THE DARK TOWER review

Stephen King certainly is a hit or miss for a lot of people, isn’t he? At least, as far as his film adaptations are concerned. It seems like his most celebrated films are his non-horror films, like THE GREEN MILE (1999), STAND BY ME (1986), and my personal favorite film of all time, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994). That’s not to say there aren’t some standout horror films that are considered great, like THE SHINING (1980), CARRIE (1976), and MISERY (1990). Personally, I love THE MIST (2007), but most everything else is either ridiculed, or entertainingly bad, like CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984), MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE (1986), and DREAMCATCHER (2003), to name a few.

Of course, I’ve never read any of his books. Not much of a reader. But that’s not to say that anything with King’s name on it isn’t going to pique my interest. It’s so fascinating to see his on-screen adaptations be so diverse in quality. To my understanding, his novel series, The Dark Tower, is what he himself considers to be his magnum opus. A series that links many of his past novels together into a multiverse type deal. I admit, that’s pretty interesting, and I’m curious to see just how much of that will be translated to the film.

So how do I feel about this movie? It looks… basic. Don’t hang me! But it kind of does. Maybe it’s because it reminds me of a darker, more serious version of LAST ACTION HERO (1993), a campy classic of the 90’s if you ask me. I can’t claim for certainty if the Schwarzenegger action romp is technically inspired by the novel series, but the similarities are there. A kid is an adventurer of sorts, one is an action movie junkie (ACTION HERO), the other is described as an adventure seeker (TOWER), and both get whisked away into a world not like his own, and meets up with a bad-ass mutha who’s at war with an asshole, and their conflict eventually carries them back to the real world of the kid, who probably gets himself into trouble more times than he really should. Hello!?I’m sure this movie is wildly different, but it might be a little too easy to make comparisons.

Well, here’s the on-screen talent. Starring, we have young Tom Taylor (known for TV shows I’ve never heard of), Idris Elba (THE JUNGLE BOOK [2016], PACIFIC RIM [2014], THOR [2011], and upcoming films THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US [2017] and Marvel’s THOR: RAGNAROK [2017]), and Matthew McConaughey (GOLD [2017], KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS [2016], and REIGN OF FIRE [2002]). In support, we have Jackie Earle Haley (THE BIRTH OF A NATION [2016], SHUTTER ISLAND [2010], WATCHMEN [2009], and the upcoming Robert Rodriguez film ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL [2018]), Abbey Lee (THE NEON DEMON [2016], GODS OF EGYPT [2016], and MAD MAX: FURY ROAD [2015]), and Katheryn Winnick (KILLERS [2010], and TV shows VIKINGS and BONES).

Now for the talent behind the scenes. Directing and co-writing is Nikolaj Arcel, known for A ROYAL AFFAIR (2012). Co-writing the script, making for a red flag total of four writers, we have Akiva Goldsman (RINGS [2017], THE 5TH WAVE [2016], I AM LEGEND [2007], and the upcoming DC film TITANS [2018]), Jeff Pinkner (THE 5TH WAVE, TV shows ZOO and FRINGE, and upcoming films JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE [2017] and Sony’s Marvel Spider-Man spin-off VENOM [2018]), and Anders Thomas Jensen (BROTHERS [2009]). Composing the score is Junkie XL, known for BATMAN V SUPERMAN (2016), DEADPOOL (2016), DIVERGENT (2014), and upcoming video game adaptations SONIC THE HEDGEHOG (2018) and TOMB RAIDER (2018). Finally, the cinematographer is Rasmus Videbæk, known for THE ROYAL AFFAIR.

Overall, I can’t say I’m super stoked, but I’m curious enough to want to see it.

This is my honest opinion of: THE DARK TOWER

(SUMMARY)

Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) is a young boy who experiences visions of a man in black (Matthew McConaughey) who is trying to bring down a dark tower and destroy the world. Thing is, no one believes him and has been seeing therapists. But after his mother Laurie (Katheryn Winnick) feels that she has exhausted all of her options, she contacts a pair of people that will take him somewhere to get better. Believing these people, who bare striking similarities to those he’s seen in his visions, runs away to seek answers. He eventually comes to a house with a mysterious key code, punches in a set of numbers he’s been seeing and finds himself teleported to a world known as Mid-World, the world where the Dark Tower resides and has been terrorized by the man in black. His only protection: Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), who is the only one that Jake believes that can stop the man in black from destroying the tower.

(REVIEW)

For such hype, this movie is a letdown, but I’m not entirely sure if I was expecting anything amazing to begin with.

The setup is already confusing on its own. A series of opening text states that the Dark Tower is so powerful that it protects all the dimensions from the forces of darkness, but there’s a… what I can only assume to be a prophecy that states that there’s one child who’s mind can destroy it. That seems like a lame weakness, if you ask me. I mean, why? First off, why aren’t we done with this cliché of “chosen ones?” If a movie can start off drawing comparisons to STAR WARS: THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999), then it’s not a great start to a film. This is only the first thirty seconds of the movie, mind you.

Then we jump to our Earth, Keystone Earth, as the film likes to call it for some reason, and we see that Jake has been drawing these visions that he’s been having for quite possibly quite some time because he has a therapist and his older brother is commenting that the therapy isn’t helping. And this is another big problem I have with movies like this: the victim of visions that goes around telling people the crazy things that he sees and expects them to believe him. This is such a tired trope too because no story that has ever existed with characters like this has ever had anyone believe them. Why would they? This is reality. We chock these things up to chemical imbalance for adults and bad dreams for kids. If Jake was in his single digit years, I might be more lenient toward his lack of common sense and understanding of human nature, but Jake is probably closer to being a teenager than a child. He’s gotta be able to distinguish what an adult would believe and not believe by now, and visions of a “man in black” and “people with fake skin,” that’s a hard pass on reality. Even the kids from the TV show STRANGER THINGS (2016 – ongoing) knew what to keep to themselves and they were definitely younger than Jake.

Even once things start coming to a head and the people with the fake skin enter his world and hunt him down at his home, he’s outrunning a grown-ass adult. A grown-ass adult that’s not even human and the punishment for failing the Man in Black is quite possibly death, so they’ve got all the motivation in the world to keep chasing him. But they don’t. He gets away. And to make matters even more outlandish, he manages to travel an unknown distance to a house that serves as a portal to Mid-World and this entire time, I’m wondering where the hell the police are. Surely the mother would have called the cops and there’d be an army of cops pulling over public transport after public transport looking for the squirt. He’s not a ninja. This shouldn’t have taken so long.

That’s probably the most obvious problem with the movie. It’s horribly written and we’re expected to suspend too much disbelief. But see, if this was taking place in the fictional fantasy world, this could make all the kind of sense it wants. But Keystone Earth is supposed to be our Earth. Physics, plausibility, you can’t chuck that into the wood-chipper with a cackling evil laugh. You have to ground these aspects in reality. Also, the villain. While I’ll go into the

But fine, you could argue this is nitpicking. Does the rest of the film hold up when Jake gets to Mid-World?

Nope! It does not! First of all, those people with the fake skin, they wear that shit even in Mid-World. Um… why? It makes sense in Keystone, obviously, but… why in Mid-World? Are these beings so ugly that even in a world where ugly is the norm they have to cover up? Seemed kinda silly to me. There’s also a scene, a little after Jake’s met Roland for the first time, and in their traveling, Jake references the Man in Black, to which Roland immediately grabs Jake by his shirt and threatens to drop him off a cliff if he’s a spy for him. Note, it’s literally just the name that sets him off. Not a prolonged conversation about him and Jake says something stupid and Roland takes it the wrong way, no, the mere mention of the name “man in black” throws him through the ringer. There’s even some weird shots too. Like, this movie was desperate to show that it’s connected to all of Stephen King’s stories. For example, Jake stumbles upon a ruin of some kind and he’s standing on a submerged-in-the-ground statue of a hand holding up balloons and a sign reading “Pennywise” from his story “It.” It’s like the cameraman and the editor knew that the sign was hard to read in pitch black lighting, so they held on to the shot for dear life. There’s even a demon that makes it’s way to our heroes and it really reminded me of that alien from STAR WARS: ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002) that slashed Padmé’s back in the Geonosian arena scene.

And really? Walter? “The Man in Black” … the name that strikes fear into the hearts of all in the known realms… the man who killed all but one Gunslinger, a legendary order of warriors that numbered in the legions, and literally has the power to command people to die and they fall down dead… his real name… is Walter?

Walter.

SO SCARY!!!

Honestly, the rest of the film is uninteresting and almost boring because Mid-Guard doesn’t look all that spectacular. I’m sure the idea is to make it look like an apocalyptic wasteland, but it’s way too visually boring. The forest scene is about the closest we get, but everything else makes you wonder how this takes place in a fantasy land instead of Earth.

***SPOILERS***

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And even when it gets to Earth, almost nothing stands out either. In fact, I’m having a hard time recollecting what even happened. I know Jake finds out that his mom dies and he is eventually kidnapped by… Walter… which leads to a shootout to save Jake’s life.

Which now brings me to my final complaint. Why does Walter want to destroy the realms? Okay, some people are psychotic and seriously should have had a loving mommy to hold them, I get that. But if I understand the movie correctly, the forces of darkness sound like demons that aren’t even of the realms of the established universes. These forces are outside of what’s known. Is Walter one of these forces? Does he somehow think he can control these forces, or think he can survive their coming destruction? For that matter, who ever created this Dark Tower, what was it’s intention? It’s primary function is to protect the realms from each other and from these forces of darkness. So why have a weakness built into it that could destroy the thing completely?

So many questions, so little care.

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***END SPOILERS***

Is there anything redeemable about the movie?

Not… especially. Some of the action is ridiculous that it got a chuckle out of me, but I have no idea if I was giggling because of how stupid it was or… nah, it was pretty stupid. I suppose the actors aren’t all that bad all things considered and I do think Taylor was serviceable enough. He sure wouldn’t have been able to carry the film without Elba around, but he wasn’t bad. And up until learning that the Man in Black’s name was Walter, I thought McConaughey was decent. He had an intimidation about him that I enjoyed watching.

Overall, though, I think this movie is a dud. By no means the worst I’ve ever seen, but for a movie with such a background, a story that intersects all of King’s stories in some fashion and it doesn’t culminate into anything of any real substance. It’s like a perfectly crafted bullet trying to be shoved into a toy shotgun; it just doesn’t work on so many levels. The actors are trying and I hope this doesn’t ruin anyone’s careers, especially the younger actors, but if this was supposed to be a introduction to this universe, the access isn’t very universal. Hell, I’d be shocked if fans of the novels would get anything out of it. I don’t recommend this in theaters and I don’t really recommend it as a rental. It’s not overly long, not even two hours, but it might feel longer for some audiences.

My honest rating for THE DARK TOWER: a weak 3/5

 

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LADY MACBETH review

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

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

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

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

This is my honest opinion of: LADY MACBETH

(SUMMARY)

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

(REVIEW)

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

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

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

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

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

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

***SPOILERS***

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

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

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

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

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***END SPOILERS***

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

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

My honest rating for LADY MACBETH: 5/5

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THE BEGUILED review

“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME?! YOU VENGEFUL BITCHES!”

Going down in history as one of the greatest trailer lines. I’ll be quoting that for months. I’m saying it right now, if Colin Farrell ain’t on a bed with his arms and legs chopped off by the end of this movie, I’m going to be a little sad.

So there’s a little history with this film. Apparently, it was originally a novel, and had another adaptation way back in 1971 starring Clint Eastwood. I’ve neither read the book nor seen, or even heard of, the film prior to this. I can only say how sad that makes me because this movie looks sexy, fun, and freaky as hell.

It looks like it’s about a southern family, a mother and her, what, five, six daughters, who takes in an enemy soldier who seems kindly enough at first, but then starts putting the moves on at least two of the daughters, and then the family starts plotting their vengeful bitchy ways against him.

Let’s take a look at this star studded cast. Starring as the next gen Eastwood is the awesome Irishman, Colin Farrell (FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM [2016], SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS [2012], IN BRUGES [2008], and Disney’s upcoming live-action remake, DUMBO, due out… who knows when), the infinitely gorgeous Aussie and long-time personal crush, Nicole Kidman (LION [2016], PADDINGTON [2014], BATMAN FOREVER [1995], and DC’s upcoming AQUAMAN [2018]), and the criminally underappreciated Kirsten Dunst (HIDDEN FIGURES [2016], HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS & ALIENATE THEM [2008], and SPIDER-MAN [2002]). As for the younger and equally exciting talent, we have Elle Fanning (THE NEON DEMON [2016], THE BOXTROLLS [2014], SUPER 8 [2011], and the upcoming animated LEAP! [2017]), Oona Laurence (PETE’S DRAGON [2016], BAD MOMS [2016], SOUTHPAW [2015], and the upcoming sequel A BAD MOM’S CHRISTMAS [2017]), Angourie Rice (THE NICE GUYS [2016] and the upcoming SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING [2017]), and Addison Rieche (TV show THE THUNDERMANS).

Now for the crew. Writing and directing is Sofia Coppola, known for THE BLING RING (2013), MARIE ANTOINETTE (2006), and LOST IN TRANSLATION (2003). Composing the score is… I believe Phoenix. They’re a French rock band, but their credit on IMDb is weird. It reads “music by: based on Monteverdis Magnificat.” So… original work, or based on previously published work? I have no idea. Finally, the cinematographer is Philippe Le Sourd, known for SEVEN POUNDS (2008).

Overall, I’m looking forward to this one. It looks like it’s going to be so much fun. The worst thing it can do is not be as disturbing and messed up as it looks.

This is my honest opinion of: THE BEGUILED

(SUMMARY)

Set in 1864, in Virginia during the Civil War. Young Amy (Oona Laurence) finds a wounded Union Irish soldier named Corporal John McBurney (Collin Farrell). Out of the kindness of her heart, she brings him back to her all-female boarding, headed by Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman), who tends to his wounds with the intention of sending him on his way when he recovers. But as the girls become more familiar with him, and even fellow teacher Edwina (Kirsten Dunst) becomes infatuated with him, sexual tension arises that has brutal consequences.

(REVIEW)

I’m… somewhat conflicted.

Alright, well right out of the gate, I do like the film. I can’t say I’m familiar with Sofia Coppola’s skills as a director. I’ve sure heard of her films. Some have been great (LOST IN TRANSLATION), some not so good (THE BLING RING), but she seems to be more celebrated as a director, not an actor. I can definitely see why… er, the good directing thing, I mean. The mere opening shot of the film is dripping with atmosphere and all it is: panning down slowly from a web of tree branches while Laurence is humming a pleasant tune. No score, just her humming. It’s mildly haunting, yet still innocent. I was fascinated before a single character was featured.

I’d also like to take a minute to gush about the younger actors, specifically Laurence and Fanning. Laurence is one of my favorite young actors today, maybe even moreso than Fanning, who I really enjoy as well. But I think my bias comes from that Laurence has been in more adult titles than Fanning, proving her talent in both drama and comedy, whereas the other spent a vast majority of her pre-teen career in family-friendly films that are by no means bad, and have certainly escalated her to a well-earned more recognizable name, but her shift to darker and more intense films is still a little jarring, not being able to see that million dollar smile of hers. Let me be clear, I’m not comparing or contrasting their talent, I’m just rambling on their careers. Both actresses are wonderful and I thoroughly enjoy that they share a movie together. In fact, I’ll do myself one better, I hope they act together again in the future. These two young ladies are powerhouses of talent and if the story focused on them, I know it would be amazing. Laurence and Fanning in this film are worth the price of admission alone. Laurence is so cute as Amy, the one with a huge schoolgirl crush on John and is the one who quickly sees the best in him and is even pretty protective. And Fanning as Alicia is a slut! Okay, that’s mean. She’s a young woman who has an attitude problem and despite her strong dislike of Union soldiers develops strong sexual feelings for the older man.

Sadly, the other girls don’t get as much development and even sort of blend into each other. I remember young Rice stealing the show in THE NICE GUYS, and when I saw that she was in this, it only added to my excitement in seeing it. Unfortunately, her character, and therefore her talent, is underutilized. In fact, Jane is so bland a character, same with Emily (Emma Howard), I almost got the two mixed up. Maybe as a Hispanic dude, I can’t tell the difference between one skinny teen blond from another, but their personalities were so dull that I couldn’t tell the difference. The only remaining young actress that actually did stand out was Rieche, but only slightly moreso. She has one scene that was hilarious. After a day or so in the care of these women, John is resting in his room and Marie comes in with a tiny Bible to give him. Basically, the banter goes something like:

MARIE
I wanted to give this to you last night, in case
you were at death’s doorstep. But I figured it
wouldn’t do you much good, since you were already
asleep anyway.

JOHN
(Amused)
Impeccable logic.

I fell in love with that backhanded concern. It’s just a shame that there’s no other scene quite like that again with either Marie, Jane, or Emily. There’s obviously nothing wrong with anyone’s performances. It just feels like certain characters were only there to round out the cast rather than to give them a distinct personality and strong contributors to the plot.

But now would be a great opportunity to shift focus to the veteran actors. Nicole God-damned Kidman. To think, this woman once announced that she would be retiring from acting after having a series of box office and critical blunders. But then someone had fire lit under their asses and gave her some movies that really showcased her staying power because Kidman is a freakin’ knock out once again. As Martha, she is always calm and collected. She remains so focused on making sure that John isn’t going to stick around longer than need be. Yet, like everyone else, she does come to admire the man and see his qualities when he’s well enough to walk around and do some help around the school. I may not be able to quote anything, but I do enjoy the scenes where they’re sitting down and drinking brandy together. Two adults on opposite sides of a war finding ways to be civil and polite. It’s really interesting to watch.

Mister Farrell. Ugh, I’m a flaming heterosexual, but the amount of charm this man has is enough to make my knees quiver. I love John and his interactions with all the women in the house. With Martha, he’s a refined gentleman. With Edwina, he’s a romantic. With Amy, he’s a best friend. With Alicia… he’s a cradle-robbing skank bag. No matter who he’s interacting with, the individual or the group, he’s always grateful and friendly, and the fondness and trust they eventually place on him seems well-earned.

There’s more to say about the characters, specifically Dunst as Edwina, but I’ll tackle that later as it gets pretty spoilery.

I went on and on about the acting, mostly because this is a very character-driven story. The story itself is fairly straightforward. A Union soldier is begrudgingly treated in a Confederate women’s boarding school where the women and younger girls develop a fondness for him. One becomes romantically interested in him, one, sexually. This ultimately clashes and things don’t end well for our Irish soldier. It works for the most part as the relationships are forged, albeit a slow churn to get the plot underway. Really, the crux of the movie is how invested you are in the interactions between the women of the house and John. The juicy stuff that this movie’s marketing loves to showcase really doesn’t happen until the final third of the movie.

So let’s get to that, and sadly, this is also where I had the most problems with the movie.

***SPOILERS***

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So it’s been established that John and Edwina are romantically interested in each other and Alicia is interested in John sexually, which he doesn’t resist against. Of course, on the eve of John’s departure from the house, Edwina catches John in bed with Alicia. Nothing graphic, but the implication is obvious and as John tries to calm Edwina down and downplay his actions, she pushes him away from he when he tries to hold her and accidentally pushes him down a flight of stairs. He’s rendered unconscious and his previously wounded leg, which was nearly healed, as been broken. Because Martha has no proper medical training, her only option is to amputate John’s leg. When John comes to, that’s when his famous trailer line comes in and for the rest of the movie, he is full-on hostile, deranged, and savage.

Here’s my problem with this. For two-thirds of the story, John is portrayed as a grateful man as he is treated more than fairly in the house, given food, alcohol, everything that he’d need to properly recover outside of a hospital. He knows that and simply makes nice with everyone, leading to positive relations with the ladies, for better or worse. But he knows what he did when he was in bed with Alicia. He ought to have known that Edwina wouldn’t have taken kindly to the actions. An unfaithful man knows to never touch the woman he wronged. Getting pushed down the stairs, debatable whether he deserved it or not, was still an accident and a foreseeable outcome of the given situation. So when he wakes up to find his leg missing, his initial hostility is perfectly understandable. Even as a little time goes on, one could easily see from his perspective that the amputation was a vengeful ploy for his transgressions. But being bed-ridden for awhile, he’d eventually had to have come to terms that it was because his leg was broken in a way that Martha, who is not a surgeon, would not have been able to properly fix and it’s not like the house is near any hospitals, so she had to make a choice that ultimately saved his life. But John’s foregoes all of his previously established understanding and kindness and becomes more animalistic, treating every woman like crap, even the ones that had nothing to do with anything. In fact, when he yells at Amy and throws her pet turtle when she tries to calm him down, he becomes irredeemable when he yells at her and throws her turtle. By which point, of course the women plot to kill him.

These plotlines make sense, of course, but my issue is that John’s transition into the asshole that he becomes is a little too rushed. His good-natured personality took time for the women to accept and eventually won them over, but a situation that he, by all accounts, put himself in, and suddenly everything is their fault? I didn’t buy that. While the first two-thirds of the story moves slowly, you can argue they’re at least interested, and even amusing. But once this happens, we suddenly enter a different movie. That’s the only thing I didn’t agree with: John’s transition from an overly kind and understanding man to a mad dog.

About the only kind thing I can say is how wonderful Dunst is. While much of her character is flat and uninteresting at first, we learn that Edwina’s just as sick of the war as anyone else is. She’s tired of being in that school and wants to be taken away and John seems like he wants to do that for her. You see the hope in her eyes and can almost feel the love between the two characters. When Edwina pushes John down the stairs leading to his amputation, she’s racked with guilt and clearly blames herself for his eventual behavior, hoping that sleeping with him and letting him have his way with her will calm him down. Arguably, that’s exactly what happens, but he’s killed by the other women before he gets a chance to redeem himself. The final shots with Dunst are spectacular. She’s staring blankly in the distance and you can just feel the heartache, the relief, the disappointment, and fear of what the future may hold for her. It’s a haunting shot with her, but it’s beautifully executed.

***

***

***END SPOILERS***

Overall, this is a good movie. I love the relationship building and acting, which is where your love or dislike of the movie will come from, as it is a slow burn to get to where the movie needs to go to get really interesting. Despite its flaws, especially toward the end, it’s an interesting movie and I do encourage audiences to give it a watch, especially if you’re a fan of the cast like I am. It’s gripping, it makes you squirm, and it’s worth every minute.

My honest rating for THE BEGUILED: 4/5

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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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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***

***

***

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.

***

***

***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

dinner

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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