Movie Reviews

Star Trek Beyond **

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Star Trek: Generations looks like Citizen Kane next to Star Trek Beyond. At least I felt some emotions during the former. Beyond is an exciting non-stop thrill ride, but nothing else. There was zero character development or arch, even for the villain. Spock gets to do absolutely nothing of significance. It really is Fast and Furious with space ships. It is not even a science fiction film, but an action adventure. There were no Romulans, no Klingons, or any of the famous Star Trek civilizations. The Enterprise crew is defending a space station and that’s the whole movie. Simon Pegg lied through his crooked teeth when he said this would appeal to Star Trek fans. Star Trek usually involves science and exploration. Neither were present in this movie. But if shoot outs, death defying stunts, and racing are your things, you will love it. The action is top notch as ILM threw everything they had on screen. The movie is so beautiful, it’s really a shame that they couldn’t find a story to tell. They could have grabbed any old Star Trek comic book or novel and just made that. But instead the plot merely leads us from one action set piece to the next. It is by far the weakest of the three reboots yet not as bad as Star Trek: Insurrection.

2 Nanobots Outta 5

Pegg also made a cringe worthy intro to the movie begging people to stop watching Netflix and go to obsolete theaters instead. They’re getting desperate. Make good movies and they will come. But this empty vfx-fest will play just fine on a 60″ home theater screen.

Hell or High Water ***

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Hell or High Water is a modern cops and robbers drama set in west Texas. Jeff Bridges continues his streak playing tough grizzled lawmen. Chris Pine delivers another great but understated performance as Bridges foil. I could watch these two read soup cans back and forth to each other all day. But sadly they only interact once in the entire film, but boy it’s some damn good acting. Ben Foster, who was probably cast because of his role as Billy Badass in 3:10 to Yuma, essentially plays the same role in this film. He and Pine are brothers and bank robbing partners. I don’t really buy Foster in this role. He’s supposed to be a tough guy but he doesn’t look so tough. He’s got a nerdy kid kind of face, which was covered up by a beard in 3:10 to Yuma and that helped immensely. He is probably most famous for playing Angel in X-Men 3. His character, unlike Pine’s, is also fairly one-dimentional. He also looks a little bit like Sean Penn which is maybe why I don’t like his face.  Tongue He also happened to be engaged to Penn’s ex, Robin Wright.

But this is really Bridge’s movie. He’s given more screen time than Pine and is on the side of lawful good. Pine is supposed to be the robber with the heart of gold, but it’s a highly unsympathetic role. The plot is dead simple Western formula: the two brothers’ family ranch is about to get taken over by the evil banks and they have only a matter of days to get the money to pay off the mortgage and liens. Even so, robbing banks is still a stupid and dangerous way to help your family out. You can see a bit of Heat in this film, where they want you to feel sympathetic for the cops and robbers, but not enough time is spent with Pine to really get to know him.

There are enough twists in this otherwise formulaic crime movie to keep it interesting. It’s also always nice to watch a film shot somewhere other than Los Angeles.

3 Foreclosures Outta 5

Baby Driver ***

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Heralded by critics as one of the best films of the year, Baby Driver deftly moves it’s crime/thriller/comedy story along at a fast clip yet it lives in a world of quirky unreality. Much like Edgar Wright’s other films Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim, the laws of logic and physics take a second seat to the action. People don’t die after getting shot. Bullets don’t impact main cast members even though they are clearly standing in the way of them. Crimes of murder and felony bank robbery are punished with light sentences. Rather than sweating bullets during a robbery that would guarantee 30 to life, Baby sings along to his mp3s with a smile.

So once you realize that this story doesn’t take place on Earth, but rather in a manchild’s imagination, you can at least enjoy the ride. Car stunts are great as is the cast which includes Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jon Bernthal, and Jamie Foxx who blows everyone else off screen.

Like Guardians of the Galaxy the film utilized a plethora of ‘70s R&B hits. I don’t know, I just don’t think a 20 year old kid would be into that stuff. They try to explain why (his Mom was an R&B singer) but I still find it unlikely. It’s just a movie trope right now, ripped off from Tarantino movies of the ’90s.

It’s worth watching but this story could never happen.

3 stars outta 5

Wonder Woman ***

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I would put it alongside Martin Campbell’s Green Lantern as a mid tier superhero movie that was likewise clearly rushed and relied on CGI and green screen for the third act. Also like Green Lantern we are not really privy to what the limits of WW’s powers are. At the end she seemingly can generate energy balls like a Dragonball Z super saiyan even though this is never shown in the comic books.

The movie starts strong with some backstory about the Amazons, but it seems unlikely that they would have no idea about World War I if they are supposedly sworn to protect the innocent people of the world. It’s just one of many plot holes. Another one is the fact that Diana chose to intervene in the end of WWI yet did nothing of note during WWII (when she would have been even more badly needed)… or any other conflict on record for that matter. What has she been doing for the last 100 years?

The villains are never fleshed out or given much of a backstory – except for the god Ares – who, as a god, is not relatable. The music was better than Green Lantern yet it only had one or two themes. The CG was Snyder-rific with lots of fast to slow money shots. But much like BvS and Green Lantern there was just way too much of it. Wonder Woman just shows that a DC movie doesn’t have to be good to be a hit, it just has to be watchable. BvS and Suicide Squad could not even achieve that level of mediocrity.

3 stars outta 5

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets ***

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Inspired by James Cameron’s Avatar Luc Besson gambled all of the good will he harnessed by producing Taken and Lucy into the most expensive indie movie of all time. And it shows.

This is animation and vfx so good it had to be Weta, and they ain’t cheap. Not only that but ILM also did a huge chunk of the movie. It is THE vfx movie of the year, no doubt. Digital characters (hundreds of them) look so real that you almost think they are. Only problem is… he forgot to write a compelling story.

The film moves from one eye candy set piece to another with really interesting, never-before-seen action, but sadly all this viewer cared about were the visuals themselves. The two stars are much too young to be believable as space cops. They are given no backstories and are just our human connection on a space station full of CG aliens. Rihanna is in the movie… why? To have a million dollar Weta-enhanced dance number of course! Ethan Hawke is also in this scene for some reason.

It’s a strange movie to review because I do recommend seeing it, just to watch a madman burn hundreds of millions of dollars on fx work. There are some very interesting concepts and futuristic weapons and vehicles that are also worth the time. The design alone should win some kind of award, but in the end it’s a missed opportunity as Besson went for splash and not story.

If you have any bags of drugs lying around, after popping in this blu-ray with the surround sound turned up, I would suggest taking them.

3 astroships outta 5

Blade Runner 2049 **

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The hype is undeserved. Multiple critics said that the sequel was better than the original. That is simply a crazy thing to say. The entire movie is a callback. The look, the music, the characters, and the plot all would not exist without the first one. The sequel adds very little to the mythos. We still never leave Earth and rarely leave Los Angeles. The writing was fairly weak and has major plot holes.

Jared Leto is the new Tyrell. He is blind, a callback to Joe Turkel’s version who also had bad vision and got his eyes ripped out. They really don’t even try in Hollywood anymore do they? He wants a child that the first pregnant replicant gave birth to. That is the plot. Apparently if one wants a slave army it would be faster to impregnate female replicants rather than make them in the lab because it takes too long. Um… does this corporation realize that it takes 20 years to grow a baby into an adult? Really it takes 20 years to make a replicant? The original never mentioned this… because it’s fucking ridiculous.

Right off the bat we know Gosling is a replicant, so we don’t really care much about him. Then we find out that his girlfriend is an interactive piece of software, a basement dwelling nerd’s wet dream cum true. This makes us like him even less and of course we don’t give a shit about a character who’s made out of code. I thought that Leto’s performance was very good actually. He should have had more screen time. Gosling was fine, but he plays it deadpan. Ford was tremendous as always, but he also is barely in the film.

I was wishing that they had gotten Rutger Hauer for this because maybe he could have saved it. The main baddie is a two-dimensional female terminator, not exactly the poetic psychopath Roy Batty. It starts off strong with a good performance by Batista, but he’s quickly out of the movie. They have a great fight scene but that’s the last action you will be seeing for hours. Did I mention that this movie is 2049 hours long? It felt like it anyways. And for no reason really. It’s a fairly simple detective story that leads to an unsatisfying ending where plenty of loose ends are left hanging. They must have planned a sequel but that’s not going to happen now as this bombed at the box office badly. I can see why people didn’t turn out. It’s boring. There is a little more action at the end but it was not nearly enough. The story loses momentum by Act 3.

I would say that this was a missed opportunity but really that occurred in 1993 when the Ridley Scott Director’s Cut came out on video. It sparked a new interest in the film and that would have been the time to bring it back.

The whole “is Deckard a replicant” theory is weakly not dealt with. At least take a stand on it one way or the other. There are vague hints about it from Olmos but nothing certain. The music also was a big letdown. They didn’t even try. For the ending they just straight up replayed Vangelis.

I also did not like the way the movie fucked with the original story. They really just couldn’t come up with their own, they had to add a ridiculous swerve to the 1982 film for no reason. I am saddened by the knowledge that this director is going to remake Dune.

2 skin jobs outta 5

2016 Oscar Nominated Film Round-up

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LA LA LAND  * outta *****

No shock here. Even some critics didn’t like this one very much. I honestly stopped watching it halfway through it was that bad. I wouldn’t usually review a movie I didn’t finish, but to do so would have been torture. It’s basically like watching a high school drama production shot on a stedi-cam. The staging, song quality, choreography, singing, and script were all amateur hour. Emma Stone has no Hollywood glamour and Ryan Gosling just seemed out of his element. I understand that he had to take piano lessons for months to play this role, well here’s a crazy idea… hire someone who can not only play the piano but also sing and dance! Was Justin Timberlake busy? Same with Emma Stone, she’s not a dancer or a singer, so why is she in this? I would barely even call her A-list. She hasn’t proven that she can headline anything more than a rom-com, unlike Amy Adams.

Speaking of…

ARRIVAL  *** outta *****

Arrival is a ridiculous premise and one of the stranger takes on first contact. That said, I was actively engaged in the movie the entire two hours which cannot be said for most films so I give it a 3. Now having said THAT, if you expect the movie to make any sense by the end, keep dreaming. There is an interesting twist that involves the magic of time travel but it is never explained. Amy Adams character makes a nonsensical and unethical choice at the end that really lowered my ranking of this movie. It was simply sloppy writing. Amy Adams carries the movie and I did like that it stays with her the entire time, but the whole thing hinges on this idea that the aliens would expect us barbaric humans to translate their language instead of them (with their obviously superior science) translating ours. IT MAKES ZERO SENSE.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA  * outta *****

Here’s another well reviewed movie to avoid. I can’t understand how a critic could sit through this dull-as-paint-drying-mopefest and give it a 5 star rating. It is one of the worst movies of 2016. Casey Affleck plays the same guy he always plays: monotone kid-faced sociopathic Boston guy. This time he’s a psycho because he accidentally killed his entire family and burned his own house down. Later in the film he leaves burning food on the stove and takes a nap. So after he’s killed his three children he plays with fire again. And we are supposed to feel sympathetic for this moron? His brother, Kyle Chandler, shows that he’s just as dumb by putting Affleck in his will to manage his own family and business after he dies suddenly. Bad idea. Affleck’s character can’t even get himself a beer without ending up bloody and beaten. So in the end, it’s a terrible movie with no story to tell, it’s a “slice of life” thing that’s set in the ‘90s for no reason.

MOONLIGHT ** outta *****

At least it’s not as bad as La La Land. That’s about all I can say about this slice-of-life Richard Linklater/Boyhood-esque “movie.” I only realized by the third act that there was no story and therefore no convincing conclusion. It starts off strong with good acting, music, pacing, etc. But then when Chiron finally grows up none of the lessons he’s learned in the first two acts pay off. This is widely described as a gay movie, but Chiron never even becomes sexually active, he’s more like a celibate. He thinks he’s gay, but never acts on it. So what is the point of this movie? You sympathize with him as a confused shy little boy, but then he just becomes a thug in the end. You would think that the point would be overcoming adversity or something. But no, he’s just an asexual gangsta drug dealer. Ok. It’s not a one star star piece of crap like La La Land, but it’s no where near a Best Picture of the Year award. Mahershala Ali (House of Cards) is the best thing about it so naturally he disappears in act one, never to be seen again.

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS ** outta *****

Similarly to Moonlight the best thing about Nocturnal Animals is it’s supporting star Michael Shannon. It would have been best if the whole movie was about his character. Unfortunately, not only is his character not the main character, he’s not even real in the movie. This is one of those travesties known as a “film-within-a-film.” Amy Adams (wildly miscast) gets a manuscript from ex-husband Donnie Darko and the movie is her reading it and imaging it was a movie in her head. So yes, the entire plot shown in the trailer is all in her imagination. Really ’nuff said. This movie sucked.

At one point she walks past a giant painting that says REVENGE as if the point wasn’t clear enough that this crime novel is about their marriage. See, she said he would never be a successful writer and divorced him. Now he can write a bestseller about what a bitch she is and get the ultimate REVENGE!!! HAHAHA!

Based on this film and the director’s previous one A Single Man, it’s obvious that he hates women. Amy Adams is portrayed as a superficial cunt and his last film was about gay dudes who think that women are basically children who should be ignored. Also the main reason to totally not see this movie is the opening credits. Just to drive home how much Tom Ford hates ladies, it’s five agonizing minutes of the most obese and wrinkled examples of the female form he could find; jumping around with sparklers in front of American flags. Apparently this is supposed to be a political statement of some kind. Just horrible. If Shannon wasn’t in this thing it would easily be a one star film.

Blue Is The Warmest Color *

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Oops… I… did it… again.

After subjecting myself the torture of 12 Years A Slave I had supposedly sworn off all critically acclaimed films. But… while I was writing my review of Slave I wanted to see if any other critics agreed with me that it is a zero star piece of shit. The self-proclaimed “smartest film critic in the world” Cole Smithey also gave it zero stars and as he and I agree on other movies (Robocop for one) I checked out his top ten list. One of his top films is the documentary about Big Star – which I liked – however his #1 movie of 2013 is a three hour French film about lesbians. I trusted his opinion until then so I watched it. Predictably, I want my three hours back.

Blue Is The Warmest Color (title doesn’t mean anything as far as I can tell) won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival which is about as meaningful as a Best Picture Oscar (i.e. not meaningful). It has a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes… I must be missing something because to me it was just a drawn out Skinemax flick. It only has an NC-17 rating because most of the sex is between women and the one graphic sex scene with a man shows an erection, but no actual penetration. Since they took it that far why just go full porno if they were only an inch away anyways? I suppose some things have to be reserved for adult websites like after all. Strange that Smithey would recognize that 12 Years A Slave was nothing more than torture porn and yet not recognize that this film (that he gave five stars) is nothing more than lesbo porn. Consequently, in my opinion, at times, this film really would not have been out of place on an adult website such as Also like Slave, there is no story. We follow 15 year old student Adèle as she fumbles her way through relationships, ruining them through her own selfish actions. She does nothing particually noteworthy or admirable. Why they told a story about this person, I don’t know. Scenes consist of either sex or pretentious discussions about dead artists. This is as French as it gets. As usual with Frog films the girls do not wear makeup, zits are not even covered, teeth are fucked up, etc. When an actress cries they don’t wipe off the snot and spit all over her face. Adèle apparently ages as the film goes on, as she goes from being a student to a teacher, but her hairdo does not. All I know is that she’s supposed to be a 15 year old in the beginning and showing her having sex is blatant exploitation. If I wanted content like that i’d rather watch it with legal aged characters on than in an arthouse film.

The only thing somewhat compelling about the film came not out of an artistic plan but out of obsession. Lead actress Adèle Exarchopoulos is in 95% percent of the shots, most of them being close ups of her beautiful face. By the end the viewer knows every pore of her body. She has said in interviews that she will never work with director Abdellatif Kechiche again. Apparently he became obsessed with his star, following her everywhere with his camera. It does create an intimacy with the character reminiscent of The Wrestler. Too bad he wasn’t following anyone interesting.

1 Scissoring Outta 5

The Wolf of Wall Street ***

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I actually liked Marty’s three hour long Leo-fest better than I thought I would. For being as long as it is, it doesn’t seem drag as much as some of this other films. But make no mistake, there is absolutely no good reason for this white collar crime story be any longer than two hours. Apparently he made a four hour director’s cut. C’mon Marty, who wants to sit in a theater for that long or even be exposed this asshole’s life for that long either?

Scorsese tries to recapture that Goodfella’s magic with another voice-over driven biography of a crook. But where we felt like we knew Ray Liotta’s Henry Hill due to seeing him go from a child admirer of gangsters to actually becoming one, all we feel for DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort is contempt and maybe some envy. We see him knowingly rip people off in nearly every scene – and if he’s not scamming, he’s doing blow and banging impossibly hot women. Believe or not though this can be pretty entertaining. I was reading about Belfort’s life on Wikipedia and wondered why Scorsese left some interesting things out of his early life that would have made for a better character and story. Henry Hill was sympathetic even though he was a fuck up, not so with Belfort.

Fat ass Jonah Hill comes in as the Joe Pesci and needless to say he’s no Joe Pesci. His acting is ok, if a bit overboard (definitely not Oscar worthy), but the man is just unpleasant to look at and listen to. They also give him bright white caps on his teeth which makes him even more obnoxious. Apparently Hill worked for scale just to be near Scorsese. So Leo made a nice $10 mil off the flick and Hill made around $60k. Probably not a bad move for him though. I’m amazed he’s not on a sitcom by now.

Shooting on both film and video seems to have hurt the overall look. There is a very obvious and unnatural DI done to the footage, making it look like a grainy ’80s movie. Leo’s performance is also not even close to being Oscar worthy as Matthew McConaughey’s only scene made we wish he was the star. Leo seems fine when he’s playing “the kid,” but as a man, as a leader of men, I don’t buy it. He’s still got that weird kid face of a child star.

While it won’t knock you socks off, and it’s way too long, WoWS is worth a viewing.

3 Midget Tosses Outta 5

The Grandmaster **

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The Grandmaster is a bit of a strange film right from the start because it is essentially a remake of the excellent 2008 Hong Kong film Ip Man. SupposedlyThe Grandmaster (also about the life of Ip Man) was being developed at the same time but sat in development hell for over ten years. After Ip Man came out you have to wonder why they even continued with this version, which turned out to be quite the mess. Where Ip Man director Wilson Yip did everything right: hiring Sammo Hung to do the choreography, filling the movie with fights, even pacing, a simple kung fu plot, clean camera work, etc… The Grandmaster, directed by Wong Kar-wai, does wrong. Wong breaks with traditional kung fu camera work, which usually lets the fight choreography play out in real time, by inter-cutting shots with a delayed shutter speed (Private Ryan style) and super-slow-mo. It doesn’t work at all. He destroys any kind of fluidity or even understanding of what’s going on. In an attempt to make a “more artistic” kung fu film, he ended up making an incomprehensible shit pile.

Like many films that raise themselves up out of development hell this one has several edits out there. There is the Hong Kong international cut and then the Weinstein U.S. cut. I checked out both and would probably recommend the Weinstein cut just for the fact that it’s a half hour shorter. There is no reason for a kung fu film to be over two hours long. The Weinsteins also attempted to make the time jumping incomprehensible plot a bit easier to understand with title cards and subtitles which tell you the who, when, and where because the dialogue sure doesn’t.

In case you don’t know Ip Man (also spelled Yip Man) he was Bruce Lee’s Wing Chun teacher. As anyone who had anything to do with Bruce is famous it was just a matter of time before Ip Man became the subject of a film. I’m just surprised it took this long. After Ip Man came out in 2008 there have now been three more films about him as well as a Chinese TV series. Both Ip Man and The Grandmaster take great liberties with his story and I would say they’re both about 75% fictional. Much like the life of his most famous student, Ip Man is more legend than reality. I thought The Grandmaster was going to be a more realistic portrayal than the 2008 film but it was even more fanciful with the Crouching Tiger style wire work. They even hired Zhang Ziyi to play Ip’s rival and love interest. She was one of the only good things about the movie. Tony Leung gives a decent and understated performance as Ip but I still prefer Donnie Yen as he is a real martial artist.

Just check out Ip Man, if you haven’t yet for a good kung fu time, and skip all of the versions of The Grandmaster. But if you’re still curious the Weinstein cut is on Netflix Streaming. There are worse movies, but I was disappointed. The Grandmaster was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2014 Academy Awards.

2 Chopsticks Outta 5