Archive for category Movies

Movie Mayhem – A Star Is Born

A Star Is Born

A Star Is Born — 2018; Directed by Bradley Cooper; Starring Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Rafi Gavron and Anthony Ramos

For a long time, I never thought of Lady Gaga as anything but an act. By this I mean, she was all gimmick, no substance, more focused on the persona she presented than with the music she performed. Although her music was fine, her shtick so far overwhelmed it, I always felt she was covering for a lack of vocal talent. Then in 2015, she appeared completely stripped down (no weird outfits or heavy makeup) at the Oscars to sing a beautiful rendition of “The Sound of Music.” It was clear she was an extremely talented vocalist, and it made me wonder why she’d spent so much time hiding behind a mask. A Star Is Born, the newest remake of the film made famous by Barbara Streisand (which itself was a remake), in some ways mirror’s Lady Gaga’s rise to fame and how she may have felt when she herself was coming up in an industry obsessed with appearance. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Smallfoot

Smallfoot

Smallfoot — 2018; Directed by Karey Kirkpatrick and Jason Reisig; Starring the voices of Channing Tatum, James Corden, Zendaya, Common, Danny DeVito, LeBron James and Gina Rodriguez

Pixar has dominated the animation stage for so long now, sometimes we forget there are other animation studios that have delivered some exceptional animated films as well (though the majority of them do tend to run their brands into the ground with too many unnecessary sequels and spinoffs). Sony Animation has produced several fun films, Dreamworks Animation has delivered a couple of standouts, and of course, we all know Disney Animation’s history. Then there’s Warner Brothers Animation, who, outside of their DC, LEGO and Hannah-Barbara brands, hasn’t delivered a whole lot in terms of winning products. So it was interesting to see them step out of their comfort zone once again (after 2016’s Storks, which did impress me quite a bit!) to produce a film that resembled something you might expect from a studio like Blue Sky. I can’t say that Smallfoot is full of laugh-out-loud moments, but it does have a strong, tender narrative that keeps it from sinking into the ice. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Assassination Nation

Assassination Nation

Assassination Nation — 2018; Directed by Sam Levinson; Starring Odessa Young, Hari Nef, Suki Waterhouse, Abra, Colman Domingo, Bill Skarsgård and Joel McHale

When grading films, books or any other type of entertainment, there are a lot of factors I take into account — acting, writing, editing, character development, cinematography, direction, pace and overall entertainment factor, among others. This is why I very rarely give anything an F, as there is almost always some redeemable qualities that keep it from being a complete disaster. It’s also why I’ve never walked out of a movie; no matter how bad it is, there’s always a chance the film will redeem itself in some way. Within the first minutes of Assassination Nation, the new sociopolitical mind rape that just hit theaters, I was sickened and completely disengaged; an F was certainly on the horizon as I bordered that fine line between holding true and walking out. As the movie progressed, so too did my tolerance to the point where it was clear there could have been a good, meaningful film somewhere hidden under the grotesque masks of sadism. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Peppermint

Peppermint

Peppermint — 2018; Directed by Pierre Morel; Starring Jennifer Garner, John Gallagher Jr., John Ortiz, Juan Pablo Raba, and Annie Ilonzeh

In the trailer for Peppermint, one of the characters asks what Jennifer Garner’s Riley North was doing traveling the world for five years, bouncing from place to place (paraphrasing of course). Within the context of the movie, my first thought when I heard this — she was becoming Sydney Bristow! For anyone who remembers Alias, the terrific spy series that ran on ABC from 2001-2006 and made Garner a name for herself in the industry, you’ll know that she’s more than capable of unleashing hell on her enemies and look good doing it. And though it’s great to see Garner returning to her action roots after a string of dramas, rom-coms and faith-based films, I’m not sure how I felt about her kicking tail and taking names for the sake of vengeance rather than justice. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Kin

Kin

Kin — 2018; Directed by Jonathan and Josh Baker; Starring Myles Truitt, Jack Reynor, Dennis Quaid, Zoë Kravitz and James Franco

When someone sets out to tell a story, the intent is to capture the audience’s imagination  and provide a satisfying climax that keeps people wanting more. Everything is developed in a way that allows us to fall in love with the characters so much, we want to continue to spend time with them, even though they have received closure at the end of their story.

Sometimes, though, this need for more stems from the wrong reasons. The characters may meander through circumstances that don’t necessarily add up, eventually throwing us a curveball at the end that makes you wish that story was the one they had told instead of the one you actually had to sit through. This scenario is Kin in a nutshell — a film that provides nothing of substance until the very last minute, but by then, it’s far too late. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – The Happytime Murders

The Happytime Murders

The Happytime Murders — 2018; Directed by Brian Henson; Starring Melissa McCarthy, Elizabeth Banks, Maya Rudolph and Joel McHalee

The Muppets have been around for a very long time, brightening the moods of both children and adults. The sense of whimsy, education and absurdity that Jim Henson brought to his creation spoke to generations of fans. The kids liked them because they were fuzzy and cute, the adults liked them because there was an underlying maturity to them. But sometime after Henson’s death in 1990, people seemed to lose touch with the Muppets. They were still around, mostly appearing in the retelling of famous stories like A Christmas Carol and Treasure Island (and of course Sesame Street, which will live on forever, as it should), but they slowly became irrelevant. In 2011, the Muppets started to make a comeback with Jason Segel’s The Muppets, and have slowly been earning their stripes back under the leadership of Henson’s son, Brian, who to his credit continues to try new things to reinvigorate the brand. Through his newest venture, Henson Alternative, Henson brings us The Happytime Murders, a seedy look at the dark secrets behind the Muppets who aren’t famous like Kermit the Frog. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Mile 22

Mile 22

Mile 22 — 2018; Directed by Peter Berg; Starring Mark Wahlberg, Lauren Cohan, John Malkovich, Iko Uwais, and Ronda Rousey

Ever since the beginning of cinema, actors and directors have been teaming up to produce multiple projects together. Leonardo Dicaprio was just another pretty face before Martin Scorcese made him an actor; Wes Anderson’s phone number is the only one Bill Murray will ever answer; Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater break all kinds of boundaries; Tim Burton and Johnny Depp share the same brain; and John Ford and John Wayne are probably still making movies together in heaven. What makes them work so well together is because each pair have a unique brand; you always know what you’re going to get when you walk in the theater. One of the more recent actor/director collaborations is Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg, who have made four films together over the last five years (two of which opened in 2016). The first three were powerful true stories of harrowing bravery in the face of tragedy. Their newest partnership, Mile 22, is miles from their previous jaunts together, but nevertheless stays true to their brand. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – The Meg

The Meg

The Meg — 2018; Directed by Jon Turteltaub; Starring Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Cliff Curtis, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, Page Kennedy and Shuya Sophia Cai

What made Jaws so great when it first scared audiences away from beaches (and subsequently made the rest of the series so underwhelming or bad) was that it felt so authentic. It’s been widely documented that Steven Spielberg had major technical problems with the shark during production, limiting its exposure to the audience. This “problem” provided much more tension because we could sense a danger lurking in the depths of the water, but couldn’t see it. Ever since then, filmmakers have tried to replicate that sense of fear to varying degrees of success.

The problem is, as technology evolved and became more accessible, that authenticity devolved. Filmmakers jumped at the chance to use computer effects to create more menacing sharks without the hindrance of technical issues, but in doing so, made them less scary. Not only that, but by focusing so much effort on making the shark more frightening, they stopped caring about the characters, which is another ingredient Spielberg nailed to precision. And when the characters simply become a source for food (and the only goal of the filmmaker is how many people die, and how gruesome their deaths will be), we lose that connection and, thus, our ability to relate to what’s happening. The genre, therefore has either embraced the stupidity of shark attacks or have failed to live up to the promise of being the next Jaws. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – The Spy Who Dumped Me

Spy Who Dumped Me

The Spy Who Dumped Me — 2018; Directed by Susanna Fogel; Starring Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon, Justin Theroux, Sam Heughan and Gillian Anderson

In small doses, Kate McKinnon can be very funny. On Saturday Night Live, for example, she has a knack for infusing characters with just enough manic energy and quirky characteristics that juxtapose perfectly with her straight-laced counterparts within the same sketch, and with her ability for perfectly-timed, over-the-top expressions, she can both make a sketch work from the beginning or bring life to an otherwise dying sketch. But this works best in four-minute bursts. It doesn’t work as well when she tries to extend this personality over the course of a two hour film. I have yet to see a movie featuring McKinnon where I didn’t find her overly aggressive, annoying and off-putting, mainly because it’s clear this type of extreme shtick is all she knows. This perception doesn’t change with her new film, The Spy Who Dumped Me, where she plays the hyperactive yin to Mila Kunis’s frazzled yang. Read Full Review

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Movie Mayhem – Mission: Impossible – Fallout

MI Fallout

Mission: Impossible – Fallout — 2018; Directed by Christopher McQuarrie; Starring Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Angela Bassett and Alec Baldwin

In my review of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, I compared the M:I franchise to the Fast and the Furious franchise, in which the films really found there voice with their fourth installments and haven’t let up on the gas since, each one producing fun, inventive (sometimes wholly outrageous) pieces of entertainment. My viewing of each series followed the same basic trajectory, where the first in the series was just okay, the second worse, prompting me to skip the third altogether (and still have yet to see). When the fourth entry came around, I reluctantly went to see them (Fast & Furious because my friend wanted to see it and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol mainly because of Simon Pegg). To my surprise, both franchises upped the ante and turned what could be considered singular, stand-alone projects into a continuous story where each new entry could stand on its own two feet, but as a whole felt as if they were part of a much bigger world, breathing life into the plots and the action by way of new characters that stuck around beyond their first appearance. With Mission: Impossible – Fallout, the sixth installment of the M:I series, it almost feels like the end of an era, wrapping up story threads going back as far as the third film for one last hooray. Read Full Review

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