THE BOOK OF HENRY review

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is my honest opinion of: THE BOOK OF HENRY

(SUMMARY)

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

(REVIEW)

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

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

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

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

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

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

***SPOILERS***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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***END SPOILERS***

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

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

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BAND AID review

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is my honest opinion of: BAND AID

(SUMMARY)

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

(REVIEW)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My honest rating for BAND AID: 4/5

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

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3 IDIOTAS

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

Co-writing: Martha Higareda

(SUMMARY)

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

(REVIEW)

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

My honest rating for 3 IDIOTAS: 1/5

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DEAN

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

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

(SUMMARY)

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

(REVIEW)

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

My honest rating for DEAN: a strong 3/5

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THE HERO

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

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

(SUMMARY)

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

(REVIEW)

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

My honest rating for THE HERO: 4/5

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BEATRIZ AT DINNER

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

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

(SUMMARY)

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

(REVIEW)

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

My honest rating for BEATRIZ AT DINNER: 3/5

MY COUSIN RACHEL review

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is my honest opinion of: MY COUSIN RACHEL

(SUMMARY)

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

(REVIEW)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My honest rating for MY COUSIN RACHEL: 3/5

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MEGAN LEAVEY review

Full disclaimer: never heard of Megan Leavey before this movie.

Before seeing it, I thought it looked pretty solid. A war drama featuring a female protagonist. That’s pretty infrequent, and focused on an interesting topic: Marine canine handlers and the relationships forged in the service. Well, being a dog lover myself, I couldn’t help but get myself pretty excited for this movie. It looked good, it looked like it had some emotional weight to it and some great acting, yeah, I was ready.

Let’s take a gander at the on-screen talent. Starring, we have the under-appreciated, but uber talented Kate Mara (MORGAN [2016], THE MARTIAN [2015], and ZOOM [2006]). This poor girl. She’s barely ever been given a chance to properly shine, hasn’t she? In the movies where she’s kind of the focus, it’s not a good film (CAPTIVE [2015] and FANT4STIC [2015]), or if she’s in a good movie, she’s usually delegated to a supporting role (THE MARTIAN or 127 HOURS [2010]). This is always a shame because she can be legit great, so it made me pretty happy to see her showing off those acting chops. In support, we have Common (JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 [2017], BARBERSHOP: THE NEXT CUT [2016], AMERICAN GANGSTER [2007], and Pixar’s upcoming COCO [2017]), Tom Felton (A UNITED KINGDOM [2017], RISEN [2016], and TV show THE FLASH), Ramon Rodriguez (NEED FOR SPEED [2014], TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN [2009], and TV show IRON FIST), Edie Falco (THE COMEDIAN [2017], THE QUIET [2005], and TV show NURSE JACKIE), and Bradley Whitford (GET OUT [2017], SAVING MR. BANKS [2013], THE CABIN IN THE WOODS [2012], and the upcoming GODZILLA: KING OF MONSTERS [2019]).

Now for behind the scenes. Directing is Gabriela Cowperthwaite, known for the documentary BLACKFISH. Oh wow, three total writers: Pamela Gray (CONVICTION [2010] and A WALK ON THE MOON [1999]), Annie Mumolo (BRIDESMAIDS [2011]), and Tim Lovestedt, making his feature-film debut. Congrats, sir. Composing the score is Mark Isham, known for THE ACCOUNTANT (2016), THE MIST (2007), and BLADE (1998). Finally, the cinematographer is Lorenzo Senatore, known for RISEN, THE FOURTH KIND (2009), and STARSHIP TROOPERS 3: MARAUDER (2008).

I was pretty interested in this film and went in with some fairly high expectations and was pretty excited.

(SUMMARY)

Based on true events between 2003 and 2012. Megan Leavey (Kate Mara) was a directionless young woman who made one bad choice after another. Deciding to try something that will get her far away from her current life, she joins the Marines. But old habits die hard as some drunken antics land her some unsavory responsibilities around her base, specifically cleaning the canine pens. While there, she gets inspired to work with the working military dogs and through hard work, gets paired with the most aggressive of their dogs, Rex, a German Shepard. Though the relationship is rocky, the two eventually bond, climbing the ranks, and served in two deployments in Iraq. The story follows their exploits in the service and Megan’s eventual struggle to adopt him.

(REVIEW)

Wow. I mean, wow. Yes, yes, and a thousand kinds of yes. This movie is fantastic.

Honestly, from the opening, I wouldn’t have guessed how great this movie is because it’s the fourth out of five films I saw (so far) this week that have started with an annoying opening narration that really didn’t need to be there. Not to mention, though I didn’t know this at the time, the movie is practically three movies shoved into one. Any cynic would say that, on paper, this shouldn’t work. And yet, it works beautifully.

Ugh, my mind is racing with things to talk about. I don’t know where to start.

The mood starts off perfectly and you get why this young woman with no drive would randomly join the Marine Corps. Even once Megan arrives at boot camp, the movie wisely strays from certain clichés that these movies are known for. You know, the drill sergeant singling her out for no reason, she being either the best or worst in her class, alienated by her fellow recruits, or somehow making waves during training. Don’t get me wrong, some films do this exceptionally well, like FULL METAL JACKET (1987) and HACKSAW RIDGE (2016), but it’s nice to see a movie where they don’t try to squeeze that into this part of the story where it’d just leave you comparing it to another movie. Megan struggles, but she’s not the worst or the best. She’s just another recruit and passes through hard work.

Naturally, she screws up again despite her achievements and this is where the movie really starts. Rex is the most aggressive military dog that the base has and not many handlers seem to be able to handle him well. Hell, the only person we see handling him ends up getting bit by Rex and his arm getting broken. First of all, I shouldn’t be surprised that a dog’s bite can be powerful enough to break a human bone, but usually in movies featuring dog attacks, they either leave a nasty bite mark, or its victims get mauled to death. I don’t often see movies do something in the middle by way of dog-related injuries, but that’s all beside the point. I found it interesting that Megan didn’t actually want to train with Rex at first. She only got saddled with him because he was the only available canine to train with. I especially enjoyed their bonding scene where she refuses to give him food until he obeys one command from her, to which he does eventually. I like how when they’re flying to Iraq for the first time that Rex barks a lot because he doesn’t like flying. The only way he calms down is when Megan sleeps with him in his cage. It’s these bonding moments that feel so authentic and really get you invested in their relationship.

But what about the actual war stuff? Well, don’t expect giant battles that shape the face of war, but anything taking place overseas is done extremely well. You get a few scenes with Megan and Rex doing their job of sniffing out bombs and such and they’re always suspenseful. They sniff out a civilian car driven by a man and his young son, who asks what Rex’s name is. Out of pity, Megan tells the kid, but she gets in trouble and learns the dangerous subtleties of what you can and can’t do as a soldier in Iraq.

There’s another scene where they’re in a man’s home who seems benign enough, but as Rex sniffs for any weapons, I’m sitting in my seat rather uneasy and wondering if Rex was about to find anything. As soon as that mutt sits down to indicate that he did, the characters open a wall and find a shit-load of firearms and have the man arrested. This scene is especially triumphant because when a character tells Megan, “You just saved hundreds of lives,” you can easily believe it. Look at all those rifles and all those bullets! Those were about to get into the hands of terrorists or insurgents who would seek to kill foreign soldiers or innocent lives. Typically, that line is reserved for someone who stopped the big bad head-honcho, but anyone could easily argue that if you got rid of one guy, he’d just be replaced by another ambitious asshole and who knows what kind of damage this new guy could inflict. This movie showcases the bad guys getting stopped from providing weaponry for their own little army. While the scene is only a one-off and doesn’t tie in much to the rest of the story, it’s still repurposing a line that lesser action movies overuse and makes it both practical and rewarding for the audience, but sheds light on just what kind of heroes we have overseas, both on two or four legs, and illustrates just how far Megan’s come since her lower than low lifestyle and attitude she had just a couple years prior.

So before anyone asks, yes, this is an emotional movie. Get tissues ready. But I think the hidden brilliance is in that it doesn’t feel exploitative. Their relationship is built up through the course of the movie and that choking-up feeling was well justified. So when Rex is relieved of his duties when he develops facial palsy and Megan learns that he’ll eventually be put down, her struggles to adopt him and succeeding feel all the more rewarding by the end. And yes, Rex dies, but it’s not something the audience sees. Rex didn’t die in combat and it doesn’t go all MARLEY & ME (2008) and you have watch the poor thing die. It’s mentioned before the credits in a post-movie real-footage text. I don’t consider this a spoiler because this was a real-world event that you can look up online before seeing the movie. The point of the movie is building up on this relationship, both their professionalism and love for each other, as well as providing an intriguing insight into a subject that isn’t often tackled in film, as well as the added bonus of it being a female-lead war film. That’s rare.

There may be a could issues that I have sprinkled around here and there. I mentioned an the opening narration, which was a legit eye-twitch for me. There’s also a weirdly stupid scene where Megan’s hooked up with another soldier and while she’s saying how she’s not going to reenlist, he is and leaving in just couple of days, to which she gets upset at him, despite a conversation about neither wanting the relationship to be too serious. That sure was out of left field. And maybe I’d like some more screen time with Felton, who seemed like he was playing a pretty pivotal character who had a lot of influence and inspiration toward Megan, but these are pretty small nitpicks that don’t take up much screen time and some of them aren’t even the focus of the movie, so I let them slide.

Overall, it’s a unique story that’s not often tackled, if ever. It’s rich with emotion and investment. Mara carries this movie like a champion, arguably making this her best role that will hopefully lead to equally great roles in the future. Despite having three writers and a director only known for documentaries, this is certainly an impressive first for everyone involved. If I had a shot of tequila, I’d drink to their future successes. This is definitely a must-see film and I thoroughly love it and can’t wait to own it on Blu-Ray. Don’t miss out.

My honest rating for MEGAN LEAVEY: 5/5

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THE MUMMY review

This is the start of the Dark Universe!

For those of you not in the know, Universal recently decided that they wanted to do their own Avengers/Justice League type cross-over deal, with the Mummy, Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Invisible Man, all those classic horror stories eventually coming together for… whatever reason gets asses in seats. In 2014, back when this plan was made public, the movie DRACULA UNTOLD was supposedly the start of this upcoming franchise. But I guess Universal scrapped that idea and decided to make this the start of it all.

Upon first glance at this movie, I doubt it’s going to be very good, but it looks fairly entertaining enough. I question how exactly the protagonist simply stumbles upon a sinkhole and happens to find the tomb that holds the titular mummy. Other than that, it’ll probably be a dumb but fun movie. I do enjoy some of the cast though.

Speaking of which. Starring, we have Tom Cruise (JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK [2016], MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION [2015], ROCK OF AGES [2012], and upcoming films M:I 6 – MISSION IMPOSSIBLE [2018] and TOP GUN: MAVERICK, due out… who knows when) and one of my new favorite actresses, Sofia Boutella (STAR TREK BEYOND [2016], KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE [2014], and the upcoming ATOMIC BLONDE). In support, we have Russell Crowe (THE NICE GUYS [2016], THE WATER DIVINER [2015], and MAN OF STEEL [2013]), Annabelle Wallis (KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD [2017], THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY [2016], and ANNABELLE [2014]), Jake Johnson (SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE [2017], JURASSIC WORLD [2015], and TV show NEW GIRL), and Courtney B. Vance (OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY [2016], TERMINATOR GENISYS [2015], and TV show AMERICAN CRIME STORY).

Now for the crew. Directing is Alex Kurtzman, known for PEOPLE LIKE US (2012). He’s usually a producer who will also be producing some of the future Dark Universe films. Red flag alert: three writers! Suddenly, I’m concerned. Co-writing the script are David Koepp (INFERNO [2016], WAR OF THE WORLDS [2005], SPIDER-MAN [2002], and upcoming films BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN [2019] and the as-of-yet-titled Indiana Jones movie [2020]), Christopher McQuarrie (MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION, JACK REACHER [2012], THE USUAL SUSPECTS [1995], and the upcoming M:I 6 – MISSION IMPOSSIBLE), and Dylan Kussman, who is known for stuff that I’ve never heard of. Three writers… not usually a good sign. Composing the score is Brian Tyler, known for THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS (2017), THE DISAPPOINTMENTS ROOM (2016), and AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015). Finally, the cinematographer is Ben Seresin, known for WORLD WAR Z (2013), PAIN & GAIN (2013), and TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN (2009).

Overall, I’m not overly excited for this. Early ratings and reviews seem to paint it negatively. I can’t pretend to be surprised, but it’s Cruise. I can’t imagine this movie being boring. So… I go in with high hopes of entertainment, not the next DARK KNIGHT (2008).

This is my honest opinion of: THE MUMMY

(SUMMARY)

Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) was destined for the Egyptian throne. But when her father had a son, she killed her family, relying on magic from the God of Death, Set. Eventually set on releasing the god into the mortal world, she was stopped by her people and imprisoned in a tomb far from Egypt for eternity. In the present day, she is unearthed by a soldier of fortune named Nick (Tom Cruise) and unwittingly releases Ahmanet onto the world and must stop her from taking back what she thinks belongs to her.

(REVIEW)

Yeesh, and we thought the DC movies were in trouble. The movie isn’t very good. In fact, it’s so not good that I agree with the critics that this might rightfully stop this “Dark Universe” from taking off. Yeah, it’s that bad. It’s by no means the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but this franchise shouldn’t happen if more effort isn’t put into them. Not to mention these classic monsters that have rooted themselves so deeply in pop culture for generations deserve so much better than what this movie presents.

Eh, it’s probably best to start with the few things that I do enjoy about the movie. First off, I will never not like the double irises in the eyes. I love that look and even if this movie franchise dies, I hope that look lives on in something better. And while we’re on the subject of double-iris eyes, I really like Sofia Boutella. She is quickly making a name for herself as “the woman in make-up.” If she doesn’t have prosthetic apendages, then she’s completely undercover in some fantastic make-up, making a unanimously popular role in STAR TREK BEYOND. Now, cue that same chick in a role that, on paper, should be a match made in god damn Heaven. The original mummy was a role made famous because of the ground-breaking make-up. Her casting makes a great deal of sense. Even though the make-up is… underwhelming and nearly half the time her mummy character is CG, Boutella still makes it look good and her acting does come through.

In fact, the acting isn’t really the problem… er… except for Russell Crowe, but we’ll get to him in a little while. Cruise has a surprisingly refreshing role that is completely different from what he usually plays. In nearly every action movie, he’s confident, calculating, a tried and true bad-ass with or without a weapon. In this movie, he’s… kind of incompetent. There’s this scene in the beginning where he’s gotten himself and his partner, Chris (Jake Johnson) in a fire-fight with some insurgents and they’re cornered on a roof being shot at on all sides. Chris is panicking and Nick is shouting, “Just let me think!” After a beat or two, Nick cries out, “We’re gonna die!” It’s… surprisingly funny to see him so hopeless. Whereas Jack Reacher, or Ethan Hunt would have had a plan B through Z three times over, this character is kind of idiotic. He spends most of the movie freaking out and being confused, and gets his ass hilariously kicked by Ahmanet later on. As a result, I kind of love it. I don’t think I want to see it again, but as a first off, it was probably more entertaining than it should have been.

Beyond the actors, I do admit to enjoying the twitchy zombies that Ahmanet creates when she sucks the life-force from her victims. I don’t like that they’re CG most of the time, but it’s a fun and even creepy visual. The swarm of crows taking down that plane was also a really fun scene to watch. I don’t know, death by beaks is always a bit of twitch for me. And there’s a scene where Ahmanet hunts down Nick and shatters the glass around her, converting it back into sand, and then we get the iconic and popular sand-face effect.

So… some fun visuals, a refreshing abnormal character for Cruise, and Boutella being the best part of the movie, as seems to be a pattern with her, but… the good qualities come to a dead stop. And I don’t mean a slow petite screeching halt, I mean hit-a-titanium-wall-at-top-speed dead stop.

The first red flag is right before the movie even starts. You know how both Marvel and DC are creating a cinematic universe involving crossovers with the most popular superheroes from their respective comics? You know they’re affectionately called The Marvel Cinematic Universe and The DC Extended Universe? Well… when did any of these movies openly say that in the movies? The correct answer is that they don’t. You know why? They don’t need to be that confident. Well, guess what this movie does? It flashes it’s traditional “Universal” across the planet, but then completely circles around, and in the same shot, a new logo circles Earth and we see “Dark Universe.”

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What?

Does this movie honestly think that audiences wouldn’t know that? Even if they don’t, they’ll pick it up when they realize that Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde are in the movie. But really, if that was my biggest complaint about the movie, we’d be in a better spot. Sadly, this is not the case.

Nope. We get one of four movies that I saw this weekend that decide that it’s necessary to throw in a narration. I am getting really sick of these things. I know voice overs may be necessary to explain backstories that the movie wouldn’t otherwise showcase, therefore supposedly explaining certain details that would be random and or confusing without context. However, when a movie uses it just to talk over the events already played out, it’s wasted resources. In this opening, we see Ahmanet training to be a fighter and overlooking Egypt with pride, in a manner that she knows she will rule over it all one day. But then the infant prince is born and Ahmanet begins to worship the evil god and goes on a familial killing spree. Then she aims to sacrifice her “chosen” to the evil god and possess him so that he can enter the mortal world. Everything that I just said, it’s all visual and pretty easy to understand. The narration explaining everything that we see is completely unnecessary.

As much as I like Johnson as an actor, he can be really funny even if the movie isn’t, but he is some seriously pointless talent in this movie. His character, Chris, is annoying as hell. At first, it just seems like he’s playing the hysterical cowardly type who has no sense of adventure. It’s been done, but some of his humor comes through okay. And to be fair, when he gets into a fire-fight, he does look natural holding an assault rifle. But once that bit is over, all he does is whine and complain. The worst is when he, Nick, and Jenny (Annabelle Wallis) have already entered Ahmanet’s tomb and they’ve just been attacked by a swarm of camel spiders, leading to Chris getting bit. He starts firing his rifle wildly, already a dumb-ass move because, you know, ricocheting is a thing, and starts freaking out begging to leave. I don’t know, man, if you’re a grown-ass adult and you don’t want to be somewhere, then don’t be there. It really shouldn’t be that hard.

As this happens early on in the movie, so I don’t consider it a spoiler, but Chris dies not long after. That bug bite allowed Ahmanet to possess him and he kills a dude, and then Nick shoots him dead. But his appearance is later relegated to being a comic relief vision in Nick’s head, who is obviously trying to entice Nick to making the choices that Ahmanet would want him to make. These appearances are about as annoying as they sound. Hell, there’s a good stretch of time when Johnson is completely dropped from the film and doesn’t come back until the final twenty-ish minutes.

If it wasn’t bad enough that we have annoying characters, we’re also exposed to characters we don’t care about. Take Wallis’ character, Jenny the archaeologist. Literally, this is her entrance: suddenly appear, slap Cruise, and spend a good five to ten minutes about awesome or not awesome the sex was, and that he stole a map from her. Where do I begin with this? It is so painfully obvious that these two characters are going to do that stupid cliché of hating each other, but the audience knows they’re going to hook up at the end, which they do. You see it coming a thousand miles away and it’s boring. She’s not an interesting character. You never care what happens to her, or the contrived relationship she has with Nick. She’s just the pretty face that Cruise gets to make out with and make him look good. Wasn’t this type of female character supposed to be killed off when SPIDER-MAN 3 (2007) ended and why we never really got another “Mary Jane” character? It’s sad that Wallis had this role because she doesn’t seem like a bad actress. To her credit, she’s not bad in the movie, but she’s got nothing to work with that would leave an impact on audiences.

Beyond the characters, there’s a lot of questionable story and directing choices. Like during that scene with the camel spiders, Nick is exposed to visions of Ahmanet, which clearly freaks him out. Yet, he says nothing to anyone about them and seems perfectly okay with being near Ahmanet’s sarcophagus. If that were me, I’d be up against the wall on the opposite side of the room until I was outside and able to run away like a bitch. You also have dumb characters that see something that any normal person would stay away from and call it in. But these characters do the “Alien” thing by sticking their faces in them to get a closer look and lo and behold, they get axed off. Bleh. And while Ahmanet is quick to dispatch nameless extras, she takes her time killing Jenny when she has the chance because… pudding. I don’t know, but it’s as good as any other explanation this trope offers.

And what’s with the Jekyll and Hyde stuff? Okay, in some ways, this makes sense. I mean, it’s a crossover universe with these classic monsters coming together. Jekyll is this universe’s Nick Fury, which is fine. He illustrates the scale and points the direction in which these movies will go. When it’s just Jekyll, it’s fine. But when he turns into Hyde, it’s literally just fan service. Can’t have Jekyll without Hyde, right? You can, but this movie disagrees with me, especially since his story isn’t the focus. But in addition to that, isn’t Hyde supposed to be a hideous creature? I’ve not been liking these incarnations of Hyde in recent media, like this movie and TV show ONCE UPON A TIME. In every iteration of the character I’ve seen, he’s a violent monster and such. Almost inhuman in appearance. But these movies depict the character as a charismatic and pompous dick who is more or less attractive… or in Crowe’s case, no deviation in look other than a couple warts. Shouldn’t Hyde be a complete transformation in appearance? Even ONCE UPON A TIME got that down.

Overall, it’s not a good film. The story is cut-and-paste, most of the characters range from meh to annoying, it’s littered with senseless sequences and choices, and marinated in tropes. Having said all that, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t a few things that I enjoyed about it. Cruise is a humorously incompetent fighter, and of course, Boutella steals the damn show for me. None of that really makes it a recommendation, however, so I’d say you could skip it. It’s not something that you should run away from, but it’s a rental at best. Even then, that’s a pretty weak suggestion. See it if you want to see Boutella as a homicidal mummy who kicks Cruise’s ass, but don’t expect a good movie between those scenes.

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

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Quick Review: CHURCHILL

I hate to do it this way, but I have a lot of reviews ahead of me and I haven’t gotten my initial impressions down for them, even for movies that came out last week, which I still have to see. Thanks a lot, INJUSTICE 2. You made me a procrastinator!

Before seeing it, I thought the movie looked great. Brian Cox, John Slattery, what wasn’t to like? I saw it and thoroughly enjoyed it. But then I saw the reviews and ratings for it. They were not favorable. Many of the problems from what I read were about certain events that didn’t take place during the time that the movie depicted, heavy dramatization of Winston Churchill’s problems with Operation Overlord, which is what this movie leans on, among other things. A great deal of scrutiny came down upon the writer of the movie, Alex von Tunzelmann, whom is a historian herself for getting facts wrong.

While I can’t deny that does seem like a strange choice to make, I still can’t bring myself to dislike the film. While I won’t likely get the truth from this film about the great historical figure, I enjoy this movie in the same way that I enjoyed MISS SLOANE (2016). Sure, the subject matter may be distorted, but the acting is what sold me on both films. Cox and Slattery are amazing. Any scene they share together is phenomenally enjoyable. Even Ella Purnell stole the show a couple times, playing Churchill’s secretary. I won’t pretend that this movie was an emotional powerhouse, but it’s still worth seeing if you’re a Cox or Slattery fan. The story itself, Churchill voicing his concerns against Overlord mere hours before its execution, requires more suspension of disbelief than I was willing to suspend, but the talent made this movie enjoyable. I will let the history buffs hate the film, as I can’t tell them they’re wrong, but I enjoyed the performances, if nothing else.

My honest rating for CHURCHILL: 4/5

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