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by on Feb.19, 2017, under Movie Reviews

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Undivided is available on iTunes, Amazon, Amazon Fire TV and Amazon Prime!

by on Feb.19, 2017, under Movie Reviews

Is now available! Check it out online through Vimeo On Demand before it comes out everywhere else!

Undivided on Vimeo on Demand

AVAILABLE NOW ON:
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Hail, Caesar!

by on Feb.19, 2017, under Movie Reviews

hail caesarHail, Caesar! is the latest offering from the Coen Brothers who brought us classics like No Country for Old Men, True Grit, Fargo and The Big Lebowski. The film is set in the 50s during the golden age of Hollywood and centers around a “fixer” (which is kind of another name for producer these days) who is trying to keep a studio together while dealing with erratic talent, a kidnapping, and a plot by some disgruntled writers.

The film itself is fun enough but doesn’t quite capture the magic of some of their other releases. In other words, for a Coen film, it’s kinda average which makes it a decent regular film by conventional standards but not a home run. The story itself is ok, with some interesting nods to the paranoia of the entertainment industry at that time as well as to the eccentric behavior that talent is often associated with. However, the dialog and action are not super compelling or exciting but rather run-of-the-mill. There are the occasional unexpected elements here and there but nothing as captivating or surreal as The Big Lebowski. And quite frankly, the ending is sudden and boring.

The actors are fun to watch, George Clooney shows some range, especially when he’s getting pushed around by Josh Brolin. A couple other pleasant surprises include Tilda Swinton playing the smarmy twin writers modeled after Dear Abby / Ann Landers and Channing Tatum showing off his song and dance skills. The film has a helluva lineup featuring Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Jonah Hill, and Alden Ehrenreich.

If you’re a Coen fan, you should probably give this a whirl and see what you think. If you’re not familiar with their work, don’t start with this one, there are better offerings from the Coens.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Cloud Atlas

by on Feb.12, 2017, under Movie Reviews

cloud atlasMultiple intertwined stories from different timelines told simultaneously with numerous actors playing various parts. Confused yet? Yep, me too. I was able to follow along but due to the ambitious nearly 3 hour length of the film, I found myself not caring much towards the end. While clearly an intensive endeavor for everyone involved, they seem to overreach on this one and end up with an exhausting, confusing mess that keeps changing the minute you get a handle on what’s happening only to offer that same formula repeatedly.

Presented by The Wachowskis (from The Matrix trilogy), Cloud Atlas is marked as one of the most expensive independent films of all time. It’s also unfortunately one of the biggest flops as well. It’s a shame, but I see why as while I appreciate the challenge that was undertaken with this project, its delivery is where it falls short of what could’ve been a compelling presentation. I think my biggest complaint is how often it changes from one scene to the other. The problem isn’t just the scene change but the way you change to a whole different character with a different storyline in a different time period, which happens a lot. Every time you connect with what’s going on, you’re thrown off-balance by another scene switch.

There is such a thing as over thinking a film and over-intellectualizing the process in terms of how you deliver it. Cloud Atlas is a perfect example of this (with a $100M price tag). The filmmakers obviously didn’t consider how the audience would experience this and there was a disconnect there that I would guess they’re still licking their wounds from.

The lineup is truly impressive and there are some great deliveries here. However, I saw some instances of what felt like the actors were spreading themselves thin at times. Tom Hanks seemed a little worn down trying different dialects that weren’t always super intelligible. The writing was something that influenced this but other actors played it a bit straighter which seemed to help maintain strong deliveries. Hanks appeared to be trying a little too hard here and there. Halle Berry is hit or miss at times throughout too. The 2 actors I thought were strongest were Jim Broadbent and Hugo Weaving. You have to give credit to all the talented people who played multiple roles here, that’s a challenge no matter what level you’re at. The cast includes Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Keith David, James D’Arcy, and Ben Whishaw.

If you’ve got the endurance and like to challenge yourself, you might want to check it out.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

by on Feb.05, 2017, under Movie Reviews

resident evil the final chapterResident Evil: The Final Chapter (kinda sorta, but not entirely) picks up where the last film left off with Alice as one of the last survivors of humanity left behind to face the legions of undead that have engulfed the planet thanks to the t-virus courtesy of Umbrella. This installment is supposed to be the one that finishes the Alice series with Milla Jovovich as the lead.

The story is ok but more just an excuse to break up the action as there is tons of action. There were some interesting surprises within the final arcs of the characters while filling in more backstory on Alice, Hive and the Red Queen. Wesker surfaces too but he doesn’t play too big of a part in this one. Everything wraps in an average way, which was disappointing, I was hoping they would really go for it but they played it safe.

The action saturates the film to the point where it starts to get routine and predictable even while each scene is trying to one-up itself from one sequence to the next. Another issue is the constant shaky-cam, which is a vehicle used to save money so they don’t have to spend as much of the budget on wider action shots. Unfortunately, it becomes detrimental in many of the scenes it’s supposed to intensify. The use of this kind of camera work is way overused here and becomes a crutch and a distraction throughout the film.

In terms of effects, they’re mostly done well but do look CG at times, especially the larger scale scenes. The series is running out of steam and hopefully this marks the end of the productions just trying to get bigger and bigger. If there’s ever been a series that is in need of a re-boot or re-envisioning, it’s this one. Personally, I’d take it back to its horror roots and strip it down with a strong story and passionate actors.

Speaking of actors, there’s some phoning it in taking place and conventional deliveries with noone offering any surprises or that much heart in what they’re doing. Sadly even Milla looks like she’s posing more than she is coming from any place of emotional authenticity. The lineup includes Iain Glen, Ali Larter, Shawn Roberts, Eoin Macken and Ruby Rose.

Overall, I’m glad that this might be the last one…

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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The Impossible

by on Jan.29, 2017, under Movie Reviews

the impossibleThe Impossible is based on the true story of an unfortunate/extremely fortunate family that was on vacation in Thailand when it was hit by a tsunami in 2004. I say unfortunate/extremely fortunate because they had to go through such a terrible experience but that they all survived it. There were numerous families that didn’t survive or that lost members from this tragic event…

The film is told in a very compelling way with the opening of the film revealing the family on vacation at a beach front resort for Christmas. There’s some minor backstory revealed here and there to establish character but the main event is when the wave hits. You hear stories of such things and you see the footage afterward but the way the film delivers what it might have been like is truly extraordinary. And to see how everyone hit by the wave was just carried away and pounded with debris like glass, cars (not kidding, cars), street signs, etc. was terrifying.

Naomi Watts plays Maria, the mother of the family and she apparently had the worst injuries, especially to her legs. Don’t forget the circumstances here, not only were her injuries grave but everyone and everything was effected by this devastating wave, which means hospitals, ambulances, medical staff and so on. The family was separated multiple times throughout this chaotic experience in a country where english isn’t the primary language. That alone can be intimidating but then work in 3 young boys into the equation too.

Suffice it to say, you should see the film and let it stand on its own. The whole thing is crafted with expertise, care and passion. From the engaging script to the powerful delivery of the actors to the outstanding design and effects, the film is top-notch all the way. It’s hard to watch at times due to the realistic nature of it and the trials that the survivors had to go through to make it out alive. I found myself glad the film was over but relieved for the ones that made it.

The cast just nails this one and includes Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland (the new Spiderman!), Samuel Joslin and Oaklee Pendergast. Directed by J.A. Bayona.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Jaunt

by on Jan.22, 2017, under Movie Reviews

jauntFrom time to time I’ll be venturing into the VR world when there’s some new content out there and this week I bring you Jaunt! Jaunt is a new VR network that’s delivering content across multiple platforms including PSVR, Vive and Oculus. Within was the VR platform I reviewed last time around and is definitely worth checking out but Jaunt is taking things to a new level…

Jaunt offers more in terms of content with a wider array of VR choices including short films, music videos, documentaries, sports specials, educational offerings and recorded live events. There’s even a VR TV series called Invisible, so the amount of content is blowing up. The films I checked out included short experiences like A Violent Morning and A Violent Afternoon which were 2 shorts that equated to about 5 minute action sequences that included a lot of gunshots, explosions and general craziness. Then, there’s the Zoolander No.2 short in which you got to hang out with Derek Zoolander during a fashion shoot.

Going further down the rabbit hole, the horror content offered puts you in the thick of it rather then just safely sitting by as an observer. Among the films in line with this kind of storytelling are Escape the Living Dead which is basically a run-for-your-life exercise in scary madness while The Black Mass Experience sets you up as a human sacrifice in a dark ritual.

This is basically the next level of storytelling folks. This kind of immersion is beyond anything you’ve seen with 3D. 3D doesn’t even come close. No. This is no longer just sitting idly by, enjoying your popcorn in the comfort of your home. This, this is being inside the experience, being directly addressed and acknowledged like you’re there and you share in the responsibility of seeing the story through like the rest of the participants.

Forget the smart phone VR by the way, this isn’t that. Be sure to check out the big 3 listed above instead. This is way better, this is the next wave of storytelling, just waiting to take you to new heights of cinematic experience and it’s a great ride.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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They Live

by on Jan.15, 2017, under Movie Reviews

they liveThis week we review the John Carpenter directed They Live starring wrestler Roddy Piper. It’s always interesting to see what holds up in films from the 80s and what doesn’t. The story is the thing that holds up best in this film, some of the other elements, well…

The story revolves around the concept that us poor, dumb humans are constantly being manipulated through subliminal messages that are coming from advertising, TV and the media in general. All of this is being carried out by aliens who live among us and are using a secret broadcast signal that keeps the humans “asleep”. A group of rebels who have uncovered the plot are working to expose the aliens and bust the whole thing open. The script is pretty well written (with the exception of some really bad dialog here and there) and does offer a film that makes you want to sit and watch how everything plays out.

The film falls a bit shy in a few spots. The effects are looking pretty low-budget compared to how they looked back in ’88; the flying saucers and the effects make up look like something done on a college level now. Some of the action isn’t great either as it’s not as intensely and realistically choreographed as films are now. The one scene that still works here though is the fight scene between Piper and Keith David in the alley, that’s still a blast to watch and just when you think the fight is over, somebody throws another punch and it keeps escalating.

Then there’s the acting. Piper is the anchor here and has some decent moments. Like I said there, some decent moments which also means some not-so-decent moments as well. He’s often very wooden, forced and not so wide in terms of emotional range. He makes for a better wrestler than he does action movie hero. There are some moments that still ring true and are enjoyable such as when he walks into a bank ready to confront the alien scourge and declares: “I’ve come here to kick ass and chew bubble gum. I’m all out of bubble gum.” Classic.

While it’s not up there with The Thing or Escape from New York, They Live is worth a viewing if you can get past some of the cheesy acting and effects.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Office Christmas Party

by on Jan.09, 2017, under Movie Reviews

office christmas partyThis is one of those movies that you go to just for the fun of seeing a movie like this. Your expectations go down, which can be nice, and you just sit back and let the entertainment wash over you. It’s also the kind of fun film you can go to family with during the holidays…

The premise is formulaic as one would expect with competing siblings who inherit a company from their father bump heads as to how the family business should be run. TJ Miller runs a failing branch of the company and wants to set up an office Christmas party to both rally the disgruntled employees who might be losing their jobs as well as win over the salesman of a major company with which a major contract could be scored that would save the day. His sister, played by Jennifer Aniston, is the uptight president of the company that wants to trim the fat by eliminating jobs and closing branches.

As you can imagine, the main event is the party and once it gets going, it gets really, really going. Every time you think they can’t take it much further, well, then the jousting with shopping carts and flaming christmas trees happens. Suffice it to say, things get pretty outrageous, the main characters learn lessons and everything turns out mostly ok for everyone. Overall it’s a enjoyable throwaway kind of film you can enjoy but will probably think viewing it once is enough.

The actors all hit their marks well playing their roles effectively. Noone is redefining the wheel here but they fit the typical characters they portray well. The lineup consists of many familiar faces including some from SNL with Kate McKinnon, Rob Corddry, Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, Courtney Vance, and Vanessa Bayer.

If you go into this film with no expectations other than just having a good time without a ton of substance, you’ll probably enjoy Office Christmas Party.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

by on Dec.18, 2016, under Movie Reviews

Rogue One A Star Wars StoryThere aren’t a lot of films that effect me on deep emotional levels, the first Star Wars films did that for me when I saw them in the theaters and the countless times after. Episode VII had the opposite effect on me and I feared where things were going. Luckily Rogue One has restored my faith, and with my fear resolved I’m looking forward to what Episode VIII will offer.

By the way, I will not offer any spoilers here, there’s no way in hell I’m going to ruin this for you. You will have to see it for yourself to discover all the little nuances of it and there’s no possible way my words can do this film proper justice.

Rogue One is easily one of the best in the series, up there in terms of quality and depth as Empire. And while it’s a chapter in the greater story, it has an originality in it that’s unique as it feels more like a war film with a gritty, intense delivery you don’t normally see in the series. Among the many things great about this movie is what it’s about. The story revolves around one of the components in the Star Wars story in that it’s about how the rebels ended up with the plans to the Death Star. One of the discussions in the film when the plans are retrieved regards the sacrifice that was made to get the plans. This is the story of that sacrifice…

And it’s impactful with an expertly crafted, emotional story. I had to take some time to process it as I felt overwhelmed by it, in a really great way I might add. The visual quality of it had something to do with that. I saw it in IMAX 3D which was cool but is unnecessary, the film is amazing with or without the 3D. The effects keep getting better with some things that were so surprisingly realistic that it had me thinking about how they did it so the intensity of the suspension of disbelief knocked me out of the suspension of disbelief. Wow.

The acting is superb with all the actors completely going for it. Felicity Jones is the lead as Jyn Erso and played her role very well with a great balance of vulnerability, anger, determination, and passion while fitting into the physical demands of the film as well. Forest Whitaker was probably my second favorite in the cast as the unhinged rebel Saw Gerrera. Whitaker knows how to play a character that’s off-putting but still sharp. The rest of this amazing cast includes Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Ben Mendelsohn, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, Alistair Petrie, and Alan Tudyk as the voice of K-2SO.

See this film in theaters while you can. And then see it again, I know I am.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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