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For me, one of the hardest things to do is to write a review for a remake, when I've already seen the original film. How is it that you can review it or even watch it, without making immediate comparisons to the original? For those of you unfamiliar with the story, Dr. Louis Creed and his family move to a small town in the woods of Maine. They buy a huge property, which in the back has an old pet cemetery, but beyond that lies something far more sinister, an ancient Indian burial ground, where it is said, those buried there, can return. Pet Sematary was a great film and an even better book, but it's the kind of story where there isn't much you can leave out, and there isn't a whole lot you can change. That being said, the majority of the film is almost a shot for shot remake of the original, begging the question, what's the point? The ending is where they change things up a bit and does it make the story better? That's for you to decide. Personally, I always loved this film and had no problem with it being modernized a bit. The cast wasn't bad, but certainly not as good as the original. The only upgrade in that respect was John Lithgow playing the role of the next door neighbor, Jud, a definite improvement over Fred Gwynne. If you've never seen the original film, go see this one, it's more modern and like it's predecessor, it does an excellent job of bringing book to screen. If you have seen the original, you may or may not think of it as an upgrade. It all comes down to the ending, which I did enjoy, still I can't decide if it's better than what was originally written.
Coming-of-age films are amongst my favorite types of films, but they are often tricky to make. A good film, should give you feelings of nostalgia and form a bond between yourself and at least one of the characters, while a bad one can seem to be nothing more than an episode of Jackass. This film has a bit of both. Sleeping Giants is the story of three teenage boys, spending the summer with their families on Lake Superior and as you might expect, circumstances bring them together. There are some funny moments, trouble to be had, and of course a girl who gets in the middle of everything. What this film has going for it, is that the cast was actually teens, ones whom have very limited acting experience. That being said, it seems as though, the writers also have somewhat limited experience, as this film is your very standard, text book, run of the mill story. What you'd expect to happen in this situation is exactly what happens, and while I like the fact that the story features real teens and new faces, the truth is that nobody really stands up or shows anything more than just kids hanging out. That could honestly be the title of this film, kids hanging out. Sleeping Giants isn't bad in any way, but it's nothing special either, an all-around forgettable experience.
In a shocking turn of events, DC Comics made a great movie that isn't about Batman! Finally, with Aquaman, fans get the type of movie they've always wanted from DC, and I see big things for the future of this franchise. Arthur (Jason Momoa) is the son of the Queen of Atlantis and a mortal man. He was born with extraordinary abilities, but not with the motivation to use them. After his mother was exiled and presumably killed by Atlantis, Arthur wants nothing to do with his people, until a world wide threat forces him to take action. The story here is the same as your basic comic themed film, saving the world while trying to get the girl, but what makes Aquaman really stand out is it's incredible special effects. Seeing as many films as I do, it's difficult to impress me with a little bit of CGI, but this film had some of the best effects I have ever seen! Even if this was a silent film the sheer beauty and magic of this underwater world would still be breath-taking. Jason Momoa stars in his biggest role to date and this guy absolutely killed it. My biggest fear going into this film was that it would be too cartoonish and led by a newcomer, not a great combination, but Momoa is terrific both his personality and in his ability to put on one hell of a fight scene. As for the cartoonish part, there is a little bit of that and it was a turn off, but you do need to pander to the young crowd a film like this is likely to draw. For my money, this is the best DC Comics film since the Dark Knight. I'm not the biggest Superhero fan and I absolutely loved this movie from beginning to end. The two and half hours literally flew by and in the end I was still craving more. I can't wait to see what's next for Aquaman.
Gotti, a highly anticipated new mafia movie centered around the Dapper Don, has been nominated for Worst Movie of the Year and unfortunately, I have to agree. For starters, this film was all over the place! Was this film about John Gotti or his son? ...and who really cares about his actual family, there was a shitty reality show about that, what we really care about is his other family, and not the business side either. For a mafia film about one of it's biggest names in history, there is a distinct lack of violence or for that matter anything substantive. Everyone wanted to see the story of the man, not the story behind the man, and especially in a format of flash-forwards and flashbacks. As for John Travolta, I really don't know what he was thinking with this film. The only thing he has in common with John Gotti is the same first name, and watching him try to play John Gotti was as bad as watching Ben Affleck try to play Batman. The bottom line here is that this film was boring, just a lot of talk in a really bad accent. If you're looking for a good film on the Dapper Don, I suggest you go with another film named Gotti, produced in the mid-90s, starring Armand Assante. That film was great and told the story we wanted to hear. This film is nothing more than an bad autobiography brought to the screen by a man, who thinks he can play any role he wants.
Billed as a comedy, Downsizing didn't last long in theaters, but looking at it from the perspective of Science Fiction and taking into account it's message about environmental protection, this film ends up having a lot more depth than the lame duck comedy it was advertised as. In the near future, a scientist comes up with a way to stop the problem of overpopulation by shrinking people to five inches tall. At first the world is shocked, but when the financial benefits come to light, ordinary people are rushing to have a life of luxury. One such person is Paul Safranek (Matt Damon), who is at risk of losing his home and marriage. He and his wife decide to undergo the procedure, but when Paul awakens, he learns that his wife couldn't go through with it, and he's left to navigate this brave new world on his own. The logistic and social changes brought upon by this simple transition are amazing! I really got into the whole thing from the process to the luxury world they live in, and to the discovery that poverty can still exist even in paradise. I really don't know why the studio would bill and advertise this film as a comedy, because really it's more sad than it is funny. In fact, aside from a few lines here and there, nothing about this film or the situation Paul gets into are really funny. Matt Damon stars and as has become common place with him lately, he seems to just be going through the motions. His lack of emotion made his a hard character to like. Thankfully he is paired with newcomer Hong Chau who really steals the show. Downsizing is a film with a terrific idea, with every last detail executed to perfection, however once characters get involved, the story becomes much less interesting. Once you put aside the setting, this film can be broken down to a simple love story, which doesn't do the rest of the film justice.
I was a History major and as such I find these types of films difficult to watch. They are so inaccurate and give people the wrong perception of history, then again, The Legend of Hercules was directed by Renny Harlin, and he wouldn't put his name on any old thing. After praying to Zeus for guidance, Queen Alcmene (Roxanne McKee) is picked to carry the son of God. The King however knows that Hercules (Kellan Lutz) isn't his and commits an act of betrayal that separates Hercules from the woman he loves. When I think of the mighty Hercules, Kellan Lutz isn't the first name that comes to mind, but he does a pretty solid job with the role. The rest of the cast also performed equally well, and for once the cast wasn't the problem. A film like this has a story to tell and that story can't be told in an hour and half. I enjoyed the narrative, but the best parts of the film were so rushed, that I felt slighted. The whole Egyptian angle should have been a major theme, but it only lasts about ten minutes, and before you know it, Herc is fighting for his life is arenas around the world, scenes that were also rushed. The film is very straight forward and far too predictable for a story like this. There are Kings and Gods, legends from thousands of years ago, but no twists or turns? No surprises thrown in for dramatic effect at least? Overall, the film is somewhat entertaining and as I said the cast was good, but The Legend of Hercules flies by at the speed of light, which makes the film difficult to really get behind.
I never really liked the rock band Queen, and as far as it's front-man, all I really knew was that he was the first superstar to die from AIDS. Knowing this, I feared that this film would be just another Philadelphia, and I was hesitant to see it. That is until the reviews of Rami Malek's career defining performance were released. To my surprise and delight this film wasn't just about Freddy Mercury's lifestyle nor was it about the way he tragically died. Bohemian Rhapsody is a film that not only parallels the life of Mercury, but it also shows everything that goes into making a successful band. From their humble beginnings to the process of how music is made, what it's inspirations are, what goes into making an album, and finally to the internal conflicts involved with the different personalities in a band. Bohemian Rhapsody illustrates better than any film I have ever seen, what it truly means to be part of a successful band. As for it's star, Mr. Robot's Rami Malek proves in one foul swoop that he is so much more than simply a TV drama star. His performance was far and away the best I've seen all year, and even though we're a long way away from Academy Award nominations, if Malek's name isn't at the top of that list, it will be an unmitigated outrage. Not only does Malek nail the performance, but he is Freddy Mercury right down to his mannerisms. To be honest, if Freddy Mercury were still alive and starred in this film, I don't think even he'd be as convincing as Malek was. The film is truly a performance that will be talked about for decades, but what about the film itself? Being that music is a huge part of my life, I found everything to be very interesting and informative, but others could see it as slow moving and somewhat boring. Some of the choices Bryan Singer made could be questioned, such as showing the entire Live Aid performance, all twenty minutes of it. Yes, it is an important part of the Queen story, but to show the whole thing in a feature film? Overall, I thought this film was terrific and even if you aren't into the music and aren't a fan of Queen, you need to see this film for nothing else than the performance of it's star. Performances like this one are what gives films the title of classic and are talked about and studied forever.
By now, my regular readers will know that I absolutely love Nicholas Cage, however being a super fan comes with some complications. The fact is that Cage is one of the most active stars in Hollywood, willing to take on any role, and there in lies the problem. His most recent film, 211, may be one of the most pointless and uninteresting action films ever made. Four mercenaries who are looking to get back at their corrupt boss, start robbing banks where he keeps his money. This leads them to the small town of Chesterfield, where a job is interrupted by the police, leading to a stand-off. Cage stars as Mike Chandler, an officer nearing his retirement, saddled with his son-in-law as a partner. What made 211 so bad is that the stand-off and shoot outs take over the majority of the time and Dog Day Afternoon, this film is not. Aside from the occasional expletives, there are long shoot out sequences with no dialogue. When the action cools down and people finally do speak, it's actually worse, because then the lack of experience and talent of the supporting cast is painfully evident. Action movies are supposed to be exciting and get the blood pumping, even if the story isn't all that great, it's something the genre has lived on since the 1970s, but 211 is an action filmed that bored me. When one is watching an action film and nodding off, it is an indicator that something is seriously wrong with that film. I do love Nicholas Cage, but this movie won't be anywhere near the greatest hits boxed set.
Trippy mind-bending movies are among my favorite types of film, but sometimes a good idea can be pushed too far and just become madness. Jude (Travis Tope) is a bullied kid, who makes the mistake of going to a house party at his friends house. Forced to play a game he doesn't want to, he loses and has to spend seven minutes locked in a closet with his bullies girlfriend. When the door opens, Jude and June (Haley Ramm) find themselves in another place, one that is very much like the one they just came from, but inherently different. Based on the butterfly theory, that for every action, somewhere there is an opposite and equal reaction, this closet leads these teens into alternate realities. At first the film is wildly original and seems to be going some place magical, however, with each jump things just get stranger and not for the better. When they finally ended up on the game show from hell, I'd pretty much had enough. Believe it or not, this film was billed as a horror movie, but there aren't any elements of that, and the film should have focused more on the scientific angle and the aspects of these alternate dimensions. Newcomer Travis Tope stars and does an adequate job, although I question his casting. Filmmakers cast Dylan Everett and Gage Munroe in backing roles, but then have the stars, their classmates, played by actors who are considerably older? Gage Munroe is a terrific actor, fits the age of the lead, and in my opinion would have made the film a lot more fun. The wildly different age differences didn't make much sense to me, neither did the ending. The whole film seemed to be building up to some angle centered around Jude's mother and teacher, but in the end, it is simply overlooked. This was a major theme of the film and one of the answers I was looking forward to. Having it white-washed just left a bad taste in my mouth. As a whole, Seven In Heaven was a good idea and has some elements of science fiction that I can't get enough of, but the lazy casting and systematic breakdown of the story just ruined the whole experience for me.
Die Hard meets Twister in the new thriller, The Hurricane Heist. When I first heard about this film, I was really excited and hoping for something new, but the truth was this film was nothing more than a compilation. A severe hurricane is about to hit the Gulf Coast, and U.S. agents are in town to secure the U.S. mint. As the storm bares down they are confronted by a gang of thieves intent on taking millions. The only things between them and freedom are a lone agent, two local boys, and one hell of a storm. There were so many parallels to other films that throughout The Hurricane Heist I was getting nothing but deja vu. At some points I felt like they should have just made the hurricane a series of tornadoes and called the film Twister 2. That was bad enough, but when you combine lack of originality with predictable behavior, you get a story that is very dull. What saves the film from being just another disaster movie are some amazing chase sequences, from the minds behind The Fast & The Furious, as well as some incredible special effects. This film is definitely an adrenaline rush, but the story, star power, and originality are severely lacking. I was expecting a daring robbery in the midst of a cataclysmic storm, instead I got Hard Rain, without the star power. In the end, The Hurricane Heist wasn't a terrible film to watch, but it was anything but memorable.
In the world of Bright, almost all fiction creatures exist and are integrated into modern society with man kind. In the city of Los Angeles, people are up in arms over the first Orc to join the LAPD. No one is happy about it, least of all his partner, Daryl Ward (Will Smith) who has already taken a bullet because of him. One night, while out on patrol the pair come across a unique threat, one that could change the world forever, but can human and Orc come together to put an end to it? Could somebody please tell me what all the hype surrounding this movie is about? It is the biggest Netflix film to date, a sequel was announced before it even debuted, and while critics universally panned it, fans have turned it into a cult classic, dedicating all kinds of things to it on the web. As for me, I was excited about it, but just like every other David Ayer film I've ever seen, I was sorely disappointed. People were saying how unique and innovative this film is, maybe, if you've never seen another science fiction film before in your entire life! Every aspect of this film, from the racism towards other species to the integration of man and creature has been done to death! Themes like this in Science Fiction are metaphors for racial inequality and have been done in film and on television since the civil rights movement! Will Smith stars and once again thinks it's 1992, he's a teen heartthrob, and everything he says people are going to find hilarious. Much like Hancock, Ward is completely out of touch with modern audiences and geared toward a much younger crowd. I really don't understand how Will Smith can be outstanding in things like the Men In Black series and then just step back into roles like this. The rest of the cast was equally laughable, as was much of the story, but similar to Ayer's last big budget film, Suicide Squad, the plot is outstanding. It's the kind of thing that could have gone right so many different ways, but instead was just so badly butchered by shotty directing, terrible storytelling, and immature humor, that after a while, Bright is pretty much unwatchable.
The Preppie Connection is a film based on the 1984 drug scandal at Choate Rosemary Hall, an elite private High School in Connecticut. Toby Hammel (Thomas Mann) is a good student who is awarded a scholarship to this elite private high school, but when he gets there, he discovers, as the poor kid, he doesn't quite fit in. In order to make friends, fit in with the popular kids, and get close to the girl his heart desires, Toby tells them that he can get them whatever drugs they desire. The truth is he has no idea how to do that, but someone as smart as he is was bound to figure it out. As with many of these films, some artistic license was taken, and not everything in the film is exactly what happened, however I find films like that make for the best dramas. Think about it for a second, some things in life happen that are just so strange and twisted that even the best writers couldn't make them up. These films play as more realistic, audiences tend to connect closer with the characters, and they even become invested in the story. I myself went searching Wikipedia afterwards to see what happened to everybody all these years later. The star of the film is Thomas Mann and other than his eerie resemblance to Sid in Lords of Dogtown, I knew nothing about him, but his performance was astonishing. Coming from a bunch of teen party movies to doing something like this was a huge step in the right direction and hopefully a big break for a talented young actor. V star Logan Huffman and newcomer Lucy Fry round out a stellar albeit unknown cast. IFC films are my favorite Independent films, stories based on real life events are my favorite kinds of drama, add to the mix a talented and relatively unknown young cast and you have the recipe for a film that does not disappoint. The Preppie Connection may not have the action or big name star that appeals to many fans, but by in large it is an unforgettable story of just what one person is capable of when properly motivated.
American Bully is one of those film that has a message to tell. What that message was is still a complete mystery to me. This entire film is based on a single act, which wouldn't be such a bad thing had they showed what led up to the act or what the results of the act were. The film is short to begin with, at just seventy-five minutes, but for the material presented, that was still too long. The entirety of this movie features a bunch of high school kids hanging out, getting drunk, and expressing racist views. After an hour of absolutely nothing going on, an opportunity presents itself, something finally happens, and the film is over. I thought with the subject material that this was a film that could have gone in a million different directions, but literally almost nothing happens! Matthew O'Leary stars, and while I consider him to be an underrated performer, it's roles like this one that are going to keep on the b-movie list. When actors are capable of so much more, why take a role like this? Clearly American Bully was a low budget, independent film, and without a payday or a strong leading role, there simply isn't a reason to take on a role of this nature. As I said the film has a message to tell and it seems pretty cut and dry until the end. The big left turn may have made the ending a bit more interesting, but calls into question the entire message the film had originally intended to portray. Overall I found the whole thing to be just a strange experience severely lacking in almost every category.
I really didn't know what to expect from The Happytime Murders, and that's why I went to see it. I wasn't sure if I'd be getting Team America or Roger Rabbit, maybe even a combination of the two. Despite the tagline, that the film wasn't suitable for children, I did expect some level of juvenile humor, but I thought if it has a edge to it and if the mystery is somewhat compelling, maybe it would surprise me, it didn't. Much in the same way that Roger Rabbit had humans and toons living together, with an extreme bias against toons, this world has humans and puppets living together, with a bias against puppets. Phil Phillips (Ryan Tran) claim to fame was as the first puppet to be a police officer, but now he's washed up, and it's brother's fame and his TV show, The Happytime Family, that overshadows him. Phil doesn't care about anything anymore until someone starts killing off the Happytime gang, including his brother, that's when he wants back in, even if his human partner, Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy) wants nothing to do with him anymore. The tagline said this film was not intended for kids, but I disagree, because that's exactly who this film is intended for. The comedy is nothing but sex and jokes aimed at a very young crowd. There is no way that adults are going to find most of the comedy in this film even remotely funny. As for the "dramatic" side of the story, the mystery isn't such a mystery, it's so simplistic that you'll know before the first murder even happens. But what about the star of the film, Melissa McCarthy? Well, she plays the same role in just about every film doesn't she? Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, here she just adds to the futility of everything. The bottom line on The Happytime murders is that the story is too basic, the backstory is a complete rip off of Roger Rabbit, and the jokes are so low-brow, that I think even Trey Parker and Matt Stone would pass on using them in a similar film. The true joke here is that this film was ever made.
Major Tom Egan (Ethan Hawke) is a decorated Air-force pilot, who after five deployments, has been assigned to a base in Las Vegas, where he conducts drones strikes over Afghanistan. He hates his job and feels like a coward, but things get a whole lot worse, when the CIA commissions his team to start doing questionable jobs. Egan starts to come apart and take it out on his co-workers and family, leading to an uncertain future. IFC films are right at the top of my list right now as the absolute best in independent film. Seldom have they disappointed me, and I wouldn't describe my feelings about Good Kill as disappointed, but rather indifferent. This film, based on a true story, was exceptionally written and features a fantastic director and an amazing cast, but it also moves at a snails pace and is extremely repetitive. It's just drone strike, reaction, intervention, repeat, over and over again, followed by an ending that wasn't all that surprising. Ethan Hawke gives a powerful performance, despite the fact that he lacks the kind of emotion this role sorely needed. I understand that having Egan be this stone cold guy on the outside is a major theme, but it also makes for a lot of seemingly endless conversations and interactions. Good Kill has a lot of elements I look for in a movie, it's well written, has a cast I really enjoy, a director I know very well, still, it's lacking in emotion and levity. The film is monotonous and much longer than it had to be, all in all, not bad, but not great.
I watch mostly independent horror films, because when it comes to this genre, Hollywood is just too afraid to try anything different. When you see a horror film in theaters, it seems like all you get is either a slasher film with a ton of blood, a serial killer movie with lots of gore, or a supernatural thriller with nothing but jump scares. Real horror is supposed to be scary and is supposed to be something that sticks with you, but it's rare that a film can do that anymore, and Under The Bed is no exception. I can sum up this film by simply saying it's an hour of goosebumps, ten minutes of ridiculously over the top gore, and a whole five minutes of stranger things, thrown in at the end, for an attempt at originality. Not only was this a horror movie that I would call boring, but the cast was just plain annoying and written to be beyond stupid. If not for the writers love of the F word, combined with the last fifteen minutes of the film, Under The Bed could literally have been a Goosebump. Jonny Weston stars, and the future Project Almanac star, really was the only bright spot. This was one of his first films, but he at least has a clue as to how to live in the moment and build up the intensity. Weston's character had an interesting background and even a couple of funny one-liners, aside from that, this film has absolutely nothing. For those of us who love independent films, we are always taking a risk, knowing that a lot of times we're seeing newcomers. A lot of these films are something different, new, and refreshing, but other times they reek of inexperience and are completely lacking in originality. Under The Bed is yet another example of the latter.
Robots were supposed to make our lives easier, and at first, they did. Despite all the progress humanity made, it wasn't good enough for Elias Van Dorne (John Cusack), who decided robots were the way to salvation. Van Dorne promised his latest program, Kronos, would save the planet, but how? By wiping out all human life, because we are ultimately what is killing Earth. Fast Forward ninty-seven years as Andrew Davis (Julian Schaffner) wakes up in a world he doesn't know. Attempting to find his way, he meets a young girl, who tells him of a place that is free from Kronos, only question is, can they make it there in one piece? On paper this seems like a great story, and for a b-movie, the special effects are pretty remarkable, but that was the only notable thing about this film. The whole plot really doesn't make much sense, I mean why would Van Dorne want to destroy humanity and live alone forever as part of a computer program? The cast is lead by newcomer, Julian Schaffner, who shows a lot of inexperience but also a lot of potential. I think it's a good thing for a young actor to start out in a film like this, because he can gain his experience in something relatively small and unknown, before moving on to bigger and better things. As for John Cusack, I usual enjoy his films, but in this case he was just terrible. Elias Van Dorne is a character without feeling or purpose, just an evil button pusher, who loves the sound of his own voice, a complete waste of Cusack's talent. The bottom line, Singularity has it moments, but there are too many slow points and too much inexperience seeping through for it to be something I would ever watch again or recommend over hundreds of better choices.
When you think of action movie stars, Ethan Hawke, isn't the first name to come to mind. That's because his best known works aren't action films, but he has done a lot of independent action stuff and each one is better than the last. In his latest, 24 Hours To Live, Hawke plays Travis Conrad, the worlds best, yet retired, hit-man. When a government conspiracy is threatened to be revealed, a large sum of money brings Conrad out of retirement, but something goes wrong and he is killed, only to be awaken 8 hours later with the marvels of modern science. He is told he has only 24 hours to live, hence the title, but in those 24 hours he must decide weather or not to complete his mission or avenge a mistake. This film has a lot of similarities to Jason Statham's Crank, except that it doesn't move as quickly and actually has a plot. Unlike Crank, this film isn't just about killing and explosions, it brings a mans morality into question at the end of his life. Ethan Hawke is fantastic and if given the opportunity would be sensational in any big budget action film. Supported by newcomers and some very poor cameos by Rutger Hauer, it's Hawke's character that makes this film spectacular, that is until the end. If you like independent films as much as I do, you come to learn that without the big budget, sometimes they have to push the envelope a little bit and do things filmmakers don't typically do. Sometimes it works out well, other times it's a complete failure, and the ending to this movie almost destroys it. The film has a terrific final scene and looks like it's on it's way to be one of the best action films I've seen all year, until a 3 minute scene at the end of the film almost takes down the whole thing. It was certainly a curve ball, but one that was absolutely unnecessary. That being said, this film was still everything one could hope for from an action movie, fast paced, loud, and violent with an actual story that makes sense to go along with it.