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Rating History

Girls Trip
Girls Trip (2017)
4 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

I'm obviously missing something here... how can everyone love this movie except me? Maybe I'm just too old and/or too white to get it. I just did not see anything new, original, or interesting about this movie. It's a "women behaving badly" film, and it's as tired and worn-out as any of the ones starring men. I did love its pure, unabashed celebration of black culture, especially black women, who need to be celebrated in mainstream media more often. But beyond that, it's nothing special. Here's why: 1) The characters are archetypes. There is the straight one, the wild one, the professional one, and the glamorous one. The cast is talented and make their characters believable, but I could not buy that these four women were lifelong friends. They have absolutely nothing in common! 2) The situations are contrived, complete with an acid-trip scene, a bar fight, and a dance off. Only a few of the scenes are even remotely funny, and when they are, it's entirely thanks to the outrageous Tiffany Haddish (where did she come from? I have never heard of her but she is FABULOUS). 3) Oh god, it's soooo long! It's a full two hours and there is no need for all the extra filling (see point 2). 4) The story is totally predictable and follows the same formula of just about every comedy, and suffers in the same ways because of it. About halfway through, the movie goes left and tries to get serious, and when that happens, the laughs stop and the rest of the runtime is saturated in feel-good schmaltz. Why, WHY can't they just make a funny movie without the characters having to learn something in the end??? Alas, this movie is about as formulaic as you can get, complete with a sugary, banal moral about - you guessed it - the importance of friendship. "Girls Trip" is funny at times - you'll never look at a grapefruit the same way again - but it ain't the trip I was hoping for.

American Assassin
4 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

More like "American Asinine". This movie has 99 problems and a bitch ain't one. The biggest, most unforgivable of which is its total lack of focus. It feels like it changed writers midway through, and the second writer didn't bother to read what the first one had done. It has no idea what it's about or where it's going. The story starts as a revenge tale (man's hot girlfriend gets murdered in a ridiculous over-the-top terrorist rampage, man vows vengeance on said terrorists regardless of the cost, etc.)... which is more than a little hackneyed, but fine. Then the plot shifts and our hero totally abandons all of resolve for vengeance (which was considerable and the character's sole motivation) in favor of becoming the badassest of all badasses. I kept expecting the story to come full-circle back to the terrorism plot, but (SPOILER ALERT) it doesn't. The villain also changes midway through, and you're never really sure why... he's not even introduced until about 45 minutes in. On top of that, the movie is generally hokey with ridiculous plot devices, and the lead is the same stereotypical wild-card rogue character you've seen a million times before... the guy who goes off script just enough to be dangerous but not so much that the audience starts think he's just an idiotic dickhead (I'm looking at you, Maverick). And WTF is Michael Keaton doing in this movie? I welcome the morsels of quality he brings to the table, but come on, this movie does not deserve him. It's to his credit that he didn't just phone it in... he's just about the only good thing in this movie. It's not the worst movie in the world, or even this year, and it's perfectly fine for an evening of mindless entertainment... but it's best if you check your brain (and everything you know about good filmmaking) at the door. It's barely competent, even as a mindless action flick.

American Made
American Made (2017)
4 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Huh. I'm kind of at a loss here... this is a movie about the whirlwind life of a guy who illegally ran drugs for both the Columbian cartels AND the CIA. How could it NOT be fascinating? It's such an interesting premise (LOOSELY based on real pilot/mercenary Barry Seal), I'm kind of stunned how this movie was not all kinds of awesomeness. In actuality, it's as bland as its name. There is nothing overtly bad about it, it's just oddly lifeless and totally unmemorable. It tells the story of a guy with more balls than brains, and more luck than sense. This guy is not a good person, of dubious moral character at best, but the movie paints him as a victim of his own recklessness. I don't know that this is a character that we should be rooting for - he is in no way a hero or someone to be emulated. He never once takes responsibility for his own actions, and never learns anything from his mistakes. He's just kind of a jerk whose charm and dumb luck get him through. Tom Cruise is perfectly fine in the role, once again playing a version of Maverick... this time with a questionable southern accent (he sure is good at playing that one character!). Director Doug Limon tries to keep it fun and playful, and for the most part, he's successful. But I think maybe that was the wrong way to go about telling this story, given the thousands of lives who were negatively impacted by Seal's greed and impulsive behavior. It just sat wrong with me. Maybe I'm taking the subject matter too seriously and getting too deep, as this movie was clearly not meant to be thought-provoking. So I will just say that the movie is marginally fun and holds your interest, but there is nothing that makes it stand out amongst the hundreds of other movies released this year. This is a movie that is trapped in its own mediocrity.

Atomic Blonde
Atomic Blonde (2017)
4 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Think of this movie as a little James Bond, a little Usual Suspects, and a little Shoot 'Em Up, tossed in a blender and set to a killer 80s soundtrack. It's a lot of fun and has LOADS of style. The whole movie has a retro chic vibe that I really loved. The film alternates between moody and atmospheric mystery to hardcore uber-violent action... I imagine some people might find the sudden changes in tone to be jarring, but I thought it worked. The direction is great (some of those shots were ingenius) and all the performances are solid, especially Charlize Theron in full badass mode as the lead. However, the plot is very dense and is difficult to follow, and gets even harder as it goes on. It's full of characters whose names you don't quite catch and can never figure out who they are, or how they factor into the increasingly convoluted mystery. It's a bit much. But to be honest, no one is watching this film for the plot... it's the fight scenes that are the selling point of this movie, and they are some of the best I've seen. The movie isn't wall-to-wall action, but when the fights start, they are visceral. In most movies, hand-to-hand combat looks like a carefully choreographed dance, but thankfully that's not the case here. This movie really hits home that ass-kicking is not all fun and games, it's HARD WORK. When someone gets hit, there is an effect... there are bruises, bloodstains, broken bones, staggering, grunting, panting, and general pain and weariness. When was the last time you saw an action hero get tired? They never do (or if they do, it's conveniently after the battle has been won), but they get visibly exhausted in this film, and I loved that about it. There is one especially badass fight in the middle of the film that has no music, and the silence made it that much more primal. I don't know that everyone will like this movie, but I really enjoyed it and appreciated it for what it was. If you like your action with a little more flair, give it a shot.

Jackie
Jackie (2016)
4 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

About a year ago, this movie was getting Best Picture buzz, but ended up coming short... and after seeing it, I can see why. It's a good movie, and effectively depicts what Jackie must really have been going through during the most harrowing and traumatic time of her life, but the film is a little too experimental for Oscar voters, who tend to prefer more traditional storytelling. Like so many biopics these days, it's not a biography, it's just a snapshot of a few "days in the life" of the famous Jackie Kennedy. The narrative is anything but linear, and you could definitely argue that there is more style than substance to this movie. Even so, I don't think that was to its detriment. The entire film has a dreamlike, ethereal quality to it, which coincides perfectly with Jackie's breathy voice and the idealistic illusion of what "Camelot" was. It really works. This movie got an Oscar nomination for its score, but I found the score to be the weirdest and most jarring thing about it. The music did not complement the scenes, and even distracted you from what was going on on-screen. Undoubtedly, the best thing this movie has going for it is Natalie Portman's tour de force performance in the titular role. She's so tiny compared to everyone else around her, but she is a monster on screen. I found myself enjoying this movie much more than I had expected. I didn't learn anything, historically speaking, but it gives you a broader perspective about that awful day in 1963.