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Rating History

The Shallows
The Shallows (2016)
7 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Creature features, films that have always held a special place in my heart and for some reason I've always loved, no matter how cheesy some of them have become. I say some becaus this one does not fall into that category of cheese at all. This may possibly the smartest creature feature I've seen in a very long time. "The Shallows" delivers on all aspects of film making in its category, and a film I think most would find enjoyable.

The plot is as about straight forward as you can get, a young woman travels to a secluded beach in Mexico, where her Mother used to go to surf some of the best waves imaginable. All of that joy gets turned upside down though, when she is attacked by a shark and stranded on a rock with the tide rising, and the great white lurking. She now faces the challenge of somehow getting to shore without becoming a snack for the creature. That is all I will say, I'm never one to give away major spoilers to films, so if you want to know what happens you'll obviously have to watch for yourself.

I say that this is one of the smartest creature features I've seen because the film maker didn't resort to and rely on crazy CGI shark attacks, cool images, and a predictable plot to make this film successful. Creature features are a tough genre, no matter what everyone judges it because it not realistic enough, or the shark or crocodile or piranha look too fake, or way too big. No, this film did it right, and I think dare say the best shark film that is realistic enough since the first "Jaws" film. The shark is normal great white size, he doesn't look preposterously large or animated, it's terrifying actually to know that this is actually how big they are. The film relies on the intensity of the situation, and not only the shark stalking her, but the natural situation of the tide rising, the cold nights, and hypothermia as well as starvation and dehydration settling in.

Blake Lively, let's get to her. We haven't really seen her in a stand alone film as the lead when it comes to a film, and if we have, it was never like this at all. She holds her own, as she should, it's basically her the whole film. You feel her drive, anxiety, and determination to survive. Don't get me wrong, it's no Oscar winning performance, but in this genre, it blows most performances away. So, props to her on pulling off what I think is a difficult task.

Overall, it's a great film to sit back on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and just enjoy on a fans level. Don't criticize it like you do most creature features, for instance; "Lake Placid," "Pirannha," or anything like that, it's not that kind of film. It's believable, it's intense, and it almost makes you not want to go into the ocean again for a swim or surf. Almost. 4/5 JD

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
7 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

We go back to the neighborhood of the Radner's, a young couple who have just sold their house and are in the escrow portion of the selling process, given a 30 day notice until the buyer's decide if they really want it or not. Enter the sorority Kappa Nu, a bunch of girls who just want to party but can't because sororities aren't allowed to in the U.S. I think it's safe to say where it goes from here.

"Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising" isn't necessarily a good movie, but it isn't terrible either. It probably didn't need to be made, but we know how Hollywood likes to recycle humor to make an extra buck. Don't take this the wrong way, it's funny at times, but lacks the explosive humor from the original film. Maybe I'm too hard on sequels in Hollywood when it comes to the comedy genre, but maybe I'm not because how often do they actually work and are just as good or better than the original? Not often. But hey, I'm a huge Seth Rogen fan so I thought I would give it a try because the first film was flat out funny.

The writing here isn't anything spectacular for the jokes and plot line, it is pretty recycled, and almost an identical situation to the original, which is fine, I didn't expect it to be anything else really. I was just expecting since they decided to do a sequel that they had some great ideas for jokes that they didn't fit in the first film or could only do with a sorority. There are some good jokes however, and some that fall pretty flat. So just keep that in mind if you watch this film.

Chloe Grace Moretz was a good touch to add to this cast and make her the opposing factor in the film, she's a good actress, I've never really seen her do comedy before so it was a nice change of pace I think, the closest she's gotten to comedy is the "Kickass" film franchise. Rogen and Byrne are of course the highlights here, I don't think Rogen can do much wrong in the comedy world, and Zac Efron again holds his own in the film. As much as I don't like to admit it, Efron is an upcoming very successful actor in the comedy genre of Hollywood. It was nice to see Dave Franko and the rest of the original cast have a small role in this film, which I was unaware was going to happen.

Overall, not a lot of good came out of this film. Sure it was funny at times, I had a couple belly laughs, but why recycle something that didn't need to be? It falls short of being very funny and worth the price of admission. There isn't anything ground breaking, or tears running down your face comedy, but I will say that there are far worse comedies out there. 2.5/5 JD

Doctor Strange
7 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Yet we have come to another entry in the ever evolving and growing Marvel Cinematic Universe. This time around, we enter the mystic world of Doctor Stephen Strange, a surgeon at the top of his game, and with an ego to match. This entry into the MCU is familiar, yet different when it comes to an origin story. Yes, you get the cookie cutter plot to a certain extent when it comes to the growth of the character, the conflict that arises, the bad guy, the search for what is right and is this your destiny, and the final battle. It's the formula Marvel has been using for the better part of a decade, but there is a reason why they continue to do so, it works. Now, when I say this is different to a certain extent, I say that because Stephen Strange isn't a hero that was "given" these powers, or born with them, or in a freak accident that ended up giving him inherited powers as aftermath. No, Strange goes out and seeks a way to heal himself, and along the way, discovers magic, faith, and spirit that changes his life forever and shows him the true meaning of life itself. It is very refreshing, and it helps "Doctor Strange" land in the top 3 of my favorite Marvel Film Origin Stories. Let's move on to the technicalities of the film.

I'm going to start with probably the most impressive aspect of this film, and if you guessed visuals from just seeing the trailers alone, you're god damn right. In superhero films, it's inevitable that CGI is going to play a major role; humans can't fly, we can't jump 100 feet in the air, we don't magically create things with our brain that become reality. It just doesn't happen, but it does in this film, including shape shifting and moving entire city blocks in a fluent motion and it looks like it's actually happening. You'd believe that actual buildings were flipping and it was an ordinary thing. That's how believable this film is in the aspect of CGI. Do I dare throw it out there that this film possibly gets nominated for an Oscar for visuals and or special effects, yes I'm going to say it. With that being said, your brain and eyes will love this film.

The acting is always hard in some superhero films, a lot of times you don't expect much, especially not Oscar worthy performances. You don't get those kind of performances here either, but you do get damn good ones. Benedict Cumberbatch is the perfect fit for Stephen Strange, he pulls off the sarcastic, arrogant prick that you thought only Robert Downey Jr. could produce. I'd say Cumberbatch holds his own, while throwing in sprinkles of comedy when he felt was the oppurtune moment. He does well, and you should've assumed he would considering his track record of acting. I'll move onto Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays Mordo, a Master in the house that Strange visits to find healing. Ejiofor is also an actor with a great track record, and he doesn't change that here. You get a sense of pity and admiration at the same time from Mordo, pity towards Strange, and admiration towards The Ancient One, who, I will get to in a moment. He's always showed great emotion, whether on his sleeve or storing it away for the right time. He does a great job, and I'll be looking forward to seeing more of him in the MCU hopefully. Tilda Swinton, playing the almighty, the one that teaches all, The Ancient One. There was a lot of fuss when this casting happened, mainly from Marvel Fan Boys considering the character in the comics isn't female. But, I give her props, she wants to mind blowing, but she was good despite negative reviews. I'd say her best scene was her final scene, she had just the right amount of emotion to be The Sorceror Supreme. The rest of the cast was good too, from Mads Mikkelsen as the main bad guy, to Benedict Wong as the comic relief, and Rachel McAdams as the love interest. All around it worked in the acting department.

The plot, the part of a movie that can make or break you so quick that you won't know what happened. This one here, like I said is somewhat cookie cutter. Fine, that's totally fine, it works for Marvel, it always has, so if it ain't broke why fix it? There's nothing to brag about for sure when it comes to the plot, there's no big twists, no "What The?" moments, no second guessing what's happening. It's just a straight forward superhero origin plot, but with lots of magic and crazy visuals. Yeah, sometime the dialogue was mistimed, mainly some of the comic relief in serious situations, but hey, that's Marvel for you. So, overall, it worked out in the favor of the film.

Overall, it's a very enjoyable movie. It gives you a different look at Marvel to a certain extent, all the while still holding Marvel's true values and connection everything together and ultimately setting up very nicely for "Infinity Wars." Which reminds me, don't be the idiot that gets up and leaves when the credit scenes start rolling, you should know by not that the film isn't over. So, stay seated, chat with your neighbor, and wait for the two post credit scenes that happen after the main act of "Doctor Strange." Very much enjoyed this film, looking forward to the evolution of his character, how he gets mixed up with the rest of the Avengers, and for the huge battle with Thanos in "Infinity Wars."

Suicide Squad
Suicide Squad (2016)
10 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

We get our third entry into the DC Cinematic Universe with the arrival of "Suicide Squad," the villain ensemble film that has been heavily watched and promoted for a little over a year now. Perhaps that is why it isn't getting the love most thought it would get, over hyped? Or is it that the DCCU is cursed, or is it that Warner Brothers can't make a jaw dropping superhero flick? Who knows, all I know, is that this movie was semi-satisfying, not mind blowing nerdgasm worthy.

I will start with the casting/acting, which was actually the strong suit of this entire film with all things considered. Will Smith (Deadshot), and Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn) were the absolute highlights of this film. Smith took the role well, and did his best work in a while, really grasping that hatred and killer instinct that Deadshot truly is, while holding his emotions on reserve until needed. Robbie on the other hand 100% dove into the role of the infamous Harley, the psychotic girlfriend of the Clown Prince (Jared Leto) himself. She demonstrates her psychotic behavior from the opening sequence, and until the screen goes black. Her jokes, demeanor, and even screechy voice give you the Harley Quinn you've grown to love from the comics and animated series, and expected in this film. I want to quickly talk about Amanda Waller, portrayed by the very talented Viola Davis, who nails this role by the way. She's the ringleader, the no feelings bitch that sends the villains to their death to save the world, and if they fail, she will kill them all anyways. She shows no remorse, no love, nothing but cold blooded hatred for the "Suicide Squad" and evil throughout the world. Well done by her, was a great casting choice. Let's move on to the most infamous Batman villain and perhaps DC villain of all time, The Joker. This is the 3rd portrayal by an actor on the big screen, and even though you get about 15 minutes total of the Clown Prince chopped up in the entire film, I give Jared Leto a well done. It's really hard to completely judge Leto's performance, solely on the fact that he was rarely in it. People are judging him because it's a whacked out, modern twist on the iconic character. SO WHAT? Leto is known as one of the best method actors of our time. The guy totally embraces and becomes the character he is portraying. The whole time they shot this film, he never broke character once, even when the cameras stopped rolling. Here's how I put it; Nicholson was the original Clown Prince, Ledger was the Anarchist, Leto is the Gangster. That's it, hate it or love it, that is the way it is. You can't compare the three actors, they all have different takes on The Joker, and different scripts to accompany them. So bravo Leto, looking forward to seeing more of what you can do with The Joker in future DCCU films.

Now let's get into the part of the film that I think ruined it for me, well, not ruined it, but definitely made me dislike it more than I wanted to. But just for the record, it's not near as terrible as "BvS," that s**t was atrocious. David Ayer, a well known Director, who's done great work (Fury, End of Watch, Street Kings, Sabotage, and Harsh Times) all are on his resume. All are great films. I'm not sure what happened here, I don't know if Warner Brothers had their hands in the filming too deep or if he just wasn't completely comfortable with the superhero genre. It's not that it's full on horrible, it just made you lost. You're constantly trying to find yourself in the film considering it is very jumpy. One thing that works terribly with jumpy, is fast paced. This is that 100%, it's fast paced and jumpy. I get it, you have to explain a lot for the characters backgrounds while trying to establish a founded plot. That is hard, especially with so many characters. All things considered, if Ayer would've slowed it down a tad, took an extra 10 minutes even to explain some situations better, this would've turned out to be a better film. It's only 2 hours long, he could've afforded to slow it down a bit and explain some things. With what he did, he did give a good background of a couple of the main characters like Deadshot and Harley, which is fine, they are the two mains in the film anyways. Even Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnamon) deserved more, the dude is the non villain leader of the squad. Cmon man. The flashbacks mid battle and fight scenes were uncalled for, but definitely not as uncalled for as the music over playing the gunplay, that just seemed stupid to me. I'd rather hear the guns firing, people yelling and the dialogue then friggin' Skrillex and Rick Ross rapping. For shame.

It has its flaws, a decent amount. Overall it's a decent movie, not great, not "BvS" level of failure either though. I just wish DC would get one film right, they have so much potential to do amazing things. This film for me was one of the DC films that could make or break the universe, aside of "Justice League" next November. It's not completely Ayers fault, I am sure WB screwed some things up with all the reshoots they had a while back. Take it with a grain of salt I suppose, and hell, maybe it's one of those films where the more you watch it, the better it gets?? Just fast forward to "Wonder Woman" next year and let's get WB to stop interfering so much and MAYBE they'll put out a film that EVERYONE loves, whether you're a Marvel fanboy or DC fanboy. P.S. Don't blink during the opening sequence, or you'll miss a cameo that some comic fans will get hard over. 3/5 JD

Pitch Black
Pitch Black (2000)
11 months ago via Movies on iPad
½

I figured since "Riddick" comes out tonight, I'd weigh in my thoughts on the 2 previous films that made this one possible. "Pitch Black" was one of and still is a favorite of mine. It's a low budget horror/Sci-Fi film that is great, and launched Vin Diesel into stardom. He plays the infamous Richard B. Riddick, a serial killer that you cheer for. It's low budget like I said, but it's adrenaline packed, has great one-liners, and is still one of my favorites!! 4.5/5 JD