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Monthly Archives: November 2015

COLOR ME SHOCKED BUT THE “PRIDES AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES” (2016) IS PRETTY GOOD – TRAILER REVIEW

Who knew a movie like this would have my interest? I didn’t. Who knew a trailer for a film like this would be as interesting and action packed like this? I didn’t and I’m happy to have been wrong on this property.

The film stars Lily James from the live-action Cinderella film of this year and she is is lady who isn’t afraid to whoop that ass. She and her sisters have been trained to not just be polite, but to handle a sword and that’s awesome.

The action looks fun and well shot and the actors are all worth watching. I’m pleased to say that I will be going out to see this once is releases in theaters because it may be the shockingly fun movie of next year.

“MOCKINGJAY PART 2” (2015) IS A SLOW SOAP OPERA FINALE TO “THE HUNGER GAMES” FRANCHISE – MOVIE REVIEW

The Hunger Games franchise has been a unique movie going experience for the past half decade and skyrocketed Jennifer Lawrence and the rest of the cast into mainstream stardom. Making boat loads of money and creating a fan base that goes beyond the original source material, we see the battle on the Capitol and Katniss’ final march to take down Snow. I have enjoyed this franchise, but my attachment has never really been there like the rest of the audience viewing these movies. That being said, this had its good moments and it’s bad moments.

This is a book that definitely didn’t need to be two parts. The first part of Mockingjay was far too much set up for what is ultimately a stretched out pacing of snail like proportions and follows too well to the book. There are twists and turns from the book that are merely glossed over in the film and that taints what good parts could have come out of this films story. Instead, we get what I consider an overacting Jennifer Lawrence and some sleep inducing lackluster sequences of events all throughout. As someone who read the final book, there are times when you hoped that the studios and film makers would have followed the trend of making the best film they could, not the best direct adaptation of its source material.

There are battles from the books that we never really get a chance to sink our teeth in and instead we are suffering through lackluster finales and twists that don’t get the proper screen time like they should. Katniss as a whole for me personally is not the most likable heroine, but does represent important morals that a great hero should possess. She is courageous in all aspects of her life and does it for the safety of her family and friends and her home and that’s something we have been able to get behind since 2012, but sadly, we had to wait for an cash grab of a finale instead of letting the epic conclusion become one great third film.

It’s because we were given nothing but dragged out exposition from Part 1 that Part 2 is nothing more than predictable action and even more boring scenes that lead to the final battle and take down of President Snow. Though the film has its emotional sequences, it loses that punch you want from a grand finale simply because it isn’t as grand as it could have been if it was one epic movie. Sure, the film has some great shots of the futuristic destruction of the world of Panem and has those explosive scenes, but I didn’t find myself all that impressed.

The truer fans than myself will likely get more out of this film that I did, but as someone who thoroughly enjoyed the first two films and what they had to offer as futuristic sci-fi, action/adventure films, this was a heartbreaking way to end it. Lawrence is still a talented young actress who will leave a great impression on most us after this film is done being shown because she does great things for the female lead and does it will strength and class, but as far as a straight up final film, it just didn’t do it for me.

SCORE: C

HEIST (2015) IS UNORIGINAL, MINDLESS ACTION – MOVIE REVIEW

As far as mindless entertainment goes, you’d think that it would at least be considered a guilty pleasure action flick since it has such a talented cast, but even this world class cast of men and women couldn’t save this mash-up of Die Hard and Speed for the better. The film stars Robert DeNiro, Jeffery Dean-Morgan, Kate Bosworth, Dave Bautista, Morris Chestnut, and Gina Carano. The story is about as simple as the film’s title and equally as cliched even with the promising amount of big names for this unoriginal action flick.

With most films like this you’ve never heard of, you don’t expect much out of it and you hope it does what John Wick was able to do and that is shock us with how fun and enjoyable the film actually is, but Heist just isn’t that fun nor exciting. It’s a promising idea that falls flat like a dirty penny on the sidewalk and the irony in that is that this movie probably only made about a few dirty pennies so far. This is one of those films that I have to believe was just another paycheck for these actors. With that being said, you’d think it would turn out much better than this did.

The script is a 90’s action movie love child that ended up trying to live to it’s parents expectations and constantly failed. Though it has some fun action sequences and glimpses of good human drama, it just doesn’t have enough to bring it to a standard most movie goers can withstand. The actors and actresses themselves did a respectable job with the roles they were given, especially DeNiro going back to his mobster/gangster roots that made him who we know him as today and Dean Morgan shows he’s a talent worth knowing, but he is getting roles like these in films that have no real meat to them.

Some may consider this a guilty pleasure and I wouldn’t have trouble seeing why, but this is not in anyway a pleasure of any kind for me. The potential is wasted with such a solid idea and the cast around it, but it ultimately looks like a bunch 90’s action movies wrapped in one jumbled mess of film that is anchored the darkest depths of a cinema sea of mediocrity.

DeNiro is entirely too talented and coveted by great film makers to be doing the Nicolas Cage route of acting this late in his career. Maybe a call from Scorsese can help everyone who was a part of this film and remind them what a good movie will look like from script to footage. We can only hope DeNiro will bounce back with some actual films worth watching in the future and that Jeffery Dean Morgan can make a name for himself in the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as Thomas Wayne.

SCORE: D-

“99 HOMES” (2015) SHOWS THE DARK SIDE OF EVICTIONS – MOVIE REVIEW

The 2008 housing market reached an all time low for thousands of people as banks foreclosed hundreds of Americans out of their homes. One of the victims of that crash is Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) and his family as they are kicked out of their home by a ruthless real estate shark played by the underrated Michael Shannon. Desperate for his family home and a job to pay off the loans on his family’s home, Dennis becomes a shark of his own accord doing what was done to him.

Human dramas like this can be all to real and the emotion on every different face of the foreclosure victims are just a gut-wrenching. From the old to the young to the families to the loners, no one is safe from banks taking your stuff. You are swept into a current of events that lead to Garfield giving one of his best performances since The Social Network when it comes to drama. This is one of those films that he is able to show he is far more than Peter Parker and that he has range and a true knack for this whole acting thing. Right next to him in the underrated talents section is Michael Shannon and the results speak for themselves.

Shannon is a man who is taking advantage of a horrible situation for his own gain and hopes of surviving the housing crash. Though his tactics aren’t always ethical nor legal, he gets the job done and in the mean time does what he needs to do. There is a scene where Shannon gives a monologue to Garfield about what America was founded on and who it ends up protecting and its riveting. Even in defending his unforgivable actions, you are bought into his defense. Like a great lawyer he appears to always come off Scot-free and you love to hate him for it.

There is so much to be said about the corruption that goes into the sale of a home through bank loans. I came out of this film never wanting to buy a house. The idea of being thrown out of your own home you worked hard to get is terrifying and that’s because it happens every single day to hard working, innocent Americans. This has a strong, big name cast, but it’s a small and contained indie-style drama with a voice and some serious talent all throughout which shows Ramin Bahrani – director and writer – at his best when it comes to his young film career.

I’d suggest this to a lot of people whether you’re an avid film fan or your just like a good movie once in awhile. It’s drama at its best with a story you can get into with characters you can follow like breadcrumbs. Sadly, this didn’t get a wide release in theaters (I don’t know why) but when you get a chance definitely give this film a viewing.

SCORE: B+

What Makes a Great Movie Villain?

I love watching villains in film. It’s odd and most importantly, captivating. I don’t like when people do horrid things in real life, but in movies, they are the most interesting parts of the film. The adage goes, “a movie is only as good as its villains” and I have to believe that is true in most cases. What antagonists do for stories is bring an issue afoot or stop the good things from happening entirely. They’re complex and surprisingly relatable, though this doesn’t mean deep down we’re all Nazis or war mongering maniacs, but it does bring our deep seeded ideals into physical or metaphoric form.

Villains are the men, women, and anything in between that feel they are doing what is necessary. They are blinded by their own extreme ideals or sometimes ideals that we subconsciously relate to. Writing a great villain has always been a goal of mine as a young screenwriter. It’s far more exciting to write up flawed characters because it makes them that much more enthralling. Audiences need to relate to the characters on screen whether good or bad and what makes villains unique in that regard is that they are the manifestations of people themselves.

I look at someone John Doe from Se7en and just revel in the brilliance of his character. Here’s a villain that takes out people that personify the seven deadly sins. That doesn’t sound as bad at first, but it’s how he takes them out that makes him a true bad guy for the movie. Th ideals are there but his actions dilute any sensible reasoning we might have had.

Then villains get the best lines too. Oh yes, villains are always the people we quote from movies. We aren’t quoting Bruce Wayne from the Batman films, no, instead we are mimicking words that villains have said. How many times a day does someone say “Why so serious?” or “I find you lack of faith disturbing”? Probably a lot. It’s because they pack a punch unlike most of the things our good guys say. Villains produce the most insane, sometimes accurate monologues because they usually bring a harsh reality to the story that the hero is trying to fix.

Obviously there are villains that are impossible to love or enjoy and that includes rapists, child abusers, wife beaters of all kinds etc, but we love villains, the ones with ideals and morals and insane brilliance incorporated into their characters that creates a complex mystery we want to solve. Heroes are great and all, but as the quote goes “you either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain” and boy does it ring true in stories between good and evil.

WHY YOU NEED TO SEE “CREED” (2015) – MOVIE REVIEW

The Talent Around “Creed” (2015) Is Worth Getting to Know

Boxing films, stories of overcoming the odds and winning in and outside of the ring. You would think that this formula would dry up after all these years, but Creed just proved us wrong yet again with the highly anticipated spin-off of the beloved Rocky franchise birthed from the heart of Sylvester Stallone nearly forty years ago. Writer and director Ryan Coogler proves to audiences once again that he is a young force in Hollywood that handles his craft with love and care and should be on everyone’s radar by the end of this year. His natural storytelling abilities were encapsulated through his feature film debut with Fruitvale Station and have carried on for Creed with exciting results. Coogler brings back his muse – Michael B. Jordan – in a modern retelling and continuation that is both reminiscent of the classic film, but also discovers its own identity in the process much like its lead. It takes on the challenge as a new age underdog story without falling to the deadly cliches most films like this could have suffered and instead proves its critics wrong like the character of Rocky himself.

Learning that this was a letter to the director’s father and the strong father-son relationship they share, it was a positive sign for the films quality and emotional depth that would soon drive the film to its eventual pulse-pounding gravitas. Like the original Rocky film back in 1976, the story is not just about boxing nor is it full of flashy boxing matches that blanket the heart of its characters, though the fight scenes are something to behold. This is a human story about a young man figuring out how to solve his identity crisis as well as his daddy issues while trying to create a legacy started by the father he never knew. In tale, Adonis seeks out the man that his father once called a rival and later his best friend – Rocky Balboa – and returns the audience to the all too familiar streets of Philadelphia Pennsylvania with one of the coolest mixtures of hip hop songs and a familiar updated score.

Adonis soon realizes that Rocky is the man that can bring him to his goals of becoming a great boxer like his father, but reluctantly, Rocky takes on the short tempered, though talented, young boxer as they go through the classic montages that make sports films so exciting. Michael B. Jordan’s transformations, both physically and mentally, are dramatically effective in bringing the audience into his character, showcasing a fighter with a heart and mind that knows when it’s time to fight and when not to. Some of the best scenes proving this conscious effort to better himself are when he shares the screen with Tessa Thompson – star of Dear White People – an impressive young talent in her own right.

Whether it be the superpowers of Coogler’s direction or just the rare blooming of Sly’s dramatic acting chops, Stallone brings his A-game in what might be his best performance as a pure actor since 1976. Never have I been so emotionally clamped onto a Sylvester Stallone performance like I was during my viewing of Creed. Seeing Stallone go from the young boxer to the wise old trainer was something I don’t think audiences were expecting gravitate towards like we did. Sly as an aged Balboa is warm, subtle and lonely all at once as he takes on the fatherly role to Jordan’s Adonis, and in the process they make a hard hitting pair (pun intended). Once we see the first few scenes between Stallone and Jordan, we already know their relationship is one for the ages. It’s organically grown and easily believable all throughout as it mixes light comedy with inspiration.

But how can you talk about a boxing film without mentioning the boxing scenes? That’s like Food Network not mentioning food for the whole day. Coogler was able to do something that a lot of directors have trouble doing when making films like this and that is getting hard hitting fight scenes that look believable. The way Coogler was able to capture the in-ring bouts are nothing shy of impressive. Every hit and swing looked visceral and hard hitting as well as realistic. The cuts and blood splatter take us into the fights without us even knowing it and the hype before each fight is enough to make you want to take yourself up and strap on the gloves yourselves.

I’d be shocked if Stallone didn’t get nominated for a Best-Supporting Oscar this year and Michael B. Jordan and Coogler are just as deserving if there is enough space come Oscar season. Stallone’s performance as the aged fighter may have been his defining moments as an actor and compare to his debut role as the same character. His charm reminded us why we love Rocky so much, but it was showing us  how to properly pass on the torch and why the torch needs to be passed in the first place. Loss and loneliness are realities of life the older we become, but can be combated by having people that care about you in your corner and Michael B. Jordan is the perfect actor to be given the torch.

Creed does nearly everything right. The story is cohesive to the past films while still being its own personal story but it also doesn’t forget where it comes from. There is respect and needed changes brought in to produce a quality story on screen and has plenty to move on with in this new franchise seems to only be going in a positive direction. It is a diverse cast without forcing the issue and it brings up relevant topics in more ways than one. The direction is near flawless in execution and will bring excitement and adrenaline pumping through your veins with well realized hip hop soundtrack as well as a great Rocky inspired score. It’s definitely a Top 5 film of 2015 so far and will likely be staying there for the rest of the year.

SCORE: A+

 

Thoughts on the “Captain America: Civil War” Trailer – Trailer Review

The trailer doesn’t exactly exude a Civil “War” but I think we get where it’s going. After a few viewings of this trailer I began to like it more and more. This wasn’t a trailer full of Spider-Man cameos and surprise appearances and it reminded us that, even though it’s got Civil War in the title, this is a still Captain America’s movie.

I would have probably renamed this to Captain America: Civil Dispute, but that wouldn’t have sold many tickets. The action looks like it’s as grand as Winter Solider and the story is picking up from there which is great for continuity. Captain America films have had the most heart in their plots and that trend is holding strong. Bucky is now free from Hydra’s clutches and Cap still isn’t fond of the government.

On the other side of the coin, we see a new hero in T’Challa aka Black Panther make an appearance and one can only assume he will be on Tony’s side due to their similarities in intellect and wealth among other things, but that can easily change as he may take on the role Spider-Man did in the comics. I just pray that the trailer is an honest precursor to what the tone of the film will be because this looks fascinating.

Questions have been answered about how they are going to divide these two Avengers juggernauts e.i. Iron Man and Cap and that will be through what the comics gave us, a limitation act on superheroes. Clearly Stark is for the limiting of what these heroes do and Cap – from the events of Winter Soldier – doesn’t exactly like the government right now.

My temper was lowered the more I had heard news about this film, but it’s nice to know that this is clearly still a Captain America movie and not just some orgy of every Marvel hero they can think of. Of course, this is only the first trailer and there have been tons of confirmations as to who will appear in the film, stay tuned.

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