Friday, May 26, 2017

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Review

It occurred to me recently that I have yet to talk about a "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie on my blog yet. For some reason I thought that I had written a review of the fourth movie in the early phases of this blog, which in turn covered my thoughts of this franchise. But nope. "On Stranger Tides" was released all the way back in 2011 and I started this blog in 2012. It's been a full six years. Crazy. That also means its been 14 years since the first movie debuted in theaters back in 2003. That make you feel old yet? It was a bit of an odd idea from Disney to make a movie based on a theme park ride. But sometimes odd ideas actually do work out because I think this franchise is fantastic. For the most part. I love this world they've set up. I love all the characters. I love the fun, pirating adventures that we go on. I love the visual effects and the action sequences. I love the mythologies that we dive into. Overall it's a very fun franchise that has churned out some great summer blockbusters. I also think a lot of critics have been way too harsh on these movies, especially the most recent two. I was rather abhorred as to how much undeserved hate the fourth movie received back in 2011. Looking at the Rotten Tomatoes score for this fifth, it looks like I might be fighting the same battle again.

If I'm diving into specifics, I think the first movie is a masterpiece. I have watched and re-watched that movie so many times in my life and I have an absolute blast each time. The second movie I don't think is a bad movie, but I do find it slightly underwhelming when compared to the first and I've rarely if ever gone back and watched it after my first time through. The third movie is straight up awful, but it has nothing to do with the actual universe, characters or action sequences. It has everything to do with the plot itself, specifically there being way too much of it. It's nearly three hours long and has so much story crammed into one film and it was hard to follow what in the heck was happening. I think I mentally checked out like a third of the way into the movie. And that's why I actually liked the fourth movie. It was way better than the third and even a slight step above the second. They went in a completely different direction while cutting out most of the side characters and gave us a fun, simple adventure with Jack wanting to find the fountain of youth, running into Blackbeard, mermaids and Penelope Cruz along the way. It wandered a bit in the middle, but overall was able to recapture much of the magic of the first movie.

My personal theory as to why the fourth movie got so much hate is that people were simply done with "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies. So when we got a fourth movie four years after a bad third movie and average second movie, that had very little to do with the plot of the first three movies, people either flat out skipped the movie or went in with preconceived notions that it was going to be trash and weren't able to drop those, being extremely nit-picky with its imperfections. A Rotten Tomatoes score of 32 percent for "On Stranger Tides" is flat-out embarrassing. Yet these are the same critics that only gave the first movie a 79 percent and I think that one belongs in the mid-90 range, so the critics aren't necessarily the best judge when it comes to this franchise. I can understand the 54 percent of the second one, even though I think that's a bit low and only the 45 percent of the third one I think is fair. Enter "Dead Men Tell No Tales," which currently is around the same score as the fourth movie. We'll see exactly where it ends up at when the dust has settled, but as of me writing this review, it's the worst reviewed movie in the franchise at 30 percent. I think a proper score would be in the upper-70 range that the first one got. So yes, I'm going to tell you to ignore the critic's consensus here and go decide for yourself.

As far as the plot of this movie goes, if anyone uses the word "convoluted" to describe this movie, I'm going to slap them in the face. That word accurately described the third movie, but not any of the others and certainly not this movie. The major thing with this movie is that we're on the hunt for the trident of Poseidon. The reasons we're searching for this I don't think would be considered a spoiler, but I didn't know why going in, so I'm not going to say. I will say that it does relate to the first trilogy in a clever way that I really appreciated and that a few different people are searching for it for slightly different reasons. One of them is Will Turner's son Henry. Another is our main villain of the movie, a creepy, cursed ghost dude name Salazar, a former captain who, much like Barbosa in the first film, was bested by Jack Sparrow in the past and has a major curse placed on him and his crew that has caused him to hunt down Jack to get his revenge and remove the curse. In fact, in the U.K. the movie is actually called "Salazar's Revenge" instead of "Dead Men Tell No Tales." Even though I do think the U.S. title sounds cooler, that U.K. title might actually be a more accurate description of the movie. Don't know why they couldn't be consistent with the title, but it's whatever.

Based on that description, if this sounds a lot like the first movie, well, it's because it kinda is. I think when they did "On Stranger Tides," they were initially planning on a second trilogy, but I think they abandoned that idea once they learned of the general reaction to that movie as "On Stranger Tides" included an end credits sequence that set up a potential premise for the fifth movie that has nothing to do with this final result of "Dead Men Tell No Tales." Instead we have a movie that parallels the first one quite well. We have an angry sea captain mad at Jack that is trying to reverse a curse placed on their crew. We have a new version of Will and Elizabeth tagging alongside Jack. We have people who need Jack's help for certain reasons as well as people trying to kill Jack for certain reasons. And we're on an adventure to find a mythical object/treasure. Throw in Gibbs and Barbosa as our main supporting characters as well as an opening scene that has Jack trying to escape the government and almost getting himself executed. While I will say that they could've been slightly more creative with this, I instead found this to be an overall net positive as this was able to recapture much, but not all, of the magic of the first movie, making it the best movie since that first one.

Regarding character specifics, I do think Jack Sparrow was a bit more of a parody of himself in this movie than he was in the other movies. In the first movie, he was a bit of a bumbling idiot, but he was also super clever and unpredictable, making him a fantastic character well deserving of the Oscar nomination that Johnny Depp received. This time around he's more of a bumbling idiot who's not super clever, but ends up getting out of each situation due to shear luck, thus he wasn't the most interesting character in this movie, surprisingly. Our new Will and Elizabeth of the film were Henry and Carina. I actually liked both of them quite a bit. While Elizabeth was essentially our damsel in distress that Will spent the majority of the movie trying to save, Henry and Carina are a lot more interesting. Carina is most certainly not the damsel in distress. In fact, she's the brains of the mission that is helping everyone else out. She so smart that most people around her are calling her a witch. Henry is on a specific mission where he thinks he needs Jack Sparrow, but he ends up needing Carina a lot more. And instead of spending the whole movie expressing his undying love for her, he actually spends most of the movie denying he has any feelings at all, because he's trying to focus elsewhere.

I won't say too much about our other characters, but Javier Bardem plays Captain Salazar in the film and he is rather excellent. His look isn't as creepy as Barbosa and crew and in the first movie when they're in the moonlight, but he is sufficiently creepy and awesome, enough for me to knight him as the second best villain this movie has had. Certainly better than Blackbeard in the fourth and squid face in the second. And I don't even remember who the main villain in the third movie is. There are times where Javier Bardem goes a little overboard with his character, but for the most part he is just having a ton of fun with the role and I really enjoyed it. Stealing the whole show for me was actually Barbosa, but I'm not going to say why. His character has come quite a ways since his turn as a villain in the first movie and it's been a great arc that is given a huge emotional turn in this fifth chapter that I really bought. I will say that I was hoping for a slightly more epic final showdown in this movie and I also kinda wanted more ghost sharks because those were sweet, but we did get a pretty good finale that did a fantastic job of wrapping this franchise up if they decide that this is our final chapter. I wouldn't mind a sixth film, but it would probably be best if it doesn't happen.

Overall, if you are a fan of this franchise and are slightly nervous about this awful critics score this movie is getting right now, then I am going to confidently assure you to simply ignore what is being said and go give this movie a shot because chances are you will probably enjoy it. No, it's not on the same level as the first, but that wasn't my expectations going in. I wasn't hoping that this would be the best movie of the summer, but rather I just wanted another fun "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie and that's exactly what I got. If you're not a fan of this franchise and you hated movies two through four, well, I don't know what to tell you because I am not in that boat, but my prediction is that this won't be the movie to covert you back to this franchise. But I will say that if you loved the first one, but hated the second and third one and thus decided to skip the fourth one, then go give the fourth one a chance. Because you might enjoy it. And then go give this movie a chance. The final scenario I can think of is that if you did in fact enjoy the second and third, but weren't a fan of the fourth, I'm guessing that you will enjoy this movie. The moral of the story is that you shouldn't skip this movie. Give it a shot. I had a blast with it and thus my grade for "Dead Men Tell No Tales" is an 8/10.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Everything, Everything Review

If I'm being perfectly honest, I have no idea why I decided to see this movie. But I did. And driving to the theater, I came up with so many different excuses as to why I was seeing this movie. And, well, as Selena Gomez says in her new song, I felt like a pretty bad liar as each new excuse came to my brain. Thus the real reason is because this first month of the summer season has only brought us one major movie a week. I already saw "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," "King Arthur" and "Alien: Covenant" and I have zero interest in "Snatched." But I write movie reviews in my spare time and I needed a new movie to review. This past weekend, in addition to giving us "Alien: Covenant," only had the options of "Everything, Everything" and the new "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" movie. The other smaller movies that I would LIKE to see in between the big blockbusters didn't quite expand far enough and thus would require a 45 minute drive, which I wasn't in the mood for. So I strapped myself in for this summer's cheesy romance drama, embracing for the worst, but slightly curious as to how in the heck this one was going to resolve itself. I mean, it can't be any worse than that monstrosity that was "Me Before You" last summer... right?

"You underestimate my power!" would be this movie's response to that last question, because holy cow did this movie insult my intelligence. "Everything, Everything" stars Rue from " The Hunger Games" as a girl who is allergic to everything and thus has never been outside a day in her life. Because her mom tells her that she's going to die if she does. Pretty boring life, right? Well, she's in luck today because one of the brothers from "Jurassic World" has moved in next door (TWIST: "The Hunger Games" and "Jurassic World" are in the same universe!!!) and they both conveniently have bedrooms with giant windows facing each other that are close enough where if he writes a note on a piece of paper, she can read it just perfectly. This is helpful because Rue's mother certainly doesn't want this boy to have anything to do with her daughter as there are only two other people on earth that she well let into the house to talk to Rue and boy next door is not going to be added to this list. So boy gets her attention via their bedroom windows and writes his number on his window and the two begin a lovely texting relationship where they fall madly in love with each other without having spoken one word in person. Let the facepalming and eye-rolling begin.

That's not why this movie insulted my intelligence, though. Cheesy, dumb romance I can accept for what it is and perhaps recommend to a sister-in-law or female friend if it is cute and adorable enough. The writers of this movie just expect everyone watching to be able to throw all logic and common sense out the window in favor of a message that's kinda muddled and confusing in the first place. At least this doesn't glamorize assisted suicide seconds after showing that life is worth living, like "Me Before You" did last year. But man, I was stunned at some of the decisions this writing team made and it really made me feel awful for our two leads in this movie that really deserved better. Rue from "The Hunger Games" is Amandla Stendberg. She was great in "The Hunger Games" and now that she's 18 years old and has moved on from childhood into womanhood in front of our eyes, she really deserved a lot better than what she got. Same goes for Nick Robinson, who was the brother in "Jurassic World." These are two up-and-coming actors who do great in this role that they are given and have great on-screen chemistry as a young couple. The movie is also shot well with a great score, but the writing here is SO bad. I almost don't even know where to begin.

So how about we begin with this disease that this girl supposedly has. What they are trying portray is called Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Disease, otherwise know as SCID. I didn't know anything about this going in, but I didn't buy for one second that this disease was being accurately portrayed on screen or that this mother would go all Rapunzel on her daughter and lock her up in a metaphorical tower for her whole life, not allowing her to even step outside or talk to more than two other human beings for her whole life. And if she was going to go this route, why in the heck does she have access to her own cell phone and laptop? Either this mother is full-out psychopath or she isn't. Pick a side movie! Don't do both! And if this girl is this sick with this awful disease, why does she not look sick at all? And if she hasn't stepped outside in her entire life, why is she not more socially awkward or oblivious to the outside world? She should be like the kid in "Room" as opposed to looking like a teenage girl who's only been grounded for a week. And why the inconsistency as to what does and doesn't make her sick? There's a lot of these small details scattered throughout the movie that didn't seem thought out at all, thus making this whole scenario feel super bogus.

Even if I were to suspend disbelief for a moment by ignoring any sense of logic and reason, focusing only on what rules this movie sets up for itself, I still find it frustrating that the movie doesn't follow those rules. So I had a hard time suspending disbelief for the sake of a fictional love story. But if I were to do my best to ignore and all sense of logic and reason and focus only on the bare bones of what this movie is all about, what we have here is a story that asks the question that if you could could have one perfect day with the man that you love, even if it meant possibly dropping dead the very next day, would you do it? Would it be worth it to sacrifice your life to have this perfect day? My answer is no. I'd rather be smart with my life. If I was allergic to sunlight, I'm not going to go out in the sun. If I was allergic to water, I'm not going to go swimming. If I'm deathly allergic to ice cream, I'm not going to go buy an ice cream cone.. I understand the sentiment of wanting to be able to do something that you have never been able to do, but I prefer to live within my physical limitations. Learn to enjoy life anyways. I'm not going to sacrifice my life to do something that could kill me, just to enjoy myself for one brief moment in time. That's flat out stupid.

I get the idea of living your dreams. That's fantastic. Live your dreams. But take some freaking wisdom along with you! But fine. Ignore logic and reason if you want. Throw common sense out the window. Enter yourself into a fantasy land where the rules of the universe don't apply. I could, in theory, forgive this movie and write it off as a dumb, cheesy romance movie meant for 12-year-old girls where sharp writing wasn't necessarily highest on the list of priorities for filmmakers to get right. I might give it a 6/10 and say whatever if my previously mentioned concerned were ALL that were the issue here. What I CAN'T forgive is the twist ending that this movie. Up to a certain point it was just cheesy and dumb. But there's two moments where everything completely derailed and blew this dumb movie to smithereens. The first was a major facepalm moment. But the second had me in a state of complete and utter shock. And I was so frustrated with this moment that I need to spoil it. If you are actually interested in this movie and you don't want this movie spoiled, then just know that I think this is a dumb, cheesy movie that derails in the final act and completely ruins what it didn't have going for it anyways. If you don't care or you've already seen it, then let's proceed.


Moment No. 1. I knew that this girl was going to escape to the beach with this guy. Even if the trailers hadn't spoiled that plot line, the whole movie foreshadowed the heck out of it, so that was no surprise. What I DIDN'T expect was what beach they went to. Despite them living in Southern California, three hours from a beach, she somehow learns that it's super easy to get a credit card and decides to purchase plane tickets to Hawaii. Like, what? To me this sequence exemplified everything that was wrong with this movie up to this point. There's no common sense in this movie at all. The writing is horrific. Her mom works in a hospital. She has super long shifts. Pick a day where she is gone, sneak out and drive three hours to the beach, have your fun, and be back before she knows you're gone. But no. They flew to Hawaii. HAWAII. I lost it at this point. That's why I say this movie insulted my intelligence because there's just so many dumb moments and the movie just kept expecting me to throw all logic out the window and just accept what was going on. This was just too much. When the movie feels like the script was written by a group of 12-year-old girls with no prior writing experience, it's just way too much for me to handle.

Moment No. 2. And this is the deal-breaker. The straw the broke the camel's back. The moment where everything fell to pieces. You ready for this? The big twist in this movie is that SHE WAS NEVER SICK IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!! Her Mom lost her husband and son in a car crash and was left only with her daughter. So in order to make it so that she never left, she faked the whole thing. From the moment that the daughter was a year old, this mother locked her up in this house and never let her see the light of day for 17 years. I don't even know what else to say to this. I was shocked. Dumbfounded. This just might be one of the stupidest endings I have ever witnessed in a movie. I feel that this should've ended like a "Criminal Minds" episode with the FBI busting in and arresting this woman. It would take a crazy psychopath to pull off a stint like this and if this is the case, then she would've gone totally overboard with this and made it impossible for her daughter to figure things out. But no. It is completely out of left field and makes it so absolutely freaking nothing in this whole movie makes any sense. They took the whole movie, which wasn't great in the first place, and threw it in a blender. But of course this means they got their happily ever after.


So yeah, that's our movie. I'm not going to say this is quite as awful as last summer's "Me Before You," But man. I was not expecting this to go as far south as it did. I was expecting a cheesy, dumb romance movie that I was hoping that I could recommend to those people who enjoy that type of movie just like I often enjoy a dumb action movie. But I ended up feeling so bad for everyone in this movie because we had a great cast with two extremely talented young leads that deserved better. This was even a well-made movie when it comes to all the technical aspects of the film. They had everything in place for this to be a cute movie for girls to flock to in the summer. But the writing in the movie was so freaking bad that I just couldn't take it. To throw logic and common sense out the window at every little turn was extremely frustrating and then to end it the way they did had me stunned. I am surprised that movies this stupid still get made in the year 2017 and I have no idea how anyone can walk out of this movie having been entertained by what happened. I just don't get it. But the movie "Me Before You" somehow got an "A" CinemaScore and this got an "A-" CinemaScore, so maybe I'm just off my rocker. I'm giving "Everything, Everything" a dismal 4/10.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Alien: Covenant Review

The "Alien" franchise is one that I've been meaning to catch up on for a while now, but I never had a perfect excuse to do so until now with the release of the eighth movie in the "Alien" universe, that being "Alien: Covenant." When the trailers for this movie first came out, "Alien" fans freaked out in excitement and I just sat there and told myself that I need to do my homework on this franchise and I was excited to dive. Yes, it's true. I haven't seen every movie ever made. In fact, I didn't grow up watching a ton of movies, so certain franchises I simply missed. Unfortunately the "Alien" franchise was one of them. But I've now repented. Well, for the most part. Out of the eight movies in this franchise, we have four "Alien" movies in the regular timeline, two "Alien vs. Predator" movies and now two "Alien" prequels with "Prometheus" and "Alien: Covenant." In the last month or so, I watched "Alien," "Aliens" and "Prometheus." I didn't care to watch "Alien 3," "Alien: Resurrection" or the "Alien vs. Predator" movies. Perhaps if the fifth movie in the "Alien" timeline comes out I'll catch the former two. The latter two I don't care about, especially since they aren't even cannon. But now that I've watched four "Alien" movies recently, let's talk about them!

First and foremost I get the pleasure of officially adding my voice to the "Alien" or "Aliens" debate. I mean, both of them are phenomenal movies, so it's like picking between "A New Hope" or "Empire Strikes Back" when it comes to my favorite "Star Wars" movie. But I do have a clear favorite here and thus I'm happy to announce that I am officially a member of team "Aliens." The James Cameron sequel in the late 80's, years before he got obsessed with blue people. But really, Ridley Scott's original "Alien" is a pretty darn good sci-fi horror movie. I wouldn't necessarily call it my favorite horror movie or favorite sci-fi movie, but the simplicity of the movie is what makes it so great. The land on a foreign planet and one of their crew members gets infected with this thing. They could've, and probably should've, chosen to follow protocol and keep away from the ship, but they don't. And the consequence to that is they have this giant Xenomorph wandering around the ship, killing them off one by one. That's our movie. And it's an extremely suspenseful movie for the entire run time that makes you fall in love with Sigourney Weaver and how awesome she is in dealing with this disgustingly awesome creature. That simplicity I missed in "Alien: Covenant," but we'll get to that.

"Aliens," though, was the movie that blew me out of the water. I was told by many people that while "Alien" was a horror movie, "Aliens" was a straight-up action movie, which made me excited and curious. But after watching it, I would still call it an action horror movie. There's moments in the movie where it was still a suspenseful movie. Much more suspenseful than anything that happens in "Prometheus" and "Alien: Covenant." But again, we'll get to that. The suspense in "Aliens" combined with the increased level of action made this phenomenal. Because they're not out to explore space or colonize. They set out for war. Sure, the moments in the beginning where no one believed Ripley were dumb and the team of soldiers were annoyingly cliche in how mean and stupid they were, but when we got the the action, it was thoroughly entertaining. When the red coats started getting killed off and we were essentially down to Ripley, Hicks, Newt and Bishop, I loved this family dynamic that was developed, thus we had emotion, suspense AND action. For me it was very comparable to "Jurassic Park" and thus practically a perfect movie. And they decided to kill Hicks, Newt and Bishop off-camera at the beginning of "Alien 3"? Super lame. And you wonder why I skipped that one.

"Alien: Covenant," though, has less to do with "Alien" and "Aliens" and a lot more to do with "Prometheus," which is a heck of a lot more controversial than those previous two. In fact, while it is accurate to call "Alien: Covenant" a prequel to "Alien," it's much more accurate to say that it's a sequel to "Prometheus," which itself is more of a completely different movie set in the same universe as "Alien," 28 years before. Quite honestly I didn't know what to think of "Prometheus" going in because half of the people out there say it's the greatest movie ever while the other half think it's the worst movie ever. So I just turned it on with no expectations and waited to see what happened to me. Well, hyperboles aside because I don't literally think it's the worst movie ever, I side with the negative here. "Prometheus" is nothing more than a big pile of dog crap. Listen, I didn't go in expecting a sci-fi horror film or an action film, because it's certainly not either one of those. But what this movie is labeled as by it's lovers is a thought-provoking sci-fi film. Well, to me it asked a few semi-interesting questions, but it provoked no thoughts. My brain wasn't invigorated. I just watched a group of dumb idiots wander around on a boring planet.

But enough about that. I could go into a lot more depth about each of those movies, but that quick background should suffice. Let's talk about this movie that you actually clicked on to read about. "Alien: Covenant." Without looking into any behind-the-scenes interviews or anything like that and purely try to read between the lines, I would make a guess that Ridley Scott had a lot of interesting ideas in his head about questions to explore in this universe, but when people reacted violently in opposition to his attempt to do so in "Prometheus," he literally or mentally threw a bunch of scripts in the trash and went back to the drawing board to try to listen to fans and give us the "Alien" stuff that everyone wanted. Because outside a little cameo thing at the end, there was nothing "Alien" about "Prometheus." But now we have "Alien" back in the title with "Alien: Covenant" along with the promise that we're actually going to see Xenomorphs terrorizing a crew of dumb idiots again. I was worried that we were just going to get a repeat of "Alien" all over again, but I was happy that we were at least going to get another "Alien" movie. And hey, maybe we'd even get a good "Alien" again, since we haven't had one of those that everyone's loved since "Aliens" in 1986.

But put all of that "Alien" stuff to the side because first we have to do the "Prometheus" stuff all over again. Outside a few small teases, we don't get the "Alien" stuff the trailers advertised until the final third of the movie, so I'll thus get to it in a second. While I did hate "Prometheus," I actually enjoyed the "Prometheus" follow-up that we got here. To me it was like a better version of "Prometheus." Instead of trying to answer all the complex questions in the universe, or rather ask all of these questions without giving us any answers or any entertainment, "Alien: Covenant" focuses on the troubles of one man. Or one android, rather. Because, yes, Michael Fassbender's David is our one returning character from "Prometheus" and this is his movie. And he is one troubled, messed up android and I loved every second of it. I also love that his best match was kinda himself, because Fassbender also plays the android named Walter, who is an upgraded version of David flying around with our new Covenant crew. Walter is upgraded in the sense that he's less human and more android, because we all know that androids thinking for themselves is always bad news. And if you've ever watched any movie portraying artificial intelligence, you know what I mean.

Speaking of the Covenant crew, that's one huge problem with this movie. The best horror movies are the character-driven horror movies where you actually care about the cast and thus are terrified when they are getting hunted down by whatever monster is out there. That's the brilliance of both "Alien" and "Aliens." You care about the crew. In "Alien: Covenant," I think I was on the side of the Xenomorph. I wanted to see what cool and gruesome ways he could kill them all because I didn't really care about any of them. We have no one as awesome as Ripley and no supporting characters as awesome as Hicks and Newt. They were all a bunch of red coats to me. In fact, there were actually one or two red coats that I was HOPING they would focus on more, but they became red coats too fast and the characters they did focus on I thought should've been red coats. So that sucked. But thankfully we did have the Walter vs. David stuff. I loved Walter and I loved David. Every time one or both were on the screen it was gold. This was essentially the second act of the movie, which I really enjoyed. The first act was them finding the planet and doing dumb things "Alien" crew members always do. The second act is all David and it was great.

Then we have the third act. And I suppose that I shouldn't say too much about the third act. There were elements that I loved and an ending that I thought was phenomenal, but unfortunately the Xenomorph stuff kinda felt tacked on and it wasn't even in the same ball park as "Alien" or "Aliens." Even though I enjoyed the second act of the movie, I did miss the simplicity that was "Alien." It was just a Xenomorph wandering around on the ship for most of the movie terrorizing the whole crew. That was awesome and extremely suspenseful. That happened here for like 10 minutes and that was it, so I felt short-changed. And then after that, the movie tried to be an action movie like "Aliens" by them fighting the Xenomorph. That also wasn't super entertaining. Thus it didn't actually feel much like a horror movie to me and it was only barely a sub-par action movie for a few minutes. It was really lame. And to heck with creativity. Let's just do the exact same things that every "Alien" movie does to try to hunt down and fight the Xenomorph. I think we've ran out of ideas for different premises with these movies, so part of me thinks that we should maybe stop. Or maybe we postpone until someone comes up with an idea that actually brings something new to the table.

In the end, this movie unfortunately falls into a bit of an awkward territory where Ridley Scott tried to make this both a "Prometheus" movie and an "Alien" movie and kinda failed at both. Yes, personally I enjoyed what they did specifically with the "Prometheus" angle here because I didn't like "Prometheus." They took the most interesting aspect of "Prometheus" and ran with it, leaving all the other things in the the dirt. Thus if you actually did love "Prometheus," I can actually see you being angry at what they did here. Or what they didn't do, if that makes sense. And if you went in wanting a pure "Alien" movie, you're going to be underwhelmed because all of that is put on the back burner and is kinda just thrown in on the end as more of an afterthought at the end out of obligation. I enjoyed the Michael Fassbender stuff enough to give this movie a pass. The Xenomorph scenes are kinda cool and no one on the crew gives a bad performance, so this is decent. But if we're going to do another movie in this franchise, I want it to be an all-out "Alien" movie and I want them to bring something new to the table. I'm not going to give grades to all four movies I've talked about. I think you can figure that out. But the important number here is that my grade for "Alien: Covenant" is a 7/10.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Review

Remakes have always been a thing in Hollywood. Ever since they started making movies, they've also started remaking movies, especially when better technology came around. But in today's Hollywood they've taken this idea and have gone to the extreme with it as the number of remakes seems to be at an all-time high. Sometimes a remake is announced and you end up on the fence because, while you roll your eyes at the idea of a remake, you also think to yourself that perhaps that remake could work out. Other times a remake is announced and you squint your eyes, cock your head and just sit there in baffled confusion. Unfortunately for me, "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" was the latter. We've just seen the story of King Arthur told so many times in one form or another that I had no idea why the world needed yet another King Arthur movie. But Warner Bros. and Guy Ritchie were confident that the world would love their movie and want a lot more as they dumped $175 million into this movie, expecting it to be the next huge summer blockbusters. Well, they better hope the international audiences dig the movie because here in the United States it's not going to make back hardly any of that as it's tracking towards a $15 million opening weekend. Ouch.

Going into this movie, I honestly had no idea what to expect. The idea of this didn't intrigue me and none of the trailers did anything for me. And the reviews started in single digits on Rotten Tomatoes after now climbing *all the way up to* the mid-20's. I did get the vibe that some critics had their reviews written before seeing the movie, trashing it just because it was another King Arthur movie that no one needed. That did seem a bit unfair. Plus, many of the trusted YouTube critics I subscribe to said the movie was actually decent. So in the back of my head I went in thinking that perhaps this movie might not be as bad as I thought it was going to be, but most of me was still in the mindset of just getting this experience over with. Needless to say this was an uphill battle that this movie was facing in order to convince me that it's existence is justified and unfortunately for me, it never fully climbed those hills. While I'm not going to say this is an outright bad film, a good word to use might be frustrating because there were a lot of good moments in the movie, but it was just bogged down by so much mediocrity that it ended up being super forgettable. I saw a matinee showing of this on Friday and by the end of the day I had almost forgotten I had seen the movie.

Yes, if I'm being honest, my mindset was in a state of dread as I was sitting through the trailers realizing that I was about to be subjected to this movie. However, the opening sequence of this movie happened and all of a sudden that dread was completely gone because this movie started with a giant elephant terrorizing a castle from the middle ages and it was fantastic! And when I say giant elephant, think of the elephants from Lord of the Rings and then multiply that by like 10. That's a complete estimate on my part, so don't hurt me if I'm wrong, but the moral of the story was this thing was HUGE. And as it was terrorizing this castle and the people in the castle were in a state of panic, I was sitting there in my chair smiling like a little school boy. Not only was this a fantastic action sequence, but the special effects were phenomenal and the score was amazing. Thus I'm also sitting here absolutely shocked at the movie that's being presented to me. This specific action sequence was a lot more entertaining than anything I saw last week in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" and thus I was ready to call this the surprise of the year and deem it as this years "The Legend of Tarzan," a movie from last summer that I found super entertaining that most of the critics tossed in the trash.

Following up that entertaining opening sequence was our main villain doing something extremely villainous that I suppose I won't spoil, but set up what I expected to be a fantastic villain. After that was this pretty sweet Guy Ritchie style montage of Arthur growing up. I was sitting there pretty happy in my seat as I was now highly anticipating the meat of this movie to come my way, which would hopefully lead to an epic finale. But then the movie slammed on its brakes and suddenly I found myself waiting for something interesting to happen. I was waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Suddenly I found myself slowly nodding off and I don't know if I actually fell asleep or not, but I do know that I spent the good part of the next hour fighting to stay awake because without warning the movie suddenly turned into a giant, boring mess. Because after that opening sequence, I wanted to defend this movie. I wanted to tell people to go see it. I wanted it to be a fun, summer action blockbuster that you can turn off your brain for a couple of hours and just have a good time. Even more, I wanted this movie to give me hope for Disney's upcoming live-action "Aladdin" reboot because it's Guy Ritchie, the director here, that's in charge of that movie.

Instead I'm sitting here writing a negative review for this movie because it just crashed and burned. Metaphorically this movie was like a car in one of the thousands of racing movies or chase scenes that starts off great, but then makes a critical error and starts spinning and flipping in a thousand directions before finally crashing and exploding into flames. Or you can compare it to a real Nascar race where someone bumps another car, sending that person right into the wall, usually taking several other cars with it. I don't even know how else to explain it or what specific details to mention. I think Guy Ritchie got too carried away with this huge budget Warner Bros. gave him and didn't quite know what to do with it. In fact, this is the biggest budget he's ever had to work with. He had $90 million for "Sherlock Holmes" and $125 million for "Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows." He was down to $75 million for "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." and now $175 million for this project. If I'm ranking those movies, there's a correlation where the bigger the budget that Guy Ritchie has to work with, the worse his movies get. I haven't seen a ton of his older movies, but those all have small budgets and, what do you know, those are the movies from him that people love the most.

I know enough about statistics to know that correlation doesn't always equal causation. If you make assumptions about some correlation without doing too much research, you could end up making a fool out of yourself. Thus I don't want to definitively say that Guy Ritchie doesn't know how to work with big budgets because there may be other factors that have led his big budget movies to fail, like perhaps studio intervention, but I don't like what I've seen so far and it just makes me wonder because I do know plenty of filmmakers who are much better at making smaller films than the giant industry blockbusters. Perhaps Guy Ritchie is one of them. Thus I'm not going to lie, this doesn't make me super happy for "Aladdin," especially since I don't like the idea of Disney remaking that movie in the first place and if we have a director that might not be good at these big blockbusters, that's a giant red flag. Now there are a lot of Guy Ritchie isms in this movie. It definitely has his signature stamp on it. But in this case, they just didn't work out. The worst part of it was the editing. Guy Ritchie seems to like his fast-paced editing and many times it works out. But in this movie it had my head spinning. We were jumping all over the place and I was lost and left with a headache.

Based on the incoming box office receipts that I talked about in the beginning of this review, I'm going to make a guess that not many of you have decided to see this movie this weekend. I'm also guessing that there is a portion of you that are on the fence. I hate to give the recommendation to skip a movie, but that's what I'm going to do here. Skip this one. It's not worth it. There's so many blockbusters coming out this summer that it's worth saving your money for one of those instead. If your curiosity is getting the best of you, at least go to a matinee showing, a $5 Tuesday or wait for it to come to Redbox. Don't pay full price for this. It starts out phenomenal and there are a few fantastic action sequences scattered throughout, like when Arthur decides to man up and actually use this super awesome sword that he pulled from the rock at the beginning, but the story is just a complete mess, Guy Ritchie's signature editing style results in this movie feeling like the script got thrown in a blender and taped up randomly and the characters are not worth caring for at all. They could've all been killed by the giant elephants and I would've been more happy than anything. Instead of being this year's "The Legend of Tarzan," it ends up being this year's "Warcraft." I'm giving the movie a 5/10.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Lost City of Z Review

With "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" having been released this past weekend, Hollywood's summer is officially underway and it's going to be a big one in terms of the number of big releases coming our way. Hopefully the overall quality is a step up from last summer. "The Lost City of Z" is NOT a summer movie, though. It's in fact an April holdover. It was released on April 14 in four theaters to an impressive $110,175. Due to that high per theater average and strong critical reviews it expanded throughout the month and finally hit theaters in my city towards the end of April. With all the other studios avoiding Marvel's latest big release, I took advantage of the empty time to catch up on this film. An independent film with good reviews was enough to get me to theaters, even though I knew close to nothing about the movie. Speaking of April releases, though, there's a lot that I ended up skipping. Thus if you were looking forward to my reviews of "Smurfs: The Lost Village," "How to be a Latin Lover," "The Circle," "The Case for Christ," "Born in China," "Unforgettable," "The Promise," "Free Fire" or "Sleight," well, sorry. They're probably not going to happen. I might catch up on a few of those later in the year, but I don't think reviews will come.

Moving forward with "The Lost City of Z," as I said, this is a movie that I knew practically nothing about. I knew it had good reviews, the box office for a film of its size was good (up to $6.8 million so far) and it probably had something to do with a lost city. But you know, I don't often get the experience of going to a movie completely blind and when an independent film like this comes out of nowhere to get a nationwide expansion after solid reviews, I often like to take that chance. So that's what I did here. If you love seeing all kinds of movies and you want to go in blind like me, then feel free to close this review and head out to the theater because I think this is a good movie worth seeing. I'm assuming, though, that most of you are wondering what in the heck is this movie and you're going to need a bit more description about what this is. And outside the big movie buffs who are fine with seeing everything, I do think this is the type of movie that's worth knowing what you're getting into before you dive in because I don't think it's the type of movie that everyone is going to love, as is shown by it's 88 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes compared to its 63 percent audience score. It's a slow-paced journey through a thick wilderness, both literally and metaphorically.

Long story short, this is a biopic of a man named Percy Fawcett, a British explorer in the early 1900's with a rather fascinating story. In 1906, he was charged by the Royal Geographical Society to go to the jungle in South America around Brazil and Bolivia to map out the area. The society was commissioned to do this as an unbiased third party. On this trip, Fawcett and his team run into some ruins that lead Fawcett to believe that there is an ancient city hidden in the jungle and he gains a life-long fascination to find the ruins of this city that he chooses to call "Z." If you happen to know all about Percy Fawcett and the different stories and myths that his personal story has inspired, you know how this turns out. If you have no idea about Fawcett, but this basic description has you curious to know more, then just be warned that if you look up his Wikipedia page in an effort to learn more and find different articles and books written about him, just know that this movie will probably be spoiled for you within seconds. I looked up his Wikipedia page after seeing the movie because I always like reading up on people's real lives after seeing a biopic to do a comparison of what I saw in the movie and within two sentences, this movie is spoiled. Just take that as a warning.

What's really interesting about this movie is that in general I think we as humans have a fascination towards the unknown. We like mysteries and it's almost better when a mystery is left unsolved because sometimes its anticlimactic when when we learn the answer to the mystery. This movie is definitely shrouded in mystery as it tells the real life story of a man searching for an ancient, mythical city that may or may not actually exist. Atlantis and El Dorado are two rather famous examples in fiction of cities that people are always searching for. In fact, this movie reminded me a lot of a live action version of the 2000 DreamWorks Animation movie "The Road to El Dorado." In fact, El Dorado and Z might actually be the same city. "The Road to El Dorado" is obviously a fictional film about people finding El Dorado and is similar to Disney's "Atlantis: The Lost Empire," which came out a year later. But the general premise is the same. Except "The Lost City of Z" is a whole heck of a lot more searching and is about actual events that happened to a guy who got obsessed with finding this city after seeing potential evidence of its existence. Thus I was on the edge of my seat as I was curious to discover the answers that this man spent his life searching for.

As my biggest criticism, I will say that this movie feels really long. It's just under two and half hours at 141 minutes, but it felt like I was in the theater for three hours from when the movie started. There were several moments where I honestly felt like the movie was heading into its final act, but then it kept going and we went on several more adventures through the wilderness after I first thought the movie was going to end. Given the story it was telling, this length was a necessary thing as I think rushing this movie or cutting out some of the adventures would've compromised the overall experience as I imagine there's even more about this man's life that they didn't get to. Thus I imagine a 13-episode Netflix show may have been the best way to do this story complete justice, but they decided to go with the movie version and thus I think they did the best they could in telling this story in their chosen format. If you want to know more, I imagine the book that this movie is based off of might be your cup of tea. But if you go into the movie, just be prepared for what you are getting yourself into. Thus given that I went into this movie completely blind, it was a bit of an unpleasant surprise that we kept going and going with no signs of an end in sight.

I still enjoyed the journey, though. I really, really wanted to discover this lost city with them and thus I was sold. Unlike many summer blockbusters that we are about to all see, this movie is not action-packed and it's not super suspenseful. Yes, there are parts where the suspense is super high, especially when they come in contact with various native Amazonian tribes that they wrongfully refer to as Indians. But most of this is adventure through the wilderness. And the transitions from each phase of the movie to the next are a little too smooth, if that makes any sense. This movie covers 20 years of time. Most movies that do this make it abundantly clear with sharp cuts when they jump into the future. This movie doesn't always do that. We're just pressing forward with our journey and suddenly we're in the future. There were several moments where I thought we were experiencing a flashback, a memory or a dream, but we were actually in the present and had jumped forward a bit of time. This wasn't always bad, but it did catch me off guard and thus I would say this was an interesting stylistic choice that you have to get used to as the movie goes along. The ending also caught me off guard a bit, but I won't dive too much into that. After thinking about it, things made sense.

Overall, this movie comes with an interesting recommendation from me. It's definitely a bit of a non-typical adventure movie, thus I can't necessarily recommend this to everyone. But if you get too bogged down with the slate of summer blockbusters and you need a change of pace, a change of pace is exactly what you're going to get here and it's quite possible that you will find this super refreshing as it's a movie a bit like "National Treasure" or "Indiana Jones" without all the fast-paced action that those movies bring. We're just wandering around in the jungle with this man and his team searching for something mythical and it's kind of fun in its own unique way. Without giving much detail away, I will also quickly throw in there that this is not all about adventure. There's a lot of family themes in the movie as this man tries to balance his adventures with his family life and probably doesn't focus as much on family as he probably should, so there's lessons to be learned there. The movie also stars Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller and Tom Holland and I had no idea it was any of them until the end credits informed me, so pleasant surprise there with them disappearing into their roles. Overall, I'm going to give "The Lost City of Z" an 8/10.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has once again returned to theaters with their 15th movie. Man, what a ride its been! It's crazy to think that next year on this very weekend, while we are all sitting in the theaters for "Avengers: Infinity War," "Iron Man" will be celebrating its 10th year anniversary. I remember going through those early phases of the Avengers initiative remembering how huge of a risk Marvel was taking by making five movies to set up for one major movie event. I also remember being in the theater for "The Avengers" for my very first time experiencing this amazingly high reward that this huge risk turned into. Certainly one of the best theatrical experiences of my life seeing this all come together. Now 14 movies from the MCU are in the books and before heading into the 15th movie, it's worth noting that Marvel has made $11.1 billion worldwide so far. By the time movie 15 has finished it's run, that dollar total will be up to $12 billion and by the end of 2017 (two more MCU movies to go), this total could be as high as $14 billion. That's a lot of money from one franchise. And what's almost more impressive is that after 15 movies, they've still got it. I keep saying that one of these days a bad MCU movie is going to come around. Well, maybe I'm wrong.

To be clear, I don't consider myself a Marvel fanboy. In my opinion, a Marvel fanboy is one who refuses to believe Marvel can do anything wrong and thus thinks they have made 15 flawless masterpieces, while usually also refusing to accept that DC can do anything right. I'm just simply a fan of superhero movies. I find them to be a lot of fun and if you force me to pick between Marvel and DC, I'd still choose DC despite their current flaws because they had more of an impact on me growing up than Marvel did. But I'm in the group that is confused as to why we can't enjoy both. I even enjoyed "Suicide Squad" and "Batman v. Superman" more than some people did. But when I say that Marvel has made no bad movie, what I mean is that even the bottom tier of movies in the MCU still have some redeeming qualities. "Thor: The Dark World" is a giant mess that is completely saved by Loki. "Iron Man 2" is a good movie for 80 percent of it before it crashes into a brick wall. "The Incredible Hulk" is a good movie that has just been made completely irrelevant with how much Mark Ruffalo has owned the role once Edward Norton left. I honestly don't consider those three bad movies even though they were the bottom three when I ranked Phase I and II on my blog a couple years back.

As pertaining to "Guardians of the Galaxy," I remember being super excited going in. It looked like an absolutely hilarious movie with a bunch of fun characters. I mean, a raccoon with a machine gun in the trailers was enough to sell me. Walking out of the theater, I was very pleased with the final result, although I felt like a bit of a Grinch when I wrote my review because it seemed like everyone and their dog were claiming that this was the best Marvel movie yet and perhaps the best superhero movie ever made. That was a bit strong for me. Yes, "Guardians of the Galaxy" was extremely hilarious with great characters, phenomenal music and a fresh take at the superhero movie with how different it was, but it wasn't without its flaws. Due to the nature of these being previously unknown characters, they had to spend a bulk of the movie introducing these characters to the world and slowly forming this team, which held it back a bit from being as truly great as it could be. The specific adventure they were one was a bit forgettable and the movie still holds claim to one of Marvel's worst villains. The rewatchability factor is extremely high, which is why I've been a bit more forgiving to these factors over time, but it still only landed in 6th place in my ranking of Phase I and Phase II of the MCU.

My big takeaway was that they've started something great here and they've now opened the door for Vol. 2 to be even better. Well, it's not. I'm just going to get that out of the way to start things off. Which is disappointing for me because I saw the potential in this movie after watching the first one. This had the potential to be "The Dark Knight" or "The Empire Strikes Back" of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and this "Guardians of the Galaxy" franchise. Not in terms of it being dark and depressing, but in terms of it taking advantage of a great first movie and making a phenomenal sequel that takes things to the next level and delivers a movie that will go down in the ages. Instead this kinda stumbles out of the gate and falls flat on its face. Unfortunately this is a common trend with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They don't have a great track record with their second movies. The obvious exception to this is "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" as that's my favorite MCU movie, but the other second movies include "Iron Man 2," "Avengers: Age of Ultron" and "Thor: The Dark World." Now we have to add "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" to that list of sub-par second movies. None of those are bad movies, but none of them live up to their predecessors.

In taking a closer look at "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," I think the best movie to compare it to is "Avengers: Age of Ultron." Everyone, myself included, was so hyped up for that sequel given how phenomenal "The Avengers" was and it was an absolute blast watching our favorite characters together again for another fun adventure. But the further you got into that movie, the more the dread comes over you that you are watching a sequel that just isn't as good as what you were wanting. You're still having fun with it, though. You also enjoy the new characters added and the increased role of the some of the supporting characters. You may have even praised it a bit higher than you should've when you walked out of the theater. But now two years later, what's the reputation that "Avengers: Age of Ultron" holds? It's seen as a disappointment. A misstep. A villain of the week movie that doesn't stand the test of time and has now become a more disliked, forgettable  movie that is easy to hate on. I have to even sometimes defend it online after reminding myself that I enjoyed it. But how often in the last two years have you sat down and had an "Avengers: Age of Ultron" movie night, outside the times where you realize one of your friends hasn't seen it? It just doesn't happen.

I honestly am predicting that, given time, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" will have a similar reputation as "Avengers: Age of Ultron." We all loved "Guardians of the Galaxy." Some more than others. And we are all hyped to see our beloved characters together on screen again. We now love Star-Lord, Rocket, Gamora, Drax and Groot. We'll be excited to see Nebula and Yondu get increased roles. And we'll be happy at the new additions of Mantis and Ego to the movie. We'll laugh at the jokes. We'll cheer at the action. Some of us might be overcome with emotion at certain parts. But two years from now are we going to be turning to "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" as our go to Marvel movie night? I don't think so. I think a lot of fans are going to be overcome with excitement and joy after leaving the theaters and I think a lot of them are going to exclaim to all of their facebook friends at how awesome this movie was, but I think that this movie will eventually slip away into the abyss and be a forgotten chapter in the MCU. With so many movies in the cannon and still a ton more to come, movies like "The Avengers," "Guardians of the Galaxy," "Iron Man," "The Winter Soldier," "Civil War" and maybe even "Ant-Man" and "Doctor Strange" will remain the staples.

You want specifics now? Well, that's a bit tricky. I like my side-to-side comparison with "Avengers: Age of Ultron" because it helps me draw parallels and explain my reasoning without giving any specifics for this particular movie because most of the things that I want to talk about are kind of considered spoilers. The Guardians start out fighting a random alien thing. Then they make the gold people mad. Then Ego shows up and things happen with him. Then stuff with Yondu, Sylvester Stallone and the Ravagers. Jokes happen. Cool music is played. Characters get mad. Drama happens. Yeah, those are kind of the random basics, but I don't really want to talk about specifics in this post. The big problem is that the first half of the movie was a bit of a mess. I was enjoying being with the characters. I was laughing at a lot of the jokes, even though some of them were surprising really crude and a bit raunchy. But I had no idea what direction this movie was going. A lot of the scenes were super choppy. Many of the jokes missed. Drax was especially over the top as some of his jokes were hilarious and others were Marvel trying too hard. Baby Groot was adorable. Rocket was hilarious. Ego, Star-Lord and Gamora stuff was interesting. But the movie wandered for a long time.

Had the second half of this movie gone exactly like the first, I kid you not that I would be completely tossing this movie into the trash. My grade would've been a 5 or a 6 and I would've made the claim that "Batman v. Superman" and "Suicide Squad" were better movies. Honestly for a while I thought we were headed in that direction, which scared the living crap out of me that I was about to give my first bad review to a MCU movie. But then this movie had a moment where literally everything changed and the second half of the movie became the top-tier MCU movie that we were all hoping it would be going in. And I'm not going to say one word about it, which is extremely frustrating for me because I have a ton that I want to say about how things turn out. But I want all of you to have the experience of not knowing what's going to happen and have that surprise and shock once you realize what direction they're actually taking. If I were to give a specific grade to the second half of the movie, I would say a 9 or 9.5. But when all is said and done, the second half doesn't completely save the whole movie because that first half did happen and there's still a lot of villain of the week elements in the second half. Thus my final grade for "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" is an 8/10.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Movie Preview: May 2017

After the box office took its regularly scheduled break in the month of April following a huge March, it's time to begin Hollywood's summer! In actuality, this April was the highest grossing April on record, but that wasn't a super high bar to jump over as it barely inched past April 2011's record of $792.6 million by grossing $810.4 million. Leading the way, as expected, was "The Fate of the Furious" with nearly $200 million domestically in the month of April. The supporting cast came mainly from our big March holdovers as "The Boss Baby" and "Beauty and the Beast" both added over $100 million to their domestic gross in the month of April. "Smurfs: The Lost Village" and "Going in Style" came in third and fourth place as the next highest grossing April releases, but both of those were only at $37 million, if that gives you an idea of how April went. The summer months always get things back on track, although last May ended up being the first May since 2010 to come short of the $1 billion mark, so 2017 will look to get that streak going again. Although it probably doesn't have quite enough fire power to break 2013's May record of $1.14 billion.

May 5th - 7th-

Kicking the summer off on Cinco de Mayo will once again be the Marvel Cinematic Universe with their release of the highly anticipated Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. We can essentially call the opening weekend of May Marvel's weekend as, when it hasn't been the MCU opening the summer up, it's been a Spider-Man or X-Men movie. You have to go all the way back to 2006 to find a year where a Marvel property of some sort didn't open the summer. And don't look for that to change anytime soon. Marvel likes this weekend as the other studios seem to have agreed to let them have it. In 2014, Marvel took a big risk by choosing to bring a mostly unknown property with the "Guardians of the Galaxy" onto the screen and it couldn't have turned out better for them as the movie went onto be the fifth highest grossing movie in the MCU domestically and highest to not feature Iron Man. Our normal group of Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot will be back for another adventure to save the galaxy. Yondu and Nebula will be back as well, this time in bigger roles than the previous movie, while newcomers while newcomers Mantis and Ego will be joining up. Reviews have been mixed so far, but that won't stop this from being one of the biggest movies of the summer.

May 12th - 14th-

Usually the second weekend of May is left abandoned as studios smartly decide to give a little space between themselves and whatever Marvel movie is kicking off the summer. That's not the case this time around as two wide releases hope to provide a bit of counter-programming while comic book fans will still be swarming the theaters for "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2." It should be a close battle between the two for second place, but hoping to take the lead will be Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn with Snatched. There's usually a raunchy comedy each May that performs well and this May will have two candidates trying to fill that void with "Snatched" being first up to bat. Snatched stars Schumer and Hawn as a mother/daughter duo on a vacation who get kidnapped and sent on a wild, unexpected adventure because of that. Schumer's first big movie role came with 2015's "Trainwrecked," which was a huge success that went onto make $110 million. She'll be looking to replicate those figures this time around, although "Snatched" has her working with director Jonathan Levine as opposed to Judd Apatow, which may hurt a bit as Levine doesn't have quite as good of a track record. This will also be Goldie Hawn's first movie role since "The Banger Sisters" in 2002.

The other movie that will be competing with "Snatched" for the runner-up spot at the box office will be a reboot that few people asked for and few people will most likely be interested and that is King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. The number of times the King Arthur legend has been portrayed in film or on TV in some form or another is almost too much to count, which is why there hasn't been a ton of positive buzz for this latest reiteration. The timing of the release is even more curious given that it will be in direct competition with "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" in terms of target audience. If "Snatched" hits well with audiences, that's less direct competition as audiences for a comic book movie are different than audiences for a raunchy comedy. "King Arthur" will be looking to drag away the same people and they might choose to simply stay home or go see "Guardians" again. One benefit "King Arthur" does have is respected director Guy Ritchie on board. While Ritchie isn't without his slip-ups, he's also directed movies such as "Snatch," "RocknRolla" and the Robert Downey Jr. "Sherlock Holmes" movies. Ritchie has also been called on by Disney to direct their upcoming live-action reboot of "Aladdin," so there are plenty of eyes on him right now.

May 19th - 21st-

The third weekend of May will see the return of the "Alien" franchise as Alien: Covenant will look to dethrone "Guardians 2" from the top of the box office. The "Alien" franchise dates all the way back to 1979 with Ridley Scott's classic, "Alien," which was successfully followed by James Cameron's "Aliens" in 1986. Despite switching the genre from horror to action, Cameron's "Aliens" is seen by many as just as beloved of a classic. It's been a rocky road since "Aliens," though, as "Alien 3," "Alien Resurrection," "Alien vs. Predator" and "Alien vs. Predator: Requiem" range from disappointed to flat out awful. None of them even come close to "Alien" or "Aliens" at the box office when you adjust for ticket price inflation. In 2012, Ridley Scott returned to the franchise with the "Alien" prequel "Prometheus," which got the box office back on track and for the most part was seen as a return to form in quality as well, at least when compared to the previous four movies. Now Scott is again back for "Alien: Covenant," which has fans buzzing in excitement after the trailers promised that this movie is returning the franchise back to its horror roots, which the franchise mostly veered away from after the first movie. There's no guarantee for success, but there's certainly potential here.

Hoping to tap into the family audience early in the summer before families are flooded with options in June is Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul. This is a franchise that is based on the popular kids books of the same name and has actually done fairly well in its own right. "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" made $64 million in 2010 while "Rodrick Rules" and "Dog Days" made $52 million and $49 million in 2011 and 2012. Those numbers don't jump out at you, but the three movies have been fairly consistent thus far. The big question mark here comes with the current interest level. As you may have noticed, the first three were all released within a year of each other, so family audiences had them fresh on their mind with each of the two sequels. But now its been five years since the third movie. That may have been too long of a break between sequels. The kids who went to the theaters for the first three are all five years older. How many of them are interested in going back? If they aren't, will this fourth movie be able to attract a new audience to the theaters? My guess is that "The Long Haul" experiences a steep drop from the third and becomes a franchise killer.

The first romantic drama of the summer will also come our way this weekend with Everything, Everything. While "Snatched" will also be targeting the female audience with it's mother/daughter vacation premise, that's directed more towards the adult female audience looking for a female-driven comedy. "Everything, Everything" is aimed mainly at young adult females or teenagers who haven't really had too many options given to them this year outside perhaps "Beauty and the Beast" and the lesser seen "Before I Fall," both from March. The premise for "Everything, Everything" surrounds a teenage girl who is allergic to sunlight and thus has been trapped indoors by her parents most of her life. When a teenage boy moves in next door, they fall in love and the girl decides that she wants to risk it and go have at least one great day in the sun and outdoors with this boy, doing things that she has never had the opportunity to do. The same audience that turned "Me Before You" into a surprise hit last year ($56.2 million) could very well turn out for this movie as well. Or it could be more like "Paper Towns" the summer before ($32.0 million). A dream come true for the studio would be a turnout like "The Fault in Our Stars" in 2014 ($124.9 million), but I wouldn't count on that.

May 26th - 29th-

Memorial Day weekend is always a big weekend for the movies. Not only will people be catching up on all the previously mentioned movies that they missed, but there are two huge titles that will be joining the mix this weekend and leading the way will be Disney striking again with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. This is the fifth movie in the "Pirates" franchise that seems to have peaked with the second movie. Depending on where you look that is. The original "Pirates of the Caribbean" was such a huge success in 2003 on all levels that the second movie became one of the highest grossing domestic films of all time. In fact, in 2006, "Dead Man's Chest" ended up 5th on the all-time domestic list and is still 17th today. It was all downhill from there in the United States as the fourth movie in 2012 grossed almost half of what the second movie did. Thus many may be asking why we are getting a fifth movie five years after the fourth? Because the international box office is a completely different story. The third movie became the first of the franchise to hit a $1 billion worldwide and while the fourth movie didn't quite top the third, it also hit $1 billion worldwide. Look for the same story here with this fifth movie. It will probably drop even further here in the states, but I would wager this becomes the third movie in the franchise to cross the $1 billion mark.

Getting a day's head start on the weekend by opening on Thursday the 25th will be the second raunchy comedy of the month that I referenced earlier and that is Baywatch. This might be one of the biggest wildcards of the summer as it may rely solely on reviews as to whether or not that achieves success. On one hand, "Baywatch" is one of the most well-known TV shows ever made as it starred David Hasselhoff, Pamela Anderson and a whole host of others in its lifeguard/beach setting with all sorts of beach-related adventures. It was fun, not just as eye candy for some viewers, but also as an action/adventure/drama series. This new film reboot of "Baywatch" gets the "21 Jump Street" treatment with an R-rated tag and two popular film stars leading the way. This time with Dwayne Johnson, who can almost do no wrong at this point, and Zac Efron, who successfully made the transition to adult comedy with the "Neighbors" franchise. So this could be a huge hit, especially if the reviews are good. On the other hand, there seems to be a lot of people sitting on the fence with this that will not feel bad skipping it if the quality isn't high. It could be this year's "21 Jump Street" or it could be this year's "Neighbors 2." Don't be surprised either way.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Gifted Review

It's safe to say that the events of "Captain America: Civil War" really shook all the Avengers, especially Captain America, as they went through all the cliche government/police force vs. the vigilantes/superheros drama that we have to see at least once in every superhero story, but apparently this especially ruined Captain America. Or maybe it's the events of the upcoming Infinity War that we have yet to see that destroys him. Because now we have the movie "Gifted" where Captain America is down in the dumps, not doing any superhero stuff while going by the name of Frank, fixing boats and trying to raise his super genius 7-year-old niece, who is born to be an Avenger one day, and failing miserably at all of these things. Meanwhile the wicked witch of the west has arrived, claiming to be Captain America's mother, and takes Captain America to court to gain legal custody over this girl because this mother has no heart and soul and just wants the little girl to be a brainwashed genius with zero life outside of math. Because apparently this mother has learned nothing from the death of her own daughter, aka Captain America's supposed sister, which is the reason why the little girl is living with Captain America in the first place. Man, what a twisted chain of events!

OK, you got me. This has absolutely nothing to do with Captain America or the Avengers. But it does star Chris Evans as this man named Frank whose life kinda sucks at the moment. I suppose Chris Evans is allowed to do non-Avengers stuff if he wants, but he hasn't spent a whole lot of time doing so since "The Avengers" in 2012. He was in a movie called "Playing it Cool," which I never saw. He also directed and starred in a movie called "Before We Go," which I also never saw. I have seen "Snowpiercer," which is a pretty freaking awesome movie based solely on a train that you should go see if you haven't. Outside that, yeah it's been all Captain America for Chris Evans, which is why I had a hard time watching "Gifted" without seeing Chris Evans and imagining him as Captain America. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though. It's more of a compliment to how perfect he is in the Captain America role. But "Gifted" is a movie that I saw the trailers for a few months ago and was intrigued by, then forgot it existed until it randomly showed up in theaters the other week. After being confused about it, I looked it up again and was quickly reminded that I was excited for this movie and decided to go see it. A week later, here I am finally giving you my review of it.

I'm just going to say right off the bat that "Gifted" is an absolutely adorable movie that I completely bought into, despite its somewhat predictable story and somewhat cliche characters. I haven't dove into a lot of the reviews, but I did notice that it is barely positive on Rotten Tomatoes, but is pretty dang high on the Flixter user side of things as well as IMDb. My simple conclusion after watching this movie is that this is a movie where the casual audiences are going to enjoy a lot more than the critics with their super analytical hats on. Oftentimes I'm part of that latter audience with how I look at movies, but I also have the ability to sit back and enjoy a film for what it is, which is what I was able to do here. I walked out feeling like a teenage girl probably does after watching a chick flick. They turn on the movie wanting an exact set of circumstances to happen with whatever love story they are watching and are completely happy when it goes exactly as they hoped it would. That's exactly the case with me and "Gifted." After seeing the first 10-15 minutes of the movie, I had a feeling I knew exactly how everything was going to turn out, but instead of rolling my eyes at the movie when it played out exactly as expected, I was rooting for it to do so and cheered inside when it did.

I think the reason why the movie was able to do this to me was because of Chris Evans and Mckenna Grace. Chris Evans plays this uncle with the best of intentions whose life has gone down the whole because of this dark place he is currently in mentally, but you can really tell that he loves and cares for this little girl and wants nothing more than to do what he thinks is best for her after seeing what direction her mother, and his sister, took with her life. The thing is, they are completely opposites. Chris Evans' character is not dumb by any stretch of the imagination, but he plays the average human adult going through a difficult time in his life while this 7-year-old girl is anything but average. Her knowledge of math specifically is far beyond anything I've ever learned and I've been through two Calculus classes at college. Both in terms of knowledge and social skills, she is way beyond everyone at her normal first grade class and is super bored when they are learning 3+3 while she wants to go do advanced Calculus. And she doesn't feel like making friends with any of these kids because she just doesn't relate to any of them. But Chris Evans really wants nothing more than for her to have a normal life that any other 7-year-old would have.

The best part of this whole scenario is that young Mckenna Grace, who is 10 years old in real life, does a phenomenal job at selling this character. I don't know anything about her personally, but I would be willing to bet that she actually doesn't know anything about Calculus. I mean, who would at that point? But you absolutely believe that she has a deep knowledge of everything that she is saying, making is super fun to watch her quickly answer all the math problems that her first grade teacher throws out at her. It's also fun to watch her solve the big math problems that the professors from the school of the gifted throw at her later in the film. It makes math fun to watch. What's better, though, is she has such a fast, witty attitude about everything. She has quite the hilarious personality that makes her a joy to watch and her acting abilities are on par with all the adults in the film. She may not be a super genius like her character is in the movie, but she is truly a gifted young girl who is going to go far in life if she continues on her current path. It's been a long time since I've seen a child actor blow me away on screen like she does in this movie. I would love to see her and Jacob Tremblay, the kid from "Room," get together and do a movie. That would be great!

The intrigue with the movie comes when the grandmother comes onto the scene. This is where the message of the movie speaks powerfully. I won't say a whole lot about this, but the grandmother wants the exact opposite of what Chris Evans wants. She sees how talented and gifted this girl is and feels like a girl this special should forgo a normal 7-year-old social life and be fast-tracked onto the path of greatness. She wants her to be taken away from this normal school and be sent to a school for the gifted where, when all is said and done, she can be seen as one of the great minds of the times and solve some fancy mathematical equations that no one has been able to solve yet. Doing so would require a lot of focus and no distractions. No social life. No human interaction. No dating. No marriage. None of that. Just math, math, math and more math. Thus we have the question. What's more important in life? Becoming a super genius and solving some fancy equations that no one has been able to do so or living a regular life, learning to be involved, have friends, find love and all of that fun jazz? And what does it mean to be gifted? Are only a few, select people gifted or is everyone gifted in their own special way? I think this movie tackles these questions rather appropriately.

Yes, you can probably see this movie as a boring, cliche movie that does everything you think it's going to do, but I saw it as a movie that hit all the right notes and did so with emotion and tact that makes for quite the wonderful journey. Chris Evans does a fantastic job in this movie. Mckenna Grace does an even better job considering her age. The chemistry between the two as uncle and niece are perfect. You jump for joy when they are together, despite the rough times, and your heart sinks as the grandmother steps in and tries to separate them. Not to be forgotten are the supporting roles from Jenny Slate, who plays Mckenna's first grade teacher, and Octavia Spencer, who plays the neighbor of Mckenna and Chris Evans. The chemistry between Jenny Slate and Chris Evans is awkwardly hilarious given the circumstances of dating your student's guardian is not the most legal. But when that man is Captain America, I mean who can blame you for wanting to do so? And man does Octavia Spencer have a few fantastic moments that proves yet again why the hold world loves her. So yeah, the summer season in Hollywood is upon us and a lot of huge blockbusters are about to hit theaters, but don't let "Gifted" slip by. Give it a watch! I'm feeling generous and thus I will give "Gifted" a 9/10.