WONDER review

I feel like I’ve been seeing a bit of a rotation between the same kid actors lately. I don’t know, does anyone else feel that way?

Eh, who cares? A good story is all that matters.

WONDER is based on a 2012 children’s novel of the same name, written by R.J. Palacio, that went on to become a New York Times best seller… like every other movie based from that list. The book is obviously well-received and went on to spawn a spin-off, 365 Days of Wonder, and a sequel, Auggie and Me. At least… I think that’s what they are. Information is a little inconsistent and I know I won’t make the time to find them in a bookstore to confirm. In any case, there’s your history. You bookworms can correct my information as you see fit.

Now, being the uncultured swine that I am, I’ve obviously never even heard of these books. But I go to the movies pretty frequently, hence I see a bunch of trailers, and I have a vague idea of what the movie is about. It looks like it’s about this young boy who has a physical deformity and gets made fun of at school. But at least one kid is kind enough and they strike up a friendship. Basically it looks like it’s a story about acceptance of those that are different and an exploration of the life and times of a kid with this kind of condition.

Here’s the cast. We have the incredibly talented up and coming young star, Jacob Tremblay (THE BOOK OF HENRY [2017], ROOM [2015], THE SMURFS 2 [2013], and the upcoming THE PREDATOR [2018]), Julia Roberts (SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE [2017], CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR [2007], and MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING [1997]), and Owen Wilson (CARS 3 [2017], NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM [2007], ANACONDA [1997], and upcoming films FATHER FIGURES [2017] and SHANGHAI DAWN, no release date announced). In support, we have Noah Jupe (SUBURBICON [2017], 1 episode of TV show PENNY DREADFUL [2014 – 2016], and upcoming films THE TITAN [2018] and HOLMES AND WATSON [2018]), Bryce Gheisar (A DOG’S PURPOSE [2017]), Izabela Vidovic (HOMEFRONT [2013], and TV show: 2 episodes of SUPERGIRL [2015 – ongoing] and 10 episodes of ABOUT A BOY [2014 – 2015]), Elle McKinnon (TV projects I’ve never heard of), and Daveed Diggs (3 episodes of UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT [2015 – ongoing], 9 episodes of TV show BLACK-ISH [2014 – ongoing], 10 episodes of THE GET DOWN [2016 – 2017], and upcoming films FERDINAND [2017] and BLINDSPOTTING [2018]).

Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing the script is Stephen Chbosky, known for THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER (2012), writing the screenplay for BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (2017), and creator of TV show JERICHO (2006 – 2008), and the upcoming PRINCE CHARMING, no release date announced. Chbosky’s partners-in-pen, making for a red flag total of three writers are Steve Conrad (UNFINISHED BUSINESS [2015], THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY [2013], and THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS [2006]) and Jack Thorne (a bunch of unknown TV projects and the upcoming comic adaptation, THE SANDMAN, no release date announced). Composing the score, we have Marcelo Zarvos, known for FENCES (2016), THE GOOD SHEPHERD (2006), and TV show THE BIG C (2010 – 2013). Finally, the cinematographer is Don Burgess, known for SAME KIND OF DIFFERENT AS ME (2017), ENCHANTED (2007), CONTACT (1997), and the upcoming AQUAMAN (2018).

Overall, I think this movie can easily be good, but risks being just a little too obvious and probably won’t go as far as it can go, if what I read about the book is true. I’ll likely explain myself in the review. Mean time…

This is my honest opinion of: WONDER

(SUMMARY)

August “Auggie” Pullman (Jacob Tremblay) was born with a genetic defect that required several surgeries to allow him to see, hear, and speak properly. Though he lives life as normally as possible, he is left with a disfigured face and scars. Still, he a nice kid and is transitioning from homeschooling with his mom Isabel (Julia Robberts) to his first day in middle school at a public school, much to the concerns of his loving father, Nate (Owen Wilson). Though his first day is rough, he does eventually start adjusting to life in school, and we learn about the lives around him as well.

(REVIEW)

I think this is one of the sweetest movies I’ve seen all year.

Say what you want about THE BOOK OF HENRY, I think Tremblay is a on a winning streak. This kid is such a good actor and he cranks it up ROOM levels here. Auggie is a sweet kid who struggles with his handicaps, looking down to avoid eye contact, is mostly quiet, but he’s funny, charming, weird and gross, you know, like every kid his age. But as much as he has his fun, he’s still hurt by the name calling and the things kids say behind his back. Kids have said that if anyone touches him, they get the plague. Another says he’d kill himself he looked like Auggie. Not to mention the bullying from Julian (Bryce Gheisar). As someone who was bullied in school as well (albeit a bit more mildly than Auggie), I get his mannerisms. An unwillingness to talk, about the specific problems or in general, looking down avoiding eye contact, which I still do as a twenty-eight year old adult, keep to myself, few friends, there’s a lot that I personally relate to and Auggie will definitely tear your hear out, and I mean that in the best possible way… if you couldn’t tell.

And the rest of the cast does really well too. You can argue that the characters may not be all that interesting, but I would argue that this isn’t meant to have the deepest characters, just good and likable. That’s exactly what we’re given. Roberts as Isabel and Wilson as Nate are both so likable as loving parents. I especially like the moment when Auggie comes out with Jack Will (Noah Jupe) at the end of school and Isabel is completely dumbfounded. When Auggie asks her if it’s okay if he comes over to their house, she’s all like, “Okay… I have got to be cool.” I don’t know, I love seeing that in parents, who are actively aware of how they present themselves to their kids’ friends. It tickles me.

I think if there’s any character outside of Auggie that really had some complexity was Via (Izabella Vidovic). While an incredibly loving sister to her younger brother, she’s still affected by a surprisingly honest sense of jealousy of her parents devoting so much of their attention to Auggie, rather than her. Thing is, I’m probably making it sound more mean-spirited than it is, but I like that about her. She knows why her parents show him more attention because he’s the one who has to live with his face and how many kids may make fun of him for it. She is incredibly understanding, but it sure does come at its own cost. She’s left out of simple conversations of just being asked how her day went at school, to bigger things like whether or not she should invite her parents to the school play that she auditioned for. But she never succumbs to being a rebel, changing her look to get attention, doesn’t act out beyond normal teen angst, she’s just a kind, sweet girl that wishes she could be afforded the same attention her brother gets. Also, her best friend Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell) totally ignores her at school, which drives her into a tailspin. She also gets into a cute relationship with Justin (Nadji Jeter), the “theater nerd” that motivates her to audition for the school play, which Miranda is also in. In retrospect, Via might be the best character in the movie. She may get a great deal of screen time, but I almost wouldn’t mind a spin off movie with just her.

***SPOILERS***

 

 

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There are even moments that I feel like I should be outraged with and call “foul and unrealistic,” but even that doesn’t seem to be too far off from reality. Specifically, after Julian is brought to the principal’s office for his mean photo toward to the end of the movie; the photo that photoshopped out Auggie in the class picture and then wrote “No freaks allowed” on it. His parents are called in, clearly rich and pompous people. The mom admits to doing the photoshop herself. First off, there’s no way on God’s green Earth that this woman has any idea how to use anything related to computers. She probably only knows how to check her email for the next business meeting that will raise money for rich people, or whatever. Second, she claims she did it because she wanted the people that visit their home to ask about their son, not Auggie. Um… is this a common thing for this family? Do guests look at the class photo, take one look at Auggie and spend the duration of their stay asking questions about that boy? I have a hard time believing that. Even if that were the case, then maybe they should take a hard long look at their lives and accept that maybe the reason why they’re asking about Auggie more than their own son is because their family isn’t very interesting and their son is an uninteresting suck-up.

 

I wanted to be so mad at how these parents treated the situation, fueling their son’s cruel habits, and even blaming Auggie for their son’s actions without holding him accountable for anything. But the more I thought about it… no, that’s exactly what parents to these types of kids do. They’re high off of believing that they’re the perfect family and that they have no problems to speak of. But when the first problem rears its ugly head, they deny it, or try to pass it off as someone else’s problem that got in the way of their perfection.

 

My only real issue with this scene is that we see Julian’s guilt over the photo. Thing is, we never see him act guilty over anything he does, so his humanity is pulled out of nowhere, which is pretty clunky. If we were occasionally shown moments of him feeling bad about his actions, this would make more sense. Heck, none of this even explains where the bullying comes from. Sure, one would think the more vicious bullying, like direct name calling, would be a result of borderline abusive parents who insult their own child. Not unlike physical abuse, the whole point is to feel empowered over someone smaller and weaker, which Julian is clearly doing. But his parents strike me more like the absentee types that never show him the love that most parents show their kid. So I would imagine his type of bullying would be more akin to subtly talking down to him and proclaiming how rich he is and how much better he is, rather than putting him down like he does in the movie. Something more subtle and snobbish, rather than verbal attacks. But hey, I’m no psychologist. Maybe bullying of any kind can come from any number of sources. I just didn’t buy the connections here.

 

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***END SPOILERS***

Unfortunately, the most glaring problem, which honestly isn’t even all that big, that I have with the film is that there’s characters that are introduced, and get nice enough backstories, but we’re still not privy to who they actually are. Specifically, I mean Miranda. I like her backstory, that she was a close friend of Via’s when they were little and looks to the Pullman family as her second family, but when she went to camp over the summer, she wasn’t fitting in, or whatever the case was, and decided to pretend that she was Via. She claimed to the others around her that she had a disfigured brother and suddenly became really popular. But when she got back, she had made new friends, and was ridden with guilt upon meeting Via again, having spent months pretending to be her. Russell is certainly a charismatic enough actress to carry the role, but we never really see Miranda and Via make up as friends. It literally happens out of the blue. In a lot of ways, I wish we’d gotten more of her and her relationship with the protagonist family. It’s more of a case of being told her relationship to the Pullman family, rather than being shown the relationship.

In fact, that’s kind of a smaller issue with other characters as well. In the beginning of the story, we’re introduced to three other kids, Jack Will, Julian, and Charlotte (Elle McKinnon). At a glance, it’s like the movie is saying that these three kids, as well as Auggie, are going to be the most central to the story. While that’s true for Jack Will and Julian, I was a little bummed out that Charlotte wasn’t as central. Why? Because she was actually kind of funny. She’s this little girl who acted in commercials and is totally prideful about it, but not in a mean-spirited way. Just in an overly-proud kind of way. She’s not stuck-up, she just did something “famous-related” and is boasting, but she’s not an unlikable kid. In fact, throughout the film, she has a sort of admiration for Auggie and doesn’t like it when the other girls talk mean about him. It’s a shame she kind of gets thrown to the wayside for Summer (Millie Davis). Don’t get me wrong, Summer is a nice enough character and Davis is a good enough actress, but the character could have so easily been Charlotte that it’s a wonder why she wasn’t.

***SPOILERS***

 

 

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Also, did the movie ever really explain why Jack Will said that mean thing about killing himself if he looked like Auggie? I mean, I didn’t read the book, but I read about it online and he said what he said because he was just trying to be friends with Julian and he wanted to fit in by saying what they say. But this movie completely sidesteps that. They just get on MINECRAFT and apologize and that’s it. Maybe that fight between Jack Will and Julian softened Auggie’s edges, but it was still a mean-spirited moment that barely has a resolution. But I guess that fight and the surprisingly effective guilt-ridden face on Jack Will’s face after learning that Auggie was in the Ghost Face costume when he said what he said was enough.

 

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***END SPOILERS***

Overall, this was a cute film. Tremblay is still a wonderful talent, Vidovic knocks it out of the park as the sister, Roberts and Wilson are ridiculously enjoyable and heartfelt, and the support kids do a great job as well. Some likable characters don’t get enough screen time in my opinion, and some things are explained in a clunky kind of way, but the movie definitely lives up to the name, so I highly recommend it. I might even consider owning it on Blu-Ray when the time comes. This movie doesn’t blend in with other kids films because it was made to stand out.

My honest rating for WONDER: a strong 4/5

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Quick Netflix review: MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (2011)

Starring: Owen Wilson (CARS 3 [2017], ZOOLANDER 2 [2016], ANACONDA [1997], and SHANGHAI DAWN, no release date announced), Marion Cotillard (ASSASSIN’S CREED [2016], THE DARK KNIGHT RISES [2012], and INCEPTION [2010]), and Rachel McAdams (DOCTOR STRANGE [2016], MORNING GLORY [2010], THE NOTEBOOK [2004], and the upcoming SHERLOCK HOLMES 3, no release date announced).

In support: Corey Stoll (GOLD [2017], CAFÉ SOCIETY [2016], ANT-MAN [2015], and the upcoming FIRST MAN [2018]), Kathy Bates (BAD SANTA 2 [2016], TITANIC [1997], and TV show AMERICAN HORROR STORY), Michael Sheen (NORMAN [2017], PASSENGERS [2016], UNDERWORLD [2003], and the upcoming BRAD’S STATUS [2017]), Tom Hiddleston (KONG: SKULL ISLAND [2017], I SAW THE LIGHT [2016], THOR [2011], and upcoming Marvel films THOR: RAGNAROK [2017] and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018]), and Léa Seydoux (THE LOBSTER [2016], 007 SPECTRE [2015], and BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR [2013]).

Writer/Director: Woody Allen (CAFÉ SOCIETY, IRRATIONAL MAN [2015], MIGHTY APHRODITE [1995], and the upcoming WONDER WHEEL [2017]). This film does not have a composer. Cinematographer: Darius Khondji (THE LOST CITY OF Z [2017], THE IMMIGRANT [2013], and THE RUINS [2008]).

(SUMMARY)

Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) is on vacation in Paris, trying to find inspiration to complete the novel he’s writing. Though inspiration is slow, he’s quickly fallen in love with Paris and is even considering to move there. His feelings are not shared by his prickly fiancé Inez (Rachel McAdams), and the two butt heads constantly. One night, strolling through the streets of Paris, he ends up lost, but the most bizarre thing happens to him at midnight. He’s picked up by an old fashioned car and somehow finds himself in the 1920’s, meeting all of his historical icons, like Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), Pablo Picasso (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo), F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston), and even finds possible romance with the beautiful Adriana (Marion Cotillard), a mistress of Picasso.

(REVIEW)

I was surprised by how much I fell in love with this movie.

On top of being Wilson’s best performance I’ve ever seen in his library, it’s a truly gorgeous film just to look at, making the cinematography just as much the star as the actual characters the story follows. Already I love fantasy films and have a soft spot for rom-coms, and it’s not very often that the two are combined and leave this kind of an impact. While I can’t attest to the accuracy of the film using these historical people in Paris at the exact same time, but I doubt I’m supposed to take all this very literal. It’s a fantasy film after all and more of an appreciation of times long gone and a story that challenges a man to assess his relationship and what he wants for himself. At least, that’s what I got out of it. All I can tell you is that I got sucked into the style, the music, the aesthetics of it all, as well as the phenomenal chemistry between the actors, the comedy, and the romance. It’s a gorgeous film to be sure and I’m sad it took me this long to see it.

My honest rating for MIDNIGHT IN PARIS: 5/5

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

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

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

(SUMMARY)

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

(REVIEW)

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

My honest rating for CARS 3: 3/5

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AllEyez

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

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

(SUMMARY)

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

(REVIEW)

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

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

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

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

(SUMMARY)

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

(REVIEW)

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

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

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

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

(SUMMARY)

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

(REVIEW)

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

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

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Starring: Sally Hawkins (PADDINGTON [2014], BLUE JASMINE [2013], JANE EYRE [2011], and upcoming films PADDINGTON 2 [2017] and GODZILLA: KING OF MONSTERS [2019]) and Ethan Hawke (THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN [2016], BOYHOOD [2014], DEAD POETS SOCIETY [1989], and the upcoming VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS [2017]).

Directing: Aisling Walsh. Writer: Sherry White. Composer: Michael Timmins. Cinematographer: Guy Godfree

(SUMMARY)

Set during the 1930s in Marshaltown, Nova Scotia. Maud Dowley (Sally Hawkins) is an arthritic woman with a talent for simple paintings. Unable to take care of herself, she sets out to look for a job to provide for herself. As fate would have it, a local impoverished fish peddler Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawk) is looking for a woman to take care of his small house while he’s out on his rounds trying sell fish and wood. She takes the job and though their relationship is beyond rocky, the two eventually strike up a complex relationship, leading to an imperfect but loving marriage, all the while the local townsfolk flock to their home to buy her increasingly popular paintings.

(REVIEW)

It kills me to do a quick review on this movie, but I’m paralyzed on what to say about it other than… it’s one of the best romance films of the year. Both Hawkins and Hawke are phenomenal and flawlessly bring to life a relationship that is so unconventional, so complex and complicated, yet so tender, meaningful, and beautiful that I can’t help but gush. With gorgeous landscapes, cute, but memorable artwork, and unforgettable performances, this is one of those few reminders that a movie doesn’t need to have the biggest drama or greatest of stakes to be compelling, or to overly dramatize to make interesting. All it needs is to give you a raw and passionate look into the life of a woman who may not have changed the world, but definitely changed and warmed the hearts around her. And wiping away the tears in my eyes, I happily say that this brilliant films warmed mine.

My honest rating for MAUDIE: 5/5

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MASTERMINDS review

Did this movie go through production hell or something? I swear, I’d been seeing trailers for this since early on in the year.

So… based on a true story! No, I’m not kidding. I didn’t know this until the opening titles started rolling, and even then I was like, “Um… please don’t rip off FARGO [1996]. You’re not a true story. Just shut up and get on with it.” Well… it is. It really is. Details below.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/October_1997_Loomis_Fargo_robbery

Well, I guess not all true stories have to be depressingly and dramatic, saying something to try to teach the world a little somethin’ somethin’. Some just need the good ole comedy-touch. Well, once again, I am not familiar with the real life events. This all happened in 1997 and I was, what, eight-years-old at the time? I was still watching RUGRATS and ROCKO’S MODERN LIFE on TV, and reading Peanuts and Get Fuzzy in the papers. I didn’t care about adult stuff (not much has changed, really). But honestly, I can’t imagine that this movie claims to be accurate, nor was I holding out for it to be very good.

Let’s take a look at the cast, which stars Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson, and Jason Sudeikis. In the past, I wasn’t a fan of Galifianakis. Since his huge rise to comedic star power in the popular 2009 film THE HANGOVER (I didn’t like it that much), he’s pretty much stuck to that role: the fat guy who says all the dumb-yet-funny things… which to me always translated to just dumb-unfunny things. He was basically Steve Carrell with a beard at the time. But unlike Carrell, Galifianakis stayed the same for the longest time. It wasn’t until his surprise turn in BIRDMAN (2014) that revealed to me that he actually can act if given the right material. Hence my beliefs that there’s no such thing as a bad actor, just bad scripts and directing. Granted, he hasn’t done many films outside the Hangover series, other than bit parts in other films or sticking to TV shows, I’ve found myself more open to his work and I thought this film would be fairly decent. Wiig… man, I want to be a fan of hers, I really do. I see incredible comedy talent in her, but with the exception of BRIDESMAIDS (2011), I just haven’t found her funny if she’s the main lead. In her supporting roles, like the How to Train Your Dragon series, she’s a riot. And I’m sure she’s amazing on SNL and her various other TV works, but her films are pretty hit or miss, and I’m still washing the bad taste of GHOSTBUSTERS (2016) out of my mouth (not that I blame her for how bad that movie was). I really wanted this to be what finally ropes me into her mass popularity. Wilson… well, everyone’s got a funny impersonation of the guy, but say what you want about him, he’s a funny dude in my opinion. WEDDING CRASHERS (2005), DRILLBIT TAYLOR (2008), even his more dramatic stuff like MARLEY & ME (2008), come on. He’s a good actor. Finally Sudeikis. I’ve become a fan of his in recent years and has been the saving grace in a lot of underwhelming movies. While other people may have been fans of his due to him being an SNL alum, I’m definitely trying to jump aboard the bandwagon.

Now, how about behind the scenes. Directing is Jared Hess, whom hasn’t directed much in his career, but many will recognize titles like NAPOLEAN DYNAMITE (2004) and NACHO LIBRE (2006). But he’s slated to direct the third installment to the Shanghai Noon movies, SHANGHAI DAWN and NICTOONS, for you 90’s Nickelodeon fans. Scary enough, this film has three writers attached: Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer, and Emily Spivey, which to me means different styles of comedy creating a messy result. Both Bowman and Palmer haven’t written much, but they did write at least one episode of the animated TV show NAPOLEAN DYNAMITE and both co-wrote the upcoming flick MIDDLE SCHOOL: THE WORST YEARS OF MY LIFE (2016). Spivey is the more veteran writer of the group, having a long and steady writing career, mostly in television, such as SNL, THE LAST MAN ON EARTH, and my personal favorite, UP ALL NIGHT.

I went in with some pretty cautious expectations. I was hoping to be surprised, but bracing for brutality. How did it turn out? This is my honest opinion of MASTERMINDS.

(SUMMARY)

Based on true events, set in 1997. David Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis) is a respected armored truck driver, but longs for a life of action and adventure, like an action hero. But his life is pretty boring. That all changes when he meets his new partner, Kelly Campbell (Kristen Wiig), a hardcore, attitude-wielding broad with a heart as sweet as her lollipops, and David instantly falls for her. She thinks he’s sweet and likes working with him, but doesn’t take to him like he does to her. Well, she soon gets fired for incompetence and David is alone on the job again. But that doesn’t last long as a long-time associate of hers, Steve Chambers (Owen Wilson), hatches a plan to rob a bank and get rich. They decide to use Davis’s crush on Kelly to use him, since he is the only non-manager to have access to the bank’s vault, without ever knowing Steve’s true identity. The plan works like a charm and when David steals the money, he told to high-tail it to Mexico where Kelly says she’ll join him in time. But as time passes, Kelly never joins him and David soon learns the true identity of Steve. Using this information to blackmail Steve out of more money, or he’ll turn himself in as well as everyone involved in the heist. In retaliation, Steve hires a hitman named Mike McKinney (Jason Sudeikis) to kill David. So begins a game of wits and cat-and-mouse.

(REVIEW)

While I’m pretty sure “based on true events” is a pretty loose phrase with this movie, so don’t expect an accurate depiction, I have to admit that I didn’t hate it. It’s nothing hilarious or spectacular, but there’s enough good elements to keep it from being a waste of time.

Like I said before, Galifianakis isn’t my favorite funny man. This isn’t entirely different, but I think what sets this apart from his usual roles is that his character is written a little better than usual. While he still plays a dim-witted idiot with a good heart, his character does occasionally make good decisions. When he finds out Steve’s true identity, he threatens not to just turn him in, but he’s willing to turn himself in as well. Typically, you have to trudge the whole, “I’ll turn you in for what you’ve done,” “You can’t do that without implicating yourself,” routine, which is annoying as hell. He’s not afraid to do the right thing… despite him willing to do very illegal things for a pair of tits, but I guess that’s beside the point. Ultimately, he’s not a bad guy. He’s a doofus, an idiot, but a romantic and a willingness to set things right. Worse characters have been made in comedies.

While Wiig and Wilson do fine for what they’re given, they’re just sort of stock characters that you’ve seen before, the one actor that really stands out for me is, of course, Sudeikis. By god, this man can be a hitman in a comedy or a drama, and he’d make it work on both ends. All he’s missing from his résumé is a musical… as a hitman. Why did this feel like a match made in Heaven?! He’s just so engaging. His voice is all deep and intimidating. There’s this scene where he’s in Mexico and he’s sizing up his collection of firearms, shotguns, SMGs, and chooses a rickety old musket of all things. Seriously, gunpowder and ram rod, the whole enchilada. It doesn’t go as planned, which makes the situation all the more hilarious. Just UGH why do I not watch SNL?! Sudeikis steals the show for me.

And while most of the comedy isn’t really that funny, mostly just jokes that are easy, some were surprisingly smart. There’s this scene where David meets Kelly for the first time since her departure from the job and are including him on the plan with Steve sitting with his back to him, so he doesn’t know what he looks like. During the conversation, Steve tells David to call him, “Geppetto,” because he’s the one who pulls the strings. But then David says, “That’s Stromboli. Geppetto was the puppet maker. Stromboli was the puppet master.” I was downright floored. I didn’t expect this low-brow comedy to make a semi-intelligent observation. Too bad the rest of the dialog and humor wasn’t like that or this movie would have been pretty solid.

Now despite mostly likable performances, the film still isn’t good as a whole.

Again, I really REALLY want to like Kate McKinnon. I really do. But I’m starting to think that I want to see the best of her, I really do need to start watching TV because she is just not funny to me. First GHOSTBUSTERS, now here. She is trying way too hard and it comes off as awkward to me. Does she just get really shitty directors? Who’s telling her to not be funny?! When anyone talked about how funny she was, I don’t see it. What’s the joke? That she’s incredibly monotoned and robotic, yet still smiling? What’s so funny about that? She doesn’t say anything funny. I guess that’s maybe her thing. She has quirky mannerisms that everyone seems drawn to, but I can’t get into this woman. I really want to be, but I can’t.

But I do concede that her fight scene with Wiig was pretty damn entertaining.

And there’s that scene. It lasts for a split second, but it’s there and drives me absolutely up the fucking walls. Those of you that know me really well know exactly what I’m talking about. The bit in the montage when David farts in the pool and shits everywhere. I am so ungodly grateful that I didn’t spend money on this, or I would have thrown such a fucking fit. For those of you that don’t know, bodily waste used for comedic purposes is the easiest way for me to hate a movie. At best, no matter how funny your movie may be, will be just okay. Never good. Good movies, even solid movies, would never resort to that brand of humor. It’s disgusting, grotesque, whatever adjective and adverb you want to give it, anything synonymous to “funny” is out of the god damn mother fucking question. It leaves the most rotten taste in my mouth and I hate those jokes so fucking much.

This movie isn’t good. Aside from that one thing, McKinnon gets a little too much screen time for my taste, and generally speaking, the movie just isn’t really funny. Yes, some jokes worked, but it’s like if you made 100 jokes and only three of them were funny, how funny was your movie really? The core cast does fine, but the writing is very subpar. I may not agree with RottenTomatoes (36% as of 10/5/2016), but I can see where they’re comimng from. I’m closer with IMDb (5.7/10 as of 10/5/2016), so viewer beware.

My honest rating for MASTERMINDS: a weak 3/5

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