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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WONDER WOMAN review

Oh man is there a lot to say about this.

So, as many of you know, I’m not much of a comic book reader. So I can’t say I know anything comic-related about Wonder Woman. I’ve never even seen the 70’s TV show of the character. I grew up watching the animated TV shows JUSTICE LEAGUE and JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED. That was the extent of my knowledge. I was also a fan of the animated movie that came out, WONDER WOMAN (2009) and even owned the DVD. What can I say, Nathan Fillion is a favorite of mine.

But as anyone can tell you, a live-action movie has been in production hell for years. Again, for those of you that don’t know, Wonder Woman was about to get the big screen treatment with now geek-god Joss Whedon at the helm. A list as long as travel time on the 405 freeway of who would play the character was being considered, but the project was ultimately killed off. Whedon would obviously go on to do great work with Marvel, but keep in mind, this was around the year 2007! Maybe even earlier than that! Holy crap, it looked like we’d never see this superhero brought to life outside of animation. Hell, Hollywood tried to get yet another live-action TV show of Wonder Woman off the ground back in 2011 starring Adrianne Palicki and Elizabeth Hurley, but that was so critically thrashed that not even one episode was ever aired.

But thanks in large part to the success of MAN OF STEEL (2013), Warner Bros. and DC comics were ready to ride the waves that THE AVENGERS (2012) started and wanted to get their own cinematic universe created, culminating into a Justice League film. Despite BATMAN V SUPERMAN’s (2016) financial success, it was horribly beaten down by fans, and it was around this time that DC would get a huge overhaul in their infrastructure and a new team of creators would be carrying this franchise forward. Though that would mean little to BATMAN V SUPERMAN’s messy and senseless story and wasted potential, many couldn’t deny that Wonder Woman’s brief appearance was arguably the saving grace of the film, and I am totally in agreement.

Fast-forward past SUICIDE SQUAD (2016), and it’s mixed popularity, we are given a kind of last hope for this series of films and I have to say, much like the rest of the movies that came before, I am pretty excited for this, and early reviews and ratings sure have me riding on high hopes. I want this to be good guys. I want to love this movie. I really do.

Let’s take a look at the cast. Starring as the bad-ass Amazonian warrior princess is Gal Gadot (KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES [2016], FAST & FURIOUS 6 [2013], DATE NIGHT [2010], and the upcoming JUSTICE LEAGUE [2017]). Although I can’t say I’m her biggest fan, in that I’ve only seen so much of her work and she’s barely had a starring role to really showcase her talent, I am perfectly fine with her as Wonder Woman. No, her résumé isn’t spotless of bad movies, but she’s not usually the reason why. I look forward to seeing her performance here and 100 percent support her. At her side is the ever amazing and charming, Chris Pine (STAR TREK BEYOND [2016], JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT [2014], and THE PRINCESS DIARIES 2: ROYAL ENGAGEMENT [2004]). What can I say about the man? He’s funny. He’s awesome. He can perfectly play comedy and drama. I love his work… moving on. In support, we have Connie Nielsen (3 DAYS TO KILL [2014], GLADIATOR [2000], TV show THE FOLLOWING, and the upcoming JUSTICE LEAGUE), Robin Wright (EVEREST [2015], UNBREAKABLE [2000], TV show HOUSE OF CARDS, and the upcoming BLADE RUNNER 2049 [2017]), Danny Huston (BIG EYES [2014], animated film JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE FLASHPOINT PARADOX [2013], and X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE [2009]), David Thewlis (ANOMALISA [2015], HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN [2004], and TV show FARGO), and Ewen Bremner (T2 TRAINSPOTTING [2017], AVP: ALIEN VS. PREDATOR [2004], and TRAINSPOTTING [1996]).

Now for the crew. Directing is Patty Jenkins, known for MONSTER (2003). Penning the screenplay is Allan Heinberg, known for TV shows: seven episodes of GREY’S ANATOMY, eight episodes of THE O.C., and four episodes of SEX AND THE CITY. Composing the score is Rupert Gregson-Williams, known for HACKSAW RIDGE (2016), BEE MOVIE (2007), and HOTEL RWANDA (2004). Finally, the cinematographer is Matthew Jensen, known for FANT4STIC (2015), CHRONICLE (2012), and eleven episodes of TV show TRUE BLOOD.

Overall, STOKED! I needn’t say more.

This is my honest opinion of: WONDER WOMAN

(SUMMARY)

Diana (Gal Gadot) is the Princess of the hidden island paradise of Themyscira, raised around an all-female elite class of warriors, trained by the greatest of their warriors to be the best in the off chance that their greatest adversary, Ares, the God of War, should ever return. However, everything changes when a mysterious aircraft crashes into Themyscira’s ocean, carrying an American spy named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), pursued by German forces. Despite victory against them, Steve is taken prisoner and reveals that he’s fighting in a war, a great war supposedly to end all wars. While Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) believes it’s simply the natural chaos that men bring, Diana believes that it’s Ares influencing the war. Taking weapons and armor, she takes Steve back to his war as long as he promises to take her to where the war is at its most intense.

(REVIEW)

YEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAH!!! About damn time, DC!

Yes, folks, this is an awesome movie. A legitimately good film. I’m not just saying that because I’m lying to myself. No, I really do think this is one that shouldn’t be missed.

Right off the bat, the movie does a great job of world-building the Amazon world. Themyscira is a beautifully designed island and really does feel like a paradise. The gorgeous scenery alone almost feels like a character in itself, thanks in no small part to the wonderful cinematography. But more than that, once they introduce the Amazon warriors, you’re immediately enthralled by them. These women are pure bad-asses and in no more than two minutes, you know you’d never want to get on their bad sides. A detail that I found particularly remarkable in this brief introduction is just how good the extras look. No, I’m not talking aesthetic beauty, I’m talking about how these extras actually look like they’re having intense sparring matches. You know how in almost every great sword-fighting movie that it’s always intense thanks to great stunt-work and choreography? It looks like that’s what’s happening with these extras. Each sparring match looks intense and probably took a great deal of time to perfect and look great on screen. So believe me when I tell you when I look at an eight-year-old Diana (Lilly Aspell) looking at the warriors in awe, trying to mimic their fighting techniques, I’m right there with her, and I’m a twenty-eight-year-old grown-ass man… er, mostly grown-ass. Bottom-line, this intro is awesome.

But it’s not just pure, unrelenting action with no character. Quite the contrary, every character is simple, but easy to identify. Young Diana wants to train just like the rest of her Amazonian sisters, but her mother won’t allow it, believing that no threat will come their way in their lifetime… however long that is. Yeah, it’s never made clear if these women are immortals or just have really long life-spans, but whatever! No one cares! But of course, Hippolyta knows that her daughter has a strong will and eventually concedes that if she must be trained, then she must be trained to be better than the greatest of their warriors. And who better to train her just for that than their greatest warrior, Antiope (Robin Wright). I feel like in a lesser script, they could have easily made Antiope a reluctant teacher, jealous of Diana’s eventual combative prowess. But maybe that’s the cynic in me because you see that she has long desired to train Diana and even trained her in secret before her mother found out, eventually caving in to both of their desires to see her become a warrior like them. Even when Diana is an adult, she’s clearly a great warrior, but still has enough to learn.

Oh, and don’t worry, these ladies aren’t just here for practice fighting either. They get their moment to shine as an army right as soon as Steve arrives. German forces find Themyscira and invade the shores in pursuit of the American. They start bungee jumping off the side of cliffs and ride in on horseback, arrows flying like a cloud of locusts, a fair number of Germans are killed. But even the Amazons aren’t invincible as a few of them get killed too, which does feel like a loss that carries weight. I mean, these are warriors through and through. To be taken down by a projectile weapon that you can’t see just like an injustice (no pun intended). But at the same time, you know that these are warriors who know the score and know that death is a possibility, so there’s even this subtle sense of pride that they’re going out doing what they do best. I do kind of wish that this sudden realization of how advanced mankind’s weaponry has grown since their last encounter with men would be more of a shock to the Amazons post-battle, but I guess that wouldn’t have kept the story in focus, so it’s probably for the best that it becomes a cliff-note to be ignored, so no brownie points lost.

Honestly, I could probably go on forever talking about everything on Themyscira. But there’s a ton more to talk about and it’s also worth geeking out over.

How about the lady of the hour… or the, two and a half hours? Gadot is phenomenal as Wonder Woman. Despite never having read the comics, it’s pretty clear that if you’re going to make a Wonder Woman movie, she needs to stand for justice, strength, independence, compassion, and probably a myriad of other adjectives and adverbs that I don’t know about. Well, I would say this movie did all of that justice. She understands that this war has taken lives of noncombatants and wants to be a part of ending it. But when she gets up close and personal to the carnage, both outside and inside of the fighting, she’s horrified. She spends half the movie being kept away from the direct conflict and constantly told no. So when she, Trevors, and their ragtag team arrive at the trenches, and Diana is faced with a woman who begs her for help, which would entail storming No-Man’s Land across German machinegun fire into a German-occupied town. Of course, Steve tells her that it’s impossible to cross and that no man can do it. Aside from my mind immediately turning to LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (2003) and realizing that bad guys are defeated by grammatically political incorrectness, Diana says, “Nuh-uh, bitch, I ain’t no man. I’m Wonder Woman. This is what I do.” I… might have paraphrased a bit. In any case, this is the scene that many will be talking about because it’s such an awesome piece of runtime. She deflects bullets with her bracers and stands her ground as an unrelenting barrage of machinegun bullets pepper her shield as the Allied forces charge behind her and they take on the German forces, pushing through and saving the nearby town. It’s the first time we see Wonder Woman in her full garb and it’s about as bad-ass as you can imagine. This piece of superheroism should be remembered big time.

But more than her bad-assery, Diana is still a person who takes time to understand the world that she’s stepped in to. Or, maybe it’s more accurate to say that she hesitantly accepts the way things are. I don’t think it’s quite as well done as it was in THOR (2011), as Thor simply accepts the way things people do what they do, whereas Diana can complain a little bit. Not to the point of annoyance, thankfully. Her motivations are understandable, but there is that impatience that rubs me in the wrong way. But only a little, so I don’t really dock points for that. Still, she plays along, is respectful of customs for the most part, and only challenges the norm when the need is truly understandable.

I’ve only known a couple takes on the character of Steve Trevor. There’s the World War II version from JUSTICE LEAGUE the animated TV show, and there’s Nathan Fillion’s take in the animated movie WONDER WOMAN, which took place in the present day. It’s pretty clear that Trevor’s character is always a cocky and joking kind of guy, but still fiercely committed to his causes and beliefs with an unshakable conviction. If I were to hazard a guess, he’s basically the DC equivalent to Captain America if he were a supporting character. But I have to say, this is probably the best iteration of the character that I’ve seen yet. If there was anything I disliked about the animated film’s version is that he does attempt to get Diana drunk in order to get lucky. I don’t know, every other version seemed to be a gentleman and knew better than to make neanderthal decisions like that. Granted, it was probably unintentional and he was simply too drunk to think clearly, but it’s still kind of a weird moment for the character. Pine’s Steve Trevor is more akin to the animated show’s iteration. He’s a gentleman, funny as hell, charming, and kind of a dork. I mean, it’s a character we’ve seen before and seen Pine play before, but he’s so good at it that it never gets stale. To me, it makes sense that everything he and Diana go through would create this bond that would ultimately lead to a romance. It’s not forced and it feels very organic. They don’t always agree on their respective methods, but they both want to end the war and want the senseless killings of innocents to stop.

The supporting characters are hit and miss. Bremner’s Charlie is the most standout. He’s a drunken sharpshooter who is the comedy relief, but it’s revealed that he suffers from PTSD. And even though this is obviously been done before in just about every war film to exist, Charlie is such a likable kind of fool that when you see that vulnerability in his eyes, Bremner really sells it and you empathize with him. The others get the shaft a little bit. Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui) is the well-meaning flirt and Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) is the Native American of the group. Beyond that, they don’t really have a discernible set of personalities that will make them all that memorable. Luckily, they’re not annoying, so you don’t hate seeing them on screen, so I let that go.

The villains are… serviceable. While I really like the design of Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya) with her prosthetic left-side jaw, I have to say that they’re something of a bore. Sure, their actions are the driving force of our heroes, the bad guys making all new gases that threaten hundreds of lives, but they themselves don’t leave an impact. Although, there is this one deliciously evil scene where Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and Dr. Maru meet up with some German generals or whatever, and when they disappoint him, he locks them in a room with a single gas mask and gases the entire room. Although, earlier we learned that their newest gas weapon eats through the masks. Dr. Maru exclaims, “That mask won’t help them!” But then Ludendorff says, “They don’t know that.” And then the two laugh maniacally and run away like a couple of kids that played a prank. It’s… bizarrely out of place. Neither character acted like that before this scene, nor do they ever act like that afterward. Once more, I’m letting this slide because the moment barely lasts a minute and… it was kind of funny.

As you’ve probably noticed throughout the review, I’ve mentioned some moments that I’ve let slip and don’t let myself dock any real points from the movie. I bet you think I’m just making excuses to give this movie a perfect score, aren’t ya? Well think again, you damn dirty nay-sayers!

Remorsefully, it’s not a perfect film. My itty bitty gripes are proof enough of that. But I do have some legit problems with the movie that I couldn’t let slide. They’re smaller problems, but still distracting enough to warrant a few eye-twitches. Some will remember in the trailer, there’s a scene with Diana wearing a blue dress in a gala with her sword sheathed in her back, and that bit was criticized for, “Does no one see that sword?!” Well, sadly, that scene is actually even stupider even with context. I suppose you could have made the very, very, very thin argument that she could have said that it was just a decorative piece in the shape of a sword’s hilt for fashion purposes, but… no, that thing sticks out like a sore thumb and you’re left wondering why this isn’t causing a panic. In fact, I’m pretty sure you can see another woman eyeing Diana’s dress from the back and for all intents and purposes should have seen the sword hilt. But no. They just… don’t.

***SPOILERS***

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Also, I’m pretty sure I missed what the hell those pills that Ludendorff took were for. He takes these pills that make the inside of his skin glow silver, but I’m not sure if they really did anything. Were they supposed to make him immune to the gases they were creating? If so, why did he need to leave the room full of German generals that he killed? Were they supposed to give him super strength? It barely matters in the end because when Diana meets up with him, he’s killed off pretty quickly and in an anti-climactic way. So… whatever those pills did either didn’t work, didn’t work very well, or didn’t affect anything in the long run.

But by far the ultimate sin of the movie is this. We learn that Ludendorff wasn’t Ares the whole time like Diana thought, but in a twist, we learn that Ares was actually Sir Patrick Morgan (David Thewlis) of the Imperial War Cabinet. They have an epic fight, as all climaxes need ’em in superhero movies, but what made me nearly scream at the screen was when we learn that the “God-killer” sword that Diana’s been wielding this entire time wasn’t actually the God-killer. Turns out, Diana’s heritage as a demi-god was kept from her and she’s the God-killer. Wanna know how we learn that? Because Ares doubles as the God of Dumb-asses because he tells her right her face that she’s the only one that can kill him! This is the same damn problem that I had with THE CONJURING 2 (2016). What kind of bad-guy with a weakness just tells the heroes how to kill them?! I said before in that review, so I’ll it here. A vampire isn’t going to tell you to open the blinds on a bright and sunny afternoon, a werewolf isn’t going to hand you a loaded shotgun with silver shells, the Wicked Witch isn’t going to beg for a yacht party in the middle of the ocean, and zombies won’t be wearing bulls-eyes on their foreheads while giving you advice on aiming accurately. So why is this turning into a trend?! You know if he didn’t open his gob, he would have won that fight. Or more likely and impressively, Diana would have fought him to a stalemate and he would have fled, while still keeping her demi-god status a mystery and we could have kept Ares on as a sort of nemesis for Diana in future solo films. But nope, like a dumb-shit he is, he tells her his weakness and she exploits it and kills him.

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***END SPOILERS***

Overall, this movie is definitely a must-see for everybody. Men, women, boys, and girls. Especially girls because not only is this the first female-lead superhero film, but it’s done such great justice for the character and I feel like there’s something that everyone can cheer for. It’s got a little bit of everything. Comedy, drama, romance, war, it’s a really good film. Sure, it could have benefited from a bit of tweaking in the script, but what few problems I have with the movie, both small and big, don’t hold it back any more than a German sniper holding back Wonder Woman from toppling a roof on him. I may have only seen it once so far, but I plan on seeing it again. Highly recommended at your biggest theater with your loudest screens, wherever it may be and I can’t wait to own this on Blu-Ray when the time comes.

My honest rating for WONDER WOMAN: a strong 4/5

UPDATE (MORE SPOILERS): I am changing the rating to a 5/5. I have officially seen the movie three times in theaters now and there’s one thing that tipped this over for me. When Diana and Steve are in the boat, sailing away from Themyscira, they have this bit where they’re talking about marriage. Steve’s line goes something like, “…to love, honor, and cherish ’till death do you part.” It took me three viewings to see the immense weight his final scene really has. After he sacrifices himself, Diana eventually flashes back to the words that Steve said during her ears-ringing moment. His lines go, “I can save the day, but you can save the world! I love you!” I feel like what makes this moment so fantastic is because even though it’s not a wedding happening, he’s breaking this preconception of marriage. Here’s what I mean. What is he doing right at that moment? He’s loving, honoring, and cherishing her, and death parts them. He even goes so far as to give her his watch, a band that wraps around an appendage… kind of like a… okay, I know I’m grasping at straws here to make this scene more powerful, but that’s honestly what I’m taking away from that whole thing and it’s so well-subtly backed that I can’t help but fall in love with this movie because of it.

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EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING review

Aww, little Rue is all teen’d up and ready to be all Hallmark.

Kidding aside, I have to say that while I’m pretty interested in the two young leads, this doesn’t look like it’s going to be the best flick. It looks like it’s about this young girl who has a weak immune system and is confined inside her house for the rest of her life. That is, until she meets the dashing boy next door, whom she obviously falls in love with and decides to leave the house to experience the world and possibly put herself in mortal danger. So… BUBBLE BOY (2001), but if it was a tween romantic drama.

Anywho, I said I was interested in the leads, so here they are. Our romantic focuses are Amandla Stenberg (RIO [2014], THE HUNGER GAMES [2012], and TV show SLEEPY HOLLOW) and Nick Robinson (THE 5TH WAVE [2016], JURASSIC WORLD [2015], and TV show MELISSA & JOEY).

Stenberg will forever be remembered as the young tribute girl Rue, who was cute and charming as a button. But who remembers that random, pointless, and stupid controversy surrounding her? You know, the one where “fans” of the book went the racist route and protested why Rue was portrayed by a black girl in the movie, even though Rue in the book is, in fact, black. Yeah, first off, who the hell cares? Stenberg never deserved that backlash, but thank the powers that be, there was a swift response in her defense and despite the intensity of that controversy, it was mercifully short-lived. I am happy to know that Stenberg has kept working, and if memory serves, does a lot of work as a feminist, and keeps busy in other avenues of art, like co-writing a graphic novel. That’s pretty cool.

And Robinson, arguably my favorite talent in this movie. I will forever love him as the dweebie, but well-meaning kid from MELISSA & JOEY, one of my favorite sitcoms in recent years. But I am thrilled to know that he’s done pretty well for himself outside of the show and its cancellation. I mean, JURASSIC WORLD?! That’s huge! I mean, he wasn’t the best character in the movie, but it proves my belief that he is a talented young actor. Yeah, he stumbled a tad when he was cast in 5TH WAVE, but so did everyone else, and again, he wasn’t that bad in it. I certainly wish he’d be given better roles than these damn obvious young-adult roles because he has the talent to do better things. Well, you gotta get your name out there somehow, right? I’m sure he’ll be fine in this movie, but I hope it’s not so bad that it ruins his career.

In support, we have Anika Noni Rose (THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG [2009], DREAMGIRLS [2006], and animated TV short series VIXEN) and Ana de la Reguera (THE BOOK OF LIFE [2014], COWBOYS & ALIENS [2011], and NACHO LIBRE [2006]).

Now for the crew. Directing is Stella Meghie, known for unknown projects. Penning the screenplay is J. Mills Goodloe, known for THE AGE OF ADALINE (2015) and THE BEST OF ME (2014). Composing the score is Ludwig Göransson, known for CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE (2016), CREED (2015), WE’RE THE MILLERS (2013), and upcoming films DEATH WISH (2017) and BLACK PANTHER (2018). Finally, the cinematographer is Igor Jadue-Lillo, known for THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT (2010), PASSENGERS (2008), and THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY (2005).

Overall, no, I doubt it’s going to be good. I’m hoping it’ll be cute enough for what it is and the acting will elevate it a little, but I said the same thing about THE SPACE BETWEEN US (2017), so I guess I’m expecting this to be on a similar level.

This is my honest opinion of: EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING

(SUMMARY)

Maddy (Amandla Stenberg) just turned eighteen-years-old, for all the good it means. Since she was young, she’s been diagnosed with SCID: severe combined immunodeficiency, meaning she can’t leave the house, lest she get severely sick from germs and quite possibly die. But her world gets turned upside down when a new family moves next door and she develops an infatuation for the boy, Olly (Nick Robinson). The two strike up a relationship that evolves over time and Maddy starts to believe that maybe dying after a short time in the outside world and experiencing all that she’s missed is more preferable than living the rest of her days inside her home only to wonder what is out there.

(REVIEW)

Oh wow. If you ever wanted to get really mad at a movie, then this is the one for you.

I think it might be fair to point out that this movie, while never ever really good, it doesn’t… objectively speaking, start off terrible, though it does touch upon a pet-peeve of mine: opening narration. All it consists of is, “This is my mom. She’s a doctor,” or, “This is Carla (Ana de la Reguera), she’s my nurse,” or literally showcases a cartoon explaining how SCID works. Thing is, there was no reason to narrate a single thing in that opening. None of what we see would require an explanation that the movie wouldn’t already explain down the road. If you’re going to narrate something, then it has to be more a more tactical reason. Like… something that the movie won’t explain at any point. That might. But that’s not the case here, and ends up ruining some emotional opportunities not long after this.

For example, despite having a morbid and sympathetic lifestyle, this opening narration renders Maddy into a pretty bland main character. Her motivations are there and Stenberg is a fine enough actress to get the emotions down, but there’s still nothing to make you completely on board with her. I understand that she’s got this condition that confines her inside her home, so it’s only natural that she’d be dreaming of what the outside would would look like. But again, that narration completely anchors down the maximum emotions that a scene could provide. We already know that this one particularly glassy room is her favorite because she already told us that she can imagine the glass disappearing and she’d be free to roam around. Imagine how much more powerful a scene could have been if we never heard that narration and we just had a quiet scene, Maddy walks into the room, and just sits quietly staring out into the wild blue yonder, her fingertips only barely touching the glass wall separating her from the outside. We would totally get it. It would be so much more of a powerful visual, but having that narration treating us like children sucks out any emotional connection. It’s wasted opportunity.

Certain characters are also introduced not in the best of lights or pointlessly. The mom, for example, you never really feel safe around her. I don’t want to make it sound like she’s creepy or anything, but she comes off as something of a bitch. Like when Olly and his sister pay them a friendly neighborly visit, offering the mom a bundt cake. But she does the following: rudely speaks in short sentences despite her polite smile. She rejects the bundt cake. Understandable, but still, she just simply says she doesn’t want it instead of explaining that her daughter would be unable to eat it because of her illness. So… yeah… bitch. And Carla barely has any role in the movie other than to be kicked out of their lives when the mom finds out that she secretly agreed to let Olly inside the house for a personal one-on-one with Maddy, risking her life. Though, to be fair, there is a funny reference when the new nurse comes around named Nurse Janet (Marion Eisman), who is very strict with Maddy’s daily routines, and Maddy nicknames her Nurse Ratchet. I admit, that had me laughing.

Unfortunately, the good moments are too far inbetween by this point, and I found myself going to sleep. I totally missed the part where Olly’s dad attacks him outside their home and Maddy runs outside to help, only to suddenly have her mom come home and fire Carla shortly after, which I did see. So… not sure how much of the movie I missed, but it’s still not a good sign to know that your movie can have you counting sheep instead of getting invested in the characters.

Some serious red flags start cropping up when Maddy and Olly take a spontaneous vacation to Hawaii. After the two run away from home and hitch that ride on the plane, I have a difficult time in believing that when the mom gets the police notified, it would take as long as it does to get those kids. Here’s what I mean, Maddy and Olly go to Hawaii and have their fun. But a flight from… where does this movie take place? Screw it, on the west coast, let’s say. That’s a five plus hour flight. I guess since Maddy’s mom is a doctor that her work hours would be long, so a flight to Hawaii starting in the morning, or even the afternoon, it wouldn’t be implausible for the two of them to reach Hawaii before she gets home, but that still begs the question where the hell the nurse is in all this. One would think the mother would almost have a rotation of nurses constantly keeping an eye on Maddy to prevent crap like this from happening, but no, Maddy was scot free. I imagine if this took place in reality, the nurse would have called the mother and would have been told to call the police. The police would have been notified in an hour or so and then would have reached out to air traffic control, the air marshal maybe, to let them know the situation, and Maddy and Olly would have been taken into custody the moment they landed in Hawaii. But nope, we need a sappy twenty minutes of runtime to make Maddy feel good about herself. Oh, and to let her have sex. That too.

And am I the only one who thought Maddy was kind of unnecessarily written as a bitch when she broke it off with Olly via Skype? I mean, he went with her to Hawaii, despite what trouble he’d get into with both his family and Maddy’s mother, and helped her when she fainted, getting her to the hospital to save her life, and then breaks off their relationship not long after. This sort of comes out of nowhere. Why was this incident in Hawaii her sudden epiphany that the two of them can’t have a future together? Why was that moment so different compared to every other moment since they met? What did she think was going to happen?

I do admit that there are at least a couple scenes that lent itself to some creativity. So by a certain point in the beginning, Maddy of course strikes up her relationship with new-boy Olly and they can only communicate through texting at first. Did anyone happen to see the Liam Neeson movie, NON-STOP (2014)? You remember those scenes where Neeson’s chatting up entire lengths of dialog through texting the bad guy? I was deathly afraid that this movie would go this route and be boring as hell. Thankfully, the filmmakers had some foresight and did something with this texting back and forth thing. You see, Maddy also has a hobby of creating models. In this case, designing restaurants and such. The first scene involving texting takes place in this imaginary restaurant while Maddy and Olly are physically talking, bringing to life the texting conversation. The dialog is definitely obvious “texting” dialog, but it works for the most part. When something meaningful is being said, Maddy and Olly are shown to be in close proximity. When she’s being defensive or otherwise withholding, she appears farther from him. It’s pretty creative and they do this for every one of their texting scenes, albeit taking place in a different setting.

So… with all this being said, it doesn’t sound like there’s anything too bad to get angry over, right? It sounds like this movie is what it is. Meant for a young-adult audience, a dumb date movie for teenagers, nothing too offensive, right?

WRONG!!!

***SPOILERS***

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There’s a twist in this movie. Oh yeah is there a twist. And it’s not a good one. So after Maddy gets sick in Hawaii, she goes to the hospital and then goes home, learning her lesson. Funny thing, the doctor that took care of her gave her a phone call and got it into Maddy’s head that she may not have SCID, but rather something less dire. I bet you can tell where this is going. You’re right! You are absolutely right! The mother lied to Maddy her entire life about having SCID. Why? Early on, we learned that Maddy’s dad and brother were killed in a car accident. Maddy did get sick one day, possibly due to an allergy, but then decided, “Screw this! I lost my husband and son, I’m not losing my daughter!” The obvious conclusion that any rational human being can come to? LIE AND SAY THAT SHE HAS A CONDITION THAT KEEPS HER LEASHED IN HER OWN HOME!!! But of course! That’s the answer to life’s problems! Lie and manipulate events to keep yourself from losing everything that you have, even if that means denying your child a normal life!

This twist is beyond insane. Despite Maddy’s rightful outrage and devastation, she reveals that she’ll forgive her mother in time. I have no idea why. It’s not like the mother is stable enough to warrant it. Look, people deal in tragedy in different ways. Fine, she’s protective of her daughter, but that’s no excuse for anything that she did. She’s a doctor that made up a false diagnosis in order to keep her daughter from going outside where bad things happen. Never mind how stupid that sounds, that’s gotta be all kinds of illegal that would get her license as a medical practitioner revoked faster than the speed of light. The world is harsh and cruel, and some of us don’t make it, but she denied Maddy a proper existence. Granted, she’s not a grown-ass adult in her mid-thirties, but that’s not something that can be bounced back from, or certainly forgiven for. This mother pissed me off so damn much and this twist ruined the entire damn movie.

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***END SPOILERS***

Overall, I don’t recommend this movie. The acting’s nothing to write home about and anything positive to say about the movie, while present, isn’t enough to hold up the movie at all, or even all that worth seeing. It’s contrived, it’s sappy, far-fetched, and the ending is beyond insane that shatters any semblance of good that this movie was failing to try and go for. I really do like both Robinson and Stenberg as actors and I hope this movie doesn’t leave a negative impact on their careers and they find success in the future, but this movie should be forgotten about and never mentioned again. Maybe the tween crowd will enjoy this movie fine, but for anyone wanting to see a legitimately good young-adult romance, this isn’t the movie. I don’t even recommend it as a rental. Save your money, save your time. You’re not missing anything.

My honest rating for EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING: 1/5

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THE DINNER review

Boy howdy is there a reception on this one. Already it’s being hailed as a contender for one of the worst movies of the year by early ratings and reviews. Really…? I mean, I’ll get to how implausible that sounds because of the cast, but this movie deserves a little history lesson first. Yes, this movie isn’t just some movie. It’s actually, no surprise here, an adaptation of a Dutch novel that was written back in 2009. Thing is… that novel was adapted by the Dutch in 2013, which was met with mixed reviews, likely more negative than positive. Then in 2014, the Italians adapted this book to, again, mixed reviews, but likely more positive than the Dutch version. So I guess now in 2017 we Americans need a slice of that mediocre pie and it looks like we’ve made the worst version of them all. ‘Murica: Improving on other countries’ shit since never!

It’s hard to believe considering the talent here. Steve Coogan (RULES DON’T APPLY [2016], PHILOMENA [2013], OUR IDIOT BROTHER [2011], and the upcoming DESPICABLE ME 3 [2017]), Rebecca Hall (THE BFG [2016], THE GIFT [2015], and THE PRESTIGE [2006]), Richard Gere (NORMAN [2017], CHICAGO [2002], and PRETTY WOMAN [1990]), Laura God damned Linney (NOCTURNAL ANIMALS [2016], THE NANNY DIARIES [2007], and THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE [2005]). How do you do that?! In support, we also have Chloë Sevigny (LOVE & FRIENDSHIP [2016], ZODIAC [2007], and BOYS DON’T CRY [1999]) and Charlie Plummer (TV shows GRANITE FLATS, BOARDWALK EMPIRE, and PERSON OF INTEREST).

Now for the crew. Writing and directing is Oren Moverman, known for RAMPART (2011) and THE MESSENGER (2009). Fun fact, this movie was supposed to be Cate Blanchett’s directorial debut, but for whatever reason, Moverman took her place. Finally the cinematographer is Bobby Bukowski, known for IMPERIUM (2016), 99 HOMES (2014), and RAMPART (2011). I guess this movie doesn’t have a score?

Overall, yup, not looking forward to this. I ought to brace for some torture.

This is my honest opinion of: THE DINNER

(SUMMARY)

A video on Youtube is posted depicting two teenage boys murdering a homeless woman by setting her on fire. These teens are the sons of their respectable and wealthy parents, Stan (Richard Gere), a politician, and Katelyn (Rebecca Hall), his wife, as well as Stan’s school teacher brother Paul (Steve Coogan) and his wife Claire (Laura Linney). They both go on a double date and discuss what to do about the footage and the crime that their respective children have committed.

(REVIEW)

I paid full price for this.

Holy fuck, this is one of the most despicable movies I’ve seen all year. You read that summary right. That is what this movie is about and there is nothing else to it. It’s pretentious as all fucking hell and has no redeemable values. Get ready for a ton of cursing, folks, because I really hate this movie.

If there was a way for me to instantly hate a movie before the title of the film appears, this achieved that in spades. Already I hate teen archetypes, as if teenagers only ever party, drink, and have sex, but that’s how this movie starts. But you know what, that’s possibly being too harsh. I mean, the opening is only a couple minutes long after all. Out of a 120 minute flick, surely the first couple minutes aren’t all that damning about it. Nope! The rest of the 118 minutes is worse! So much worse!

First of all, I couldn’t get through the first hour before napping. I’m not even entirely sure how much of the film I missed, but I guarantee you, it wasn’t much… or depending on your point of view, not enough. The story doesn’t really kick off until the first hour’s over, and in that first hour, all we get is a shit-load of Coogan narration about who-gives-a-shit. Paul is atrociously unlikable in that he is quick to judge the entirety of the human race and calls everyone “apes.” Yup, apes. As if he is on some grand, higher level of thinking and existence that gives him the clout to look down on everyone around him, when really, he comes off as a petulant child who got one too many hidden Playboy magazines taken from him as a pre-teen. To make matters unbearably frustrating, the movie almost exclusively follows him because that narration of his barely shuts up. His backstory makes no sense either. Paul was a high school teacher who believed that the kids would love him because he would make education fun. But then he goes on multiple tangents about how kids these days don’t want to learn. How can education compete with Facebook, Twitter, and literally rolling off every single social networking site that exists with the surprising exceptions of Myspace and Friendster. The fact that this man is so opposed to social networking and teens with cellphones in general, it’s a gigantic wonder how he even knows the difference between Snapchat and Instagram. Hell, I’m part of that generation myself and I don’t even know the difference! Paul is so pretentious, it’s almost cartoonish, but with zero enjoyment. And you wanna know how we learn all this stuff about Paul? It’s never shown to you in the movie. It’s all done through contrived exposition via voice-over! And in conjunction with the most pointless flashback sequences that I’ve ever seen in a film, I promise any insomniac that this movie will cure the fuck out of you. No promises that it won’t give your soul cancer though.

Notice how I’ve only raved about one character so far. I’d do the same with the rest of the core cast, but honestly, they’re such wallpaper paper in this movie that I can’t find too much more to say. Gere and Hall barely look like they’re trying to act. Gere is so deadpan in his line deliveries and Hall looks like she’s awkward and fucking miserable. Linney’s definitely trying the hardest out of all of them and it almost works, but due to the lack of connection with anyone’s character or motivations, you’re never interested in anything that she, or anyone for that matter, is saying. It’s a bunch of rich people thinking of ways to use their influence and wealth to keep the matter contained and secure their respective children’s futures.

Ugh, and let’s talk about this… apocalypse of logic. These kids are walking around at night looking for an ATM machine, find one, but a homeless woman is sleeping there. The kids are being fucking little shits by poking her, kicking her, which ultimately escalates to them lighting her on fire, laughing at her as she suffers and dies. All of this is recorded and put on Youtube. The video even has a “sequel coming soon” tagline at the end. First of all, I fucking doubt Youtube would condone someone posting shit like that and having stay up for more than a few seconds. That would be flagged like a mother fucker and the police would be called and taking action far before the rich sleazy parents are done with their first glass of million dollar wine and rare Swahili cheese or whatever the fuck. But never mind that horseshit. These kids are fucking monsters, one of them even tries to justify it by saying that it was a joke. I can’t imagine a single real-world parent that wouldn’t march their kid down to the police station to confess what they did and accept the consequences. Why these parents wouldn’t do the same thing for their kids is beyond me. “Their futures will be ruined!” Yeah, no shit! Their lives are going to be ruined anyway! Send them to church and have them be born again Christians when they get out, but letting them get away with murder is only going to invite a mentality that they can get away with it. What, with their probable busy schedules, are they going to do to keep their murderous teens in line? The teens have little to no respect for their parents, so unless they were planning to lock them up in the cellar and beat them with Bibles until the mere thought of harming even a fly is repulsive, all they’re going to do is rebel and do it again.

This movie isn’t even to bad, it’s entertaining. As I previously stated when I said I fell asleep, this movie is BORING. Boredom as a result of horrendous writing that feels like it’s trying to be deep and insightful through cynicism, but comes off as the psychotic ravings of a moody teenager who got his cellphone taken away by mommy and daddy. To complement the bad writing, there’s a great deal of terrible directing to boot. I distinctly remember in the opening sequence with the partying teenagers where the sequence concludes with a pair of cops entering the party and looking around, supposedly to break it up and possibly arrest someone for underage drinking. Thing is, as you watch, the cops enter, they’re so unemotional that you’d swear they were there to join in on the shenanigans. And no teen has any real reaction to them so I’m wondering just how much of my joke is genuinely a joke. And the editing is lame enough for me to notice how bad it is. In this same scene I’m talking about, the very next shot after the cops walk in to the party is our teenage “protagonists” that we’ll eventually see commit horrible things to a defenseless woman. As most anyone knows, I don’t have an eye for bad editing. So if I can spot it, that should tell you how bad it was.

***SPOILERS***

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I don’t think this is a spoiler, but in fear of the idea that there’s at least one person out there that is really excited for this movie and will find it Shakespearean, I will consider this important information that I, as a film-goer who respects the experience of watching a movie in theaters, will treat it as important information. *Sigh* So at first, you think the movie is going to kind of redeem itself when Gere’s character, Stan, is adamant that they turn their children into the police. I don’t know why it took a hundred minutes to get to this point, but fine, something sensible is actually being said in the movie. But then just as your hopes are on the rise that these little wastes of sperm are going to get their comeuppance, it’s fuckin’ Linney’s character that some fucking how manages to bitch and moan enough to change his fucking mind! No! Stan was quickly becoming the best part of the movie, as he was saying that he was going to withdraw his candidacy from being state Senator or whatever the fuck, but no! Reformed-psycho Mom decided the bitch and moan and that was enough to sway him! Fuck this movie, man!

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***END SPOILERS***

Overall, this movie is beyond frustrating and doesn’t make a lick of real world sense. This one hurt, people. It really hurt. The stale acting, the atrocious characters, and a myriad of problems from start to finish make this one of the worst movies of the year. No, I do not recommend this movie to anyone, I don’t care who you’re a fan of. Save your soul from being crushed and skip this forever.

I paid full price for this.

My honest rating for THE DINNER: 1/5

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GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 review

AHHHHHHH!!! Oh my god, it’s here!!!

Whew, three years is way too long to be makin’ me wait. As you can probably tell, I was a huge fan of the first GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014). Probably would come as a shock to me circa 2013 because I thought this movie wouldn’t be good or successful due to these characters not being what many think of when it comes to Marvel Comics. You think X-Men, or Spider-Man, pretty much everyone except the Guardians. But leave it to Marvel to make unknown names household with seemingly little effort thrown in, making that movie arguably one of the best movies to come out of that year and I fell in love with it. This is one of my three all-time favorite Marvel Avengers-related films, tied only with CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER (2013) and DOCTOR STRANGE (2016). It had great characters, terrific performances, probably one of the most infectious soundtracks in all sci-fi history, fun action, wonderful humor, everything you’d need for t a fun and amazing thrill ride.

To say that I’m excited for this movie would be a monumental understatement. I mean, I’m a sci-fi junkie as it stands, but this is special, yo! I’m blindly accepting that this will be a great film. Let’s just hope whoever the villain is will be better than Ronan the Accuser. Actually, the plot seems to be pretty well under wraps. All we know is that there’s going to be a lot ass-kicking and humor, so… hellz yeah, let’s kick this puppy into gear!

Let’s take a gander at the amazing talent shall we? The original guardians return, of course: Chris Pratt (PASSENGERS [2016], THE LEGO MOVIE [2014], DELIVERY MAN [2013], and upcoming films AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018] and the Untitled Jurassic World sequel [2018]), Zoe Saldana (LIVE BY NIGHT [2016], THE BOOK OF LIFE [2014], COLOMBIANA [2011], and upcoming films AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and AVATAR 2 [2020]), Dave Bautista (007 SPECTRE [2015], RIDDICK [2013], THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS [2012], and upcoming films AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and BLADE RUNNER 2049 [2017]), and voice talents Vin Diesel (THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS [2017], THE LAST WITCH HUNTER [2015], BABYLON A.D. [2008], and upcoming films AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and FAST & FURIOUS 9 [2019]) and Bradley Cooper (WAR DOGS [2016], JOY [2015], AMERICAN HUSTLE [2013], and the upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR). Returning support includes Michael Rooker (THE BELKO EXPERIMENT [2017], GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY [2014], SLITHER [2006], and the upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR) and Karen Gillan (THE CIRCLE [2017], THE BIG SHORT [2015], TV show DOCTOR WHO, and the upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR). Newcomers include Kurt Russell (THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS, DEEPWATER HORIZON [2016], and THE HATEFUL EIGHT [2015]), Sylvester Stallone (RATCHET & CLANK [2016], CREED [2015], THE EXPENDABLES 3 [2014], and upcoming films ESCAPE PLAN 2: HADES [2018] and ESCAPE PLAN 3, due out… who knows when), and Pom Klementieff (OLD BOY [2013]).

Now for the amazing talent behind the scenes. Writing and directing is James Gunn, known for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014), SUPER (2010), and SLITHER. Composing the score Tyler Bates, known for JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 (2017), JOHN WICK (2014), HALLOWEEN II (2009), and the upcoming ATOMIC BLONDE (2017) and TV show Netflix’s THE PUNISHER. Finally, the cinematographer is Henry Braham, known for THE LEGEND OF TARZAN (2016), THE GOLDEN COMPASS (2007), and NANNY MCPHEE (2005).

Overall… SO STOKED, A-HOLES!!! ‘Nuff said.

This is my honest opinion of: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2

(SUMMARY)

The misfit accidental heroes are back and are still trying to get a handle on things. Hired by the Sovereign race to protect precious batteries from an inter-dimensional monster, the Guardians succeed, but unknowingly, Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) stole a couple for himself to sell later for a hefty sum. In exchange for their services, they hand over a captured Nebula (Karen Gillan), and leave. But Rocket’s actions are discovered as the Sovereign race shoot down Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) ship, but still manage to escape in time. As repairs are under way, the crew is paid a visit by a stranger known as Ego (Kurt Russell), who admits to being Peter’s father. To make matters complicated, Peter, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), and Drax (Dave Bautista) separate from Rocket, the still growing Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), and Nebula to give Peter the chance to learn about his heritage, while Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his band of Ravagers hunt him down with the help of the Sovereign, find them, and take them hostage. The Ravagers divide amongst infighting, Yondu, Rocket, and Baby Groot are imprisoned and attempt to find Peter and the rest of the Guardians.

(REVIEW)

Maybe my expectations were too high, but I only liked this movie as opposed to me loving the first one.

Obviously, I must have my complaints about this movie, so let’s get those out of the way. First thing that I didn’t like… the soundtrack wasn’t as memorable. You’d think this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but let me explain why this is a letdown. The first Guardians was monumentally entertaining and a great contribution to that was the music. “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone, “Hooked on a Feeling,” by Blue Swede, “Cherry Bomb,” by The Runaways, all of these are memorable and catchy songs. Admittedly, I can’t call myself a “music guy.” I don’t know the greatest of the greatest hits of the 70’s and 80’s, so unless it was in a Guitar Hero game, I’ve likely never heard of the songs. But here’s the thing, with the exception of “Cherry Bomb,” I wasn’t familiar with “Come and Get Your Love” or “Hooked on a Feeling.” Yet, I remember the melodies, the lyrics, all complemented by whatever respective scene the song is playing over, and they were catchy enough that I’d want to listen to those songs when I’m driving down the road some day, which I do. But I couldn’t hum the tune to one song in this one. Not one. I can remember the opening sequence, but not the song that was playing over it. Of course, you could argue that Baby Groot dancing and fighting space rats while the Guardians are getting their asses kicked by a tentacle monster is a simple case of scenery-chewing, but I maintain that I still don’t remember the song. Any of them for any scene.

The next complaint that I had was that Drax with surprisingly not as funny either. I felt like the majority of his jokes were a little too forced. Granted, that’s not all of them, but I laughed at nearly every joke in the first Guardians, but that wasn’t the case. In fact, I found it hard to see him as likable in some areas, particularly when interacting with Mantis (Klementieff). He’s actually pretty berating of her and calls her ugly a lot. I know someone’s going to tell me, “He’s only brutally honest. He’s doing it to be mean,” and I get it, but… that wasn’t an issue in the first movie. Well, I guess he did call Gamora a whore and Rocket a rodent a couple times and I found it funny there. But I do have a theory as to why I separate the humor here. When he calls Gamora a whore, she’s more acting annoyed at the fact that he’s declaring her a friend while also insulting her after he was individually proclaiming his friendship to everyone else. Her reaction was natural and understandable, and the joke is basically that he’s trying to be genuinely sweet and grateful, but he’s still an ass. When calling Rocket “rodent,” he attacks Drax in a fit of drunken rage and we learn why specifically he hates being called that name. It’s a genuine insult that hurts his feelings and we learn something new about him. This isn’t played for laughs, but rather straight and serious, arguably making on the more dramatic moments in the first movie. Here… what’s the joke? How did a five minute conversation come about where they talk about how he sees her as ugly? It’s fairly uncomfortable, not charming.

***SPOILERS***

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Somewhat early on, there’s this bit where the Ravagers tracked down the crashed ship with just Rocket, Groot, and Nebula. Kraglin (Sean Gunn) aids in a mutiny against Yondu for getting them kicked out of the Ravager community and want to return to the way they used to do things. The ones still loyal to Yondu get jettisoned out into space – or rather gingerly float out because the vacuum is completely taken out of the equation for whatever reason – and yet the next time we see Kraglin is when he helps break out Yondu, Rocket, and Groot because, “They killed my friends.” Well, shit, dude, you’re only space pirates who invade and kill whoever you want. In the case of mutiny, I have to ask why this is such a shock. This is in the next scene with them, by the way. This isn’t some character arch journeyed through the movie and in the end he learns the error of his ways. Nope, it’s the next scene where he realized he screwed up. The mutiny almost seems pointless, other than to be a clumsy and contrived way to build up Yondu, and arguably Kraglin, being an honorary Guardian at the end.

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***END SPOILERS***

By the way, this isn’t really a complaint, but I’m not too sure if I agree that the relationship between Drax and Mantis is supposed to be representative of father and daughter. I can’t say I recall where I heard that from, but that’s not what I picked up from their interactions. Both characters are socially inept. They have a tendency to say exactly what’s on their minds and an inability to understand certain social cues. And of course, with Drax constantly telling Mantis that she’s ugly, but still shows a peculiar caring for her, and a greatly expressed lack of desire to want to have sex with each other, I picked up that the two were more brother and sister. Anyone else agree with me on this one?

So I’ve had a few gripes here and there, right? Does that mean I think the movie’s bad? Hellz to the no. At the end of the day, this movie is as entertaining as you could hope it to be.

Despite not remembering the soundtrack playing over the opening fight sequence, I still remember the sequence as a whole. Baby Groot dancing to a song while the Guardians are battling a giant tentacle monster, it’s every bit as brilliant as anyone could hope for. Even when the song ends, I still love how the rest of the scene concludes. It’s an amazing “howdy doo” and worth the price of admission alone.

The humor is still there. Rocket is still a big-mouthed jerk with the one-liners and gives everyone shit. The best scene that stands out with him is when he’s making fun of Taserface’s (Chris Sullivan) name and even getting the rest of the Ravagers to join in on the mockery. Groot is as adorable as he’s portrayed in the trailers, albeit not in on the action as one would hope. But nearly every scene with Groot is full of “aww” moments, be them about how cute he is, or how assholes are treating him. There’s this bit where the Ravagers captured him and want him to dance, and during their amusement, they pour alcohol on him, still laughing at him. You’re part of the crowd that cheered for him when he went ape-shit on that same Ravager and kicked his ass.

Also, am I the only one who made the fun connection that Ego was almost incredibly similar to Andross from the STAR FOX 64 video game as far as their “true forms” were concerned? I mean, Andross’ true form was a giant brain and Ego’s true form is a giant brain… PLEASE TELL ME I’M NOT ALONE IN THIS!!!

***SPOILERS***

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But never mind the comedy, the drama is effective as well. When Ego admits to Peter that he’s the one who put the tumor in his mother’s head that ultimately killed her, he has that “You killed the greatest woman who ever lived!” moment and you can’t help but share his rage. I guess I have a soft-spot for superheroes defending their mothers.

The stuff with Gamora and Nebula is also really well-executed. They have a strange relationship to be sure, one that’s never been explored before this movie. Nebula tries to kill Gamora when she’s got the chance, but can’t bring herself to do it and they air out that dirty laundry. Nebula’s defeats when sparring with Gamora as children resulted in Nebula getting cybernetic augmentations in hopes to being Gamora’s combative equal. But Gamora always won the fights and Nebula just wanted a sister, but with every loss in battle against her, Nebula’s hatred grew. All this time enduring pain and being seen as a disappointment, and yet she still has that shred of love for Gamora, who only now realizes the weight of their upbringing with Thanos and how it tore each other apart. So the ending scene with the two women hugging and parting ways, that was a legit moment. It’s an awkward hug to be sure, but I like to think that’s the point. They’ve never shared a connection like this before, so it’s new territory. But in the end, they do still have different goals and desires. Gamora wants to save the other children that Thanos wants to convert and Nebula wants to kill Thanos himself, despite how impossible they think it is, so we know that Nebula won’t be joining the Guardians any time soon.

And this was something I had a difficult time acknowledging: the father-son relationship between Yondu and Peter. At first, I thought it was contrived and ultimately too sappy. In the first movie, Yondu’s threatening to kill Peter and even kicks the crap out of him before the climax of the film. If Yondu thought of Peter as his own son, why threaten to kill him? What if Peter didn’t have a plan to take down Ronan? Would Yondu have killed Peter? Or would he have come up with an excuse not to do it? While I maintain that this is some bullshit, it’s easy to forget that these characters do have a weird relationship and that’s the point of a sequel: the expand on what we already know and to take these characters and their relationships with each other to new grounds. We knew that Peter and Yondu had a weird connection, and this movie dives into why that is. Yondu had been under Ego’s employment for a long time, rounding up his offspring only to be killed off when they didn’t satisfy Ego. Yondu clearly had enough of it and despite getting kicked out of the Ravager community, refused to let Peter share the same fate as his illegitimate half-siblings. In time, Yondu clearly develops a soft-spot for Peter and does kind of end up becoming Peter’s only father figure he’s ever known, so this development makes more sense than I gave it credit for, making his death in the end very emotional.

Speaking of father figures, I also had some initial reservations against Ego’s motivations. At first, I complained that he introduced himself as a kindly, apologetic person who didn’t want things to turn out like they did between him and Peter. I complained that when he suddenly became a bad guy and tried to kill Peter that it was lazy writing to make a “twist” bad guy. But after realizing the information I had originally missed and thought Ego to be one of the worst villains that Marvel’s dished out, I suddenly realized that he’s arguably one of the better ones. At first, I disagreed with how he went on and on about how much he genuinely loved Meredith Quill (Laura Haddock) and hated leaving her only to kill her in the end. But having missed the previous information that he’s been killing his own children who couldn’t control the power they were supposed to inherit from him, it’s now obvious that he’s probably manipulated his offspring before. He kills them because of his messed up outlook on life. He never fell in love with anyone and he never cared about being a father to any children. He wanted their power to fully integrate every planet he’s been to in order to transform them them into extensions of himself. He probably manipulated his previous offspring like he did with Peter, but only Peter showed that he can use his powers, making him more useful than any other. This is, in retrospect, a little bit of a different take on the whole “bad guy wants to dominate the galaxy” type deal; different meaning and method behind it all. Granted, it’s still tiring to see this bad guy trope, but it’s much easier to sit through with this knowledge.

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***END SPOILERS***

Overall, I’ve only seen the movie once so far and I came out with some bad tastes in my mouth that I probably need to reevaluate after a second viewing. Sunday Movie Night with my coworkers! Objectively speaking, while I stand by that this movie has more problems than the first film, there weren’t as many as I originally thought, and it’s hard to deny that this movie does take steps upward with its characters and tries harder in its dramatic areas, which ultimately paid off. It’s still a lot of fun and is definitely a worthy sequel to the concentrated awesome that was the first. If you liked the first film, I highly recommend seeing this one. Full price, biggest theaters, loudest speakers, wherever that is. But maybe not in 3D. For some reason, the 3D made the CGI a little too obvious. But this movie is incredibly entertaining and that’s the job of any real superhero movie. Not my favorite, but still pretty damn cool.

My honest rating for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2: a strong 4/5

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THE MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS (transfer) review

These “transfer” reviews are from when I only did reviews on my Facebook page back in 2015. Bare in mind when reading these, I didn’t have the same formula in my review writing that I do now, and my usual “who starred and who directed” information is completely absent, so everything “italicized” is new. With that said, enjoy this review from 2015.

Young adult novel adaptations to the big screen have a tendency to be hit or misses. The biggest of recent years is HUNGER GAMES, bar none. Certainly the DIVERGENT series has its own following, but I think the surprise hit of last year was THE MAZE RUNNER. As much as I enjoy HUNGER GAMES, I had to admit that MAZE RUNNER was probably the best and my favorite. Naturally, SCORCH TRIALS was one of the more highly anticipated movies for me this month. High hopes and all that.

Starring: Dylan O’Brien (DEEPWATER HORIZON [2016], THE MAZE RUNNER [2014], TV show TEEN WOLF, and the upcoming MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE [2018]) Kaya Scodelario (THE MAZE RUNNER [2014], CLASH OF THE TITANS [2010], MOON [2009], and upcoming films PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES [2017] and MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE), Aiden Gillen (SING STREET [2016], TV shows GAME OF THRONES and THE WIRE, and upcoming films KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD [2017] and THE LOVERS [2017]), and Patricia Clarkson (ANNIE [2014], FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS [2011], and THE GREEN MILE [1999]). In support: Ki Hong Lee (THE MAZE RUNNER [2014], TV show THE UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT, and upcoming films WISH UPON [2017] and MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE [2018]), Thomas Brodie-Sangster (STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS [2015] and TV shows GAME OF THRONES and THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO, and the upcoming MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE), Dexter Darden (THE MAZE RUNNER, JOYFUL NOISE [2012], and the upcoming MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE), Giancarlo Esposito (MONEY MONSTER [2016], THE USUAL SUSPECTS [1995], TV show ONCE UPON A TIME, and the upcoming MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE), and Jacob Lofland (FREE STATE OF JONES [2016], MUD [2012], TV show JUSTIFIED, and the upcoming MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE).

Directed by: Wes Ball (THE MAZE RUNNER). Written by: T.S. Nowlin (PHOENIX FORGOTTEN [2017], THE MAZE RUNNER, and upcoming films PACIFIC RIM [2018] and MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE [2018]). Composed by John Paesano (ALMOST CHRISTMAS [2016], THE MAZE RUNNER, TV show DAREDEVIL, and upcoming film ALL EYEZ ON ME [2017] and TV show THE DEFENDERS). Cinematography by: Gyula Pados (MILLION DOLLAR ARM [2014], PREDATORS [2010], BASIC INSTINCT 2 [2006], and upcoming films JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE [2017] and MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE)

Story on top (SPOILERS), review on the bottom.

(STORY)

The story picks up almost right after the first film. Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Frypan (Dexter Darden), and Winston (Alexander Flores) are herded by their armed rescuers into a facility ran by Janson (Aidan Gillen). They are given functioning showers, fresh clothes, good food, all that stuff, even getting in touch with other teens who survived their own maze trials. Pretty much everyone but Thomas is taking this like it’s a good thing. Thomas thinks this is too good to be true. This is because every so often, Janson takes a small amount of the teens to what is said to be a farm where nothing but good things happen… but they’re never seen again. Things are only getting shadier when the longest lasting resident of this facility, Aris (Jacob Lofland), includes Thomas on the facility’s secrets. Covered bodies are taken to a restricted area and Thomas wants to see what this place is hiding. He has a particular vested interest in this secret when Teresa is hauled away and won’t let him talk to her. Successfully lifting a keycard off of a security guard, he and Aris gain access to the secret room and see the surviving kids that were previously hauled away are being harvested; blue liquid from their bodies. They aren’t awake during this, but don’t appear to be alive either. Things only get worse when Janson appears. Neither Thomas nor Aris are caught, but they discover who is really behind this facility and all its goings-on: Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson) of the sinister organization WICKED: World In Catastrophe: Killzone Experiment Department, responsible for the kids going through the maze trials. Thomas rallies the rest of the Gladers and try to escape. They eventually find Teresa and successfully escape into the Scorch: the name given to the post-apocalypse world outside. Their destination: to find a resistence group fighting WICKED called the Right Arm, who will hopefully protect the Gladers. Unfortunately, this is a long journey to the mountains in the distance. Meaning they have to evade a ton of Cranks, the zombie-like beings infected by the Flare Virus. Sadly, after an encounter with a horde of Cranks, Winston is infected. After reaching safety, his infection is too great for him to continue and is left behind, but not before being given a gun to prevent the infection from turning him… which he does use. But the rest of the Gladers continue onward. One night of rest, on the verge of passing out from no food or water, Thomas sees an encampment of some kind in the distance, right in the nick of time to get caught in a lightning storm. They successfully enter the camp and are brought to their leader, Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito) and his daughter Brenda (Rosa Salazar). They aren’t the Right Arm, just some regular survivors out in the Scorch, but do indeed know where to find Right Arm. After eliminating the antagonistic relationship between them, Jorge agrees to take the Gladers to Right Arm. This is complicated suddenly when WICKED, led by Janson, attacks. Most everyone escapes, but Thomas and Brenda are separated from everyone else. They evade WICKED, but finding their way underground. They come across more Cranks and Brenda gets infected. They find their way to a small city of survivors hoping to find the others. They meet a sketchy individual named Marcus (Alan Tudyk), an owner of a club for getting young people high. He’s also revealed to be a secret ally of WICKED, sending anyone immune to the Flare Virus, and happens to also know the location of Right Arm. Everyone is reunited and the location of Right Arm is revealed. They move out and finally encounter the Right Arm. Turns out, the majority of them have moved out, but a few are still behind tying up loose ends. It’s here the Gladers meet Mary (Lili Taylor), once a WICKED scientist who jumped ship when their experiments were too unethical, and does her best to give Brenda a sedative for her infection. But as soon as everyone’s got room to breathe and figure out their next move, the peace is interrupted as it’s revealed that Teresa regained her memories and believes in WICKED… whom she calls to tell them where they are. WICKED attacks and rounds the survivors up, ready to herd them away. But one final bout of resistance, only Minho is captured. Promising to not leave him behind, Thomas decides he’s going to find Ava and kill her.

(REVIEW)

I liked it, but I don’t think it’s as good as the first one.

Let me start with what I enjoyed and thought this movie did right.

Unlike HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (2013), which there’s a serious argument that it’s the exact same movie as the first one, SCORCH TRIALS is definitely not a rehash. There are no mazes in this movie. It’s very much an odyssey film with a variety of visited locations, truly getting out of the maze and that one-note Glade. The movie does a great job at creating atmosphere and a sense of mystery, invoking curiosity from the audience. The action scenes haven’t changed. They’re very well executed, tense, exciting in all the right ways and that’s what I loved about the first one. I’m glad that remained intact. I also enjoyed their take on their zombies. I mean, no, running zombies aren’t anything new, but I like how this particular virus has varying effects on a host: particularly the scene where Thomas and Brenda are evading the Cranks underground. The zombies seem like they can meld with their surroundings, like twigs and leaves growing out of their bodies, I liked that. Too bad we don’t get to see more of it, but what can you do?

***SPOILERS***

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One of my favorite elements about this movie also is, with the exception of Janson, most of the antagonists of the story aren’t clearly defined bad guys. Characters like Ava, and later Teresa, seem to actually kind of wrestle with their own morals and decisions. They don’t seem like they want to hurt anyone, but are indeed those kind of characters that believe that the ends justify the means. Those are always more interesting characters to me and create the best kind of drama.

Also, I LOVE this movie’s climax. Whereas the ending of the first movie drove me ******* insane, this one is done SO much better. There’s no bullshit complicated explanation of anything, even though there’s no easier explanation as to why the maze trials were necessary to begin with… I should probably stop expecting that to change. Sad. In any case, it’s chock-full of tension and some serious “oh shit” moments that I genuinely didn’t expect. Thomas coming out like he’s going to suicide-bomb the bitches? Damn, dude. I mean, I figured that he’d use the bomb, but I was thinking he’d use it against WICKED, not on himself. Granted, this “suicide to prevent the bad guys from winning” thing’s been done before. Hell, HUNGER GAMES beat this movie to it years ago, but that was predictable and nearly brushed aside to hurry up the ending. This was actually done fairly well and treated pretty emotionally as the Gladers rally around Thomas in support of dying so WICKED doesn’t win.

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***END SPOILERS***

And the best parts of the movie, do I really need to say them? Giancarlo Esposito from TV shows BREAKING BAD and ONCE UPON A TIME, and the insanely talented and hilarious Alan Tudyk from TV shows FIREFLY and SUBURGATORY. ‘Nuff said, mother ********. Granted, Tudyk only has a bit role in the movie, but Esposito is a supporting character that we can expect to see in the inevitable sequel. Price of admission was worth it on their merits alone.

For me, as much as there was to like about it, there’s an equal amount of stuff I didn’t like.

For one, Esposito and Salazar excluded, new characters get criminally side-lined in one way or another. Aris feels like he’s an important character in the first act of the film, but as soon as the Gladers leave the facility into the Scorch, he is immediately regulated to near-extra status. He may get one more line later on in the film, but I have to kind of hold in my laughter when I thought that the line was literally meant to shout at the audience, “REMEMBER HIM??? HE’S IN THE MOVIE TOO!!! HE DID STUFF IN THE BEGINNING!!! REMEMBER, AUDIENCE???” Then gets side-lined again. Kind of lame.

***SPOILERS***

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Weirdly enough, the opposite is done for secondary characters that were barely in the first movie, but treated like huge characters here. I am talking about Winston, of course. I don’t even remember him from the first movie. But he’s treated pretty big here… at least, that’s what the movie thinks. He dies, and while the scene is handled pretty well, you don’t really know who Winston is and his death feels like a cliff-note in the grand scheme in the movie. An odd choice, as you can identify characters in the first film, you knew who was who, and who was important, but here, not really.

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***END SPOILERS***

Despite how intense the action scenes are, I am starting to get a little annoyed with shaky cam. I usually don’t mind it, but I’m starting to get a lot more distracted by this style of filming… getting annoying. It makes sense for found-footage films, but we can get a little more creative with our camera usage other than forcing the poor image capture devices to experience 10.0 earthquakes.

Honestly though, the worst part of the film is its predictability. Oh my god, I feel like I’ve been duped in so many aspects. I thought that Janson would be a morally ambiguous character. Turns out, he’s the ONLY character that’s as bland as they come. He’s a straight-forward dick character with no depth and therefore, no one gives a shit. Certain reveals are too obvious and should have been a shit-ton more shocking than they ended up being, which is UNFORGIVABLE in film. I can’t even get into this subject because there’s too much to get into.

For all its flaws, this was a sort of flat-line as far as the story is concerned. It’s not a bad movie, but it didn’t go up as much as it should have. Whereas the first movie was pretty damn good, this one is just okay. I still enjoyed it, but there are just too many odd choices in this to be better than its predecessor.

3/5

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