Movie Reviews


Wonder Woman

by on Jun.18, 2017, under Movie Reviews

wonder woman Wonder Woman is easily the best film in the DC universe since Nolan’s Batman. The story of Diana, princess of the Amazons is told with modern day resources in a way that does justice to the original comic book character. I used to watch the TV show when I was a kid and even though I had a huge crush on Lynda Carter, I still thought the invisible jet was cheesy…

Luckily, the integrity to the film is solid as she comes off as the warrior bad-ass she’s supposed to be. Patty Jenkins (Monster, The Killing) directs and puts her stamp on it while the movie feels like a solid piece of the universe Warner has been building. The action is fun and thrilling to watch, especially the opening battle scene as the Germans make the mistake of attacking the Amazon shoreline.

Gal Godot is the kind of actor that when she’s on screen, you almost can’t not look away, like compelled somehow not to move your head or blink. Yes, her beauty is part of that but so is the way she carries herself during the more tense, physical moments like charging a machine gun nest as well as the emotional points as well, especially with her mother and her mentor. Speaking of which, Connie Nielsen plays her mother and the lead warrior, her mentor is portrayed by Robin Wright. It was great to see them both in these very powerful roles, Wright was especially impressive to watch with the physical intensity she brought to the part.

The rest of the cast was tight as well in addition to the story itself which touched the mythology of it all in a nice stretch. The lineup included Elena Anaya, Chris Pine, Lucy Davis, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Said Taghmaoui, and Eugene Brave Rock.

If you get a chance, it’s great on the big screen, if not, be sure to catch up to it when it hits the digital world.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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The Wizard of Lies

by on Jun.11, 2017, under Movie Reviews

the wizard of liesRobert De Niro plays Bernie Madoff in the HBO movie The Wizard of Lies directed by Barry Levinson. The film covers Madoff and the Ponzi scheme in which he defrauded his clients for billions of dollars.

Starting with the day Madoff came clean with his family and then leading through his arrest and the fallout that proceeded, the film does a great job showing the lead up to the end of the road for Madoff as well the aftermath of his crimes. Madoff was known as a pioneer in the stock market and was revered by his peers, his clients and his friends. When all was said and done, he landed in prison, his wife left him, both of his sons died and he was left friendless, alone and with no family.

De Niro is brilliant as the lead character. He’s calculated, subtle and yet emotionally powerful at the same time, an actor at the top of his game and amazing to watch. It’s great to see De Niro playing a role that you can tell he really sunk his teeth into. Watching him is one of the things that makes this film worth seeing, he reminds me of Meryl Streep that way, where you’ll just watch a movie for the sake of seeing them perform.

The story is well told. It’s compelling in the way that the film jumps back in time to expand on the history of what led to Bernie Madoff’s fall. Levinson does a great job directing the various moving parts that bring the whole thing together including a very talented lineup of actors. Michelle Pfeiffer contributes with a passionate, powerful performance as his wife who seemed to have no clue what her husband was up to or the impact his actions had. Her portrayal is also subtle and specific as she matches Bob scene for scene in intensity and skill. She was a great choice for this role.

The cast includes Kristen Connolly, Hank Azaria, Alessandro Nivola, Lily Rabe and Nathan Darrow. Check it out on HBO.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Alien: Covenant

by on Jun.04, 2017, under Movie Reviews

alien covenantA sequel to Prometheus, Alien: Covenant picks up 10 years later following the crew of the Covenant, a ship intended to transfer a colony of people to a new home planet. An accident during their voyage prompts the crew to have to be awakened followed by a possible distress call on a different planet that could be habitable.

Once they arrive on the planet, the alien part of the storyline plays itself out. To great effect I might add, it was a compelling followup to its predecessor and answered a number of questions I had that I thought were shortfalls. It made me wonder if the second film was always the intention or merely a response and an opportunity. Either way, the film feels like a very worthy entry into the canon of Alien films, it’s especially better than the 4th one. In fact, let’s just not mention that one again, ever.

Ridley Scott is back directing with his familiar, yet always surprising style firmly in place; the ending is particularly satisfying. His subtleties are one of the things I love best; how he shows things without all the detail being revealed heightens tension in a much more terrifying way than when you’re hit over the head with it. He plays a lot to the imagination and he does it well along with a beautiful, dark aesthetic.

Michael Fassbender is back as well in dual android roles as David and Walter. The effects scenes in this film are spectacular with some of the scenes of Fassbender interacting with himself as the most impressively executed. He’s also phenomenal in the role(s) he plays, he never breaks his delivery and his attention to detail is truly meticulous; pay attention to his arms. The rest of the lineup is comprised of a very talented group of actors and includes: Katherine Waterson, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Carmen Ejogo, and Jussie Smollett.

If you’re a fan of the franchise, don’t miss it!

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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My Brother’s Keeper

by on May.28, 2017, under Movie Reviews

my brothers keeperInspired by the series Mercy Street and produced by PBS digital studios, the VR film My Brother’s Keeper tells the story of two brothers on opposite sides of the Civil War.

Narrated by the brother on the union side, he conveys the feeling of how family doesn’t always line up from an idealogical standpoint and how that division can lead to separation and tragedy (poignant for our time, yes?). There’s a palpable emotional tone of regret and desperation in not knowing if the man you’re shooting at is the little brother you would die for.

Told from the standpoints of being a soldier on both sides of the war, the VR experience puts you in the field standing next to the soldiers as they work their way to the battle of Antietam, considered the costliest battle in terms of lives lost in the entirety of the civil war. The tension that gets built through witnessing the film in virtual reality raises the hair on the back of your neck while you march with the soldiers as they occasionally pause to drop a musket with the barrel aimed squarely past your shoulder towards an unknown enemy in the fog.

The end of the story takes a dark turn as you get a brief taste of a firefight and the aftermath that follows. Your heart pounds just before it breaks during this captivating virtual reality film experience.

Written and directed by Connor Hair and Alex Meader. Available from PBS and the Littlestar VR network distributed by PSVR, Vive and Oculus.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

by on May.14, 2017, under Movie Reviews

guardians of the galaxy volume 2Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a blast, go see it. Let me just start with that…

So, ok, it picks up soon after the first film leaves off ultimately landing on Peter Quill being united with his long lost father, Ego. Now, there’s a lot more that happens leading up to that as our favorite band of misfits in space has managed to piss off an entire civilization while Nebula pursues Gamora in hopes of killing her, oh and then there’s some big stuff going on with Yondu to boot. Suffice it to say there’s a lot happening in the film.

The story is multi-layered and flows well to an emotional, exciting and very satisfying conclusion. James Gunn is back as one of the writers in addition to doing an excellent job directing the film. They’ve already started working on Vol. 3 by the way and for good reason, you just want them to keep going after seeing this one.

The action and effects are at the top of their game. This particular series in the Marvel universe feels a lot like this might be their Star Wars. Well, they’re owned by Disney who owns Star Wars, but you get where I’m going. The craftmanship and design of the foreign planets the Guardians travel to all feel unique and interesting. The worlds themselves feel like they have historical value when you see them, I’d be interested in hearing the backstories they came up with when developing them, that must’ve been fun to write.

The performances from the cast are all at the top of their game. It looks like they had fun making this one given the material and the passion each actor brings to the table. The stellar lineup here includes Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel (yes, he’s Baby Groot too), Bradley Cooper (who plays the voice of Rocket), Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell and Elizabeth Debicki.

Try to catch it in the theater if you can, it’s great on the big screen. On a side note, I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed that much during a Marvel film, the humor is great and don’t forget to hang out through the credits! Marvel nerds like myself will be pleasantly surprised by the easter eggs.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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The Protectors, Walk in the Ranger’s Shoes

by on May.07, 2017, under Movie Reviews

the protectors walk in the rangers shoesThe Protectors, Walk in the Ranger’s Shoes is a virtual reality documentary presented by Oscar-winning director Katherine Bigelow, VR creator Imraan Ismail and the National Geographic Channel. I have to also mention the production company that shot this called Here Be Dragons because they did an excellent job handling the shooting, editing and stiching tasks required to put the film together.

The Protectors… follows the day in the life of a ranger at the Garamba National Park located in the Congo. The rangers are there to protect elephants from poachers who hunt them for their ivory tusks. The elephants are quickly diminishing in needless slaughters motivated by greed and the rangers are the only force defending them.

Through the VR experience, the film has an even more visceral impact than it would have on a flat screen. I say even more because the doc is impactful no matter what format you’ll see it in. Ultimately though the filmmakers really thought out the VR environment and took full advantage to heighten various points of intensity throughout the film.

In terms of prouduction, some of the shots are extremely emotional such as when the rangers come across the corpse of a dead elephant whose face had been hacked off to get the tusks. The thing is, you’re standing right next to it when you have the visor on, you’re not just seeing it from across the room. I applaud the filmmakers for not holding back on such a bold, powerful, as well as a bit jarring shot. There are also times when they add a bit of thrill including placing the camera right in the center of a landing pad for a helicopter. That was a hell of a shot too where I’m sure some math and exact measurements were well researched. Good stuff.

Overall, the documentary is compelling, educational and very well executed, especially through VR technology. It’s available on PSVR, Vive, and Oculus through the VR network Within.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD: The Story of National Lampoon

by on Apr.30, 2017, under Movie Reviews

drunk stoned brilliant dead the story of national lampoonSatire can be a word that is hard to define. It’s like one of those “I know it when I see it” kind of things. However, if you’re looking for a clear example of it, you should see if you can find a copy of National Lampoon. The magazine, not the movie series, which ran from 1970 – 1998, is satire and parody at its finest.

DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD: The Story of National Lampoon presents a thorough, entertaining documentary about the history of the magazine and the empire it spawned. The film covers the early days when the initial founders of the magazine worked for the Harvard Lampoon and how they evolved beyond  Harvard (thank God) and its limitations and after some early mistakes, found their footing and eventually created a genre defining magazine.

They pushed boundaries in terms of writing, art work and attitude and out of their bold work emerged some of the greatest comedic talent we’re still enjoying today. If not for National Lampoon, we wouldn’t have SNL, The Simpsons, Family Guy and Animal House alongside more movies than you can imagine and not to mention the talent…

One thing that really amazed me was how the talent was cherry picked from the staff and from the comedians that were contributing to the magazine and its various offshoot projects. At one point, National Lampoon had a radio show on over 600 radio stations that featured the talents of John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray and his brother Brian Doyle-Murray, Ivan Reitman, John Hughes, and the list keeps going and going. And this is before SNL, so you can see where SNL got its starting lineup. Not to mention the Lampoon’s presence on Broadway and eventually movies.

Intertwined with the story of the magazine, is the story of one of its founders Doug Kenney. Kenney was seen as one of the masterminds behind the Lampoon’s universe and had a profound impact on many of the big comedians of our time now including Judd Apatow. People featured in the doc besides numerous contributors over the years includes Chevy Chase, Kevin Bacon, Beverly D’Angelo, Christopher Guest, and many more. There’s a lot of great, historic footage throughout this doc you won’t see anywhere else.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Independence Day: Resurgence

by on Apr.23, 2017, under Movie Reviews

independence day resurgence Some films warrant sequels, and then there’s Independence Day: Resurgence which I would categorize as a film that does not warrant a sequel. No, this is one of those “they’re-in-it-for-the-money” films so afterward, everyone will have to go make an art film and heal their greedy, guilty souls.

The set up is 20 years after the original Independence Day alien invasion. Every day life has evolved as alien technology has been blended with human gadgetry so we have flying cars, fancier weapons, a planetary defense system and more. We even have military bases on different planets now too. But just as we’re all full of ourselves and confident of our safety, guess who’s back for round two…

The aliens return, in a waaaaay bigger ship by the way, because BIGGER, IS WELL, BIGGER, right? This turns out to be the crutch and one of the gimmicks of the film. There’s just more of them and a big-ass queen to boot. Perhaps instead of focusing on a “size-matters” approach, they should’ve focused on making a better script. The story is as cliched as the terrible dialog in addition to very little character arcs or development. Some of the characters are just in here as fodder to fill in for lack of substance to just jam in something between effects, fight scenes and disaster. That formula is exactly director Roland Emmerich’s thing but in some of his films there is at times a sense of story and some plausibility where this film lacks both in a huge way.

Also back are some of the characters from the first film such as Bill Pullman as the former president, Jeff Goldblum’s David Levinson (who’s now a scientist) along with his dad played by Judd Hirsch and Brent Spiner fresh out of his coma as Dr. Okun. I’m a fan of a number of these actors and it was kind of a drag to see them having to deliver lines you can tell they were not thrilled with. I get it, you have to pay the bills, I get it, but damn, you could just see it in their faces sometimes, especially Pullman and Goldblum. Everyone is just following the blueprints on this one with the lineup including Liam Hemsworth (the Hunger Games Hemsworth, not Thor), Sela Ward, William Fichtner, and Vivica A. Fox.

Even as a popcorn movie, it’s kind of BS. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but you’d be better off watching a Michael Bay film instead.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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The Boss

by on Apr.16, 2017, under Movie Reviews

the bossThe Boss sets up Melissa McCarthy as a leader in the corporate world, constructing her own empire. At her peak, she’s snobby, elitist and super-egotistical. But then, she gets caught for insider trading, ends up in prison, and in true Martha Stewart fashion, she re-emerges from the joint to rebuild her brand.

While not overly original, the film falls flat for a number of reasons. Normally, I like Melissa McCarthy but she seemed awkward in the lead role as she doesn’t play the corporate type in this context very convincingly. Another part of the problem is that she’s supposed to be the funny one at the same time playing against her straight-laced, hard working assistant portrayed by Kristen Bell. It was hard to find the funny at times and in other cases they tried too hard to make it happen.

Paul Feig wasn’t in on this one; McCarthy along with Ben Falcone (who also directed) were credited as writers. Unfortunately the script doesn’t really present anything but a formulaic approach and even with a strong cast, the film isn’t very funny or even all that compelling. I found my mind wandering while watching it.

In regard to the cast, there’s a good number of recognizable names here including Peter Dinklage, Kathy Bates, Kristen Schaal, Dax Shepard and Tyler Labine.

There’s plenty of other things to watch, like maybe watch Sausage Party a second time, like I’m doing right now…

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Central Intelligence

by on Apr.02, 2017, under Movie Reviews

central intelligenceI had a really good streak of some pretty amazing films to review lately, I’m afraid the streak has ended as I’ve hit a number of “meh” films, Central Intelligence being one of those experiences. While the comedy has its moments, the awkwardness of the film’s humor and some of the actor’s deliveries got a bit in the way of the funny.

The story centers around Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart) an accountant who, taking stock of his life as his class reunion approaches, realizes he didn’t turn out to be the most-successful-whatever he was supposed to be according to everyone that loved him in high school. Enter the most awkward kid in school Robbie Weirdicht (get it?) who worships Calvin ever since he came to his aid during an embarrassing event as a victim of some bullies. Only now, he’s Bob Stone, CIA agent, luring Calvin into helping him crack a case of international intrigue and danger. Yep, that’s the script, really. The way it ends is equally cliche’ and even less believable.

Granted, films like this aren’t here to crack new cinematic ground, they’re just here for fun, which is what you’ll generally get here in a very predictable package. I’ll give the film props for trying to add some ingenuity through the Bob Stone character but that’s also where it goes off the rails. Bob Stone is supposed to be the weird angle to Calvin Joyner’s straight line in terms of character dynamics. And he is weird but not in a good way, he comes off a little off kilter and creepy sometimes when I’m not so sure he’s supposed to be like that. Part of my confusion stems from the delivery of Dwayne Johnson who as Stone is trying to get over his childhood traumas while also performing the duties of super spy CIA operative. Strangely, he’s savant-like in that he can orchestrate kicking the ass of numerous guys at one time (while wearing a unicorn shirt) but then revert to being the fat kid when confronted by his nemesis from 12th grade.

Johnson’s portrayal seems forced at times in terms of trying to generate a socially awkward character (which is the opposite of his wrestling persona “The Rock”). While Johnson might be one of the highest paid actors out there at the moment, he still could use some acting lessons. Kevin Hart is Kevin Hart so you know what to expect. The rest of the lineup is fine but it’s all pretty standard delivery. The lineup includes Amy Ryan, Danielle Nicolet, Jason Bateman, and Aaron Paul.

If you have some time to kill and want some filler, then, well, meh…

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Sausage Party

by on Mar.26, 2017, under Movie Reviews

sausage partySausage Party is not your typical Pixar-inspired feel good animation love fest. No, this one is rated R for very good reasons and is NOT for the family. That aside, the film is as brilliant as it is crude, and believe me, it’s plenty of both…

The story is set mostly in a grocery store, where at night the products of said store come to life and have their own aspirations and adventures. The goal of these items including food, soap, paper towels, basically anything you can buy, is to get picked up by one of the “gods” (humans) and taken away to the promised land beyond the doors of the supermarket to live happily ever after. Only the truth of it is, these poor sundries have no idea that they’re being set up for consumption, a fact that is revealed to them later to great dismay.

The humor in this film is both low-brow and high-brow at the same time. Many cultural references are placed throughout the film, like how bagel and falafel don’t get along so well in the beginning and how this is creating tension between these different types of food. Now, you might not understand what I mean at first, but if you place bagel within the Jewish cultural landscape compared to falafel from the Middle East, you’ll see what I’m getting at. There’s a lot of subtle nods like that permeating the film in a way that I know I’ll have to go back and watch again to pick up on all the references I missed the first time around.

And I will watch this film again as it is super funny and had me laughing nearly throughout the whole thing. The humor is truly brilliant, at moments tongue-in-cheek while at others totally overt and just bashing you over the head with absurdity. A good example is the orgy at the end, which is of course the “climax” if you will, of the film which was so over-the-top ridiculous you can’t help but get lost in it, laughing out loud all the way.

The actors must’ve had a blast making this one; they’re a lot of fun to listen to and watch through their characters. The crazy ass lineup in this one includes Seth Rogan, Jonah Hill (both of which helped to write the film as well), Kristin Wiig, Michael Cera, James Franco, Bill Hader, Salma Hayek, Anders Holm, Nick Kroll (who is brilliant as “Douche”), Danny McBride, Paul Rudd, Lauren Miller and believe-it-or-not, Edward Norton.

This movie is a blast to watch, I can’t remember the last time a film that made me laugh so much. Definitely check out Sausage Party, but not with the kids!

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Eagles of Death Metal: Non Amis (Our Friends)

by on Mar.19, 2017, under Movie Reviews

eagles of death metal non amisDirected by Colin Hanks, this documentary offers an inside, heartbreaking look into the tragic terrorist attack in Paris at the Bataclan concert hall during a show by the Eagles of Death Metal a little over a year ago. 89 people were killed in the theater, 368 were inujred, 130 total died in what was an act of murder and hate. This film is about not only what happened that night but how the band returned to Paris to perform for the survivors after this horrific incident.

The doc starts with some backstory in terms of how the band formed as a bond between two close friends who both used music as both catharsis and a form of expression. Those friends being Jesse Hughes (guitar and lead vocals) along with Josh Homme who is on drums. If you’re not familiar with Josh, he’s the rock star of the two as some of his credits include Kyuss and most notably Queens of the Stone Age. Both have been best buds since fending off bullies in high school and remain tight to this day. Their friendship is part of the spine of the story and is one of the elements that keeps you glued to the screen as everything plays out.

Interviews with the band, their crew and their friends along with people who attended the concert fill in all the brutal details. It’s compelling to listen to while scary and very sad all at once. To hear it in such a specific way from each person’s standpoint, it’s like they all had their own version of the same horror movie that none of them could escape.

There are uplifting moments here too, and thank God for it. After listening to what happened, I found myself angry and desperately wanting something good to be in here somewhere. Luckily, the end of the film ties up with the band returning to Paris after help and encouragement from their fans and from U2 who stepped up to show their support in the face of malice and intimidation. The calls to action from the people who rallied both in the band and around them are a big inspiration and should be both celebrated and shared as a sign of hope for others.

As hard as this film is to watch, I’m sure I’m going to watch it again, and again.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Logan

by on Mar.12, 2017, under Movie Reviews

loganLogan is one of those rare films that comes along and re-defines a genre. In the case of Logan it’s moreso a drama and less so a movie about superheroes. This time, mutants just happen to be part of the character landscape but they’re kind of forgotten about or treated matter of factly as the timeline is set in 2029. Without the pressure of having to create spectacle, the story is allowed to breathe and becomes much deeper and richer in emotion and tone than previously seen in the genre.

Tied in with the old man Logan version of the Wolverine comic, this film is about the end of the road in a number of ways. I won’t reveal spoilers but one ending here is Hugh Jackman playing the role he played so well for 17 years. I recently saw a retrospective on all the films he’s been part of and it’s pretty awesome to watch and see how he naturally aged with the character and how it all ties together so well.

They’re really going for it on this one, that’s why it’s rated R. So if you’re a parent, think twice about taking your little one to see this one, it’s not for kids, it’s really not. The film is really violent and does not hold back on the language either. Even Prof. X drops in some F-bombs. Speaking of which, the way Xavier is written and delivered is unique, challenging and rewarding to behold…

In regard to the performances – Jackman and Patrick Stewart have never been better. They both portray their characters with more depth and range than in their younger days. Now, both of them are vulnerable, scared, and not so the confident, strong badasses we’ve seen before. Their deliveries in this film is one of the things that kept me glued to every frame of it. Jackman is passionate and seems like the world is just falling out beneath him while Stewart’s Prof. X deteriorates mentally in front of him as he suffers from a degenerative brain disease.

That was another cool thing about this film. The way they did portray the mutant’s powers seems more organic and natural while even more powerful and volatile somehow. You’ll see what I mean when Xavier has a mental episode as that doesn’t work out so well for people anywhere nearby.

If you’re one of these whiners that bitches and moans about they’re never being a “real” Wolverine film (sorry but The Wolverine was a definitive film for the character), Logan should make you shut the hell up about it already, bub.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Tickled

by on Mar.05, 2017, under Movie Reviews

tickledCompelling. Unique. Original. Strange. These are all words I would use to describe the documentary Tickled. Directors David Farrier and Dylan Reeve present this bizarre story of how an innocent enough investigation into competitive tickling evolved into an expose on intimidation, public humiliation, hacking and legal threats.

Competitive tickling you say? Yep, it’a a thing. Sort of. But you have to watch who get involved with as there are some sites that promote tickling as an innocent enough fetish alongside something like say a foot fetish. But then, there’s Jane Media and David D’Amato (who has denied all involvement with Jane Media I should add here so he doesn’t bully and threaten me litigiously as he has others). Farrier and Reeve discover Jane through their investigation of this “sport” as an organization that pays big bucks for young men to tie each other up and then get tickled on video.

Initially, the men sign up, make some money and then sometimes that’s it. But it doesn’t always work out so well for the participants where a number of these videos have ended up online to ruin the lives of the guys who join up once they decide that they don’t want to do it anymore. Essentially, they get bullied and threatened when they stop making the videos for Jane and that’s one of the things that drew the filmmakers in to dig further.

You have to really see this one to believe how deep it goes and how strange it gets. The filmmakers are based in New Zealand and after many legal threats telling them to shut down the documentary, they forge on and take the risk of coming to the states to track down the source that’s issuing the letters that are telling them to cease and desist. The long trail does lead to the source I mentioned above and how they get there keeps you tuned in the whole time.

Would definitely encourage a screening of Tickled.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

 

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The Nice Guys

by on Feb.26, 2017, under Movie Reviews

the nice guysSet in 1970s Los Angeles (but shot in Georgia ironically) The Nice Guys pays homage to the detective/buddy cop flicks of the same era. Written and directed by Shane Black and starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling you’d think this would’ve been a sure fire hit but the film fell pretty shy of its $50M budget. Let’s see what happened…

Crowe and Gosling play competing PIs who team up on the same missing person case. Crowe is the heavy who mostly has his shit together where Gosling plays the charmed goofball / comic relief guy who’s also a lousy father and brings his daughter to crime scenes instead of getting a babysitter. The story revolves around the death of a porn star and a missing person on the run who knows too much.

While the setup of the story is pretty good and the film has some solid moments, it suffers from a series of “are you serious?” number of moments. One such moment includes a struggle for a gun that results in a neighbor getting killed and there’s no mention of it after it happens. It’s a really bizarre kind of insert into an action scene. I think it was supposed to be funny the way it was presented but it comes off tragic and dismissive. The film has a strange sense of humor sometimes that don’t seem to really hit the mark. Then there’s the believability of the head of the justice department and her motivations. I don’t’ want to give up any spoilers so you’ll have to see the film to see why I question the validity of her intentions.

The production of the film looks great, the wardrobe, sets, cars, everything hits the 70s on the head. It was fun to look at the various marquees and signs to see the listings of that time. The music is fun and authentic too as were the parties featured in the movie. It’s a shame some of the writing and directing is what ultimately kind of hurts The Nice Guys along with too much presence of Gosling’s daughter’s character. She got kind of annoying after a while.

The cast includes Kim Basinger, Angourie Rice, Margaret Qualley, Keith David, and Gil Gerard.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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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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