Friday, November 16, 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody

Starring: Rami Malek, Gwilym Lee, Lucy Boynton, & Ben Hardy
Director: Bryan Singer - Rating: PG-13 - Score: 4 Stars

I never really liked the rock band Queen, and as far as it's front-man, all I really knew was that he was the first superstar to die from AIDS. Knowing this, I feared that this film would be just another Philadelphia, and I was hesitant to see it. That is until the reviews of Rami Malek's career defining performance were released. To my surprise and delight this film wasn't just about Freddy Mercury's lifestyle nor was it about the way he tragically died. Bohemian Rhapsody is a film that not only parallels the life of Mercury, but it also shows everything that goes into making a successful band. From their humble beginnings to the process of how music is made, what it's inspirations are, what goes into making an album, and finally to the internal conflicts involved with the different personalities in a band. Bohemian Rhapsody illustrates better than any film I have ever seen, what it truly means to be part of a successful band. As for it's star, Mr. Robot's Rami Malek proves in one foul swoop that he is so much more than simply a TV drama star. His performance was far and away the best I've seen all year, and even though we're a long way away from Academy Award nominations, if Malek's name isn't at the top of that list, it will be an unmitigated outrage. Not only does Malek nail the performance, but he is Freddy Mercury right down to his mannerisms. To be honest, if Freddy Mercury were still alive and starred in this film, I don't think even he'd be as convincing as Malek was. The film is truly a performance that will be talked about for decades, but what about the film itself? Being that music is a huge part of my life, I found everything to be very interesting and informative, but others could see it as slow moving and somewhat boring. Some of the choices Bryan Singer made could be questioned, such as showing the entire Live Aid performance, all twenty minutes of it. Yes, it is an important part of the Queen story, but to show the whole thing in a feature film? Overall, I thought this film was terrific and even if you aren't into the music and aren't a fan of Queen, you need to see this film for nothing else than the performance of it's star. Performances like this one are what gives films the title of classic and are talked about and studied forever.


Starring: Nicholas Cage, Dwayne Cameron, & Michael Rainey Jr.
Director: York Shackleton - Rating: R - Score: 1 1/2 Stars

By now, my regular readers will know that I absolutely love Nicholas Cage, however being a super fan comes with some complications. The fact is that Cage is one of the most active stars in Hollywood, willing to take on any role, and there in lies the problem. His most recent film, 211, may be one of the most pointless and uninteresting action films ever made. Four mercenaries who are looking to get back at their corrupt boss, start robbing banks where he keeps his money. This leads them to the small town of Chesterfield, where a job is interrupted by the police, leading to a stand-off. Cage stars as Mike Chandler, an officer nearing his retirement, saddled with his son-in-law as a partner. What made 211 so bad is that the stand-off and shoot outs take over the majority of the time and Dog Day Afternoon, this film is not. Aside from the occasional expletives, there are long shoot out sequences with no dialogue. When the action cools down and people finally do speak, it's actually worse, because then the lack of experience and talent of the supporting cast is painfully evident. Action movies are supposed to be exciting and get the blood pumping, even if the story isn't all that great, it's something the genre has lived on since the 1970s, but 211 is an action filmed that bored me. When one is watching an action film and nodding off, it is an indicator that something is seriously wrong with that film. I do love Nicholas Cage, but this movie won't be anywhere near the greatest hits boxed set.

Seven In Heaven

Starring: Travis Tope, Haley Ramm, Gary Cole, & Dylan Everett
Director: Chris Eigeman - Rating: PG-13 - Score: 2 1/2 Stars

Trippy mind-bending movies are among my favorite types of film, but sometimes a good idea can be pushed too far and just become madness. Jude (Travis Tope) is a bullied kid, who makes the mistake of going to a house party at his friends house. Forced to play a game he doesn't want to, he loses and has to spend seven minutes locked in a closet with his bullies girlfriend. When the door opens, Jude and June (Haley Ramm) find themselves in another place, one that is very much like the one they just came from, but inherently different. Based on the butterfly theory, that for every action, somewhere there is an opposite and equal reaction, this closet leads these teens into alternate realities. At first the film is wildly original and seems to be going some place magical, however, with each jump things just get stranger and not for the better. When they finally ended up on the game show from hell, I'd pretty much had enough. Believe it or not, this film was billed as a horror movie, but there aren't any elements of that, and the film should have focused more on the scientific angle and the aspects of these alternate dimensions. Newcomer Travis Tope stars and does an adequate job, although I question his casting. Filmmakers cast Dylan Everett and Gage Munroe in backing roles, but then have the stars, their classmates, played by actors who are considerably older? Gage Munroe is a terrific actor, fits the age of the lead, and in my opinion would have made the film a lot more fun. The wildly different age differences didn't make much sense to me, neither did the ending. The whole film seemed to be building up to some angle centered around Jude's mother and teacher, but in the end, it is simply overlooked. This was a major theme of the film and one of the answers I was looking forward to. Having it white-washed just left a bad taste in my mouth. As a whole, Seven In Heaven was a good idea and has some elements of science fiction that I can't get enough of, but the lazy casting and systematic breakdown of the story just ruined the whole experience for me.

The Hurricane Heist

Starring: Toby Kebbell, Maggie Grace, & Ryan Kwanten
Director: Rob Cohen - Rating: PG-13 - Score: 3 Stars

Die Hard meets Twister in the new thriller, The Hurricane Heist. When I first heard about this film, I was really excited and hoping for something new, but the truth was this film was nothing more than a compilation. A severe hurricane is about to hit the Gulf Coast, and U.S. agents are in town to secure the U.S. mint. As the storm bares down they are confronted by a gang of thieves intent on taking millions. The only things between them and freedom are a lone agent, two local boys, and one hell of a storm. There were so many parallels to other films that throughout The Hurricane Heist I was getting nothing but deja vu. At some points I felt like they should have just made the hurricane a series of tornadoes and called the film Twister 2. That was bad enough, but when you combine lack of originality with predictable behavior, you get a story that is very dull. What saves the film from being just another disaster movie are some amazing chase sequences, from the minds behind The Fast & The Furious, as well as some incredible special effects. This film is definitely an adrenaline rush, but the story, star power, and originality are severely lacking. I was expecting a daring robbery in the midst of a cataclysmic storm, instead I got Hard Rain, without the star power. In the end, The Hurricane Heist wasn't a terrible film to watch, but it was anything but memorable.

Monday, September 17, 2018

The OA

Starring: Brit Martling, Emory Cohen, Scott Wilson, Phyllis Smith, Alice Krige, Patrick Gibson, Brendan Meyer, Brandon Perea, Ian Alexander, Jason Isaacs, Will Brill, Riz Ahmed, & Paz Vega

Seasons: 1 (2016 - ) - Network: Netflix - Score: 3 1/2 Stars

Netflix gives TV shows an unprecedented opportunity never before seen, and it has led to many unique and innovative shows making it on the air. The network governs itself, without any FCC oversight, it also isn't reliant on immediate ratings, and can give unique shows the time to evolve, grow, and gain a following. This is especially important for a show like The OA, which is perhaps the most unique show I've ever seen.

After missing for eight years, Prairie Johnson (Brit Martling) is finally found, only something is dramatically different. The once blind girl can now see, but that's not all, she has weird scars on her back, and seems completely out of touch with reality. Her family try to help her cope and re-integrate, but with only limited success, as Prairie seems to be obsessed with a mission that she must complete. Before she's able to do this, Prairie must recruit the help of five people and tell them her story, where she's been, how she got there, and what happened to her. As we get to know Prairie and discover why she's so weird, we also get to know the five people who will supposedly help her on her journey. All of them are unique in their own way and all of them have their own stories, which while not the main focus of the show, offer a nice interlude from the Prairie Johnson saga. 

The OA is a strange show which features multiple dimensions, near death experiences and experimentation, even interpretive dance. If you are not a fan of Science Fiction or desire your Sci-fi with a lot of action and strange beings, you probably aren't going to like this show too much. I found the OA to be very dark, sometimes intolerably slow, and it very frequently repeats itself. That being said it is also a incredible mystery that asks a lot of questions that some people may find hard to deal with. I found the show somewhat difficult to get into but once I did, it became very addicting. I needed to know the whole story and see what happened once the story ended. 

The show has been renewed for season two, but much is the case with many Netflix shows, that was a year an half ago. I really don't understand why it takes them so long to get addition seasons of their shows produced. It is very anti-climatic when you think about it, because people who got into it when it first debuted have probably forgotten all about it by now. Not to mention, how do you just start watching a show again that you haven't seen in two years? Many people are going to forget everything except the major plot lines and not wanting to re-watch the first season, aren't going to bother with season 2. With that in mind, a second season is supposedly on it's way, and hopefully it answers the biggest question of them all.


Starring: Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace, & Lucy Fry
Director: David Ayer - Rating: NR - Score: 2 Stars

In the world of Bright, almost all fiction creatures exist and are integrated into modern society with man kind. In the city of Los Angeles, people are up in arms over the first Orc to join the LAPD. No one is happy about it, least of all his partner, Daryl Ward (Will Smith) who has already taken a bullet because of him. One night, while out on patrol the pair come across a unique threat, one that could change the world forever, but can human and Orc come together to put an end to it? Could somebody please tell me what all the hype surrounding this movie is about? It is the biggest Netflix film to date, a sequel was announced before it even debuted, and while critics universally panned it, fans have turned it into a cult classic, dedicating all kinds of things to it on the web. As for me, I was excited about it, but just like every other David Ayer film I've ever seen, I was sorely disappointed. People were saying how unique and innovative this film is, maybe, if you've never seen another science fiction film before in your entire life! Every aspect of this film, from the racism towards other species to the integration of man and creature has been done to death! Themes like this in Science Fiction are metaphors for racial inequality and have been done in film and on television since the civil rights movement! Will Smith stars and once again thinks it's 1992, he's a teen heartthrob, and everything he says people are going to find hilarious. Much like Hancock, Ward is completely out of touch with modern audiences and geared toward a much younger crowd. I really don't understand how Will Smith can be outstanding in things like the Men In Black series and then just step back into roles like this. The rest of the cast was equally laughable, as was much of the story, but similar to Ayer's last big budget film, Suicide Squad, the plot is outstanding. It's the kind of thing that could have gone right so many different ways, but instead was just so badly butchered by shotty directing, terrible storytelling, and immature humor, that after a while, Bright is pretty much unwatchable.

The Preppie Connection

Starring: Thomas Mann, Lucy Fry, Logan Huffman, & Sam Page
Director: Joseph Castelo - Rating: R - Score: 4 1/2 Stars

The Preppie Connection is a film based on the 1984 drug scandal at Choate Rosemary Hall, an elite private High School in Connecticut. Toby Hammel (Thomas Mann) is a good student who is awarded a scholarship to this elite private high school, but when he gets there, he discovers, as the poor kid, he doesn't quite fit in. In order to make friends, fit in with the popular kids, and get close to the girl his heart desires, Toby tells them that he can get them whatever drugs they desire. The truth is he has no idea how to do that, but someone as smart as he is was bound to figure it out. As with many of these films, some artistic license was taken, and not everything in the film is exactly what happened, however I find films like that make for the best dramas. Think about it for a second, some things in life happen that are just so strange and twisted that even the best writers couldn't make them up. These films play as more realistic, audiences tend to connect closer with the characters, and they even become invested in the story. I myself went searching Wikipedia afterwards to see what happened to everybody all these years later. The star of the film is Thomas Mann and other than his eerie resemblance to Sid in Lords of Dogtown, I knew nothing about him, but his performance was astonishing. Coming from a bunch of teen party movies to doing something like this was a huge step in the right direction and hopefully a big break for a talented young actor. V star Logan Huffman and newcomer Lucy Fry round out a stellar albeit unknown cast. IFC films are my favorite Independent films, stories based on real life events are my favorite kinds of drama, add to the mix a talented and relatively unknown young cast and you have the recipe for a film that does not disappoint. The Preppie Connection may not have the action or big name star that appeals to many fans, but by in large it is an unforgettable story of just what one person is capable of when properly motivated.

American Bully

Starring: Matthew O'Leary, Marshall Allman, & Jonathan Halyalkar
Director: Dave Rodriguez - Rating: R - Score: 1 Star

American Bully is one of those film that has a message to tell. What that message was is still a complete mystery to me. This entire film is based on a single act, which wouldn't be such a bad thing had they showed what led up to the act or what the results of the act were. The film is short to begin with, at just seventy-five minutes, but for the material presented, that was still too long. The entirety of this movie features a bunch of high school kids hanging out, getting drunk, and expressing racist views. After an hour of absolutely nothing going on, an opportunity presents itself, something finally happens, and the film is over. I thought with the subject material that this was a film that could have gone in a million different directions, but literally almost nothing happens! Matthew O'Leary stars, and while I consider him to be an underrated performer, it's roles like this one that are going to keep on the b-movie list. When actors are capable of so much more, why take a role like this? Clearly American Bully was a low budget, independent film, and without a payday or a strong leading role, there simply isn't a reason to take on a role of this nature. As I said the film has a message to tell and it seems pretty cut and dry until the end. The big left turn may have made the ending a bit more interesting, but calls into question the entire message the film had originally intended to portray. Overall I found the whole thing to be just a strange experience severely lacking in almost every category.

Friday, August 31, 2018

The Happytime Murders

Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Ryan Tran, & Elizabeth Banks
Director: Brian Henson - Rating: R - Score: 1 1/2 Stars

I really didn't know what to expect from The Happytime Murders, and that's why I went to see it. I wasn't sure if I'd be getting Team America or Roger Rabbit, maybe even a combination of the two. Despite the tagline, that the film wasn't suitable for children, I did expect some level of juvenile humor, but I thought if it has a edge to it and if the mystery is somewhat compelling, maybe it would surprise me, it didn't. Much in the same way that Roger Rabbit had humans and toons living together, with an extreme bias against toons, this world has humans and puppets living together, with a bias against puppets. Phil Phillips (Ryan Tran) claim to fame was as the first puppet to be a police officer, but now he's washed up, and it's brother's fame and his TV show, The Happytime Family, that overshadows him. Phil doesn't care about anything anymore until someone starts killing off the Happytime gang, including his brother, that's when he wants back in, even if his human partner, Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy) wants nothing to do with him anymore. The tagline said this film was not intended for kids, but I disagree, because that's exactly who this film is intended for. The comedy is nothing but sex and jokes aimed at a very young crowd. There is no way that adults are going to find most of the comedy in this film even remotely funny. As for the "dramatic" side of the story, the mystery isn't such a mystery, it's so simplistic that you'll know before the first murder even happens. But what about the star of the film, Melissa McCarthy? Well, she plays the same role in just about every film doesn't she? Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, here she just adds to the futility of everything. The bottom line on The Happytime murders is that the story is too basic, the backstory is a complete rip off of Roger Rabbit, and the jokes are so low-brow, that I think even Trey Parker and Matt Stone would pass on using them in a similar film. The true joke here is that this film was ever made.

Run All Night

Starring: Liam Neeson, Joel Kinnaman, Ed Harris, & Boyd Holbrook
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra - Rating: R - Score: 3 1/2 Stars

Thirty years have passed, the competition is gone, the cops are off their backs, for a mob boss and his hit-man, every thing is peaceful. Until one night, when their adult children come into conflict. One commits a murder, the other is a witness, and when one of them ends up dead, the family is torn apart with one on the run and the other on his heels. It honestly took me a while to watch this movie, because I was tired of Liam Neeson and his very particular set of skills, but his character wasn't what I expected. While not having the popularity of Taken, Neeson's performance in this film, was better than any performance he's given in an action film to date. Paired with the ultimate crime boss, Ed Harris, and The Killing's Joel Kinnaman, this movie had a cast that couldn't fail. Watching this compelling story, I couldn't help but think that this would have been an amazing ending for the Sopranos. Run All Night was surprising in the way that it was done, because it wasn't your typical mafia movie, but it wasn't an action film either. The writers very cleverly combined elements of both to combine the thrilling action of a Falling Down, with the crime story of a really good Sopranos episode. The film wasn't just about the incident and the chase and that's why it was special. They even managed to get Law & Order's Vincent D'Onofrio to play the lead detective in the case, and we all know the intensity he can bring to a role. It was a slow start and a somewhat predictable ending, but in the middle, Run All Night was so good, that I could have stayed up and kept watching it all night.

Shadow (2009)

Starring: Jake Muxworthy, Karina Testa, & Nuot Arquint
Director: Frederico Zampaglione - Rating: NR - Score: 3 stars

For years I'd heard how twisted and truly horrific Italian horror films were, but I never saw one. I just can't get into something when I have to sit there reading subtitles for two hours. That's why I was excited when I heard about Shadow, an American movie written and directed by Italian horror filmmakers. The film is centered on David (Jake Muxworthy), a soldier who has just come back from Iraq, who is on a European bike trip. David is looking to clear his mind with his favorite activity, when he comes across a beautiful woman being harassed by hunters. He intervenes, gets the girl, and in the process becomes a target. That is when this film takes a big one-eighty, because during the chase, they enter a creepy area of the woods, run into something far more sinister, and all wind up in the same boat. I've said it time and time again, today's horror films are almost always poorly written gorefests, full of jump scares, that aren't scary anymore. Shadow has the gore, some truly horrific and brutal gore, but aside from that, this film is genuinely creepy and very frightening. I don't know how or where they found Nuot Arquint, but the man put a chill in my bones. Arquint and Muxworthy were terrific on opposite ends of the spectrum, but the rest of the cast left a lot to be desired. This was a debut for the Director and many of the actors, so Shadow wasn't without it's mistakes and weak points, that being said, I just love the fact that it scared me, and for as scary as the film was, it may have been the cleverly written twist in the end that was the most horrifying of all.

The Humanity Bureau

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Sarah Lind, Jakob Davies, & Hugh Dillon 
Director: Rob King - Rating: R - Score: 2 1/2 Stars

In the not too distant future a second civil war has taken place. In the aftermath, with limited resources, the productive members of society are protected. Those who are not, are investigated by The Humanity Bureau. If deemed unproductive, they are sent to live in the wastelands, where life is difficult. Noah Kross (Nicholas Cage) is one of the Bureau's top investigators, but when he discovers a secret about the wasteland, he decides it's no place for a single mother and he son, and decides to risk everything to bring them to freedom. It seems like every week a direct-to-video film like this comes out starring either Nicholas Cage or Bruce Willis, and they are always somewhat entertaining, due to the talent of the lead actor. Some, such as The Humanity Bureau, are better written than others, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are better films. The backstory here is highly imaginative and there were so many different directions for this story to go in, but it took the easy way out and simply became another chase movie. The good guys on the run, the bad guys always on their heels, and keep watching to find out who wins. I loved the story here, the characters all had backstories and secrets, and this film could have absolutely been something special, but it wasn't. Instead we got one big chase, filled with a lot of inexperienced actors, who quite frankly were in over their heads. Nicholas Cage was terrific, the writing was really good, but in the end, The Humanity Bureau fails to live up to the hype.

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Rover

Starring: Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, & Scoot McNairy
Director: David Michod - Rating: R - Score: 3 1/2 Stars

In the very near future, the government of Australia has completely collapsed. The cities are run by the military and the outback has turned into the wild west. A daring crime has just taking place, four men took out an army barracks, and only three returned, but while fleeing, they crashed their car, luckily, there is one by the side of the road. That car belongs to a man named Eric, and he really loves his car. Eric (Guy Pearce) jumps into the damaged car and chases after the men, only to lose them. He attempts to track them, when he's approached by a man claiming to be the fourth man left for dead, and Eric promises him, if he doesn't help him get his car back, the man will be dead for sure this time. The Rover certainly is a bizarre story and I honestly couldn't believe some of the place it went to, but in the end the story was really ingenious. Guy Pearce stars in his best role since Momento. I mean he really was the perfect choice for Eric and fit this role like a glove. Pearce is paired with Rob Pattinson who I couldn't stand until I saw this movie. My only experiences with Pattinson to this point had been a brief appearance in Harry Potter, and a couple of god awful Twilight movies. I honest thought he was just another one of these good looking guys, who couldn't act, but I was wrong. His character had so many dimensions to it, having to deal with a mental illness, while trying to understand conflicting emotions that he never had to deal with before. It was a tremendous performance. The film does have it's slow points and some of scenes are just sick and twisted, much better suited for a different genre, but all in all I really enjoyed this film. It was something different for a change in a unique setting. While it lacked any kind of background and the dialogue was almost nonexistent, one almost felt like you didn't really need it to understand or enjoy this film.

Ice Blues: A Donald Strachey Mystery

Starring: Chad Allen, Sebastian Spence, & Daryl Shuttleworth 
Director: Ron Oliver - Rating: R - Score: 3 1/2 stars

Richard Stevenson's novels about Private Investigator, Donald Strachey, have been described as eye opening and ground breaking. They have launched a film series and there are even talks of a television series, but what makes these different than any other detective stories, Donald Strachey is gay. The whole point of the series is to show that despite his sexuality, Strachey is just the same as every other cop turned private investigator, he has the same problems, works the same cases, faces the same dangers, there is absolutely no difference. The first film in the series, Third Man Out, didn't capture that. The film series aired on the LGBTQ movie channel, Here!, and was so far over the top and full of gay everything, that I thought the series would die right there. Fortunately, they gave the series another shot, corrected the mistakes, and the second time around, filmmakers got it right. Ice Blues is much closer to Stevenson's novels and characters than the original film was. It starts when Strachey's long time partner, Tim Callahan (Sebastian Spence) receives a large campaign contribute from an anonymous man, who is murdered right in front of him. The police come to investigate, but find no proof, not even a body, so he hires his partner, Donald Strachey (Chad Allen), who doesn't know what to think. That all changes the next morning, when the body turns up, in the couples drive way, with a note attached to it. Chad Allen was so much better in this film than in the first. In the first movie he was a gay private investigator, in this film, he's a private investigator who happens to be gay. It's a part of the story but not the main focus of everything. Ice Blues is centered on the case itself, which is what a film should be focused on. The mystery was solid, the twist in the end was terrific, I would have liked to seen some more action and better casting, but overall a very solid film, especially for one that was made for TV.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Maze Runner: The Death Cure

Starring: Dylan O'Brien, Thomas Sangster, Kaya Scodelario, & Ki Hong Lee
Director: Wes Ball - Rating: PG-13 - Score: 4 Stars

The Maze Runner series was one of the best book series I've read in the last few years. I obviously get excited when something I've read hits the big screen, even though I know the film usually won't be as good as the book was. I have found that when film makers try to stick to the original story, as they did in The Hunger Games, the films are terrific. When they just take pieces and basically write their own story, it's usually an epic failure, i.e. Allegiant. In the first installment of Maze Runner, the film diverged and was disappointing, but the second film followed the book to a tee, and was terrific, what would happen in the third? Right off the bat, as I feared, the story is completely different and very few elements from the book are even used in the film, however, in the rarest of rare cases, the way the film makers re-wrote the story, actually improved upon it! Dylan O'Brien returns as Thomas and this is the film where his character really broke out and came to life as the hero we see in the novels. I honestly didn't see him as Thomas until I watched this film, he was that good. As for his other half, AKA Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), she was in a completely different role than in the novel, but likewise gave a much stronger performance than she did in the other two films. The final standout was Thomas Sangster, who I've spoke about before. He is fantastic in everything he does, but he doesn't do a whole lot! I really would like to see him do more and break out, it's a mystery to me why he doesn't. As a whole, The Death Cure was not the best in the book series, but it was the best in the film series. Many critics complained that it was too long, but I say take a look at what they did with the last book of the Divergent series. Alligiant was split into two and how well did that turn out? The only knock on this film is that one of my favorite actors, Jacob Lofland, didn't have more screen time as Aries, but aside from that this was a perfect conclusion to the film series, and a better ending than the one that was originally written for this franchise.

Good Kill

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Zoe Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood, & Jake Abel
Director: Andrew Niccol - Rating: R - Score: 3 Stars

Major Tom Egan (Ethan Hawke) is a decorated Air-force pilot, who after five deployments, has been assigned to a base in Las Vegas, where he conducts drones strikes over Afghanistan. He hates his job and feels like a coward, but things get a whole lot worse, when the CIA commissions his team to start doing questionable jobs. Egan starts to come apart and take it out on his co-workers and family, leading to an uncertain future. IFC films are right at the top of my list right now as the absolute best in independent film. Seldom have they disappointed me, and I wouldn't describe my feelings about Good Kill as disappointed, but rather indifferent. This film, based on a true story, was exceptionally written and features a fantastic director and an amazing cast, but it also moves at a snails pace and is extremely repetitive. It's just drone strike, reaction, intervention, repeat, over and over again, followed by an ending that wasn't all that surprising. Ethan Hawke gives a powerful performance, despite the fact that he lacks the kind of emotion this role sorely needed. I understand that having Egan be this stone cold guy on the outside is a major theme, but it also makes for a lot of seemingly endless conversations and interactions. Good Kill has a lot of elements I look for in a movie, it's well written, has a cast I really enjoy, a director I know very well, still, it's lacking in emotion and levity. The film is monotonous and much longer than it had to be, all in all, not bad, but not great.

Under The Bed (2012)

Starring: Jonny Weston, Gattlin Griffith, & Musetta Vander
Director: Steven C. Miller - Rating: R - Score: 1 1/2 Stars

I watch mostly independent horror films, because when it comes to this genre, Hollywood is just too afraid to try anything different. When you see a horror film in theaters, it seems like all you get is either a slasher film with a ton of blood, a serial killer movie with lots of gore, or a supernatural thriller with nothing but jump scares. Real horror is supposed to be scary and is supposed to be something that sticks with you, but it's rare that a film can do that anymore, and Under The Bed is no exception. I can sum up this film by simply saying it's an hour of goosebumps, ten minutes of ridiculously over the top gore, and a whole five minutes of stranger things, thrown in at the end, for an attempt at originality. Not only was this a horror movie that I would call boring, but the cast was just plain annoying and written to be beyond stupid. If not for the writers love of the F word, combined with the last fifteen minutes of the film, Under The Bed could literally have been a Goosebump. Jonny Weston stars, and the future Project Almanac star, really was the only bright spot. This was one of his first films, but he at least has a clue as to how to live in the moment and build up the intensity. Weston's character had an interesting background and even a couple of funny one-liners, aside from that, this film has absolutely nothing. For those of us who love independent films, we are always taking a risk, knowing that a lot of times we're seeing newcomers. A lot of these films are something different, new, and refreshing, but other times they reek of inexperience and are completely lacking in originality. Under The Bed is yet another example of the latter.

Singularity (2017)

Starring: Julian Schaffner, Jeannie Wacker, & John Cusack
Director: Robert Kouba - Rating: PG-13 - Score: 2 Stars

Robots were supposed to make our lives easier, and at first, they did. Despite all the progress humanity made, it wasn't good enough for Elias Van Dorne (John Cusack), who decided robots were the way to salvation. Van Dorne promised his latest program, Kronos, would save the planet, but how? By wiping out all human life, because we are ultimately what is killing Earth. Fast Forward ninty-seven years as Andrew Davis (Julian Schaffner) wakes up in a world he doesn't know. Attempting to find his way, he meets a young girl, who tells him of a place that is free from Kronos, only question is, can they make it there in one piece? On paper this seems like a great story, and for a b-movie, the special effects are pretty remarkable, but that was the only notable thing about this film. The whole plot really doesn't make much sense, I mean why would Van Dorne want to destroy humanity and live alone forever as part of a computer program? The cast is lead by newcomer, Julian Schaffner, who shows a lot of inexperience but also a lot of potential. I think it's a good thing for a young actor to start out in a film like this, because he can gain his experience in something relatively small and unknown, before moving on to bigger and better things. As for John Cusack, I usual enjoy his films, but in this case he was just terrible. Elias Van Dorne is a character without feeling or purpose, just an evil button pusher, who loves the sound of his own voice, a complete waste of Cusack's talent. The bottom line, Singularity has it moments, but there are too many slow points and too much inexperience seeping through for it to be something I would ever watch again or recommend over hundreds of better choices.

Monday, July 23, 2018

24 Hours To Live

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Rutger Hauer, Liam Cunningham, & Xu Qing
Director: Brian Smrz - Rating: R - Score: 3 1/2 Stars

When you think of action movie stars, Ethan Hawke, isn't the first name to come to mind. That's because his best known works aren't action films, but he has done a lot of independent action stuff and each one is better than the last. In his latest, 24 Hours To Live, Hawke plays Travis Conrad, the worlds best, yet retired, hit-man. When a government conspiracy is threatened to be revealed, a large sum of money brings Conrad out of retirement, but something goes wrong and he is killed, only to be awaken 8 hours later with the marvels of modern science. He is told he has only 24 hours to live, hence the title, but in those 24 hours he must decide weather or not to complete his mission or avenge a mistake. This film has a lot of similarities to Jason Statham's Crank, except that it doesn't move as quickly and actually has a plot. Unlike Crank, this film isn't just about killing and explosions, it brings a mans morality into question at the end of his life. Ethan Hawke is fantastic and if given the opportunity would be sensational in any big budget action film. Supported by newcomers and some very poor cameos by Rutger Hauer, it's Hawke's character that makes this film spectacular, that is until the end. If you like independent films as much as I do, you come to learn that without the big budget, sometimes they have to push the envelope a little bit and do things filmmakers don't typically do. Sometimes it works out well, other times it's a complete failure, and the ending to this movie almost destroys it. The film has a terrific final scene and looks like it's on it's way to be one of the best action films I've seen all year, until a 3 minute scene at the end of the film almost takes down the whole thing. It was certainly a curve ball, but one that was absolutely unnecessary. That being said, this film was still everything one could hope for from an action movie, fast paced, loud, and violent with an actual story that makes sense to go along with it.

Last Rampage: The Escape of Gary Tilson

Starring: Robert Patrick, Heather Graham, Bruce Davidson, & Skyy Moore
Director: Dwight H. Little - Rating: R - Score: 3 Stars

Careful what you wish for, you just might get it, careful what you wish, you might regret it. This line sums up the film Last Rampage in a nutshell. This is the true story of Gary Tilson's 1978 escape from prison, with the help of his three sons. Tilson's sons never knew their father, but was told by their delusion mother that he was innocent, so when they were old enough, they hatched a plan to break him out of prison and it succeeded. The boys were elated to have their father back, until they saw with their own eyes exactly what he was and knew there wasn't anything they could do about it. The story here is kind of written and plays out like a lifetime movie, only with more blood and a lot more cursing than one would typically see on that network. As with all prison break stories, real or fictional, getting out is easy but what to do next is the confusing part. A lot of mistakes and good Samaritans, lead to a lot of detours and murders, even though this was a true story, nothing really unexpected happens. Unless you've never seen this type of film before, you can pretty much figure out what's next. Robert Patrick continues to be outstanding in very small, unknown film. He was the main guy in Terminator 2, spent a couple seasons on The X-Files, but besides that has been largely unrecognized and unappreciated as one of the best movie villains you could have. For a change the acting isn't the problem here, in fact, it really helps an otherwise dull and predictable story. Heather Graham and Bruce Davidson have never been better in support of Patrick and newcomer Skyy Moore, provides that empathetic character that is too often missing from films like this one. All in all this isn't a bad film, just a predictable one, that's a bit too long, and far more simplistic than I assume was originally intended. 

Grown Ups (2010)

Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, & David Spade
Director: Dennis Dugan - Rating: PG-13 - Score: 4 1/2 Stars

Adam Sandler gets a bad rap, especially in comedy circles. I am a huge fan, but even I won't deny that he's made some really terrible movies, that he probably knew were terrible, but is wanting to get paid such a crime? The truth is, while he has had a number of stinkers in the last few years, he's also had some really great films, which in my opinion are on the level with Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore, Grown Ups is one such film. Five school friend reunite for the funeral of their basketball coach and decide to rent a cabin together, as they did when they were children, but life with modern day families is a lot more difficult now that it has ever been. People go into to Adam Sandler films expecting raunchy comedies, because of how he used to toe the line on Saturday Night Live, but when has Sandler ever been raunchy? Even looking back at his best regarded films, they were never raunchy and seldom has he ever made an R rated movie. Sandler's brand of humor may have been more popular in the 90s and isn't as shocking to the millennial crowd, in fact, a lot of it is down right family friendly, but I still think he's hilarious and I could not stop laughing during this movie. Aside from the comedy, Sandler's films always come with a message and the message here was simple, today's kids are spoiled! It's no wonder that everyone has depression and anxiety as a result of never having a childhood. Today's kids would rather work at 10, to earn money for apps and videos games, instead of just going outside to play, and their parents are to blame for letting it happen. Kids are kids, put them in a situation and they will find a way to entertain themselves, and that's what happened out in this cabin in the woods. Sometimes too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth, but this time, the divergent comedic styles of Sandler, James, Rock, Spade, and Schneider come together in a film that is both family friendly and great for adults. It's the best film Adam Sandler has done in years and highly recommended.

The Signal (2014)

Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Laurence Fishburne, Olivia Cooke, & Beau Knapp
Director: William Eubank - Rating: PG-13 - Score: 2 Stars

By it's very nature, science fiction is going to be unusual, confusing, and sometimes just plain weird. When it's done correctly, that can be a very good thing, but when it's not done the right way, audiences are left confused and annoyed. In 2014's The Signal, three friends are on a road trip, headed back to school for another semester of higher education. To their disbelief, a hacker who had been bothering them for months is still at it and is making things personal. Nic, Haley, and Jonah have some tricks of their own and ultimately track down the hackers address. To no ones surprise, it's on their way to school and they decide to pay them a visit. What should have been a fun moment, turned into something more sinister, when a deadly scream leads to darkness, and Nic (Brenton Thwaits) winds up in a quarantined hospital with no memory of what happened that night. I enjoyed the premise of this movie and as far as story goes, the idea wasn't all that terrible, what was terrible was the way in which it was presented. This buddy road trip film ends up in a hospital, where the friends are held for way too long. The hospital scenes are just strange, unexplained, and kill the movies momentum. Towards the end there are some better scenes, hinting that the film may be building up to an epic conclusion, but it's just more of the same, as things take an even stranger turn, and an anti-climatic one at that. As for the stars of the film, Laurence Fishburn gives yet another flat robotic performance. Morpheus was the perfect character for this guy, but he never seemed to be able to leave him behind, and now plays this same role in every film. On the other side, Brenton Thwaites, somewhat known for his breakout performance in The Giver, made this film for me. He was enigmatic, on target, and just fun to watch. I said it in my review of the Giver and I'll say it agin, this kid is going places. The Signal had all the ingredients for a great science fiction film, but when the cake was done it didn't taste so good. Most of the acting was flat, the story went off in too many different directions, and it was frequently anti-climatic. 


Hello movie lovers! I know it's been a while, but I'd like to update you on what's been going on and then I've got some new reviews for ya!

I finally got that 9-5 that I've been looking for, that combined with my own business, Rock Island Management, which has me managing local bands and hosting local shows here on Long Island, has kept me very busy, but I have not forgotten about The Ultimate Movie Review. I believe I have found a time for weekly updates to finally resume!

That being said, running two businesses and living on Long Island isn't cheap, even with a 9-5, but I still refuse to accept financial donations. If you have money to give, please give it to a deserving charity and not a business! What I will accept however, is donations of your unwanted DVDs, Blu-Rays, Video Games, and Digital Codes. I will re-sell them on eBay and get the money I need that way. If you're interested in donating, please e-mail me or message me through facebook! Speaking of that, I received a very large and generous donation from a long time blog follower who quote, needs more reviews, because he can't find rare films the way that I can. I'd like to give "Mr. Anonymous" a very special thank you and let you guys know that over 150 DVDs and Blu-Rays are now up for sale on our eBay page. Click the picture below and see if we have something you want. I start the prices lower than Amazon's lowest price and shipping is cheaper too!

As for my other business, Rock Island Management, we are so happy to announce we have a national act playing my birthday show on August 6th at Amityville Music Hall!!! The Pink Spiders!!! If you're from Long Island and want to come down to the show to see this great band and celebrate my birthday with me, click the tour poster below!

That's all for now, enjoy the new reviews and get ready for more, and please remember to share share share our posts. There are a lot of amazing movies and TV shows that never get the credit they deserve, together we can change that!

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Zero Theorem

Starring: Christoph Waltz, Tilda Swinton, & David Thewlis
Director: Terry Gilliam - Rating: R - Score: 0 Stars

When you watch a Terry Gilliam film, you should expect for there to be a fair amount of weirdness. When you add Science Fiction to the mix, there is the possibility that anything can happen. With this in mind, I was really excited to see The Zero Theorem, and what I got was simply one of the worst films I have ever seen! Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz) is a computer genius, who has been assigned by Management to discover the meaning of life. He does this alone in an old abandoned church. This movie made absolutely no sense to the point where I don't even know how the hell to describe it in any way that would do it justice. Waltz is running around like a madman the entire time, talking so fast, with that accent, that he's impossible to understand. He meets Tilda Swinton at some type of party, and she keeps showing up for some unknown reason, personally I just think it's because she's weird and she likes being in weird movies. Waltz has all these odd computer programs, strange characters he interacts with and talks non-sense with, all in a film that moves faster than his internet connection. I really just didn't understand a thing that was going on and watching it a number of times or doing any amount of any drug in the world wouldn't change that. How is a solitary man playing strange computer games supposed to discover the meaning of life? Who are all these people who keep showing up? What in the hell are they talking about, and what does anything have to do with anything? I'm not entirely sure that another person on this planet besides Terry Gilliam understands what was going on in this film. All I know is that no one should have ever been exposed to whatever this nightmare was intended to be.

Take Me To The River (2015)

Starring: Logan Miller, Robin Weigert, & Ursula Parker
Director: Matt Sobel - Rating: NR - Score: 1 1/2 Stars

The more things change, the more things stay the same. That is supposed to be the message of this unique Sundance Film Festival winner, however any message the film intended to share was lost by it's sheer disturbing nature. Ryder (Logan Miller) is a Gay California teenager who is going with his parents to a family reunion in Kansas. Knowing that her rural family will never understand, Ryder's mother has kept that little detail from the rest of the family, much to Ryder's chagrin. Ryder rebels in his own way by wearing an outrageous outfit and keeping to himself at the family outing, only spending time with his young cousin, Molly (Ursula Parker) who wants to play in the barn. When Molly comes running back from the barn with an unusual bloodstain, Ryder earns the ire of the rest of his family and wants to tell them he's gay, but apparently being thought of as something else is even better than that. If this film displays one thing, it's that homophobia is alive and well, and that should have been more the focus of this film. While I think everyone pretty much suspected Ryder was gay, the whole situation with Molly made them think he was something else too and the focus was on that. The families reaction to it was what was even more disturbing as it ranged from what you'd expect to sheer ridiculousness. I honestly can't believe some of the things that happened in this film, as they were both disturbing and seemingly without much of a purpose. Logan Miller stars and now that I've seen him in a few other things, I can honestly say that he's the kind of actor who has to fit the role. He has this kind of whiny, emo boy personality that just doesn't fit with everything. In a film like this, if anything I'd expect him to be more outraged, emotional to the point of being over the top but he really wasn't, it was as if he didn't grasp what he was being accused of. Take Me To The River focused on a single event and just didn't let go, everything else became irrelevant. The film was disturbing, the acting was sub-par, and a lot of what happened just didn't seem to make a whole lot of sense.

Mr. 3000

Starring: Bernie Mac, Angela Bassett, & Michael Rispoli
Director: Charles Stone III - Rating: PG-13 - Score: 3 1/2 Stars

Bernie Mac was one of my favorite comedians, but I have to admit that I wasn't expecting much out of this film. Mac played Stan Ross, one of the best baseball players to ever step foot on the field in Milwaukee. He retired right after he got his 3000th hit, something that is very difficult to do in the Majors. After his career, Mr. 3000 became his personal moniker, as he launched a number of businesses under the Mr. 3000 name. Ross is even being considered for the Hall of Fame, when a review of his statistics finds an error. As it turns out, three of his hits had been counted twice, and now to maintain his Mr. 3000 persona, Ross must return to the game, at age 47, to try and get three more hits. While this was supposed to be a comedy, the part I really enjoyed was seeing how this superstar, who had everything handed to him, his whole life, struggled to do the simplest of things. The other players hazed him, the younger players resented him, and he had to somehow rectify this with his massive ego. As for Mac, he was outstanding! The man was truly unique and I feel as though he never got the chance to reach his real potential. Films like Mr. 3000 were fun and definitely enjoyable for the audience, but they weren't the kind of award winning, career defining roles that he was really capable of. This film is full of laughs and the sports action wasn't bad either, to say the least, I was fairly impressed and I think you will be too.

The 5th Wave

Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, & Ron Livingston
Director: J Blakeson - Rating: PG-13 - Score: 3 Stars

The 5th Wave is a rare of example of a film I enjoyed despite hating the novel it was based on. The book was extremely slow, as it was narrated by the lonely girl the film is focused on. She re-lived her experiences in flashbacks in the book, while the movie is more straightforward, therefore eliminating some of the monotony. Still the film isn't without it's flaws, as it is based on an idea that has been done to death. Aliens have invaded the Earth once again and this time they have done it in four crushing waves. Most of the planet is in ruins, millions are dead, and the few that are left have banded together to try and form some sort of resistance. A 5th wave is coming and the military has surmised that children will be the least affected by it, and have begun rounding them up and training them as soldiers. Cassie Sullivan (Chloe Grace Moretz) is one of these children, who is devastated to be separated from her family, but at the same time happy to be fighting along side her life long crush Ben Parish (Nick Robinson). For me, this film was less about the story and more about it's stars. As I said I didn't really care for the story, it's been done, and the whole Hunger Games love angel just seemed to be a lazy rip off. What I did enjoy was seeing two of Hollywood's biggest young stars together in the same film, Chloe Grace Moretz and Nick Robinson. Both of them have been getting bigger and better roles and to finally see them together in a major blockbuster film was a treat. Moretz's character was just another Katniss Everdeen/Tris clone, but she played in well. The true star of the film, was Nick Robinson, the popular kid in High School who transforms into Zombie, the fearless leader of the youthful army. Films like Kings of Summer and Being Charlie saw Robinson take the reigns and make those films his own, and in a way he did the very same thing here. He may not have been THE star, but he certainly was the one to watch, as he was involved in every great scene this movie had to offer. The 5th Wave is a mix of elements and characters simply stolen from other similar stories. The special effects were terrific, the young cast was out of this world, but as a whole, this film wasn't anything special.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Glades

Starring: Matt Passmore, Kiele Sanchez, Carlos Gomez, Jordan Wall, Michelle Hurd, & Uriah Shelton
Seasons: 4 (2010-2013) - Network: A&E - Score: 3 1/2 Stars

The story of The Glades is one of consistency, as the show was consistent to a fault. From the series premiere to it's finale, across four seasons, nothing ever changed. When the show went into re-runs, the only way you knew what season you were watching, was by seeing how big Uriah Shelton was, it had become that ridiculous. What could they have done with an episonic police drama that hadn't been done before, not much, but something would have better than nothing, as like most, near the end, I just completely lost interest.

Jim Longworth (Matt Passmore) is a homicide detective from Chicago, who doesn't like to play by the rules. He has his own way of doing things and it earned him a ticket out of town. He relocated to the Florida Everglades, expecting quiet days at work and weekends of golf in the sun, but murder happens everywhere. Each week Longworth finds unique homicides and ends up doing battle with everyone from deranged soccer moms to international drug smugglers, as he tries to keep the people of Florida safe.

One of the main focuses of the show is Jim's feelings for a nurse/medical student Callie (Kiele Sanchez), who often gets involved in his cases. Jim has become a mentor to her young son, Jeff (Uriah Shelton) and would love to be with Callie, but she can never seem to finalize her divorce or balance her life. It is a recurring theme throughout the series that never seems to get resolved and becomes unbelievably frustrating after 50 episodes of the same thing.

The show always starts with a crime, Jim investigates, jokes with the medical examiner and geeky forensic guy, and then works the case at the same time doing his back and fourth with Callie and Jeff, and that's it! There were never any recurring storylines, never any changes, nothing to keep people interested from season to season! How about a cliffhanger or a ballbuster of a new boss? Maybe someone should have gotten shot and their future left up in the air? Ever heard of a serial killer? There was never anything but the current case. The comedy was always there and at first the back and fourth with Jim and Callie was great, but when you're doing the same thing four years later, who cares already?

The bottom line, this was a show that had potential, I liked the characters, the setting was fairly unique, and there were a couple of really talented new faces associated with this show. However, The Glades was happy with the status quo and didn't take any risks of any kind. It quickly grew stale, the ratings dropped, and now it's just another failed forgotten cop show streaming on Netflix.

The Phenom

Starring: Johnny Simmons, Paul Giamatti, & Ethan Hawke
Director: Noah Buschel - Rating: NR - Score: 1 1/2 Stars

Hopper Gibson (Johnny Simmons) is in a position that every little boy dreams about. He is a star rookie pitcher in Major League Baseball. His numbers and talent are off the chart, when all of a sudden, he can't find the strike zone. There is nothing wrong with him physically, so the team sends him down to the minors and puts him to work with the top sports psychologist in the country. I really don't understand professional critics and what they look for when they rate a film. Take The Phenom for example, this film has got to be the slowest and most boring sports film I've ever seen, yet it has an 80 on Rotten Tomatoes. There was very little sports action in this film and the fast majority of it consisted of this guy sitting in a room talking to a shrink! Yes, the shrink was played by Paul Giamatti, who is an unbelievably talented actor, but why the hell would anyone want to watch some dudes therapy session? When he wasn't in therapy, he should be on the field, but no, he's dealing with his over barring father, who is fresh out of prison. Who plays this bad ass, bullying his pro-athlete son, who is in peak physical condition? A very old looking, very tattooed, Ethan Hawke and I really wasn't buying that for a second. There were some talented actors in this film, no doubt, but The Phenom was 88 minutes of talking and nothing more, what in the hell is so great about that? This film was as boring as movies get, so unless you're a die hard Paul Giamatti fan, I would absolutely let this one pass you by.

Adventures In Babysitting (1987)

Starring: Elizabeth Shue, Maria Brewton, Keith Coogan, & Anthony Rapp
Director: Christopher Columbus - Rating: PG-13 - Score: 4 Stars

Is it just me or were comedies funnier in the 80s? Adventures In Babysitting was by no means raunchy, it doesn't even compare to the films of today in that respect, but in someways there just seem to be a lot more laughs in these classic 80s comedies. For those who don't know the story, Chris (Elizabeth Shue) passes up a night with her boyfriend to babysit for two kids. It was the right choice, but when her best friend is left stranded and in trouble, Chris is forced to take the kids into Chicago to go and rescue her. What awaits her there is an adventure she never saw coming, with everything from gangsters to car trouble and perhaps even a new romantic interest? This film was supposed to be the one that made Karate Kid alum, Elizabeth Shue, a big star, but despite the films success and eventual cult status, it never happened. It's hard to understand why that is. I think it has a lot to do with her virtually disappearing for three years after this film, only to re-appear for a bit part in Back To The Future. Had she ridden the wave of success from this performance, she would have been one of the late 80s biggest names. Shue was fantastic, tough when she needed to be, caring when she wanted to be, and of course she always had the right line on the tip of her tongue. Add to the mix two obnoxious young teens and a tough as nails young tomboy and you have a mixture for success. Lest we forget this was a Christopher Columbus film, so we also have all those oddballs and crazy dumb criminals we know and love thrown in there too. Adventures In Babysitting was almost like a trial run for Home Alone, three years later. While the film certainly had it's share of flaws, and would not be rated PG-13 by today's standards, it was a largely enjoyable family film and in many ways a distant cousin to Home Alone. I loved this film when I was a kid and I appreciate it even more now, Adventures In Babysitting is highly recommended fun for the whole family!