Saturday, January 31, 2015

Locke Review

This is a very unique review for me. Very rarely do I actually write a review for a movie that I first saw after it had been released on DVD. I don't exactly have a reasoning for that other than I just like to review current movies in theaters as close to opening weekend as possible, preferably on opening weekend. However, I'm going against that because I'm reviewing this movie called Locke that came out last April that I saw the other week on Amazon Prime. This is a movie that went completely under my radar. I didn't see any advertisements or trailers. I did not hear of it when it came to theaters. It even left theaters without me even realizing it existed. Looking back, this is mostly because it was only released in 121 theaters at its max. However, what brought this to my attention was some very soft Oscar buzz for Tom Hardy in this role. This wasn't even close to actually happening, but since I like Tom Hardy as an actor, I gave the movie a shot when I saw it on my Amazon Prime earlier in the month. And holy cow, I was totally captivated by this movie. In fact, I liked it so much that I decided a review needs to happen in hopes that I can convince at least one additional person to give this movie a shot, especially since it's on Amazon Prime.

Locke is about a man named Ivan Locke and man does he have himself in quite the conundrum. He works as a manager of some sort of construction business and their team is about to do one of the biggest concrete pourings of their business. He kind of needs to be there. He is also happily married with an older kid and he has promised them that he will be home to watch the big game with them. Not too bad, right? Well, what throws a huge wrench into the situation is that lets say approximately nine months ago he messed up big time and slept with another lady. He feels terrible about this. He doesn't love her, he claims. He just messed up and now she is in the hospital having his child. So what does he do? He makes the decision that he needs to be with this woman for this birth. So with his job and his relationship with his family on the line, he drives to the hospital while trying to work things out with everyone else.

On that premise alone, I think this would be an interesting movie. Perhaps the movie could show some of the back story. It could show his co-workers. It could show the lady at the hospital and his family at home while showing what Ivan Locke does. But what makes this absolutely brilliant is that it shows none of this. The whole movie, every second of the 85 minute run time, is Tom Hardy in his car driving on the freeway at night. That's it. Tom Hardy is the only actor we physically see in screen and all he's doing is sitting in his car driving. How does the story unfold like this? Simple. Tom Hardy makes a bunch of phone calls while he's driving and since he uses his bluetooth, we hear all the conversations on the speaker of the car. That's how we get our story. Looking at reviews, this movie definitely splits people. Some people just don't care to see a movie about Tom Hardy driving down the road in his car. But others like me absolutely loved it.

To me this is a very simplistic movie that shows that you don't necessarily need a whole lot to create a good movie. A lot of paintings are like this. You'll have a very simple painting that does the bare minimum in what is actually painted, but many times that is all that is needed to create a grand picture that says a whole lot. It makes the viewers think and imagine the story that is taking place with the artwork. That's what happens here. A great comparison I think is Richard Linklater's Before trilogy. In each of those movies, all you see is people walking and talking. It's very simple, but yet it does a great job of painting the big picture just with simple dialogue telling the story that most films decide to show. If you liked those movies, I really think you'll like this. In this movie, we don't need to see the other characters in their environments. We don't need to see the co-workers. We don't need to see his wife. We don't need to see the lady in the hospital. We don't need to see his son. All we need is to hear them on the phone with Locke. We don't even need to see or listen to their actions and reactions when they hang up the phone with them. Based on the many conversations we hear, we can infer and imagine what they do and say off-phone. We can create this huge story in our mind with all these complex characters just be listening to the building blocks of this story through conversation. It's brilliant.

I really wish this movie would've been bigger in terms of its release and box office total, because this is a movie that I think every movie lover should check out and know of. Since I barely heard of it, I am willing to bet that there are at least a few people out there reading this review that are learning of this movie for the very first time, which saddens me. It also saddens me that I didn't learn of this sooner, so I'm doing my due diligence in spreading the word. This is absolutely brilliant film making that could teach filmmakers and aspiring filmmakers a lot of lessons about film. The acting by Tom Hardy in this movie is top notch. One of his best performances to date in my opinion, and I've loved a lot of his movies. Definitely Oscar-worthy. The other people lending their voices also do a great job of giving us all kinds of emotions with just their voices. Finally, the movie also brings up a whole ton of themes that can be reflected on and discussed for long after this movie ends. So yes, go find this movie and watch it. If you have Amazon Prime, you can watch it for free right there. I just checked that to make sure it was still up and it is. If you don't have Amazon Prime, I'm sure there's other ways that you can find this. I did actually see this movie before creating my best of 2014 movie list and this movie was one of the last cuts and it broke my heart that I didn't include it. My grade for Locke is a 9/10.

Project Almanac Review

Just over a year ago, I was sitting in the theater for some movie when I saw a trailer for Welcome to Yesterday. It was a time travel, found footage movie that had a pretty decent trailer actually and it was coming out that February. I decided that I was excited to see what this movie had to offer. Sure, it didn't seem totally epic, but I thought it had the potential to be a lot of fun. Then come February they pulled the rug right out from underneath me by postponing this movie at the last second for an entire year. Ouch! That was not very nice of them at all. I don't know what went on behind the scenes to cause this delay, but at some point during this delay, one of the things they decided to change was the title. It went from Welcome to Yesterday to Project Almanac. I even believe at some point it was called just Almanac before they threw the "Project" in front of it. That was weird. It took my mind a while to get used to this new name, and even though I am used to it, I still think I like the original title better. Anywho, after an annoyingly long wait it finally showed up in theaters, and, uh, well, whatever they attempted to fix during the delay didn't quite work out that well because this movie leaves a lot to be desired for.

First off I want to make one thing clear. There's a lot of people that will hate on this movie because of the found footage genre. It was once fresh and original, but now it's been done so much that people are just sick of it and thus they will rip any found footage apart just because it is done in the found footage style. I'm not that type of person. If done well I think that the found footage genre is a very effective style of movie making. Two great examples are the movies Cloverfield and Chronicle. I love and own both of those movies and in both cases the found footage genre is what makes the movie. I try to think of what those movies would look like without that style and I don't think they would be nearly as good. So no, I don't look at found footage as inherently bad. However, I do think that a movie that does found footage needs to do a dang good job of justifying them using the style. Because, come on, how many people honestly take out their camera and film every second of their lives just because something crazy is happening? Not very many. Thus when a movie tries so hard to justify their use of it, it usually comes off as forced and unnecessary.

I was really hoping that this movie would turn out like Chronicle and actually make good use of the genre. But unfortunately instead of being like Chronicle in its use of found footage, it's more like last year's Earth to Echo, which is a movie that could've been a fun movie, but one of the many problems was that it was found footage when it didn't need to be. In fact, found footage made that movie worse. Same thing here. I started this movie doing my best to like it, but we didn't get very far at all before I started to think about what the movie would be like it was shot normally. Honestly, it would've been a much better movie. So yes, the found footage hurt this movie quite a bit. Can you imagine would Back to the Future would've been like if it were done found footage style? Yeah, that sounds really weird to me, too. If you don't need to do found footage and you can in fact make a better movie without it, then don't do found footage. I hope all future movie makers are taking notes on that.

But ok, what about the actual movie itself? Had the only problem in the movie been the terrible use of found footage, that in theory could've been forgiven to a degree. But that's the problem. The actual movie itself isn't that good. It's a time travel movie that has every time traveling cliche in the book. I mean, think of every time traveling movie you've watched and put together the typical generic storyline for such a movie. I'm willing to bet that you would come up with something like this: people/person discovers a way to travel in time, they have fun with time travel for a while, something bad starts to happen, potential ripple effects happen that change the future, then because of this they try to figure out a way to make it so they never time traveled in the first place or they realize that life is good without time travel so they try to go back to normal. Right? Right. That's what this movie is to a t. No originality. Nothing unpredictable. Just bland, boring time travel. What makes it worse is that the movie spoils itself at the very beginning. The whole premise is that the main kid watches a video of his 7th birthday party and sees his current self in the mirror. The second you see that scene, you know everything that is going to happen and you're exactly right. Finally, these kids don't even do anything interesting with the time travel. I mean, one kid wants to go back and ace a test, one girl wants to go get revenge on a bully, then they go to an Imagine Dragons concert. Stuff that teenagers would do with time travel at first. But I was hoping they would do more. You know, take the time travel to the next level? Nope.

So overall, Project Almanac is a movie that had a lot of potential. Chronicle proved that the found footage genre can be used very effectively, even when the story surrounds a group of teenage kids. Project Almanac went this direction and even had a time travel premise that they could've done amazing things with. But they don't. This movie isn't unwatchably bad. I'd much rather go back and re-watch this than some of the other movies I've seen this month. But the problem is that this has so much potential that it just throws away for a boring, predictable, safe, cliche time travel movie that gives the found footage genre an even worse name by completely misusing it. I waited a long time for this movie. I was even to the point where I decided that I was excited for this movie. I wanted it to be good. I tried to like it. But I have to be honest. This movie isn't that good. My grade for Project Almanac is a 6/10.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Paddington Review

The Paddington Bear has a very long, prestigious history. He is most famous in British children's literature and television, but he also has a presence all around the world with millions of families. I'm going to be completely honest, Paddington wasn't a part of my life growing up. Thus when I saw the initial teaser, I was confused about what all the fuss was about when so many people became so excited with the knowledge that a Paddington movie was going to happen. Yes, I quickly educated myself. When the actual trailer came out, I wasn't blown away. What kept me hoping was the knowledge that this character is a very beloved character to many, so despite what the trailer was showing me, I decided that this could be a fun family film for Christmas time. Then it got postponed. In the U.S. anyways. It was a smart move actually because the market here was very crowded at Christmas and this January release allowed for the movie to actually break out and perform well. Paddington still came out around Christmas time in his home country, however, and they loved him. That there was a very good sign to me and thus I officially got myself excited for this.

If you know me well enough, you'll know that I am very diverse in my taste of movies and as a part of that I actually really enjoy family movies. With the idea in mind that this was a beloved character and the British loved the movie, I had high hopes for this. But holy freaking cow! I was totally unprepared for the high-octane emotional rollercoaster that I went on during this movie. In case you happen to be in a place like myself with Paddington, what happens in this movie is that there is a British explorer that goes on a trip to Peru and discovers a unique type of bear. While these bears do have their bear-like attributes, they are a lot more human than bear in many ways. Many years pass after this initial discovery and a certain sequence of events happens that I won't spoil that causes one of the younger bears, later named Paddington, to go on a journey from Peru to London to find a new family. This movie is all about Paddington trying to find a home and a family in London, which ends up being a lot harder than he thought.

There's a lot of great things about this movie. Let's start out out with the fact that Paddington is an absolutely adorable character. You can't help but just love the heck out of him. I totally want Paddington to come live with me at my home. That would be fantastic. So many kudos go to the team bringing Paddington to life. The CGI is great. The writing of his character is great. Ben Wishaw, who plays Q in Skyfall, as the voice is great. Everything about Paddington is just excellent. Adding to that are the whole range of emotions that are present in this. I was genuinely laughing hysterically for a lot of the film. The timing of the comedy was brilliant and there's a lot of little details that were done to perfection that made it even better. Good comedies are sometimes hard to come by, which made this movie feel like a breath of fresh air. But it's not just a gag-filled movie like the trailer would lead you to believe. The story has a whole ton of heart. The movie brings you all the feel-goods with Paddington's character, which also makes this movie actually really sad at points as you watch him struggle to fit in. I obviously won't say how this movie turns out, but one thing I didn't expect was to be fighting back tears towards the end. It's just an amazing, well-written story with a lot of strong family-related themes.

In addition to all this, what really makes this work perfectly is the cast of the movie. It's actually rather loaded. I already mentioned Ben Wishaw from Skyfall, who will be reprising that role in Spectre later this year. We also have Michael Gambon, Dumbledore from Harry Potter; Peter Capaldi, the newest Doctor in Doctor Who; Sally Hawkins, who randomly scored an Oscar nomination last year for her work in Blue Jasmine; and the great Nicole Kidman. All of these people did a great job. I even liked the two kids in the movie, Madeline Harris and Samuel Joshlin. But of course if you've seen the previews, you'll know that I have left one big name out and that's because I'm saving the best for last. Hugh Bonneville. I actually didn't know him much at all before this. Looking at his filmography, I'm realizing that this revelation might make Downton Abbey fans mad. Sorry. I haven't watched that show yet. But holy cow! He plays the bitter father in this that doesn't want anything to do with Paddington and he pulls off an amazing performance in that. It's great to see the progression of his character throughout the movie. Had this movie been eligible for the Oscars this year (it will be next year because of the postponed release date), I would've been willing to put his name in the best actor race.

So overall, when push came to shove, I was finally able to say that I was excited for this movie pre-release, but I did not expect it to be even half as good as it was. I was expecting a fun family film. What I got was one of the best family movies that I've seen in a while full of all kind of emotions due to a great cast, great writing, and a great story. Had this come out on Christmas, this definitely would've been considered for my top 10 best movies of the year list and it may have actually made it. There's going to be a heck of a lot of competition for that list this year, so being that it's January I'm not even going to go there. It's also kind of lame calling this the best movie of the year so far. Even though it has been, there's literally been no competition as all the new releases this month have sucked. But we'll see what happens come year's end. The old geezers from the Oscars will probably forget that this movie exists by the time next January arrives, but I sure won't. I'm giving Paddington a 9/10.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Blackhat Review

At the very beginning of this year, I gave to you my yearly movie preview of movies I was excited about, nervous about, and on the fence about. On the list of movies I was excited about, the first movie I included was actually Blackhat. It looked like an intense thriller about a relevant subject matter that starred one of my favorite actors in Chris Hemsworth. They couldn't go wrong with this could they? What I failed to take into account is that this is the month of January. The only thing good about the month of January are the Holiday holdovers and the Oscar-contending expansion movies. It is always a bad month for new releases and this month so far as been a great example of that. The only good movie this month so far that was a new release is Paddington and that's only in January because Christmas got too crowded. But man. The Woman in Black 2? Taken 3? The Boy Next Door? Strange Magic? Mortdecai? It's been a terrible month so far for new releases. Unfortunately we have to add Blackhat to that list of slop, because no. This isn't a good movie.

Like I said, Blackhat stars Chris Hemsworth as an ex-convict that is trying to help the FBI stop a major cyber criminal. I called this a relevant movie because there actually has been a few recent cyber hacks that have scared some people, most notably when Sony was hacked right before the release of The Interview with the threat that 9/11-style attacks would happen if that movie was released. Is this a relevant movie? Nope. Not at all. That's sad because a really interesting opportunity was completely missed because this movie is just boring. We start with a whole ton of buildup. Not a bad strategy. I mean, something terrible is happening and one of our cyber gurus from the FBI mentions that the only person that can help them is his old roommate, who is currently in prison for hacking and robbing several banks. Ok, whatever. Then we get him out of prison and he helps and there is even more buildup and suddenly I'm wondering when the heck something is going to happen. Finally something does happen. A romance. Wait, what?

Chris Hemsworth is our prisoner that comes and helps us find the villain. And I hate to say it, but this is actually a miscast. Chris Hemsworth does not look like a computer hacker at all. You look at him and you think that this is a man who spends his all his free time working out in the gym, not learning all the tricks of computer hacking. It's a bit silly. But of course because of his looks, I mean he was voted as the sexiest man alive, soon after his old roommate breaks him out of prison that guy's sister immediately falls in love with him. Thus after a lot of buildup, we are suddenly witnessing the two all alone in a restaurant eating dinner together. I don't even remember how this happened. It just does. And it doesn't work. There is no chemistry between the two at all, but the movie keeps on going with it anyways, because... why? I have no idea. Cut it with the garbage and the romance, make the movie more intense and this could've been good. But no.

What happens after this first scene of romance? More building. Dang it movie, are you kidding me? DO SOMETHING!!! Then finally, we have a random scene where a few thugs walk in where Chris Hemsworth is and Hemsworth goes all Thor on them and kicks their trash single-handedly. Where did this come from? I thought he was supposed to be a computer hacker. How does he have time to be this good at fighting? Oh well, that was cool. But then we slow down again and do nothing. At this point, we are at least halfway through the movie, possibly more and since nothing is happening, the other three people in the theater with me get up and leave. I'm left all alone. I actually kind of enjoyed that. It's fun having the whole theater to yourself. Did you know that it is actually really comfortable if you lay across all the seats and watch all the movie? I wasn't planning on falling asleep. I didn't pay $7 to go take a nap, but I made myself comfortable. Then I got on my phone and browsed through facebook, responded to a few things, browsed around doing other useless things. I was bored. I was watching a thriller and it was not thrilling. By the way, don't touch your phone in the theater when there are other people in watching the movie with you. There's a reason why the theater yells at you to put your phone away a hundred times before starting. It's really annoying! But when you are the only one there, it's perfectly fine. And sometimes necessary.

KABOOM!!!!!!! Yup. Suddenly my phone is in my pocket and I'm sitting up paying attention. I don't really know why or how we went from being a computer-hacking thriller to a full out action movie, but we did. I'm not going to lie, there were actually several scenes in the second half of the movie that were really intense and fun to watch. It almost got to the point where I thought I was going to actually walk out and give it a positive review. But as soon as these action scenes happened, they quickly left and the movie went back to being a boring sludge-fest. Occasionally a fun scene showed up again and I got excited, but it quickly ended. No, this movie is not good. The advertising in this movie I thought was excellent. The trailer looks great. But it's boring as heck with a stupid romance and only a few fun action scenes that quickly come and go. Blackhat got completely ignored at the box office last weekend and for good reason. Don't bother giving this movie your money. My grade for Blackhat is a 5/10. 

Foxcatcher Review

Foxcatcher was one of my most anticipated movies from the year 2014. I first heard about it back towards the end of 2013 and the premise intrigued me quite a bit. But then the movie played this annoying little game of avoid Adam as much as possible. It premiered in film festivals throughout 2014 that I of course were impossible for me to attend. It finally hit theaters back in November, but it only stayed in very limited release. While a lot of the other Oscar-contending movies finally decided to show their face in theaters near me, Foxcatcher teased the freaking heck out of me and it drove me insane. It just refused to show up in a theater near me. But FINALLY all my waiting was rewarded as it got a wide release on the weekend the Oscar nominations were announced, which was a full two months after it first showed up in limited release. I did actually see this before making my end of year movie lists, and while it didn't quite show up on the best movies list, I did think that this was a good, solid film.

What is Foxcatcher about? Ummmm... I'm going to tread very lightly on that simply because I knew the whole movie going into it. The thing is I didn't think I knew the whole movie. I thought there was going to be a lot more than what I was told or read, but there wasn't. So that actually dampered my experience. I don't like knowing what's going to happen at the end of a movie before I go see it. It takes away the intensity and the experience in my opinion. Moral of the story is that I'm not going to tell you much about it. I also really hope I haven't accidentally spoiled the movie for you within the last year or so. If I did, sorry! What I will say is that this movie is about two brothers, Mark and David Schultz. Both have won Olympic golds in wrestling and the 1988 Olympics in Seoul are coming, so they are training for that. Mark jumps on an opportunity presented by multimillionaire John du Pont to come join Team Foxcatcher, which is essentially a facility to help train and prepare wrestlers.

If I'm being honest, I'm sad to report that the storyline of this movie didn't captivate me as much as I was hoping it would based on the premise that intrigued me so much. I suppose part of that is due to me knowing exactly what happens, but yet I've seen many historical movies where I've known exactly what happens that I've still loved, so that can't take the whole blame. It's just that there's not a whole lot that happens. It's a slow-moving movie with a ton of really intense build up. But there comes a point where I was hoping the movie would stop building up and start doing something, but it really doesn't until the very end.

What saves the movie, though, are three absolutely excellent performances by our trio of stars, Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, and Channing Tatum. Let's start with Steve Carell. The man is a really funny comedian. I'm sometimes hit and miss with his movies, but in general I have a very positive view of him as a comedian. However, I don't actually recall seeing him in a serious role. If I have, it's at least something that doesn't happen very often. This performance by him in Foxcatcher puts him in a completely new light. The man is an absolute creep in this movie. Sure, part of that is due to his makeup, but for the most part you have a comedian acting like a crazy, borderline-psychopath and it's incredible. I love it when an actor or actress can step outside his or her box and do an excellent job at something he or she is not used to doing. That is Steve Carell in this movie and that deserves a ton of applause.

However, with all that praise in mind, there's another member of our trio that I was even more impressed with and that is Channing Tatum. Tatum is every girl's pretty boy and has earned himself a solid reputation as a comedian as well. The label of a great actor is something he's not typically given, though. But holy cow! While Carell gives a creepy performance that is partly due to makeup, Tatum gives a very passionate, very emotional performance. I've never seen him give this strong of a performance and because of this, if it were up to me, I would've given the best actor nomination to Tatum instead of Carell. He deserves a lot more recognition for this than he is getting. In fact, he does such a good job that I am now looking forward to seeing him in more movies, which he has plenty of coming up, including next month's Jupiter Ascending, Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight at the end of the year, and a new recurring role as Gambit in the X-Men movies.

In the end, Foxcatcher didn't quite live up to all the hype that I gave it, but it was still a solid movie that is worth checking out. Steve Carell does a great job as the creepy John du Pont, but in my opinion Channing Tatum is the star of this movie and should've been the one to get the Oscar. Yes, Carell does deserve recognition, but I would've dropped him down to support actor. That would've been more fitting. Mark Ruffalo is the one that actually got the supporting actor nod and while he did do a great job himself -- he's very likable in the film as Channing Tatum's brother and is also very unrecognizable -- he's probably the slighter weaker member of the trio. But yes, Foxcatcher is finally in theaters nationwide, which means I really think that this is a movie you should give a chance if for nothing else to see Steve Carell and Channing Tatum go outside their box and pull off excellent performances in serious roles. My grade for Foxcatcher is an 8/10.

Monday, January 19, 2015

DrogeMiester's Top 10 WORST Movies of 2014

Now that I have posted my Top 10 BEST Movies of 2014 list, its now time to go the other way and give you my list of top 10 worst movies of 2014. Once again, I have not seen every movie this year, especially certain ones that looked so bad that I didn't consider them worth my time, like that awful string of horror movies that came out. But I have seen enough that I feel comfortable with the picks I have and I'm usually pretty good with giving all sorts of movies a chance. First off, there have been many times where I have gone into a movie thinking that I would hate it, but didn't think it was that bad. Second, sometimes it's fun to go into a bad movie so that I can have fun ripping it apart in a review. So yeah, while I did see plenty of great movies this year, I also saw a whole bunch of stinkers. It's also worth noting that this isn't a list of most disappointing movies. That's a completely different category. These movies are just plain out terrible movies. While I did enjoy revealing my list of favorite movies, this list is even more fun to reveal because sometimes I just enjoy venting about terrible movies. So with that in mind, let's jump right in!

10- The Other Woman

Holy cow! What a hypocritical pile of garbage this movie was. This movie was trying to be a movie that empowers women, but they totally failed at that because not only does this make men look complete trash (I mean, seriously, what man out there actually cheats on his wife with 5+ different girls at the same time? C'mon!), but they made women look terrible, too. I mean, you're going to try to make a movie that empowers women, but you shove every terrible woman stereotype out there your own movie? Kate Upton's character is the only example I need to prove my point. Just go watch the trailer and you'll know what I mean. They send contradictory messages here and it just doesn't make sense. On top of that, this is supposed to be a comedy. If you want to make a successful comedy, it's important that you actually make people laugh. I did not laugh once in this movie. It was not funny. It was just terrible. And please, someone needs to do something about this Cameron Diaz woman. I remember a time when I considered her a good actress. But everything she's done recently has been complete crap. What happened?

9- I, Frankenstein

Now here's a movie that was absolutely hilarious! I was cracking up almost the entire film! The issue here is that it wasn't supposed to be a comedy. They were trying to make a good movie that many would find quite enjoyable. But they must've been plain out stoned when they wrote this script because nothing made sense at all. I mean, you have Frankenstein's monster as the star of this and they turn him into a sexy stud with all kinds of super insane martial arts skills? What? And they decide to name him Adam? Oh man, that's my name. My name did not fit this character at all. But then he gets caught in this convoluted, weird plot where he is stuck right in the middle of this this war between Gargoyles vs. Demons? What? Why? My goodness! Sad thing is that there were great actors in this movie. I felt embarrassed for them. Nothing about this made any sense at all. The only reason I don't have this lower is because it isn't unwatchably bad. In fact, if you're in the mood to watch a horrible movie where you can sit with your friends and make fun of it Mystery Science Theater 3000 style, then this is actually a good candidate. But still. It belongs on this list.

8- Pompeii 

Ever been in a movie where the characters were so bad, the acting was so terrible, and the story was so poorly written that you were actually happy when the movie was interrupted mid-scene by this massive volcano that destroyed the whole city, because it meant you didn't have to be tortured anymore by this travesty of a movie? Yeah, that's a bad thing. But that's Pompeii. Which is disappointing because if you make a movie about a terrible tragedy like this, it actually has the potential to be a super epic, emotionally-charged movie if you have a great story with great acting to go along with it. But this movie is terrible. I hated the characters. I hated the acting. I hated the story. I hated the script. There was nothing good about this. And yes, I cheered when they all got killed by the volcano. Good riddance! There was actually one good character in this movie. That's Mr. Eko from the TV show LOST. Yes, the actor has a name, but it's extremely long, so I just refer to him as Mr. Eko. If everyone would've been as cool as him, maybe this would've been a good movie. But alas, one good character does not save a whole movie that is full of complete crap.

7- Transformers: Age of Extinction

I'm actually surprised that this movie ended up at this point of this list. It was so bad that I was certain it was going to be towards the top, but ultimately I found six movies that I hated more, which is saying a lot about the quality of the movies that ended up on this list. No I'm not a Transformers hater. I will actually admit that I liked the first Transformers. The second one isn't very good at all, but it wasn't a horrible movie. And third one was indeed a step above the second. Going into this fourth installment, I actually had a bit of hope because it had a new cast of talented actors and promised us dinobots. That actually sounded like it could be cool. But my goodness, was this movie boring. All the good actors in the movie were as terrible. It's as if Michael Bay asked them all to pull off the worst performances of their career. I especially feel bad for Nicola Peltz, who many will now see as the young blonde skank from Transformers 4, when she's actually a good young actress. Just go watch the first season of Bates Motel. Also the story was the thinnest story of all the Transformers movies. It was pretty much just three hours of explosions with endless product placement. The dinobots weren't even hardly in the movie, which was disappointing. They were thrown in there as an after thought. There came a point where I felt the movie was about to end, so I looked at the time on my phone and there was an HOUR left in the movie still. Ouch! But yet for some reason this movie was the biggest movie of the year when you look at the worldwide box office, which means you know Transformers 5 is coming. Yipee!!

6- Vampire Academy

Hey look, I'm your best friend. Since we're both vampires, I'm going to let you pull down my shirt just a bit and awkwardly let you bite my shoulder/neck area so you can suck my blood, because you really need it to stay healthy and that's what friends do, right? Oh my goodness, if that wasn't the weirdest and most awkward scene of the year, then I don't know what was. Oh wait, yes I do. At the end of this movie, there are the most terrible action scenes that I have seen in a movie. I swear, when someone punched someone else, that person (or vampire) went floating, almost in slow motion, for like 20 feet. What? Also, between the awkward blood-sucking at the beginning and the horrid action scenes at the end, was a movie that was pretty much like following a couple of teenage girls as they spend time in high school. This was Vampire High School, or Vampire Academy, but pretty much the same thing. I mean, who in their right mind would want to watch a movie like this? And this was based on a book series? For the love of everything that is good, I really hope these books are better than this movie, because it's a sad day if they aren't. I also hope that this is the movie that kills the Vampire craze that Twilight made so popular.

5- America: Imagine the World Without Her

I usually don't include documentaries on my best or worst movies of the year lists, but this man named Dinesh D'Souza is a special kind of stupid, so he really deserved a place on this list. D'Souza is the man that did 2016: Obama's America, which in mind is one of the most laughable documentaries made. That should've been a red flag. But no, I was actually intrigued by this subtitle. What if the United States lost the Revolutionary War? What if the South actually won the Civil War and split our country? What if Hitler and Germany won World War II? These are interesting alternate realities that I was hoping the movie was going to dive into and thus take things full circle by making me happy about my country and happy that things worked out like they did. Too bad this isn't what this documentary is about. Turns out that this is just D'Souza tooting his own horn for how right he was with his predictions in 2016: Obama's America. What?!?! No, your predictions were way off. But he wasn't done there. He then spent a ton of time justifying all the dark parts of our history like slavery and our treatment of the Native Americans, which felt extremely racist, to prove to us how great everything in our past was. All this to show a contrast of how terrible our current state is and how our country is doomed with evil people like Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton, who he pretty much treated like the spawn of Satan. I'm not a fan of either of those people. In fact, I usually consider myself republican. But like I said, Dinesh D'Souza is a special kind of stupid.

4- If I Stay

I'm not usually into teenage romance movies. In fact, I usually skip all the sappy chick flicks that come out. This one I gave a shot because it actually sounded like an interesting premise. Girl gets in a car crash where her parents and brother get killed, and she is in critical condition in the hospital. However, she has an out of body experience where her ghost or spirit is there and she has to make the decision of if she wants to stay and live life despite what has happened to her family or move on to the next life with her family. That sounded interesting. Too bad that that wasn't what this movie was about. I would say about 90 percent of this film is in fact told in flashbacks and is instead a teen romance flick about this girl and her boyfriend. Out of all the romance movies I've watched, I've never seen a romance that was so poorly done. Usually I don't like chick flicks because they are so cliche and predictable. But that's not the problem here. There is absolutely no chemistry in this movie between Chloe Grace Moretz and her boy Jamie Blackley. Everything is so forced and so poorly written that I was begging the movie to stop with these flashbacks and focus on the current situation, but they didn't. It came to the point where the movie theater started to feel like a prison because I wanted to get my review out and I don't feel good writing a review about a movie that I left early. But even when they did go to the hospital scenes, they actually made no sense. For some reason, she was confined to the laws of physics as a ghost and in the end, I really have no idea if she had any say in what happened. When the movie finally ended, I literally felt like I had just been released from prison. It felt great to get out of that theater.

3- The Legend of Hercules 

Let's make one thing really clear before we begin here. This is NOT Dwayne Johnson's Hercules movie that was released in July. That movie I actually enjoyed in a guilty pleasure sort of way because it wasn't that great of a movie. But it was a lot of fun. This movie is another Hercules movie that came out in January. Yes, we had two of them this year. This was actually the first 2014 movie that I reviewed on my blog and man did we start the year off bad. For a while there I thought that perhaps the first movie I saw was going to be the worst and I was almost right. First off, the CGI in this movie is perhaps the worst CGI I've ever seen. It really didn't look finished. In fact, it was so bad that for a moment I thought I was in an animated movie. I kid you not on that one. Then we have our story. Was there one? Hardly. And if there was, it certainly had nothing to do with Hercules or any sort of related mythology. There were action scenes in this movie. They copied the 300 style of action where it went into slow motion every time someone attacked. But it was terrible. All the characters were poorly written and poorly acted, especially Hercules and his girlfriend, who were played by Kellan Lutz and Gaia Weiss. Both were extremely good looking, which is why I think they were cast. In fact, for much of the movie I felt I was watching a photo shoot. No. Just no. The Razzies nominated this movie for worst screen combo. No it wasn't Kellan Lutz and Gaia Weiss. It was "Kellan Lutz & Either His Abs, His Pecs or His Glutes." I laughed so hard when I read that.

2- Left Behind

They got the name of this movie wrong. It should've been titled Nicolas Cage Lands a Plane During the Rapture because that's what this movie is about. It's really weird when the rapture happens because all the "righteous" people just disappear, leaving all their clothes behind as if they went to heaven naked. I really hope they were given a robe when they made it to the pearly gates, because that would be a bit awkward otherwise. I actually do spend a lot of time defending Nicolas Cage. The man does have some good acting skills and he does have some good movies out. In fact, there's this movie called Joe that he did that came out this year. I've not seen it, but I hear it's really good. But for crying out loud, I have zero defense for the man when he does stuff like this. Honestly, I think that if this movie was made by a bunch of anti-Christians that were trying to make Christianity and the idea of the rapture look completely stupid, I think they would've done a good job. But the problem was this was made by Christians who were trying to promote the principles in this movie. I mean, I consider myself a Christian, so I'm definitely not just hating on a Christian movie, but this is just bad. All the Christians look and act like complete idiots whereas all the non-Christians are the decent actors who actually have decent logical points. But yet they are the ones that are "left behind." Not to mention that the movie is actually quite offensive when you analyze all the characters that are left behind. This movie is actually based on a book that was also turned into a movie 10+ years ago by Kirk Cameron. I had a friend challenge me to watch both and determine which one is worse. I'm sorry, I have to go back on my word on that because after watching this recent Left Behind, I'm not touching that older one with a 39 1/2 foot pole, because the reviews are equally as bad. I mean, would you rather have your arm bitten off by a crocodile or an alligator?

1- Noah

Congratulations Noah, you have earned the honor of being my worst movie of 2014. This wasn't a complete runaway, though. It was until I subjected myself to the previously mentioned Left Behind. I actually debated quite a bit between the two before deciding on this one. Also, I'm pretty sure that Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas would be a contender for this as well. I just had no way to watch that movie. It didn't expand wide enough. But why did Noah earn this spot? Many reasons. Before I jump into those, I want to make this 100 percent clear that I didn't expect this to be the story of Noah as told in the Bible. I knew long before this movie came out that they were planning on something very different. Yes, that made me nervous. But then the trailer came out and it actually led me to believe that this could be a good movie, despite the changes. But no, this wasn't. First, this movie is blasphemous to anyone that considers themselves a Christian. I'm not going turn this into a religious debate, but just trust me on that one. Second, even if you ignore the fact that the movie is blasphemous, this is extremely political. It preaches environmentalism in your face so loudly that it completely takes you out of the movie. I hate it when a movie does that. Third, even if we ignore the blasphemy and the political preaching, this movie is just weird, dark, and depressing. There were about two minutes where the movie entertained me. Outside that, I was just wondering what in the heck was happening. This movie does have good acting in it. I don't blame Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, or Anthony Hopkins for this. It wasn't their fault. It was all on director/writer Darren Aronofsky. He just lost all respect from me and is going to have to come up with something dang good for me to ever trust him as a director again.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

DrogeMiester's Top 10 BEST Movies of 2014

We're in mid-January right now, which means it's time for me to finally reveal my list of favorite of the year! Many have already revealed their Top 10 lists, but I personally held off for a few weeks because there were a few more movies that I wanted to catch up on before I felt comfortable making this list. No, I haven't seen every single movie, but I have seen enough that I feel very comfortable with the ten movies that I have come up with. It's worth noting that when I review movies, I like giving them a grade. However, you'll notice here that some of these movies might seem out of order based on the grade I gave them. This is because when I create my end of year lists, I completely ignore the grade I gave them and focus solely on the movie itself because I'm not comparing the movie to other movies when assigning the grade, but with the end of year lists, it's all about the comparison. Also, I saw a LOT of movies in 2014 and I loved a LOT of those movies. It was a great year. But that means it was very hard to create this list because in keeping myself to ten movies, there were a lot of movies that I loved that I ended up leaving off. It broke my heart. But alas, I didn't want to do a Top 15 or a Top 20 list because that's too much in opinion. So you can call this list the best of the best. Now without further ado, let's jump right in!

10- Kill the Messenger

This spot was probably the hardest spot to pick. Although I struggled with the specific order, I had my top nine movies pretty much set for a while. But there were over ten movies that I seriously considered for this spot. When push came to shove, I couldn't leave Kill the Messenger off the list. This is a movie that hit me pretty hard. The media do a lot of dumb things sometimes. I'll be the first to admit that. However, there are times where people from the media are in fact the victim. This is what this movie shows. Gary Webb was a reporter back in the 1990's who just wanted to inform the world of a situation that he discovered. Doing so ruined his life. This is a sad, yet powerful story that shows a different side of the media that some aren't aware of. Jeremy Renner gives an excellent performance as Gary Webb. If it were up to me, I would've given him an Oscar nomination. He was that good.

9- Captain America: The Winter Soldier

You know that I had to make room for what I feel is the best solo Avengers movie made yet. Don't get me wrong, I loved Guardians of the Galaxy. It was one of the final cuts for this list. I just loved The Winter Soldier more. The greatest thing about it is that it took the character of Captain America and transformed him from a cool character to a totally awesome character. This whole movie was 100 percent pure entertainment. The story was deep and complex compared to other superhero movies. The chemistry between everyone was excellent, especially between Captain America, Black Widow, and Falcon. Speaking of Black Widow, this movie transformed her from a cool side character into one of my favorite Avengers. All the action in the movie was totally awesome, especially when Captain America used his shield. This was Marvel at their best. I was already a huge fan, but this movie paired with Guardians took Marvel to another level.

8- Edge of Tomorrow

Speaking of 100 percent pure entertainment, next on this list is my favorite blockbuster of the summer, which is a bit of a spoiler for the rest of this list. You now know a whole lot of movies that sadly won't show up. And yes, I'm calling this movie Edge of Tomorrow. That's its name. I'm not going to ever call this movie Live Die Repeat because that's the tagline. It's a great tagline. Terrible movie title. Edge of Tomorrow is a great title. Anywho, some were nervous about this movie before it came out. They were tired of Tom Cruise and they weren't interested in him doing yet another sci-fi movie. I was totally down from the very beginning, though. I don't care about Tom's personal life. He's a great actor and I've always enjoyed his movies. And the idea of a sci-fi version of Groundhog Day just sounded like a great idea. But even with my excitement, this movie still caught me by surprise. I expected to have fun with it. I wasn't expecting to get completely blown away by how insanely amazing and awesome this is, but that's exactly what happened.

7- Gone Girl

If you know me well enough, you'll know that I am a huge fan of crime dramas. That's what I thought I was getting myself into as I went in to see this. For a while, that was exactly what was happening. Ben Affleck's wife went missing and most people were convinced he killed his wife. I was enjoying it. But there came a point in this movie where everything changed. This went from a basic crime drama to an insane and crazy thriller with several huge twists and turns that had I did not see coming at all. You've heard people say that their jaw dropped. Most of the time I think this is used in more of a figurative way instead of a literal way. But I kid you not. When I first saw this movie in theaters, my jaw literally dropped. And for the whole second half of the movie, my mouth was wide open in a state of shock with both hands covering it. I don't want to go into too much detail about Rosamund Pike's character, but holy freaking cow! She may very well be the scariest and freakiest female character that I have ever seen in a movie.

6- The LEGO Movie

You might be surprised to see this movie this low. I loved The LEGO Movie. As someone who loved to play with LEGOs growing up, this hit all the right chords for me. Not only is this a laugh out loud movie that definitely has the rewatchability factor, but it also has a surprisingly good, emotional story to go with it. Also, the attention to detail is exceptional. Every scene is loaded with what I have called LEGO-isms. People who have played with LEGOs will notice that everything they ever did with LEGOs growing up is hidden somewhere in this movie. It's fantastic. Topping it all off is an ending that is totally brilliant and completely changes everything you thought of the movie initially and makes it a totally new experience upon a second watch. For a while this was my top movie of the year. And I really thought it would end in the top three. What happened? When push came to shove, I realized that there were five movies that I liked more. That's all. It was an excellent year!

5- Whiplash

Remember how it was to be a part of high school band? I do. Those were great times! Now if you do remember, take that and imagine you have the high school band teacher from Hell who will yell at you, swear at you, and throw chairs at your if you are even off tune by the slightest bit. Not so fun anymore, right? This band teacher I am describing is what JK Simmons is like in Whiplash, except this is a college, not high school. It will only take 20 minutes or so before you realize why Simmons is getting so much awards attention. But him alone doesn't make Whiplash what it is. Miles Teller is a student that is dead set on being one of the best drummers ever and in order to do so, he goes head to head with JK Simmons in what turns out to be one of the most intense movies of the year. There was a moment when I thought this movie was going to end and I was going to be happy with that. But then it took a turn and upped that and I was really impressed. When I thought it was going to end again, it took yet another turn and got even better. I swear it did this four or five times and by the actual end I was completely blown away. This movie got almost completely ignored at the box office, which means that many of you reading this may not have seen it. Go fix that!

4- The Babadook

A horror movie in my top five? Unheard of, right? I really am not a fan of horror movies at all, but that's because there have been an endless stream of extremely stupid horror movies that rely completely on stupid characters doing stupid things with stupid villains that usually leads to a whole bunch of gory slash scenes and jump scare after jump scare after jump scare after jump scare. Most of these movies have terrible acting and terrible writing, but because they cost only a few dollars and are really easy to make, the second one of these movies gets even the slightest of profits, you get ten of them in ten years. That's why I don't like horror movies and that's why I just choose to skip most of them. But holy cow is The Babadook an excellent movie. Not only is this an insanely scary movie that had me in a weird position at the end of the movie, but this had great writing and great acting to go along with it. It's an amazing story that deals with a lot of serious, real issues that many people face such as depression, the loss of a loved one, and how to raise a rambunctious child all by yourself. This isn't a horror movie about a monster, a demon, a ghost, or a serial killer haunting a woman and her child. This is a very psychological horror movie that sticks with you long after you finish.

3- Nightcrawler

This here is what I called a Journalism thriller. If you noticed, this would be the second journalism-related movie in my Top 10. The fact that I am a Journalism student right now could have an effect on that. While Kill the Messenger shows that sometimes people in the media are actually the victim, Nightcrawler definitely paints the exact opposite picture. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a freelance crime journalist that will literally do anything and everything to get the crime footage he wants. At first you feel for him. He's just a poor guy wanting a job, but as you get further into the movie you realize that this guy is a creep. He is a vermin. He is a menace. He has no soul. But for some weird reason, you are almost sadistically rooting for him to succeed, which in turn makes you wonder if you actually have a soul. It was weird. But holy cow does Jake Gyllenhaal knock it out of the park in this. While Rosumand Pike pulls off my favorite performance from an actress this year, Jake Gyllenhaal pulls off my favorite from an actor. I've always liked Gyllenhaal as an actor. He's done many great things. But this is the best performance of his career. This movie is also very relevant to society right now and I'm not just talking in the journalism field. How far will some people go to get fame and/or recognition? Where's the line? It doesn't exist for some people.

2- Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

I really like the full title of this movie. That second part really tells a lot about the movie. But for the sake of time and space, I will just refer to this as Birdman. No this is not a superhero movie. This is about a washed up actor who used to play the lead role in a superhero movie called Birdman and is trying to make a comeback by writing, directing, and starring in a Broadway play. The fact that Michael Keaton stars is really cool because, while I wouldn't call him washed up, he is definitely a forgotten actor in many circles who used to play the lead role in a superhero movie also named after a flying animal (Batman). With all the influx of superhero movies today, if you were to name off all the actors who have played superheroes, Keaton is a name that many would probably forget to mention. But that's just one cool thing about the movie. This movie has so many themes in it, that I could sit here for hours talking about all of them. Every character in this movie has their own issues and problems that make this movie really interesting. Every actor playing those characters also gives stellar performances. In the end, it's also a very psychological movie, which of course is a plus for me. And on top of all of that, there was some serious editing magic with this combined with some long shots that gave this movie the appearance of being done in one shot. That blew me away. I honestly think that this is a movie that will be studied in film history classes for years to come. Not that that's how I judge a movie, but still.

1- Boyhood

I saw Boyhood  back in July and the second I walked out, I knew that this was going to be my top movie of the year. I didn't know how any movie would come close and nothing did. When I heard of this 12-year project, I was super excited to see it, especially since it came from a director in Richard Linklater that I've learned to trust. What's the storyline of this movie, some have asked? Life. That's my answer. Life isn't just one story. It's a series of smaller stories and experiences. That's exactly what this movie is. Yes there have been movies that have chronicled the life of an individual. But there's never been a movie where we've literally watched a family grow up on screen. However, the concept of this movie isn't the only reason why I loved it. Every part of this movie was perfect in every way from the acting to the directing to the story to the editing to the cinematography. Everything. This was a long movie, but I was fully invested in every single second of the film. In fact, when the three hours were over, I was ready to go on and watch the next three hours of this family's life. It was beautiful. No other movie has affected me like this movie did. As I was literally watching this family grow up in front of me, I reflected on my own life. What have I done? Who are the friends and family that have affected me? What are the experiences that I've had? What are my goals and aspirations for the rest of my life? What am I going to do moving forward? It was a very emotional and very unique experience for me. This isn't just the best movie of the year. This is one of the best movies I've ever seen. In fact, ten years from now when someone asks me what my all-time favorite movie is, my answer could be Boyhood. I'm not ready to make that commitment yet. Too soon. But it's possible.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Taken 3 Review

Liam Neeson saved a whole ton of Jews from the Nazis. He trained both Obi-Wan and Batman.  He's both Zeus and Aslan, making him a god in two different religions. He fights wolves in his spare time. He stopped a terrorist duo from crashing a plane and stopped a serial killer just last year. And he's proven twice now that it's a bad idea to kidnap his family. Why would you kill his wife and try to blame it on him? Bad idea! Yes, we're talking about Taken 3 here. Quite honestly I wasn't a huge fan of Taken at all. I'm good at putting reality on hold for the sake of a fun movie, but for one reason or another, I thought that movie crossed a line somewhere as I just thought it was a dumb movie. Also being honest, I had zero interest in seeing Taken 2 when it came out towards the end of 2012 because I already didn't like the first and the reviews for the second were in the basement. So why did I give Taken 3 a shot? Quite honestly, I realized that my opinion of the franchise wasn't present on my blog, so I saw this so that I could express that opinion. As always, I went in with an open mind, hoping that the movie would surprise, but no. It didn't.

The premise of Taken 3 was actually one that intrigued me. They took it from a kidnapping action movie into a crime drama action movie. I like crime dramas, so I was hoping that this would be good. Taken 3 stars Harrison Ford as Dr. Richard Kimble who is unfairly accused of murdering his wife, so he goes on the run from the police to find the real killer and thus get his name cleared. Oh wait, no, that's not right. That's The Fugitive. Taken 3 stars Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills who is unfairly accused of murdering his wife, so he goes on the run from the police to find the real killer and thus get his name cleared. Yes, I realized that this is why the premise intrigued me. The Fugitive is an amazing movie. Taken 3 has the exact same premise as The Fugitive. This isn't always a bad thing. Sometimes you can have two movies with the exact same premise that are both awesome. This is not the case here, though.

As I reflect on Taken 3, one of the biggest problems that makes this movie a complete mess is the writing. You can do a movie where someone is framed for murder, but in this case it's complete bogus. There is almost nothing in this movie that would make one believe that Bryan Mills actually killed his wife. Ok, his wife is dead in his apartment with a knife on the floor. That's suspicious. It's also suspicious that Bryan Mills immediately runs away. But soon after this, Forest Whitaker's team takes the floor and carefully analyzes the scene. After they do, they should easily pick up on the fact that there is something more happening here. If this was Forest Whitaker's team from Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, they would've cracked this pretty fast. But no. They just put all the blame on Bryan Mills and start chasing him. Even when they realize that there could be others involved, they just say that Mills is their only suspect that they have so they are just going to go after only him. What? This makes no sense at all. Why is this happening? Now if this was the only confusing thing, I could forgive it. But this is just one example. The whole movie is just riddled with terrible writing throughout and it took me out of the movie. 

The acting isn't the problem in this movie. I like Liam Neeson. In fact, he's one of my favorite actors. I usually love his movies. Last year he did Non-Stop and A Walk Among the Tombstones and I enjoyed both of those even though many did not. I even own Non-Stop thanks to a good black Friday deal. Also, as I referenced briefly in the last paragraph, I really like Forest Whitaker in the investigator role. Criminal Minds is one of my favorite current TV shows and I even enjoyed the spin-off show Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior that got cancelled after 13 episodes. If you didn't know, Forest Whitaker was the lead of that Suspect Behavior show, which is why I said that his crew would've solved this case really fast. For me, it was really fun seeing Whitaker back in this role. In fact, it almost made this a good show because he did a good job. It wasn't his fault that the movie was bad and it certain wasn't Liam Neeson's. Both of them were just given nothing to work with.

In addition to the terrible writing throughout that just made this movie laughable, the editing throughout the whole movie, especially during the action scenes, drove me crazy. The movie was full of what must've been hundreds of one-second shots that jumped all over the place. The more intense the action scenes got, the faster, or more frequent, those one-second shots got. It was giving me a headache. If I'm watching an action movie like this, the action is supposed to be entertaining, but it wasn't. It was terrible. And to add to that, the movie took a really long time to finally get to the types of scenes that make up the Taken brand. That being Liam Neeson going through and beating the crap out of everyone that dared come in his way. Most of the movie was just a poorly done, poorly written crime drama where Neeson was running away from the cops and trying to figure out who really killed his wife. There's really nothing Taken about this, except for in the last ten minutes.

In the end, if you are looking for a movie to see this weekend, go see Selma. Or go see one of the holiday holdovers that you missed. Don't give this piece of garbage your money. Taken 3 does have a good cast that do the best with what they are given, but that's about it. I only gave a few specific examples, but the whole movie is full of terrible writing that make the movie not make sense. In addition to that, this is an action movie where the action doesn't really kick into gear until the final third of the movie. And when it does, it is some of the worst action sequences that I have scene in a very long time. The movie was advertised as the final chapter in the Taken series and I really hope that they stay true to that promise because the world shouldn't be punished with more of these crappy taken movies. I'm giving Taken 3 a 5/10. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Selma Review

When I first heard of this movie, I was immediately excited. A Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic? I was totally down. However, I didn't know too much about Selma at that point, so I wasn't quite sure what angle they were planning on going with this. As it turns out, after hearing about the movie I took a class where we just happened to spend the majority of the semester discussing the civil rights era and as a part of that, I learned a lot more about the events that happened at Selma, Alabama, so my excitement for the movie increased. Follow that with all the Oscar buzz surrounding the movie and of course the insanely high reviews (a perfect 100% on Rotten Tomatoes with over 100 reviews counted as of the time of this review) and this was easily one of my most anticipated movies in a while. After two weeks of dancing around in limited release at the end of the year and the beginning of this one, it has finally made it's way to a nationwide release. I'm happy to report that it definitely lives up to all the hype. In fact, I would say that everyone needs to see this movie.

While I would still say that this could be considered a biopic of King, I would say that this is more accurately a movie about the events that happened in Selma. We don't follow King's whole life. We don't even follow the whole civil rights movement. This is a very focused movie that simply follows this period of a few months. If you were like me several months ago and aren't too familiar with Selma, allow me to set the stage without giving away this whole movie. It's 1965 and a lot of the major events that happened during the civil rights movement have already passed. President Lyndon B Johnson has recently passed the civil rights bill and although things are looking good, the fight for equal rights is far from over. At the beginning of the movie, we have Martin Luther King, Jr. talking with President Johnson about the next step that he feels is the top priority, that of giving blacks the right to vote. Technically they had this right already, but there were a lot of things standing in their way that made it so they really weren't allowed to vote and rarely if ever held public office. President Johnson realizes the importance, but doesn't feel he can make it a priority. With this in mind, King takes his battle to Selma, Alabama to try to make it happen. The events that happen here, which is what this movie is all about, are considered by many as a major turning point in the battle for civil rights.

This movie gets your attention right at the very beginning by depicting a very tragic moment. Although it slows down a bit after that intro, it picks up again very shortly and for most of the movie it remains very intense and emotional. What made it even more emotional for me was the fact that this all happened not very long ago. In fact, there may be many of you reading this review that were alive when all this happened As I was studying the civil rights last year, this was something that hit me pretty hard. This same sentiment hit me really hard during this movie as well, especially when we got to the march on Edmund Pettus Bridge. Holy cow was this sequence done well. I knew what was coming. As it was right about to happen, I almost completely lost it. So many feelings just hit me like a ton of bricks. How could an event like this happen? How is it that human beings could be treated this terribly by other human beings simply because of the color of their skin? And it's not like this was some event in the distant past. It was very recently. In fact racism still exists. People are unfairly judged all the time based on the color of their skin and it's downright terrible.

The timing of this movie is incredible. In the last few months we as a country have experienced events that prove that the battle against racism and equal rights is definitely very current. As you are watching this movie, you can't help but sit there and reflect on the recent events such as Ferguson that are going on and suddenly as you are doing so, the movie becomes a lot more than just a movie showing what happened 50 years ago. It becomes a very relevant work that is very much a reflection of our society in many ways. It doesn't just show us a battle that was won in the past. It reminds us that we still have a lot of work to do if Dr. King's vision of society is to ever become a reality. And as I was reflecting on all of this, suddenly when Dr. King is giving his speeches, I realized that he isn't just speaking to his audience in 1965. He is speaking directly to everyone sitting there watching the movie. I was just overcome by the whole experience.

What really made this work was an absolutely amazing performance by David Oyelowo (pronounced "oh-yellow-oh") as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I've really enjoyed Oyelowo as an actor. I got to know him in Jack Reacher and ever since then, I have enjoyed all the smaller roles he has done. But I feel, though, that this is his huge breakthrough role and he is incredible. What I found really interesting about this movie was that it didn't sugarcoat things when it came to Dr. King. Yes, he was a great leader, he was smart, he knew how to get things done, and he was an amazing public speaker, but he was also a human being. He made mistakes. He was very vulnerable at times. He had a lot of pressure on his shoulders and things were very tough for him at times. Oyelowo is great at showing both sides of this. I really enjoy it when an actor can completely disappear into a role and that's exactly what Oyelowo does. I didn't see him as an actor. I saw Martin Luther King, Jr. The best actor race is a tough one this year as several people have given performances deserving of the win, but I'm officially on board for Oyelowo to pull it off over all the others. That's how good I felt he was in this.

Overall, I think that Selma is a movie that everyone should see. If all the award buzz and strong reviews aren't enough to convince you to see it, I hope my personal recommendation can put you over the top. This is a movie that needs to be watched. It's an intense movie that is very emotional. Not only does it do a great job of showing these major events of the civil rights movement, but it also acts as a movie that shows us as a society how much work we still have to do if we are to fulfill Dr. King's dream. There's a lot of great things about this movie that I haven't been able to touch on, but I think the best part of it is the performance by David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr. Give that man the Oscar! So yes, go see this movie. Especially since Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is coming up here in a few days. I'm giving Selma a strong 9/10.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Movie Preview: January 2015

It's the new year, which means it's now time to look at what the month of January has to offer. January is always an interesting month. The first part of January is always dominated by the holiday holdovers. This year will be no different on that front as The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Into the Woods, Unbroken, and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb will be remaining towards the top of the box office at least for the first couple of weeks. Then in the middle of January we'll have the Oscar nominations revealed, which will see all these award-contenders taking advantage of the the newly found attention to earn some more cash. Selma, The Imitation Game, and The Theory of Everything are examples of movies that will be taking advantage of this opportunity this time around. As far as the rest of the month's releases goes, January is typically seen as a dumping ground. While there are new movies from January that people will like, studios save their more promising releases for later in the year, leaving movie-goers who have already seen the holiday and award-contending movies to suffer a bit. So without further ado, let's jump into this month and take a closer look at these movies.

January 2nd - 4th-

The first weekend of January is a weekend that studios mostly avoid as the holiday holdovers dominate. This year is no different as The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is poised to win its third straight weekend. The Hobbit will be closely followed by Into the Woods and Unbroken with Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb not too far behind. However, throwing itself into the mix will be The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death. The past three years has actually seen a new trend take place during the first weekend of January. While it's still true that this weekend is generally avoided, studios have found that throwing in a horror movie into the mix has proved to provide great counter-programming. The Devil Inside, Texas Chainsaw 3D, and Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones all opened north of $15 million on this weekend in the past three years with The Devil Inside getting as high as $33 million. The first Woman in Black came out in February 2012 and was a surprise hit, both in terms of box office totals and reviews. With no Daniel Radcliffe this time around and reviews reaching basement level, this one has the recipe of a dud. However, it appears that the Woman in Black brand is apparently stronger than thought as based on early box office totals it is actually following the trend of the previously mentioned January horror movies. While not quite as has as those others, it is posed to open north of $15 million, which is a lot higher than some were expecting. It's likely to fall hard, though. By the middle of January, this will probably be a forgotten movie.

Sneaking into four theaters on Wednesday (New Year's Eve), thus officially being called a 2014 release, was A Most Violent Year. As suggested by the title, this is about a really violent year. Specifically it's about New York City during the year 1981. Director J.C. Chandor is fairly new on the scene, but he did get a Oscar nomination for best original screenplay in 2012 with Margin Call. Last year he directed the Robert Redford movie All is Lost, which was thought to be an awards contender, but got almost completely left out, getting nothing but a sound editing nomination. A Most Violent Year was thought of as the movie that would redeem Chandor, but early predictions suggest that this will  follow the trend of All is Lost. Oscar Isaac is a potential for best actor here, but that's looking like a long shot, so the best chance at an award will be Jessica Chastain for supporting actress. She picked up the Golden Globe nomination, which is a plus, but whether or not she gets the Oscar nomination is in question right now.

January 9th - 11th-

The second weekend of January has Selma and Inherent Vice expanding to additional theaters, with Selma being the big contender out of the two. With very strong reviews (100% on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of this post -- that's after 76 reviews), a timely release around Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and many Oscar nominations to come once they are announced on the 15th, Selma is likely to be a huge player in January. However, I've already talked about both of these movies in my December preview, so check that out here.

The new movie of the weekend here is Taken 3. Back in January 2009, Taken became a surprise hit as it made just under $150 million in the US box office. Taken 2 opened twice as high in October 2012, but wound up just below Taken's total. Now the third installment goes back to January as it hopes to replicate the success of the first two. If you saw the first two Taken movies, you'll know exactly what to expect with this third movie. This time around, Liam Neeson's character Bryan Mills is accused of murder and is being chased by the government, so he heads out to find the true killer and clear his name. The rest should be pretty self-explanatory. It's Liam Neeson kicking everyone's butt in the over-the-top style of the first two.

January 16th - 19th-

Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend is usually the busiest movie weekend of January. This year that is especially the case as not only do we have a movie about the man out that you would think would get special attention, but also there's a couple of big movies that should help dominate as well. The first of those is another movie I talked about in my December preview, and so I won't spend much time on it again. But this is the nationwide expansion of American Sniper, which was already poised to have Lone Survivor-esque numbers from last year. The movie has been huge in limited release. In only four theaters, it's already earned nearly $2 million, which is insane. If it gets any Oscar nominations to go along with that, we could be looking at the new January record-holder.

The new challenger to face-off against Selma and American Sniper is the new Kevin Hart comedy  The Wedding Ringer. Speaking of that January record, it is currently held by Kevin Hart himself, having set the record on this exact weekend last year with Ride Along. Hart later went on to help two other movies from last year open up north of $25 million with About Last Night and Think Like a Man Too. So it's safe to say that Kevin Hart's brand is really strong right now. The Wedding Ringer co-stars Josh Gad (voice of Olaf from Frozen) and The Big Bang Theory's Kaley Cuoco and is a wedding comedy that has Kevin Hart in charge of a company that provides best men for those who can't get any and Josh Gad's character is in that exact position. In fact, he requests seven best men. There's a lot of popular wedding comedies, so this has the potential to join that club.

Joining the crowded weekend as yet another movie that has potential to do good business is Paddington. This was originally supposed to come out on Christmas, but backed out because of too much competition. So this goes from one crowd to another crowd, but the big difference is the number of family movies. On Christmas there was Annie, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, and Into the Woods fighting for family audiences. Adding Padding to the mix would've made it so one of those movies would've been ignored, which most likely would've been Paddington. So this is a really good move since Paddington has zero competition. This movie is a British comedy as Paddington Bear has been an classic character in English children's literature since the 1950's and has also made his way onto TV several times. Now he gets his first movie. Paddington already came out in the U.K. back in December and they loved him, so the bear has done his job already. Us Americans will be late to the party due to the release date change. This movie doesn't need to be huge here to be considered successful as its already made $85 million internationally, but it probably will be anyways.

Last but not least is the crime drama Blackhat. It might be hard for this to completely breakout because of the competition, but this does have the fire power to make it the fifth movie of the weekend to do good business. Blackhat stars Chris Hemsworth in what will be a very busy first half of the year for him alongside. The premise of the movie centers around a cyber criminal that American and Chinese authorities are trying to track down. Chris Hemsworth's character is the one they release from prison to get to help them stop this cyber criminal. With a good cast and a subject matter that feels quite relevant given recent cyber attacks and threats, this could be a decent sleeper hit that gets people's attention.

January 23rd - 25th- 

After a very busy Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, the fourth weekend in January will deliver a bunch of duds, which means whichever movie ends up taking the top spot over the long weekend will most likely rule for this weekend as well. The best of the likely duds will be Johnny Depp's Mortdecai. This movie is based on a series of four comic thriller novels written back in the 1970's by Kyril Bonfiglioli, an English author. Front and center of all the advertising is Johnny Depp doing what he does best, acting weird and kooky. That at one point could've been considered a big draw, but at this point a lot of people are really tired of Johnny Depp's shtick, so there is a good chance that this backfires instead of helps this movie.

Next up is Lucasfilm Animation's Strange Magic. At one point of time, the idea of a story by George Lucas would've been considered a big deal. Not so much here. Lucas' idea was to have a story with elves and goblins that is about finding beauty in strange places. The story is inspired by Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and has been in production for quite some time, well before Lucasfilm was purchased by Disney. While the story does come from George Lucas, Lucas himself has not been involved with any of the screenplay, writing, or directing, for better or for worse. While the film is called Strange Magic, the word strange is what best describes people's reactions to the trailer. In theory this could pull off what The Nut Job did last January, being a surprise hit that everyone thought was going to tank, but that seems less likely.

The final movie of the weekend is The Boy Next Door. Jennifer Lopez' career was resurrected when she became a judge on American Idol, but that success has been strictly on the music side of things. It's been a long time since we've seen Jennifer Lopez as a lead star in a movie that has been a big hit, which is what the attempt is here. Lopez stars as a recently divorced high school teacher who has a one-night stand with a young boy living next door, who quickly develops a very unhealthy obsession with her, turning from what might look like a romance movie in the first part of the trailer into a psychological thriller. The "young" boy next door that stars along side J-Lo is 27-year-old Ryan Guzman.

January 30th - February 1st-

We've made it to the final weekend of January, which happens to include one day of February. If you've read up on my movie previews, you'll know that if a weekend is split between months, I always include it in the month that started the weekend, which is January here. This weekend has a huge disadvantage as Sunday February 1st is the Super Bowl. Movies don't do well that weekend. In fact, the only two movies that opened north of $30 million on Super Bowl weekend were movies that were directed towards females. No coincidence there. So essentially these movies this weekend have to rely solely on Friday and Saturday. The one with that will probably have the most success will be Project Almanac. This is a movie that has gone through a lot of production issues. It was supposed to come out last February, but got pulled nearly last second and put off for a whole year. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you may know the movie better as Welcome to Yesterday, because that was the original title before they changed it. If you are still drawing a blank, then just know that this is a found footage style time travel movie involving teenagers. Found footage was once a really popular genre thanks the the Paranormal Activity movies, but people quickly got sick of it after it got over-used, so it's a disappearing genre. This movie won't resurrect the genre at all, but it might be a decent hit. You can make a lot of comparisons to Chronicle, another teenage found footage movie that came out at the beginning of February a few years back. Chronicle became a surprise hit and if Project Almanac gets anywhere near that level, the makers of this film will be ecstatic.

Next up is Kevin Costner's Black or White. When the trailer for this first showed up in theaters, I thought that this was a movie starring Kevin Costner and Quvenzhane Wallis. I thought this was a good idea. However, it is not Quvenzhane Wallis at all. Instead it's a little girl named Jillian Estell. Anwho, this is a movie where Kevin Costner is in a custody battle over his granddaughter who he helped raise for her entire life. Along with Coster and Estell is Octavia Spencer. This seems like the type of movie that would get at least a bit of attention during awards season if it was released at the end of the year instead of in January. If for some reason it actually was eligible for this year and I missed that, it got zero awards buzz. As of now it's just a drama at the end of January that will get ignored by most.

The final movie of the month is one that I have not seen advertised at all. If there have been attempts to advertise this movie, I have totally missed them. This movie is The Loft. In fact, I had not even heard about this movie until I went to do this preview. Now it's very possible that it just flew under my radar. That's happened before, believe it or not, but I think they are going to have to do a bit of marketing for this if they are wanting to make money. The Loft is a thriller that is about a group of friends who own this loft for their extramarital affairs. One day a dead woman shows up in that loft and of course crazy things happen from there. This is definitely not the type of movie that would appeal to general audiences, which makes me feel like it'll be just another January movie that won't even show up on many people's radars.