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Rating History

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
12 months ago via Flixster
½

By Ricky Miller




This flick, to me was an event movie.
Anything else would be mere leftovers. I am not a fan boy per se, but I know the entire franchise backwards and forwards. My favorite of the original trilogy is probably "Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back" I like the fact it ends with a and a smack down and thump.
No, Greedo did not shoot first and Darth Vader bellowing out "Nooo!" after he hears about the death of Natalie Portman's Padmé was a chuckle in itself.
With "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" new characters and identities are introduced while meshing with new personalities aplenty.
Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) return in the front portion of the flick, wherein their identities have a major outcome to the events that unfold.
The audience gets to know scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley), and alliance fighter Poe Cameron (Oscar Isaac), and John Boyega's Finn, a tie-fighter pilot who changes his mind about what he is doing midstream.
Also new in the mix is BB-8, Cameron's robot who aids the alliance in their quest for peace across the galaxy.
I think the real reason this movie works is the director, J.J. Abrams, who knows how to make the movie work despite his use of wipes when transitioning the scenes. He does not go overboard as much as Lucas did with the prequels where the use kind of became a parody of itself.
One of the funniest parts occurs when Han Solo and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) board the Millennium Falcon and Solo boards the ship and says "We're home."
The background alludes to Nazi-led World War II Germany with the red and black color scheme as well. It is ominous and creepy, especially when the entire planet is witnessing the genocide of another planet altogether with a giant laser of sorts.
Domhnall Gleeson makes a brief appearance as one of the leaders, General Hux.
Finn changes his mind when he witnesses what Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is doing to other people in the world by having them completely eliminated from existence. This is only part of the reason, because otherwise he would have just been a number in the system of tie fighter pilots who are just given a number and nothing more.
So my readers know, I have "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" clocked it at no. 7 on my ten best of last year. I have seen it a total of three times in the theatre.

Grade: A-

The Visit
The Visit (2015)
12 months ago via Flixster
½

By Ricky Miller

That's it. I'm out.
After suffering through "The Visit," I am
out unless M. Night Shyamalan ever does an
"Unbreakable" follow-up.
He showed so much promise with the
pretzel-twisting thriller "The Sixth Sense"
back in 1999. Then Shyamalan achieved near
perfection with his next Bruce Willis entry,
"Unbreakable," in 2000. But Shyamalan has
offered nothing but disappointments since
"Signs" (Grade: B+) back in 2002.
He followed that up with "The Village"
(2004), a letdown (C+), and the fiasco "Lady
in the Water" (C-). The disappointments
continued with the annoying and pretentious
end-of-the world spoilings of "The Happening"
in 2008 (C) up until the ultimate
summer bummer of the poorly acted mistake
"The Last Airbender" (D+) in 2010.
He struck out again with Will Smith in "After
Earth," a flick where Smith helps develop
the story. I gave that abysmal flick a C-.
In "The Visit," a brother-sister duo, Tyler
and Becca (Ed Oxenbould and Olivia De-
Jonge), go to visit their grandparents. Kathryn
Hann's persona as Mom is estranged from her
own mother, hence part of the plot twist.
In lieu of cursing, Tyler yells out names of Carrie Underwood and lady singers, like Katy Perry! Becca is a filmmaker
working on a documentary about the
family.
There's a show on Adult Swim called "Robot
Chicken" wherein various puppets are
used to demonstrate a stand-alone tale. A
while back they made fun of his ideas by stating,
"What a twist?"
Nowadays, any Shyamalan film always has
some ridiculous plot twist. Trust me when I
say this is not worth full-price admission. Wait
a while for it to get to the discount houses.
You will thank me later.
Grade: C-

Black Mass
Black Mass (2015)
12 months ago via Flixster
½

By Ricky Miller

Well, it's about damn time Johnny Depp makes a major comeback with his turn as notorious Boston gangster, James "Whitey" Bulger, who spent years working for himself, as well as the FBI, where he worked rid of some of his Bean Town competition.
Depp is unrecognizable, with thinning white hair and weird blue eyes. One scene in particular has us wondering when he will go off the deep end. His general demeanor is a throwback to Joe Pesci's Oscar-winning role as Tommy DeVito "GoodFellas." You chuckle while still feeling uncomfortable in your own shoes.
Bulger is sharing a good meal with a colleague but when he tells him that the delicious food it is a "family secret," Bulger has nothing but a look of dismay and unapproval in the end. That friend was David Harbour's John Morris.
Strong, smooth camerawork comes through courtesy of Scott Cooper who steered Jeff Bridges to his first Oscar win for 2009's "Crazy Heart." Cooper also teamed up with Christian Bale for the slice-of-life tale "Out of the Furnace" in 2013. Cooper does not really know subtlety too well, since all of his flicks encompass grittiness.
Joel Edgerton (2015's "The Gift," "Warrior") plays John Connelly, an old friend from the neighborhood where the pair grew up. Also involved is Benedict Cumberbatch as Billy Bulger, James's older brother who is a sitting senator, hence the lack of evidence to put James behind bars.
I would classify Bulger two cards short of a full deck, because one never really knows what or who is going to set him off. It goes back to something mentioned in "The Godfather:" "Keep your friend close, but your enemies closer."
Without a doubt, this is Depp's best acting performance since the original "Pirates of The Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl" in 2003. Before his persona of Jack Sparrow became a caricature of himself, he has an identity that was all of his own doing. Prior to that, I respected him and admired what he was doing with the schlock director of bad cinema in "Ed Wood," undercover FBI man "Donnie Brasco," as "Peter Pan" author James Matthew Barrie in "Finding Neverland" and the underrated Lasse Hallström's "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," for which supporting actor Leonardo DiCaprio received an Oscar nomination.
The writing from screenwriters Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth comes from the book written by Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill. The writing is nothing spot on word play and captures the mood and time of the settings. They know how to have the characters should speaking, the language and lore of mid-1970s New York.
Also worth mentioning is the moody and atmospheric score from composer Junkie XL.
As a director, Cooper knows what to do every step of the way. Bulger is not a character you care to know on a personal level, just keep him as a distance; acquaintance at best. Cooper paints Bulger as a man who only used violence as a means to an end. Early on, the audience gets a glimpse of empathy with the passing of his son.
The other 99 percent? Zilch, zip, zero nada.
As a gangster tale, I recommend "Black Mass, but watch it with a very ardent eye, it might have you rethinking who your true friends actually are.
Grade: A-