• Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018)

    I watched the first Pacific Rim, because I like director Guillermo del Toro, but I found it to be fairly underwhelming. This sequel was not directed by del Toro, only produced. I wasn’t really looking forward to watching it, and maybe the lowered expectations helped make it more enjoyable. At the core, it is a larger-than-life special effects driven robot/mech movie and that’s really all you get. The characters aren’t very fleshed out or memorable. John Boyega plays the main character and when his sister dies, there is very little emotion or care involved. The dialogue is cringe-worthy at parts and some of the situations or events that lead to various other situations are beyond predictable. The cliches are strong with this one.

    The visuals are good and it started out OK. I just want more substance and less of the throwaway stylistic action special effects. This movie is an improvement over the first, but it only goes so far. It could be so much better with just a little bit more character development and engaging story.

    Rating:


  • Snatched (2017)

    I used to really enjoy Goldie Hawn comedies of the olden days. Movies like Overboard  and Housesitter were fun and full of laughs. Part of me hoped that Snatched would bring a fresh twist to classic comedy that the genre desperately needs. Nope.

    There are virtually no laughs to be had. Most of the jokes rely on raunchy humor, which I usually enjoy, but there is no comedic timing. It’s like it just keeps throwing jokes at you with a “here, take this!” kind of approach. Basically, when drunk Amy Schumer climbs into bed with her mom and rips a massive fart, you know you are in trouble. And I like farts!

    The story itself is ridiculously ham-fisted. Schumer loses her job, then her boyfriend, and drags her mom on a trip to South America. While they are “enjoying” themselves, things run amok when they are kidnapped by drug dealers or something along those lines. It’s hard to get a handle on things when your brain is basically reduced to mush after the first 30-40 minutes of wasted screen time.

    Schumer is just not that funny, no matter how hard she tries. Goldie does her thing as best she can, but neither her or Schumer’s characters are particularly likable. The brother character played by Ike Barinholtz is about the only likable schmuck in the whole thing and he is on screen maybe 20 minutes.

    Rating:


  • Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

    Disney really messed up on this one, but it’s not a terrible movie. The problem is they metaphorically had Greedo shooting first. A Han Solo prequel story was never going to be some big, epic blockbuster. They should have had a little more foresight to understand that and plan accordingly.

    It should have been a small story without all the bombast and excessive plot cramming. The movie is 2 hours and 15 minutes long for cripes’ sake. All they needed to do was establish the character, give him something big to do that plays to his character’s development arc, and throw in a couple little references for the fanboys. It should have been 1 hour and 45 minutes long, tops.

    The cast was great, but Alden Ehrenreich wasn’t exactly the most convincing Han. It’s not really his fault, because Harrison Ford is one-of-a-kind. Woody Harrelson was incredible as usual. Donald Glover also played a suave Lando Calrissian and nailed it like only Donald Glover could.

    Then there was Lando’s sidekick droid, L3, who was probably the most annoying part of the whole movie. The cinematography was too dark at times and it felt like canned Star Wars. I’m sure Disney wants to maintain some sort of consistency across the Star Wars cinematic universe, but let the filmmakers get creative. Finally, I also felt like there were just too many action scenes and not enough chances for the characters to breathe. It’s like so many big budget summer movies where the characters are doing lots of things, but they aren’t solidifying to where the audience feels connected and thus gives a shit what happens to them.

    Rating:


  • Black Panther (2018)

    I think the reason why Black Panther became such a critical and commercial success was because it was fresh and inventive. It was nice to get a comic book movie about a superhero no one really paid much attention to. Instead of a Spiderman or Batman that everyone already pretty much knows everything about, we got an obscure character who was briefly shown in the previous Captain America: Civil War.

    T’Challa played by Chadwick Boseman becomes King of Wakanda and must decide if it’s best to keep the fictional African nation a secret and protected or come out of hiding and potentially help the world with the powerful meteor metal known as vibranium.

    Along the way, King T’Challa (the Black Panther) is challenged by Killmonger who has a vendetta against Wakanda and the person who murdered his father. Even though he is a ruthless villain, you still empathize with his situation.

    There are a lot of cool action scenes and the story is both inspiring and human, which is rare with comic book movies. Too often, you get all the glitzy visuals, but little soul.

    Rating:


  • Ready Player One (2018)

    I was first introduced to the book Ready Player One on the site known as Reddit. Many people raved about how it was a fun, nostalgic romp through pop culture of the 80s. The story follows a nerdy outcast named Wade who escapes the real world inside of a virtual world known as the OASIS. When he’s not in a virtual school, he spends all of his time searching for clues to uncover an Easter egg hidden in the virtual world by the OASIS’ creator before his death.

    When I heard the book was being made into a movie by none other than Steven Spielberg himself, I nearly crapped my pants. Not only did the book have great potential for a visual medium, Steven Spielberg is the kind of directing power house that could get it done.

    While there are many enjoyable moments and the movie has similar sensibilities to the book, it’s vastly different and a bit too safe at times. There were unnecessary plot changes and too many holes. Some of the dialog and character connections were completely cringe-inducing. For example, millions of people around the globe use the OASIS, but you are really going to have me believe that the 5 characters who connect inside the virtual world also happen to live in the same city in the real world? Gimme a break.

    Even though I would have preferred a purified book experience, I was OK with some of the changes as they added some mystery and unknown territory. What really fell flat was the pacing. It was too fast and there was never any chance for anything to breathe. The story elements were condensed. Much of the character building was absent.

    If you like 80s pop culture and an adventure-filled Easter egg hunt, you’ll enjoy this movie. If you’re a fan of the book, you might just want to re-read the book or listen to the Wil Wheaton narrated audiobook.


  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

    Sometimes, a movie will come out of nowhere and no one knows anything about it. Then a buzz starts up and then some Golden Globe awards are won and it seems like maybe there is something good there.

    Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is that kind of movie and it appears to be a top contender for the Best Picture Oscar. The story follows a grieving mother who purchases three billboards on a road no one travels to advertise the local police chief’s inability to catch her daughter’s murderer.

    The writing and delivery of the material works very well and keeps the viewer engaged, even though it seems like an unconventional and potentially boring story. The characters are wonderful and develop in ways you don’t totally anticipate. There are plenty of subtle intricacies that once you catch them, make you smirk. Things like dialog that seems rather mundane only to find a story element later on referring directly back to what was said.

    The performances are also top notch. Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson deliver the goods and Sam Rockwell’s roller coaster of a character arc definitely deserved that Golden Globe, and possibly an Oscar.

    My only gripe is that I felt there were a few too many coincidences. These things can bring the story momentum down a bit, because it seems rather forced, contrived, or outright impossible. What this movie had going for it was that it was set in a small town, so there are just going to be coincidences when everyone knows each other and the landscape is pretty compacted.

    Rating:


  • Top Tens: Best Christmas Movies To Watch Every Year

    1. Home Alone (1990)

    Kevin! It's one of the all time greats where the kid is left behind at Christmas and must save his home from two bumbling burglars.

    2. A Christmas Story (1983)

    Ralphie just wants a BB gun for Christmas and everyone says he'll shoot his eye out.

    3. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

    Clark W. Griswold is back and this time the family stays home for some good old Christmas fun.

    4. Die Hard (1988)

    He's a tough cop from New York and he's about to have a really bad day when some terrorists take over a skyscraper.

    5. Jingle All The Way (1997)

    Arnold embarks on a wild adventure to track down the hottest toy of the season for his son.

    6. Elf (2003)

    Will Ferrell plays Buddy the innocent elf who is on a mission to find his real dad at Christmas.

    7. Scrooged (1988)

    Bill Murray plays the humbugger who needs an awakening of the Christmas spirit.

    8. Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1967)

    The original classic tells the story of a green creature who finds Christmas cheer.

    9. The Santa Clause (1994)

    Tim Allen plays a regular guy who assumes the role of Santa Claus after an unfortunate accident.

    10. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)

    Kevin flies to New York instead of Florida and spends the holiday in the Big Apple by himself.


  • Top Tens: Early 90s Comedies That Nobody Cared About

    The 1990s were a transitional period when the bombast of the 80s hit the dawn of the technology age full blast. I went to see a lot of movies in the theater and I watched even more on home video. Here is my list of ten forgotten comedy gems of the early 90s.

    1. Bill Murray plays Bob, the extremely phobic mental patient who tracks down his vacationing doctor to continue his therapy.
    2. Dana Carvey is a con man who assumes the identity of a house sitter to steal some money to pay off a gangster.
    3. Martin Short plays a precocious boy whose only goal is to go to the Dinosaur World theme park.
    4. Chris Elliot plays a “fancy lad” who accidentally boards the wrong boat.
    5. Martin Short takes his family on a crappy sailboat adventure with Kurt Russell as their eccentric captain.
    6. Mike Myers wonders if his new wife is actually a serial axe murderer.
    7. Frank Whaley is an idiot overnight janitor at a Target and encounters a love interest and two thieves in one crazy shift.
    8. Dana Carvey plays a private investigator with amnesia that prevents him from remembering what happened the previous day.
    9. Chevy Chase and Demi Moore are a couple who take a wrong turn on a road trip and find themselves in deep hillbilly doo-doo.
    10. Martin Short is the world’s second most unlucky person. Danny Glover enlists his help to find the world’s most unlucky person.

  • Get Out (2017)

    Jordan Peele of Key & Peele makes his directorial debut with this unconventional horror story that puts a creepy, psychological twist onGuess Who’s Coming To Dinner.

    Chris (Danial Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams) travel to the country to visit Rose’s parents for a weekend getaway. Things get cringey and awkward as more people arrive for some sort of gathering and treat Chris in unusual ways. Things keep building as this feeling of dread develops. You feel like there is no way this can end well.

    The writing is great and the characters are all superb. There are plenty of tense moments and the pacing escalates as the movie progresses. It’s the kind of movie that restores faith in modern horror. Not everything needs to be sequels or boring dumb stuff.

    Rating:


  • Odd Thomas (2013)

    Based on a crappy Dean Koontz novel, Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin) is a likable guy who can see dead people and other ghastly creatures. He uses his special skills to fight the forces of evil and avenge the dead. Things start to spiral out of control as Odd starts to piece together a plot by some crooked cops to carry out a massacre at a mall.

    Aside from an OK story, Anton Yelchin is the reason to watch this. He was a true master of his craft and brings so much enjoyment to an otherwise bland role.

    Willem Dafoe has a minor part, but also manages to deliver the goods.

    Ultimately, the movie could have been better, but thanks to Anton, it was definitely worth watching.

    Rating: