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***

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

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

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***END SPOILERS***

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

My honest rating for EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING: 1/5

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THE DINNER review

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

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

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

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

This is my honest opinion of: THE DINNER

(SUMMARY)

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

(REVIEW)

I paid full price for this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

***SPOILERS***

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

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***END SPOILERS***

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

I paid full price for this.

My honest rating for THE DINNER: 1/5

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

maze_runner_the_scorch_trials_ver10

THE CIRCLE review

Um… *raises my hand* Movie! Movie, pick me! I don’t know what you’re about! It looks like a movie about being in the center of everything that’s going on in the world and doing what they can to help those in need. My personal observation is that it’s going to prove too good to be true and comes at a high moral price that our hero doesn’t want to pay and gets into a heap of trouble. But yeah, no idea. Just spit-ballin’.

Let’s take a look at the cast. Starring is the ever-popular Emma Watson (BEAUTY AND THE BEAST [2017], THE BLING RING [2013], and THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER [2012]). Love her or hate her as an actress, it’s pretty hard not to have respect for this woman who has fought so hard for gender equality for most of her young adult life, making some valid points along the way. But shes certainly never lost sight of how she got her platform in the first place, by being in some pretty solid work in film. She’s a fine actress and though her days of being Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films may be long behind her, but she’s still a hero for many out there. Next up, we have the multi-generational legend himself, Tom mother f**kin’ Hanks (INFERNO [2016], SAVING MR. BANKS [2013], CLOUD ATLAS [2012], and the upcoming TOY STORY 4 [2019]). I’ve ranted about this man before, I can’t keep doing it without sounding like a broken record. You know him, you love him, Tom mother f**kin’ Hanks, ladies and gentlemen. In support, we have Ellar Coltrane (BOYHOOD [2014]), the rising star that is John Boyega (STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS [2015], IMPERIAL DREAMS [2014], TV show 24: LIVE ANOTHER DAY, and upcoming films and STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI [2017] and PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING [2018]), Nate Corddry (EQUITY [2016], ST. VINCENT [2014], and THE HEAT [2013]), Karen Gillan (THE BIG SHORT [2015], GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY [2014], OCULUS [2013], and upcoming films GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 [2017] and JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE [2017]), and the dearly departed legend, Bill Paxton (EDGE OF TOMORROW [2014], TITANIC [1997], and ALIENS [1986]), making this his final completed film. Anyone else get just a little depressed?

Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing is James Ponsoldt, known for THE END OF THE TOUR (2015). Co-writing and author of the original novel this movie is based on is Dave Eggers, known for WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (2009) and writing the novel A Hologram for the King. Composing the score is *double take* Danny Elfman (FIFTY SHADES DARKER [2016], BIG EYES [2014], and FRANKENWEENIE [2012])?! What are you doing out of your Tim Burton corner?! Get back to where you belong before I get the tranq gun! Finally Matthew Libatique (MONEY MONSTER [2016], IRON MAN [2008], and THE FOUNTAIN [2006]).

Overall, I haven’t the slightest idea what to expect. I can’t even speculate. So… adventure, ho!

This is my honest opinion of: THE CIRCLE

(SUMMARY)

Mae (Emma Watson) has just been hired into a very prestigious company, focusing on the collection of global information, known as The Circle, ran by its mastermind, Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks). She is quickly taken in by their agenda of creating a safe and secure world of accountability and truth. Mae is quickly sucked in to it despite the skepticism of her friends and family. But as Mae climbs the ranks within The Circle, she starts to forget basic human rights, despite good intentions and could lead to drastic and life-threatening consequences.

(REVIEW)

Oh shit is this movie bad. Like, really bad. Almost insultingly bad.

So the whole basis around this movie, THE BEST I CAN FIGURE, is that it revolves around a company that’s sort of like Apple, on the cutting edge of ground-breaking technology and such, except their expertise is the accumulation of knowledge to be shared around with any and everyone hooked into the company’s servers. Thing is, almost right out of the gate, there is zero sensibility and one hundred kinds of hypocrisy. The Circle’s ground-breaking tech is camouflaged cameras that can be placed literally anywhere and take pictures, perform facial recognition, without the need, or perceived need, for warrants or permission. Now, you’d think this is the major conflict of the film. This young woman is about to work for this huge-ass company, popular in every way possible way – and not possible way, as the story continues – that you can think of. And I can see what this movie is essentially trying to be: an argument for the government that maybe they have the right idea in having such unlimited access to anyone and everyone’s personal information, their whereabouts, everything, and having the good sense to know what to do with that information, and actually do some good with it, while also showing what the reaction from the general public would be if such invasion of privacy could happen and the reaction when it’s mishandled, even abused. However, the consistent sin of the film is that this isn’t the conflict. This isn’t what the movie ultimately is about. It’s about how if one abuse of invasion of privacy is bad, resort to another abuse of it, and that will suddenly make it okay. It’s complete and utter bullshit to a magnitude that I’m not sure I can fully comprehend.

The movie barely acknowledges that the actions of these characters is in any way a violation of privacy laws, or even that it’s creepy as all hell. But it’s fully capable of acknowledging that its characters can do whatever the hell they want without any repercussions whatsoever. Let me give you an example. The first scene where we’re introduced to Hanks’ Eamon Bailey is during this company seminar and Bailey is rolling out his new camo-cam. I know I’m probably repeating a lot, but this really needs to get analyzed in order for people to understand what kind of shit-storm that’s being offered to them. This company prides itself on how information is free and open to the those that are watching. So literally, everyone who has a “Circle Account” can simply log in and watch this seminar take place. Bailey explicitly says that he didn’t put up his cameras on the beach with permission of any kind. Okay… with a company as famous world-wide as it is… HELLO, POLICE! WAKE THE HELL UP! Law enforcement of any kind, where the hell are they in coming down on The Circle. Yes, there’s a Senator that’s trying to dismantle the company to no avail, but a senator isn’t the police, the FBI, the CIA, none of them. How is it that a company like this can exist without a shit-load of government agencies raining a hurricane of investigation on them? This shouldn’t be that hard to catch them red-handed, especially considering how blatantly open they are about their activities. Just log on to their servers, and figure it out from there! Now that I’m thinking about it, why bother with the camo-cam if you’re just going to have a server that’s going to show what those cameras are shooting to the mass public? Just set up a normal cam, if you’re that freakin’ confident in your own bullshit. There’s even a bit in the seminar where Bailey reveals he’s got, like, a hundred cameras set up in a single location.

Okay, full disclosure, since that seems to be the theme of this movie, I have a couple of adios mf’s in me right now, so if I end up prattling on about stuff… enjoy the nonsense, I guess, but can you really blame me? If you saw this movie, you’d need a long island-variant in your system too in order to understand it. Ugh, moving on.

Even the audience introduction into this company is awkward as all hell. When Mae gets the job, she goes in for her interview. Instead of the standard, “Why should we hire you?” “What do you do if a guest complains?” they ask the most random questions, which you can witness in one of the trailers for this movie. They ask, things like, “Sonic, or Mario?” “Will you go out with me?” “The needs of the many, or the needs of the individual?” They’re all tests of some kind, but you never get a sense of what the purposes of these questions are. The best I can determine is more about how they’re answered and the answer given determines the… desirability of the employee. Is that even a word? You know what, if a movie can get made about ignoring laws, I can ignore the dictionary. Either way, WHAT THE HELL?! Oh and get this, the movie is kind enough give you a tour of the grounds of The Circle company, composed of buildings! Lots of buildings! None of which you’ll ever see the inside of! Maybe I should explain. Mae is touring with her friend, Annie (Karen Gillan). But you’d swear she was hopped up on caffeine pills and a unicorn frappuccino with an injection of pure adrenaline because she’s talking so damn fast and pointing at every damn thing. “That’s the blah-blah building where we blah-blah, and that’s the west wing where we blah-blah-blah, and over there is the blah-blah where we blah.” You’re not following a single thing that Annie is saying and because so much information is being hurled at you, you couldn’t possibly store all that information away. Not that it matters because, like I said, you’ll never go into those buildings anyway, rendering that entire fifteen seconds completely pointless. Oh, except for that one funny line, “Your legs are so long!” uttered by Watson. I admit, that was funny. Is Gillan freakishly tall? Doesn’t matter, moving on.

How about how this movie thinks real people act? Oh boy, let me tell you! So The Circle doubles as a social media platform. Probably goes without saying since this company feels like all information should be open to any and everyone. But anyway, the movie thinks that everyone on social media is blood-thirsty and downright bipolar. How do I mean? When Mae uploads a picture of one of Mercer’s wooden deer antlers, the internet at large practically castrates the poor guy, calling him a deer killer and harassing him mercilessly. Um… did Mae not think to mention in some sort of caption, “Not real antlers. Made of wood”? Even had that been an oversight, by the time news of this reached her, this should have been an easy and fast fix. “Hey guys, back off. Mercer’s antlers are made of wood. They’re not real antlers!” And then the internet would have shut their mouths and apologized. But no, Mae never sets the record straight!

And this entire incident is being viewed life on The Circle’s cameras, so you’re wondering where the God damned police are in all this.

***SPOILERS***

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Wanna know where this ends up? Toward the last third of the movie, Mae introduces “SoulSearch.” A program that will enable the ability to find any given person in under twenty minutes, with the help of The Circle community. After putting away a criminal in its demo, they try again, but this time, they want to find Mercer, who wants to remain off the grid. Here’s where I have all the problems with how this movie portrays everyone. First off, I can buy the every-person helping to track down a wanted criminal, especially a child-killing mother. This makes sense. But why would anyone want to hunt down a random dude who still believes in privacy and being left alone? Why would a random person on the street go out of their way to expose someone like that. Mercer isn’t a criminal, but you have a couple of assholes who treat finding him like it’s a game, and continue to harass him and call him a deer killer. I’m pretty sure the common person would just ignore the request if it wasn’t a matter of life and death. But no, this movie has Mercer just trying to be left alone, takes his truck and drives away. You’d think that’d be the end of it, but no! They hop into their cars and chase after him! If that wasn’t enough, The Circle has drones following overhead. Yes, f**king drones… and one of them flies in front of Mercer, who naturally freaks out, which causes him to swerve off a bridge, and dies. And it’s only now that everyone who berated him now starts to feel empathy and sadness over his death. Bullshit. Especially when people are saying things, like, “It’s not your fault, Mae.” Uh, no, it is Mae’s fault. She had all the power to say “no,” and she didn’t commit to it. Peer pressure. That’s what the decision boiled down to. And The Circle doesn’t claim any responsibility for their part in Mercer’s death. I’m pretty sure someone said that no one could have seen this happen. Right, so f**k you guys who keep claiming that we need to live in a society of accountability and I don’t see a single f**king person being held accountable! Mae holds herself responsible for Mercer’s death because of her program; rightfully so! She is partly to blame. The assholes that chased Mercer? They were a part of his death! Where’s their accountability?! And The Circle! It was a Circle drone that caused Mercer to drive off the bridge! So never mind that it was a Circle program that violated Mercer’s privacy, common Circle users hunting him down in the name of The Circle, but The Circle is DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR MERCER’S DEATH!!! AND NO ONE IS HELD ACCOUNTABLE!!! This is a new low in hypocrisy!

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***END SPOILERS***

How about the characters? Are they any good?

HA!!! Nope!

One would think that Mae would represent the every-person. We do live in an age where we are pretty dependent on our tech; phones, Ipads, and such. And Mae is transported into a world where technology allows you see into… well, pretty much everything. Later on, she becomes so grateful for the tech provided by The Circle that she immerses herself in the tech by going, “transparent,” wearing a camera at all times that provides a live feed for every second of her day, and anyone and everyone can see what she’s doing, including brushing her teeth. She eventually goes on to incorporate new branches of the tech provided by The Circle and becomes a pretty prominent face of the company. Thing is, she sees nothing wrong with these blatant violations of privacy. Or maybe she does, through some facial expressions, as expressed in this one scene with Gina and… whoever that other guys was. In this scene, it’s been expressed by these two characters – by the way, creepy as f**k – that Mae hasn’t essentially signed in to the company chat room where she can express her personal concerns and what have you. This is a ten minute scene of total skin-crawling and unease. She goes to see the… I guess the company doctor. Kind of like a “school nurse” but for the company. Makes her ingest a micro-chip via a drink. Yes, a drink that syncs up to a wrist-watch that tracks where she is, and WHO THE HELL GREEN-LIT THIS TECH???? Point is, Mae is not a character that anyone can connect with. At least, not as effectively as anyone writing this screenplay thinks. She gets too engrossed into this company’s goals that at some point, connection with her character is completely severed. Where once her motivations can be kind of justified, later on contribute to a problem that this movie already doesn’t care to think is a problem.

How about some other noticeable talent? That kid from BOYHOOD is in this movie. Is he good in this? Surprisingly no. In fact, if you want to see the worst this movie offers, see any scene where Watson interacts with Coltrane. Is Coltrane just a bad actor, or was he given bad direction or dialog? The two actors have zero chemistry. It’s like every scene they have together was a rehearsal take, not actual effort in acting. And Coltrane himself is so deadpan in his line delivery. Mercer is supposed to be the neighborhood kid who used to be close friends with Mae, maybe the two have a crush on each other, but have drifted apart in recent times, but still maintain a good relationship. But every line that Coltrane delivers is literally just “smile and put no emotion into the delivery of it.” There’s a scene where Mercer’s privacy is violated after Mae shows off his wooden sculptures of antlers and he wants to confront Mae about it. However, even here Coltrane doesn’t emote correctly. His character is being ridiculed and consistently harassed online by tens of millions of people calling him names and wrongfully accusing him of killing animals, and you’d swear each line delivery was more like he got hit by water balloon from a neighborhood brat. He was really good in BOYHOOD. It was one of my favorite movies of 2014, if not my favorite. He was a decent enough child actor at the time and he was fine enough toward the end of the movie, so… what happened here?!

What about Finn from FORCE AWAKENS?! He’s in this movie. He’s gotta be awesome, right?! NOPE!!! He is literally in this movie to do nothing. I’m not even kidding, his character is here to contribute nothing to the movie. Boyega plays Ty, the original creator of The Circle, whom I guess was muscled out by Bailey when he had his own ideas how the company should be handled. This is pure speculation, by the way; their relationship is never explained. Anyway, he then went off the grid and became notorious for not being able to be found by anyone, almost to the point where no one even knows his face. He acknowledges that The Circle blatantly violates privacy laws and he never wanted that for his company. Yeah, for a character who’s barely in this movie, he’s the only truly likable character. First time he shows up, he shares Cupcake wine with Mae. Second time, he leads her down dark, creepy hallways to areas where there’s not a single person in sight. Again, is this movie a closet horror film? These bits had some seriously rapey vibes to it. Essentially, this builds up to her being shown an abandoned subway that Bailey plans to fill with servers that will house all the information his programs will capture. This scene is supposed to spark skepticism in Mae. It never does, so this scene with Ty is completely pointless. But at least it left you with a ton of discomfort!

***SPOILERS***

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Ty does come back in the end and helps expose Bailey and Senator Stenton (Patton Oswalt) via a powerpoint presentation. Trust me, we’ll get to this exposure scene in a second, but you’re still sitting here wondering… couldn’t Ty do this himself awhile ago? Why did he need Mae to help him with this shit?

But now it’s time to explain this random-ass ending and how completely insane it is. After Mae has returned to The Circle in light of Mercer’s death, she decides to, what I can only guess, take over The Circle by exposing shady emails and correspondences from both Bailey and Stenton. Umm… when the hell did this become a plot-point? Where do I begin with this? First off, even though The Circle is a creepy place, it’s not filmed that way. We know this company has the best of intentions. But we’re never privy to the notion that either Bailey or Stenton are corrupt in any way. They’ve been pioneering the whole “Down with privacy” thing, but it’s only in this scene, as sporadic and senseless as you can imagine, the movie gives us our bad guys in the final sixty seconds of the movie. We don’t even know how these two men are corrupt, or what they did to warrant being exposed as villains. Nothing about this is explained. Mae just pulls the carpet out from under everyone and everyone watching during this seminar is completely on board with this insanity. They made this joke earlier in the movie, during Mae and Ty’s first meeting, where they say something like, “Everyone’s almost cult-happy here. ‘Drink the kool-aide’!” By the end of this movie, I was entirely convinced that this wasn’t a joke, but rather the very reason why any of this is allowed at all!

Is Hanks any good? Not… particularly. I mean one of his final lines is delivered funny. “We are so fucked,” and then proceeds to take a sip of his coffee, and I hesitate to say that he’s bad, but he’s put out much better performances and much like Watson, you can tell that he’s trying to deliver a good performance, but the terrible writing hinders his efforts tremendously and all you can think about is, “Tom, please tell us which producer has your family held hostage! Your fanatically loyal fanbase will take up arms and help you free them from captivity!” It’s heartbreaking. It really it.

But if you wanted something truly soul-crushing… if you wanted the penultimate proverbial stake driven through your beating heart… if Coltrane is the one actor not trying hard enough, then Bill Paxton is trying too damn hard. I’m not even kidding, this may arguably be the worst thing about the movie, depending on where you stand with the mountain-loads of issues already piling up. Paxton plays Mae’s father, Vinnie, who has cerebral palsy. Before I get into his amazing performance… are you kidding me?! In Paxton’s final movie, before he died of a stroke thanks to a botched surgery, he plays a character with cerebral palsy! I know these things aren’t in any way connected, but does anyone else get just a little extra depressed, and even a little frightened, by this? There’s something to say here; I just wouldn’t know what. But anyway, he does give us a fantastic show. I really believe that he has this illness. When he’s trying to lift a spoon up to his mouth, I really believe that he’s struggling with it. Even his speech patterns, how he almost has to put effort into saying words and complete sentences, it’s heartbreaking. I’m choosing to call it the saving grace of the film, as a good performance shouldn’t be ignored.

The cold, sad truth is that I can see how a good, challenging movie could be made out of this idea if it was written smart. The idea of allowing yourself no privacy so that someone is constantly keeping an eye out for you, for your safety and well-being. For the protection of others around you and holding you accountable for your actions, maybe even preventing possible wrong-doing before it’s even conceived. I even give the movie credit that it does touch upon these ideas somewhat. There’s a bit where Mae is talking to another woman who says that she inserted tracking chips in children all in the name of making sure that they’re always kept an eye on in case some asshole tries to kidnap the child. Should it happen, then the whereabouts of the child are known and even possibly preventing something worse from happening. Even the ending has a nice point. “Our goals are noble, but how we’re trying to achieve them is not the way to do it. We need to change how things are done here.” But the problem is that these ideas are never explored, or made to look like Edward Snowden’s personal night-terror, disguised by happy-peppy sunlight and smiling faces. The only legitimate positives of the film is that the acting from Watson, Hanks, Gillan, and certainly Paxton elevate the movie a little. None of this saves the movie, but there is effort from some of the actors. I do not recommend this movie in theaters. I do not recommend this as a rental. If there’s anything worth seeing, look for every scene featuring Paxton when scenes come out on Youtube, or something. But don’t waste your time seeing the movie as a whole. It’s not worth it.

My honest rating for THE CIRCLE: 2/5

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THE LOST CITY OF Z review

WHAT IS THIS MOVIE?!?!?! Is it a fantasy?! A new-age Indiana Jones thing?! What?! WHAT?!

Well, that came off a little premature. Turns out, this movie is an adaptation of a book of the same name and is about a famous explorer, Percy Fawcett, who went in search for a lost city in the Amazon and disappeared. Well, for those of you that are not in the know, I’m uncultured swine! I don’t read the books! *Gollum voice* IT BURNS US!!! TAKES IT OFF OF US!!!

…. I need to get out more…

But back on track. Yeah, I’ve seen this poster everywhere for the longest time and it took me only until now to know anything about it. You ever have those things that you’re atrociously curious about… but never curious enough to whip out your phone and Google for information because that requires taking precious microseconds out of your day? That was this, for me.

Here’s the ensemble cast! Charlie Hunnam (CRIMSON PEAKS [2015], PACIFIC RIM [2013], TV show SONS OF ANARCHY, and the upcoming KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD [2017]), Robert Pattinson (the Twilight movies, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS [2011], and HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE [2005]), Sienna Miller (LIVE BY NIGHT [2016], BURNT [2015], and G.I. JOE: RISE OF COBRA [2009]), Tom Holland (CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR [2016], IN THE HEART OF THE SEA [2015], THE IMPOSSIBLE [2012], and upcoming films SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING [2017] and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018]), and Ian McDiarmid (the Star Wars prequels, STAR WARS EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI [1983], and TV show UTOPIA).

Now for the crew. Writing and directing is James Gray, known for THE IMMIGRANT (2013) and WE OWN THE NIGHT (2007). Composing the music is Christopher Spelman, known for THE IMMIGRANT. Finally, the cinematographer is Darius Khondji, known for IRRATIONAL MAN (2015), ALIEN: RESURRECTION (1997), and SE7EN (1995).

Overall, I have no idea what to say other than it’ll be nice to no longer see the damn poster.

This is my honest opinion of: THE LOST CITY OF Z

(SUMMARY)

Based on a true story, set in the early 1900’s. Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) was originally a loyal soldier in the British army, but now his government is calling upon him to turn his talents of exploration and geography to the Amazon to map a certain area. Reluctantly he agrees and he and his partner Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson) are off. While there, they discover ancient relics that leads Percy and Henry to believe that there was an ancient civilization there that might be older than the British Empire itself and soon comes a passion to uncover the truth behind his own claims and prove the existence of his lost city of Z.

(REVIEW)

It’s alright. About half an hour too long for my taste, but I guess all things considered, it’s not a terrible watch.

I think the one thing I appreciate most about this movie is this: the modern relevance… kinda. I don’t know if anyone remembers an old late 90’s TV show called Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s THE LOST WORLD, but if you’re familiar with it or the original book it’s based on, there’s a character named Professor Challenger who’s creation was inspired by Percy Fawcett. But more famously, it has been stated that Fawcett also inspired Indiana Jones. After watching this movie and really giving that tid-bit of information some thought, that sounds about right. This movie does have an Indiana Jones vibe to it and does make sense that this man would inspire such a renowned fictional character. It’s slower paced, dives into politics and the method of survival in the Amazon, it all makes a special kind of sense and I do appreciate the movie for having that kind of atmosphere to it.

But of course, the big selling point is Hunnam as Percy. This is a very compelling character and Hunnam’s performance keeps your eyes glued on him the whole time. He’s this soldier who prefers to be on the battlefield, but rekindles his love of exploration when he finds evidence of a lost civilization. He ventures away from his family multiple times as his family grows. The character is very wisely written to be passionate, not obsessed. Oh, there are certainly moments of obsession. There’s a scene before Fawcett’s third venture into the Amazon where he’s just been pulled out of a battlefield after inhaling gas which nearly blinds him. In the hospital bed, his family is by his side and he starts spouting how he dreamt of Z. I can see someone arguing that this is somewhat out of place because he’s never shown another moment of obsession, but I argue that this could be taken that he’s drugged and the trauma of being temporarily blind caused him to just blurt out the first thing that came to his mind. If I remember correctly, he barely even wanted to return to active duty as a soldier, but circumstances kept choice out of his hands. We know Z is constantly on his mind and you know he has ideas of how to approach the as-of-yet unexplored places where this lost city might be, but you see a grounded man who loves his family and wants to be with them as evidenced when his sight returns and he feels he’s getting too old to explore more. Actually, if there’s any angle that felt out of place, it’s that because we never get the sense of that he feels old. He just says this one line and is later easily convinced by Jack (Tom Holland) to go one last time into the Amazon to search for Z. A small problem that barely matters as a whole.

Another big thing I appreciated with this movie, it steered clear of any easy clichés. In a lesser movie, I feel like the wife character would be too disheveled to want to be in a relationship with a man who is constantly away from his family for years at a time. That would segue into affairs that he wouldn’t know about, catching them in the act, some soap opera melodrama that would make a Hallmark Channel movie proud, the man defends against the pain by going back to what took him away from his family, all that bullshit. But no, it’s actually very easy to like Nina Fawcett (Sienna Miller) because she’s very supportive of Percy’s endeavors, but you know this comes at a great cost to a woman who has to take care of the family while her husband is away and clearly takes a toll on her. But she never goes into that bit where they have to yell and scream, “Why can’t you just stay home with your family?!” Granted, that’s saved for scenes with Jack, which is admittedly annoying, especially for his age at the time of that these scenes take place. Nina doesn’t necessarily disagree with her son, but she knows that Percy does everything that he does for the family, which elevates their social standing, brings honor to their name, and a bunch of other stuff. This is quite possibly the best performance I’ve ever seen out of Miller. Of course, having a movie like G.I. JOE: RISE OF COBRA on your résumé doesn’t set the hardest bar to overcome, but then again, having a movie like STARDUST (2007) elevates her big time, so it leans in her favor still.

Beyond the core actors, the locations are beautiful and breath-taking, there is a real sense of high stakes, you feel the wonder of discovery with the characters, the bitter hatred of those that impede their progress, it more than makes up for any problems. Oh, and McDiarmid with a curly mustache… a cinematic gift from Mount Olympus.

Now for the negatives, as there are only two real problems I had with the film.

This is a long movie and it drags out a lot. There is a ton of political talks that would have put me to sleep like a toddler in the back seat of a moving car were it not for the filthy chai latte I had a half hour earlier. I swear, half an hour could have been shaved off and the point would still come across clearly. That initial courtroom scene with Percy trying to get finance for his second expedition probably didn’t need to be there that long, the trench warfare scene was probably unnecessary, among others.

My second problem was with Jack toward the end. In our first scene with him, right before Percy has to go to war, he’s that missing cliché that this movie had almost avoided, angry with his father for constantly being away. After that fateful battle that temporarily blinds him, Percy deliriously talks about Z and Jack gets offended and walks away in anger. The scene ends with Jack coming up to him and letting his blinded father touch his face. A couple scenes later, Jack starts telling his father that the two of them should return to the Amazon together to find Z. Did you notice the problem? His emotional arch is completely rushed. There is no moment where Jack finally understands his father’s desires to see Z. There’s no scene where he understands the thrill of adventure and discovery. In fact, his opening scene as Holland completely points to the opposite; that it was his father’s thirst for adventure that took him away from his family. We never get a scene with them reconciling or even of him looking through maps, or studying his father’s findings, there’s nothing like that to explain his sudden passion to aide his father in the search. And since this is such a huge moment in the Fawcett legacy, their eventual disappearance, it should have been much more emotionally impacting, but it isn’t by the time the credits start rolling. It’s just an event that happens and that’s not how you’d want that moment to be conveyed on screen. Cut down some of the boring scenes and replace them with a scene with Jack realizing his own desires to see his father’s work done would have been far more beneficial to the story.

A smaller problem includes Pattinson being pretty forgettable, there to simply round out the cast. This isn’t to say he’s bad, he’s just written bland. For a character that was so involved with Percy and his journeying, he surprisingly fades into the background, even if he’s in the foreground.

Overall, I liked this movie just fine. I definitely don’t see myself seeing it again, but I’m glad I saw it and to learn what an impact this man had on modern pop culture, and it is a really fascinating story that’s worth checking out. Can I see people getting bored with it? Oh yeah, and that’s definitely a recurring problem with the movie that ultimately hurts it. But if you’re a patient movie-goer who has an interest in slowly paced stories about exploration and lost civilizations, then I could recommend this. A matinee viewing would be the most advisable considering its lengthy run-time and certainly recommended as a rental. A solid flick worth seeing.

My honest rating for THE LOST CITY OF Z: a strong 3/5

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Quick reviews: GOING IN STYLE / THEIR FINEST

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(SUMMARY)

Joe (Michael Caine), Willie (Morgan Freeman), and Albert (Alan Arkin) are all retirees who depend on their pension funds to live comfortably. However, the company they worked for got bought out and those pensions got taken away by the bank. The three men, eager to get their money back for the sake of their families and health, plot to rob that same bank.

Directed by Zach Braff (GARDEN STATE [2004] and some episodes of TV show SCRUBS)
Written by Theodore Melfi (HIDDEN FIGURES [2016] and ST. VINCENT [2014])
Composed by Rob Simonsen (GIFTED [2017], STONEWALL [2015], and TV show LIFE IN PIECES)
Cinematography by Rodney Charters (TV shows THE SHANNARA CHRONICLES, DALLAS, and 24)

(REVIEW)

Fun fact: this is a remake of GOING IN STYLE (1979).

It’s funny and likable, so I really enjoyed myself.

Granted the movie doesn’t do anything particularly new. The story hits all the beats that a story like this would go for and doesn’t do anything particularly fresh or new. But ultimately, I would think that most people aren’t seeing it for anything ground-breaking, but just to see these great and timeless actors playing a young-man’s game and getting themselves into some wacky situations. But I think what elevates it above mediocre is that there is a lot of heart to the story. You see a genuine, fun connection between Joe and his granddaughter Brooklyn (Joey King), the weight of Willie wanting to see more of his family, especially when his two friends get him a watch with his granddaughter’s face on it. That was pretty awesome of them. And Arkin is hilarious as he tries to fight off advances from a borderline-crazy woman, Annie (Anne-Margret), who likes him. Some funny visuals, and probably one of the most intense and satisfying endings I’ve seen in a bit, I think it’s worth seeing in theaters.

My honest rating for GOING IN STYLE: 4/5

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(SUMMARY)

Set in World War II, Britain. Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) is climbing her way up in the film industry as a writer. Eventually, during Britain’s destruction at the hands of the Germans, the British Ministry of Information film team decides to put together a true story about the Dunkirk evacuation about two women who bravely set out in hostile waters to rescue British soldiers all in the name of boosting national morale. Working with veteran film writer Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin) and starring Britain’s finest, yet pickiest, actor Ambrose Hillard (Bill Nighy), they set out working through the destruction, their personal lives, and together to create a movie worthy of remembrance.

Directed by Lone Scherfig (THE RIOT CLUB [2014], ONE DAY [2011], and AN EDUCATION [2009])
Written by Gaby Chiappe, known for unknown television projects
Composed by Rachel Portman (A DOG’S PURPOSE [2017], RACE [2016], and MONA LISA SMILE [2003])
Cinematography by Sebastian Blenkov (MISS SLOANE [2016] and THE RIOT CLUB)

(REVIEW)

Before jumping in to the review, is anyone else tickled by the fact that we have two films about Dunkirk in the same year, the other being Christopher Nolan’s DUNKIRK (2017) due out this July? I mean, stars-aligned, this is pretty coincidental.

This movie’s going to hold a special place in my heart because it’s basically a fun glimpse into film making back in the 40’s.

But first and foremost, the cast is great. Nighy is hilarious and charismatic, commanding your eyes to focus on him seemingly without effort. But it doesn’t stop there. Arterton does a wonderful job as this talented woman eager to be seen as a creative equal and really stands her ground in a room of high and mighty men. It’s also pretty satisfying to see how respected she becomes by the end of the film, and how much her partners admire her and really listen and take in her ideas. She doesn’t run the show, by any means, but it’s still a nice character arch. And the way the film gets made, the techniques they used to make a beach scene seem full of soldiers and boats, when in actuality it’s just a mat painting on a sheet of glass with two guys in costume looking out at the ocean, it’s really something to watch and does trick the eye. Of course, there’s Nighy getting in the way of the shot to reveal how the illusion is created, making for probably one of the more memorable moments in the movie. Even though I think this movie will be touted as a comedy, there’s more than a few dramatic moments. Buildings get bombed out, people die and the audience sees the bodies, there’s a real emotional weight and heaviness that this movie isn’t afraid to show. I can’t say if this – or for that matter, the original book – are based on true events, but it feels like it could be, considering how much passion it feels like is being thrown into this movie as a whole. I wish I could go on and on about this movie, but the new batch of films are coming out and I don’t like being too far behind. This doesn’t have the widest of releases, but if you happen to see it in your area, I highly recommend it in theaters.

My honest rating for THEIR FINEST: 5/5