Friday, July 22, 2016

Star Trek Beyond Review

Here's a juicy review that I've been waiting a long time to write. Star Trek Beyond. Three years ago I got quite a bit of flack with my review of Star Trek Into Darkness. My friend and I didn't like the movie, but it seemed like everyone else did, including the critics. So I knocked out my controversial review and took the heat for it. But that's okay. That happens occasionally when you write as many movie reviews as I do. A few months later, there was the official Star Trek convention where those in attendance ranked all the Star Trek movies at the time. Do you know what came in dead last? Yup! Star Trek Into Darkness! Boy did that make me happy to see that. Is Star Trek Into Darkness the worst Star Trek movie in my opinion? Yes. It is. I'll get to that more in a second. Leading up to Star Trek Beyond, I wanted to dive deep into my soul to figure out exactly why I like Star Trek and why this new reboot franchise just hasn't done it for me, because no I didn't like the 2009 reboot either. Then the plan was to use that knowledge to give my best review for Star Trek Beyond. What did I do? I paced myself and watched all 12 Star Trek movies leading up to this 13th theatrical adventure. Now it's time to give you my results of this marathon.

First I must explain that Star Trek is a franchise that I grew up loving. Do I consider myself a trekkie? I don't know actually. I don't think I'd meet the minimum requirements to officially dawn that title. But I will say I'm a Star Trek fan. I grew up watching The Next Generation with a little bit of Voyager and Deep Space Nine. Have I ever watched all episodes of those three shows in order? No. But I enjoy them nonetheless. Note that I didn't include The Original Series in that. I didn't grow up watching that one. But before you have a heart attack, know that in my adult years I have dove into The Original Series and gained a very high appreciation for it to the point where if you make me pick my personal favorite Star Trek series, I'm going to go with The Original Series. When it comes to the now 13 movies, well, it's been a bit of a rough ride to say the least. In my humble opinion, the only three great movies are The Wrath of Kahn, The Search for Spock, and First Contact. I also enjoyed The Undiscovered Country and The Voyage Home, although I'd classify those two as good, not great. The Motion Picture, The Final Frontier, Generations, Insurrection, and Nemesis are all either bad or sub-par in my opinion. So no, not every Star Trek movie is created equally.

Then we have our reboot movies. I'll get to Star Trek Beyond here in a bit, but for now I will continue to build anticipation to that and focus on Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness for a second. I don't like either of them. Star Trek put us in an alternate dimension, but did so in a weird, convoluted way that in my opinion is more of a cop-out than an interesting story choice. I liked our intro with Chris Hemsworth as George Kirk, but Chris Pine's James T. Kirk is an abomination in that movie. I hate how they made him a spoiled, unlikable brat that joins Starfleet on a dare and becomes captain because his dad was a war hero. On top of that lame story, the villain was dumb and the Spock/Uhura love story was awful. Not a good movie. But Star Trek Into Darkness was a whole heck of a lot worse. Why? So many reasons, but if I'm being brief, it's a cheap, second-rate remake of The Wrath of Kahn, which is the best Star Trek movie. A completely copied story with characters I didn't care about and a watered-down version of Kahn that was much worse than the original Kahn. Cumberbatch did the best with what he was given, but that wasn't a whole lot. The death of Kirk was cheap and frustrating because they completely copied it from The Wrath of Kahn and was made worse by the fact that they didn't have the guts to keep Kirk dead for longer than 10 minutes.

I gave Star Trek Into Darkness a poor review the first time around, but in the last three years it has festered inside of me to the point where I outright hate it. At least our other bad Star Trek movies either had a crew I cared about or good character moments in them. Star Trek Into Darkness has nothing going for it. Luckily J.J. Abrams didn't screw up Star Wars in the same way he did Star Trek. But speaking of which, J.J.'s involvement in The Force Awakens means he was unavailable to direct this third movie in the reboot franchise. Roberto Orci, who co-wrote the first two movies, was initially tabbed to direct the movie, but then for various reasons he jumped ship. After his departure, Simon Pegg and Doug Jung wrote a brand new script and Justin Lin from the Fast and Furious franchise was hired as director. Yes, Lin's Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6 were both fantastic and the fourth movie, simply titled Fast and Furious was also decent. But should we really be hiring the director of the Fast and Furious movies to direct a Star Trek movie? Was this third movie just going to turn into a high-octane, brainless action movie with Star Trek characters? I was NOT down for this. When the trailers showed up, I was worried because that's exactly what it looked like.

The reviews came in strong as it's currently at 89 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. But that didn't convince me. Those same critics also gave 2009's Star Trek a 95 percent and Star Trek Into Darkness an 87 percent and I just told you what I thought about those movies. I couldn't even trust the YouTube critics that I follow because they're in the same exact boat. So despite a whole bunch of reviews in, I essentially went into this movie completely blind and totally expected to hate it. I had my roast-fest all planned out in my head and I was going to unleash this angry demon inside of my soul on this new franchise. But yet I always have the philosophy of going into every movie with an open. So I did. But at the same time, I also had fresh on my mind my reasons for liking Star Trek as a whole and thus there were certain checkpoints that this movie needed to meet in order to get a pass. To my huge surprise, this movie actually met them! I'm totally serious. J.J. Abrams doesn't know how to make a Star Trek movie, but apparently Justin Lin does. No, this movie doesn't have a lot of depth or emotion to it, but it's a fun little Star Trek adventure that felt like a solid filler episode of the TV show. For the first time in this reboot series, it felt like I was actually watching Star Trek. That made me happy.

In thinking about what it is that makes me like Star Trek, I decided that the most important thing is to have a crew that I care about. This is something that The Original Series, The Next Generation, Voyager, and Deep Space Nine all had. Good crews with characters that I care about. Leading these crews has to be a solid captain. William Shatner as Captain Kirk and Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard are perfect examples. Both of these men are phenomenal actors that make for great captains. William Shatner as Captain Kirk especially has so much charm and charisma that makes him so likable. He has plenty of character flaws, but that allows him to go through so much growth. This is what the reboot series was missing in the first two movies. Chris Pine's Kirk was an abomination. My favorite part of Into Darkness is when Cumberbatch was beating the crap out of him. It made me happy. It wasn't Chris Pine's fault, though. It was how he was written. Concerning the rest of our crew, Zachary Quinto didn't quite sell me as Spock and the romance between him and Uhura totally ruined both of their characters. Karl Urban was a little over the top as Dr. McCoy. All he did was complain and whine. Same thing with Simon Pegg's Scotty. The only two main characters who nailed their roles were John Cho as Sulu and Anton Yelchin as Chekov.

First order of business for Mr. Lin: fix our crew. Check. Starting with the top, Chris Pine's Kirk is no longer crybaby Kirk or spoiled-brat Kirk. He's Captain Kirk. He acts like a really good, likable captain. Does he have the charm and charisma of William Shatner? Heck no. But in fairness, not many people can match that. But he does take a huge step forward in this movie. Whereas in the first two movies I cheered when he got beat up, in this one I actually cared for his safety. Next up, the Spock and Uhura romance gets axed in the beginning and Zachary Quinto does a much better job of acting like the emotionless, logical Spock that Leonard Nimoy did so well. Him and Kirk make a great team like Kirk and Spock are supposed to. Karl Urban is toned down a bit as Dr. McCoy and Simon Pegg as the writer of this movie was able to write his Scotty much better. Zoe Saldana doesn't have much to do as Uhura, but at least she doesn't negatively impact the movie like she did in the last two. Sulu I was ready to complain about because they announced recently that he was gay and I had George Takei's disapproval to back me up on that, but that reveal doesn't occur. And finally, every scene with Chekov totally broke my heart. Anton Yelchin does such a great job in all three movies. He was taken from this earth way too soon. May God bless him and his family.

So yeah. Good crew that I care about? Awesome! Let's go have a fun adventure! Fun space adventures are another reason that makes me love Star Trek. I love science fiction and I especially love when that science fiction involves space. That's part of the reason why I enjoy both Star Trek and Star Wars. Space! If anyone tells you that you can't love both franchises and you have to pick one, please slap them. They deserve it. Star Trek Beyond's story finds them on their five-year mission and Simon Pegg and Doug Jung actually attempt to write an original story, thus it automatically gets a pass over Star Trek Into Darkness for that reason. This isn't a cheap remake of another better Star Trek movie. It's its own thing! And it doesn't make me cringe like the story in the first one, so that's another plus. Granted Pegg and Jung decided that they needed to do the obligatory destruction of the Enterprise in this movie like each generation of Star Trek before it has done. That made me roll my eyes. But after they crashed-landed on this planet, we had a fun, little adventure. The main crew was split up and a lot of the red coats were taken hostage along with Uhura and so our goal was for everyone to find each other, get off the planet, and learn why this latest villain-of-the-week tried to kill them all.

The final aspect of Star Trek that I love are the intellectual, thought-provoking messages and themes spread throughout the series. Yes, this movie had a good crew with characters I cared about. It had some great character moments with plenty of good one-liners. And it had a fun space adventure. But did it have this final element that would be the frosting on the cake? No. That's what I would say the biggest flaw of this movie is. Yes, it is fun. But no, it's not a deep movie. There's not a ton of strong themes. It doesn't make me stop and ponder about the messages it's trying to portray. It's simply a shallow, fun adventure. That's why I said it's like a solid villain-of-the-week episode. Idris Elba plays our villain and I actually enjoyed him much more than Benedict Cumberbatch's Kahn and Eric Bana's Nero from the first two movies. It does take us a little too long to learn what's up with Idris Elba's villain, but the final act with him is pretty solid. Throughout the middle of this movie, Justin Lin does a great job with the action, which was too be expected from our Fast and Furious director. But if fun action is all we're getting throughout the second act of a Star Trek movie, it still leaves me a little disappointed. Star Trek isn't supposed to be just fun. It's supposed to be fun AND thought-provoking with great character moments. Thus I say I was pleased with this movie, but not blown away.

In the end, I will say that I was pleasantly surprised with Star Trek Beyond. Given my dislike of the first movie and my bitter hatred towards Into Darkness, I was totally expecting to dish out an all-out roast fest with this review, especially since the trailers were pretty bad. But this turned out to be a decent adventure. I have now learned that Justin Lin knows how to make a good Star Trek movie, something that J.J. Abrams failed miserably with in his two attempts. We had an original story that wasn't copied from a previous Star Trek movie. A lot of the character traits with our crew that bothered me in the first two movies were fixed and I actually found myself caring for Kirk, Spock, Bones, and company.  I certainly wasn't cheering for the villain here like I was in our last movie. It misses the intellectual, thought-provoking element of Star Trek and goes mainly just for entertainment as it's just a simple, shallow movie that's nothing special. But it's a huge step forward from our previous efforts. If I were to give grades to the other two movies, 2009's Star Trek gets a 5/10 while Star Trek Into Darkness gets a 3/10. So the fact that I'm giving Star Trek Beyond a 7/10 should be seen as a generous compliment. I'd say it's the sixth best Star Trek movie. I'll put those rankings in the comments below.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Ghostbusters Review

The most controversial film of the year is finally here! Don't worry. I'm not going to dance around any of that controversy. I'm planning on diving right into the middle of it all and hitting it head on. We've got misogyny, sexism, feminism, political correctness, and the necessity of sequels/reboots all gift-wrapped into one giant lightning rod of controversy. Why would I avoid all of that? This is our freaking female-led reboot of one of the most well-loved comedies of all time! Ghostbusters! Like most people on planet earth, the original 1984 Ghostbusters movie is a movie that is very close to my heart. I've always loved the movie and loved the characters. It's a ton of fun! Notice, though, that I specify that specific movie. They made a pretty bad sequel five years later as well as some other stuff that wasn't that great. I have no attachment to that. Just the original movie. I cringed when I heard they were planning on rebooting Ghostbusters. Fast forward to the trailer release and I was horrified at what I witnessed. It looked awful! I was ready to pummel this movie to oblivion because everything about it looked horrible. Yet I am shocked that I am now announcing that I enjoyed this movie. Yes. You heard that right. This movie is not that bad.

To say that this is the most controversial film of the year might be putting things nicely. When the first trailer came out, people were so horrified with what they saw that this quickly became the most hated trailer in YouTube history. Ever since that trailer, there has been a ginormous internet mob filled with an unprecedented level of anger and hatred towards this movie that has not been kind to anyone. Shortly after the trailer release, Dan Murrell from the YouTube channel Screen Junkies did a video where he suggested that maybe we should give this a chance. There's been many times where a good movie was preceded with a bad trailer. Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy have had a pretty good track record, so maybe there's a chance that this could still be a good movie. Yeah, Dan got viciously destroyed by this angry mob for saying that to the point where that video became the most disliked YouTube video in Screen Junkies history. And if you follow Screen Junkies you'll know that they have a pretty rabid fan base that will often tear apart their videos. It's a little ridiculous. But that's been the story everywhere with this movie. It should be no surprise that the movie held a 4.1 on IMDb with 15,000 votes on the Thursday afternoon before the movie's release to the general public.

What did all this do to me? Honestly this made me gravitate towards the movie a bit. I hated the trailer, too. But I mean for crying out loud a trailer is a trailer. I've been preaching for several years that you shouldn't base a movie on its trailer. Every year I see countless examples of great trailers that led to bad movies and awful trailers that led to good movies. After seeing all this footage and witnessing the angry reaction, I actually came to the conclusion that I didn't think this would be a bad movie. I didn't expect to enjoy it, but I also didn't think that this would come close to making my worst movies of the year list at the end of the year. And that was before all critic reviews started to come out. Basically I concluded that I didn't think that this movie was going to deserve all this negative publicity. That said, I fully expected the critics to destroy the movie. I was rather shocked to find out that a lot of the early reviews were positive. But maybe it will drop? Nope. The movie is now officially certified fresh. But then a thought crossed my mind. How many critics out there gave a positive review because they were afraid of being called sexist if they gave a negative review? I doubted there were many, but I did see early comments from some people that said they felt obligated to be excited for the movie because they were feminists. A lady one of the Schmoes' live shows said that. And she's not the only one.

So let's dive into that real quick. And I promise I will get into my actual movie review, but this is a topic that can't be ignored. The world in general right now is very sensitive and striving for political correctness is at an all-time high. This has very much seeped into Hollywood. There have been plenty of iconic characters that have had their race, gender, or sexual identity changed in order to satisfy political correctness. Yes, this trend bothers me. Not because I'm racist, sexist, or homophobic, though. I have zero problem with adding more strong female characters, more people of color, or more LGBT characters into popular or new franchises. But why do we have to change already established and loved characters in order to satisfy this demand? Can't we create new characters to fill this need? If it's a comic book movie, there are plenty of female, color, and LGBT characters in the comics. Why not introduce one of them instead of demanding that Captain America be gay or turning Iron Man and Thor into females? And why are we deciding to make female reboots of every popular franchise that had a male-dominant cast? No, I'm not a misogynist. I happen to love females and female-led movies. But the politically correct purpose behind all of this does make me roll my eyes.

That said, was the fact that our Ghostbusters were female the reason why I was dreading this movie? Absolutely freaking not! There have been a lot of people, feminists especially, that have assumed all the anger and hatred towards this movie has been because of the female cast alone. This position makes me almost as furious as the people hating the movie without even seeing it. I say this because that is an extremely ignorant stance that has absolutely no back towards it. Is the sexism and misogyny there? Sure. But it's a lot smaller than some people have made it out to be. For me personally that was a total non-issue. And I think if you go read the reactions to this movie, you'll find that a lot of people were with me on that. Sure the specific cast members had me nervous, but not because of their gender. There's two main reasons why I was not excited for this. The first was the idea of rebooting Ghostbusters in the first place. It's no secret that I'm not a fan of reboots. If the original was just fine, why make the movie again? Hollywood needs more original ideas and less reboots. The second big reason that I was nervous about this movie is because it did not look funny and it did not look entertaining. Thus I felt like this was going to be another useless remake.

I was wrong, though. This movie was a huge surprise for me. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the year. A perfect movie? Heck no! This movie does have plenty of problems, but given the fact that this movie had a trailer that became the most hated trailer in YouTube history, this is definitely not deserving of all of that hate. Because of that, you'll probably find me leaning more positive with my comments because I want to try to convince you to give this movie a shot, especially if you were part of the group that was previously planning on skipping this altogether. Now if you were a part of the angry internet mob that has been preaching hellfire and brimstone towards this movie and you've already left your hundreds of angry YouTube comments as well as given it your 1/10 on IMDb without even seeing it, then perhaps you were bound and determined to hate the movie and nothing I say will help. But if you're like me and you like to go into every movie with an open mind and do your best to enjoy it, then I would recommend you go into this movie with that open mind and give it a shot. If you do so, I honestly think there is a chance that you will enjoy it as well. No, it's not as good as the original. But it's a serviceable Ghostbusters movie in my opinion.

Returning in this movie are most of the main original cast. As cameos playing new characters. This is not a passing of the torch movie and is certainly not a sequel. This is 100 percent a reboot. The events in the 1984 movie did not take place in this new Ghostbusters universe. And yes, our new Ghostbusters are all female. And yes, all the males in this movie are portrayed as big, dumb idiots. Why this movie felt the need to take its feminism theme that far is beyond me. Why can't we have strong female characters AND strong male characters? But whatever. As it turns out, the best part of this movie is definitely the cast. I'm not as big of a Melissa McCarthy fan as some others are. Admittedly there are several of her movies recently that I have skipped because I don't like raunchy comedies and that's a lot of what she does. But still. From what I have seen, I'm not a huge fan. And Saturday Night Live for me is very hit and miss. And that's me being nice. So having our cast be Melissa McCarthy with two SNL girls and Kristen Wiig, a former SNL girl, did not excite me. But these girls surprised me. They have great chemistry as a group. Not only did they provide a lot of laughs, but it was fun to watch them fight ghosts and experiment with gadgets.

As I was watching this movie, I noticed that it was actually hard to connect them with their 1984 male counterparts. Leslie Jones is the only easy one to compare, but that's because she is the black member of the team. The other three are fairly unique characters when compared to the original Ghostbusters. This I appreciated because it showed they were trying to do something different instead of just being a carbon copy of the original. Melissa McCarthy was the leader of the team. Her and Kristen Wiig were the original friends who started this, but Kristen Wiig moved and tried to separate herself from the supernatural while Melissa McCarthy kept going with it in a very nerdy way. Kate McKinnon joined up in the meantime and became the main engineer of all the fancy gadgets. And Leslie Jones is the black, non-science girl that joins the team about a quarter of the way through the movie. I was especially impressed with Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon. Based on the trailers, I thought Leslie Jones was just going to be loud and annoying the whole time, but she was actually really funny. Kate McKinnon I've been noticing has people split. Some love her, some hate her. I'm a part of the former. I thought she was great! I also had a lot of fun with Chris Hemsworth's character because it was apparent that he had a lot of fun with his role.

The problems I had with this movie were not our team of Ghostbusters and it wasn't the humor. It was the plot. This felt like one of our average superhero origin stories. We spent a ton of time setting this team up and not enough time out hunting ghosts. In the original Ghostbusters, our ghost-hunting team was set up pretty quick and after their first fight with ghosts, they had everything down and the whole city loved them, thus allowing for most of the movie to be spent on these fun, silly adventures. I don't know the exact timing with this new movie, but man they dragged this out quite a bit. It was as if they thought that no one knew who the Ghostbusters were, so they needed to spend a whole movie meticulously setting up this universe and explaining every small detail. They ran into one ghost early on, defeated their first ghost towards the middle, and then didn't really do any ghost fighting until the finale. On top of that, the angle taken here was that the city was not on their side. They spent the whole movie trying to earn the respect of the city, which wasn't as fun for me. Finally, the villain here was a cliche, I hate the world and want to destroy it, type of villain. He decides to start the Ghostocalypse as I call it and thus we get another cliche villain destroying the world story. Yawn.

Overall, though, I was a lot more impressed than I thought I would be. Yes, the tone and feel of this movie was a bit different than the 1984 original, but I mostly appreciated that because they tried to do something new and different instead of making a carbon copy of that original. This was still a fun movie, though. That's what Ghostbusters is supposed to be. A fun, enjoyable ride that you shouldn't take seriously given the premise. The ghosts were a little more creepy than in the original, but that was okay. Speaking of ghosts, the special effects on the ghosts were pretty darn good and certainly a huge improvement over the original. But that was too be expected. If your special effects aren't significantly better than a movie that came out 32 years earlier, there's a bit of a problem. I liked our team of female Ghostbusters. They worked very well as a team, were quite funny, and were entertaining to watch. Chris Hemsworth was also fun as their dumb secretary. I didn't like our plot or our villain. And I didn't laugh as much in the second half of the movie as I did in the first half. But I was pleasantly surprised with this as a whole. Not a great movie, but a fun ride that's not deserving of the hate it's been getting. I'll give our new Ghostbusters movie a 7/10 and say bring on the sequel!

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Secret Life of Pets Review

We've been on a little run of family movies recently with Finding Dory beginning its monstrous run at the end of June, The BFG opening last weekend and The Secret Life of Pets opening this weekend. If you're a parent with a bunch of little kids running around, I can totally understand that it may be impossible for you to run and see all of these family movies. So allow the crazy, 27-year-old single dude who has nothing better to do with his life than watch movies and review them help you out a little here. No, I may not have a wife and kids, but I do have a special intuition with what the kids will enjoy. I have several older siblings that have this thing called life all figured out and thus I am an uncle to nearly 20 nieces and nephews of whom I absolutely adore. I'm pretty good at detecting a movie that I know my nieces and nephews will love. The Secret Life of Pets is definitely one of those movies. The kids will fall in love with this movie and thus it has the potential to become a childhood favorite for many. That said, if you're going to spend the money to take your family out to a show, I do think it's important for that movie to be one that parents and kids will love equally. The Secret Life of Pets is NOT that movie. That would be Finding Dory. So if you can only pick one to see, go see Finding Dory and wait for the DVD to see The Secret Life of Pets.

The Secret Life of Pets is about a young boy named Andy who owns a collection of toys that he loves. His favorite one is a cowboy named Woody. He's loved Woody for a long time. But on his birthday, he gets a new toy named Buzz Lightyear. Well, these toys have a secret life when the humans aren't around and Woody is not happy. Woody and Buzz end up hating each other because of it and due to a series of events, this leads to both of them being lost in the city and they need to learn to work together to get back home to Andy. Wait. Shoot. I got the wrong movie there. My bad. That's not The Secret Life of Pets. That's Toy Story. Let me get my thoughts straight and give you the premise of The Secret Life of Pets. This movie is about a girl named Katie who owns a dog named Max. Katie loves Max and Max loves Katie. But then one day Katie comes home with another dog named Duke and Max is not happy. Max and Duke end up hating each other because of it and due to a series of events, this leads to both of them being lost in the city and they need to learn to work together to get back home to Katie. Wait, what? Is it just me or did I just describe the same movie twice? Did Illumination look at Toy Story and decide to pitch the exact same movie, but with pets instead of toys?

Okay, I'll stop playing dumb here. Toy Story with pets is the very first thing that I thought of when I first saw the teaser for this movie. But hey, that could work, right? It's not going to be the exact same movie with the exact same plot. They're going to have their own fun, unique spin. That would be really dumb, otherwise. Ha. Ha ha. Ha ha ha. Yeah... Exact. Same. Plot. To a t. We just have Max and Duke instead of Woody and Buzz and they are two dogs instead of two toys and their owner is a girl this time around who is a bit older. I was really kinda dumbfounded. And when we weren't following Toy Story to a t, we were following the exact same plot of every other movie where the pets are lost in the city and have to make their way back to their owners. Homeward Bound and Oliver and Company are two that initially came to my mind. But there's lots of them. And The Secret Life of Pets makes zero effort whatsoever to do something unique and different. Zero. And it literally took me out of the movie. Granted kids that watch this movie aren't going to care about this. That's why I said they'll love it. But for me as an adult, plot is important to me. It frustrates me when I watch a movie that I feel is a complete rip-off of something else and thus I found little entertainment value in this movie.

The characters are cute. I'm a sucker for animals. I'm a dog person. And I'm a cat person. And I'm a pet rat person. And I'm a snake person. Basically I love all types of pets. I grew up with mainly cats, but we had a few dogs along the way as well as an assortment of other animals. I also love going to zoos or petting zoos or reptile houses or pretty much anything that has to do with animals. Because of that, I couldn't help but love all these little characters. All of the little animal isms for each pet was done very well. They got all the personalities spot on, which was fun. The voice acting for all of these creatures was also phenomenal. I felt like Illumination managed to find the perfect voice for each of our creatures. This includes, but is not limited to, Louis C.K., Kevin Hart, Albert Brooks, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Burress, and Steve Coogan. Quite the collection of voice actors there, all of whom did good. Even Kevin Hart. That's the second straight movie by him where he has entertained me instead of driven me up the wall. With this, the beginning and end of the movie where the owners leave and then return again was good for me. But that was just five minutes at the beginning and five minutes at the end. We had a huge middle portion that was a real chore for me to get through.

No, this is not unwatchably bad. This is not as bad as other animated movies from this year like Norm of the North or They Angry Birds Movie. I just expected a lot more from this. There were plenty of chuckles along the way. Some individual clever moments or funny lines. But there was no gut-busting laughter. I wasn't laughing hysterically throughout like I was during Finding Dory and I didn't feel charmed like I did while I was watching The BFG. It was just very average and very meh. And there's a few things that they did towards the second half of the movie that I need to point out. If you remember my Finding Dory review, I mentioned that there was a moment at the end of that movie that goes full-out Fast and Furious. Same thing here. Except multiply it by ten. It got a little ridiculous. The Finding Dory scene entertained me. This one was a little over the top. The other thing I have to mention is that Illumination literally advertised for their next movie inside of this one. And it wasn't subtle. In December they have this movie called Sing coming out, which is a like an animal version of American Idol. There is a Sing movie poster on a bus in this movie that they show several times. I've never seen that done that blatantly. It caught me off guard.

This is not a bad movie by any means. I just don't think there's too much cross-appeal to kids and adults this time around for Illumination. Now if you're an adult and you loved this movie, don't take any offense to what I just said. Obviously there are going to be plenty of adults who love this and plenty of kids who don't. But in general terms, I think this is going to be a movie that has a lot more appeal with the kids. If you're a parent, your kids will love this. You should show it to them eventually. But I think it can wait. Buy this on DVD and use it to distract them in the mornings when you have stuff to do around the house. That would be a great use for this movie. Outside that, though, I really don't think there's much else to this. If you are single or don't have kids, I think there are plenty of other movies that are more worth your time this summer. It's a fun idea. The animals are all great. The voice acting is spot on. The animation is well done. But the story for me gets a big, fat F from me because of the serious lack of originality or creativity. And there's not enough laughs or emotion to make me overlook that. Illumination wasn't able to harness their inner Pixar this time around and thus I am going to give The Secret Life of Pets a 6/10.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Legend of Tarzan Review

We once again dive into this trend of doing live-action remakes of Disney's animated movies. On the table today is Tarzan! And before you bring it up, let me bring it up for you. Tarzan was created by Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1912, which is 87 years before Disney's animated Tarzan. Plenty of Tarzan movies, books, comics, and other media existed before Disney jumped on the bandwagon in 1999. But I'm still calling this a part of the live-action Disney trend because I don't think we'd have this movie if it weren't for all the other successful live-action Disney remakes in the last several years. Disney's not the only studio that has been doing these as The Legend of Tarzan is brought to us by Warner Bros. They were responsible for the epic disaster that was Pan last year, so they didn't get off to a great start in trying to cash in on this trend. Most thought The Legend of Tarzan was going to be a second strike for them. Even thought Rotten Tomatoes might suggest that this is in fact the case (34 percent), fans have been a lot nicer to this movie. The audience score on Rotten Tomatoes is a much nicer 73 percent. It also got an A- cinemascore and surprised at the box office with $46.5 million over the four-day weekend. Personally I'm with the fans here. This is a pretty solid Tarzan flick.

Did we need another Tarzan movie? Perhaps not. But we got one. Sometimes I find myself complaining about all these unnecessary remakes. Other times I just accept their existence and move on with my life. I've always been intrigued with the idea of The Legend of Tarzan. When I heard about the cast and crew here, that's what got my attention. Then the trailers came out and I thought it could be cool. However, I thought I was in the minority with this. No one seemed to be excited for this movie. But yet the aforementioned box office totals suggest that the phenomenon of the silent majority was in play here. I wasn't the only person looking forward to this. Other people were excited, too. They just didn't vocalize their excitement. Or at least not as loudly as those who weren't excited. Speaking of Disney, though, it is worth mentioning that this is definitely not a specific re-imagining of Disney's Tarzan. This goes back and remakes the original stories of Tarzan that Disney strayed from, like they always do, and does so with a very dark, serious tone. I would make a guess that that was the root of many people's worries. The dark, serious tone that is. I mean, heaven forbid a Tarzan movie be any fun, right? We are talking about a man raised in the jungle by apes, aren't we?

I was ready to use that point as my major complaint here. Turns out I totally dug it, though. It works. As far as our story goes, we do have a two for one deal going on. I don't know exactly how the conversations went in the pre-production stage of this movie, but I imagine a lot of people agreed on the fact that we didn't need to rehash the same Tarzan story that we've seen a hundred times already. Thus this movie is a sequel. Tarzan is already married to Jane and they have left the jungles of Congo and are living in England. And Tarzan doesn't go by Tarzan. He goes by John Clayton III, the name his father originally gave him. The premise for this sequel follows a bit of a political drama where Congo has been divided up by the United Kingdom and Belgium at some point in the 1800's. Belgium is going bankrupt, so their king sends a man named Leon Rom, played by Christoph Waltz, into Congo to find some legendary diamonds. Rom runs into a native tribe in Congo, whose leader says he will give Rom the diamonds in exchange for Tarzan. So Tarzan is invited back to Congo, not realizing this is a trap. He hesitates at first, but then him and Jane return. I say this is a two for one deal because while this story is going on, the movie slowly unfolds their version of the Tarzan origin story. So it's like we're watching two movies in one.

I will admit that as I was watching this movie, I found myself a lot more interested in the flashbacks than the sequel story of Tarzan returning to the jungle. I almost wish that we had actually had been given this story first before as a movie before we dove straight into this sequel. Those scenes were all super intense and dramatic. They had my undivided attention. We all know that Tarzan was raised by apes. Disney went with gorillas. The original stories weren't gorillas, but were close to gorillas. So to be safe I am going to call them apes. And these apes are super scary, much like full grown gorillas and chimpanzees are in real life. You know that story of the silverback gorilla that got shot in the zoo? "Oh but he was just going to take care and love the child that fell in his cage and those mean zookeepers shot him unfairly." Ha ha ha ha ha!!! Yeah, not to get political, but that's a ridiculous stance. These are scary animals in real life and they're definitely terrifying in this movie. The ape that the original story, as well as Disney, calls Kerchak is a terrifying beast in this movie. Kala acts as a nice motherly figure in this, but I was scared of Kerchak. We didn't anthropomorphize them like Disney, so they don't talk. But they don't need to. You knew Kerchack was angry and you knew why. There's also some serious drama that goes on between Tarzan and these apes that I was fully invested in.

So yes, this backstory that the movie was telling us was fascinating. I loved it and I kinda wanted a full movie with just that backstory. The sequel story wasn't quite as interesting. Not at first, anyways. But then we finally came full circle. When Tarzan goes back to these apes, it's not a friendly reunion and thus you know that some crazy drama went on and when that's finally revealed, this movie, both in the flashbacks and the current story, gets pretty good. The movie doesn't anthropomorphize the apes. But there's definitely some great emotion. In fact, one of the best character arcs in this movie is one of the apes. That ape and the leader of the native tribe, played by Djimon Hounsou. I will say no more, but yeah, Djimon Hounsou is one of the several side characters that stole this movie right away from Alexander Skarsgard and Margot Robbie as Tarzan and Jane. But native tribesmen? Yeah, like I said, this is not Disney's Tarzan. We have a couple different tribes as well as a whole assortment of animals including lions, wildebeest, ostriches, elephants, hippos, crocodiles and more. It's not just Tarzan and the apes. We're in the African Congo! Thus even though we know the story of Tarzan, we don't know where this specific story is going in either timeline. So this isn't as predictable as you might think. And there's a lot of emotion.

Another side character that stole the show away from Tarzan was Samuel L. Jackson's character. I had no idea what type of role he was going to play in this movie or how big that role would be, but I was excited that he was in this movie. I was even more excited when I learned that he had more than just a cameo or a limited role. He is one of our supporting characters, but he's a supporting character that is in the movie for pretty much the entire run time and he has a ton of fun hanging out and going on this adventure with Tarzan. This is not to say that Alexander Skarsgard and Margot Robbie weren't good in this movie. They definitely were. Skarsgard does a great job at playing this socially awkward ape man who is now married to the prettiest girl on the planet. And he has a very intimidating presence as he is 6'4" in real life and is a total beefcake in this movie, much like Tarzan should be. Him swinging around on vines and fighting various animals and humans is totally believable and super boss. Don't mess with Skarsgard's Tarzan or you will be sorry. And speaking of the prettiest girl on the planet, Margot Robbie makes a great Jane. I make it no secret that this woman is my number one celebrity crush at the moment. Not only is she drop-dead gorgeous, but she is a phenomenal actress that kills it in every role she's in. Her being cast as Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad is half the reason why I'm so excited for that movie! That's a match made in heaven.

How about these visual effects in the movie? Phenomenal! I saw this movie in 3D IMAX and even though I wasn't initially excited for that part of the movie, it ended up being the best 3D IMAX movie that I've seen this summer. Granted, its only competition was Alice Through the Looking Glass, Warcraft, and Independence Day: Resurgence as I didn't see Captain America: Civil War or X-Men: Apocalypse in 3D IMAX. But regardless, this was pretty good. It actually effectively used the 3D when Tarzan was swinging on vines through the jungle and fighting various opponents. It wasn't over the top or distracting. But it was enough for me to be entertained by the 3D, which is hard to do nowadays. And the IMAX part was great. The score of the movie is fantastic, which in my opinion is the most important part of an IMAX adventure. A giant screen, fun 3D, and great visuals are nice, but if you don't have that good score, then it's a waste of an IMAX ticket. This movie has that and it's a score that is done by Rupert Gregson-Williams, who is known for scoring a bunch of Adam Sandler movies and that's almost it. Impressive, though, because when I was looking up who did the score, I was expecting a big name composer. And yes, the visuals in this movie are great. It's amazing what we can do with CGI today. You would think that all of these animals are real, but they're not.

No, we probably didn't need another Tarzan movie. But that's the case with most of these live-action Disney remakes. We don't really need any of them. If you hate the fact that they exist, well you're in for some trouble because there will be a lot more them done by Disney themselves as well as others. So even though this movie wasn't necessary, we got it anyways. Turns out it's a pretty solid Tarzan movie. If you're a fan of the character like I am, you'll be happy to know that they did him justice. The cast of the movie is perfect. Alexander Skarsgard and Margot Robbie were great as Tarzan and Jane, even though they did get overshadowed slightly by the excellent performances from Samuel L. Jackson and Djimon Hounsou. Christoph Waltz was a slightly forgettable villain, but he still did his best with what he was given. I was worried about the serious tone of the movie, but it worked. The action sequences are great, the visual effects are phenomenal, the movie has a good amount of emotion, and a story that sucked me in. Sure, it took a while for me to get invested in the present timeline as I was more invested in the flashbacks at first. But in the second half of the movie I was invested in both timelines and I thought they tied together very effectively. So yeah, this movie was a pleasant surprise and thus I will give The Legend of Tarzan an 8/10.

Friday, July 1, 2016

The BFG Review

The BFG. Big friendly giant. Big freaking giant? Big fumbling goofball? Oh man, this is a scrumdiddlyumptious conversation! What can you come up with that fits the acronym BFG? Think about that as you read this review and let me know your best one! Anyways, moving on. We are now in the middle of the summer and Steven Spielberg and company have found themselves in quite the sticky position. Here they are having made a fun, family adventure and they were confident enough to give it a mid-summer release date. Their $140 million budget for the movie means they were expecting big things out of this. But as it turns out, they have found themselves sandwiched between two powerhouse family adventures with Pixar's Finding Dory and Illumination's The Secret Life of Pets. Three family adventures in this short of time span usually means that at least one of them gets left in the dust. Right now it's looking like The BFG is the odd one out as the excitement and awareness levels don't seem that high. Some are projecting this to open below $20 million for the holiday weekend, which is a horrible start for a $140 million movie. This is unfortunate in my opinion because Spielberg has conjured up yet another fun family adventure that is worth your time!

Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I will be reviewing the movie The BFG and not the book The BFG. Zero comparisons will be made between the two in this review simply because I have zero knowledge of the book. I do know Roald Dahl and some of his other works, but for some reason I went through life not even knowing that The BFG novel existed until the first teaser for this came out and everyone started freaking out. And no, I didn't bother reading it or even researching the plot before seeing the movie, so I went in completely blind and thus I will be talking solely about my movie going experience with this story. If you want a book/movie comparison, feel free to find another friend who could help you out there and let me know what you come up with. However, even though I had no knowledge of The BFG, I was still excited for this movie. I mean, this is Steven freaking Spielberg we're talking about. I, like everyone else on this planet, love Spielberg's movies. One of the many great things about him is that he has something for everyone. Movies like Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, and Schindler's List are some of my favorite movies, all for different reasons. And a John Williams score to go along with it? I'm so down!

That said, no director is perfect. Not even the great Steven Spielberg. Even though he has made a lot of personal favorites of mine, including but not limited to the movies I mentioned, he's also made other movies like A.I. Artificial Intelligence or War Horse that I wasn't a fan of. Not every Spielberg movie is a masterpiece and not every Spielberg movie needs to be. The BFG is no masterpiece. It certainly wouldn't make a Spielberg top 10 and it might even struggle to make a Spielberg top 20. But one of the many things I love about Spielberg is how versatile of a director he is. He can make a hard-R masterpiece like Schindler's List and he can also tone it down and make a delightfully fun family film like The BFG. That's what this movie is. It's a cute, charming, delightful movie that I think the whole family can enjoy, especially the little kids. If you are a parent with kids between ages 5 and 10, I'd almost be willing to call this a must-see at some point because this has the potential to be a childhood favorite of theirs much like a movie such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was a childhood favorite of many who grew up in the 80's. I realize you might not have the means to see this, Finding Dory, and The Secret Life of Pets all in theaters. But check this out at some point. You'll be glad you did.

As far as the plot goes, this movie is about a young girl becoming friends with a giant. She's an orphan and she really doesn't like it too well at the orphanage. One night she hears something and wanders over to the window to see what it was and she sees the giant. Because she saw him, he feels the need to kidnap her because he's afraid she'll tell everyone about him. She thinks he's going to eat her for dinner, but she quickly learns that he is in fact a big friendly giant, so she calls him BFG. The two become friends rather quickly and are quite the charming pair. We also learn quickly that BFG isn't the only giant out there. The others aren't quite as friendly. They're more like BFI's, big freaking idiots. They're the ones that actually are the mean, child-eating monsters and children all over London have been going missing because they get kidnapped and eaten by these other giants, which is kinda disturbing when you stop and think about it. Good thing we aren't shown any of that. But that does lead to our conflict in the movie. It's BFG vs. the other giants and BFG and the girl have to figure out what to do. As I said, they make quite the team. It's a lot of fun to watch them interact and talk with each other. They go on several fun adventures and the compliment each other quite well.

I will admit that I am still kind of mad that Mark Rylance won the best supporting actor Oscar earlier this year over Sylvester Stallone. I mean Mark Rylance did a good job in Bridge of Spies. But Sylvester Stallone in Creed was incredible and there will never be another chance to reward Stallone for his great performance as Rocky Balboa. Sorry for bringing that up, but that's what I think about now when I see Mark Rylance and I had to get that out of my system. But now the other thing I will think about when I see Mark Rylance is his incredible performance as BFG. Not only was the motion capture element of this great, but so was his overall performance. BFG is not very good at English and because of that he is always stumbling over his words or making words up as he goes. The little girl spends a lot of time correcting him on his English and helping him to become better. It was rather charming to watch and Mark Rylance just rocked this character. He was so good. As so was our little girl for that matter. Her character's name is Sophie and the young actress is a girl by the name of Ruby Barnhill. It's rare to find a great child actress and we've found another one here. She is such an adorable little girl and does such a great job.

In terms of complaints about the movie, I will admit that this took a while to get started. There were a lot of moments in the first half of the movie where I found myself a little bored and was sadly drifting in and out of consciousness. I don't think this was intended on being a big, scary, thrill ride with giants, but I would've appreciated it if the movie would've picked up the pace a little sooner than it did. I did enjoy the second half of the movie quite a bit more than the first half. The scene where they visit the Queen of England was especially fantastic. As I think about it, though, nothing about this movie was particularly amazing. Even when it picked up in the second half, I was never really blown away. I was charmed. It was an adorable movie. But I wasn't super impressed. It's not a movie that I'm going to run around trying to advocate everyone rush to the theaters to see. We do have great characters, but I don't think there's a ton of depth to the story itself. It's just a simple, fun, family film. I don't know if this is a problem with the source material or not. Like I said, I know nothing about the novel. I'm just judging what I saw on screen and it was nothing fantastic. I may have even had a bit more fun with Jack the Giant Slayer a few years back. But I still think this is worth seeing.

No, this movie won't be remembered as one of Spielberg's masterpieces. But I appreciate the fact that he can still feel comfortable with toning things down and making a solid movie that the kids will enjoy. That's what this is. Regardless of overall quality, another thing I love about Spielberg is that he always makes well-crafted films. Spielberg has the art of filmmaking down to a science and it's been this way for many years, which is why it's always great to watch a Spielberg movie. And a John Williams score is something that I always love. The man is 84 years old, so I don't know how many more films he has in him. But I hope it's still a lot. His scores have been some of my all time favorites and I look forward to many more. So yes, there's a lot to love in this movie. It's a well-crafted movie with a beautiful score. Mark Rylance is amazing as the BFG and Ruby Barnhill is equally as great as Sophie. The two of them are just charming to watch. The movie overall is nothing special and I was bored a lot more than I should've been in the first half. But I still think this is a good family film worth seeing. Even if you don't have the means to see it in theaters, I'd recommend you renting it at some point. My grade for The BFG is a 7/10.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Movie Preview: July 2016

The summer of the disappointing sequels continued in June as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Now You See Me 2, and Independence Day: Resurgence joined May releases Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Alice Through the Looking Glass, and X-Men Apocalypse as sequels this summer to disappoint. Several other non-sequels also fell flat on their faces here in the U.S., including Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, Warcraft, and Free State of Jones. The Chinese people are doing their best to redeem several of those, but it's still surprising how many of these attempted blockbusters are failing this summer. Of course, not all was a loss this month, especially not if your name is Pixar as Finding Dory has shattered all kinds of records on its way to not only being the top movie of the summer by a long shot, but also potentially the top grossing movie of the year. The Conjuring 2 also scared up a ton of money and a handful of original films including Me Before You, Central Intelligence, and The Shallows were rewarded. July is another month loaded with blockbuster hopefuls that will try to keep things positive. On paper it looks like this should be a strong month, but we shall see. Let's dive in!

July 1st - 4th-

After impressively spending two weeks at the top of the box office, Finding Dory is looking like it will pull off the three-peat this weekend, which is especially impressive being that it's an animated movie released in the middle of the summer. Three new releases will join Independence Day: Resurgence in the fight for second place and it's looking like the winner could be The Purge: Election Year. The annual purge is becoming a tradition here in mid-summer as the past two summers saw the releases of The Purge and The Purge: Anarchy, both of which opened around $30 million and made $64 million and $71 million respectively. It's a low-budget franchise as both movies made the money they did on a budget of less than $10 million. The idea of this franchise is very simple. Once a year, all crime, including murder, becomes legal for 12 hours and in this universe that's supposed to make world an overall safer place. It's really just an excuse to have an extremely violent movie and this has successfully pleased audiences and it doesn't seem to be losing steam at all as The Purge: Election Year is tracking ahead of The Purge: Anarchy at this same point. The election year theme is also very well-timed given that we're right in the middle of election year in real life. Don't be surprised to see a fourth Purge movie announced before too long for next summer.

Next up is our latest attempt at making a live-action remake of a Disney animated property with The Legend of Tarzan. Granted, Tarzan had been around for many years before Disney's animated movie in the late 90's, but most of Disney's animated movies are also adaptations of something, so this still fits the bill. This is the third movie this year in this trend following The Jungle Book and Alice Through the Looking Glass. The latter was a huge flop, but with the huge success of The Jungle Book, this trend isn't going to slow down any time soon. In fact, Disney is planning on speeding it up even further as they alone will be doing two to three of these movies a year. And it's not just Disney remaking their own movies. Other studios are joining the party as well as is shown here. The Legend of Tarzan isn't Disney's work. It's Warner Bros. Last year, Warner Bros. joined this trend with their movie Pan, which was a critical and financial disaster. The Legend of Tarzan is tracking ahead of Pan, but that's not saying much. People don't seem to be super excited about this movie and early reviews are coming in sour. Although Tarzan is a popular character, so there's a chance it could surprise, especially with a large cast that includes Alexander Skarsgard, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz, and Samuel L. Jackson.

These three movies could realistically end up in any order, but I put The BFG in third place for now because it seems like it has the biggest uphill battle to climb. Fans of The Purge franchise probably won't care that two other horror/thrillers also came out in the last few weeks (The Conjuring 2 and The Shallows) and The Legend of Tarzan seems to be going for a broader audience with a PG-13 rating in addition to having a fan base already built in. The BFG will be specifically targeting family audiences, meaning not only will it be competing directly with the seemingly unstoppable freight train that is Finding Dory, but it also has the highly anticipated The Secret Life of Pets to deal with the upcoming week. Too many options for family audiences in such a small window of time usually means something gets left in the dust. That being said, will people really turn down the opportunity to see another Steven Spielberg directed movie with a John Williams score? This is one of the most successful and popular directors in history we're talking about. Plus, the novel this is based on is one of the more popular novels written by Roald Dahl, who also penned Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, and James and the Giant Peach.

July 8th - 10th-

Something's got to stop Finding Dory, right? The Secret Life of Pets is looking like it will do just that. Or you can call it a passing of the baton as this will be the fourth straight weekend that an animated movie will top the box office. Not only has Illumination thrown together a phenomenal marketing campaign for this movie, but it's also had a head start overseas as it was released in the U.K., Ireland, and Norway on June 24th and will hit a few Asian markets before its U.S. release on July 8th. The early word is positive. Great marketing campaign combined with good reviews is usually a great formula for success. There is the possibility that the crowded family market might hurt it a bit, but it doesn't seem like it will hurt it too much. And if we're talking about an animation company that is on an absolute roll, it's definitely Illumination. This will be their sixth movie thus far and their five previous movies have averaged $255 million in the U.S. and $641 million worldwide. This is mainly due to the hugely successful Despicable Me franchise with the ever so popular minions. That connection has been all over the advertising here. Plus, everyone loves their pets. Toy Story with pets seems like a winning idea on its own.

This summer hasn't been so nice to R-rated comedies. Granted there's only been two of them, but both Neighbors 2 and Popstar flopped pretty hard. If you throw in The Nice Guys into the mix, which was more of an action comedy, you have a third one that didn't do so well. That means one of two things for this next R-rated comedy, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. Either it will follow the trend of being a disappointment or it will take advantage of the current dry market for this genre and be a surprise. The title of the movie tells you all you need to know about the plot of this movie. Mike and Dave, played by Adam Devine and Zac Efron, are searching for wedding dates. Their two female co-stars are Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza. Connect the dots there and you have an idea of what will happen. All four of these actors are popular in their own right, but in most cases it's been in supporting roles. Can they carry their own movie? The director here is Jake Szymanski, who has zero previous experience working on a feature-length, theatrically-released film. Wedding comedies have been huge in the past, but recently they've been hit and miss. Thus all signs point to this being another disappointment at the box office.

July 15th - 17th-

The third weekend of July will see easily the most controversial film of the year get released and that is Ghostbusters. Starting with the positive, director Paul Feig has a very good history at the box office as Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy were all huge hits both financially and with audiences. All three of those starred Melissa McCarthy, who is a comedy superstar at the moment, making the Paul Feig/Melissa McCarthy combination a rather dangerous one. But this here is a much different animal. First off, this is the first time that Paul Feig has attempted to direct a PG-13 rated comedy. Thus he's really unproven when it comes to more family-friendly comedy, which is what Ghostbusters is attempting to be. Some people aren't super happy about the idea of female-led Ghostbusters movie, but the much bigger issue here is the idea of Ghostbusters being rebooted in the first place. When it comes to reboots, a good trailer or two can usually win over at least some audiences. But that's the biggest issue. The trailers for this movie have been unanimously hated across the board. In fact, they're the most hated trailers in YouTube history and anyone that's tried to defend them has been mauled by an angry, rabid Ghosbusters fan base. What does that mean financially? Well, controversy often sparks curiosity. So there's a chance that all the hate might actually help this movie. But if it's as bad as everyone thinks it will be, this could also disappear quickly.

There's no real competition for Ghostbusters this weekend. The only fight it will have will be holdovers from previous weeks. But there is another smaller release and that is The Infiltrator. This is a thriller that will be aimed at adult audiences, which means a giant opening weekend isn't expected, but its box office life will be determined by how well it's received. This is based on the book written by Robert Mazur in which he tells of his experience fighting the biggest drug cartel in history. Playing Robert Mazur in the movie is Bryan Cranston, who is fresh off of his Oscar nomination for Trumbo this past year. In the last few years, Cranston has becoming a big star both on the big screen and on the small screen, so his presence could attract some people to theaters. Movies about the fight against the drug cartel are fairly common, but they're also usually very well received by those who actually go out and see them. The director here is Brad Furman, the director of The Lincoln Lawyer and Runner Runner. Back in 2011, The Lincoln Lawyer opened to $13 million on its way to a $58 million total. That seems like a best case scenario if the stars align for The Infiltrator. A more likely scenario might be one like Runner Runner, which opened to $7 million on its way to a $19 million total.

July 22nd - 24th-

Regardless of how well The Ghostbusters does in it's first weekend, it's likely to take a shot to the chin in it's second weekend as this fourth weekend of July sees Star Trek Beyond arrive in theaters. Star Trek has been one of the most popular franchises for quite a long time starting with it's formation in the 1960's. It's had an up and down history both on TV and on film, but in 2009, J.J. Abrams rebooted the franchise in a huge way after it had been going through an especially hard time. The 2009 reboot created a new generation of fans and ended up being the highest grossing Star Trek movie ever, even when you adjust for ticket price inflation. Old time Star Trek fans were a little more on the fence with this reboot, but they especially lashed out against its sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness, ranking it as the worst Star Trek movie ever made at the Star Trek convention in 2013. Enter Star Trek Beyond. With J.J. having gone over to Star Wars, Justin Lin from the Fast and Furious franchise has taken the helm for this third movie and he has a lot of fans nervous. Star Trek Into Darkness was still well-received by casual fans and critics and was a box office success, but there's a lot of signs that point to this potentially continuing the trend of under-performing sequels this summer.

Speaking of sequels, we have another one this week. This one is the fifth Ice Age movie, Ice Age: Collision Course. If you are wondering why in the heck we have five Ice Age movies, look no further than the overseas totals for these movies. Yes, they have been financially consistent here in the U.S., each making between $150 million and $200 million. But the overseas totals tell the whole story. When you look at the overseas chart (not worldwide -- overseas only), the two highest grossing animated movies are Frozen with $875 million and Minions with $823 million. Right behind those two? You guessed it. Ice Age: Continental Drift (the fourth movie) comes in third with $715 million and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (the third movie) come in fourth with $690 million. Yep. Now you know why we are getting a fifth movie. When you make that much money in today's movie business, you find a way to keep going. This might be yet another under-performing sequel here in the U.S., but that doesn't matter. They eat these movies up overseas for some odd reason. And it's not just one country. It's a lot of them combined.

The final movie of this weekend will be the horror movie Lights Out. A couple of years back there was a three-minute short film called Lights Out (that I have linked for you right there) that was created by David Sandberg that preys on people's fear of the dark. It's quite the effective little horror short film that might make you have a hard time sleeping if you watch it at night. After going viral, that little short film has been turned into a feature-length film using the same ideas that is also written and directed by David Sandberg while being produced by horror expert James Wan, director of The Conjuring and Insidious. This is a bit of a risky venture as an 81-minute version of this might not be as effective as the three-minute short, but financially there's practically no risk with these horror films. Most of them cost less than $10 million to make, so all they need is a final total of like $15 million (or even less if it cost less than $5 million) in order to be considered a financial success. That should be a very easy mark for Lights Out to hit. It could get there in its first weekend.

July 29th - 31st-

On our final weekend of July, we have yet another highly anticipated release, that being Jason Bourne. Having Ghostbusters, Star Trek Beyond, Jason Bourne, and August's Suicide Squad all coming out in consecutive weeks is either going to make for a phenomenal end to the summer or they could all end up self-destructing. Not everyone can afford to go to every movie released. We'll get to Suicide Squad a month from now in my August preview, but out of these three movies that will be finishing off July, Jason Bourne is the most likely to succeed. When you think of the best action stars or characters, Matt Damon's Jason Bourne is probably one of the first that comes to your mind. All three of his Bourne movies were huge financial and critical successes, which peaked with The Bourne Ultimatum making $227 million back in 2007. The fourth movie, The Bourne Legacy, was a failure, but that didn't have Matt Damon or director Paul Greengrass. Now it's been nine years since Ultimatum and Matt Damon is back along with Paul Greengrass and fans are excited. Adjusting for ticket price inflation, Ultimatum's total is equivalent to $283 million. Is it possible for Jason Bourne to get that high? Maybe that's too much to expect, but this should be huge.

Our second raunchy comedy of the month comes in the form of Bad Moms. STX Entertainment is a fairly new production company whose goal is to produce and distribute several medium-budget, star-driven movies each year. They started off with three thrillers, two of which had pretty good success (The Gift and The Boy). Their last couple of movies haven't been quite as successful. The bought and distributed the action movie Hardcore Henry which failed to get to $20 million and then their war movie Free State of Jones was a huge flop this past month considering it's fairly high price tag. Now they're going to try to get back on track with their first raunchy comedy, Bad Moms. This stars Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell as well as Christina Applegate and Jada Pinkett Smith and is about a group of moms that are tired of being over-worked and under-appreciated. Thus they decide that they are going to stop trying to be perfect angels and live the rebellious party life. This is a premise that a lot of ladies can probably relate to. Whether or not they decide to follow these moms' examples is a different story, but this could make for a decent hit.

Our final wide release of the month comes with the mystery/thriller Nerve. If you watch the trailer to this movie, it might seem like you've just watched the whole movie. Without going as far as the trailer, the premise for this thriller follows a high school senior who finds herself immersed in this strange online game where she has to follow a bunch of dares like kiss a random stranger or try on this expensive dress in a store. As a part of this game, there are both watchers and players and thus I don't know why anyone would actually be a part of this super sketchy "game," but I suppose it's not out of the ordinary for high school students to do crazy things without thinking. You can probably guess that this movie will go in a bunch of crazy directions and if you watch the trailer you will learn that you are right, but personally I'll just leave it at that. The directing duo for this movie is the directing duo that did the third and fourth Paranormal Activity movies and the stars are Emma Roberts, the niece of Julia Roberts, and Dave Franco. So there's some recognizable names, but nothing here really screams box office success.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Independence Day: Resurgence Review

Back in 1996, the movie Independence Day took the world storm as it opened to $50.2 million on its way to $306.2 million domestically. Both of those were easily the top totals of that year. In terms of the final total, the next two highest grossing films that year were Twister with $241.7 million and Mission: Impossible with $180.9 million. Putting that total into perspective, that $306.2 million put Independence Day into the top 10 highest grossing movies ever at the time and when adjusting for ticket price inflation is equivalent of $594.8 million today, which is in the same ball park as The Dark Knight or The Avengers. On top the major financial success of the movie, it became an immediate favorite of many and a movie that's now considered a classic. It's honestly a bit baffling that it took 20 years for the sequel to show up. It's also baffling to me that 1996 was 20 years ago, but that's a conversation for another day. A lot of people have waited a long time for an Independence Day sequel. And now they have it. If I'm being honest, though, perhaps this should've stayed on the shelf because Independence Day: Resurgence is a huge mess with no entertainment value. Dare I call it a... disaster?

Before I dive into my angry rant against Independence Day: Resurgence, I think it's important that you know my thoughts of Independence Day. If you look at Box Office Mojo's list of the highest grossing disaster movies, these 90's disaster movies dominate the list. You have Titanic, Independence Day, Twister, Armagedden, Apollo 13, Deep Impact, Godzilla (1998), Dante's Peak, and Volcano all having earned a decent amount of money, especially when you adjust for ticket price inflation. People in the 90's loved these movies. But when you go back and watch them, there's a good percentage of them that you realize that maybe there's a huge amount of nostalgia that keeps them elevated to the level they are. Independence Day is a classic example of the latter. I re-watched it yesterday before heading into the sequel and yeah, it's not that great of a movie. Extremely entertaining? Yes. Extremely stupid? Also yes. Thus I would have to classify it as a dumb fun movie. I've seen better action movies and I've seen better disaster movies. If I were to write a review for Independence Day, I would probably give it a 7 or an 8. If you think that's blasphemous, I'd challenge you to take off your nostalgic glasses and go watch it again. If you still think it's an epic masterpiece, well, I guess you're entitled to your opinion. But I'd have to disagree.

With that in mind, I didn't expect much going into Independence Day: Resurgence. It didn't need to be a great movie. I just wanted it to be another dumb fun movie like the first or perhaps like the more recent Pacific Fun, which is one of the best dumb fun movies. Before all of these negative reviews started spilling out, was I among the group of people that was unbelievable excited for this sequel? Nope. And I'm not just saying that to sound smart. In fact, when I did my 2016 movie preview, I put this into the maybe section. Why? One name. Roland Emmerich. Yes, he's the director of the first one, but check out this filmography following his huge success with Independence Day in 1996: Godzilla (1998); The Patriot; The Day After Tomorrow; 10,000 BC; 2012; Anonymous; White House Down; and Stonewall. That's an all inclusive list of the movies his directed post-Independence Day. Ouch. Some of those have some entertainment value. None of them are great movies. Most of them are straight up trash. This man is NOT a good director, people. The fact that Independence Day is such a beloved movie is more of a fluke for him. A good comparison for Roland Emmerich is Michael Bay, who has made almost nothing but crap since Armageddon in 1998.

Speaking of Michael Bay, the best comparison to Independence Day: Resurgence for me is Transformers: Age of Extinction. Not I compliment. I hated that movie. It ended up in my bottom ten for 2014. Good cast. Good visuals. Bad story. Bad acting. Bad directing. A ton of overstuffed action that WASN'T entertaining. We're going to preach most of the same notes here for Independence Day: Resurgence. As I said, I didn't expect great for this movie. I never did. I just hoped for a Pacific Rim level of enjoyment. The fact that I got a Transformers: Age of Extinction level of enjoyment instead made it feel like I just got blind-sided by a horse in the middle of a race track (check out this video to get that reference). I did not expect the movie theater to turn into a prison. You know, that feeling you get when you want to walk out or stop the movie, but instead make the decision to watch the whole thing so that you can give an accurate recommendation to your family and friends? I hate it when that happens. I go to the movies for enjoyment, not punishment. With this movie, I got punished. Thankfully the movie is only 120 minutes long instead of the 165 minutes that was Transformers: Age of Extinction. But that's still 120 minutes that I will never get back as I was completely miserable for every one of those minutes.

Now I've been a bit harsh on Independence Day in this review because I do think it's an overrated movie, but I'm actually going to take a turn from that and use what that movie did right to show what this sequel did completely wrong. First of all, Independence Day knew what it was. Aliens have attacked the United States and after realizing what exactly has happened, the country goes into a state of panic. An initial assault on the aliens takes place. After that fails, they take a step back to figure out what to do. Once they have a plan, an epic speech is given, a second assault is attempted, and the aliens are destroyed. Is this a dumb story? Sure. Can you poke a lot of holes into it? Absolutely. But is it focused? Yes it is. The flow of the movie is great. The setup is done well. We have enough character progression and down time, but not too much. Speaking of characters, we have a handful of well-written characters played by good actors who are doing a great job and feel like they care. Most importantly we have a lot of fun action sequences like when the aliens blow up the white house or our final assault that includes an emotional sacrifice by one of our characters. The movie was also wrapped up in a nice little bow that didn't try to set up a sequel. Had Independence Day: Resurgence followed this simple formula, I would've given it a pass.

But that's the problem. It doesn't. Let's start with plot. Not the strength of the first movie, but it was still well-structured and mostly made sense. This movie's plot? Ummmm... what was it? Aliens are back. And they're kinda mad. Why? How? I don't know. And I don't think the people who wrote this movie know. They're just back. A logical structure to this revenge plot? It's not there. A flow to the movie? Heck no. The plot is a huge mess in just about every way. I don't think I could even describe it to you. Things just happened and I don't know why or how or what was going on. They just happened. I literally don't think I could spoil this movie because I was just confused the whole time. I mean, I could spoil who wins the war, but I think we all knew that anyways. No one makes an alien invasion movie where the aliens win and end up destroying the earth and all the humans on it. Not that I can think of, anyways. If there is one, feel free to remind me of it. If there's not, wouldn't that be kinda cool if it happened? I certainly was rooting for that to happen in this movie, but I wasn't supposed. And it almost worked out. I mean, the aliens destroyed like a third of the earth in the first ten minutes, but didn't do jack squat for the rest of the time.

How 'bout them characters? The reason I say I was cheering for the aliens in this movie is because there was hardly any redeemable characters in this movie. I say hardly any because there was one huge African dude played by Deobia Oparei that has apparently been fighting aliens for the last ten years and he's pretty boss. Everyone else? Nope. And there's quite a few returning characters, too. Jeff Goldbum? He looked bored. I felt he was there to collect a paycheck and that was it. Bill Pullman? I don't even know what the point of his character was. They tried to give him another epic speech, but all of those attempts totally felt flat. Speaking of useless, that's even more the case with Judd Hirsch, Jeff Goldblum's dad in both movies. They did a lot of weird things with his character and everything regarding him was 100 percent unnecessary. If they completely eliminated his story arc, the movie would've missed nothing. Brent Spiner is also back. To his credit, he is the one person that actually looked like he was having a lot of fun in the movie, but his character's story? Yikes. We assumed he got killed in the first one. Nope. Just in a 20 year coma, which he suddenly wakes up from and goes about things as if nothing ever happened. No recovery period. No weakness. Nothing. It was stupid.

Do you know who's not back. Will Smith. I don't know what the conversation was like between Will Smith and the crew of this movie when they tried to recruit him, but he must've listened to their idea or looked at their script and laughed in their face. And that's the moment where they should've cancelled this movie. I'm dead serious. Independence Day without Will Smith should not have happened. Oh but they keep reminding us of him. His son, played by Jessie T. Usher, takes his place as the lead character and thus Will Smith is shown in pictures quite a bit and referenced a ton. How they decided to write Will Smith's character off is really stupid. The other characters in this movie? Well, I'm just going to start naming names here. Liam Hemsworth. Maika Monroe. Sela Ward. William Fichtner. Patrick St. Esprit. Vivica A. Fox. Angelababy. Charlotte Gainsbourg. Nicholas Wright. Travis Tope. Chin Han. Gbenga Akinnagbe. Robert Loggia. John Storey. Joey King. Jenna Purdey. Garrett Weiring. Hays Wellford. Mckenna Grace. James A. Woods. Robert Neary. Joshua Mikel. Joel Virgel. Arturo del Puerto. That there is a long list of characters. And those are all the people that have character names. The first movie had a good balance of characters. This one has way too many. And most of them are either useless or don't seem to care about the movie they're in.

Horrible plot. Horrible characters. Are there any action sequences that are entertaining? Well first off, it's hard to care about the action in the movie when the plot is a mess and none of the characters are interesting. That said, I didn't think the action itself was that great. And I saw this movie in 3D IMAX. I'm glad that I only payed $5 for my IMAX ticket because neither the 3D nor the IMAX were actually worth it. If you must see this movie because you think I'm crazy, at least do me a favor and see it in normal 2D because you will get the same exact experience. Sure, we had 20 years of progressed technology since the first one which made the visuals of the movie naturally more impressive. There was no epic scene like the blowing up of the white house in the first movie. Things were destroyed, but there was no shock value or emotional impact. The first movie was kinda sad when they realized how many people just died. This movie just killed people and made no time to make things emotional or acknowledge the fact that close to a billion people probably got killed. And the final battle between the humans and the aliens? Or any battle for that matter? Boring. Seriously. Boring. And yeah, it was the worst sequel setup that I've seen in a long time.

In the end, I almost literally found no redeemable aspect of this movie, which was a huge disappoint. No, I don't drool over the first movie like many people do, but I still acknowledge the fact that it is an entertaining movie that does a great job of doing what it set out to do. No, I wasn't excited for this movie because I knew who the director was I was scared of the fact that he's made bad movie after bad movie after bad movie. It's like when the name Michael Bay shows up in a trailer. You just roll your eyes and groan. But that aside, I still crossed my fingers that we'd have another fun movie here where I could turn off my brain and have fun watching humans fight the aliens. But I didn't even get that. The plot is a huge mess that has no structure and instead is loaded with a lot of useless scenes and characters. There are plenty of great actors in this movie, but there's very few good performances. There's a ton of poorly written characters, most of which don't even have a good use, so you really can't blame the actors for looking like they're there for a paycheck. They were given nothing. Yes, the movie is visually impressive, but so are the Transformers movies and that alone doesn't make a good movie, especially when the action itself is not entertaining. Independence Day: Resurgence is one of the worst movies of the year and as such I'm going to give it a dismal 4/10.