Quick Reviews: CARS 3 / ALL EYEZ ON ME / ROUGH NIGHT / 47 METERS DOWN

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Starring: Owen Wilson (MASTERMINDS [2016], MIDNIGHT IN PARIS [2011], MARLEY & ME [2008], and the upcoming SHANGHAI DAWN, due out… who knows when), Bonnie Hunt (ZOOTOPIA [2016], THE GREEN MILE [1999], JUMANJI [1995], and the upcoming TOY STORY 4 [2019]), and Larry the Cable Guy (A MADEA CHRISTMAS [2013], WITLESS PROTECTION [2008], and DELTA FARCE [2007]). In support: Nathan Fillion (PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS [2013], WONDER WOMAN [2009], TV show CASTLE, and the upcoming video game DESTINY 2 [2017]), Chris Cooper (LIVE BY NIGHT [2016], THE MUPPETS [2011], and THE BOURNE IDENTITY [2002]), Armie Hammer (FREE FIRE [2017], THE BIRTH OF A NATION [2016], and THE LONE RANGER [2013]), Kerry Washington (DJANGO UNCHAINED [2012], LAKEVIEW TERRACE [2008], and TV show SCANDAL), and Lea DeLaria (TV shows ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK and ONE LIFE TO LIVE)

Directing: Brian Fee, making his directorial debut. Writing: Kiel Murray (CARS [2006]), Bob Peterson (FINDING NEMO [2003]), and Mike Rich (SECRETARIAT [2010], RADIO [2003], and THE ROOKIE [2002]). Composing: Randy Newman (MONSTERS UNIVERSITY [2013], SEABISCUIT [2003], JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH [1996], and the upcoming TOY STORY 4 [2019]).

(SUMMARY)

Lightning McQueen (Wilson) is still as popular as ever and still considered a champion after all these years. But then a harsh reality settles in when a rookie racer named Jackson Storm (Hammer) starts surpassing him in speed and starts winning the races. Sadly, he’s also a jerk to Lightning and eventually, Lightning’s inability to keep up causes him to spin out of control and he experiences a horrible crash. Though out of the game for a few months, Lightning is determined to decide for himself when he quits, not the voiced of those who think he should. After signing on to a new sponsor, headed by Sterling (Fillion), promising to train him to the point of being just as fast as Storm, with the help of the young and eager trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), whose training methods frustrate Lightning as a big race approaches that will determine his staying power in the sport of racing.

(REVIEW)

It’s surprisingly better than I thought, but… yeah, it’s still just okay. I admit that there is a certain level of poetry to see a career and proud racer learning to accept his age and growing increasingly aware that his time may be coming to an end, but wanting to end on his own terms, not because others are telling him too. It can be surprisingly brutal, so when McQueen is determined to prove his worth, it is pretty easy to get sucked in to his story. Sadly though, the movie is mired in predictability and a ton of lame and unfunny jokes. The moment a certain plot point crops up, you know exactly where the story is going to go. Even though it’s handled well, the rest of the movie getting to that point simply feels like filler. By no means bad, it’s still not consistently written well like Pixar’s previous work. While being the most memorable and poignant of the Cars films, it’s still not up there with Pixar’s greats.

My honest rating for CARS 3: 3/5

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AllEyez

Starring: Demetrius Shipp Jr. In support, we have Kat Graham (ADDICTED [2014], DANCE FU [2011], and TV show THE VAMPIRE DIARIES), Lauren Cohan (THE BOY [2016], and TV shows THE WALKING DEAD and CHUCK), and Danai Gurira (TV show THE WALKING DEAD and upcoming films BLACK PANTHER [2018] and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018]).

Directing: Benny Boom (S.W.A.T.: FIREFIGHT [2011]). Writing: Jeremy Haft (STREET KINGS 2: MOTOR CITY [2011] and GRIZZLY MOUNTAIN [1997]), Eddie Gonzalez (STREET KINGS 2: MOTOR CITY), and Steven Bagatourian. Composing: John Paesano (ALMOST CHRISTMAS [2016], video game MASS EFFECT ANDROMEDA [2017], animated film SUPERMAN/ BATMAN: APOCALYPSE [2010], and upcoming films MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE [2018] and PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING [2018]. Cinematographer: Peter Menzies Jr. (GODS OF EGYPT [2016], THE INCREDIBLE HULK [2008], LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER [2001], and the upcoming animated film PETER RABBIT [2018]).

(SUMMARY)

Tupac Shakur (Shipp Jr.) started off as a normal kid growing up with his lawyer mother Afeni (Gurira) and his younger sister. But when the kids are forced to live in California, Tupac quit school to earn money to take care of his sister. He started rapping and didn’t take long before he was signed on to his first studio. In just a couple years, he became one of the most controversial and popular rappers in the 90’s.

(REVIEW)

I wish I could say this movie got me into the life of one of the most popular rap artists of all time, but… it’s a movie I feel like I’ve seen a dozen times over, particularly in STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON (2015), or in better films like MOONLIGHT (2016). While that acting is good, particularly Graham as a young Jada Pinkett Smith is the spitting image of the younger version of the real-world woman, and Shipp Jr. does bring a ton of energy to the role he’s been given, it just doesn’t do anything particularly new. Give COMPTON a little credit, you can argue that it came out around the time when police brutality was getting a ton more media attention in recent years, and could be interpreted as a call-to-arms against that kind of bullshit. This movie is just a standard biopic. Plus, I’m going to be on Jada Pinkett Smith’s side and say that it’s tasteless for the film-makers to throw in a poem that she never knew existed until years after Tupac’s death all in the name of a forced, directionless, and unimpactful romance subplot. It’s not the worst, I suppose, but I couldn’t get into it.

My honest rating for ALL EYEZ ON ME: a weak 3/5

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Starring: Scarlett Johansson (GHOST IN THE SHELL [2017], THE JUNGLE BOOK [2016], HER [2013], and the upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018]), Jillian Bell (FIST FIGHT [2017], OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY [2016], and 22 JUMP STREET [2014]), Zoë Kravitz (ALLEGIANT [2016], MAD MAX: FURY ROAD [2015], X-MEN: FIRST CLASS [2011], and the upcoming FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM 2 [2018]), Ilana Glazer (THE NIGHT BEFORE [2015] and TV show BROAD CITY), and Kate McKinnon (GHOSTBUSTERS [2016], TV shows SNL and THE VENTURE BROS, and upcoming animated film FERDINAND [2017] and animated TV series THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS RIDES AGAIN). In support: Demi Moore (WILD OATS [2016], CHARLIE’S ANGELS: FULL THROTTLE [2003], and G.I. JANE [1997]), Ty Burrell (FINDING DORY [2016], MUPPETS MOST WANTED [2014], and TV show MODERN FAMILY), Colton Haynes (SAN ANDREAS [2015], and TV shows ARROW and THE GATES), and Paul W. Downs (TV show BROAD CITY), who also co-wrote the script.

Directing and co-writing: Lucia Aniello. Composer: Dominic Lewis, known for FIST FIGHT, MONEY MONSTER (2016), and THE DUFF (2015). Cinematographer: Sean Porter, known for 20TH CENTURY WOMEN (2016) and GREEN ROOM (2016).

(SUMMARY)

Jess (Scarlett Johannson) is a city counselor, and about to get married. Her best friend from college, Alice (Jillian Bell), has planned a fun weekend in Miami, Florida to celebrate, along with their other friends Blair (Zoë Kravitz), Frankie (Ilana Glazer), and Pippa (Kate McKinnon). After a wild night of drugs, drinking, and dancing, they return to their rented home and hire a stripper. Unfortunately, Alice accidentally kills the man and the ladies panic and try to figure out what to do next.

(REVIEW)

Yup, didn’t like it. Raunchy comedies and I rarely get along, and this is no real exception. Far too many jokes are sex or drug related and I just can’t laugh at this brand of shock humor when it’s been done countless times before with no real variation. Even if there is a joke done in a different way, that doesn’t automatically mean comedy. While I do admit that there are a couple legit surprises that I didn’t see coming, and some of the reaction shots can be humorous, making this arguably my favorite movie that McKinnon’s been in, none of this really prevents the movie from being bad. It’s by no means the worst – can’t be too mad at a movie that I knew wouldn’t be funny to me – but I don’t see myself seeing this movie again. Only see this if you do like raunchy meaningless comedy, but even then, I think there’s funnier and better comedies out there.

My honest rating for ROUGH NIGHT: a weak 3/5

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Starring: Mandy Moore (TANGLED [2010], A WALK TO REMEMBER [2002], and THE PRINCESS DIARIES 2: THE ROYAL ENGAGEMENT [2001]), and Claire Holt (TV show THE ORIGINALS, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, and H20: JUST ADD WATER).

Directing and co-writing: Johannes Roberts (THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR [2016]) Co-writing: Ernest Riera (THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR). Composer: tomandandy (SINISTER 2 [2015]), RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION [2012], and THE HILLS HAVE EYES [2006]). Cinematographer: Mark Silk.

(SUMMARY)

Loving sisters Lisa (Moore) and Kate (Holt) are on vacation in Mexico, mostly because Lisa is getting over a bad break-up because she’s apparently too boring. In an effort to spice up her life and show her boyfriend up one, Kate drags Lisa in a cage dive to see sharks. However, not long after they get submerged and see three great white sharks, the cable to their cage snaps and the crane breaks off the boat and the three young women plummet to the ocean floor. With no communication to the surface, rapidly depleting oxygen, and bloody wounds attracting the sharks, it becomes a series of desperate gambles to stay alive.

(REVIEW)

I wanted to like this, I really did. But I do not. I honestly don’t know how this movie is feature-length. Leave the cage, get eaten by a shark. Stay in the cage, hang out, be safe, let search and rescue do its job. This movie shouldn’t be very long. But it’s one of those movies where you’d be justified in screaming at the screen, “Oh nah, girl, don’t do it!” “Bitch gonna get eaten!” This movie is so poorly written that I an curious if I could make a drinking game out of it: take a shot for every time Moore says, “Please be careful,” “I am so scared,” “No, please, don’t go.” Seriously, someone try this out for me when it comes out on Blu-Ray. There is great atmosphere, and some chilling visuals I give it that. But the story falls flat when it comes to characters that are annoying and an ending that feels like such a slap in the face of the viewers, I can’t recommend this movie to anyone. No, not the worst. I didn’t think I’d like it, but it’s not good.

My honest rating for 47 METERS DOWN: a weak 3/5

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RESIDENT EVIL: VENDETTA review

Yes! Get the fuck on your knees, Paul W.S. Anderson, and bless your mouth by sucking this dick!

Okay, that’s a little harsh and mean-spirited, but by God, Resident Evil fans deserve this! Don’t get me wrong, the live-action Resident Evil movies were something of a staple in my adolescent years. A buddy of mine made a fair point to always see these movies together and we had a blast watching them. But even the most die-hard of fans had to admit that they weren’t good movies. They were just entertaining as shit.

But it would seem despite each movie grossing a lot of money to warrant sequels for the last fifteen years, video game developer Capcom of the video game franchise the movies were based on, couldn’t sit by and let fans not get a proper Resident Evil movie. Cue RESIDENT EVIL: DEGENERATION (2008), a direct sequel to the hit video games and I believe a prequel to the smash hit video game RESIDENT EVIL 4 (2005). It brought back characters directly from the video games, specifically RESIDENT EVIL 2 (1998) survivors and fan-favorites Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield, AND their voice actors Paul Mercier from RE 4 and DARKSIDE CHRONICLES (2009) and long-time Claire voice actor Alyson Court respectively. DEGENERATION was awesome. You looked at this movie and there was no doubt that it was a Resident Evil story. It didn’t have the best facial animation for Claire, sadly, and may have called back to the live-action movies a little too much toward the end, but you can argue that this movie still did that shit better and had heart. Again, it was awesome.

After its popularity, a sequel was inevitable. A prequel to the… not so popular video game RESIDENT EVIL 6 (2012), was soon released called RESIDENT EVIL: DAMNATION (2012). They brought in voice actor Matthew Mercer from RE 6 and RESIDENT EVIL: REVELATIONS 2 (2015) and once again, delivered an awesome Resident Evil movie. Laid it on a little heavy with the Lickers, but an all-out battle between an army of Lickers and Nemesis-type monsters was beyond intense and satisfying. And that final shot of the film… dude, you can’t beat imagery like that.

It’s been five years and it seems Resident Evil has shifted on all accounts. The live-action films have officially ended, thank God, and it seems the franchise is getting rebooted soon. Here’s hoping it’s going to be more faithful to the video games. And what with the release of video game RESIDENT EVIL VII: BIOHAZARD (2017) being both a departure from the core franchise and gaining serious popularity for its return to tried and true horror, I guess it only makes sense to release a possible prequel to said video game and now we have RESIDENT EVIL: VENDETTA, possibly set to explain what happened to Chris Redfield and Leon after the events of RE 6.

The story this time around, it seems like it takes place in New York City, and some merchant of death unleashes a virus on the city. It creates zombies and B.O.Ws of course, but apparently, these monsters know the difference between ally and enemy. Chris is a muscular beast, Leon is John Wick, and we have long-absent Resident Evil survivor Rebecca Chambers as the dame in distress in a wedding outfit… yeah, so that may be the lame element in the movie, but it still looks damn awesome.

Let’s take a look at some of the voice talent. We have Kevin Dorman (video games THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 [2014] and RESIDENT EVIL: THE UMBRELLA CHRONICLES [2007]), Leon veteran Matthew Mercer, Erin Cahill (TV shows: 1 episode of CASTLE, 1 episode of BONES, and POWER RANGERS: TIME FORCE), and John DeMita (TV show DRAGON BALL SUPER, and video games FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE GAME [2017] and FINAL FANTASY X [2001]).

Overall, super excited to see a legit Resident Evil title on the big screen. Cheers, y’all!

This is my honest opinion of: RESIDENT EVIL: VENDETTA

(SUMMARY)

Famed BSAA (Bioterrorism-Security Assessment Alliance) agent Chris Redfield (voiced by Kevin Dorman) was on the hunt of a crazed scientist and engineer of the new A-virus that creates new bio-organic weapons, named Glenn Arias (voiced by John Demita). After failing to save a hostage and Arias escapes, Chris enlists the help of former ally, now professor and engineer of a vaccine against the A-virus, Rebecca Chambers (voiced by Erin Cahill) and Special Agent Leon S. Kennedy (voiced by Matthew Mercer) to bring in Arias and stop his attacks in New York City.

(REVIEW)

… … … There are no words. There isn’t a word or phrase in English, Japanese, Egyptian, or Sumerian that properly describe this movie. Oh, let me be absolutely crystal clear here, it’s not good- er… okay, it’s still better than anything Paul W.S. Anderson’s dished out, but there has not been a movie this bat-shit insanely horribly written, yet impossibly gargantuously entertaining all year, and likely will be in such a league of it’s own, that it won’t be topped by anything for a few years.

The movie starts off… rather confusingly. You have an obvious veteran Chris who is armed to the teeth with a squad of special ops soldiers with him. Ha! Better than starting off as a lone fighter armed with nothing but a pistol and a single magazine of ammo. In any case, tell me if this sounds familiar. Their mission takes this team… deep into a forest… into a mansion… completely deserted outside of a few zombies… and is a hub for biological research. GEE, I WOULDN’T POSSIBLY KNOW HOW THAT SOUNDS FAMILIAR!!! To make matters even more bizarre, the inside of the mansion, if I’m not mistaken, is a carbon copy of the same mansion from the first Resident Evil game. Yeah, a single wide staircase going up, branching off left and right, and a bridge/balcony on the second floor the overlooks the first floor. And there is zero reaction from Chris in all this. He doesn’t make a note of the coincidence at all. Of course, these seemingly-highly trained soldiers do jackshit and get axed off pretty easily and Chris is left as the lone survivor. But even he almost gets unlucky when he gets his ass kicked by Arias, or as many will rightfully call him not-Wesker, who infects the woman Chris is supposed to save but is saved at the last minute. But get this, he holds the woman’s corpse in his arms and screams to the heavens as a slow-mo explosion happens behind him. Aside from how confusing the explosion makes it – is this a bad-ass epic moment, or a heartbreaking tragedy – but… why does her death warrant such a dramatic response? My first thought was that this woman and the zombie kid earlier were actually his wife and kid, but this is never truly elaborated on. I’m just left with… overly dramatic moment for the sake of having an overly dramatic moment.

After that, the imagery gets… unintentionally hilarious. Already, the editing is for crap because the movie starts with Leon in a morgue shooting down undead in body bags with a pointless narration from him. The weird editing continues after the dramatic scene with Chris as we see Arias at a wedding with a woman that eerily looks like Rebecca – yes, this goes exactly where you think it’s going to go – and then a drone drops off a bomb, presumably killing everyone. Arias crawls out of the rubble… and then we see that he’s holding the severed arm of his wife, to which he screams bloody murder to the heavens, refusing to let go of the hand. Uh huh… this movie seemed to have a few fetishes in the beginning. Severed arms and dramatic heavens-screaming.

And then we’re introduced to long-absent fan-favorite, Professor Rebecca Chambers. Why did I italicize that? Because the damn script probably did that a couple times because each time this young scientist dude addresses Rebecca, he always puts emphasis on the “professor.” It’s… kind of annoying. And once her research facility is attacked by one of Arias’ hench-ladies, whom is a reject from The Matrix, and then a big red flag of how Rebecca will be portrayed in this movie starts rearing its ugly mug. Despite the fact that she was once a member of S.TA.R.S., that training must have gone down the shitter because she’s nearly incompetent. She doesn’t punch a dude, and has to beat a zombie’s head in with a fire extinguisher and rolls and crawls around on the ground half the time. Hell, half the movie, she’s in a wedding dress when she gets kidnapped by Arias. Despite that he’s trying to relive his wedding day with her – which I’ll have a tremendous amount to talk about on this scene – I was left wondering if she was intending to marry him, or the God damned floor. She lays on the floor through most of the film, but barely ever touches Arias, if she ever did at all.

Now, I won’t give away the entire movie, but this scene that I’m going to talk about is a fountain of conversational topics and arguably the strangest scene in the film. So Rebecca wakes up tied to a chair in a holographic room akin to X-Men’s Danger Room or Star Trek’s Holodeck. It’s designed to look like a wedding ceremony, but there’s no people in the room. Well… sort of. There’s a few caskets in some of the chairs with some unseen undead folk. Enter Arias. He mentions the bodies are the reanimated corpses of those who died at his wedding and he intends to relive it with Rebecca as his wife Sarah. After some convoluted dialog about how his A-virus works and how Rebecca knows how to make the vaccine, he walks over to a smaller box, a cryogenic box, and pulls out the severed arm of his wife, wedding band still on the finger, and says to Rebecca, “Miss Chambers, meet  Sarah. We’re going to be so happy together.” I forget the particulars, but something happens where she probably smacks Arias in the face, she goes on the floor again, and then he says, “On second thought, I’ll cut off your arm, and replace it with Sarah’s. Maybe that will change how you feel about me.”

Let all of that sink in. This is really a scene that happens in the movie. Oh, and later on when Chris says that he belongs in a loony bin, Arias has the temerity to say in the most nonchalant tone, “Unfortunately for you, I’m not crazy.” Not… crazy? Not… crazy. You know what, homie, you’re right. You’re not crazy. Crazy is… hearing voices in your head. Crazy is putting on a cape and cowl to fight crime. Crazy is putting broccoli on a pizza. Crazy is setting up the toilet paper to face the wrong direction. So you are absolutely right, sir. You’re not crazy. There is no psychological explanation, no medical jargon to properly quantify or define the brand spanking new league of insanity that you have slathered your existence in. No, you’re not crazy. You are light-years past crazy. You’re so beyond insane that you’d need a straight jacket that locks you and your legs up so you look like a mummy, locked in a padded cell with the key melted into muzzle to keep your mouth shut, in a special huge asylum that would buried in its’s own gigantic hole and completely submerged in rubble and all records of it erased from history. That’s how beyond crazy you are!

Believe me, that may arguably be the strangest scene in the movie, but this movie never lets up on its over the top and insane action, which is all awesome by the way. The action really is fast-paced and highly entertaining. Not all of it makes sense and seriously give the middle finger to physics. I’m looking at you, Leon. You know how Legolas from the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films gets increasingly more ridiculous in his action scenes? Taking down giant elephants all by himself and flawlessly hopping on falling debris like a video game character? Leon in this movie cranks that shit up to a million. It’s a wonder why the guy bothers getting depressive considering how seemingly invulnerable he is.

Guys, I couldn’t recommend this movie more. It’s pure, concentrated stupidity, but in all the right ways that makes for highly entertaining stuff to watch.  Now bear in mind, I saw this in theaters because it was a Fathom Events thing at my local AMC theater, so I doubt it’s screening anywhere anymore. But it’s out on Blu-Ray now and I highly recommend you guys buy it. It’s incredible.

My honest rating for RESIDENT EVIL: VENDETTA: 5/5 – for pure entertainment value.

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THE BOOK OF HENRY review

What the hell is this movie?! The advertising for this flick is beyond misleading. Oh, as of this moment while I’m writing, I haven’t seen the movie, but… seriously! The trailer starts off like a gender-swap GIFTED (2017). The kid is a genius who handles the taxes of the house, his mom works as a server and plays video games, and… pretty sure the younger brother is just cute pandering. The boy meets a girl he likes at school and then things go dark. Like… schoolgirl’s step-father may be abusive, dark. Like… end the trailer with the mom holding a sniper rifle, dark.

And then one of the film’s poster looks like this!

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There’s sniper rifles in this movie, kids! Be confused! Be very confused! But all that being said, I’m excited for this movie. It looks like it could be so insane that it’s entertaining.

Well, here’s a look at the cast. Starring, we have Jaeden Lieberher (MIDNIGHT SPECIAL [2016], ALOHA [2015], and ST. VINCENT [2014]), Naomi Watts (CHUCK [2017], the Divergent Series ALLEGIANT [2016], EASTERN PROMISES [2007], and the upcoming direct-to-TV Divergent Series ASCENDANT, due out… who knows when), Jacob Tremblay (SHUT IN [2016], ROOM [2015], THE SMURFS 2 [2013], and the upcoming THE PREDATOR [2018]), and Maddie Ziegler (1 episode of PRETTY LITTLE LIARS, 1 episode of DROP DEAD DIVA, and the upcoming animated French-Canadian film LEAP! [2017]). In support, we have Sarah Silverman (POPSTAR [2016], A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST [2014], WRECK-IT RALPH [2012], and upcoming films BATTLE OF THE SEXES [2017] and Disney’s animated RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: WRECK-IT RALPH 2 [2018]), Dean Norris (FIST FIGHT [2017], SECRET IN THEIR EYES [2015], TV show BREAKING BAD, and the upcoming DEATH WISH [2017]), and Lee Pace (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY [2014], LINCOLN [2012], and TV show PUSHING DAISIES).

Now for the crew. Directing is Colin Trevorrow, known for JURASSIC WORLD (2015), SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (2012), and the upcoming as-of-yet-titled STAR WARS EPISODE IX (2019). Penning the screenplay is Gregg Hurwitz, known for 7 episodes of TV show V. Composing the score is the awesome Michael Giacchino, known for ROGUE ONE (2016), INSIDE OUT (2015), MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL (2011), and upcoming films SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (2017) and WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (2017). Finally, the cinematographer is John Schwartzman, known for FIFTY SHADES DARKER (2017), THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2012), THE GREEN HORNET (2011), and upcoming films FIFTY SHADES FREED (2018) and STAR WARS EPISODE IX.

Overall, yeah, kind of excited, but more curious to see just how weirdly bad this movie gets. I’m just hoping for some entertainment, not expecting a good story.

This is my honest opinion of: THE BOOK OF HENRY

(SUMMARY)

Eleven-year-old Henry (Jaeden Lieberher) is smart. Gifted. He lives with his loving single mother Susan (Naomi Watts) and his younger admiring brother Peter (Jacob Tremblay). Henry also has a crush on his neighor, Christina (Maddie Ziegler), whom he starts to believe is being abused by her police chief commissioner step-father Glenn (Dean Norris). However, his efforts to trying to save her are constantly thwarted due to Glenn’s status and his age. But as he starts to put an elaborate plan together to save Christina, things go horribly wrong for Henry.

(REVIEW)

Oh man, don’t hate me, y’all, but… I kinda like this movie. I hesitate to say it’s good, but I really like a lot that I saw. Yes yes, the tone is inconsistent as hell, but I barely care.

So yeah, the movie starts off about as… well it actually starts off pretty obnoxious. You have an intellectually gifted kid who’s only with his peers because he thinks it would help him develop more appropriately, yet when he’s supposed to talk to the class about what he wants his legacy to be and the other kids are doing what the assignment calls for, he gets so annoyingly dramatic and is all like, “I don’t put stock in legacy. It’s not about what we do. It’s about who we surround ourselves with. Our friends and family.” I winced in pain from that. But honestly, my problems with the movie end there.

From this point on, it’s a long series of character and relationship development that I honestly got really hooked by. Henry likes to make contraptions. He’s a somber kid, loves his mother and brother, fiercely loyal to them, and even has a cute battle-of-attitudes with Susan’s best friend and co-worker Sheila (Sarah Silverman). Susan is a single mom, but all the household responsibilities are taken over by Henry. He pays the bills, handles bonds, banking, all that stuff while she comfortably sits around playing video games. And for the record, Naomi Watts playing GEARS OF WAR (2006) is the greatest cinematic gift to the world since a bearded, witch-hunting, flaming-sword wielding Vin Diesel. She’s deeply loving toward her two sons and has a cute relationship with Christina, though I could have done without their complicated hand-shake. Peter is… well, okay, he’s the cute-pandering kid who’s there to be adorable, but even he has some character traits. He wants to be an inventor like Henry, even though this doesn’t really amount to anything later on in the movie, and loves spending time with Henry. I love these characters and their relationship toward one another. It’s cute and it’s engaging. I loved it.

And speaking of Watts, I thought she was SO GOOD in this movie! There’s not one moment where I didn’t believe her acting. Every scene, from the happy mother, to the emotional, to the grieving, to the bad-ass, I bought everything. Sure, there’s a lot of shit that was way too convenient, like Henry overhearing an illegal weapons transaction in a gun store where a shady man drops the name of a shady character and uses that later on in the story, but whatever, the pay off was fun, making the ending feel even more victorious and Watts knocks it out of the park for me. I laughed and cried with, and cheered for her as a woman who has to learn how to learn to find confidence in herself and learn to do things on her own. It’s a nice character arch. Of course, now that I’m typing this out, everything that I’m talking about is probably the very reason why this movie is getting such low ratings and negative reviews. What kind of mother lets her eleven-year-old son do all the important housework and she literally does nothing but drink and play video games? Well, if Susan was a more despicable character who forced Henry to do that work so she could be a lazy good-for-nothing and wasn’t a loving mother, this would be a much bigger problem for me. But since it’s Henry that put that responsibility on himself and she’s just going along with it, I can’t say that I agree with them if that’s where the criticism comes from. I would understand, but I don’t agree.

Some minor annoyances in the movie before I head into spoiler territory. As much as I enjoy Silverstone as an actress, and for all intents and purposes, she’s not bad in this, Sheila is a little too 80’s diner cliché for me. She has that nasal-y speech pattern that makes her sound like Fran Drescher, and because she’s youngish, attractive, and bustier, her boobs are out in the open, it’s a little too on the nose for my taste. Thankfully, I do enjoy the playful banter she has with Henry and how she does show that she cares about him later on, lending itself to a pretty tender and heartwarming scene… er… that is if you can ignore the VERY OBVIOUS BAD TOUCH moment. What the hell, Silverman?! You didn’t argue that shit?! Actually, there seems to be quite a few of those in this movie with adults being unnecessarily close to children, but I guess this isn’t a big deal since some of those moments are between a mother and her young children, but still… half an arm distance away, y’all.

It’s pretty hard to talk about the meat of the story without getting into spoiler territory, so that’s what the remainder of this review will be.

***SPOILERS***

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Wisely hidden from the trailers, Henry dies early on in the movie. This sort of comes out of nowhere and the tone shifts tremendously. The first quarter or third of the movie is all happy-peppy family togetherness, with hints of harsh drama, like why someone should or shouldn’t interfere in public abuse and Henry’s desperation to try and save Christina from Glenn (Dean Norris). But then suddenly, we get an eleven-year-old having a seizure, then immediately told that he has a tumor that’s going to kill him. And I was remarking on the sniper rifle thing and the happy family picture above. Yeah, we haven’t gotten to that point yet, and we’re already treated to a dead child. If this is also a contributing factor to the negativity toward the film, I get that too. It’s almost fairy-tale too happy at first and then the movie throws this at the audience. It would bother me more if the acting wasn’t so damn powerful.

Yeah, the acting in these few scenes is absolutely heartbreaking. When Henry deduces that he’s going to die, he’s absolutely paralyzed with fear and uncertainty. The way he requests to be left alone, you can’t help but get invested in the emotions, especially as he later tries to set everyone up after he passes. I know I’ve rambled about Watts a lot already, but I absolutely love her in this movie and a good performance should really be commented on when it warrants. You not only see that shock and uncertainty of how she’s possibly going to take care of herself and Peter, but the utter inner destruction of knowing that she’s saying a slow good-bye to him. Both Lieberher and Watts run through gauntlets of emotions and they’re absolutely fantastic together.

And it’s here where that Silverman “bad touch” moment happens. They have a heart to heart and admit that they really do like each other and before she leaves, she plants a kiss on his lips. Yeah… it’s a little too ewie for me. Hell, I think Henry had the same reaction as I did because that kid’s eyes widen. I’m with you, kid. Ew.

So when Henry does die, he leaves behind a notebook that goes through every scenario he went through as he tried to call child protective services to save Christina, but utterly failed, going through why any official channels won’t work. And by the way, I’m declaring this a movie line, but when Peter reads Henry’s book, he runs down and hilariously shouts, “Mom! I think Henry wants us to kill Glenn!” Oh my god, I’m still laughing about that. God, I love Tremblay. Even when he’s given thin roles, he knows how to make them entertaining as hell.

Not all of the writing is good post-death scene. In fact, a couple of scenes are downright awkward. Susan is told to go home to grieve, but Sheila races after her and have a really weird and senseless conversation. It was such bizarre writing that I don’t actually remember what she was babbling about. Something about her car, or some shit. There’s also a somewhat inappropriate comedy moment when Peter’s at school with a lunch box full of unhealthy food, looking at it like he’s bored, and then says, “Anyone wanna trade from some fruit?” And then a crap ton of hands lay down fruit as they take his treats. Funny, but… this is barely ten minutes after Henry’s death scene. We’re still wrestling with the emotions of that. The comedy is really out of place here.

But these gripes don’t anchor the movie down too bad as it starts picking up again when Susan starts following Henry’s instructions, nabs herself a flawless plan to literally murder Glenn and get away with it. It’s so silly to see her taking directions from a recording, especially when Henry’s voice is commenting on things that he couldn’t possibly know would happen. But yet again, this would be a bigger problem if Watts wasn’t so damn hilarious as she discovers that she’s a pretty decent shot with a sniper rifle. Not that she ever utilizes it when she’s got Glenn in her sights, which… didn’t make much sense.

Yeah, after she drops off Christina and Peter at their school’s talent show, she’s off to try and kill Glenn. She’s out deep in the woods and you know what she does to lure him out? She makes whistling sounds through a walkie-talkie to which he follows the whistling to the designated place where she’s going to kill him. I say again, a sound that is coming from a walkie-talkie taped to a tree at least a quarter mile away in a forest… Glenn heard that whistling from within his enclosed house. It’s about as stupid and senseless as it sounds. In fact, this whole scene is pretty out there. Her arm knocks over a doohickey which does this thingy- basically, it makes a bunch of noise that she’s supposed to ignore as she snipes a child-abuser and said child abuser doesn’t hear that racket when he’s not that far away. Eventually, all that shizz opens up a collage of family photos that somehow means that Susan can’t pull the trigger. But I do like that when Glenn realizes what she’s up to moments later that he can’t fight against her determination and kills himself, eventually resulting in her adopting Christina at the end of the movie. And as anyone can tell you, I’m a sucker for adoption stories… even though that wasn’t the focus of the movie, it worked well enough for me. Sure, there’s probably a million ways around this situation for the guy. He is the police commissioner after all, and Susan’s a waitress at a diner who doesn’t know how to pay her own taxes. I can’t imagine a court case lasting long in her favor. But the fact that they decided, “Screw it, forced happy ending,” saves a little time and I liked this ending as is.

***

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***END SPOILERS***

Overall, it’s not a perfect film. Far from it, actually. In fact, I hesitate to say that it’s even good, as most of the things that I love about the movie are likely the reasons why it’s not getting well received by critics and audiences. But I won’t lie. I love the acting. I love the family bonding. I love how even within dramatic shift in tones that shouldn’t work still managed to keep me both interested and emotionally invested. It’s hard for me to know how to recommend this movie and who might enjoy it. My highest recommendation is to watch the trailer and get a sense if this movie is for you. If you think it might be, play it safe and see it at a matinee screening, in case you don’t like it, you at least didn’t waste too much money. If you think it’s not for you, I can hardly argue and I see why it wouldn’t be. But as for me, I’m happy I saw this movie and do see myself revisiting it. Maybe not twice at the theaters, I certainly won’t own it on Blu-Ray, but if it was on Netflix or TV while I was channel surfing, I’d watch this again, definitely. Maybe it’s just a guilty pleasure, but it’s still a pleasure to watch it nonetheless.

My honest rating for THE BOOK OF HENRY: 4/5

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BAND AID review

Oh man, if I missed out on this movie, I would have been pissed.

So, a little bit of background. To my understanding, not only is movie Zoe Lister-Jones starring in this movie, but she’s also directing it. Her debut, no less. I first became a fan of Lister-Jones on the TV show WHITNEY, the critically panned an unpopular Whitney Cummings sitcom that only ran two seasons. Personally, I kind of liked the show mostly because of the female talent, which included Lister-Jones, whom I thought was hilarious. Today, she’s part of the much more popular sitcom LIFE IN PIECES among an ensemble cast. I wish I watched more of that show, but I’m here to say that this movie is arguably one of the more anticipated movies of the week for me. Why? Again, kind of a fan of Lister-Jones and had no idea that she had a directing bone in her body. Goes to show what I know, right?

Anyway, the story looks like it’s about this married couple who can’t seem to stop fighting. They go to counseling and they decide to go through unconventional means to repair their relationship by turning their fights into song lyrics. They start a band using that platform and get some help with a neighbor. I have to admit, there does seem to be a special charm about it and, in case I haven’t said it a million and one times, I’m really excited for this project.

Well, here’s the cast. Starring, we have Lister-Jones (TV shows LIFE IN PIECES, NEW GIRL, and WHITNEY), Adam Pally (MIDDLE SCHOOL [2016], DON’T THINK TWICE [2016], and TV show THE MINDY PROJECT), and Fred Armisen (TV shows UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT, PORTLANDIA. and SNL, and the upcoming THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE [2017]). In support… and possible cameos, we have Brooklyn Decker (BATTLESHIP [2012], JUST GO WITH IT [2011], and TV show FRIENDS WITH BETTER LIVES), Jamie Chung (OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY [2016], SUCKER PUNCH [2011], and TV show ONCE UPON A TIME), Colin Hanks (ELVIS & NIXON [2016], THE HOUSE BUNNY [2008], and TV show LIFE IN PIECES), Retta (MIDDLE SCHOOL and TV show PARKS AND REC), and Chris D’Elia (TV shows UNDATEABLE and WHITNEY).

Now for the crew. Directing AND writing this movie (new information) is, of course, Lister-Jones, making her directorial debut (congrats, miss), but has written for movies before, including CONSUMED (2015), LOLA VERSUS (2012), and BREAKING UPWARDS (2009), none of which I’ve heard of. Composing the score is Lucius, known for stuff I’ve never heard of. Finally, the cinematographer is Hillary Spera, known for a bunch of stuff I’ve never heard of.

Overall, pretty excited with this one and really want to show support for Lister-Jones. Let’s see how she does as this triple threat.

This is my honest opinion of: BAND AID

(SUMMARY)

Anna (Zoe Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Pally) are a married couple that can’t stop fighting. Even therapy doesn’t seem to quite help. But, in a last ditch effort to save their marriage, they decide to turn their fights into song lyrics, which leads them to starting a garage band.

(REVIEW)

This was about to be a “Quick Review” but I enjoyed this movie so much that I wanted to give it the full treatment.

This is almost this year’s SING STREET (2016). Okay, maybe the music isn’t quite as good, but this is one of the best romance dramedies of the year.

First of all, woman of the damn hour, Lister-Jones knocks it out of the park. I feel like nearly everything she did was pitch perfect. Every emotion was nailed. If a scene was meant to be funny, it was hilarious. If it was meant to be serious, it was thought-provoking, or tear-jerking, and feels absolutely raw and real, thanks in no small part to the wonderful chemistry between Lister-Jones and Pally. The opening scene alone has perfectly intertwined smart comedy and intense drama, all because of dirty dishes. I think one of my favorite aspects of this movie is that the depiction isn’t constantly the two of them acting bitter and resentful. There’s a scene with Anna at her god-son’s birthday party and she and Ben are miserable with all the kids that are crowded around them. They escape to a bathroom in the house and share a joint where the two of them are calm and collected around each other. There’s another scene where they’ve already started their garage band and before even coming up with a song, they’re already fighting. I feel like in a lesser film, as soon as the idea for turning the fights into music would instantly have them getting along and only have one or two minor fights thrown in that last two seconds. But it’s written in a way that even though they do connect on a bizarre level doing this, they do still find reasons to argue. It feels like a very realistic portrayal of a dysfunctional couple, but at no point did I want to see them break up.

Now for the music. While I doubt they’ll find themselves among the piles of Oscar considerations next year, I did enjoy it. They’re incredibly simple and not always well played, but they’re amusing and the lack of professional play-style is certainly part of the charm. To be fair, Lister-Jones and Pally aren’t bad singers and their voices do blend well together, especially Lister-Jones’ song at the end of the movie. Damn, woman. I hope a soundtrack of sorts comes out for this because I can see myself turning on their songs to pass the time when I’m walking to work.

I’d also be lying if I said the cameos didn’t tickle me a bit. Hanks is a douche who is obnoxious while he’s talking on his phone and D’Elia flirts with Anna. Hannah Simone from NEW GIRL as the best friend, Retta from PARKS AND REC as their therapist, Angelique Cabral making a pretty fun LIFE IN PIECES reunion of sorts, and Brooklyn Decker from FRIENDS WITH BETTER LIVES, it was a lot of fun to see these faces.

With all the praise that I can dish out about this film, I do have a couple of problems.

The movie does succumb to that lame cliché where the characters are finally happy and find some semblance of peace, but then at the end of the second act, something contrived happens to cause them to have a gargantuan explosion of an argument that ruins everything until it’s resolution at the end. Granted, I feel like this movie does that cliché a lot better and makes a little more sense than most movies do, but it’s still distracting that it exists within the story.

And I think Lister-Jones’ history on sitcoms shines through a little too obviously. What do I mean? Weird Dave (Fred Armisen). Don’t get me wrong, Armisen is funny, sometimes downright hilarious, and even has some pretty dramatic scenes of his own. But the majority of his presence on screen is a little too goofy and out of place. You have several scenes with Anna and Ben fighting. Some of that drama gets heavy, especially when the root of their fighting is realized, creating some of the most heartbreaking scenes in the film where Lister-Jones ought to be considered for an Oscar nom. But then you have scenes where Dave will stare off blankly into space before saying something that’s either random nonsense or just outright weird. A character like Dave would work in an over-the-top comedy like MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES (2016), but in a movie that deals with such harsh realities, it doesn’t fit into this story. Lister-Jones clearly knows comedy and drama, and proves that she can blend the two almost seamlessly, but this was a weird choice that I didn’t always agree with.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable film. Great comedy and drama, fantastic acting, enjoyable music, and a story that keeps you engaged and invested in the characters. Certainly not perfect, Lister-Jones can definitely improve in some areas, but this is a really good movie that I am so happy I got to see and hope to see more movies directed and written by her. It’s likely that most won’t be able to find this movie in theaters anymore, but if you get a chance to rent it, I highly recommend.

My honest rating for BAND AID: 4/5

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Quick Reviews: 3 IDIOTAS / DEAN / THE HERO / BEATRIZ AT DINNER

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3 IDIOTAS

Starring: Martha Higareda (NO MANCHES FRIDA [2016] and STREET KINGS [2008]). In support: Vadhir Derbez (HOW TO BE A LATIN LOVER [2017])

Co-writing: Martha Higareda

(SUMMARY)

In the present day, two friends are told by a college rival that he knows where to find a friend of theirs who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. In flashback, we’re shown how these friends met and challenged one another to be inspired to do the things that they want to do, falling in love, and challenging what is perceived to be the conventional.

(REVIEW)

On paper, this doesn’t sound too bad, and can even have a pretty strong message if done right. Sadly, it was not done right. The movie is painfully unfunny, what with its overuse of fart jokes. While some ideas are interesting, the rest of the film barely justifies it. Even the romance between characters Poncho and Mariana feels forced. It somewhat breaks my heart to say this because even though I don’t remember liking NO MANCHES FRIDA all that much, I did really like Higareda. I remember liking her performance, and she’s no worse here. But it’s a chore to sit through this. To my understanding, this movie is a Mexican adaptation of an Indian film similarly called 3 IDIOTS (2009). Whereas IMDb gives this movie 3.9/10 (as of 6/15/2017), IMDb has the Indian original at an 8.4/10 (as of 6/15/2017). Wow. That’s an insane contrast. I’m rather interested in seeing that myself just to see if such a rating is warranted. But alas, this quick review is about this one. It’s not funny, makes zero sense most of the time, and even resorts to a crap load of clichés. I don’t recommend this. Not even as a rental. Check out the Indian original. It’s gotta be better than it’s Mexican remake.

My honest rating for 3 IDIOTAS: 1/5

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DEAN

Starring: Demetri Martin (IN A WORLD… [2013], TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT [2011], and TV show HOUSE OF LIES), Kevin Kline (BEAUTY AND THE BEAST [2017], THE ROAD TO EL DORADO [2000], and WILD WILD WEST [1999]), and Gillian Jacobs (DON’T THINK TWICE, HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2 [2015], and TV show COMMUNITY).

Directing and written by: Demetri Martin (Debut. Congrats.) Co-composing the score: Mark Noseworthy (unknown work) and Orr Rebhun (TV shows ENLISTED and THE CRAZY ONES). Cinematography by: Mark Schwartzbard (TV show MASTER OF NONE).

(SUMMARY)

The story follows Dean (Demetri Martin). His mom just passed away and he’s having trouble grieving, unlike his estranged father (Kevin Kline), who just wants to help him. Instead of grieving, Dean takes a vacation to Los Angeles and falls for a young woman named Nicky (Gillian Jacobs).

(REVIEW)

For a respectable list of firsts for Martin, as writer, director, and star, this is an impressive feat. He has a good sense of character writing and relationships, and every one of his actors are believable in their respective roles. Whether it’s because he was genuinely a great director or it was a great collaboration with his actors, it’s hard to say, but it pays off well. It’s got some good comedy and drama. Jacobs steals the show any time she’s on. There’s even a few surprises that I didn’t see coming. Having said all that, the movie is pretty basic in its design. If you read my summary, the movie is about what you’d expect to get. It’s not saying anything particularly profound, or trying anything all that new, and has been done in better movies that came before. Overall, it’s a safe movie, but it’s an impressive movie for someone who’s never written, directed, or starred in a movie before, and throwing a couple of surprises does elevate the movie to above average. If you’re a die-hard Martin fan, I recommend a matinee screening. Otherwise, I recommend it as a solid rental. It’s nothing amazing as a whole, but it’s not too shabby either.

My honest rating for DEAN: a strong 3/5

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THE HERO

Starring: Sam Elliott (ROCK DOG [2017], GHOST RIDER [2007], and TV show THE RANCH) and Laura Prepon (THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN [2016], and TV show ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK and one episode of CASTLE). In support: Krysten Ritter (BIG EYES [2014], TV shows JESSICA JONES and DON’T TRUST THE B— IN APARTMENT 23, and upcoming TV show THE DEFENDERS), Nick Offerman (MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI [2017], HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 [2015], and TV show PARKS AND REC), and Katharine Ross (DONNIE DARKO [2001], BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID [1969], and THE GRADUATE [1967]).

Directing and co-writing: Brett Haley (short films). Co-writing: Marc Basch (unknown films). Composer: Keegan DeWitt (MORRIS FROM AMERICA [2016]). Cinematography: Rob Givens (short films)

(SUMMARY)

Lee Hayden (Sam Elliott) is a seventy-one year old struggling actor, seemingly only known for one role for the last forty years, a western called THE HERO, of which he is being offered a lifetime achievement award for the role that made him famous. Despite all this, Lee hasn’t worked that much since, and often finds himself voicing over for commercials. When he’s not doing that, he’s getting high with his friend and drug dealer Jeremy (Nick Offerman) and being reminded that he wasn’t the best father to his thirty year old daughter Lucy (Krysten Ritter). And despite striking up a relationship with a much younger woman named Charlotte (Laura Prepon), as well as finding internet fame for a speech he gave at his award ceremony, he finds himself diagnosed with cancer and finds himself in a situation where he needs to sort his life out.

(REVIEW)

You’d think it’d be incredibly morbid for elderly actors playing roles that tease their deaths, but give credit where credit is due, Elliott owns this movie. You feel every inch of his frustration as a struggling actor and, despite being so popular in one film, hasn’t given him the clout to get better roles. But it is delightfully entertaining to watch him get high off his ass. And usually I get a little queasy watching an old man make out and have sex with a much younger woman, but the characters are written so well that their chemistry does make it very sweet to watch… of course, I have a cousin who might be pretty annoyed with this. Either way, from the small amounts of comedy to the heavy drama, Elliott carries this film flawlessly. And for the life of me, I will never forget, “Lonestar Barbecue Sauce. The perfect partner… for your chicken.” There is sadly some predictability to the film, as in you know how they’ll get resolved and even when. Other scenes drag on much longer than necessary, and one or two questionable character decisions, but overall, this is a good movie. I recommend it and can see this getting Elliott an Oscar nomination next year. It’s not great, but it’s good and worth seeing.

My honest rating for THE HERO: 4/5

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BEATRIZ AT DINNER

Starring: Salma Hayek (HOW TO BE A LATIN LOVER [2017], SAUSAGE PARTY [2016], DESPERADO [1995], and the upcoming THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD [2017]) and John Lithgow (MISS SLOANE [2016], INTERSTELLAR [2014], SHREK [2001], and upcoming films DADDY’S HOME 2 [2017] and PITCH PERFECT 3 [2017]). In support: Connie Britton (AMERICAN ULTRA [2015], and TV shows NASHVILLE and AMERICAN HORROR STORY), Chloë Sevigny (THE DINNER [2017], LOVE & FRIENDSHIP [2016], and TV show BLOODLINE), Amy Landecker (DOCTOR STRANGE [2016], DAN IN REAL LIFE [2007], and TV show TRANSPARENT), Jay Duplass (PAPER TOWNS [2015], and TV shows THE MINDY PROJECT and TRANSPARENT), and David Warshofsky (WILSON [2017], NOW YOU SEE ME 2 [2016], and TAKEN [2008]).

Directing: Miguel Arteta (ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY [2014], YOUTH IN REVOLT [2009], and THE GOOD GIRL [2002]). Screenwriter: Mike White (NACHO LIBRE [2006], SCHOOL OF ROCK [2003], THE GOOD GIRL [2002], and the upcoming THE EMOJI MOVIE [2017]). Composer: Mark Mothersbaugh (PEE-WEE’S BIG HOLIDAY [2016], ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE ROAD CHIP [2015], THE LEGO MOVIE [2014], and upcoming films THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE [2017] and THOR: RAGNAROK [2017]). Cinematographer: Wyatt Garfield (short films and unknown movies)

(SUMMARY)

Beatriz (Salma Hayek) is a massage therapist. She’s had a rough week what with her pet goat killed outside her home and the general stresses of her job at the hospital. But one fateful day, going to a rich neighborhood to take care of frequent client Cathy (Connie Britton), her car breaks down as she tries to leave. Being a gracious host, Cathy invites Beatriz to their dinner party that night to celebrate business deal with their equally rich and infamous Doug Strutt (John Lithgow). Soon, heads clash as Beatriz’s naive and pro-life attitude insights arguments with Doug, who is in love with his job and cares little about hurting others’ feelings.

(REVIEW)

Damn. In some ways, it’s a letdown, but in others, it delivers exactly what it promises: a minority arguing with a Donald Trump-like figure. Why is it a letdown? Because many of the arguments in the movie are pretty contrived and predictable. The movie has solid character-setup. We get a great sense of who Beatriz is when she’s introduced. She’s an animal lover and a passionate healer. When we meet Doug, he’s an asshole and a pig because he’s a rich white guy and he’s shameless about it. But as soon as they’re sitting down enjoying the dinner, you know that the arguments are coming. I know, that’s the whole point of the movie, but every fight ends with Beatriz apologizing and promising to keep a cool head, only to go ballistic again. Granted, for different reasons, but you’d think the first blowup would be indication enough of what kind of company she’s a part of and it makes little sense that she’d stick around. Even when she agrees to stay out of the way for the duration of the party, it’s still never enough for her to keep her mouth shut and continue to be a semi-ungracious guest. Don’t get me wrong, Lithgow is a fiendishly charming guy and Hayek probably delivers the best performance she’s had in recent memory. There is a passionate drive behind this movie and you can feel it in the insensitive-in-a-good-way comedy. I think in different character circumstances, this would have been a truly effective film. As is, it’s not bad, but it’s something a disappointment. It’s worth seeing, if only for the performances, but I think each important scene wasn’t transitioned into very well and that’s the supposed to be the whole crux of the film. I recommend it as a rental.

My honest rating for BEATRIZ AT DINNER: 3/5

MY COUSIN RACHEL review

How is this movie rated PG-13?! It’s cousins having sex, getting married, and possibly killing each other! What the hell?! Fine, whatever! Different time period, different location!

So news to me, this is actually based on a book, which was adapted once before back in 1952. To my understanding though, the incest was heavily cut down to near-nonexistent. I guess that’s why this movie was made: to faithfully adapt the novel this was based on. But really… were we really clamoring for this? Oh well.

To be fair, before seeing this, I was only interested because… “My Cousin Rachel”… starring Rachel Weisz? There were jokes waiting to be made! But this was a serious and dark kind of story and cousin-on-cousin screwing aside, it didn’t look… awful per se. In fact, elements were intriguing. The movie was about this married couple and the husband passes away. Our main hero suspects that his cousin Rachel was responsible. However, upon meeting her, he becomes infatuated with her and begins to fall hard… though she doesn’t seem to share the same feelings. Yup! It’s that kind of movie! Hence, why I was actually pretty excited for this. I could always afford to see a bat-shit crazy movie like this.

Let’s take a look at the cast. Starring, we obviously have Weisz (DENIAL [2016], CONSTANTINE [2005], and THE MUMMY [1999]) and Sam Claflin (THEIR FINEST [2017], ME BEFORE YOU [2016], and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES [2011], where he also played a character named Philip.). In support, we have Holliday Grainger (THE FINEST HOURS [2016], CINDERELLA [2015], and ANNA KARENINA [2012]) and Iain Glen (RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER [2017], EYE IN THE SKY [2016], and TV show GAME OF THRONES).

Now for behind the scenes. Writing and directing is Roger Michell, known for HYDE PARK ON HUDSON (2012), MORNING GLORY (2010), and NOTTING HILL (1999). Composing the score is Rael Jones, known for a ton of short films and documentaries. Finally, the cinematographer is Mike Eley, known for NANNY MCPHEE RETURNS (2010) and a ton of short films and documentaries.

Overall, I’m sadistically looking forward to this. I love a fun and insane movie, so bring it on! Sanity’s overrated anyway.

This is my honest opinion of: MY COUSIN RACHEL

(SUMMARY)

Philip (Sam Claflin) was an orphan, until his older cousin adopted him and raised him as his own. After traveling afar, the cousin met up with a mutual cousin of theirs named Rachel (Rachel Weisz). The two married and before long, the cousin fell ill and eventually died, but not before sending a cryptic letter that seemed like he was in trouble and it’s later decided by Philip that Rachel is responsible for his death. Soon, he receives word that Rachel is visiting and Philip intends to confront her. However, when he meets her for the first time, he is immediately struck by her beauty and becomes increasingly convinced that she may not be what he initially thought and the two strike up a benign relationship… until he starts to develop feelings for her.

(REVIEW)

Hmm… it’s about as bat-shit as I thought it’d be… and yet, it wasn’t. It’s kind of weird.

Here’s what I mean, the movie is almost ripe to be self-parody, but the movie treats its own subject matter like it’s the norm. Suddenly, the cringing isn’t as strong because everyone has a nonchalant attitude toward cousins marrying and having sex. Again, I emphasize that I understand different times periods and places, so certain taboos today may not have been so taboo… whenever this movie takes place. I think that’s one of my initial pet peeves with this movie: the year is never specified. I mean, there’s horse-drawn carriages and not a single motorized vehicle ever makes an appearance, so… presumably pre-1880’s? I have no idea, y’all. But I guess the exact date doesn’t quite matter.

Let’s get some of the positives out of the way. The acting is quite good. Weisz is amazing in anything that she does, so she’s a class act here. And was she really speaking Italian? There’s a scene where she was speaking to an Italian character and she looked damn comfortable speaking it. Any who, Rachel is this woman who is clearly grieving over her dead husband slash cousin, but she constantly conducts herself as a pleasant and self-sufficient individual. She even vehemently protests when Philip secretly gives her an allowance, claiming that it makes her look like a beggar and that she’s only there for his money, which isn’t the case. But she is a sweet woman who cares deeply for her cousin and eventually cares for him in all the wrong ways.

Philip is… another story entirely, and I quite honestly don’t know how to feel about him. At first, his actions and motivations seem like they make sense. Who wouldn’t have guessed from the ramblings from the cousin that Rachel was responsible for his death? However, from the moment he met Rachel, I’m somewhat lost. I know the implication is that Rachel is so damn attractive that he’s totally entranced by her beauty, therefore forgets to question the death of his cousin. So the story essentially loses focus because… THE POWER OF BONERS CANNOT BE DENIED!!!

Now I’m not entirely sure if the rest of the movie is either that brilliant or that unfocused, but here’s what I’m getting out of this. Bare with me, this might get more convoluted than the movie intended. While Philip is being all hypnotized by Rachel, I feel like the way the movie’s shot and written is trying to keep the audience distanced from anyone’s particular point of view. I feel like we’re supposed to know that Philip’s infatuation is moronic and the audience is expected to maintain our suspicions of Rachel and make the deductions ourselves. I suppose that’s where most of the fun of the movie came in for me, which is odd to say because this movie isn’t meant to be “fun.” I honestly didn’t know what to make of Rachel. She seemed pleasant enough, but any really good murderer would be charismatic and unassuming, but it’s not like she doesn’t feed us suspicions. She’s incredibly persistent when it comes to serving tea to Philip. Kind of makes you wonder certain things. You keep your caffeinated horse piss to yourself, lady! Actually, I’m a “soak it with honey” kind of guy, but no one cares about that. My little theory that I went into could entirely be me grasping at straws, finding something good to say about it, but it’s entirely possible that this movie abandons its murder-mystery premise in lieu of an icky cousin-cousin romance, then dear God, what kind of sick novel was this? In order to preserve my sanity, I’m going with my theory.

I’m honestly trying to come up with a legit problem with the movie. I feel like the unfocused stuff that I mentioned earlier does feel like an issue and even my excuses for why that is feel like I’m just apologizing for the film in some way. On the other hand, that does feel like the point of the film. On the other other hand, does that mean this story is pure shock value? Throwing in an uncomfortable scenario for the audience to cringe at as opposed to actually making educated and logical guesses as to whether or not Rachel killed her husband?

I’m sure I’m missing something. This has to be a popular book for it to be adapted to the big screen twice. But honestly… yeah, this wasn’t something I could get into. And I wanted to this to be grotesquely enjoyable. Instead, I felt more confused than anything else. I can’t pretend that this was the worst thing in the world because I do enjoy the lead actors very much. I also can’t deny the gorgeous costumes and I do find my mind remembering the cinematography quite a bit, as well as the ending being deliciously nuts. However, this movie wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. It’s not the worst watch, but I think it’d help audiences interested in seeing it to not go in expecting a one-hundred percent bat-shit insane movie that would get a cult following like I did. I’d say unless you’re a die-hard fan of Weisz, save this for a either a discount theater viewing, or better yet, a rental. It’s not the strongest recommendation, I certainly don’t see myself revisiting the film, but I won’t pretend to have gotten nothing out of it.

My honest rating for MY COUSIN RACHEL: 3/5

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CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE review

Unlike a lot of kids, I actually never read the books this movie is based on. Can’t exactly explain why. I always had an interest, but I never made the time or any real effort to read them. So, to be completely honest, I have no idea what they were about. I actually assumed it was about a little kid with superpowers who saved older kids from whatever was terrorizing them.

I see that the movie is very different from my preconceptions. It looks like it’s about two kids who are notorious pranksters. One day, they go too far and their mean principal threatens to keep them apart in separate classrooms to prevent their diabolical schemes. Genuinely afraid to be apart, they hypnotize their principal via ridiculously random magic ring into believing that he is the kids’ personal superhero creation, Captain Underpants, who goes around fighting crime and monsters that don’t exist, until a real threat comes along for him to save the day.

I have to admit… I don’t think this looks good. I mean, I can appreciate DreamWorks keeping the animation the same style as the books, but man, I do not buy these voice actors as kids. Even if the movie happens to be really good, which I’m not holding my breath for, Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch will distract the living daylights out of me for how much they do not sound like kids. Look, I know Hart is a short dude with a high pitched voice, but he still doesn’t sound like a kid. He sounds like a high-pitched voiced adult. But hey, I’ll keep my mind open. DreamWorks has done amazing work in the past. But for every few great films, they’ve got one bad one too. Initial thoughts are: not a good movie.

But let’s take a look at the voice talent. As previously stated, we have Hart (THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS [2016], GET HARD [2015], GRUDGE MATCH [2013], and upcoming films JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE [2017] and RIDE ALONG 3, due out… who knows when), Middleditch (THE BRONZE [2016], THE CAMPAIGN [2012], TV show SILICON VALLEY, and the upcoming GODZILLA: KING OF MONSTERS [2019]), as well as Ed Helms (VACATION [2015], THE LORAX [2012], and THE HANGOVER [2009]). In support, we have Nick Kroll (SING [2016], and TV shows THE LEAGUE and PARKS AND REC), Jordan Peele (STORKS [2016], WANDERLUST [2012], and TV show KEY AND PEELE), and Kristen Schaal (THE BOSS [2016], and TV shows BOBS BURGERS and THE LAST MAN ON EARTH).

Now for behind the scenes. Directing is David Soren, known for TURBO (2013). Penning the screenplay is Nicholas Stoller, known for STORKS, MUPPETS MOST WANTED (2014), and THE MUPPETS (2011). Finally, the composer for the score is Theodore Shapiro, known for COLLATERAL BEAUTY (2016), INFINITELY POLAR BEAR (2014), and DIARY OF A WIMPY KID (2010).

Overall, not terribly thrilled to see this, but here’s to hoping it’s better than it’s letting on.

This is my honest opinion of: CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE

(SUMMARY)

Harold (Thomas Middleditch) and George (Kevin Hart) are a pair of kids who are the best of friends. They make comics together, their favorite creation being the crime-fighting Captain Underpants, and try to have as much fun as possible. This isn’t easy when they’re at school, which is run by their evil principal, Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms). They combat his authority by pulling off pranks. He’s been unable to get them in trouble due to a lack of proof. However, the inevitable happens and the two boys are about to be separated into different classes. In an act of desperation, Harold attempts to hypnotize Krupp using a magical toy ring… and it miraculously works. They turn Krupp into their comic creation Captain Underpants and he gets loose, trying to fight crime with super powers that he doesn’t have.

(REVIEW)

While I wasn’t wholly wrong about this movie, I’d be lying if I said was completely right. It’s no Kung Fu Panda or How to Train Your Dragon, it’s perfectly fine for what it is: a harmless kids movie.

Because the movie is painfully clear that it’s meant for kids, the humor is exactly that: kiddie humor. So most of the jokes aren’t especially funny. It’s just tolerable. Thankfully, DreamWorks had the foresight not to go all NORM OF THE NORTH (2016), but keeps the humor pretty innocent. I think maybe there was one fart joke that wasn’t too bad, and a surprising lack of potty humor. Instead, the jokes are pretty much what you’d expect them to be. The kids hypnotize their principal into turning into their undergarment clad superhero and laugh at him as any kid would, and the guy acting all goofy. Again, thankfully, it’s written in a way that isn’t annoying. It’s not written funny, for the most part, but it’s not obnoxious.

Even the plot has been kind of done before. Not the superhero bit, of course, but the whole, “We’re fun-loving kids in a school that hates fun and we’re the rebels who want the rest of the kids to have fun too.” MIDDLE SCHOOL (2016) did that and you can argue that FIST FIGHT (2017) did it too to a degree, albeit it’s the teachers struggling to deal with unruly teens. Give the movie some credit, that’s not the focus of the story and they do segue into a more exciting story. But even that’s been done before too: unleashing a goofy adult that young people need to rein in and pretend they’re related, like in JUMANJI (1995). Once again though, it could have been worse.

The movie also does try to have a moral at the end: find something to laugh at yourself about. I can’t lie, I like that moral and it’s pretty unique in a kids movie. The problem is that the rest of the movie doesn’t really back it up. The movie starts off about pranks and learning to lighten up, then it turns into a silly superhero movie, and it’s only at the end where the moral is brought up. But even then, it’s not really enforcing its moral. The kids are still laughing at the teacher’s name and spent a good chunk of time making fun of it in a self-made comic book they made. These kids never make fun of themselves or point out their own flaws. So the moral is completely confused and ultimately pointless.

Is there anything that’s funny? Well, I did like a few jokes in the beginning. You might recall from the trailer when the two kids try to leave their principal’s office only for him to press a button and then a high tech lockdown initiates, preventing their escape. By the end of the dramatic lockdown, George says, “Wow, that’s an expensive door.” But this is followed up with Mr. Krupp smugly saying something like, “Do you like it? I had a choice to spend school funding on a magnetically sealed door, or keep the theater-arts department open. I think I made the better choice.” I admit, I laughed at that. There’s another sequence where, if I remember correctly, Captain Underpants has turned the entire front of the school into an amusement park of sorts and Harold and George are like, “What do we do?! We have to stop this!” A shot of kids having fun goes by and then you see Harold and George going through a sugar rush, clearly enthralled by the festivities at some point. And pretty much anything when Professor Poopypants comes in. Yup, Kroll steals the show on this one. One line that just came back to me was when Poopypants has got these kids in a bind and he’s about to sap their ability to laugh at anything, the kids try to appeal to his good nature by saying something like, “Dude, you gotta lighten up and learn to laugh at yourself,” or something to that effect. And then Poopypants exclaims, “Oh really, Oprah?!” Again, I laughed quite a bit on that one. There’s also this running gag with this lady on hold. That was funny too.

That’s… kind of it, actually. It’s not like a good DreamWorks movie like How to Train Your Dragon where adults could go in without kids and get something out of it. No, you’d want to bring your kids for this one. It’s a movie for them and it works fine for what it’s supposed to do: keep ’em entertained, which it will do effectively. The animation is fine, and fast-paced, so it’s never boring. It’s colorful and competently made, so it’s not completely devoid of imagination. Personally, if you wanted to see a better version of this that both kids and adults would enjoy, LEGO BATMAN (2017) is the way to go. But if your kids are itching to see it, go ahead, it’s harmless and not painful to sit through. But if you’re an adult hit with nostalgia who grew up with the books unlike me, I’d say wait for a rental. It’s not exactly worth a theater viewing. Not bad, not that good, just… meh. I’m not the target demographic, so it is what it is.

My honest rating for CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE: 3/5

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