The Snowman (2017) Review

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Alcoholic detective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) takes on a case where a killer is targeting women with one thing in common. Along the way, Hole is being taunted by the killer, while also trying to uncover the secret his partner Katrine (Rebecca Ferguson) is holding.

When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I was definitely intrigued. I then made it my mission to read the book. I wasn’t too thrilled with, but that’s a different story. The film version of The Snowman, was terrible. It suffers from an extremely weak script that is so bland, boring, and empty. While watching the film, it seemed clear that this was a rushed film. Everything just seemed all thrown together with some pretty significant changes here and there. In general, it’s just a huge mess, and even by the end there isn’t any real pay-off and it’s extremely anti-climactic. It also completely devoid of thrills and intensity.  I don’t want to go too far into book/film differences since I think comparing the two is pointless, so I’ll make this statement quick. In the novel there are several scenes that play out longer and are pretty fricken intense. However, these scenes are relegated to extremely short and boring sequences that feel half-assed. Even the mystery of the killer just doesn’t have as much presence. The whole time I was waiting for some good stuff to happen that the mystery of who the killer is doesn’t even matter anymore. So when the killer is revealed, you’re just like, eh whatever. And for the killer’s motive, it’s laughable and pathetic. As far as characters in the film go, we are given the basic ingredients to make them potentially interesting, but it’s as if the limited amount of background for these characters are just thrown at us, but they don’t do anything with them. Instead, the characters become boring and uninteresting. What’s even more disappointing is that the normally outstanding Michael Fassbender isn’t even up to par, and you can tell he’s struggling to make do with what he has. Rebecca Ferguson could have done well with her role too as the feisty but mysterious new partner for Fassbender’s character, but they just have her running around spying on J.K. Simmons’ character and not really doing anything much of interest.

This could have been a good mystery/thriller, but instead we got a terrible, terrible written script and a very clearly rushed production that hurts this film…a lot. Again, I don’t want to make this a whole book vs. movie thing, but if you have interest in the movie, just skip it and read the book. It’s much better written and has more substance and more going on than this script, even if I wasn’t entirely crazy about the book either.

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Wonder Woman (2017) Review

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Diana (Gal Gadot) is a descendant from a league of female warriors. They’ve lived in a hidden location in the middle of the sea so their mortal enemy Ares (the god of war). When a young spy in WWI named Steve (Chris Pine) manages to break through the hidden barrier and discovers their world, Diana is informed the war forming outside her world. Feeling that Ares is responsible for this war, she goes with Steve to destroy Ares and put an end to the war.

After the less than impressive DCEU films of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, director Patty Jenkins delivers the most brilliant DC film since The Dark Knight. What sets Wonder Woman apart from most origin stories is that it doesn’t drag on aspect that aren’t important. We didn’t linger on Diana’s childhood too long, nor her teen years. We are given enough of each to cover the first half hour, and from there we have Diana as a grown woman. As the first entry in a superhero film (not counting BVS), the story is really straightforward, but also has a lot of depth to it. The movie is 2 hours and 20 minutes, and never once does it drag or go by slow. Diana is an extremely compelling and strong character who isn’t tortured by demons. She’s a strong and brave woman from the start and believes in herself as well as others, especially the good in others. Towards the end we do see her falter but she does rise above it. But what’s a superhero movie without great action sequences? It does take place during WWI, and I thought this was going to make is extremely boring (like the first Captain America film), but the war is merely the backdrop and plot device. It’s not entirely focused on, nor is it the point of the story. It is what sets things in motion and what gives Diana her mission, but that’s it. But nothing has been a more exciting feat than seeing Wonder Woman kicking ass in the middle of huge battles. Along with this is the gorgeous cinematography. Another plus is that it doesn’t waste our time with pointless plot points, worthless characters, and senseless drama. It really is the superhero we go to the movies for. Gal Gadot is just incredible as our titular hero. She brings her A-game for the fight sequences and looks like a bad ass doing it. During the humorous moments it comes off as genuine and not over-done, and it’s really during the heartfelt moments that Gadot really shows how rounded of a character Diana is. Chris Pine is also portrayed as the leading man who is tough in his own way, but isn’t afraid to seek the help of Diana when he knows he needs it.

Wonder Woman is the perfect superhero film. It’s filled with fun, action, laughs, plenty of heart, and a hero worth admiring. The script itself is straightforward and consistent, and it’s all under the brilliant eye of Patty Jenkins (whom truly saved the DCEU hands-down). And the film certainly wouldn’t be complete without the outstanding performance of Gadot as Wonder Woman.

5/5

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017) Review

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The song of Elizabeth Swan and Will Turner, Henry (Brenton Thwaites) teams up with Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) in order to save his father from the curse of the Flying Dutchman and bring him back to life. To do this, they must find the famous Trident of Poseidon before the evil Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), whom has a grudge against Jack, does. Along for the ride is Carina (Kaya Scodelario) as a young woman who also wants to find the trident based on a map left behind by her father, and Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush).

The latest entry in the Pirates franchise brings us on another adventure with Jack Sparrow, along with some newcomers. Like the last film, this one isn’t particularly necessary, but in a sense it does have more purpose than the last film. What this does is actually bring the series full circle with how our new characters connect to others. But there is a twist towards the end that feels completely out of nowhere and feel like an inconsistency in the series. In all honesty, the twist doesn’t really work, though I can understand its purpose. That aside, this entry does have everything you would expect from a Pirates film. Great set design, solid visuals and cinematography, fun action sequences, and of course some good laughs from ol’ Jack himself. But along with that we have an overstuffed script with too much going on and more characters than we actually need. And while we get some good humor from Jack Sparrow as per usual, it feels like he’s lost the spirit and adventurous side we’ve seen of him. Instead he’s just a regular perverted drunk, which he is, but that’s all he is in this one more or less. Depp still turns in a fine performance regardless as Sparrow, and the same goes for Rush as Barbossa. Although we are given a bit more depth into Barbossa’s character and Rush does a great job of showing this side of his character we haven’t seen before. Bardem is fine as Salazar, even if the character himself isn’t particularly as memorable or engaging as Barbossa in the first film or Davy Jones in 2 and 3. As far as the newcomers, the pair are a welcoming addition and do well with their respective roles. Their chemistry is decent, but the relationship aspect feels a bit too forced and rushed. Finally we have the return of our two other characters from the original trilogy. Orlando Bloom returns as Will Turner in a smaller role and is serves his minimal time well. Keira Knightley on the other hand, while nice to see, returns in a scene that feels so much like an after thought. She’s in the movie a whole 3 minutes and doesn’t receive any dialogue. This is merely a cameo, whereas Bloom is more of a “special appearance.”

The latest entry in the Pirates franchise definitely isn’t necessary, but nonetheless it’s a much better and more worthy entry than the last film. This one essentially brings the franchise full circle and works as a reboot. It still has the fun entertainment and laughs with its action, and the newcomers serve as worthy additions. Despite the bloated script, and some questionable choices in the script, as well as a forgettable villain, it’s still a ship worth sailing.

3.5/5

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (2017) Review

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Two young elementary school misfits, George (voiced by Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch) are notorious for causing mayhem at their school and pulling pranks. Their mean principal Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms) devises a plan to separate the two friends in different classes (this means the end of the world to the two friends). In an attempt to thwart his plans, George hypnotizes Mr. Krupp with a special ring. They decide to have some fun and make him think he’s Captain Underpants (the superhero in the comics they write). Unfortunately, Krupp takes this too seriously and begins to seek out crime.

Based on the children’s book series (which I read back in elementary school and loved), a film adaptation has finally been made. And all I have to say is that my elementary school self would have been 100% pleased. As an adult I was pleased as well with how well they handled and translated the books. But also as an adult, I realized this movie is not for me or other adults. Unlike Disney/Pixar/Fox/Dreamworks, etc. family films that are made for family and have humor even adults can enjoy, this is primarily for children with child’s humor. There are so many child jokes here. The villain in this film is Professor Poopypants (Nick Kroll), and that in itself is enough to have children rolling with laughter each time it’s said, and is a representation of the humor of this film. Again, all of this does capture the humor and silliness of the books, but this is for children. Sure I chuckled at a couple of moments, but there just isn’t much here for adults to engage in. The humor aside, there is a lot of heart here in how it depicts George and Harold’s relationship and what it means to be a child and enjoy the silliness of things at that age while you can. The voice talents in the cast are very well-done and capture the characters perfectly, and the animation in it is great to look at. With all of these DC/Marvel films being released that may be too intense or adult for younger viewers, here we have a superhero film that is perfect for those too young for the the blockbuster ones. It has the humor, the story, fun characters, and more.

Captain Underpants may not be a movie for adults (this would have been nice), but it is the perfect movie for children, really captures the source material, and brings a lot of heart to its story. Essentially it succeeds in what it is trying to do 100%.

3.5/5

The Mummy (2017) Review

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An ancient evil is unleashed after her tomb is recovered from its burial site. As she slowly regains her human form after feeding on men, her mission is to find suitable man to sacrifice and make him not only her mate but a powerful god. In order to achieve this she will stop at nothing and destroy anything and anyone in her way.

The first entry into the planned Dark Universe series stars Tom Cruise in probably his worst performance to date. It also stands as one of his worst films. With the 1999 version of The Mummy starring Brendan Fraser, we got an action-packed and fun adventure story with some creepy horror moments (how can you forget those bugs that crawl under your skin and into your brain??). With this film we get a dumbed down Marvel version of that. The plot is decent and acts as a newer take on the mummy story, and I thoroughly enjoyed the general direction of connecting these monsters in this universe. At the epicenter of that would be Russell Crowe’s character playing Dr. Henry Jekyl with his alter ego Mr. Hyde. Unfortunately, as mentioned, the film itself ends up really dumbed down. First of all we are given an extremely incompetent “hero” in Tom Cruise’s character Nick. Of course Tom Cruise gets a few action moments here there, but mostly it consists of him running. But more often than not he’s a bumbling idiot. His love interest Jenny (Annabelle Wallis giving a pretty decent performance) is shown as a better and stronger hero and character. Multiple times she saves his character and uses her knowledge to get them out of situations. For love interests,  their relationship is poorly written and the two-actors have zero chemistry. In all honesty, I don’t like Tom Cruise and don’t think he’s the best actor to begin with. But his performance his is unbearable, he’s a good action performer, but he doesn’t get to give us that. The little action sequences we get are well done, but super short. The plane crash sequence in the film you basically see in the whole trailer. It’s ultimately the scene where Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) wreaks havoc on London to seek out Nick (also shown quite a bit in the trailer) is more engaging action scene. But really, most of the action in the film is spoiled in the trailer. They’re still well-done however and are engaging enough. The horror is very minimal and forgettable. The humor in this film completely ruins the tone of the movie. All of it is so slapstick and often unnecessary. For example, a scene where Ahmanet has Nick pinned down, feeling him up and ready to stab him to completely her ritual, he begins to giggle and tell her to stop because it’s tickling (WTF??). But any braindead humor you see in Marvel is present here. It’s actually really depressing how much the people behind this copied a lot of Marvel tropes. I will say that the only decent humor we get is from Jake Johnson, but that’s because he was the comic relief character (and this was short-lived). Along with this, we don’t even get enough of the titular character. We have brief scenes of her regaining her human form and then her going Enchantress from Suicide Squad in the climax. Nothing about her is particularly scary or threatening unlike the mummy in the 1999 film, and her presence feels almost forgotten much of the time. As a result of this it just makes it comes off as a Tom Cruise vehicle and not enough about the mummy/Ahmanet. Finally, they couldn’t have picked a more cliched ending for the movie. I was so hoping for the dark ending it seemed to go for. Unfortunately it didn’t. If any strengths exist in this film they’re the scenes with Russell Crowe (easily the best performance in the movie) setting up the Dark Universe and the “world of gods and monsters”, the few action sequences we have, the comical Jake Johnson, and the pretty solid performance by Sofia Boutella (but it’s unfortunate she doesn’t get a whole lot to do or time to shine).

There’s no doubt in my mind that there will be certain fans of the movie. But if you’re going in expecting a similar movie to the 1999 film with some good Tom Cruise action and some creepy horror moments, you won’t find that here. Instead you get a film that copies Marvel films in many aspects in order to try attract audiences to this new world. Had they not chosen to go this route and given us more horror, action, more of the mummy, and further exploring this universe with Crowe’s character, this could have been much better.

2/5

It Comes At Night (2017) Review

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A man tries to keep his family safe from the horrors that now plague the world they live in. He keeps a strict set of rules to abide by in order to achieve this, but one night someone breaks into their house begging for help. This encounter brings forth a series of events that shows the dark side of humanity.

First and foremost, I must warn you that this is not the movie A24 is marketing as. There’s no monster or villain lurking in the woods that they’re trying to keep out, or anything you may suspect it of being. Instead this movie is a “human horror” film. We don’t have a big evil villain. Instead it shows the villainy of humanity. When we first meet Paul (Joel Edgerton), along with his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), and their son Travis (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.), they’ve just lost a love one to the deadly virus that is corrupting the world. They live in a boarded up house and trust no one who may come around. When the stranger named Will (Christopher Abbott) arrives he begs them to take in him, his wife Kim (Riley Keough), and young son Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner) and they oblige. As the two families reside together, things seem civil and fine, but paranoia and fear soon sets in unleashing the monster that lives inside ourselves. This movie is so extremely well-written to make these characters come off as real, and it succeeds at it, the actors add to this as well. Being a virus film, the virus is merely a plot device, and while it’s not a pleasant sight, it refrains from being unnecessarily gory and becoming a body horror film. In true form we have these set of characters that are so extremely likable and relatable and you care for them all. Granted I didn’t much care for the teenage son because he was a little too weird, but that’s just me. But these characters are genuinely good people, and when fear and paranoia sets in, these darker sides of themselves come out. And the way Trey Edward Shults captures this so brilliantly. His previous film Krisha (which I will now put at the top of my watchlist), is said to also brilliantly capture and portray real people. If those are characters are anything like the ones in this film, I’m sure it’s great. But as mentioned, this is a human horror film, humans are the monsters of this movie, and the true villain of this film are fear and paranoia that creates them. I will say that I wish the paranoia and fear was a bit more intensified prior to the film’s climax, but it’s not a huge deal breaker. As for the climax, it goes into really dark and bleak territory. And it’s so hard to hate these characters for their actions because of the fact that you understand them and their motives. In turn it really makes you question humanity and what can set you over. All of this mentioned is where the real horror is at. There are sequences (and by sequences I mean an abundance of nightmares that the teen son has) that are used mostly for jump scares but that’s about it in terms of “gotcha” horror. This is purely psychological horror at its finest.  As mentioned, the cast is great. Joel Edgerton can’t ever seem to do wrong. He plays Paul so well in how much he cares for his family, but also how much the fear and paranoia affects him, and how he’s balancing this line of what’s right and wrong and how that affects him. Christopher Abbott also turns in a strong performance as the father of the other family. Like Edgerton we see how protective and how much he cares about his family and will do anything to protect them. I wish Carmen Ejogo had a bit more to do than she had. She still does a fun job though. Riley Keough would have fallen the same fate if it wasn’t for one scene in the climax where she just sells her character in that moment. While there is much to love with this movie, it’s not without its issues. There are some plot holes/inconsistencies that are present, but they’re not gaping. We do get a decent feel of the development between the two families, but they could have done more, and while the fear and paranoia is present, these two presences could have been amped and built up more, especially right before the climax.

It Comes At Night won’t win over modern audiences who love in your face horror (though sadly they are treated to that with the dream sequences), or open-ended horror. But for those who REALLY appreciate horror, you will appreciate or love what Shults did with this movie and the statement he was trying to make, as well as the kind of horror he is bringing us that we don’t see a whole lot of. Add on the solid performances by the cast and you do have one of the best horror movies you’ll see this year.

4/5

Rough Night (2017) Review

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A group of woman reunite for Jess’ (Scarlett Johansson) bachelorette party. The night starts out fun and wild but quickly take a turn for the worst. After ordering a stripper, the girls accidentally kill him after a lap dance goes wrong. Now they must try and cover up this disaster, but it only seems to get worse.

Following the footsteps of Bridesmaids, the raunchy female comedy gives another entry in the sub genre. Fortunately, it’s a pretty welcoming entry. The plot may essentially be taken from the dark comedy Very Bad Things, but this one is much more light-hearted and not as mean-spirited. The film features many laughs, although often times the jokes become a bit too repetitive, but they still essentially work for the most part. Towards the end there becomes a conflict between the girls. Especially between Jess and her old best friend Alice (played by Jillian Bell). It’s a little sappy, but the conflict at hand is extremely relatable when it comes to friendships post-college and entering adulthood. The laughs are effective, even if the decisions of the characters (some of the characters portrayed as actually intelligent women) make some of the dumbest decisions. But I suppose making smart decisions wouldn’t give us much of a movie. The women play off each other really well and have great chemistry. Apart from Johansson, Bell, and Kate McKinnon, Zoe Kravitz and Ilana Glazer don’t really get much focus as characters. We get snippets of their personal stories, but we never come back to them. Each actress does a fine job with their roles. Bell and McKinnon of course playing the comedy like pros. McKinnon’s character as the crazy Australian friend of Jess, and Bell as the sex-deprived party animal (who is also an elementary school teacher). It is also really refreshing to see Scarlett Johansson do something really laid back and fun for the first time in a while. And you can really tell she’s enjoying it. Though there is one moment where you really can’t help but see her Black Widow character poking through. She plays a workaholic politician focusing on her upcoming election. She does share some decent chemistry with her fiancee Peter (a fairly comedic but kinda bland role from Paul W. Downs). Peter has his own subplot that quite frankly I feel could have been cut. But it was an interesting gender-swap situation where Jess is out partying and Peter is the one having a wine-tasting bachelor party session with his very poise and classy male friends. In small cameo roles that I feel they should have made one final appearance at the end to be really justified are Demi Moore and Ty Burrell as the super horny couple next door. They take a fancy into Zoe Kravitz character mostly, but they spend much of the movie trying to seduce the girls. They’re random additions to the story, and weren’t particularly necessary, but it provided one particularly comical moment. Moore and Burrell, could possibly be having fun with their roles, but part of me can’t help but feel this was a paycheck film. Especially for Moore. However, the biggest flaw for me is that it goes on much longer than it needs to be. The movie is an hour and 40 minutes, and it easily could have been an 80-90 minute film. This could have saved it from many repetitive jokes, unnecessary plot lines, and being only in one location for the most part, it just doesn’t need to be 100 minutes long.

Rough Night isn’t a perfect film, there are plenty of flaws, but it’s a good choice comedy to go out and have fun with. The comedy works well, the cast does a great job and have solid chemistry, and in the end it has some good heart-felt moments to it.

3.5/5