Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Angry Birds Movie Review

That's right. We live in a day in age where we are so desperate for movie ideas that we've starting taking apps from your phone and adapting them into movies. You ready for the Candy Crush, Temple Run, Tetris and Fruit Ninja movies? And you thinking I'm joking. Candy Crush is the only one of those four that hasn't been announced. Tetris and Fruit Ninja were announced this past week. Temple Run was announced a while ago. It's only a matter of time before we get Candy Crush, right? Didn't we learn our lesson with Battleship a few years back that games with zero plot shouldn't be adapted into movies? Apparently not. While I'm at it, I also remember Monopoly and Settlers of Catan being announced as being in the works. Out of all the movie trends starting these days, this is the one that worries me the most. That said, I wasn't vehemently opposed to the idea of an Angry Birds movie when I heard about it. I thought it could be a decent kids movie. And the first trailer showed promise. But then they released more trailers. Suddenly I became as sour as everyone else. Now that I've seen it, am I going to announce that it surprised me? No. It's exactly what you expect. Not the worst thing to grace our theaters, but certainly not something worth your time and money.

The plot of the movie? Yeah that's the problem here. Think about the plot of the app for a second. There really isn't one. The pigs have stolen the eggs and the birds are trying to get them back by slinging themselves into the pigs' lair. It's a really fun game! I am unashamedly part of the millions of people that probably spent way too many hours of their lives launching birds into the pigs' lairs. When you're bored or you're waiting in line for something and all you have is your phone, these types of dumb games are perfect because they don't require much brain power and they help pass the time. That's what they're for. Adapting them into movies? No! Movies require plot. In fact, movies usually require at least 90 minutes of plot. It should be no surprise that that's exactly where this movie struggled. Plot. Just like in the game, the pigs come to the land of the flightless birds and steal their eggs. The birds band together and go attack the land of the pigs in order to get their eggs back. That's enough for part of a movie. But before that we have characters to introduce, conflict to set up, drama to create. And we have to try to make it believable and cohesive. Yeah. This movie is 97 minutes long and I swear they spend at least 60 minutes of that run time stumbling through some sort of messy plot that had me bored to tears.

It is true that sometimes these plotless adaptations work out. The LEGO Movie is the most common example I've been hearing. While I do think LEGOs and the Angry Birds game are two completely different ball games, I get the idea. A better example in my opinion are the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs movies. They weren't games, but they were based on a picture book with little plot, so it's the same principle. Both of those movies were fantastic. But despite examples like that, I still don't think this is a good trend to continue. If we need to adapt things, there are so many books, video games, and other stories out there that deserve to be told. Let's tell them. Adapting something like Angry Birds that has little plot requires a whole heck of a lot of creativity to make it work. Thus I think for every one time you score a home run with a movie like The LEGO Movie or Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, you're going to have 10 movies like Battleship or The Angry Birds Movie. Creative juices just weren't flowing this time around. It's like someone walked into the board room, announced that they wanted to make an Angry Birds movie, and the writers were like, "Uhhhh... a what?"

Granted this movie is probably a little better than it should be. If you walk in thinking that this is going to be the next Norm of the North or Strange Magic, you might be surprised. First off, the animation in the movie is phenomenal. This is something that is easy to take for granted because we see so many animated movies these days and technology to create animation is improving drastically. But if you are a fan of animation, I think you're going to love this. They're animating birds. Birds have feathers. These specific birds have a thousands of small little feathers. I'm no animation expert, but I imagine that it took them a long freaking time to animate all the feathers and make them act like feathers on an actual bird would act like. They do a pretty darn good job of that and that's something that I appreciate. And the voice acting is perfect. I'm not going to start naming all the voice actors because there's a ton of them, but they all do a great job. So of course I've got to give credit where credit is due. But the plot! You have to have a good plot! This whole movie felt like the writers were in over their heads and had absolutely no idea how to stretch this simple Angry Birds game into a feature-length movie. There's some entertaining moments for sure. When they actually started playing Angry Birds that was fun. But they were just moments. As a whole, the movie is choppy and incohesive. I wasn't a fan.

"But Adam, this is a movie written for kids. As long as they enjoy it, that's all that matters, right?" Yes. Which is why I roll my eyes and give movies like The Smurfs or Alvin and the Chipmunks a pass. I don't enjoy them. But there's a lot of these movies that my nieces and nephews absolute adore and so I can accept a movie that is playing towards it's audience even if I'm personally not a fan. But I'm not accepting that this time around. I'm going Inside Out on this out and putting the foot down. The foot is down! THIS MOVIE IS SO FREAKING DIRTY!!!!! I get that many animated movies try to throw in humor for adults and kids to play to both audiences, but if you're going to do that, be subtle about it! There are so many moments in this movie that are the exact opposite of subtle. Like the eagle peeing in the pool. That scene goes on. And on. And on. And on. I didn't count, but that scene must've been 30 seconds of the eagle peeing. One of the pigs put plungers on his chest. When the pigs are dancing, it zooms in on their pig butts a lot and they even start a strip tease on stage like we're watching Magic Mike. Josh Gad's character at one point when they're trying to get the eggs back tells all the couples to go home and get it on to create new eggs. Toilet humor like this is spread throughout the whole freaking movie. I'm not a parent yet, but I have a lot of nieces and nephews that I adore and as a concerned uncle this is not the type of animated movie that I want them exposed to.

Had all this toilet humor not been in the movie, I would've totally endorsed this as a fun movie to take your kids to. But I just can't give this one an endorsement. If you want to try to risk it and you think I'm overreacting to this toilet humor, then by all means give it a shot. I'm not one to tell you how to raise your kids or tell you what's appropriate for them to watch. But I'm still not giving it my personal endorsement. If I'm tending my nieces and nephews or when I have my own kids one day, this movie stays far away from their eyes. No joke. If you want to proceed, do so at your own risk. If you and your kids end up loving it and you aren't bothered one bit by the toilet humor, then I'm truly happy that you were able to enjoy yourself at the theaters. That's what I hope every time I walk into the theater and I am disappointed when it doesn't happen. But if you end up agreeing with my stance, don't say I didn't warn you. No this movie isn't the worst thing to grace the theaters. The animation is phenomenal and the voice acting is great. But in my opinion the plot is too dumb for adults and the humor is too dirty for kids. I really hope they fix things when the sequel comes around, because with how much money this made this weekend, you know a sequel is happening. But as for this movie, I'm giving The Angry Birds Movie a 5/10.  

Friday, May 20, 2016

Legends of Tomorrow Season 1 Review (SPOILERS)

It's season finale time! The second show on my list of regularly scheduled TV shows to end is the new freshman series in the DC TV Universe, Legends of Tomorrow. Okay, technically this is the third show to end for me this season, but since I don't write regular season ending reviews for Criminal Minds, this is the second review I will be writing this finale season. The first was for Supergirl, which ended three episodes before I thought it would. For some reason I was locked in on the idea of it being 23 episodes long, and thus when it ended at 20 episodes, I was a bit caught off guard. Thus it came first. Since then I was very happy to learn that Supergirl will be coming home to the CW, which is where it belonged in the first place. Meanwhile the CW might as well rename themselves the SN, standing for Superhero Network, because they'll have four superhero shows next season. No need to worry if Legends of Tomorrow wil be getting a second season or not, because it got renewed right along with pretty much every other CW show. You see, they're a really nice network. I'm glad Legends will be returning because I really liked this show. As always with these TV show reviews, I will be directing this to those who have completed the season. Thus here's your official spoiler warning. If you haven't seen this show, go watch it and then come back and read my thoughts!

Not everyone was on board for Legends when it was announced. It had plenty of skeptics and when it premiered, not everyone who was on board with The Flash and Arrow gave it shot. I was never one of these skeptics. They were bringing all my favorite side characters from The Flash and Arrow onto one show where they could all have their time to shine instead of showing up occasionally on their parent shows. It was like a mini-Justice League! Or should we say Justice Society of America? No, not really. But we'll get to that idea later. Anyways, bringing this team together is the somewhat mysterious Rip Hunter, played by Arthur Darvill from Doctor Who. He goes to 2016 and rounds up a bunch of misfits that include Dr. Martin Stein, Jefferson Jackson, Ray Palmer, Sara Lance, Kendra Saunders, Carter Hall, Mick Rory, and Leonard Snart. He tells them that in 150 years from that time, the group of them not only are a group of heroes, they are legends who help save the world. That's a lot to take in for them. Dr. Stein and Jax just became Firestorm. Sara just got raised from the dead. Ray is just figuring out how to use his suit. Hawkman and Hawkgirl have a history of getting killed by this Vandal Savage dude. And Rory and Snart are villains. But Rip promises them that it'll work so they all buy into it.

Psych! They're not a group of legends. They're just a group of losers whose absence wouldn't effect the timeline at all. Ouch. That hurts. Turns out Rip Hunter is a bit of a selfish jerk who lied to everyone to get them to join. I didn't blame the team for not trusting him when they all figured this out. Quite frankly, it took me some time to warm up to Rip myself. I didn't really like his character at first and I thought he was very hypocritical. He kept whining about how they can't disrupt the timeline, yet his whole goal was to have them all go save the lives of his wife and child who got killed by Vandal Savage. Oh yeah, they can save the world, too, but saving his family seemed more important to him. But I did warm up to him by the end of the season as I started to really like the his character's story arc throughout the season. And I did like from day one that this group weren't actually known as legends. All of them took it pretty hard, but then they decided that they were going to write their own destinies. Sure, this is a theme taken right from Back to the Future, possibly the most popular time travel story, but it works. As Doc says at the end of Back to the Future Part III, "You're future is whatever you make of it! So make it a good one!" Regardless of what the computer of the time masters said, this group was determined to write their own destiny and become legends. That was pretty boss.

Starting off, though, this show was a bit rocky. I'm not going to lie. Naturally they had to make these people work well as a team and it would be super lame having them be perfect right from the beginning. So our team experienced a lot of growing pains, which coincidentally caused this show to also experience a lot of growing pains. It's tricky building a superhero team like this and not everyone can do it as masterfully as Marvel did it with The Avengers. Just like the DC movie universe has stumbled quite a bit into their formation of the Justice League, this mini-Justice League show stumbled a bit as they tried to orient their characters. But it wasn't a complete failure. Never once did I think of dropping the show because I thought it was dumb. I loved the concept of this show and when I started watching, I saw the potential was great. So I was determined to stick with them. But yeah it was a bit hard at first. There were some episodes where everyone failed at the same time. I wasn't a huge fan of that. The chemistry seemed a bit off and the relationships between everyone on the team were at times a bit forced. I was ready for this team to begin to gel and fight through time like the super boss characters that they were.

While we're talking about this rocky beginning, we might as well discuss the failed time travel element in the first half of the show. Time travel is awesome. I love time travel. But it's also easy to screw up on. One recent example of this is the movie Project Almanac. This group of kids have figured out time travel and thus they have the opportunity to go anywhere. Where do they decide to go? They go back a couple of years and attend an Imagine Dragons concert. Seriously? I mean, I love Imagine Dragons. I freaking saw them in a local concert right before they got big. But that's what you decide on? Lamesauce. Legends of Tomorrow wasn't as bad as Project Almanac, but the same principles applied. The show could take us anywhere in time and they settled on the 50's, 60's, and 70's? Really? And it's not like Marty McFly going back to the 50's and accidentally messing up how his parents met. That worked very well. But this was just boring 50's, 60's, and 70's. What about Ancient Egypt? The Dark Ages? The American Revolution? The Old West? Not that the 50's through 70's were a horrible time in history. It's just that there are bigger and better things that a time-travelling group of superheroes could be doing. The writers of this show know that they can do fun, crazy things with here, but it's like they decided to test our patience and wait till later to go on our epic journeys.

If you dropped the show because the team chemistry was off and the places they were going were boring, I guess I can see where you are coming from. But I'm sorry you missed out on the rest of the awesomeness because things definitely got better. I would say the turning point of the show came in the 6th episode called "Star City 2046." This was the Arrow crossover where old Oliver Queen had given up on the world because of all the horrible things that started happening to him and there was a new Arrow that had taken up the mantle. This episode was amazing and was the beginning of several pretty awesome adventures throughout the season. Not every episode was perfect, but the second half of this season was especially a lot of fun. Most of our extravagant adventures included going to the future where Vandal Savage started taking over, so we weren't extremely adventurous, but I honestly loved all of out future scenes. They were great! I especially loved it when we went out to the Old West in the episode, "The Magnificent Eight." There they met up with Jonah Hex and had a super fun little adventure. When I heard the premise of the show, these are the types of things that I was hoping for. Time travel is a lot of fun! Let's have a good time with it!

The chemistry of the team also got better over time. Once the show finally let our characters blossom and kick trash, that's exactly when the show itself blossomed and kicked trash. Before I dive into our main storyline, our finale, and future outlook for the show, I want to spend some time talking about our characters. In doing so, let's not save the best for last. Let's talk about the best first. How about we start off with my personal favorite character, Sara Lance. When they introduced her in Arrow season 2, it didn't take long for her to become my favorite character on that show. Not only do I love Caity Lotz and think she is a fantastic and beautiful actress, but her character of Sara Lance was the deepest and most complex character on that show. She started off as the insignificant hot little sister of Oliver Queen's girlfriend. Oliver cheats on Laurel with Sara and goes off on a boat trip with her that has them both stuck on this island. Long story short, when they come back to reality, she has got caught up with Ra's al Ghul and the league of assassins. She wants to be the hero, but she has committed herself to the bad side. That has her stuck in quite the rough situation. That's not the only way she's complex. While she falls in love with Oliver and becomes his best girlfriend to date (don't get me started on how awful Olicity is), we also learn that she swings the other way as well and was in love with Nyssa al Ghul, Ra's al Ghul's daughter.

Then Arrow killed her. WHAT?!?!?!?!?! You freaking kill your best character who had so much more story to tell and so much more romance to dive into? WHY?!?!?!?!?! Honestly the moment in Arrow when they decided to kill Sara was the moment that show fell off a cliff for me. I've been patient with that show, but it still hasn't recovered from that wretchedly awful decision to kill Sara. In fact, they've now dug themselves into an even deeper hole that I don't think they're ever going to come out of. But more on that when I dive into Arrow season 4. Thankfully we got the amazing news that Caity Lotz had been cast in Legends of Tomorrow, which spoiled their season 4 storyline of bringing her back via the Lazarus Pit. But I didn't care. Sara was back and now she got to continue her progression on Legends of Tomorrow. Man has she blossomed into the perfect heroine. With all the League of Assassins and Lazerus Pit demon Sara behind her, she has become such a boss. And because of all that rough backstory, she is as strong as ever, physically and mentally. Too bad Arrow didn't take advantage of this because she could've saved their show. On Legends, she's the one character without superpowers, a super suit, or a super gun, which honestly makes her the coolest character on the show because she does things the old fashioned way. Ninja training via the league of assassins. Batman-style, baby!

Three full paragraphs dedicated to Sara? I told you I love this girl! She totally carried this show for me. And there is one more big issue I want to talk about with her. Her sexuality. If I'm being honest, there's a lot of LGBT storylines these days that have felt forced. But not Sara. Her being bisexual has totally worked for me. I loved her and Oliver as a couple, but I also loved her and Nyssa as a couple. Those two had great romantic chemistry. After being raised from the dead, it obviously takes a while for her to get back in the swing of things, but in the second half of the show she does and I enjoyed it. There's a brief storyline between her and a nurse in either the 50's and the 60's and that was probably the best romance story of the whole season. The nurse is stuck in a pretty bad time period to be a lesbian, but Sara's advice to her to be herself and that things will get better was a great moment. When those two started a romance and it was Sara, not the nurse, that got cold feet, that was also well done. This was the first time Sara had tested the romance waters in while and her reaction was natural and believable. Then they made up before Sara had to leave. Then on the flip-side of things, we finally got the moment at the end of the season we'd all been waiting for. Sara and Snart. They build up some great chemistry throughout the season. He finally went for it towards the end and got shot down. He took it like a man, though, and right before he sacrificed himself, Sara laid one on him and I cheered. So great!

Speaking of Snart, him and Rory are next up for me. Sara was still my favorite character, but amidst the turbulence of the show, it was the three of them that carried this whole thing. In terms of a character arc, Snart and Rory definitely win that crown. The two of them were a pretty boss duo of villains on The Flash. Then it was announced that they were going to be on the Legends team and that certainly made me curious. I assumed they were going to turn good, but I didn't know how and I wasn't sure how it was going to be handled. Man was this handled well. Yes, they do become heroes, but it is a very natural progression. The fact that they are really on their own team makes it best. They have the most real, down to Earth viewpoints on things and when someone does something they don't like, they'll be the first to call them out on it. The fact that Dominic Purcell and Wentworth Miller have to be good friends in real life due to them being co-stars on Prison Break makes their chemistry on this show perfect. When Snart is the first one to breakdown and go good, Rory doesn't buy it and their falling out is pretty tragic. Then Rory eventually comes around even if he doesn't want to admit it. By the end of the season, he is a caring, loving dude. And Snart is the one who sacrifices himself to save the team, which is super cool. And no, Legends didn't pull an Arrow with the Lance sisters by killing their best character. He's not dead. He just got zapped somewhere in time as Wentworth Miller is signed up to show up on both Legends and The Flash next season.

Yes, I've been a lot more thorough with this review than I initially intended. But oh well. I've now covered the big stuff. Let's move fast through the rest. Yes, Sara, Snart, and Rory were the best three characters on this show, but I did like the others. Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer is a rather charming, quirky character. It took me a while on Arrow to see him as the Atom instead of Superman, because he did play Superman in the movie Superman Returns and this is the DC universe. But once I got over that, I did love his character. Him and Dr. Stein as the super-geniuses on the show were great. And he's essentially the DC version of Ant-Man. Once he figured out his suit, it was fun to watch him as he could both shrink and go giant. I didn't like him and Kendra as a couple, though. Sorry. I felt the show just threw that at us. They didn't want to spend the time to develop that, so they just had them get stuck in the 50's and five minutes later they were madly in love because in their time it had been two years. Nope. Sorry. And of course, I have to talk about Dr. Stein and Jax as Firestorm. I'm not sure what happened to Robbie Amell as the original Firestorm. There must've been some issues with the actor behind the scenes as The Flash just dumped him with no warning. But Franz Drameh has made a great replacement. The banter between him and Dr. Stein in the first half of the show got old really fast, but once they got into the swing of things, I loved them.

As far as our storyline of the year, it had to do with Vandal Savage, Hawkman, and Hawkgirl. The creators of the show have stated that each season will be its own thing with a main cast that rotates a bit each season, which for this show makes sense. When I heard that I was really glad because I don't think I could've taken two seasons of this Vandal Savage story. In fact, one full season was almost too much. I liked how it started and I loved how it ended, but the middle of this got really rough. I actually really liked Falk Hentschel as Hawkman. I'm kinda sad that they dumped him early on and used him as a recurring character instead of a main character. Even when they used him at the end, they didn't do him justice. Sad day. But Ciara Renee as Hawkgirl was our season regular and I thought she was great. As far as her many romances, out of the many guys that fell in love with her (don't blame them), the guy she had best chemistry was Cisco from The Flash. Then Hawkman. The two of them worked. As I stated, her and Ray I didn't like and I'm glad they didn't dive into her and Jax, although I do feel bad for him. He was sad that he had zero shot with her and I felt for him. Casper Crump did great as Vandal Savage, but as a villain I don't think he worked that well. Although the final battle in the finale was so freaking boss. I loved that! The writers of the show say that once we learn about the season 2 villain, we'll totally forget about Vandal Savage. I'm holding them to that.

One final thing before I wrap this up. I have to dive into a bit of speculation for season two. As stated, the show creators have planned on this show including a rotating cast. So what's our team going to be next season? Based on the finale, we know that Dr. Stein and Jax as Firestorm are in. Ray Palmer is in. Sara Lance is in. Mick Rory is in. Rip Hunter is in. That's a good base cast. Leonard Snart is out. Hawkgirl and Hawkman are out. We know they said they will be adding a new male and female as series regulars. Who could it be? At the end of the finale, Rex Tyler, aka Hourman, from the Justice Society of America showed up. Is he going to be a regular? Speaking of the JSA, the original members included Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Sandman, Spectre, Doctor Fate, Hourman, and Atom. Obviously Flash won't be on the show and I doubt they will bring in Green Lantern. Could we see Sandman, Spectre, or Doctor Fate? As far as characters already established in this universe, could we see Constatine brought on? Vixen? How about Katie Cassidy's Earth-2 Black Siren? If The Flash team thinks three speedsters is too much, could they donate Jessie Quick? I certainly hope Jonah Hex was more than a one time thing. Could he a regular? Who am I missing? Who would you like to see? Let me know in the comments!

Overall, Legends of Tomorrow was an Arrow/Flash spin-off that I was looking forward to since they day they announced it. It conveniently debuted in my birthday this year, which was a nice present. No, the first several episodes weren't the best. As our team experienced growing pains, the show itself experienced growing pains. And I didn't like how the show spent so much time in the 50's, 60's, and 70's. When you can travel to whatever time you want, that seems a bit too conservative of a time period to choose. Be creative! Have fun! But I was patient with the show and it really payed off. The second half of the season really took off and started to become the show I was hoping it would become. Once all of our characters got used to their powers and learned how to work as a team, it was such a blast to watch them. No the show still wasn't perfect. I wasn't the biggest fan of Vandal Savage as a villain the save Rip Hunter's wife and child thing was kinda lame. A villain deciding he's going to destroy the world is also really cliche. But the adventures we went on were a lot of fun and the last three or four episodes were absolutely phenomenal. Even though we had a rocky start, we had a fantastic conclusion. I suppose the Vandal Savage stuff was a decent start, but now that that's behind us, I'm really excited to see where this show is going next!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Sing Street Review

It's not very often that a movie comes around that I don't know anything about. I'm usually pretty good at following movie news pretty closely and I even dedicate a post a month on this blog to telling you what's coming out. But occasionally there comes a little indie movie that sneaks its way into theaters without me having noticed. Sing Street is one of these movies. I didn't know Sing Street was a thing until it showed up in five theaters a month ago with a pretty decent per theater average. Since then, it slowly expanded into more theaters until this past weekend when it showed up in my local theater. It had great reviews, so I put it on my mental list of movies that I want to see. But for some reason it still wasn't super high on my priority list of movies to catch up on. Then I walked by a poster after I got out of Money Monster. "From the director of Begin Again." Holy, yes! I loved that movie. Suddenly I found myself in the theater the next day watching Sing Street. I didn't bother looking up a trailer or a premise at all. I had all I needed. Great reviews and from the director of Begin Again. And yes, I absolutely loved this movie. If you need a break from summer blockbusters and want to see a phenomenal little film, go see Sing Street.

I went into this movie knowing absolutely nothing about it. If you want to take me on my word alone that this movie is amazing, feel free to close down this review and head out to your theater. For the rest of you that need to know what the heck this movie is about before you decide to go see it, let's dive in. No spoilers, of course, but I need to tell you something about it for me to give a review. Sing Street follows a 15-year-old kid named Connor (later nicknamed Cosmo) who lives in Dublin, Ireland in the 1980's. His family situation is kinda broken. His parents don't get along, they're very poor, and his brother is a college dropout that lives with them. Because of this, he is forced to go to this new school that's really kinda crappy. He gets bullied a lot, few people want to be his friend, and the schoolmaster is strict and rude. Long story short, life kinda sucks. But then he makes one friend and they're walking down the street and Connor sees a girl. His social skills aren't amazing, especially around females, so he walks up to her and starts one of those awkward conversations and quickly learns she is a model. So he, trying to act cool, tells her that he is in a band and they are looking for a model to show up in one of their music videos. She accepts the invitation and gives him her number. Then of course he walks back to his new friends and says, "We need to start a band."

That's what this movie is. It's a musical drama that uses music to teach great life lessons. The director is John Carney and as I previously stated, his most recent movie he directed was Begin Again, which was released in theaters in 2014. If you haven't seen Begin Again, you need to. If you have, Sing Street follows pretty much the same formula. Begin Again was about a struggling producer and a struggling singer who meet up when both of them are close to throwing in the towel. They make music together that really saves both of their lives. In fact, the initial title of the movie was Can a Song Save Your Life?, which is definitely the theme of the movie. I approve of the simpler title, but I love the idea. I love music and I have a very strong opinion that music can be a means of saving lives. In fact, music is a very powerful thing that can influence a lot of different aspects of life and thus I can love a movie that shows that. Yes, Sing Street does just that. Just like Begin Again. This kid's life sucks. Although him starting the band was motivated by him trying to get the girl, he definitely embraces his new band and uses it to get past whatever trails he is facing. He does have a musical background. His brother is huge into music and helps him a lot along they way. They are influenced a lot by such bands as Duran Duran and Depeche Mode, which were big at the time.

You can call this a romance drama if you want. You can call it a coming of age story. You can call it a movie about life in general. It's really all of those and thus if you like any of those types of movies, you need to check this out. It had me captivated from the opening scene and I was completely enveloped in this story the whole time. The pacing was perfect for me as never once did I feel bored. I thought the story was beautiful and I really enjoyed watching this group of kids start up this band and progress. At first they are really bad and the main kid's brother is good at being blatantly honest about it. But their progression of their music throughout the movie is impressive as they find their groove and style. By the end, I was loving their music and thus I thought the soundtrack of the movie was phenomenal. All this new music they wrote was great and it was sprinkled with some 80's classics that I love. Along with the progression of the band itself, I really liked all the individual character arcs in the movie. As I've said, our main kid is in a really tough situation and I love how he uses music to make it through. But I also really love the progression of our main female character. Initially she appears to be this attractive young female who has things figured out. But then you get to learn more about her and she's also in a tough situation with a lot of insecurities. Then you have the band members, the brother, the bully, and others whose stories weave together very well.

Begin Again had the advantage of a all-star cast leading the charge. Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo were our main two, but we also had Adam Levine in his first acting role and side characters that included Hailee Steinfeld and James Corden. All of these are people that I really love and thus it was easy to get behind the story. It was fun to see Keira Knightley in her first singing role and Adam Levine in his first acting role. Sing Street doesn't have that advantage. The most recognizable name in this is Jack Reynor as the brother, who starred in Transformers: Age of Extinction and Macbeth and was also one of the final candidates to play Han Solo before Alden Ehrenrich. But as far as recognizable names, that's it. The rest of this cast is a bunch of newcomers. At least to me. But man, all of these young kids were fantastic! I could start name dropping here, but I'll just limit this to our main two, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo as Connor and Lucy Boynton as the main girl, whose name is Raphina. This is the first time I've seen these two, but because of how great they were in this, I'm going to be watching their careers because I would say based on this, they both could have a bright future ahead of them. And of course, in casting a whole bunch of unknowns that end up being great, there has to be a lot of credit given to the casting director for finding them and the director making it work. Great job all around.

Overall, if you are like me and you love indie movies, this is one you need to see. If you love music and you are always searching for the next good musical drama, this is one you need to see. If you love romance dramas, this is one you need to see. If you love coming of age stories, this is one you need to see. If you love movies that teach great life lessons, this is one you need to see. If you like inspirational movies, this is one you need to see. Sing Street is all of that wrapped together beautifully. If you all you care to see are big summer blockbusters, then I'd encourage you to branch out a bit and give something like this a try. I enjoy my superhero movies and my big action flicks as well, but the more I've watched and reviewed movies, the more I've learned personally that these smaller films are where it's at. A lot of people these days complain at the lack of originality in Hollywood. While I won't argue that point, I do notice that a lot of these same people refuse to dive into the indie market where there actually is a ton of originality. There's a lot of hidden gems that come out every year that go mostly unnoticed by the general public and Sing Street is one of those. Captain America: Civil War probably made more in a few hours that Sing Street has in its entire run so far, but both movies are deserving of your attention. So branch out and see Sing Street. You'll be glad you did. I'm giving the movie a 9/10.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Money Monster Review

Coming off the heels of Captain America: Civil War is a small thriller that smartly placed itself in between the summer blockbusters in order to provide a bit of counter-programming. I wasn't expecting this to do much. I was thinking it would do around $7 million or so on opening weekend on it's way to a final total of like $25 million. Turns out it surprised a bit by pulling of a $14.8 million opening, which means it should have enough legs to pull in close to $50 million, which is not bad for a movie with an estimated production budget of $27 million. The movie itself? A billed cast of George Clooney, Julia Roberts, and Jack O'Connell will definitely turn your head, especially when you notice the two-time Oscar winning actress Jodie Foster is on board to direct. Granted, Jodie doesn't have a ton of experience behind the camera, but she's been around the scene enough to throw together a decent film, right? That's the theory, anyways. Then you look at the premise. Oh. Hostage movie. Dude has a gun and a bomb and he's threatening to kill people if he doesn't get what he wants. We've seen this a hundred times. It still could be a decent time, though. But it's not. I don't know what went wrong here, but this movie is a laughable mess.

Let's stop for a second here and remind you that a good crime drama is something that I enjoy. In fact, Criminal Minds is one of my favorite shows. I've seen all 250 plus episodes. Thus you can see that if you do a decent enough job with your crime drama, I can be easily pleased. I specifically bring up Criminal Minds because when I saw this trailer, I thought it looked like an average Criminal Minds episode, stretched out into a 100-minute movie. And that's what made me nervous. Like I said, I can be easily pleased when it comes to these, but when you attempt to stretch out what should be a 40-minute TV episode into a 100-minute movie, that's a bit troublesome. First off, you have to justify your existence as to why I should pay money to see your movie when I can just turn on the TV and watch an episode of Criminal Minds or another one of the ten thousand crime dramas we have on TV nowadays for free. Second, you have to do a good job at filling space. This is a story arc that fits perfectly into 40 minutes. 100 minutes, though? That's a two-and-a-half-episode story arc! This is where Money Monster fails. No, it doesn't justify it's existence. And no, it does a horrible job with all that extra space.

As far as the story goes, George Clooney plays the host of a talk show that's centered around money and the stock market. One day as they are just getting into their show, our psychopath played by Jack O'Connell walks on set with a gun and forces George Clooney to put on a vest with a bomb strapped to it, threatening to blow everyone up if he doesn't get answers. Answers to what? Well, George Clooney promised on the show a few weeks prior that investing stock in a certain company was the safest thing to do, so Jack O'Connell literally invested all he had. Yeah that company crashed and he lost all his money. So he walked on set with a gun and a bomb. First off, how did he manage to get on set so easily? That was like the most insecure news building. Second, why? Central to these criminal investigation shows is a really good unsub. That's what Criminal Minds calls them, anyways. "UNknown SUBject." Our villain, if you will. If you paint me a picture of a guy with a really messed up backstory, has some serious psychological issues, or for some other reason would want to realistically go blow himself up or hold a whole news station hostage, then I'm sold. But I don't get that here. Nothing about Jack O'Connell's character screams crazy psychopath and we really don't get much of a backstory for him. The backstory that we do get later on makes the idea that he would walk into a news station with a gun and a bomb even more ridiculous.

That's our first problem here. We don't have a very believable or relatable unsub in this movie. Jack O'Connell is an up and coming actor that I really like and he does a really good job in this movie. But he's just given nothing to work with. you have a bad unsub, you have a bad episode. That's usually how it works. The second big problem is that there is a surprising lack of tension. For the first half of the movie, we are trapped in this studio with a crazy gunman, but never once did I feel George Clooney's life was in danger. A big part of that is that I just didn't take Jack O'Connell's character seriously. He was good at yelling and screaming, but bad at carrying out threats. The whole team could do whatever the heck they wanted and he wouldn't really do anything. A second part of that is that there wasn't a big sense of panic. Everyone on board handled the situation in the most perfect way possible as if this is a situation that happens nearly every week. No one was scared. Camera men acted as if nothing was wrong. George Clooney was talking to this dude as if he didn't have a bomb strapped to his body and a gun pointed at his head. Julia Roberts as his producer talked to him as if she had just gotten out of a class on how to deal with a psycho maniac. Is was too perfect and thus not believable. And the soundtrack wasn't that tense. That's usually the biggest trick to building tension, but I just didn't feel it.

Another huge problem is that the police force in the movie were the biggest group of idiots I've seen in a cop show or movie. Whoever wrote this script must have never watched a single cop show in their lives or had no experience with how police handle these situations. In addition to having a good unsub and a realistically unsettled group of commoners, the other thing that makes cop shows interesting is having a good police team. If this were Criminal Minds, we'd have Hotch, Reid, Morgan, Rossi, and company on the scene quickly and they would be the ones managing the situation. I could envision Hotch or Reid being the one to take over Julia Roberts' spot as producer and telling George Clooney in his earpiece what to do and what to say. They would try to talk to Jack O'Connell if they could to talk him out of this and at the right time they would know when to move in and control the situation without harming anyone. But these police dudes, oh my goodness they were dumb. I suppose I won't spoil their plan, but it was possibly the worst thought-out plan that a police force could come up with to stop a hostage situation. I'm serious. If they were to try that in real life, everyone in that building would end up dead.

I've just scratched the surface here. There is so much more to talk about here, but we've come to the point where I've covered all I really can cover in a spoiler-free review. And this is not the type of movie that warrants a spoiler review. I have read a lot of reviews that have said that this is a good movie when they are in the studio and a bad movie when they are out of the studio. I partially disagree with that. I think this is a bad movie when they are in the studio and a worse movie when they are out of it. But the general idea that this gets worse when they leave the studio is something that I agree with. Pretty much the whole final act of this movie and most of the second half in general is total crap. There were several moments in the second half of this movie where I was literally laughing out loud in my theater. And I don't think it was supposed to be funny. They just throw all realism and logic out the window and try to give us some sort of preachy political message that the stock market and business world is corrupt. Granted that could've worked with a tightened up script as several movies have successfully done that. The Big Short and The Wolf of Wall Street are two great examples. But Money Monster just fails. They had good ideas, but those ideas didn't translate.

Overall this is not an unwatchable movie by any means. The technical aspects of this movie are done quite well. Camera work and cinematography is excellent. And this has a fantastic cast who all do a great job acting. I mean, this is not the best I've seen George Clooney, Julia Roberts, and Jack O'Connell, but they certainly don't act as if they are just here to pick up their paycheck. They are looking like they are having a good time and trying to make this work. They're just given nothing to work with. This movie ends up coming off as a below average episode of any given crime drama that's stretched over the course of two and half episodes. We have a poorly written villain without a believable backstory. We have no tension in the studio when he is holding everyone hostage. We have a dumb police force that makes horrible decisions. And we have the whole second half of the movie that goes in a ton of weird, unrealistic, laughable directions. The movie is currently sitting at 55 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and 6.8 on IMDb. I think those are very generous numbers. If you want a good crime drama, just go watch Criminal Minds, NCIS, or any other show like that. Don't bother giving Money Monster your time and money. It doesn't deserve it. I'm giving the movie a 5/10.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Captain America: Civil War Review

This year had quite the showdown scheduled in the comic book movie universe as both Marvel and DC put their big versus movie on the calendar. They were even initially scheduled for the same weekend before Warner Bros. smartly rescheduled Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice for the end of March so it could have a full month in theaters before Marvel got their turn. If you want to know my opinions of Batman v. Superman, I just added the link to my review there for you to check out. I wasn't a huge fan of the movie, but I attribute that mainly to Zack Snyder. He's a style over substance type of guy and I honestly don't think he's very good at putting together a complete movie. But I do love DC. I think this Marvel vs. DC argument is a bit silly in terms of people thinking you can only like one or the other. Yes, I've been very positive about Marvel recently and negative about DC, but if Marvel makes a bad movie, I will have no problem telling you. If DC makes a great movie, same deal. That's just not the case right now. DC is struggling and Marvel is on a roll. No, I'm not a Marvel fanboy, but that continues here. I didn't like Batman v. Superman, but I loved Captain America: Civil War.

Right off the bat, one of the things that impressed me the most is how they managed to still make this feel like a Captain America movie. When I first saw how huge the cast was, my thought was that they might as well call it Avengers: Civil War instead of Captain America: Civil War. But no. Despite there being a total of 12 Avengers in this movie, this is Captain America's movie. He's the hero of the movie. He's the one we care most about. He's the one in the center of the plot. The others are mostly supporting characters to his arc. When push comes to shove, the meat of Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the relationship between Steve Rodgers and Bucky Barnes. Two friends who become enemies due to the fact that Hydra has now risen up out of S.H.I.E.L.D. and used Bucky as their weapon after messing up his mind. The meat of Captain America: Civil War is a continuation of that relationship. The end of The Winter Soldier sees Bucky starting to remember who he is. In Civil War he is mostly himself, however we learn more about how Hydra managed to use him as a weapon and if one knows those secrets, they can still use him as a weapon. Captain America's struggle is to figure out the best route to take to help his friend out.

Having seen the movie twice now, that's the story that sticks out most to me and it's an incredible one. Captain America has a lot of really tough decisions to make in this movie, especially after the government has decided to take matters into their own hands by creating the Sokovia Accords, which will essentially put the Avengers in their control. The Avengers can't do anything unless they are authorized by the government. Over 100 countries have agreed to this due to the many negative consequences of the Avengers' major battles. This leads to a strong divide as the group known as Team Iron Man are for the Sokovia Accords while the group known as Team Captain America are against them. Which team do I support most? Well of course I side with Team Captain America. As I said, this is his movie and he's the hero. However, the great thing about this conflict is that this is not a black and white issue. Each of the 12 Avengers in this movie have a specific reason why they choose the side they do and it makes perfect sense for each of their characters. This leads to quite the intriguing political thriller with several well-thought out opinions on both side.

I do have to say, though, that the Sokovia Accords storyline is a very cliche one when it comes to superhero stories, whether it be on the big screen, the small screen, or the comic book page. I mean, how many times have we done the vigilante storyline? You know, the story where the government, the police, and/or the people turn against our hero(s) by saying they need to be stopped, arrested, or controlled because the claim is that they are doing more bad than good, despite whatever the intentions may be. This is followed by the hero(s) making the tough decision to keep doing what they are doing despite them now being considered a criminal or a vigilante. Yes, this is the natural progression of a superhero's story arc and thus is almost necessary to keep the realism of the story. But it still doesn't make it less cliche. I put this storyline in the same category as a superhero origin story. It's necessary to do, but it's been done so many times that it's slightly less interesting to watch the hundredth time around. This is how the first two-thirds of the movie was like. It wasn't bad by any means. It just felt like we had done this before. We're just doing it with Captain America instead of Batman, Green Arrow, Superman, or a whole slew of other superheroes.

Another thing that Civil War does that Marvel has loved to do recently is spend a portion of the movie setting up other future movies. This is not an inherently bad thing, but there is a fine line here that Marvel has crossed a time or two. One of the big flaws of Age of Ultron is that they spent too much time setting up other movies and not enough time focused on the current movie. This time around, there are two movies that Civil War sets up that come out next year: Black Panther and Spider-Man: Homecoming. So along with our political thriller, we essentially see two quick origin stories for these characters. Lucky for Marvel, this works out this time around. Black Panther and Spider-Man end up being very integral to the movie. Black Panther adds a ton to the intrigue of the plot while Spider-Man adds a lot of humor during our major battle. I don't want to say too much about these characters because the trailers do a good job of letting you know they are in the movie without giving away what purpose they serve. Thus I don't want to ruin the element of surprise for those who haven't seen this movie yet, but let's just say that I absolutely loved both of them. Chadwick Boseman and Tom Holland are perfect additions to the MCU and I'm now stoked for both of their movies next year.

And then we have the villain. Villains are not Marvel's forte. That seems to be a universally accepted idea, even among Marvel fanboys. Ultron? Ronan? Malekith? The Mandarin? The list of sub-par Marvel villains is quite long. Even the ones that are better than the four that I mentioned aren't amazing villains. In terms of great Marvel villains, we have Loki and... who else? Like seriously, can you name a second Marvel villain that is a great villain and justify your response? I would honestly like to hear that. In Civil War, the first viewing I thought we had yet another useless Marvel villain on our hands. But not so fast. Upon further review, Zemo is actually one of the better Marvel villains. But before we get to him, I have to mention Crossbones. They spent all of The Winter Soldier building this guy up and I was excited to see him in action. But wow. I won't spoil what happens to his character in the opening scene, but it legitimately made me angry. Onto Zemo. I don't want to say too much about him in this review, but pay attention to his character. I didn't understand him the first time around because much of what he does is almost in passing. The second time around, I really bought this dude. He may not be ominous or intimidating. Sure, you can even call him replaceable. But he's smart and has some dang good motivations behind what he does.

Up to this point, I've covered much of what happens in the first two-thirds of this movie leading up to our epic showdown that you've seen in every trailer and every poster. It's even alluded to in the title of the movie, so if I tell you that the Avengers fight, you better not be surprised. But the overall movie before this wasn't Marvel's best movie. Yes, it was entertaining. Yes, they did give us a few appetizers throughout. Yes, the political intrigue of the movie was interesting. But the story was cliche and I wasn't sure at that point how I felt about Black Panther and Zemo's place in the movie. And the pacing was a little off. It wasn't as bad as Batman v. Superman, which I swear went like an hour and a half before doing anything. But still, this wasn't as evenly paced as a lot of other Marvel's films. In fact, overall I was thinking this would end up like Age of Ultron for me, but slightly better. Don't get me wrong, I still like Age of Ultron, but there was a lot of issues that held that movie back from being as great as the first Avengers. It ended up in the bottom half of my MCU rankings that I posted after Phase II officially ended. If anyone out there thinks I'm a Marvel fanboy, you better be listening up  because I was about to go against the grain and say this movie wasn't as good as everyone has been saying.

But then it hit. There's two moments that turned this movie from good to great. Moment number one is the epic showdown. There's been a lot of positive buzz about this airport battle and for dang good reason. I kid you not, this is one of the most entertaining scenes in superhero movie history. It's the type of moment I wanted from Batman v. Superman. That battle was only like five minutes long and was a complete letdown, especially with how it ended. "Oh, your mom has the same name as my mom? Cool! I was about to kill you, but now we're besties!" Yeah, lamesauce. The Civil War battle was definitely no letdown. I don't know how long it is, but whatever the time frame, it's perfect. You just have to sit back, relax, shove some popcorn in your face, and watch these 12 go at it. If I were to nit-pick this battle, I would say that the stakes weren't very high. All 12 of them were still friends and they didn't want to actually hurt each other. Team Iron Man just wanted to stop Team Captain America and bring them in. Not once in this battle did you fear for the life of any of them, even though one of the characters does die in the comic book version of Civil War. But like I said, that's a nitpick because this battle is epic. Spider-Man and Ant-Man are probably my two favorite characters in this duel, but every one  of them has some great moments.

Even after this epic showdown, I still felt slightly empty. The showdown definitely kicked the movie up a few notches in my book, but the movie still wasn't completely satisfying. However, enter big moment number two. This comes in the fourth act of the movie. And by fourth act, I mean that this movie kinda has a second ending. Most movies follow a three act formula. Think of that curve you learned in your English classes when it came to storytelling. This follows that curve, but then adds a second smaller curve. Beginning, middle, end, second ending. Sometimes this is a bad thing. But not always. The Dark Knight does this same exact thing as the Two-Face showdown is a second ending and that worked big time. Same thing here. The culmination of Zemo's plan is our second ending here and it is phenomenal. If I were to do a spoiler review of this movie, which I don't think I will, I could spend at least three or four paragraphs on this second ending because it was so good that it alone turned this into one of Marvel's best movies. I'm not going to spoil this ending, but if you've seen the movie, you'll know that there is a "holy crap" moment in this movie that is followed by some pure, raw emotion that had my jaw dropped for the whole final scene. I called the Avengers showdown one of the most entertaining scenes in superhero movie history. This scene is one of the best scenes in superhero movie history. At the very least, it's the best moment in the history of the MCU.

I could go on. There's more stuff I want to talk about when it comes to this movie. I'd like to talk more about Crossbones, Black Panther, Spider-Man, Zemo, and Tony Stark, but I won't here so find me in person and we'll talk. For now just know that I loved Captain America's arc with Bucky. Know that I also loved Tony Stark's arc in the movie. No, this is not a perfect movie. It had more pacing issues than most of Marvel's movies have had and the Sokovia Accords storyline is your cliche vigilante storyline that we've seen a thousand times. But the political intrigue is interesting nonetheless. There's fair points made on both sides and I really bought everyone's individual reasons for making the choices they did. This all led to an extremely entertaining duel between the 12 of them that is followed up by an ending that is definitely the best overall moment in any MCU movie. I'd have to think hard about where this fits in my MCU rankings, so I'm not going to give you a definite answer at this time, but I'm thinking top five. As the kick-off movie for Phase III, this set a very high bar and I'm excited to see where they go from here. I'm giving Captain America: Civil War a 9/10.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Keanu Review

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Key and Peele got to do their own feature length movie? Now you don't have to wonder because it's here! I'm sure most of you reading this review probably already know who Key and Peele are, but just to cover my bases, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are two of the more popular comedians in our day and our most known for their sketch comedy series on Comedy Central titled Key & Peele, which concluded recently. If you haven't seen any of their sketches, search Key and Peele on YouTube and enjoy. These two are just a blast to watch! To get an idea of how popular they are, they're highest viewed sketch on YouTube, "Substitute Teacher," has over 90 million views. Both Key and Peele have shown up on the big screen before, but Keanu is their first feature-length movie that they have made together. When it comes to comedies, I really only have one requirement. I want to laugh. If I laughed, then the movie served its purpose. And yes, Keanu made me laugh. Quite a bit actually, so it's definitely a movie I will recommend if you want to go and laugh, especially if you are a fan of Key and Peele.

The story in the movie is rather hilarious and never once do they take themselves seriously, so it's important for the audience to not take it seriously. The whole movie is centered around a little kitten that Peele names Keanu. By goodness this is the most adorable kitten you will ever see. Personally I have an unashamed bias there as I love cats. Always have. Always will. So take that for what it's worth. If you hate cats, well, I don't know how you could hate this cat, but whatever. The cat's previous owner gets killed in the beginning by some crazy psychos, who fall in love with the cat. But the cat escapes and winds up on Peele's doorstep. He just broke up with his girlfriend and thus this cat comes to him at the perfect time. There is an instant bond and he practically spends all his waking moment with this cat. However, the cat ends up getting kidnapped by a gang and so Peele enlists the help of his cousin, Key, to go rescue the cat. In order to try to get him back, they have to act as gang members in order to fit in and this leads to an absolutely hilarious journey for these two. Of course this isn't very deep or emotional, but you just have to sit back and enjoy the ride. Is it like a 100-minute-long Key and Peele sketch? Sure. But it works fantastically well!

Like I said, when it comes to comedies, I really just want to be able to laugh. This may seem like a simple thing, but I have to be honest that a lot of comedies these days aren't very tasteful to me. You'll notice that there are a lot of comedies that are released and for the most part I don't review them. That's because I usually skip them. Most of the comedy these days is centered around dirty humor and that just doesn't make me laugh. This isn't just in R-rated, raunch coms either. This type of comedy is present in PG-13 or even subtly in PG movies as well and very much present in modern-day sit coms. In fact, most of sit coms these days are just packed full of dirty humor and that just frustrates me. So I did go into Keanu slightly weary, hoping that there was going to some honest, clean humor that was actually funny to me. This is one of the reasons why I waited a bit to see this movie and thus you are getting this review now instead of a week ago when it came out. I'm happy to report that this movie is genuinely funny. Key and Peele know how to do comedy and thus they have a ton of comedic chemistry in this movie, which is why this works so well. Is the movie full of gut-busting humor that nearly has you in tears the whole movie? Perhaps not. But the humor is consistent throughout.

My biggest criticisms of the movie comes with the action in the movie. I wasn't expecting Keanu to be an all-out action comedy. But that's what it was. And the action honestly wasn't super entertaining. As I stated earlier, this is a movie that doesn't take itself seriously at all. There's not a lot of drama and emotion in the movie that really grabs you. This is just supposed to be a fun movie where you sit back and enjoy. And suddenly while you are doing so, the movie just starts to get extremely violent and it doesn't really fit with the tone of the movie. The last act of the movie is especially rough when it comes to this as it's almost more violent, gory action than funny humor. I'm not saying that I'm against action comedies. I really enjoyed Deadpool from earlier this year. It's just that in this instance Keanu was tonally inconsistent at times for me. They could've toned down the action as well as some other elements of the movie and made this a PG-13 rated comedy. Not that I'm a huge stickler for ratings as you might've been able to tell, it's just that in this instance I think that would've been a better fit for Key and Peele in this debut. And I also think it would've made them more money. You can't call Keanu a box office bomb due to the fact that it didn't cost very much to make, but this could've done better than $9.5 million for it's opening weekend.

Overall, though, I did have a good time with this movie. This is a shorter review than I've been doing recently, but this is a very simple movie, so I don't feel I need to say a ton to get my point across in this instance. If you like Key and Peele, I think this is a movie that you should check out because I think you will enjoy it. Those two know how to do comedy and they have great comedic chemistry throughout that just makes this movie a blast. The story isn't deep and the movie isn't that emotional. It also probably didn't need to be as violent and graphic as it was as the third act of the movie really wasn't that great. But if you are having a down day and you just want to go see a movie that will cheer you up and make you laugh, this is a pretty good option. Or if you're curious about what Key and Peele's first movie is like, this is also worth checking out. As long as you don't expect something amazing or incredibly awesome, this is a decent movie that you can have fun with. It's no Deadpool, but it's a definitely a good first effort for Key and Peele. I hope these two continue to do movies together because I'd be really curious to see what they can come up with next. My grade for Keanu is a 7/10.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Movie Preview: May 2016

It's been a very healthy year at the box office so far as Disney, for the second month in row, hit a grand slam at the box office. It was Zootopia, not Batman v. Superman, that took the crown in March and it was The Jungle Book breaking out higher than anyone would've guessed that saved April. Despite a whole slew of huge disappointments, headlined by the colossal failure of The Huntsman: Winter's War, The Jungle Book cruised past $250 million in just three weekends and ended up accounting for 30.8 percent of April's total box office haul. The only other two April releases that could be counted as winners at the April box office were The Boss and Barbershop: The Next Cut. Now we enter May, which is the official start of Hollywood's summer at the box office. As always, there are a large number of big blockbusters hitting theaters this summer that will keep crowds pleased. However, this summer is a little more back-loaded than usual in terms of the number of movies. This has happened because most studios have smartly decided to avoid Marvel's Captain America: Civil War. So there will be less movies this month than in the other summer months, but there's still a handful of big releases to talk about, so let's jump right in!

May 6th - 8th-

As has been tradition, and will continue to be tradition, the summer is opening with a Marvel movie. In this case, it could very well be Marvel's biggest movie to date as they are releasing Captain America: Civil War. In an interesting turn of events, we ended up having both major versus movies from our two major comic book studios come out at around the same time, thus making for an epic Marvel vs. DC showdown. DC was able to get the first punch out with Batman v. Superman and it was a pretty good punch as Batman v. Superman opened just higher than both The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. However, sour reviews and poisonous word of mouth caused Batman v. Superman to have the biggest drop ever for a superhero movie that opened north of $100 million, thus they will have to settle with a final total of around $350 million domestically. That's nothing to complain about, but when you could've realistically made around $600 million, that's a slight disappointment for DC. Now it looks evident that Marvel will end up on top as Captain America: Civil War looks like it is poised to perform like an Avengers sequel as opposed to a Captain America sequel. In fact, pre-sales for this movie are higher than any previous Marvel movie to date and thus there's a chance that this could actually beat The Avengers in both opening weekend and final total, especially since early reviews extremely positive as the movie currently holds a 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes with over 130 reviews counted.

No studios are daring enough to challenge Marvel this weekend, but there's always a host of limited releases every weekend. Being that there's only eight wide releases this month to talk about, I wanted to bring up a few of these that have caught my attention. I normally don't talk about documentaries on this blog, but there's one that I feel the need to bring to your attention and that is Elstree 1976. I don't really need to remind you that a movie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened last year or that we'll be getting a Star Wars movie every year for the unforeseeable future thanks to Disney now owning LucasFilm. But how about a Star Wars documentary? That's exactly what Elstree 1976 is. It follows ten individuals on their journey to becoming a part of the original phenomenon that opened back in 1977 and how that experience affected their lives. This doesn't follow the actors such as Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, or Carrie Fisher. This follows a handful of smaller actors who played characters like Greedo and Boba Fett as well as some extras. I have no idea how many theaters this is planning on playing in or how wide it will expand. But if you're a Star Wars fan, it might be worth keeping your eye out for this.

May 13th - 15th-

While Captain America: Civil War will be looking to be the fourth movie ever to earn $100 million in its second weekend (it should at least match the $77.7 million second weekend of Avengers: Age of Ultron), two moderate releases will be entering the marketplace hoping to provide a bit of counter-programming. The first of these two is Money Monster. In terms of cast and crew, this movie is fairly loaded. Two-time Academy Award winning actress Jodie Foster is on board to direct. Starring in the movie is George Clooney, Julia Roberts, and Jack O'Connell. In the movie, Clooney will be playing a financial TV host while Roberts plays his producer. O'Connell plays an irate investor who takes over their studio at gunpoint. If it seems like your average episode of any given crime drama on TV, that's because it probably is. Crazy guy holding people hostage at gunpoint has been done a thousand times, which is probably why this movie won't break out, despite the good cast. But those who have already seen Captain America: Civil War and aren't looking to see it again might be attracted to this because of the cast.

The other moderate release this weekend will be the horror movie, The Darkness. This horror movie comes to you via director Greg McLean, director of the 2005 horror movie Wolf Creek, a small, decently-received horror movie that earned $16.2 million. What makes this horror movie unique, despite a very generic title for a horror movie? Well, nothing really. McLean says that the story is based on a true story that was relayed to him first-hand many years ago about an actual haunting. As if that hasn't been done in a horror movie before. This haunting comes after a family visits the Grand Canyon. It appears that they are being haunted by some Native American demons originating from the Anasazis. So no, this won't make very much. But it doesn't need to. As I say every time with this movies, they are dirt cheap to make, which means that if this gets to the $16.2 million that Wolf Creek made, that would be a huge win.

Money Monster and The Darkness are the only two movies opening in wide release this weekend. Honestly I wouldn't be surprised if both of them debuted below $10 million. There are two more movies opening in a limited release that I would like to talk about real quick. The first one is The Lobster. How's this for a premise. The Lobster is a movie set in a dystopian future where single people are arrested and sent to a hotel where they are given 45 days to find a partner. If they fail, they are transformed into an animal and sent into the woods. And you thought your life as a single person sucked. Imagine if this is what you had to deal with? The Lobster debuted at the Cannes Film Festival at around this time last year and made it's rounds through the film festivals, which included the Toronto International Film Festival and the New York Film Festival. The festival crowds have praised this movie, so now it's about to test the waters to see how it plays out to the general public. Distributor A24 has had it's fair share of luck with these smaller films recently, their most noteworthy movies being Ex Machina, The Witch, and Room.

The second limited release movie that I wanted to mention is Last Days in the Desert. This also debuted at the film festival scene last year, but in this instance it was at the Sundance Film Festival back in January of 2015, so it took a while for it finally make it to the regular theaters, but it's here! And it follows an interesting trend of taking a portion of Jesus Christ's life and making a movie out of it. In February we had Risen, which was about the resurrection of Christ. In March, we had The Young Messiah, which was about the childhood of Christ. And now we have Last Days in the Desert, which is about Christ's time in the wilderness right before his ministry. Playing Christ this time around is none other than Ewan McGregor himself. An intriguing aspect of the film is that McGregor is in a duel role in this movie as he also plays the Devil, who came tempting Christ. Being that this is an indie film released at Sundance, this might not necessarily be a film aimed solely at Christian audiences. In fact, they've taken plenty of liberties with the story and are probably aiming this more at indie lovers than anyone else.

May 20th - 22nd-

If Captain America: Civil War does indeed perform like an Avengers sequel, it should experience a third weekend total somewhere around $38 to $55 million, which are the two marks set by both Avengers movies. That means it should be in a tight three-way race for first place. Competitor number one will be Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. Comedy sequels haven't had the best of luck at the box office recently. A lot of them failed to perform. However, comedy sequels to well-liked comedies that come just two years after the original usually do perform well. Neighbors 2 falls into that latter category and thus should be a success. With a relatable premise of rambunctious neighbors as well as a great cast, Neighbors was a huge box office success back in May of 2014 as it opened to $49 million and ended up with a total of $150 million. Neighbors 2 brings back Seth Rogen and Zac Efron, but this time they are on the same team as Seth Rogen's new enemy neighbors are a group of sorority girls led by Chloe Grace Moretz and Selena Gomez. The Jump Street movies are the comparison that comes to mind here. 21 Jump Street was a surprise hit in 2012 and 22 Jump Street was able to build on that success in 2014 by going stronger. This means Neighbors 2 should be able to eclipse $50 million, but even if it falls a bit short of that, it should still be a success.

Counter-programming is the name of the game here, which is why a superhero movie and a comedy should be able to co-exist. Also able to co-exist with these two genres is an animated movie for families. Thus is why we should have three movies score weekends north of $40 million this weekend. This animated movie is of course The Angry Birds Movie. My personal prediction is that this movie comes in third place this weekend, but I could very well be wrong as that the Angry Birds game does have a huge following. Everyone loves Angry Birds, right? The question is does everyone who loves Angry Birds really care about a movie adaptation of the popular game? And is this a movie that is about three years too late? In terms of the market, family audiences definitely haven't been over-saturated with options yet this year. The last big animated movie was back in March with Zootopia, which thanks in part to zero competition has had a very healthy run. With that run coming to an end here, it feels about the right time for another animated movie to have huge success. Although this certainly won't be on Disney or Pixar level in terms of success. Speaking of Pixar, it is worth mentioning that Finding Dory is around the corner, which may mean that some family audiences may choose to pass on The Angry Birds Movie in order to save their money for Finding Dory.

While the three previous movies will be fighting it out for first place this weekend, there's a third new release this weekend that will come in a distant fourth place and that is The Nice Guys. Given that this is also a comedy, this very well could suffer from coming out on the same weekend as Neighbors 2. However, there is a lot of positive hype for this movie and if that hype is coupled with good reviews, there is a chance that this could have a healthy run at the box office even if it doesn't break out opening weekend. Being specific, this is an action comedy directed by Shane Black. This is a genre that Black is very familiar with. He was a writer for movies such as Lethal Weapon and Last Action Hero. He also wrote and directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Finally, his biggest moment of fame came as the writer and director of Marvel's Iron Man 3. So yes, The Nice Guys is right in his wheelhouse. It is about a private investigator in the 1970's who is investigating a suicide case and has to team up with another investigator who he's not necessarily on good terms with in order to solve the case. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are our two leads and both of them look like they are having a lot of fun with their roles as these two investigators.

May 27th - 30th-

Memorial Day weekend is the first weekend of May where studios feel comfortable releasing big summer blockbusters that directly challenge Captain America: Civil War. There's two potential blockbusters coming out this weekend, this first of which is X-Men: Apocalypse. With this ongoing Marvel vs. DC debate going on, Fox has been desperately trying to make sure people remember that they also have a movie coming out in their X-Men universe this month. Two years ago, Days of Future Past successfully passed the baton in the X-Men universe to the new cast as they essentially used time travel to reboot the series, making everything except for First Class and Days of Future Past irrelevant to the timeline. Apocalypse will bring back all the young cast from those two movies and also introduces recast versions of some older, popular characters such as Jean Grey, Cyclops, and Storm. The stakes in the movie are also higher than they've ever been as they are introducing the villain Apocalypse, played by Oscar Isaac, for this new young cast to take on. All of this means they hope to build on the critical and financial success of Days of Future Past, although it should be noted that for whatever reason, these X-Men movies seems to have a smaller financial ceiling on them as X-Men: The Last Stand still holds the high mark at just $234 million, not counting Deadpool.

Taking a backseat to X-Men: Apocalypse this Memorial Day weekend will be Alice Through the Looking Glass. As mentioned earlier, Disney's live-action remake of The Jungle Book blew past even the generous expectations. Disney will be hoping to replicate that success with this sequel to 2010's Alice in Wonderland, which made $334 million domestically and over $1 billion worldwide. While not to diminish the popularity of this property as the animated classic from 1951 does have a huge fan base, it should be noted that a huge part of the reason why Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland made so much money was that it was the next big 3D movie following the enormous success of James Cameron's Avatar, which was revolutionary in 3D. Six years later, the novelty of seeing a 3D movie has worn off and in many cases is disliked, so Alice Through the Looking Glass naturally won't make as much money without that added 3D hype. Adding to that is the fact that Tim Burton's movie was generally disliked as it holds a rotten status on Rotten Tomatoes along with an audience score of just 55 percent. This is not the sequel people were asking for. But it still should make a decent amount of money. Just don't expect a repeat performance of the first.