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

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3 IDIOTAS

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

Co-writing: Martha Higareda

(SUMMARY)

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

(REVIEW)

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

My honest rating for 3 IDIOTAS: 1/5

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DEAN

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

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

(SUMMARY)

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

(REVIEW)

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

My honest rating for DEAN: a strong 3/5

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THE HERO

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

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

(SUMMARY)

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

(REVIEW)

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

My honest rating for THE HERO: 4/5

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BEATRIZ AT DINNER

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

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

(SUMMARY)

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

(REVIEW)

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

My honest rating for BEATRIZ AT DINNER: 3/5

BAYWATCH review

WHY?!?!?!

Alright, so for those of you that somehow don’t know, BAYWATCH was a very campy 90’s TV show about hot and busty women running in slow-mo, and David Hasselhoff. I couldn’t tell you much beyond that because I didn’t actually watch the show as a kid. Wasn’t appropriate, I guess. I don’t know.

But here we are. The show is long dead and now we somehow needed a movie about that. We really didn’t, but hot men and women definitely sell tickets. For all the wrong reasons in this case, I’m sure, but fine. It’s here, let’s get on with it. I’m not excited, I think this is going to hurt, but here we go.

Starring in this eye-candy factory, we have Dwayne Johnson (THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS [2017], MOANA [2016], SNITCH [2013], and upcoming films JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE [2017] and RAMPAGE [2018]), Zac Efron (MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES [2016], WE ARE YOUR FRIENDS [2015], THAT AWKWARD MOMENT [2014], and the upcoming THE DISASTER ARTIST [2017]), and Priyanka Chopra (PLANES [2013], TV show QUANTICO, and video game MARVEL AVENGERS ACADEMY). In support, we have Alexandra Daddario (THE CHOICE [2016], TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 3D [2013], PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF [2010], and the upcoming SAN ANDREAS 2, due out… who knows when), Kelly Rohrbach (TV show RIZZOLI & ISLES), Ilfenesh Hadera (CHI-RAQ [2015], OLD BOY [2013], and TV show MASTER OF NONE), Jon Bass (LOVING [2016], and TV shows THE NEWSROOM and GIRLS), and Rob Heubel (HOW TO BE A LATIN LOVER [2017], KEANU [2016], and THE OTHER GUYS [2010]).

Now for the crew. Directing is Seth Gordon, known for IDENTITY THIEF (2013), HORRIBLE BOSSES (2011), and TV show THE GOLDBERGS. Co-writing the script are Damian Shannon and Mark Swift (FRIDAY THE 13TH [2009] and FREDDY VS. JASON [2003]). Composing the score is Christopher Lennertz, known for SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE (2017), MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2 (2016), and video game MASS EFFECT 3. Finally, the cinematographer is Eric Steelberg, known for MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN (2014), UP IN THE AIR (2009), and JUNO (2007).

Overall… no. Just… just no.

This is my honest opinion of: BAYWATCH

(SUMMARY)

Baywatch are the elite lifeguards of the beach, and with the legendary Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) on constant watch, it’s no surprise. And with a few new recruits under his wing, including the cocky former Olympian Matt Brody (Zac Efron), which the two definitely don’t get along, Mitch is going to need all the help he can get. Turns out, not only is there a strong of illegal drugs being found on the beach, but dead bodies are turning up as well, and Mitch has a strong feeling that a locally famous businesswoman named Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra) may be involved somehow. But while the cops are bogged down by red tape, Mitch and his crew of lifeguards decide to take matters into their own hands and figure out why people are dying.

(REVIEW)

I admit that I think it’s better than I originally figured, but it’s still not good.

First off, I’m going to take a wild guess here. Even though the show was probably known for making fit men and women as eye-candy, I’m going to assume that it never really went over-the-top with it. The show was at its core, a drama. Which means that it took its content seriously. I won’t say the show was dark or didn’t have a sense of humor, I’m sure it had comedy laced throughout, but I highly doubt that it was the focus. I imagine the show was as if Sports Illustrated was a soap opera. Here… eh.

I’m calling it, I think this movie is more or less supposed to be a mockery of the Baywatch license. Clearly, this movie is exploiting its most famous elements: slow-mo titillating running featuring hot men and women. The problem is, it’s not a good mockery. It doesn’t make clever jokes. If you were told Hollywood was making a parody of Baywatch, what’s the first set of jokes that would come to mind? Someone comments on why characters appear in bullet-time, gratuitous shots of boobs and asses, it’s all bare-bones comedy and what you’d expect, and that’s not a good thing. If you can guess the jokes before they happen, or not be surprised by the jokes they use, then no one thought the jokes through. And tossing in raunchy words to earn that R-rating is both tacky and unnecessary. Believe it or not, comedy writers, swear words aren’t automatically funny. Yeah, if I can look at this movie and automatically know that this doesn’t do the original show justice despite having never seen the show in bulk, then you know there’s something wrong with the movie.

But how about I stop making comparisons between the movie and TV show because I can’t keep that up before someone starts calling me wrong and correcting me. Never mind that it’s a mostly unfunny comedy, you want to really know what lights a fire under my ass about this movie? It’s basically a buddy-cop film. I’m dead serious. This movie has every single one of those clichés. Angry captain, cop is assigned a new-guy partner that he doesn’t want, but forced to take him under his wing anyway, they don’t get along but eventually find common ground, one of them is a screw-up who can’t do anything right, they do things off the book and outside the law because the rule book gets in the way, and there’s no time to wait, with a few forced romances that you could give two craps about. Yeah, it’s all in this movie. Just replace “cop” with “lifeguard.”

Let’s get to the actual movie, shall we? The first problem arises when you learn that Mitch has had over 500 confirmed rescues in his career. Over 500?! This must be the most dangerous damn beach in the world if so many people need rescuing. Of course, isn’t the world record for most lifeguard saves over 900? What do I know, right? And not that I know anything about being a lifeguard, but there are still things about the profession presented here that seem way too ridiculous. In the establishing shots of the beach and Mitch’s skills, he sees a wind-surfer and immediately starts rushing in his direction to save him. Mind you, the surfer is not in any trouble yet. But as soon as he hits the wrong wave, that’s when he falls and needs saving, at which point, Mitch is already diving into the ocean after him. So, what, he’s so good that he can predict an accident before it even happens? Give me a break.

There’s admitted some jokes that I’m a bit iffy on. There’s a bit where Matt is staring at Summer’s (Alexandra Daddario) breasts. It’s obvious and they do this back and forth, “Are you staring at my boobs?” “I… was not.” “You so were.” At some point, Summer even bounces her boobs as a “test” to see if he was staring, to which he does, big surprise. I don’t know, this joke feels like a blow to women not being objectified and that a woman is pouring fuel on that fire feels particularly lame. But I suppose another argument could be that it’s still making fun of the stereotype of… I don’t know, men staring at a woman’s tits right in front of her. I don’t think it’s funny. Maybe if these two characters had a history and pre-established connection, this wouldn’t be a big deal, but it’s literally just a dude being a pig and a woman who almost finds his horniness charming. Hell, she falls for him in the end having done very little to earn her affections.

I also didn’t need to look at dead man penises, body fat going in Efron’s mouth – which, by the way, he has a mask and doesn’t put it on, the dumb-fuck -, a cross-dressing Efron that doesn’t make sense even in context of the scene, there’s just so much of this movie that doesn’t work.

Even some of the few good elements have inconsistencies to them. About the only character I enjoyed seeing on screen was usually Ronnie (Jon Bass), the token fat guy of the movie. One bit that got me howling with laughter was when he starts choking on food, then his long-time crush C.J. (Kelly Rohrbach) gives him the Heimlich maneuver, saving his life. After a slow-mo shot of her ass looking like she’s humping him, it’s pointed out that he has an erection. For whatever reason, I laughed so hard when he realized what was happening and then he belly-flopped into a wooden beach chair, but his erection was so hard that his penis broke through the wood and he got stuck. There’s a good two to three minutes of just making fun of his pain and it’s hilarious. I’m usually not a fan of this type of humor, but Bass really sells his misery and it’s amazing to watch.

There’s another scene where he’s showering in the nude singing what I can only assume is a Katy Perry song and then C.J. walks in and he starts freaking out. Turns out, Ronnie didn’t realize that the showers are co-ed and as he uncomfortably tries to pass himself off as cool and show that he’s comfortable with showing her his penis, she laughs at him and tells him that everyone showers with their suits on. Most of the comedy is on Bass’ shoulders and he has some pretty rich reactions to everything that he doesn’t want to do.

But of course, even Ronnie is written inconsistently. He has a scene where he dances all impressively with Leeds, which confuses me. I would think anyone that can dance like that wouldn’t have a single problem talking to women. Oh, but did I forget to mention that the first time he interacts with C.J. in the movie? Yeah, get this, he does that cliché where he can’t speak a single word. I really hate nerdy characters who can’t talk to hot women. It’s an old and tiring trope. But I especially hate it when it’s a character who has something that would otherwise inspire a little self-confidence, such as dancing really well, isn’t enough to get him to break out of his own bubble.

Overall, I don’t like this movie. I guess I’m not too angry with it because I didn’t think I’d enjoy it anyway, and I didn’t expect it to be good. I admit, a few gags got me laughing, but a comedy needs to be funny for the duration of the story and I need to be invested in the characters. It’s not funny, and I don’t care what happens to these characters, so I can’t enjoy it. If you like raunchy, by-the-numbers buddy-cop flicks, then I guess you’ll be fine. But if you’re anything like me and you prefer your comedies with a brain and some out-of-the-box creativity, then this isn’t for you. I guess if you’re uber curious, make it a rental, but not in theaters.

My honest rating for BAYWATCH: 2/5

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WILSON and CHIPS quick reviews

Hey guys, sorry for the delay on these. Damn video games got me addicted again. But that’s all tucked away now and I’ll be getting back on track soon.

Because it’s officially been a couple weeks since I’ve seen these last two films, and the memory of them is fading a tad, so I don’t think I’ll be able to reliably give an in depth opinion like usual. But I’ll try to get my opinions of them across enough to give you a good idea of how I felt about them.

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(SUMMARY)

The story’s about this socially awkward kind of loser, Wilson (Woody Harrelson) who thinks he’s got life figured out, but he’s really annoying to the people around and a general negative-Nelly. He then gets in touch with his ex-wife Pippi (Laura Dern) and finds out the child he thought she aborted is actually alive and well somewhere in the world. Overjoyed, he goes on a search for his long lost daughter Claire (Isabella Amara). He tries to develop a relationship with her while learning about life.

Directed by Craig Johnson (THE SKELETON TWINS [2014])
Written by Daniel Clowes (wrote the comic)
Composed by Jon Brion (TRAINWRECK [2015], PARANORMAN [2012], and THE OTHER GUYS [2010])
Cinematography by Ferderick Elmes (PATERSON [2016], BROTHERS [2009], and Micheal Jackson’s MOONWALKER [1988])

(REVIEW)

It’s alright. Not as good as I was hoping.

Harrelson is usually a reliably great actor, and I’d be lying if there wasn’t some genuinely funny and even touching moments, but Wilson is ass-annoying. Though he usually means well, he’s a little too mean-spirited at times to fully allow me to be invested in him and his struggles. Dern on the other hand is amazing as usual. In fact, Harrelson is at his best when he’s bouncing off of Dern. They’re hilarious together. Amara’s a solid actress, and there’s some pretty decent physical humor, but overall, many of the jokes either fall flat, or it’s a story that has a resolution that you can see coming miles away. It’s not very original and doesn’t really do anything that fresh with its own material. I’m really curious to know how faithful it is to the comic book it’s based on, if it’s a little smarter, funnier, and more poignant, but this movie wasn’t. Not bad, by any means, but just not as good as it might have looked.

My honest rating for WILSON: 3/5

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(SUMMARY)

Jon (Dax Shepard) is a former motocross athlete who wants to be a cop to impress his girlfriend who has been distant since his injury. Frank (Michael Peña) is an FBI agent who has to go under cover to root out dirty cops. The two of them end up partnered and don’t get along, but have to learn to work together to get the bad guys.

Directed and written by Dax Shepard (HIT AND RUN [2012], BROTHER’S JUSTICE [2009], and slated to write and direct the reboot SCOOBY-DOO [2018])
Composed by Fil Eisler (HOW TO BE SINGLE [2016], and TV shows EMPIRE and REVENGE)
Cinematography by Mitchell Amundsen (RIDE ALONG 2 [2016], NOW YOU SEE ME [2013], and G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA [2009])

(REVIEW)

Ugh! It’s so bad!

I never saw the original show, so I can’t make comparisons, but taking a wild fucking guess here, it’s nothing like this movie. This movie is obsessed with jokes about rim-jobs, masturbation, and objectifying women left and right. What part of this R-rated comedy was for adults, when it’s laced in juvenile humor? That’s literally all this movie is and I usually really like Peña as an actor. He’s done great work in both comedic and dramatic roles, but this was soul-crushing. Shepard is popular on TV enough, but man, his film roles have rarely been good. He can direct well enough, I give him credit in that, but he cannot write worth a damn. He doesn’t tell good jokes, nor does he write good characters. Actually, I take that back, he can write good characters. I can look at what’s been presented and I can see what he was going for, but he never once made me legitimately care for any of them, least of all Peña’s character. I suppose the only fun thing about the movie is Vincent D’Onofrio as the villain, who is so over-the-top evil that it’s pretty enjoyable. Maybe one or two jokes work, but they’re so far inbetween that watching this movie was a chore.

My honest rating for CHIPS: 2/5

GHOST IN THE SHELL review

Oh boy… there’s probably a lot to talk about, isn’t there?

Well, I guess I should talk about the movie that this originated from. For those of you not in the know, this is an American remake of a Japanese animated movie. Same name. Way back in 1995. It’s arguably one of the most famous anime films ever made. Complex, even challenging ideas, it’s steampunk sci-fi aesthetics, it’s beloved by most anyone who has ever seen it, especially by anime fans. Furthermore, the movie is also considered to be highly influential. Just how influential, you may ask? It heavily inspired the arguably more famous and beloved 1999 film THE MATRIX. Watch the original GHOST IN THE SHELL (1995) and you will notice a staggering amount of similarities and if you were anything like me, you’ll finally understand why so many audiences… liked, even loved, THE MATRIX, it’s not an original movie.

What was my take on the original? Er… that was pretty much it. I remember that it was basically THE MATRIX before THE MATRIX and… very little else. I admit to practically growing up on THE MATRIX, so I will naturally remember that movie a little more. While I have indeed seen the original GHOST IN THE SHELL, I don’t recall much of its story or characters, or anything for that matter. So going in to its remake, I have very little to compare it to. Maybe that’s a good thing considering all you potential fans have developed your own feelings about it by now. However you want to spin it, I only saw the original film once and I don’t remember it very well.

So… what were my impressions of this movie before seeing it? It looked like a visual trip, but a pretty underwhelming type of story. Initial impressions, like I said, but it looked interesting enough that it was the most anticipated movie of the week for me. I wasn’t expecting anything… great, but I figured the visuals would hold me over.

Okay, star power. Controversially starring is Scarlett Johansson (SING [2016], CHEF [2014], THE AVENGERS [2012], and upcoming films ROUGH NIGHT [2017] and AVENGERS: INFINITY WARS [2018]). Yup, I guess it’s best to talk about that controversy. The film received a sizable amount of backlash after a white woman was cast in a role meant for a Japanese actress. Of course, were I to take a wild guess, most of the hate comes from anime crazies who need everything to be PC these days. How do I feel about it? Well, to my understanding, the only group that seemed to be okay with the casting are the people from that little country that I’m sure no one’s heard of: the Japanese. Seriously, check out this video on Youtube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DhoBuU1Dtc

If you wanted me to comment on the whitewashing, it depends on the manner in which you ask me. Am I outraged simply because the character isn’t played by a Japanese woman? No. Actors act and if they can bring something that resembles, or improves upon the character originally portrayed, then anyone can play the role so long as the role is written well and the actor does it justice. My outrage would come from the reasons why Johansson was cast as opposed to a Japanese female. Did a Japanese female audition for the role, but was deemed less talented than Johansson? Or was Johansson just unanimously given the role without even considering to cast someone of ethnicity? If that was the case, yes, this is America and Hollywood needs to open their minds to better marketing and not relying solely on star power. But I don’t know the details of the decision-making, I haven’t looked into it either, nor would I be able to believe any interviewee that would deny it, so it’s pure speculation and I won’t comment on something that I technically don’t know anything about. In any case, Johansson… meh, indifferent. Other talents include Pilou Asbæk (THE GREAT WALL [2017], BEN-HUR [2016], and LUCY [2014]), Juliette Binoche (THE 33 [2015], GODZILLA [2014], and DAN IN REAL LIFE [2007]), Michael Pitt (CRIMINAL [2016], MURDER BY NUMBERS [2002], and TV show BOARDWALK EMPIRE), and Peter Ferdinando (300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE [2014], SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN [2012], and the upcoming KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD [2017]).

Now for the crew. Directing is Rupert Sanders, known for SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN. Red Flag alert! There are three writers attached to this: Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, and Ehren Kruger. Moss is known for STREET KINGS (2008) and is slated for the upcoming SAFE HOUSE 2, due out… who knows when. Wheeler is known for QUEEN OF KATWE (2016), THE HOAX (2006), and the upcoming LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE (2017). Finally, Kruger is known for TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION (2014), THE BROTHERS GRIMM (2005), THE RING (2002), and the upcoming live-action remake of DUMBO, due out… some time in the future. Co-composing the music are Lorne Balfe and Clint Mansell. Balfe is known for THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE (2017), 13 HOURS (2016), and TERMINATOR GENISYS (2015), and Mansell is known for NOAH (2014), BLACK SWAN (2010), and video game MASS EFFECT 3. Finally, the cinematographer is Jess Hall, known for TRANSCENDENCE (2014), THE SWITCH (2010), and HOT FUZZ (2007).

So… how was it? How did this movie hold up to my expectations?

This is my honest opinion of: GHOST IN THE SHELL

(SUMMARY)

Major (Scarlett Johansson) suffered a near fatal accident that destroyed her human body, but her brain was transplanted into a robotic one, the first of her kind, and one year later, serves as a respected officer of law enforcement. After some important people are murdered by hacked robots, Major and her partner Batou (Pilou Asbæk) are tasked with hunting down Kuze (Michael Pitt), the hacker responsible for the deaths, all the while rediscovering her unknown past and questioning if she’s more machine than human.

(REVIEW)

Remember how THE MATRIX borrowed a ton of stuff from the original GHOST IN THE SHELL? Well, this one borrowed a ton of stuff from THE DARK KNIGHT (2009). Almost uncomfortably so. Hell, the opening scene is straight up from from that scene when Batman goes to Japan to bring that dude back to Gotham. On top of a huge skyscraper in a Japan-like setting, looking down on the group of bad guys who are in another building, jumps, and crashes through a window to kick some ass. Hell, it even borrowed from DARK KNIGHT’s climax with a sonar/virtual fly-through of the building under attack shown through a pair of eyewear, getting fed info from an old man not in the vicinity. It’s… really bizarre.

In fact, most of the problems with the movie are plain as day in that first scene and will sum up the rest of the film. The setting looks like BLADE RUNNER (1982), you have characters jumping off tall buildings like in every superhero film, cliché lines like, “We’re two minutes away,” “No time, have to go now or innocents die,” and a ton of slow-mo. It’s not poorly done, and mercifully, you can follow the action. Although, my complaint here is that the action presented to us doesn’t really need it. In fact, it would have provided something more visceral and intense if it was shot in normal speed. It was choreographed and shot well enough to warrant it, but whatever. Hell, even it’s own theme of, “What does it mean to be human” has nothing new to it. If you’ve seen any movie with machines acting like people, or anything of that nature, then this theme has been tackled in much better movies. TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (1991) anyone?

Now for Johansson. I didn’t care for her in this. Don’t get me wrong, she’s by no means a bad actress and she’s not even bad here. But she’s not great either. She’s passable. You need her to look good shooting a gun? She’ll look good blowing a head off. Need her to look good punching a dude in the face? She’ll kick some ass. Need her to look good kinda naked? She’ll look good doin’ that too. I have no problems with watching her on screen being an action star, but as far as bringing any drama or emotional intensity to the role, she is given nothing. Obviously, I don’t blame her for this, this is a result of mediocre writing, but this is a role that could have been played by anybody. Johannson does well enough to not be bad, but it’s only a step up above LUCY (2014), which wasn’t amazing either. Anybody could have played this role, so I don’t think she’s anything to write home about.

That’s another big issue with this movie. The characters are thin. Major: she questions her humanity. Looks at a machine and wonders what the difference is between her and it. Batou: he’s Major’s partner. Okay… good for him? Doctor Ouelet: she cares about Major like a daughter. Nice idea, but doesn’t play into much. Cutter, the villain: he’s… a dick. Well gee wiz, son, I’ve never seen a villain who had diabolical intentions. It’s not an impressive cast of characters. Again, no one delivers a bad performance, but no one delivers a stellar performance either. No one’s fault, it’s entirely the fault of the script, but it’s a shame.

No originality, nearly no standout performances, a story recycled like nobody’s business, and if I can spot continuity errors – seriously, there’s a moment where a guy is leaning on a desk, propping himself up on his knuckles, next shot, his hand is flat, next shot, on his knuckles again – you know your movie is screwed. So with that said, does anything save the movie? Well, some things are worth noting.

For one thing, yeah, the visuals aren’t new, but by God, they look astounding. The visuals are amazing to look at. But more importantly there a staggering amount of practical effects that really should be appreciated. In most sci-fi movies of this caliber, it’d be way too easy to make everything digital and computer generated. But this movie didn’t do that, and that’s to be respected for their above and beyond approach.

Also, my favorite part of the movie, Pitt as Kuze. He’s a character who was a failed version of Major who wants revenge. Again, the make-up on the guy is awesome and his speech is chilling. He also doesn’t really conduct himself like a bad-guy. You can tell there’s a great tragedy and sadness about him and you almost want to see him achieve his goals. It’s a pretty well-executed performance and I loved it.

But other than that, this isn’t a very good movie. I’m sure I’d hate it if I were to revisit the original, but as it stands, I can’t act like this is the most god-awful film, but it’s so bland and standard for the most part and I can’t say that I cared for it. If you wanted a standard sci-fi action movie, then that’s what you’ll get. But if you wanted something smart and even up there with ground-breaking, then this is definitely not for you. I say it’s not worth seeing in theaters. Maybe a rent if you’re that curious, but you’re not missing out.

My honest rating for GHOST IN THE SHELL: a weak 3/5

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BEAUTY AND THE BEAST review

And the live-action Disney remakes just keep on coming.

How many does this make now? MALEFICENT (2014), CINDERELLA (2015), two Snow White films – actually, neither of those were Disney, so never mind – PETE’S DRAGON (2016), kind of, and due out later this year, THE LITTLE MERMAID (2017)? Among others that I haven’t heard of. Some of these have been good, some have been mixed, and some have been bad. The classic animated films are hard to beat, but it’s hard to deny the effort put in to updating them. Now we have the latest attempt for arguably their most well-known classic that was nominated for Best Picture, back in the day.

This, to be fair, looks promising and faithful to the original, but I can see where the skeptics are coming from when they say that this doesn’t look any different from the animated version. I guess we’ll see.

It’s an ensemble cast, so let’s get started. Starring, we have the ever inspiring and talented, Emma Watson (the Harry Potter franchise, NOAH [2014], THIS IS THE END [2013], and the upcoming THE CIRCLE [2017]). Arguably the most successful of the Harry Potter alums, as well as a frequent soldier of feminism, she’s undeniably a great and talented actress. While she’s not the name that automatically guarantees my butt in a theater seat, she’s always a welcomed talent. I probably say that a lot, don’t I? Oh well. Next up is Dan Stevens (NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM 3 [2014], A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES [2014], TV show LEGION, and the upcoming COLOSSAL [2017]). I’m not familiar with him, but I guess I will be now. Among many others, we also have Luke Evans (THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN [2016], THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES [2014], and FAST & FURIOUS 6 [2013]), Josh Gad (A DOG’S PURPOSE [2017], THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE [2016], and FROZEN [2013]), Ewan McGregor (MILES AHEAD [2016], the Star Wars prequels, and TV show FARGO), and Emma Thompson (BRIDGET JONES’S BABY [2016], SAVING MR. BANKS [2013], and MEN IN BLACK 3 [2012]).

Now for the crew. Helming the film is Bill Condon, known for MR. HOLMES (2015), THE FIFTH ESTATE (2013), and DREAMGIRLS (2006). Co-writing the screenplay, we have Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos. Chbosky is known for THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER (2012), RENT (2005), and TV show JERICHO, and Spiliotopoulos is known for THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR (2016), HERCULES (2014), and BATTLE FOR TERRA (2007). Composing the score is Alan Menken, known for TANGLED (2010), and… oh wow, check this out. He also did the score for the animated BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991), THE LITTLE MERMAID (1989), and is slated to compose the score for the upcoming live-action remake of THE LITTLE MERMAID (2017). Dude, that’s so cool! Finally, the cinematographer is Tobias A. Schliesseler, known for PATRIOTS DAY (2016), LONE SURVIVOR (2013), and BATTLESHIP (2012).

Overall, this looks like the same movie I’d seen before. It doesn’t look bad, but it looks suspiciously too similar. I can’t say I’m not looking forward to this, but I’ll just have to wait and see.

This is my honest opinion of: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

(SUMMARY)

Years ago, a selfish Prince (Dan Stevens) was cursed by being transformed into a monstrous beast. In the present day, the nearby townsfolk have since forgotten the Prince and his castle and moved on with their provincial lives. Only one seems to stand out: Belle (Emma Watson). She’s considered odd among the villagers for being literate and takes pride in her ways. Few have caught her eye in an affectionate way, except for the town war hero, Gaston (Luke Evans). About as  egotistical and self-centered as they come, he wants nothing but Belle’s hand in marriage. But of course, Belle wants nothing to do with him; but to live in peace and find more to her life than what’s been given. However, one fateful night as her father Maurice (Kevin Kline) goes to the city, he encounters wolves that chase him off the road, where he finds the hidden castle. He attempts to stay in shelter, but he discovers that the castle’s former servants had been turned into living common household items and runs out frightened. But he’s captured by the Beast and held prisoner. Belle sets out to find her father and soon encounters the Beast as well, trading her freedom for her father’s. Soon begins a tale of romance and redemption that will become the beloved tale that’s as old as time.

(REVIEW)

Oh boy, I can just see it now. “It’s nothing we haven’t seen before!” “It’s utterly pointless!” And… it’s hard to argue that. As in, I don’t think it can be argued. There really isn’t anything new in this movie and what is new is useless to the overall story. Having said that, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy myself and didn’t have a big ole smile on my face for much of the runtime.

Let’s start with the most glaring problems with the movie: the expanded stories.

Now, I won’t pretend to have seen the animated film in recent years, but I like to think I remembered enough. So if I’m not mistaken, the opening for animated film was basically a two minute intro, explaining the prince and his selfish ways, the curse placed upon him, the rose, all that stuff. But it was explained through glass imagery. In this one, its intro takes up maybe ten minutes! What did they do with that amount of time? Tell us the exact same thing that the animated movie did with a fraction of that time. You see the Prince in his silly make-up, the rich-people parties he threw, the enchantress that disguised herself as a peasant woman trying to find shelter out of the storm, only to be turned away, and then she turns him into the beast, and oh my lord, get a move on, already! If no one knows this story, which, there will be kids out there who don’t, they don’t need everything acted out. Just give them the bare-bones basics and that’s all anyone will really need.

Also, the enchantress was little more than a mention in Disney’s original. In this one, she’s given a full-blown character. Eh… sort of. Imagine for a moment that Cinderella’s fairy godmother did nothing more than show up, said nothing, waved her wand, and sent Cinderella on her way to the Prince’s ball, except instead of showing up for one scene of saying nothing, she shows up twice to say nothing. That’s the enchantress. What is the point of having a new character in the mix if nothing is going to be done with it? She has no voice, no character, no nothing. The whole purpose of a remake is to expand on and or add on to what is established that provide something more interesting, or deeper insight into the characters or story. Instead, everything that’s new serves no purpose other than fluff, and remakes of this caliber deserve better than that.

I’ll swing back around to the add-ons in my spoiler section, but let’s move on.

There’s also a few oddities that weren’t updated for whatever reason. The story takes place in France, yet everyone speaks with a British accent. I know the original did that, but I suppose you forgive it because it’s more directed toward kids. So if the majority of the characters speak with French accents, there might be a dialect-barrier preventing kids from following everything that the characters would be saying. You could argue that this movie would have a similar effect, but that level of authenticity – or effort – for a remake would have gone a long way to show something different, especially since Lumière is the only one with a French accent. Yeah, I follow that logic. In a French village, only one candlestick speaks with a French dialect. Got it, Disney.

And Gaston. Some mixed feelings here, but I’ll start with what I didn’t like. Gaston in the original is a big dude. Ripped. Muscles on his muscles. When you see him lifting a chair with two people sitting on it in each arm, you have no problems believing that. Also, you know, animation, but that aside, it makes sense for how the character is built. However, when they do something like that here… look, I believe that Evans is a fit and athletic dude. But Gaston in the original at least looked like he was a legit contender in strength against the Beast. Gaston here is… just smarmy and self-centered, instead of a physical threatening presence.

***SPOILERS***

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And now for Belle’s backstory. Now, there is a point of humor that follows Disney films that there’s always at least one dead parent, or one that’s randomly not in the picture for insert reason here. Well, apparently someone thought that Belle’s mother should have a reason for not being there. Alright, not a bad idea and could provide something interesting for the character, but there’s also some disadvantages simply on arrival. First off, the focus of the story is on Belle and the Beast. Where could you possibly organically insert Belle’s mother into the mix and not have it feel awkward? The original did just fine without that element. Sadly, that is exactly the case. There’s probably a grand total of ten lines of dialog involving Belle’s mother. It’s not a very strong subject for her. Going back to my KONG: SKULL ISLAND (2017) review, if you took out this backstory, nothing is really lost from the character. Much like Kong who lost his parents, it’s not a backstory that really affects Belle. Nothing she does is in relation to the mother she never met. What I think could have impacted the character more would have been if Belle’s love of books was because her mother was a school teacher in literature and left many books to her when she died. A clever writer would have made those books reflect stories about mothers and daughters, or strong and independent women who changed their world, you know, something to reflect Belle’s personality that we already know. But that’s not what they do. They just reference her and show that she died of a plague. Wow. Drama for drama sake. Gotta love it.

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***END SPOILERS***

But before anyone thinks that I have only bad to say about it, think again, for there’s just as much good to say.

I’ll make good on continuing with my thoughts on Gaston, just to close out the subject. I like Evans as an actor and despite his physique not being what I imagined for Gaston, Evans has the man’s personality down to a tee. He has a smug grin that makes me want to punch him in his perfectly chiseled face and want to vomit in an expensive vase any time he gives a half-hearted compliment, and I mean all of this in the best possible way. Evans’ depiction is fantastic, almost on par with the original. He’s funny, he’s charming, he’s threatening, he’s annoying, major kudos.

But let’s get to the heart of the story: our beauty and the beast. Ladies first, Watson is actually pretty damn solid and is damn near perfect for the part. I especially like certain little touches with her character. There’s this quick, five second scene showing Belle teaching a little girl to read, only to be interrupted by the girl’s parents and scolding Belle for trying to make another literate female in the village. It only lasts a few seconds, but my gosh, that’s a movie moment. I thought it was too adorable. I could easily believe someone if they told me that scene was only added so Watson could get her “pro-feminism” moment on screen, but I don’t care. It was cute, and I liked it. Also, one of my favorite updates to the character is how she does take a subtle proverbial hit or two from all the mean things the villagers say about her. I remember in the original, she simply ignored what people said and continued on merry way. Thing is, while that can be fine for an animated movie, it might be a tad unrealistic in a live-action. I don’t know about the rest of you, but words definitely take a tole on you. Everyone has a sliding scale of how much it affects us, but it does. I enjoy that she is affected by it. She asks her father if she’s odd, and she has this pretty good line when she’s talking to Beast, that she felt: “…almost as lonely as being in your castle.” Paraphrasing of course, but I enjoyed the idea that sparked in my mind. In the castle, with the notable exception of the living furniture, the castle is remarkably empty. No people around at all. In the village, it’s bustling with activity and people interacting with each other. You couldn’t stretch your arm out without karate chopping someone. But each setting has its advantages and disadvantages. In the village, the hundreds of people that are there, like, people-people. But they’re nasty toward Belle, making her out to be an outsider. I can see someone being lonely in a crowd like that. On the flip side, Belle’s main source of social interaction is with a wardrobe and fine china, where she’s essentially a prisoner. Despite being treated fairly by them, I can see that being a little jarring as well, not interacting with an actual human being. You see that her loneliness isn’t her favorite adjective to describe herself, but she seems to know it’s not quite her fault. She’s just ahead of her time in the village and these close-minded people aren’t caught up with her mentality yet. And she’s not used to magic being a real thing in the castle, so adjustment would definitely be required. And… dang, that voice of hers. Watson’s got a set of lungs that keeps you listening.

Actually, this is probably a quick subject to tackle. To my understanding, there are no stand-in singers for the actors. That really is Watson and Stevens singing. That really is Evans singing. That really is Josh Gad singing. All of it was their voices. Not always live, granted. Some of it is pre-recorded and the film-makers used whatever came out better, and I’m sure it’s obvious to those who have the ears to catch that sort of thing, but I was impressed with how good everyone sounded. I really hope there wasn’t too much modification to their voices, otherwise, I’ll be really depressed.

http://www.cinemablend.com/new/How-Much-Beauty-Beast-Singing-Actually-Live-82787.html

And now it’s probably time to address the big “controversy” surrounding the film: a character being openly homosexual. Um… the controversy is stupid. Gay people exist. It’s 2017, the majority of us should be okay with this by now. So… yeah, controversy addressed. Moving on.

Fine fine, I won’t be that nonchalant about it, but really, could you blame me if I was? It really is 2017. While most audiences have been okay, even celebratory, about Disney making such a character, there’s been some who have been less than accepting. In fact, they’ve been so abrasiveness toward the idea that a movie theater in Alabama boycotted the film. Religious beliefs and what have you. Maybe it’s because I live in the Los Angeles area where this sort of thing doesn’t matter, but how in the world does religious beliefs affect a business?! Ugh! A couple of links below if you’re interested in details.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/03/us/theater-shuns-disney-beauty-over-gay-moment/

http://www.vox.com/culture/2017/3/17/14941370/beauty-and-the-beast-boycott-gay-lefou

I know full-well that there’s plenty of religious folks out there who know this story and are phenomenally opposed to what this theater did and wholeheartedly accept that there’s a gay person in this movie. But never mind that, Disney is clearly showing that’s it’s evolving with the times. We’re getting more ethnic protagonists, and now we have an openly gay side character. You could even argue Disney created its first cross-dresser in STITCH! THE MOVIE (2003) I remember a petition going around that in Disney’s sequel to FROZEN (2013), Elsa should come out as gay and have a girlfriend. The point I’m trying to make is that those specific religious nutballs need to evolve past their beliefs and acknowledge that Disney is most likely going to keep doing this. They’re going to keep pushing the boundaries of what content they want to show and make normal for kids – and adults, for that matter – as time goes on. The current generation should always hope that the next will make more advances in humanity to root out those that would otherwise prefer to stay in their bubble of exclusivity and narrow-mindedness, otherwise, in the not too distant future, there could be an entire group of children that won’t be able to share these experiences with their peers who will grow up accepting what Disney is trying to normalize. Disney is leaving doors open and building new ones that thankfully, millions upon billions of movie-goers around the globe are eager to walk through.

But now for LaFou himself. Just because his character is gay doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s a well-written character, now does it? Well… since this is the positives section of my review, so… actually, this is a nice update to the character. Once again, I haven’t seen the original in some time. I genuinely forgot who LaFou was. If you told me that Gaston had a funny little side-kick, I would have probably remembered that. But I wouldn’t remember his name, or his personality. He was a horribly forgetful side-character. LaFou here is much more clearly defined. He’s loyal and devoted to Gaston, as well as has an enormous crush. And though I myself am a flaming heterosexual… yeah, Evans is a good-looking dude. But in all seriousness, he’s not some bumbling henchman. He has thoughts of his own. When Gaston does something particularly nasty, LaFou won’t be completely okay with it. But he knows that Gaston is a force to be reckoned with, so out of fear, he won’t speak out against his actions. So there is a complexity to the LaFou that I doubt was there in the original. Also, Gad’s hilarious. I think this is my favorite performance by him and you can tell that he is having a blast playing this character. A big thumbs up on this alone.

I think I missed out on talking about Beast, so I’ll quickly tackle him. He’s played pretty safe. Nothing really new. But he looks great. Not much more to say. But overall, I think this movie is worth watching. Objectively speaking, the more important additions that should have had more impact on the story and characters are utterly pointless. Some updates work, even quite well, but don’t ultimately add anything to the story at large. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a good time watching this movie. It does capture the energy and imagination of the original and definitely took me back to when I was a kid. I recommend it to kids and adults, but if you were hoping for something new and inventive, it’s pretty devoid of all that. But if all you wanted was a live-action version of the original, I think you’ll get exactly that. I saw it once, but I’d be open to seeing it again.

My honest rating for BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: a strong 3/5

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THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN review

Hey, a remake! You never see those anymore. Like… ever.

So yeah, if I know anything about remakes this is actually not the first time the story of The Magnificent Seven’s been told. Most know it’s a remake of the 1960 film of the same name, which was an American remake of the 1954 Japanese film, SEVEN SAMURAI. Um… yeah, I haven’t seen either, but I’ve always wanted to see SEVEN SAMURAI.

I’m looking at this movie and I’m thinking it’s going to be alright. Maybe nothing to write home about, but could be a fun little western. And you can’t deny the cast is pretty star-studded. Denzel Washington (THE EQUALIZER [2014], TRAINING DAY [2001], and MAN ON FIRE [2004]), Chris Pratt (JURASSIC WORLD [2015], GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY [2014], and the TV show PARKS AND REC), Ethan Hawke (BOYHOOD [2014], THE PURGE [2013], and GATTACA [1997]), Vincent D’Onofrio (JURASSIC WORLD [2014], FULL METAL JACKET [1987], and TV show DAREDEVIL), Byung-hun Lee (TERMINATOR GENISYS [2015], the G.I. Joe movies, RED 2 [2013]), and the list goes on. Now that I’m looking at it, this is a movie of reunions, isn’t it? Washington and Hawke, Pratt and D’Onofrio, kinda funny if you ask me.

Now for the crew. Directing is Antoine Fuqua. He’s done films like SOUTHPAW (2015), THE EQUALIZER (2014), and OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN (2013). This movie has two writers: Richard Wenk and Nic Pizzolatto. Wenk has written THE EQUALIZER (2014), THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012), and THE MECHANIC (2011). Pizzolatto is pretty new to the writing scene, this being his film debut – congrats, dude – but he has done TV shows, mostly the highly popular TRUE DETECTIVE, but he also wrote a couple episodes of THE KILLING. While the film has two composers, one of whom Simon Franglen, who usually isn’t a composer at all, but does work in the music area of the industry, the other is the late amazing James Horner, making this his final film. Maybe not as mainstream popular as say, Hans Zimmer or John Williams, but he’s done some truly incredible work for some big, big movies. AVATAR (2009), TROY (2004), TITANIC (1997), BRAVEHEART (1995), THE LAND BEFORE TIME (1988), the list goes on and on. Finally, the cinematographer for the movie is Mauro Fiore. He’s worked on SOUTHPAW, THE EQUALIZER, AVATAR, yeah, holy shit this movie is a reunion-fest. In any case, may he rest in peace.

In any case, I think we could be seeing a quality movie. Maybe nothing great, I’m not really expecting that, but I think it could be fun and more than enjoyable. I guess we’ll see. This is my honest opinion of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN.

(SUMMARY)

The small town of Rose Creek has been taken over by a rich and powerful man named Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). The moment the town congregates in the town church to debate what should be done about it, he comes in, burns the church down, and kills Matthew Cullen (Matt Bomer), the husband of Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett). This spurs her to seek out anyone that might help her and her town drive out Bogue and his men. That help comes in the form of seven men: a truant officer named Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), a suave gambler, Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), a former Confederate sharpshooter named Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), a religious tracker, Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), a Korean knife expert, Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), a Mexican outlaw, Vazquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and a Comanche hunter, Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier).

(REVIEW)

Not bad. Not bad at all. The long and short is if you were looking for a movie with cowboys doing cowboy things, dual wielding pistols, dudes getting thrown through windows, drinking and laughing with some likable characters, that’s exactly what you’ll get. But if you’re looking for something new and innovative, I’d say you won’t get much bang for your buck.

As you can imagine, the talent is about as amazing as it looks. Washington is about as Denzel as he’s always been. Spouting wise words at a somber volume, occasionally with a smile that charms men and women alike, all while having a violent and mysterious past. You know, doing exactly what you hire the man to do. Pratt… shit, this man was born to be a cowboy. You could make the argument that’s exactly what he kind of was in GUARDIANS, an unpopular, yet charming outlaw wielding two guns alongside a group of other outlaws, but somehow this was equally fitting. Please, more westerns with Pratt. This was a cinematic gift.

Unfortunately, there’s one weakness in the characters that we were given. Because the cast is so extensive, I didn’t feel like we were given enough time to get to know them. At all really. With Washington and Pratt, you can kind of get away with that. They’re charismatic enough to be watchable with little depth to who they are. But characters like Goodnight, he just barely misses being in the same ball park as Sam and Josh. Hawke is a fine actor, don’t get me wrong, but what makes his character a miss for me is because he’s probably written to be the most interesting or sympathetic of the seven. A former Confederate sharpshooter, haunted by all the killing and violence, helps a Korean man struggling to adapt to western culture and treats him very well, even becoming close friends, there’s clearly a great character there. But because there’s seven main heroes, including a villain and supporting characters, Goodnight is given the most vague of reasons for his trauma. Now, this can be hit or miss for some audiences. You know, less is more, sort of mentality. For me though, a character this interesting and complex deserves more depth.

However, characters like Jack, Red Harvest, Vazquez, and Billy are too under-developed and definitely deserved some real screen time so we could get to know them. They sort of feel like they’re just there to round out the cast. I suppose you could argue that their banter makes up for it. I like how Josh and Vazquez are constantly giving each other shit and making fun of each other, or how Jack goads Red into speaking English. Those moments are admittedly pretty funny.

Another problem I had was the villain. At first, Bogue is built up to be a despicable guy. He scares the crap out of the kid, and then straight-up murders Emma’s husband Matthew (Matt Bomer) for trying to help an injured man and back-talking to him. Not only that, but murdering a bunch of other people that either try to fight back or flee the scene. And just before you think he couldn’t get any worse, he tells his men to let the bodies stay in the streets for a few days so the townspeople can stare at them for awhile. This was actually a pretty effective way to make the audience hate him. Here’s the problem. After that scene, he’s gone from the movie until the last half hour. None of that is built upon to make him more suave, or smart, or anything more than a glorified thug that got the most screen time.

Man, I feel like I’ve ripped into this movie more than talked about it’s good aspects. But I guess that’s the big thing about it. The good stuff is more like… what you’d expect anyway. If you make a western and you don’t get gun-slinging, wise-cracking action, then it essentially fails as a western. I don’t think this is a failure, but it’s not the most stand-out of its genre either, apart from it’s incredible talent. If you’re not looking for anything progressive or ground-breaking, I’d say you’ll do fine. But if you are, I might recommend the neo-western HELL OR HIGH WATER (2016), staring Chris Pine, Ben Foster, and Jeff Bridges instead. As it is, I had enough fun with it to say that I’d be open to it. It’s no timeless tale, but it’s got enough humor and action to carry it through.

My honest rating for THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN: a strong 3/5

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NO MANCHES FRIDA review

So here’s a different film for me to review. A true-to-form foreign film. I’m pretty sure I haven’t reviewed one at all this year. I doubt this year’s A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS really counts as it was written, directed, and did star an American actress and film-maker. No, this is straight-up a Mexican film, made by a Mexican film company, starring Mexicans. Wow, I’m probably acting like I’ve never heard of this before, but what astounds me is that I literally haven’t reviewed a foreign film… at all this year. It feels weird to me.

But oh well, apparently, this particular comedy has a bit of history to it. It’s actually a remake (jeez, even Mexico is running out of ideas) of a 2013 German comedy called FACK JU GÖHTE, translating(?) to: “Fuck you, Goethe,” (Goethe = German poet Johann Wolfgang [von] Goethe… I think). Or according to IMDb, the American title is “Suck Me, Shakespeer.” To be honest, I’m trying to make sense of this title myself, but it’s all sort of confusing to me. I don’t speak German. Cue a “waa waa.” Might wanna cue a second one actually because I have no idea what “No manches Frida” translates to. Yeah yeah, you’ll look at my profile picture and see a Hispanic/Latino guy, but I never learned Spanish. How did ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK put it? I’m a “coconut.”

I knew this movie had been out for a bit now. Since Labor Day, I believe. But I guess I wasn’t interested in paying for a foreign film that I knew nothing about. No trailers, no TV spots, no articles online, nothing but a cardboard poster in the dark corner of the second floor of the movie theatre it’s playing in. Couldn’t be too impressive. But I found myself in a unique position to see it for free, so I took advantage.

I can’t exactly talk about the cast or the crew, as I wouldn’t be familiar with anyone’s work. I don’t keep up with foreign films unless they generate enough buzz to be released in America. Although I guess it might be fun to acknowledge the film’s actress Martha Higareda, who has been in a few American projects before, like STREET KINGS (2008) and SMOKIN’ ACES 2: ASSASSIN’S BALL (2010) and an episode of HAWAII FIVE-0. Beyond that, yeah, I got nothing.

In any case, I look at this trailer and it looks… okay. I’m not going in with the highest of expectations, but it could be funny. We’ll see. This is my honest opinion of NO MANCHES FRIDA.

(SUMMARY)

The story follows Zequi (Omar Chaparro). He’s a thief who has recently been in jail, but is finally let out. However, he owes a lot of money to a dangerous club owner. He had the money before going to jail, but he had his partner hide it so it wouldn’t be confiscated. Once he’s out, he’s met with his dim-witted partner Jenny (Rocio Garcia) and they go and find the money, which she buried in a school. However, there’s one minor problem: the spot where Jenny buried the money now has a the school’s gymnasium built on top of it. With little to no choice, he discovers that the school is in need of some help with open spots for substitute teachers, as the school is loaded with teenagers that are undisciplined and out of control. He decides in order to be close to the buried money, Zequi poses as a sub. Soon follows a rough romantic relationship with the incredibly lovely and overly kind Lucy (Martha Higareda), embarks on an equally rough relationship with the most unruly class in the school, all the while mining for his missing money.

(REVIEW)

Pfft… this will be a tad complicated because on the one hand, this movie got really carried away with it’s own humor that is all over the place, ranging from jokes that fall flatter than a crepe getting ran over by a steam roller, to some cartoonishly senseless slapstick. Have I mentioned how predictable it was and how this story has been done a thousand times before, even in American films? FREEDOM WRITERS (2007), DEAD POETS SOCIETY (1989), COACH CARTER (2005), the list goes on. And this movie does nothing to distinguish itself other than be a comedy. But you can argue that THE MIGHTY DUCKS (1992) covered that. And yet… I found myself strangely engaged in what was happening. I want to say that this movie is something of a guilty pleasure.

I guess as some point, I sort of just accepted that this was going to be an incredibly offbeat movie and I decided to accept what I was watching. I mean, there’s a scene where Lucy gets injected with goat hormones that makes her horny and high as a kite, acting like a sexy cat toward Zequi when he takes her home to recover… resulting in her acting like a regular cat, licking water from a dog bowl… and then collapsing in the bowl asleep. Hell, this movie practically opens with a teacher jumping out a two, three story window, unable to deal with the unruliness of the subject class of misfits. The teacher strikes the ground and you see blood pooling around her head. I’m sitting there scrambling to pull my jaw off the ground, and then it’s revealed that not only is she alive, but the “blood” was a juice box that she landed on. Lucy’s right above her checking this poor woman, then she suddenly wakes up and begs Lucy to kill her. Holy shit, this was way too dark for this kind of light-hearted, peppy movie, and… she fell two, three stories! She’s dead!

Despite all the absurdities that this movie is marinated in, I suppose the reason why more than a few of them still get laughs out of me is because the actors’ expressions are just as big and expressive as the big and absurd things happening. So I wasn’t truly bored, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t kind of enjoying it. But don’t start accusing me of saying this movie is good. It’s not. It’s like when I saw this year’s THE 5TH WAVE. Because the movie hits almost every beat and is about as carbon copy of The Hunger Games franchise as it could get, it was so enjoyable to watch simply for how much it wasn’t trying. This movie has a similar effect, even though it’s issue is trying too hard.

I’m not sure what else to talk about. It’s a stupid little movie that’s hard not to find enjoyable. Are you looking for a groundbreaking comedy about inspiring teachers helping teen scamps be all that they can be? Don’t bother. It’s every single one you’ve seen before. But if you’re looking for that story, but screams “screw it,” and goes balls to the wall insane with its gimmicks, you might get a laugh or two. I guess I’m glad I saw it, but once was enough for me.

My honest rating for NO MANCHES FRIDA: 3/5

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Upcoming reviews:

  • WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS
    • trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ws74Ie4fMc8
  • WILD LIFE:
    • trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNCjU9VEuNc