve been thrust back into January/February where all the bad horror movies get tossed! SOMEBODY SAVE ME, PLEASE!!! CALL THE FIRE BRIGADE!!! CALL THE NATIONAL GUARD!!! FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY AND SACRED, SOMEONE CALL DOC BROWN!!!

Okay, fine, toning down the drama, you killjoys. But serious talk, what the hell is this horror movie that is clearly meant for those… “uary” months doing in the summer line-up? Eh, fine. I doubt it would have done a better job there anyway, it looks so stupid. I mean, look at this thing. It’s about this bullied teen girl who happens upon an evil device that grants her darkest wishes as it consumes her soul or whatever, despite her friends telling her stop. Lame.

Well, here’s the cast. Starring, we have Joey King (GOING IN STYLE [2017], INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE [2016], OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL [2013], and the upcoming SLENDER MAN [2018]), Ryan Phillippe (FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS [2006], CRUEL INTENTIONS [1999], and TV show SHOOTER), and Ki Hong Lee (the Maze Runner films, TV show UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT, and the upcoming Maze Runner film THE DEATH CURE [2018]).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have John R. Leonetti, known for WOLVES AT THE DOOR (2016), ANNABELLE (2014), and- abandon ship!- MORTAL KOMBAT: ANNIHILATION (1997). Writing the script is Barbara Marshall, known for TV show TERRA NOVA. Composing the score is… *sigh* tomandandy, known for 47 METERS DOWN (2017), RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION (2012), and THE COVENANT (2006). And for clarity, I just learned that their real names are Tom Hajdu and Andy Milburn. Fun fact of the day. Finally, the cinematographer is Michael Galbraith, making his feature film debut. Congrats, sir.

Overall, I’m expecting a stupid-ass movie with dumb characters doing frustratingly dumb things, getting other dumb people in trouble; the standard formula for a bad horror movie.

This is my honest opinion of: WISH UPON

(SUMMARY)

Teen high schooler Clare (Joey King) is not the popular girl in school, constantly harassed by the popular girls. Her mother committed suicide when she was a child and her father raids dumpsters. One day, she’s given a music box with Chinese lettering on it. After getting into a fight with the popular Darcy Chapman (Josephine Langford), Clare makes a wish that Darcy would rot, and so Darcy does, possibly losing limbs to amputation. Soon, she realizes that the box will grant her a total of seven wishes, but unbeknownst to her, someone she knows has to die.

(REVIEW)

WISH UPON, the most surprisingly competent comedy of the year. I have to admit, I didn’t see that coming.

Haha, let me be clear before anyone freaks out. The movie is labeled as a horror film, but it’s so poorly written that it has some seriously unintentionally funny moments. Or maybe they were intentional, but they’re so much more effective than the horror, which is what this movie is supposed to consist of.

The movie opens in the most cliché way possible. Bright suburban wholesome neighborhood with the sequence ending with someone dying. Jeez, BYE BYE MAN (2017) did that too. Twinsies, much? So already, the film is ripping off from a movie that’s equally bad, so I got to thinking… how many other movies does this rip-off from? So far, I’ve come with this: gruesome deaths as a result of someone else’s actions… the Final Destination films. The evil thing makes its user crazy and stops caring about other people… I don’t know, Lord of the Rings? Cut me some slack, I’m trying here.

But most importantly, it rips off pretty much every high school movie that you can think of. In fact, the biggest scare this movie delivers is the fear that this movie is a high school drama that even Nickelodeon would find trite. You have the unpopular girl whom is so infamous that literally every single student OUTSIDE OF THE SCHOOL BUILDING will stop what they’re doing to stare at her as she walks by, smirking at her and giving her looks like she has two heads. And what is the trigger for all that attention? Her dad hops into dumpsters to salvage for what he thinks are valuable and useful items. There’s no rhyme or reason why he does this… not even joking, this little tidbit of information is left completely unjustified. But while I too admit that this is bizarre, I don’t see how that alone would merit such a brutal and widespread mockery, especially since this is the same girl whose mother committed suicide when she was a child. I’d say everyone involved has a right to be a little mentally unhinged.

Christ, I can’t believe I just defended a character’s motivations in this movie.

In any case, she’s even bullied by the school’s most popular bitch Darcie. Never mind that she’s a boring copy and paste bully that you’ve seen in every movie involving teenagers, but there is a scene that leads to the first big laugh. It’s lunch time and Clare and her friends are laughing about something and Darcie just has to know what it’s about. It’s some kind of word that needs a dictionary to define it, leading to a crowd going, “ohhhh.” This means that Darcie must retaliate… by slapping Clare. Pause for her to react slowly… pause… then Clare takes her turn and slaps her back. Something that anyone can see coming a mile away. Pause to react… pause… Darcie pushes her! Oh my god, it’s like combat in a Final Fantasy game. “My turn? Basic attack. Minus one HP. Enemy uses basic attack. Minus one HP.” Good lord, I feel like I broke a rib from how funny that shit was.

These comedic moments don’t even really let up and even go so far as to insert slapstick. You’re reading this right! Slapstick comedy in a horror movie that isn’t meant to have comedy! What is this slapstick moment you may ask? Clare walks by her high school crush at the mall, stares at him, and walks into a door! It’s about as hilarious as it sounds. And people die in the most implausible of ways in this movie. This one woman gets axed off when her long-ass ponytail dips into the garbage disposal and she accidentally turns it on, snapping her neck. There’s another scene where a character is about to be killed off. She’s walking around her dark-ass apartment room, starting off empty enough to comfortably walk around in, but then trips and gets her face impaled by a horn from a bull statue that SO CLEARLY WASN’T THERE WHEN THIS SEQUENCE BEGAN! This movie can’t even give its characters a dignified way to die! Even the ending has someone getting hit so hard by a car that they fly right into another car. All I could hear was pinball sound effects in my mind. So few characters die in this movie with any shred of dignity and I loved it.

Oh and here’s my favorite joke that I can possibly make in this review. Anyone fans of the Netflix TV show STRANGER THINGS? Well guess what, if you watch this movie, you’ll know exactly what happened to Barb, played by actress Shannon Purser, who plays one of Clare’s best friends in this. She was forced into this movie, developed an unhealthy crush on her best friend’s saxophone-playing dad, played by Ryan Phillippe, and was forced to say the following line, “Your dad is serious hot sauce. Like, sriracha hot.” Oh god, Barb! Those damned demogorgons made you suffer a fate far funnier than death!

Now, before anyone thinks that I have nothing but hilarious praise for the movie, I can’t keep going on like that as the unintentional comedy isn’t consistent. Between each of them is drawn out boredom of Chinese translations, which puts the lame writing into question again. This school apparently teaches Chinese, but a lot of good all that teaching does since Clare can’t translate any of the Chinese on the music box and spends half the movie running around taking to people who would know how to translate it. So… if her learning Chinese wasn’t going to factor into the story, why bother having it at all? If it isn’t that, it’s boring exposition about the box’s origins and where it came from and what it does and just becomes a faucet of running bullshit that no one cares about. The whole time it’s happening, you’re screaming at the screen, “More cat fights! More slapstick! For the love of God, more bad sriracha jokes!”

Oh, and it’s not scary in the least. There’s maybe one or two jump scares, but that’s probably being really generous.

Guys, this is actually kind of a riot. I did not think my time with this movie was wasted. Will I see it again in theaters? No. Will I go out of my way to buy it on Blu-Ray? No. But if it comes out on Netflix, I might skip the boring shit and admire the comedy that shouldn’t have been here. I might say unless you’re looking for a hilariously bad horror film, don’t waste your time or money. It’s not going to scare you. But it entertained me enough.

My honest rating for WISH UPON: a strong 3/5

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DUNKIRK review

Ready for a laugh? This is the second film based on the Battle of Dunkirk this year. What were the odds? And seriously, this film has been on everyone’s radar for a long time. And then THEIR FINEST (2017) decided to throw people a curve ball. “Hey! We’re a Dunkirk movie too! Come see us too!” Well, to be fair, it was good and served to hype me up for this latest release even more.

Anywho, for once in my uncultured life, I can say that I am indeed familiar with the Battle of Dunkirk. My time in high school wasn’t completely for naught. Well… maybe I shouldn’t pat myself on the back just yet because the details were completely lost on me. Well, okay, I knew the general event. Britain got their asses handed to them in a battle and civilians took their personal boats, yachts, and whatever else they had to save their soldiers. I remember that being a pretty damn interesting story. Too bad I was an obnoxious history-hating teenager, right? Still, that story left an impact on me and I can’t say that I’m unhappy to see multiple movies shining light on this moment in World War II. It looks awesome, though… I do have a question. There’s a character that seems like he’s a civilian, but it getting ready to charge head first into the fighting with soldiers on board. Was… that a thing? Did the civilian “fleet” really do that? Ballsy if yes, what the hell, if no.

Alrighty, let’s take a gander at this much hyped ensemble cast. We have newcomer Fionn Whitehead, making his feature film debut. Congrats, sir. Alongside him, we also have Mark Rylance (THE BFG [2016], BRIDGE OF SPIES [2015], ANONYMOUS [2011], and the upcoming READY PLAYER ONE [2018]), Tom Hardy (MAD MAX: FURY ROAD [2015], THE DARK KNIGHT RISES [2012], INCEPTION [2010], and upcoming Sony Spider-Man spin-off VENOM [2018] and MAD MAX: THE WASTELAND, due out… who knows when), Kenneth Branagh (JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT [2014], HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS [2002], WILD WILD WEST [1999], and the upcoming MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS [2017]), and Cillian Murphy (FREE FIRE [2017], ANTHROPOID [2016], and RED EYE [2005]).

Now for the talent behind the scenes. Writing and directing is one of my favorite directors of all time, Christopher Nolan. Permit me to go on a rare nerdgasm and talk about this man. I’ve been a huge fan of his since BATMAN BEGINS (2005). The man created my favorite film adaptations of my favorite superhero! How can he not be?! But never mind the nerd in me, the man has a serious penchant for dark and amazing movies, the genres never being consistent. Seriously, MEMENTO (2000) and INSOMNIA (2002) are crime thrillers, INCEPTION is a sci-fi that put THE MATRIX (1999) to shame, and INTERSTELLAR (2014), another sci-fi that was such a visual spectacle and put Jessica Chastain on the map for me. I love Nolan’s work, always will. If his name is stamped on it, I wanna see it. This film is no exception. Composing the score is the living legend, Hans Zimmer, known for THE BOSS BABY (2017), IT’S COMPLICATED (2009), and THE HOLIDAY (2006). Finally, the cinematographer is Hoyte Van Hoytema, known for 007 SPECTRE (2015), HER (2013), and LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008).

Overall, SHUT UP AND LET’S GET TO REVIEWING!!!

This is my honest opinion of: DUNKIRK

(SUMMARY)

Set on the beaches of Dunkirk, France circa 1940. The story is split into three narratives. One follows a young British private named Tommy (Fionn Whitehead), who is the sole survivor of his squad and joins his brothers in arms desperately trying to flee Dunkirk, while constantly threatened by German dive-bombers. Another follows a civilian sailor, Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance), his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney), and Peter’s friend George (Barry Keoghan), who take their boat out toward Dunkirk to lend a helping hand to the soldiers still stranded there. The final story follows British Air Force pilot Farrier (Tom Hardy) who is trying to lend his support to the ravaged men on the beaches.

(REVIEW)

I’m calling it right here, right now. This movie is going to sweep the Oscars the next go around, and win Best Picture of the year. The film has a 92% on RottenTomatoes (as of 7/21/2017) and a more impressive 9.0/10 on IMDb (as of 7/21/2017), ranking it right up there with films like THE GODFATHER (1972), THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994), and THE DARK KNIGHT (2008) in IMDb’s “Top 250 films”. This is for damn good reason. On a pure, film-making standpoint, this movie hands down, in my opinion, the best movie of the year. It won’t necessarily be my favorite movie of the year, but it’s bar none the best.

Shit, where do I even begin to talk about it? It’s possible I missed about the two to five minutes of the movie, so I should rectify that in a second viewing. Where I came in was when Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) was with his squad and then they start taking fire from unseen German forces. This scene with him sets up the tone for the entire film beautifully. These men on the ground, all they want to do is get the hell out of dodge. The tension is constantly gripping on this front and whenever you hear those dive-bombers coming in the distance, and those soldiers’ heads look up with that look of utter dread, you feel their fear and hopelessness. By the way, what is that sound called? Stuka? Or is that the actual aircraft? You know what I mean.

Speaking of sounds, I’m about to talk about something I never talk about in my reviews: the film’s sound design. Why do I never talk about this? Because I don’t typically have an ear for that sort of thing. I can’t tell the difference between good and bad sound design, so when I notice one or the other, you know it’s either that good, or that bad. So… time to geek out. When I mentioned the dive-bombers, their appearance is so subtle at first, but the moment you hear those propellers in the distance, your heart sinks with the rest of the soldiers. When you’re in the cockpit with Hardy, you really feel immersed in the action. The patience required to time your shots when engaging the enemy fighters, the skipping of your heart when the enemy fires back and the bullets are bouncing off the hull, the unique sound of the machinegun fire, it’s an incredibly visceral experience unlike any that I’ve experienced.

On the ground with Tommy, everything this young man faces is arguably the best part of the movie. His opening scene in the city as he’s trying to escape enemy gunfire and how his men are picked off one by one around him, you share in his stress. Even once he hops over a wooden gate, that door is peppered with gunfire that only narrowly misses him and he’s hopelessly firing back, even at one point losing his rifle adding to the tension that now he can’t even defend himself. Again, the sound design is incredible. When the enemy weapons go off, they’re loud. As in, the German soldiers might be really close, or not that far away, it’s impossible to tell. But when they go off, it’s impossible to determine just how close Tommy gets to being killed off himself. And once he reaches the Dunkirk beach, it’s gorgeous cinematography from this point on. It’s no secret that Nolan filmed on location- as in, this was literally filmed on the Dunkirk beach where the soldiers were evacuated- and he doesn’t waste it. He makes sure that Hoytema and the other cameramen gets the maximum use out of those IMAX cameras. Enormous wide shots of hundreds of extras… or… possibly cardboard cutouts. Apparently, Nolan did that for this movie. Whether or not they were extras or cutouts, it was damn convincing.

Also, there’s this insane appreciation that anyone has to have when it comes to his set designs. Specifically, they’re not really sets. As in, to my knowledge, there’s no sound stages. Nolan literally got real boats, real planes, and really blew them up, or crashed them. On the one hand, I’m sitting in my seat going, “Aww man! That was a functioning, seafaring vehicle. Don’t destroy it!” On the other hand, I’m also going, “Dude! That’s an actual ship he just destroyed!” How many film-makers go out of their way for that kind of authenticity?! This is what separates the Chris Nolans from the Michael Bays, whom you know would have made 3D CGI ships. Nolan’s got that superior vision that will always churn out a fantastically produced film and be reliably incredible to look at and make you feel a part of.

Another refreshing aspect in this film is a limited use of dialog and not a whole lot of character development. The true star of the film is, admirably, the evacuation of Dunkirk itself. But that’s not to say that the acting isn’t anything short of great. Despite relatively little dialog outside of combat jargon from Farrier, exposition from Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) and Colonel Winnant (James D’Arcy), as well as interactions with Mr. Dawson, the boys, and the soldiers they rescue, there isn’t a ton of character development. Again, it’s more about everyone’s reactions to their environment rather than talking about what’s waiting for them at home. There’s none of that. Everything we need to know about the characters is played out like: Tommy and Gibson (Aneurin Barnard) will hide out in an abandoned boat with some comrades and get shot at, knowing that they wouldn’t be able to set sail with the weight they’re carrying. You immediately know the stakes, you feel the urgency in their predicament as they have to decide who to throw to the proverbial wolves. From Farrier in the cockpit, watching a German bomber about to attack a civilian boat, or Mr. Dawson’s unwavering loyalty to the soldiers who need help, it’s all acted out perfectly without needing details.

Guys, this movie is fantastic. I don’t know how many different ways I can say this, but if you appreciate this style of film-making, then you’re doing yourself a disservice by not seeing this film. From the subtle acting, to the gorgeous cinematography, the amazing sound design, jaw-dropping practical effects, it all culminates into, without a doubt, one of the best war films ever made. If you love Nolan’s work, go see it. It truly is his best film to date.

My honest opinion of DUNKIRK: 5/5

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WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES review

OHHHHHH MYYYYYY GOOOOOOD!!! YEEEEEES!!!

As you can probably tell, I’m so excited for this movie. But as per usual, let’s briefly talk about the legacy of the Planet of the Apes franchise. I say “briefly” because I can’t too much about the original… how many films were there? Five? I’ve never seen them. Don’t lynch me, movie buffs! I didn’t see them as a kid because, in my household, they were too violent and not meant for kids. As the years progressed and my parents stopped caring whether or not movie violence would turn me into a serial killer, which it did not, I’ve just never made the time to see them. I know the original film, THE PLANET OF THE APES (1968) is considered a great and classic film with interesting social commentary and a bunch of other stuff that I probably don’t know. The rest of the films throughout the 70’s, as I understand it, have had their own merits, but were never really as good as the first film.

But as… “not as good” as the sequels were, nothing would really gain such a bad rep as the Tim Burton remake- oops, I’m sorry, the “reimagining” – PLANET OF THE APES (2001), starring Mark Wahlberg… er, before he was great. While the make-up was praised, the acting was downright hokey, and the plot barely made sense, man, the list of reasons why this movie didn’t work could reach the moon and lasso it. For example: WAHLBERG MAKES OUT WITH A MONKEY!!! EEEEEWWWWW!!! I think I liked it enough as a kid, but as an adult, no. Just… no.

But then a great gift happened to this franchise ten years later. We were graced with a new reboot, specifically a prequel to the Apes franchise called RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2011). There are so many reasons why I love this film. First off, I love Andy Serkis. I fell in love with his mocap performances in the Lord of the Rings franchise and KING KONG (2005). Since then, anything he touches is gold and I fall in love with. So when the time came for him to bring to life a new ape to cause problems for humans, I radiated excitement. And lo and behold, RISE was a mega hit and wildly popular with audiences. This was arguably James Franco’s best performance, or at least one of them, Serkis delivered incredible expression and mannerisms to his role as Caesar, with a really compelling backstory that is tragic, but set in motion a highly anticipated future.

Then… DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014) happened and brought the franchise to the heels of what the original movies would ultimately become. The title is… probably indistinguishable from RISE, but hey, it was a great movie too. I think the lead human characters were… duller than Franco was. Not by much, but noticeably not as interesting, but like it should be, the focus is on Serkis as Caesar who is only trying to provide for and protect his family and people from other humans, whose population has horribly decreased thanks to a virus and there is great tension between the two factions when they ultimately meet. Oldman delivered a great performance, Toby Kebbell’s performance as problem-ape Koba put the man on the map for me as another great mocap performer, and God damn, was I ready to see this war that’s been built up.

Now it’s here. Ladies and gentlemen… it’s here. This is arguably one of the most highly anticipated movies of this year for me and why shouldn’t it be? Apes on horseback with shotguns and assault rifles slung over their shoulders, human commandos in full assault mode, lots of snow, a human child being cared for by Caesar, and it looks like there’s plenty of apes that have defected from Caesar’s leadership and help the humans fight their own kind. I’ve got the highest of high expectations here and I think I’m still going to be blown away.

Well, here’s the incredible cast. Starring, we have Serkis (STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS [2015], THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY [2012], DEATHWATCH [2002], and the upcoming STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI [2017] and Marvel’s BLACK PANTHER [2018]), Woody Harrelson (WILSON [2017], THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN [2016], TV show TRUE DETECTIVE, and the upcoming as-of-yet-titled Star Wars Han Solo film), and young newcomer Amiah Miller (LIGHTS OUT [2016], and TV shows MACGYVER and RICHIE RICH). In support, we have returning veterans Karin Konoval (both DAWN and RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, 1 episode of TV show IZOMBIE, and the upcoming hybrid live-action/animated movie WOODY WOODPECKER [2017] and I’m pretty sure it’s a foreign film), Judy Greer (WILSON, ANT-MAN [2015], and CARRIE [2013]), mocap veteran and stunt-man, Terry Notary (KONG: SKULL ISLAND [2017], WARCRAFT [2016], and DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES [2014]), and… Toby Kebbell? (KONG: SKULL ISLAND, A MONSTER CALLS [2016], and THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE [2010]). Um… questions! Newbie support includes Steve Zahn (CAPTAIN FANTASTIC [2016], RESCUE DAWN [2006], and CRIMSON TIDE [1995]), Gabriel Chavarria (LOWRIDERS [2017] and FREEDOM WRITERS [2007]), and Alessandro Juliani (MAN OF STEEL [2013], and TV shows THE 100 and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA).

Now for the talent behind the scenes. Directing and co-writing is Matt Reeves, known for DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, LET ME IN (2010), and CLOVERFIELD (2008). His partner-in-pen is Mark Bomback, known for Divergent series INSURGENT (2015), THE WOLVERINE (2013), and LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD (2007). Composing the score is the ever-amazing Michael Giacchino, known for SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (2017), STAR TREK BEYOND (2016), INSIDE OUT (2015), and upcoming films JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM (2018) and Pixar’s THE INCREDIBLES 2 (2018). Finally, the cinematographer is Michael Seresin, known for DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, STEP UP (2006), HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN (2004), and the upcoming JUNGLE BOOK (2018).

Overall, super stoked. Don’t feel like saying more.

This is my honest opinion of: WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

(SUMMARY)

The war between apes and humans continues. In hopes of leaving the war for good, an ape scouting team brings news of a new home where they believe the humans won’t find them. However, before leaving, the humans locate the home of Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his fellow apes. They infiltrate the place lead by the ruthless Colonel (Woody Harrelson) with the intention of assassinating him. Instead, Caesar sees the corpses of his wife Cornelia (Judy Greer) and his eldest son Blue Eyes (Max Lloyd-Jones). While the humans are pushed back, Caesar tells his people to leave for their new home while he sets out to find the Colonel and exact revenge on him for the death of his family.

(REVIEW)

YEAH!!! I would argue that there isn’t much war in the movie, but YEAH!!!

Isn’t that sort of misinformation? For a movie titled “War,” it’s kind of a bummer that there’s only one or two scenes worth of warfare, and only one of those battles was actually between apes and humans. The rest of the movie is Caesar and his small group searching for the Colonel. Among other plot points, but that might give away too much. So… wouldn’t a more accurate title be, “Exodus of the Planet of the Apes” or, “Conquest,” or, “Rebellion”? I’d call this a legit complaint if the rest of the movie didn’t deliver one of the most impressive and refreshingly well-made films of the year.

Something to keep in mind when going into this movie. While all the films have essentially been about Caesar, both RISE and DAWN have given plenty of screen time to human characters, possibly for that “human connection” component that movies desperately feel like they need. James Franco for RISE and Jason Clarke and Kerri Russell for DAWN, but this movie shamelessly shines the spotlight on Caesar all the way through. What few human characters that there are get such little screen time and I say it’s about damn time. In fact, it adds this new layer that it only took me until now to realize. The way I’ve been interpreting this is that in RISE, there were a lot of human characters because, no duh, there were a lot of humans in this period of the timeline. In DAWN, we’re given a few more human characters, but I believe it’s because it was meant to convey this sense of, “All these people we’re throwing at you… that’s is. That’s all that’s left.” You know, because of the virus that nearly wiped out all of humanity. But now, years into this war, we’re given a crap ton of screen time with a large population of apes and the only humans that we see are soldiers. Not a single civilian in sight if you don’t count Nova (Amiah Miller). There’s this haunting, yet beautifully executed, atmosphere that the franchise is coming full circle and becoming that planet of apes.

Leading the way is, as always, the incredible talent that brings Caesar to life. For God’s sake, someone give Serkis an Oscar. Just shut up and hand that golden statue to him for his incredible acting using very little words and mostly just in his expressions. You could probably cut out all the dialog and know exactly what’s on his mind. In fact, I think I saw an interview that dialog was actually written for many of these scenes, but the filmmakers and actors were toying with the idea of just using the expressions to say the dialog and I think that’s why most of the scenes are like that because they worked so well. But if there’s anyone else that deserves as much praise as Serkis is every other mocap actor whose dialog is literally in sign language, like Maurice (Karin Konoval), Luca (Michael Adamthwaite), and Rocket (Terry Notary)… er, maybe more specifically Maurice, as he gets more screen time to connect with Nova. In DAWN, we know that Maurice only knew the bad side of human nature, but I like how in this movie, he comes around and cares for Nova.

This may not be the selling point for the film, but the more I think about Nova, the more I love her inclusion in the story. She’s that little girl featured in the trailer and she can’t speak for reasons that I won’t give here, but I can only give Miller the highest of praise for her acting, despite her youth. Like the ape characters, she can only act through her eyes and expressions and she’s absolutely wonderful. At first glance, you’d think she’s only there to pander to the audience that needs something cute to look at. But the story doesn’t ultimately make her out that way. There is an air of mystery to why she is the way she is and I believe that her presence in the group is a constant reminder to Caesar that, despite his loses and hatred toward the Colonel, there is a shred of humanity left in him to keep him grounded. Their relationship is a big question mark for much of the story. Whenever they share screen time, all they do is make glances and glares at each other. It’s almost like she knows that Caesar killed her father, but as the story progresses, she develops a sweet connection with the apes. I especially enjoy this moment with Luca the gorilla who gives Nova a flower to put in her hair. Giving little girls flowers seems to be a new trend in sci-fi films these days.

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Moving on, it’s probably a good idea to mention the strangest new character to the line-up, Bad Ape (Steve Zahn). Basically, he’s about the only other ape that actually talks other than Caesar, but is a little crazed. So contrary to his name, he’s one of the good guys. And he’s the comic relief. I know, right? Zahn as comic relief. What else is new? Thing is… his character may be a hit or miss for a lot of people. Bad Ape… if I understood him correctly, grew up in captivity and had a child, but at some point escaped. I think there’s a real sadness to the character. He’s barely holding it together, but there’s still a cheeriness to him that makes you feel bad for him. Some of his mannerisms may feel a little too hokey, but I think this is tapping into a new dimension for apes: PTSD, or depression. Either or. Whatever happened to Bad Ape was left pretty ambiguous. Still, this is definitely one of the better performances that Zahn has dished out. I don’t know how well received his character will be with general audiences, but I think it just narrowly missed being annoying and remained nuanced.

And now… the unspoken American treasure himself… Harrelson. Can this man do no wrong? Talk about intimidation personified. From the moment he appears on screen in the movie, he’s covered in camo face-paint and stares down Caesar after seeing what he’d done. This moment is dripping with unbelievable tension, and runs a serious gauntlet of emotion. Caesar’s devastated by seeing the bodies of his wife and eldest son, but seething, primal rage at the Colonel. And he is definitely staring at Caesar like he’s confused at who he just killed, but you see his own hatred for the apes. All of this you can immediately pick up with only two shots between two characters. The thing I appreciate most is that he isn’t a pure-blooded monster. Once again, I find this brilliant subtlety to his character. While he’s certainly a soldier through and through, he did seem to lament the fact that he didn’t kill his intended target and quite possibly murdered a pair of innocent lives. There is a sense of respect that he shows Caesar. But make no mistake, these characters are hardcore enemies and want nothing but the other’s demise.

***SPOILERS***

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I think having had enough time to really process the film, I do have one legit complaint. The movie is a touch repetitive of the previous films. I mean, really think about it. Other than we don’t get much warfare in the movie, the second half to final third of the movie takes place in a concentration camp for the migrating apes that the Colonel happened upon. Didn’t we already see apes in cages? I mean, Caesar was born in a lab where they were experimented on. He freed a ton of apes in a zoo who were mistreated like none other and broke free. Why are we seeing this concept again? This could have easily been a variation  of the “Rise” of the planet of the apes story, but no, the movie’s title implies that we’d see more warfare. Not more captivity and jail-breaking. Hell, DAWN had more warfare than this movie did. We’ve already seen Caesar become the leader that lead to the apes’ independence. It’s a little too rehashed for my taste.

Also, I did find Red Donkey’s (Ty Olsson) redemption to be a little forced as he hasn’t had many problems with letting the humans killing his own kind. At least he gets killed for his sins.

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***END SPOILERS***

Overall, while the movie’s title is misleading, it’s hard to deny how beautifully well-done this film is. Wonderful special effects and mocap talent, a simple story interwoven with complex ideas, and keeping its fanbase looking forward to the next installment and where this story can be taken. I love this movie and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s been a fan of this prequel series thus far.

My honest rating for WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES: a strong 4/5

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DESPICABLE ME 3 review

*Sigh*

Alright, so in order to talk about this movie, I’d better get to talking about what I think of the franchise as a whole.

I liked DESPICABLE ME (2010). It was a heartfelt, yet silly, animated movie. Plus, as anyone can tell you, I’m a sucker for adoption stories. It was cute, it was fun and funny. As I said, it was good.

DESPICABLE ME 2 (2013) wasn’t… bad. There was a charm factor to it, but it definitely didn’t have the same emotional weight that the first film had. A cute enough movie to warrant a sequel, I suppose, but there were just a few too many subplots.

Next up was the inevitable MINIONS (2015). Their own spin-off slash prequel shouldn’t have been a surprise considering the popularity of the little yellow guys. But to be honest, I didn’t think it was that bad. I enjoyed that little Minion with his teddy bear and I did think there was a genuine heart to the movie. Plus, I enjoyed Sandra Bullock as the villain Scarlet Overkill. But yeah, I said that is wasn’t “that bad,” meaning that I didn’t think it was good. It was still laced in way too many bad and unfunny jokes, and in an animated comedy, that’s sort of a necessity. But as it went, I didn’t hate it.

Now for this one. Once again, I don’t think it’s going to be very good. Why? Unknown brother. Of course there is. And his name is Dru. Really…? Already, Gru is borderlining on annoying, but what made him work in the first one was that he had a well-defined character and a great character arch. Had that not been the case, he’d be right up there with Olaf from FROZEN (2013). I can’t imagine that Gru will have the same arch, or certainly this new shoe-horned brother. Also, calling it out, I think the villain will annoy me too, and even the Minions this time around. Seriously getting tired of seeing Minion butt. Although it does tickle me that they’re rebelling against Gru for not being a villain anymore.

Well, here’s the voice talent. Starring, we have Steve Carell (CAFÉ SOCIETY [2016], EVAN ALMIGHTY [2007], OVER THE HEDGE [2006], and upcoming biopic BATTLE OF THE SEXES [2017] and video game adaptation MINECRAFT [2019]), Kristen Wiig (MASTERMINDS [2016], THE MARTIAN [2015], TV show THE LOONEY TUNES SHOW, and the upcoming animated DreamWorks film HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 3 [2019]), Trey Parker (TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE [2004], BASEKETBALL [1998], and TV show SOUTHPARK), and Pierre Coffin (MINIONS [2015], DESPICABLE ME 2 [2013], DESPICABLE ME [2010], and the upcoming MINIONS 2 [2020]). In support, we have Miranda Cosgrove (YOURS, MINE, & OURS [2005], SCHOOL OF ROCK [2003], and TV show ICARLY), Dana Gaier (DESPICABLE ME 2 and DESPICABLE ME), Nev Scharrel (known for shorts and TV shows), Julie Andrews (DESPICABLE ME, THE PRINCESS DIARIES [2001], and THE SOUND OF MUSIC [1965]), and Jenny Slate (GIFTED [2017], THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS [2016], and TV show PARKS AND REC).

Now for the crew. There are three directors: Kyle Balda (MINIONS, THE LORAX [2012], and the upcoming MINIONS 2), Pierre Coffin (MINIONS, DESPICABLE ME 2. and DESPICABLE ME), and Eric Guillon, making his co-directorial debut. Congrats, sir. Co-writing the script are Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, both known for THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS, HORTON HEARS A WHO! (2008), BUBBLE BOY (2001), and both are slated to write the upcoming THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2 (2019) and Daurio is slated to also write MINIONS 2. Finally, co-composing the score is Heitor Pereira (THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE [2016], IT’S COMPLICATED [2009], CURIOUS GEORGE [2006], and the upcoming animated film THE NUT JOB 2: NUTTY BY NATURE [2017], and Scooby-Doo remake SCOOBY [2020]) and Pharrell Williams (HIDDEN FIGURES [2016], THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 [2014], and DESPICABLE ME).

Overall, this definitely won’t be the best Despicable Me movie, but I’m hoping there will still be enough humor and heart to carry it enough to make it a bearable experience.

This is my honest opinion of: DESPICABLE ME 3

(SUMMARY)

Gru (voiced by Steve Carrell) and his wife Lucy (voiced by Kristen Wiig) have been fired from the Anti-Villain League after failing to capture the nefarious Balthazar Bratt (voiced by Trey Parker). Not long after, Gru receives a letter from a long-lost twin brother he never knew he had named Dru (voiced by Carrell). When they meet, Gru finds out that Dru is a wannabe villain and wants to pull a heist with Gru, despite him leaving his villainous ways behind.

(REVIEW)

Alright, alright, it’s not as bad as I thought. I’m not wrong about it not being the best of the franchise, but it’s got some good in it to make it enjoyable enough.

First, the negative. If you thought Gru’s voice was annoying, you’re going to get it double because Dru is not any less ear-bleedingly obnoxious to listen to. Again, the reason why his voice was tolerable in the first film was because he had legit character arch that was compelling and had heart. The second film is basically taking that heart away for a half baked romantic comedy, which wasn’t nearly as interesting. Now we have a forced discovery of a twin brother who isn’t nearly any more tolerable, nor is he an interesting character. He’s this rich and successful guy who somehow knows that his entire family heritage is villains and wants in on the action and infamy, despite not knowing that Gru put his villainy behind him. On paper, it doesn’t sound that bad, but the presentation of the character is annoying and doesn’t have the same emotional gravity that the first one had. Together, Gru and Dru are loud, never a quiet moment, it’s a chore to sit through.

And Agnes (voiced by Nev Scharrel) didn’t make too much sense to me this time around. I mean, this complaint is pretty mild by comparison to any scene being shared with Gru and Dru, but… here it is. I know she’s a little girl, at that age where she has a right to think that unicorns exist. So when she’s at this festival and meets a bartender who tells her a story about seeing a unicorn in the woods, she gets excited and looks for one. The conclusion of this little adventure is a little goat appearing that has one horn and Agnes thinks it’s a unicorn. Right because it’s white… stands on four legs… has one horn, not even on its forehead mind you, which is on the side of its head where a goat’s horns would be… and suddenly she thinks it’s a unicorn. Like I said, I’m aware that Agnes is a little girl, but… no, even when I was her age, I knew the difference between a horse and a goat. Maybe this is supposed to be the blossoming of a dim-witted personality that she’ll adopt in a sequel, or something, but it’s a little weird that she doesn’t know the difference.

Actually, come to think of it, that could kind of work. When she reaches Margo’s (voiced by Miranda Cosgrove) age and she still believes in mythical creatures and uses Gru’s high tech resources to hunt them down for cuddling purposes, even though no one believes her and tries to talk her out of wasting resources and time. That’s got some comedic possibilities. That’s not where this franchise will go, but that’d be interesting.

Other pointless plot threads include some boy having a crush on Margo that isn’t mutual, the minions quit due to no more villainous activity and wind up in prison, which is forgettable, we don’t get enough screen time with Balthazar Bratt, and a wasted use of Slate’s talent as the new boss of the Anti-Villain League, who has incredible little screen time, and that sums up my primary issues with the movie, which are consistent throughout.

I think about the only thing I actually liked about Dru was that he was incompetent as a villain. In any other movie, I feel like he’d be written as significantly more talented and threatening as a villain and Gru would be jealous of his abilities and eventually conspire against him. Thankfully, that’s not the case. The writers were smart enough to hold true to the given plot and rolled with it without trying for too many surprises and twists and turns, which I found refreshing.

Bar none my favorite moments in the movie are when Lucy is trying to connect with Margo, Edith (voiced by Dana Gaier), and Agnes as their step-mother. While I thought that she was such an unfunny tool in the second film, I love her character here as she tries to set a good example, but constantly finds herself in a position to beat up people, or causes more problems for the girls. To be frank, I’d have rather kept the focus on her trying to be a mom to the girls than Gru and Dru trying to be brothers. There’s emotional weight to that and does have a sweet resolution to it, but it’s clearly what the movie should have been about. Plus, feminism and “girl power” is all the rage these days, so a movie about a step-mom teaching her three step-daughters to be resourceful, self-sufficient, cautious, and tough, while finding a balance of learning to be compassionate, open to receive and offer help, and all that good stuff that women and little girls should learn. But nope, it’s the misadventures of the dual performance of Steve Carrell. … Woo…

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Overall, I can’t say that this was awful, or even really that bad. It’s not very good, what with a long string of unfunny jokes, the painful inclusion of Dru, and some questionable subplots and character choices. But where the movie works the best is when Lucy is trying to win the hearts and minds of the three girls and leaving me hopeful with certain possibilities for any future installments. If you wanted to bring your kids to see it, I’d say it’s fine for them. There’s better kids movies out there, but this won’t harm them any. But if you’re an adult movie-goer and thought this was cute, eh, watch the first one again. It’s highly superior. I neither strongly recommend it, nor do I exclaim to stay away.

My honest rating for DESPICABLE ME 3: 3/5

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