Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Marvel's Jessica Jones

Starring: Krysten Ritter, David Tennant, Rachael Taylor, Carrie-Anne Moss, Eka Darville, Mike Colter, Erin Moriarty, Wil Traval, & Susie Abromeit

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars

The second character in Marvel's Defenders series is Jessica Jones. A no non-sense private detective with super strength, who helps who she wants, does what she wants, and seems to bring trouble wherever she goes. 

Krysten Ritter stars as Jessica Jones, and from an entertainment stand point she does a terrific job with the character, the problem is how likeable is Jessica Jones? This was my issue with this series all along. There is no doubt that in the last decade, Marvel has made leaps and bounds in both it's writing and character development. I even believe that the Defenders will challenge the Avengers in both content and popularity, still I just don't like Jessica Jones.

It's hard to give specific reasons without spoilers, but when I think Jessica Jones the one word that comes to mind is bitch. She's supposed to be the good guy, the one you root for, but she always has this attitude and everything is an issue with her. She's a mess, the people she spends her time with are a mess, and she seems like easy picking for the villain who chose to pray on her mind. 

The whole point of a superhero is to help people and to have people behind you and your brand of vigilante justice, but she seems to hurt more people than she helps, just look at what she did to Luke Cage (Mike Colter). Maybe others will feel differently, but I don't like the main character and therefore don't approve of the show. I love Luke Cage and I really like the idea of having a self-narrating private investigator, but there is this whole negative energy that surrounds her and everything she does, that I just can't get passed. 

I do love Daredevil and Luke Cage, I'll probably check out Iron Fist and I definitely will be watching the Defenders, so I guess I kind of have to watch season 2 of Jessica Jones, but fans of the show have a long wait ahead of them, as Netflix has confirmed that it won't be released until sometime in 2018, after season 1 of The Defenders.

The Son of No One

Starring: Channing Tatum, Tracy Morgan, Al Pacino, & Katie Holmes
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

In 2006, Dito Montiel made a name for himself by writing/directing the story of his youth in Brooklyn, A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints. In that film and in several others that have since followed, Montiel has shown an amazing ability to take little known stories from his neighborhood, and in amazing detail, tells those stories from multiple angles, introducing the world to complex and amazing stories that to the world, were nothing but a blurbs in the newspaper decades ago. The Son of No One is one of such story, and while it is an amazing one, with an outstanding cast, it's Montiel's attention to detail that ultimately comes back to bite him. Jonathan White (Channing Tatum) has become a New York City Police Officer and he has done so at a somewhat older age than most other people do. There is a bit of a learning curve, but White seems to be catching on quickly, but his education comes to a quick halt when he and his family start receiving messages claiming to know that White killed two people in cold blood. The story here was terrific and unbelievably true, not to mention the cast was impeccable, so what's with the low rating? As I said, Motiel's films are always very detail oriented and focus on all the angles, The Son of No One is no different, however, in this case, they spend to much time on the back story in flashbacks. There isn't enough focus on the events taking place in present day, and when Channing Tatum is on screen, he's usually doing nothing that relates to the case, i.e. arguing with his wife, talking to his partner, learning to be a cop. By the time we get the end, it seems to jump out of nowhere, as if forty-five minutes of the film is just missing somehow. Not to mention the flashbacks are also out of order, further confusing the story. I understand artistic license, but this isn't Pulp Fiction and I was confused for much of this film. That being said, the cast is still terrific and Dito Montiel is one of the most underrated writer/directors in Hollywood. The Son of No One is a miss, but don't let that turn you off to the rest of amazing body of work.

Fangs (2002)

Starring: Tracy Nelson, Whip Hubley, & Corbin Bernsen
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

When it comes to horror, either you get it or you don't. Those who don't, think it's all about blood, monsters, and scaring people, but in fact there are actually five distinct forms of horror. Films like Fangs are bad, and they are that way on purpose. There are franchises and even entire production companies that are dedicated to making films like this, where the story is insane, the effects are terrible, the acting is ridiculous, and it's all done on purpose, because it's supposed to make laugh just as much, if not more than it's supposed to make you cringe, that's the point! Fangs is somewhat different in two ways, first it was produced by a major film company and second the film wasn't all that bad. Basically some bats at a university escape in the lab and get into some chemicals they shouldn't have. As a result, they become super aggressive and wreak havoc on a small town. From there, the story follows a local veterinarian and the town sheriff, who try to track the bats and put an end to their reign of terror before more innocent lives are lost. As with many similar films, the dialogue is quite comical and there are lots of cheesy jokes and obnoxious characters you just can't wait to see get attacked, but for what it was, the effects weren't all that bad and the science behind it seemed somewhat plausible. This isn't the kind of film that makes you run to amazon to buy it. Fangs isn't going to win any awards, it doesn't feature any outstanding performances, and it probably isn't even the kind of film you'd want to see twice. However, if you're in one of those moods, where you just want to see something simple and stupid, that's going to make you laugh a few times, then Fangs is absolutely perfect for that. 

The Zodiac

Starring: Justin Chambers, Robin Tunney, & Rory Culkin
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars

As a culture we are obsessed with serial killers. While some writers choose to glorify these monsters, others simply want to show the truth behind their crimes and the investigation that followed. Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, the real story is no where near as interesting as Hollywood makes it out to be, that's where the based on a true story comes in. The case of the infamous Zodiac Killer was a fascinating case, of a man who not only killed at random, but who also taunted the police, by publishing cryptic ciphers in the newspaper, claiming if they cracked the ciphers, they'd know who he was. The man behind the crimes was certainly an interesting case, but the long investigation into finding out who the person might have been, was not. As a film, The Zodiac is said to be a fairly accurate portrayal of the crimes, the investigation, the paranoia than gripped the city, and the political pressure everyone faced as a result. The film makers didn't want to take liberties with the story, glorify the crimes, or present unproven theories from any one of the a number of books written about the Zodiac Killer. That being said, what happened was interesting, but also fairly slow moving and more than somewhat dry. For those people who are unfamiliar with the story of the Zodiac, they may enjoy learning about this case, but for those of us who know it, watching this film was like seeing a very long episode of the First 48. It's interest, the acting is suitable, and it passes the time, but if you're looking for a real entertaining, Hollywood version of the Zodiac story, you'll be much happier with the film simply titled, Zodiac, from 2007, starring Robert Downey Jr. That film is based on one of the more populist theories of the crime, and features more edge of your seat action than it's predecessor.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Remakes & Sequels: 2017

Many moviegoers believe that sequels ruin the original film and that remakes don't do the original films justice, however remakes and sequels are often times the highest money makers of the year. While most aren't recognized by the academy and are panned by the majority of critics, people still flock to the theaters every year to see the characters they know and love.

The Ultimate Movie Review would like to give special thanks to our friends for helping us with this years list!

Upcoming Sequels Expected In Theaters During 2017: 
 Alien: Covenant
Amityville: The Awakening 
Annabelle 2
A Bad Moms Christmas
Blade Runner 2049
Cars 3 
Cloverfield 2017 
Creed 2
Despicable Me 3
Diary of A Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul
The Fate of The Furious (Fast & Furious 8)
Fifty Shades Darker 
Guardians of The Galaxy 2
Insidious: Chapter 4
John Wick: Chapter 2 
Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Logan (Wolverine 3)
Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature 
Paddington 2
Pirates of The Caribbean 5: Dead Men Tell No Tales 
Pitch Perfect 3
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
Saw: Legacy
Smurfs: The Lost Village
Spider-Man: Homecoming 
Star Wars: Episode VIII
Super Troopers 2
T2: Trainspotting
Thor: Ragnarok
Transformers: The Last Knight
War For The Planet of The Apes
World War Z 2
XxX 3: The Return of Xander Cage
Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Dark Side of Dimensions

 Upcoming Remakes Expected In Theaters During 2017:
Beauty & The Beast
Friday The 13th
Ghost In The Shell
King Arthur: Legend of The Sword
Kong: Skull Island
The Mummy
Murder On The Orient Express
Power Rangers
The Six Billion Dollar Man
Stephen King's It
Wonder Woman

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, & Mads Mikkelsen
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The purpose of Rogue one was simple, to fix a plot hole that had bothered Star Wars fans for nearly forty years. How did the rebels get a hold of the plans for the death star and why was it so easy to destroy? 

At a young age, Jyn Erso's (Felicity Jones), father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) was taken by the empire, to help develop the death star. Jyn was protected by the rebels before fleeing and living on her own, until one day, the rebels receive a message from Galen, saying that his daughter is the key to everything, and if they help get her to him, he can stop the empire. 

What I love about Rogue one, is the fact that for this film the franchise took a step back. If you ask anybody what their favorite Star Wars movie is, inevitably you will hear A New Hope or The Empire Strikes Back, but why? It's because these films didn't have massive budgets, big name movie stars, the top directors in Hollywood, complex story lines, special characters thrown in for the kids, simply put they were the greatest space adventures of all-time. Rogue one leaves in the special effects, but the actors are not very well known, the director has only two films under his belt, the story is easy to follow, the characters are extremely likeable, (much more so than the new ones in the Force Awakens), and most import of all the story is more narrowly focused and much easier to follow. There aren't a million different things going on here, there is one objective and it is being attempted by characters you can actually get behind. 

Jyn Erso, very much has the Katniss Everdeen tough girl thing going for her and she is paired with Cassian (Diego Luna), who has all the charisma of a young Harrison Ford, together the pair is infectious and you can't help but like them. I didn't feel any of that with Rey and Finn, in fact, I barely remembered their names. I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention the scenery and special effects in the film, unlike in recent films, we see a multitude of planets, it isn't just all sand and sun. The planet in the final scene with the beaches and the energy shield in particular was just amazing. 

Finally there is the ending, I won't give anything away if you haven't seen it yet, but I will say this. While controversial, in my opinion, more perfect it could not have been. Rogue One is the best Star Wars film since the original trilogy and I hope J.J. Abrams took notice. This is what the future of the franchise should be. Just because you have the largest film budget in history, doesn't mean your film has to have dozens of plots, and all these random characters we don't care about. Use that money on special effects, more amazing ships, weapons, and planets, and just make Star Wars fun again in a way that Rogue One reminded us it could be.

Passengers (2016)

Starring: Chris Pratt & Jennifer Lawrence
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

...and the award for the most disappointing film of 2016 goes to Passengers! I can't tell you how long I waited for this movie to come out, it was at the top of my must see list for months, and I was more excited to see this than almost any other film this year. For those unfamiliar with the story, five thousand passengers are in suspended animation for one hundred and twenty years, as they prepare to start a new life on a brand new planet. Thirty years into the journey, there is a malfunction and two of the sleeping pods open, awakening two of the passengers ninety years early. Everything I read and saw made this look like THE film to see this year, but the truth is it was beyond boring. This malfunction that awoke them, was part of a cascade failure, meaning small failure got worse over time, years in fact, and nothing serious actually happens until the last twenty minutes of the film. Until then, it's a lot of talking, romance, sadness about how they'll waste their lives alone on this ship for nothing. This had to be why the studio paid two of the best young actors in Hollywood a ton of money to be in this thing, because they knew no matter how boring the story or bad the reviews got, people would still go to see Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. Congratulations Columbia Pictures, it worked, you made your money on this one and yes the special effect were cool, but how many people were actually entertained by this film? I for one was not, this film come in at just under two hours long and I felt like I was sitting in the theater for a week, that right there says it all.

Why Him?

Starring: James Franco, Bryan Cranston, Zoey Deutch, & Griffin Gluck
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

James Franco is raunchy, but sometimes he's so over-the-top, that his films start out funny, and half way through it's just not that funny anymore. When you use your best lines and dirtiest bits in the first half-hour, an hour later, you're hard pressed to out due yourself. The writers of Why Him? tried to combat this problem, by taking Franco's large than life personality and combining it with the dry humor and physical comedy of Bryan Cranston, and the results were mixed. It's holiday season and Stephanie Fleming (Zoey Deutch), wants her parents to meet her new boyfriend, only she doesn't want to tell them anything about him before hand, because if she did, they probably wouldn't come. They are quiet, reserved suburbanites from Cleveland, and he's a dot com millionaire from California, who loves anything new and unusual. As the two sides of Stephanie's life combine, hilarity ensues or at least it's supposed to. Bryan Cranston and surprisingly young Griffin Gluck had the best lines, and were involved in the funniest moments of this film. As for James Franco, once again, he was too much and he has to realize that every comedic role he takes isn't Pineapple Express. The role here calls for eccentricity, not raunchy and stupid. Right from the start and all the way through, every other word out of his mouth was fuck, and every stunt he pulled was more immature than the next. It takes a lot away from the film, especially the ending, which was just ridiculous and simply doesn't fit with the rest of the movie. The bottom line, the story is interesting, Bryan Cranston is always great and Griffin Gluck was a riot. The film definitely has it's moments, but every time you think it's about to turn a corner, Franco shows up to drop a million F bomb, talk about his penis, and preform stunts better left to the stoner movies.

The Final Season

Starring: Sean Astin, Powers Boothe, & Rachel Leigh Cook
Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5 stars

A baseball movie, based on a true story, Directed by the same guy who brought the Sandlot to life on the big screen, who could ask for more? Norway, Iowa, one of the smallest towns in the mid-west, with a fabled sports history. Their High School baseball team is one of the most successful high school baseball teams of all-time, and their coach, Jim Van Scoyoc (Powers Boothe), is a legend, who could be coaching in the Major Leagues if he wanted to. Small towns like Norway always have their fair share of problems, mainly money, and with this town near bankruptcy, they've agreed to merge with a larger town, which means only one last season of baseball in Norway, and without the expensive contract of coach Van Scoyoc. The coach eventually convinces his former assistant, Kent Stock (Sean Astin), to take over the team, and attempt to lead them to one last championship, but with the town about to disappear from the map, how will he motivate the players or the town to care? This is one of those stories that is as inspirational as it gets, and it should have been a fantastic movie, but it was not. I have never in my life seen a movie centered around a sport, that moves as slowly as this film does. The Final Season is full of heart to heart chats, court fights about the town, and of course Sean Astin's character. I enjoy Sean Astin, after all he is the star of my all-time favorite movie, but his character is this introvert, who is in way over his head to begin with, not to mention the fact that he's replacing this living legend. Astin or rather Astin portraying Stock was just boring, just once I would have liked to see the guy, explode, show some fire, be a real coach, because it was like watching a math teacher, coach a bunch of kids, that didn't really want to be there for much of the film. The Final Season is a great true story, but as a film, it's more talk than anything else, and fails to even come close to expectations.

Paradox (2016)

Starring: Zoe Bell, Malik Yoba, & Adam Huss
Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars

The manipulation of time is my favorite form of Science Fiction, it also happens to be the most difficult to write. Alternate histories, time travel, and of course paradoxes, can very easily go from entertaining to confusing to unwatchable in the blink of an eye. There is a very fine line between explaining too little, confusing audiences, and explaining too much, hence boring them to death with the scientific stuff. Lucky for us, not only does the new Sci-Fi thriller, Paradox manage to find that line, but much like it's story, it manages to come back to it over and over again. The story seems like a rather basic one, as a group of scientist are hired by a mysterious billionaire, to create a machine for the purposes of time travel. On this day, the group is pretty confident that they have completed the machine and will be sending one member, one hour into the future. The test works perfectly, only when the man arrives an hour into the future, he finds the lab is a mess and many of his colleagues are dead, hence the paradox. Will going back to warn everyone cause what he just saw or will it prevent it? Paradox is one of those films where it isn't about the acting, any decent actor could have been cast, it's the story that matters and the story was fantastic. The way they manage to utilize the machine and equipment that you never even noticed, or how they amp up the mystery by making everyone have that one thing that could make them a possible suspect, just makes the film that much more intense. This was honestly one of my favorite movies of 2016, and believe it or not, it was Written/Directed by a completely unlikely source. After seeing this, I had to know who wrote it and to my surprise, it was Michael Hurst, a guy who until now had only written some B-horror movies and directed some Xena episodes!?! This time he tried something different and may have found his true calling. If you love science fiction and a great mystery on top of that, you won't find many films that combine the two with the ease and satisfaction of Paradox.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Sinners & Saints

Starring: Johnny Strong, Kevin Phillips, & Costas Mandylor
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Whether you know him best as an occasional actor, a martial arts champion, or a heavy metal singer, there is no doubting the fact that Johnny Strong is a very interested and talented guy. That's why I wanted to see his only leading role, unfortunately, the best part of this film, was it's soundtrack. Strong plays Detective Sean Riley, a cop who doesn't play by any rules. He recently lost his family and now he finds himself smack in the middle of a gang war, that he feels is getting help from inside his own department. On top of that, he's stuck with a new partner, a guy who is definitely not ready for where this investigation is about to go. As far as stories go, this one wasn't too bad, but the problem here is Johnny Strong. I like the guy a lot, when it comes to an actor who can put out a few funny lines and kick some ass, he's perfect, but the star of a feature film, he's not suited for that and it shows. The background story here is pretty solid, but due to the lack of acting skills, it isn't developed much, and we end up with a lot of heated profanity laced arguments, followed by gun fights. Your typical, basic, low budget, action film. There really wasn't anything special about this movie other than a few funny lines, unfortunately pretty much what I expected.

Marvel's Daredevil

Starring: Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Vincent D'Onofrio, Elden Henson, Rosario Dawson, & Jon Bernthal

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

With time comes experience, and with that experience, Marvel has taken a bunch of barely watchable movies about superheroes, and turned themselves into a global empire. When Marvel first started making movies, they never dreamed they'd be getting the stars, exposure, or the nearly half a billion dollar box office receipts for every film they release. Perhaps the most overlooked element in Marvel's wave of success is the writers and directors, which is really what has led to the big stars, better films, and ultimately the TV series.

Marvel attempted to introduce Daredevil in 2003, in what amounted to one of the worst superhero movies I've ever seen. The plot was nonexistent, they rushed the characters backstory, and the acting was a joke. They learned from theses mistakes however, and reinvented the character in the Netflix series by the same name.

Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) was blinded in an accident when he was a child, but despite losing his sight, he gained other abilities. His other senses became super strong and he was trained to use them to help defend himself. As a youth, despite his training, Murdock decided to fight injustice in the courts and became a lawyer, eventually starting a firm with him best friend, Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson). Being a lawyer didn't always get Murdock the justice he sought, so he started using his training, and going out at night to fight crime as the devil of Hell's Kitchen, eventually dubbed by the press as Daredevil.

On the surface, people will look at this series and see another superhero show, but when you sit down to watch it, you will realize that the writing makes all the difference. This is one of those shows where the superhero element is an after thought, because everything else is so realistic and believable, that aside from the fight scenes, you forget that you're watching a Marvel superhero show. The criminals developed for this show, Wilson Fisk (Vincent D'Onofrio) and The Punisher (Jon Benthal) are as good, if not better, than any villain ever seen in any of the Marvel franchises. Beyond that the show has a lot of legal and courtroom elements to it, a medical angel, family and romance issues, I don't say this often, but this show actually does have a little bit of something thrown in there for absolutely everyone! 

Even if you're not into superheroes, even if you can't stand them, there will be at least one element to the Daredevil series that you will enjoy, I guarantee it. As for the fans, I know it's been a while, but no need to fret, Daredevil have been renewed for a third season, and lead actor Charlie Cox has signed on for the eventual collaboration series, that will include all four Netflix-Marvel characters.