Saturday, September 24, 2016
The story of Edward Snowden is a rather fascinating one. Here's a man who was presented with quite the moral dilemma. After getting a job in the CIA, he quickly noticed that there were some sketchy things going on in the government, specifically with the NSA. In a post-9/11 world, the government was super sensitive towards national security in order to try to prevent more terrorist attacks. This caused the NSA to start essentially spying on everyone. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone. They would go through emails, messages, phone records, and more searching for key words that might infer terrorism. This would even lead to spying on people through cell phones and web cams. The intentions were good. Prevent terrorism. But were the actions justified? Enter Edward Snowden. He's not cool with this because, like many other people, he values his privacy and thinks the NSA crossed a line. What's worse is that in court, the NSA denied everything. Snowden is high enough up that he has the ability to rat out the NSA, but doing so requires him to steal classified documents in order for him to officially have proof. Something that is very illegal. Yet that's exactly what he does. His intentions were good. Protect privacy. But were his actions justified?
Or you can watch Oliver Stone's movie Snowden. Which in my opinion is like reading news from those sites that focus solely on reporting on what other sites have reported on. They'll usually summarize the article in some way and either give their own twist on it or add in their own biased opinion. Sometimes those sites are fine. And there's a way to successfully report on stuff like that. But many of those sites out there do a poor job at journalism and thus in my opinion it's better just to go to the original source and read those articles. A concept that Facebook's new trending section doesn't seem to understand. Not once have I seen Facebook source primary sources in their trending section like CNN, ESPN, or Deadline. It's always the dumb, secondary sources and thus I go to Facebook's trending section for my daily entertainment as I laugh at everything they post instead of going there for actual news. Why do I bring up Facebook's trending section? Well, I wanted to use them as an example. When it comes to learning about Snowden, you can either watch Citizenfour or go read the news articles that broke the story or you can be like Facebook's trending section and choose to learn about Snowden by watching Oliver Stone's Snowden.
In summary, my opinion of this movie is that it's kind of a pointless movie. But if I ignore all of that for a moment and focus on the cinematic qualities of this film, there are a some things to be said here, both bad and good. First of all, this is a bit of a missed opportunity. As I inferred earlier, this is not a black and white discussion. I honestly think that both sides had good intentions, yet both sides did something very wrong and illegal. The NSA was trying to prevent terrorism. But they did so by spying on every American. Edward Snowden was trying to protect our privacy. But he did so by stealing classified government documents and revealing them to the public. This movie had the opportunity to go in completely unbiased and present both sides of the argument to the public and let people decide for themselves. That could've led to a fascinating movie. But no. This is Oliver Stone. He's known for making controversial political thrillers and very rarely does he go in objectively and this is no different. Oliver Stone has decided to take the approach that Snowden is an American hero, a whistleblower akin to those who uncovered the Watergate Scandal. The government in this movie are the villains. Turning a gray subject into a black and white subject was a bit disappointing.
The good? Well, one advantage of a film over a documentary is that there is the ability to show instead of just tell. Much of Citizenfour is Snowden explaining his position and his history. Snowden is able to go show his history. Sometimes that can be more effective. You can tell us that the government is spying on all of us. Or you can show us. Like there is one scene where they are spying on one of those Middle Eastern ladies who is normally all covered up, but then she goes into the privacy of her own home and starts undressing. Meanwhile the NSA dude with Snowden starts enjoying the free peep show, saying "I wonder what she looked like under that," before Snowden gets him to rightfully turn it off. Did the NSA actually do stuff like that? I don't know. But the idea that they could is a bit disturbing and effectively gets across the point that this idea of spying on us is bad. Thus you can understand why Snowden started to become extremely paranoid about his privacy and why he decided to do what he did. Although I will also say that when it comes to this showing instead of telling, despite it being fairly effective, it was a bit of a marathon. This movie is 134 minutes long and they literally should've shaved about 30 minutes off of that.
Of course I can't let you go without commending the cast of this movie. If Oscars were given based off how well an actor pulled off a certain role rather than how much they cried, screamed, or did daring things, then Joseph Gordon-Levitt deserves an Oscar for this role because he looked like, sounded like, and acted like Edward Snowden. He was perfect. And Shailene Woodley was equally as perfect as Snowden's girlfriend Lindsay Mills. I don't think Shailene has hit Kristen Stewart level in terms of how much she is mocked for her role in those Divergent abominations... I mean movies. But like Kristen Stewart, she has done some dang good work in the smaller, independent level that she doesn't get enough credit for when it comes the general public's view of her. And by dang does she show her prowess in this film. And they we have our side characters. Zachary Quinto is Glenn Greenwald, Tom Wilkinson is Ewen MacAskill and Melissa Leo is Laura Poitras. You go watch Citizenfour and then you watch Snowden and you will be seeing déjà vu with how these three look and sound. Then on top of that you have other side characters like Nicholas Cage, Rhys Ifans, and Scott Eastwood who are also solid in their side roles. From top to bottom, this cast was perfect.
No, this isn't a bad movie. Everyone in the cast is perfect. And the movie does an effective job in showing us why Snowden became so paranoid and why he did what he did. But at the same time, if they had to make a movie of these events, it would've been more effective in my opinion if they would've taken an objective look at the situation by presenting both sides of the argument and letting the audience choose which stance to take. But it doesn't do that. It paints a black and white picture that Snowden is a national hero who did nothing wrong and is only trying to smear a corrupt government. I'm not saying I don't like that angle because I disagree. In fact, I'm not giving you my opinion here, so don't assume. I'm just saying an objective look at this would've been more interesting. And all that is me judging the cinematic qualities of the movie only. As I explained in the first half of this review, this is movie is essentially a useless, second-hand retread of something better. Remake is probably the wrong word, but that's what it feels like. It feels like a sub-par remake of a movie that just barely came out a couple of years ago. Thus my recommendation is that you skip this one and go see Citizenfour instead. My grade for Snowden is a 6/10.
Saturday, September 17, 2016
Like I said, The Blair Witch Project has a fascinating history. I have mad respect for what the movie managed to pull off and as such I will say that it is a phenomenal found footage movie. Probably the best found footage movie there is. But I am not one who experienced this movie-going event in theaters. I was only 10 years old at the time of its release and I certainly wasn't into that type of horror movie at such a young age. I had always heard about it and was interested in seeing it, but I never got around to seeing it until recently. If you haven't seen it, it's the type of movie where you need to be aware of this history to fully understand and appreciate it. But if I'm being honest, despite me believing that it's a great found footage me and realizing that it successfully accomplished what it set out to do, I don't think it's a movie that holds up. Yes, if three kids did get lost in the woods and their footage was later discovered and edited down into 81 minutes of footage, this is exactly what it would look like. But as a movie, it's not that great. Most of its 81 minute runtime consists of these three hikers walking around and complaining that they're lost. It's not that scary and there's no real payoff. Sorry, I'm not a fan. I respect it. But I don't love it.
But did people actually really want another sequel to The Blair Witch Project? Based on early weekend projections, apparently not. Especially not when reviews and word of mouth have not been so good. It only has 37 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, 5.9 on IMDb, a D+ cinemascore, and a projected opening weekend total of less than $10 million. But do you know what? Going into this movie, I didn't actually pay much attention to the reviews simply because I knew my experience with The Blair Witch Project was much different than others. If you're one that loved The Blair Witch Project, thinking it was disturbing and scary, I don't know if this review is going to be any help to you. I didn't think The Blair Witch Project was scary at all. As I said, 81 minutes of people whining and complaining that they were lost with piles of rocks and stick contraptions showing up occasionally. Realistic, yes. Scary, no. This sequel, Blair Witch, is no masterpiece by any means. But the goal for these filmmakers was to make a good, scary movie instead of trying to make a movie that would convince people that the Blair Witch actually existed and that these kids actually got lost in the woods. As such, I think Blair Witch is actually a scarier movie than it's predecessor.
Let's talk about the problems in this movie, though, because there's plenty of them. The biggest one that everyone has been bringing up is that this is kinda the same movie as the first one. At least for the first half. The second half of the movie goes in a much different direction and I'll touch on that in a second, but the first half of the movie goes point for point along with the first movie. We're following the younger brother of the girl that went missing. He thinks his sister is still alive. So he decides to make a documentary. He gets some friends to go camping in the woods. We talk about the Blair Witch. They set up camp. Weird things start to happen. People loose their tempers. There's less focus on the whining and complaining, which I appreciated. Also in the first one there's a steady stream of cursing throughout most of the second half of the movie once things go wrong and that wasn't the focus here either, which was nice, but I still felt like I was watching a movie that used the exact same script with different characters. So what's the difference between this and a movie like Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Well, there's a bit a fine line between following a formula, paying homage, and making the exact same movie. But there is a difference. The Force Awakens follows a formula. Blair Witch makes the same exact movie twice.
Overall, The Blair Witch Project and Blair Witch are two movies that had two very different goals. The goal of The Blair Witch Project was to make a movie that would trick people into thinking that the footage people saw in the theaters was actual footage. Thus it was a perfect found footage movie in terms of how realistic it was. But the consequences of this goal is that 17 years later the actual movie itself is a little boring and lifeless. We see nothing. We hear hardly anything. There's no payoff. It's not scary. Instead there's 81 minutes of people wandering around in the woods complaining that they were lost and letting out a constant stream of cursing. The goal of Blair Witch was to actually make a movie that was scary. Yes, they focus too much on annoying horror clichés and copy the plot of the first movie too much, but it felt like a more complete movie to me. And despite some annoyances in the first half, the movie actually payed off with a fantastic finale and a phenomenal final scene. Not a masterpiece by any means, but I enjoyed it more than I did the first. In giving a grade to both movies, I would probably give The Blair Witch Project a 6/10. I've not actually seen Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 and nor do I ever plan on doing so, which is why I've ignored it in this review. But I do think Blair Witch is a serviceable horror that I enjoyed, so I will give it a 7/10.
Friday, September 9, 2016
The legendary Clint Eastwood was the man behind the camera here and he recruited one of the all-time greatest actors to play Sully, that of Tom Hanks. The trailers looked great and the movie promised us that it was going to tell the untold story behind the miracle on the Hudson. So I was confident. But I still had a lot of questions. And despite how amazing Clint Eastwood is in front of the camera as an actor, behind the camera he doesn't exactly have a clean track record. He didn't direct, but he did help produce one of the worst baseball movies I have ever seen in Trouble with the Curve. I was personally split with American Sniper. There were a lot of amazing moments in that movie, but also a lot of cringe-worthy moments as well. I also haven't seen J. Edgar or Jersey Boys, but I know people who outright hate those movies. So yeah, I had a lot of questions. But holy cow was I pleasantly surprised. This movie really isn't about the miracle on the Hudson. I mean, that's obviously the central event in the movie. But the movie is more about Sully himself and how he reacted to everything instead of being about the event itself and that was fascinating. Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks combined their amazing talents to deliver us a beautiful film.
That's where this movie gets really interesting. The NTSB are essentially painted as the villains in the movie. Sully has just landed a plane in the Hudson, saved 155 lives, and has become an American hero. Yet they come out and start interrogating him, saying that he could've made it back to LaGuardia Airport safely, that one of the engines might've actually been fine, that he put 155 people in danger unnecessarily, and stuff like this. They ask him if he'd been drinking, what his frame of mind was, and what his personal life was like. These guys were mean. Apparently the real NTSB aren't super happy about this portrayal of them. They claim they were just doing an honest investigation in order to ensure the safety of the passengers in the future, which makes sense. But oh well. This is what made the movie intense. I knew about the miracle on the Hudson. I did not know about the investigation afterwards. Suddenly I started to honestly question this situation. Did he make the right decision or did he screw up? If he did screw up, how much can we blame can we put on him and how much can we write off to human error? I really appreciated this aspect of the movie because one of my big questions going in was how were they going to make this a good movie when it seems like most people remember the events in the news fairly well? This is how. I won't spoil much of how it turns out, but I was very pleased with how this movie ended up.
Up to this point, I have made it seem like this movie is all about the events after the miracle on the Hudson. Yes, that's the focus of this movie and yes, I did enjoy that. But the actual plane crash into the Hudson is in fact in the movie. We just tell things out of chronological order, which is something I really enjoyed. Instead of going straight through the timeline, we bounce around a bit and in this instance I think it enhances the movie. The crash scene is inserted at the right moment. It's even shown a few different times from different perspectives. And yes, everyone's been using this comparison, but it's a good one. These crash sequences reminded me a lot of United 93. If you haven't seen that me, please go do so. Especially since the 15th anniversary of 9/11 is this weekend. Sully obviously has the exact opposite outcome and the flight time was a heck of a lot faster. They crashed into the birds shortly after takeoff and the whole sequence was only 208 seconds or something like that. But the sequences do have a similar feel to United 93 in how intense they get, how well the scenes are shot, how good the visual effects are, and how personal it gets with the individual passengers that really makes you care about them. It was beautiful and intense. I didn't see this in IMAX, but I do hear that it's pretty dang good in IMAX, so that's worth noting.
Overall, I was anticipating this movie. It looked like it was going to be a winner, but given the subject matter, I still had a lot of questions about how certain specifics of this movie were going to play out and thus I was very pleasantly surprised to learn exactly how good this movie was. Yes, the miracle of the Hudson is a very familiar story, but the fact that this movie focuses on the aftermath of the incident and the ensuing investigation, I learned that there's a lot to this story that I was unaware of and I thoroughly enjoyed diving into the personal experiences that Sully went through because of this. There was a lot of drama and a lot of honest tension that kept me fully invested in the movie throughout. The movie is carried by yet another phenomenal performance from Tom Hanks as well as a great direction from the legendary Clint Eastwood. The supporting cast around Hanks also did a good job, this led by a great performance from Aaron Eckhart. When we did get to the actual crash landing on the Hudson, those scenes were great and intense. I loved how the story was told out of chronological order. I think that enhanced the experience. Overall a great movie. If we're calling this our official fall kick-off film, we're off to a great start. I'm going to give Sully a 9/10.
Thursday, September 8, 2016
The reason why I remained intrigued despite everything is because in the last five years there were two other female super weapon movies released called Hanna and Lucy. Hanna opened in April 2011, earned a 71 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and only made around $40 million at the box office. Lucy opened in the summer of 2014 and made a good amount of money, but only earned a 67 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and was typically seen by most as either a disappointment or a brainless action movie. These things sadden me. I thought both of these movies were phenomenal. Not only were they extremely entertaining, but they were smart, deep, and emotional movies that clicked on all levels for me. I wasn't necessarily expecting Morgan to be as good as these two, but the similarities were unavoidable. Female action star that the movie was named after where the female had super human strength. Plot that seemed like it was at least trying to be smart. I wasn't about to let this one slip away from me without at least giving it a shot. Also, this movie was on the 2014 Black List, which is a yearly list of the best written scripts that hadn't yet been made into a movie. The fact that people looked at the script and loved it is a good sign, right?
I will say right up front that the idea behind this movie is good one. If I were to describe the entire plot from beginning to end, it might actually pique your interest a bit. I'm not going to do that, of course. What I will say is that the movie centers around a girl named Morgan, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, who starred in The Witch earlier this year. Morgan was created in a lab, experienced super fast growth and has super human strength. As is the case in pretty much every movie about artificial intelligence, things go wrong. Morgan attacked someone from the lab and because of that we have Kate Mara's fancy, higher-up character coming to the lab to investigate the situation and determine if Morgan needs to be terminated or not. Yeah, that initial premise does sound like every other artificial intelligence movie. But they do attempt to go in places that other similar movies haven't explored. The second half of this movie takes several surprising twists and turns and has an ending that shocked me. That's why I say if I were to describe this movie to you, it might actually sound interesting. Thus I can see why it ended up on the 2014 Black List. On paper this is a good movie. It's in the execution of the movie where this falls apart.
Then we enter the second half of the movie and this is where the movie started to pick up and became really fun. And super confusing. Not confusing in terms of story. Confusing in terms of me having no idea why certain characters did what they did. The movie tried to make Morgan a human character with emotions and feelings, despite being created in a lab. I could sense that she felt bad for what she did in the opening credits of the movie and that many people on the crew were trying their best to fix her. This could've been an interesting angle. But then certain characters, Paul Giamatti specifically, started doing things that made no sense. I was sitting there thinking why are you doing this? And why are you continuing to do this when clearly this is a bad idea? Then certain things happen and the other characters should've done certain things, but yet they don't for some dumb reason. This then causes Morgan to freak out like you knew she would and at this point I was totally on team Morgan. Anya Taylor-Joy wasn't given much to work with, but she had a lot of fun with this role and was literally the only character in the movie worth caring about. I was cheering for her to go kill everyone. I had zero remorse for the other characters. Had the movie done things right, I would've cared about everyone and thus the movie would've been super emotional and engaging. But they totally missed the boat on that one.
This wasn't a horrible, cringe-worthy movie. I had fun with certain aspects of the second half of the movie even though nothing made sense. But overall it was really disappointing because I saw the skeleton of a good movie in there that could've been amazing had this been in the right hands. Anya Taylor-Joy, who blew me out of the water in The Witch, did great in this role with what she was given. Kate Mara was someone who also seemed to have a lot of fun in her role. Although I really feel bad for her because she's had horrible luck with most of her movie roles as of late. I think she's a good actress who just picks the wrong movies to be in. Perhaps she should sit down and take some advice from her little sister Rooney who has picked all the right roles in her career. Paul Giamatti was super intense in his role even though it didn't make any sense. The first half of this movie was as boring as tar and almost forced me to take an unplanned, early bed time in the soft seat I was in. The second half picked up, but it was a movie full of characters doing dumb things. Then there's a twist at the end that comes completely out of left field. It left me confused. I have a lot more to say about that, but I'll leave it at that for now. So no, this is not a complete waste of time. But ultimately it's disappointing and forgettable. I'm going to give Morgan a 6/10.
Monday, September 5, 2016
September 2nd - 5th-
The second movie of the weekend that was a major dud was The Light Between Oceans. On paper this movie looks like a solid hit. This is romance drama about a couple who adopts a child who comes floating ashore, which leads to a complicated scenario when they learn what's happened to the actual birth mother. This is based off of a novel written by M.L. Stedman and is directed by Derek Cianfrance, director of The Place Beyond the Pines and Blue Valentine. It also stars Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vickander, two of Hollywood's current biggest stars. Like I said, great on paper. The problem is that it's a movie that's essentially been sitting on a shelf for a couple of years now and with the Labor Day release date seems like a movie that was dumped on the calendar by DreamWorks and Disney. The reviews are better than Morgan, but not by a whole lot.
September 9th - 11th-
The second movie of the weekend looks to be a sleeper hit and that is When the Bough Breaks. This comes to us via Sony's Screen Gems division who, on this exact weekend in the past two years, has released thrillers featuring a predominantly black cast that surprised at the box office. No Good Deed opened to $24.3 million in September of 2014 while The Perfect Guy delivered up $25.9 million in September of 2015. Neither were expected to win their weekend, but both did after being in only around 2,200 theaters. Can lightning strike three times for Screen Gems? When the Bough Breaks is also a thriller with a predominately black cast being released in around 2,200 theaters. This also shares Morris Chestnut from The Perfect Guy. The premise for When the Bough Breaks surrounds a surrogate mother for a couple who becomes dangerously obsessed with the soon-to-be father. It would be quite the feat if this beat out Sully for the weekend's prize, but don't be surprised if it does. Unless of course Sully can manage to open with $30 million or more.
Next up we have two movies that will probably be lost in the September madness. The first of those is the horror film The Disappointments Room. It was initially supposed to be Before I Wake this weekend for Relativity Media, which is a movie that I've already covered twice in my movie previews. But for a third straight time, Before I Wake was taken off the schedule at last minute. I wonder if that movie is ever coming out, but I'm glad they made the change this time BEFORE I did my movie preview. It was three weeks ago when that change was made and The Disappointments Room, which was initially slated for a November release, was put into it's place. It's been a phenomenal year for horror movies as The Conjuring 2, Lights Out, and Don't Breathe are examples of movies that did very well at the box office. The Conjuring 2 wasn't a surprise, but those last two definitely were. The Disappointments Room is a supernatural horror about a family that moves into their dream house only to discover a horrifying mystery in the attic. Personally I do think we're in for another horror breakout this month, but I don't think it will be with this movie. I think it's too late of switch for this to break out.
Last and almost certainly least will be the animated movie The Wild Life. Titled Robinson Crusoe almost everywhere else in the world, The Wild Life is a Belgium animated film that was initially released at the Brussels Animation Film Festival in February this year and has already seen a theatrical release in over 30 countries worldwide, earning a total of $20 million, led by Germany with $5.1 million and France with $2.6 million. As is inferred by it's title everywhere else, this is the story of Robinson Crusoe told from the perspective of the animals on the island. Hence the United States title, The Wild Life. Based on reaction from places where it's been released, this appears to be an animated movie that appeals to young kids only. The type of movie that's perfect for distracting your kids in the morning when it shows up on Netflix and not necessarily the type of movie to rush out to see. Lionsgate is handling the U.S. distribution for the movie as this doesn't come from any major animation studio. The other animated movie that Lionsgate distributed this year in the U.S. was January's Norm of the North, which opened to just $6.8 million on its way to $17.1 million overall.
September 16th - 19th-
One of the most controversial figures of today is a man by the name of Edward Snowden. This weekend the movie about him finally hits theaters and that is Snowden. Joseph Gordon-Levitt place Edward Snowden and the movie is directed by Oliver Stone, who is well known for his controversial war/political thrillers such as Platoon, JFK, Born on the Fourth of July, Natural Born Killers, Wall Street, and many more. Given the release date in the middle of election season where Edward Snowden has been one of the hot topics, this could be a timely movie. Or a movie that angers a lot of people. Or a movie that people just don't care about due to the fact that the Edward Snowden documentary Citizenfour just barely came out two years ago and won best documentary at the Oscars last year. A lot of people are very well aware of the situation here with Snowden and thus if the movie strays a bit from actual events or doesn't hit people like it has potential to, there's a chance this could be ignored. The fact that it was postponed two different times could also be seen as a red flag. Or it could be a sleeper hit. So call this movie the wildcard of the month.
Next up is a third movie in a series that most people probably didn't anticipate being a trilogy and that is Bridget Jones's Baby. Bridget Jones's Diary was released in 2001 and became a sleeper hit after opening to just $10.7 million, but finishing with $71.5. This was enough to justify the sequel three years later called Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, which didn't do quite as well, but did well enough. Now we are 12 years after the second one with this third chapter. Renee Zellweger returns as Bridget Jones for a third time, as does Colin Firth's Mark Darcy. Being added into a love triangle is the well-loved Patrick Dempsey. Call that an all-star romance drama cast for this movie. The drama in this third chapter is such that Bridget Jones is pregnant, but she doesn't know if either Colin Firth or Patrick Dempsey is the father, so she kinda courts both until she can figure out who the father is and who she would prefer to be with more. This could end up as a sleeper hit like the first two, especially since the female crowd hasn't been treated to a romance drama in a while and there really isn't any on the schedule for much of the fall season. Or this could end up going the way of most other sequels this year by under-performing especially with how much time has passed.
Pulling up the rear this weekend should be Hillsong - Let Hope Rise. This comes to us via Pure Flix, a Christian distribution company that was responsible for God's Not Dead 2 and Woodlawn. This is a documentary/concert film following the musical group Hillsong UNITED, a very popular Christian music group. They've had five albums hit #1 on the US Christian Albums chart and plenty of hits on the US Hot Christian Songs chart. They even had one song, "Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)," cross over to the US Billboard Hot 100. So there's potential here. The problem is that documentary/concert films like this never do super well at the box office. The only three that have done super well at the box office have been Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, Michael Jackson's This is It, and Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: The Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour. One Direction, Katy Perry, the Jonas Brothers, and Glee are examples of very high profile singers/groups that had concert movies that didn't really hit. Christian movies do sometimes surprise at the box office, but it would be very surprising if this one managed more than $10 million this weekend.
September 23rd - 25th-
The other release of the weekend is Warner Animation Group's Storks. Pushed very heavily in marketing here is that this is the same team that released The LEGO Movie. The idea here is to keep up with the likes of Disney and Pixar with the animation party, so they're really hoping Storks is a success. Sony has learned recently that late September can be a very good time for animation as their Hotel Transylvania movies and their Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs movies have done very well in this slot, so there's a good chance for success here, especially since it will have been a couple of months since the last big animated movie and there won't be another animated movie until November with Trolls and Moana. In the movie Storks, the storks no longer deliver babies. Instead they have modernized to deliver packages. However, the baby making machine is accidentally activated, causing our main stork to have to deliver a baby once again. This is directed by Nicholas Stoller, who directed Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Five-Year Engagement, and the Neighbors movies, as well as Doug Sweetland, who worked in the animation department for several of Pixar's movies. The voice talent includes Andy Samberg, Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell, Kelsey Grammer, and Key & Peele.
September 30th - October 2nd-
Competing with Miss Peregrine to dethrone The Magnificent Seven will be Peter Berg's Deepwater Horizon. Earlier during this preview when I was talking about Sully, I mentioned the trend of turning recent national news stories into major motion pictures. Deepwater Horizon pairs with Sully to make for two movies during this month to follow this trend. This movie is specifically based on the New York Times article "Deepwater Horizon's Final Hours," which was released on December 25, 2010 and told the story of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil spill, which headlined the news for quite some time during 2010. Peter Berg is the director here. He previously found success with the Navy SEALs movie The Lone Survivor back in January of 2013. Both The Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon star Mark Wahlberg in the lead role. Speaking of Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg, this won't be the only time this year the two will team up for a modern news story turned into movie. Patriots Day will be released in December and is about the Boston Marathon bombing and the subsequent manhunt to find the bomber. Both stories should be fresh on people's minds and it will be interesting to see if they translate into box office and/or awards success.
The final movie of the month is a comedy titled Masterminds. This movie is a PG-13 heist comedy that is directed by Jared Hess, who wrote and directed both Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre. The movie features a talented cast of comedians which includes Zach Galafianakis, Owen Wilson, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Jason Sudeikis. In other words, three of the four female Ghostbusters from a couple months back plus Galafianakis, Wilson, and Sudeikis. So this has the star power to be a sleeper hit and a PG-13 rating that could appeal to a broader audience. There's also not a whole ton of comedies this fall, so it could hold well if it's received well by audiences. The problem might be a lack of awareness for this. It's also a Relativity Media production that has been pushed back several times partially due to Relativity's financial crisis, so this could also be a fall comedy that completely slips under the radar and is instead forgotten about.
Friday, September 2, 2016
The most recent movie that I reviewed was the horror/thriller Don't Breathe. There's a couple of reasons to bring this movie up when talking about Hell or High Water. The first reason is that both movies are a bit ambiguous when trying to label them with one specific genre. After seeing Don't Breathe, I got into a conversation with a random YouTuber that was adamant that Don't Breathe wasn't a horror movie. I would consider it a horror movie, especially since I was more terrified during that movie than I was during most other horrors that I've seen recently. But does it really matter what you call it? And do you really have to limit a movie to just one genre? Don't Breathe is a horror and a thriller. But more importantly, it's a movie. And a good movie at that. Same goes with Hell or High Water. I was sitting there watching this movie and was trying to think of what genre it was. Was it a crime drama? Was it an action movie? Does it count as a western? It's certainly a heist movie, but do heist movies get their own genre or are they more of a sub-genre to something else? My conclusion? Eh. Who cares. Hell or High Water is a film. And a dang good film. Speaking of which, perhaps later we can discuss movie vs. film. Are they the same thing or different? For now we will move on.
The other reason to bring up Don't Breathe is that both movies were essentially heist movies. Don't Breathe was a heist gone wrong that had three dumb kids trapped in a house with an old, blind psychopath. With that, I said in that review that a successful heist movie will toy with your moral compass. Crime is wrong. Robbing banks is awful. But if a heist movie can make you go against that moral logic by making you cheer for the heist to be a success, then it has done it's job. Don't Breathe succeeded in other areas that made me conclude that it was a good movie, but it failed on this heist aspect. I didn't care as much for these group of kids as I would've hoped and a part of me wanted them to suffer the consequences of trying to rob this old man of $300,000. Hell or High Water is a different story. This absolutely succeeds on the heist aspect. The story follows Chris Pine and Ben Foster playing two brothers going around robbing banks in order to get enough money to achieve a certain goal that I won't spoil. But you absolutely want them to succeed. These are two very-well fleshed out characters with great motivations that causes you to really care for them. Thus when I'm ranking heist movies, this stands it's ground with other great heist movies such as Ocean's Eleven, The Italian Job, and Fast Five. It was an absolutely fabulous ride.
On top of that, we also had the Rise of the Planet of the Apes conundrum here. In that movie you spend the whole time trying to figure out if you are on the side of the apes or on the side of the humans and you never really know who to root for. Some were frustrated with that. I wasn't. I love the fact that the movie did that to me and it's the same here. On the one hand, you have Ben Foster and Chris Pine robbing banks and you want them to succeed. On the other hand you have the legendary Jeff Bridges as our sheriff hunting them down in what may go down as one of Jeff Bridges' best roles yet. While you want Chris Pine and Ben Foster to succeed, you also definitely want Jeff Bridges to succeed as well because he is a total boss in this. There's no white and black here. No definitive good vs. evil. It's all very gray, which blew me away. What really sold this were the performances of these three actors. I may hate Chris Pine's Captain Kirk in the new Star Trek movies, but I do like Chris Pine and he gives the performance of his career in this movie. It's the best I've seen Chris Pine by a long shot. Same with Ben Foster. I won't claim it's Jeff Bridges best performance because he's done a lot of amazing things, but he's equally as good. All three of these men give Oscar-worthy performances and I hope they don't all get snubbed or else I'll be mad.
Hell or High Water is one of the best reviewed movies of the year. It currently stands at 98 percent on Rotten Tomatoes with 140 reviews counted. It's also catching on at the box office as at the conclusion of the Labor Day weekend, it'll have close to $15 million in the bank following its fourth weekend of release, which is actually pretty solid for indie movie standards. I'm not one to just go with the flow. I've gone against the grain many times. But in this case, there's a reason why everyone who has seen this movie is raving about it. I've actually had some time to think about this movie as it's been about a week since I've seen it and it's one of those movies that gets better the more I think about it. Towards the beginning of this review I talked about all the different genres that this movie could fall under and the fact that it can be classified under so many genres is a strength that speaks to how well-rounded this movie is. It covers a little bit of everything along the way and thus is a fantastic ride. Oscar season is about to start and I really hope that this is a movie that catches on during awards season. If it gets ignored because it was released a little too early or didn't hit the festival rounds before getting released, that would be quite the shame. Regardless of what Oscar voters say, though, make sure you go out and treat yourself to this fantastic film. You'll be glad you did. I'm giving Hell or High Water a 9.5/10.
Friday, August 26, 2016
The premise here is a simple one, so this should be a simple review. Simplicity is definitely not a bad thing, though. Sure, I love myself a deep, complex tale that really makes you think about what exactly happened. If done well, that is. Sometimes movies try to be super deep and complex and end up being a giant mess. So the fact that this movie went for simple is good. Here we have three young adults around their early-twenties, I'm guessing, going around robbing houses in order to earn some money to escape their current situations. One of them discovers that there is an old man in the ghetto part of town who has at least $300,000 in cash in his home. If they rob him, they'll have all they need and they won't need to rob anymore. Then they discover that not only he is an old man living by himself, but he's also blind. They think they've scored the jackpot. So they go in one night to grab the money and go. But they quickly discover that they may have made the biggest mistake of their lives as this old man is not to be messed with. In fact he's a crazy psychopath who locks them into the house and chases them around. Thus for most of this movie we as an audience are trapped in this house with these kids as they try to survive this crazy man and someone escape the house.
Essentially we have a heist movie gone wrong with this movie. Heist movies are interesting because if done right they put the audience in a bit of a predicament. Your normal moral compass will usually tell you that robbing a bank or committing a crime is a bad thing. If you see a story of a robbery on the news in real life, you're never going to cheer for the criminals to get away with their crimes. You want them caught. But yet in a heist movie, such as Ocean's Eleven, The Italian Job, and Fast Five, you are cheering for the heist to be a success despite know that what they are doing is wrong. But then you stop and remember that they are doing something bad and you question your own moral compass in wanting them to succeed. If a heist movie pulls that off, then it's a success. If I'm being perfectly honest, Don't Breathe doesn't quite succeed in this, which is a major problem with this movie. This group of kids are just a group of punk kids doing dumb things. They made the bone-headed move to try to rob this dude. They kinda got what they deserved when he chases them down and locks them in the house. I'm not saying I was necessarily on the side of the old man, but this group of kids weren't quite as likable as other heist teams in successful heist movies.
A big part of the reason as to why this movie is so successful is because of our crazy old man. I don't want to say too much about him, but this guy is someone straight out of a good Criminal Minds episode. He has a relatable backstory which makes him an interesting character, but the decisions he makes because of that are way over-the-line. Stephen Lang plays the old man and he is so creepy in the way he looks, the way he carries himself, and the way that he is always in the right place. He may be blind, but his other senses are amplified because of that, making it so that he has the upper hand in this situation. Thus even though the kids are the bone-headed ones for breaking into his house, you quickly learn that this is a bad vs. worse situation and I was totally on the side of the kids. Even though they are dumb kids who deserve what they get, our main two are fairly likable. I'm talking about Dylan Minnette and Jane Levy. Dylan Minnette is our big star here. He previously starred in the Goosebumps movie last year, so he gets the opportunity of doing something much different and he shines. I also enjoyed Jane Levy. This was the first role I've seen her in and I was impressed. I wished their characters were written a little better, but they did good with it anyways.
The final thing that I want to dance around a bit is the ending of this movie. There's a lot of ways they could've ended this movie and I honestly don't think the writers were completely settled on which ending they wanted to go with, so they kinda did all of them. There were several moments where I thought the movie was going to end, but it didn't. They eventually had to settle on something because the movie had to end somehow, but the specific ending they went with was the wrong ending in my opinion. That's all I will say about that, though. Overall I was very impressed with this movie. Sure, I think our characters could've been written better. If we're doing a heist movie, I expect to like our characters more than I did in this movie. And as I just said, the ending could've been better. But the majority of this movie is spent in this home and it's an extremely effective horror/thriller. It doesn't rely on a bunch of horror cliches, like jump scares, excessive sexuality and gore, or trying to trick you into thinking this was a "true story." This is just three people stuck in a house with a psychotic, old, blind guy who was super creepy and terrifying. I was legitimately scared while watching this and thus I easily give this a pass. It's a great late-August surprise that I will award an 8/10.