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Rating History

The Little Hours
6 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

Normally if I post a review of an obscure indie flick, it's because I loved it and want everyone else to see/love it too. In this case, the opposite is true. I originally wanted to see this movie entirely because it stars Aubrey Plaza, who I loved from Parks and Recreation and has since taken to doing quirky little indie comedies that I generally enjoy. This film is definitely right in her wheelhouse, and I did enjoy it... at first. Though it's obviously incredibly low-budget - it looks like it was made for a buck and a quarter - that's part of its charm. It has a premise that is loaded with promise (a promising premise!) and a comedic powerhouse of a supporting cast featuring Dave Franco, Nick Offerman, Molly Shannon, John C. Reilly, Alison Brie, and merkins. Sadly, most of their comedic talents are underutilized, or not utilized at all (well, except for the merkins). The movie is set in a convent in medieval times, but everyone speaks in contemporary language, complete with a fuckton of swearing. Plaza slings barbed insults with the best of them, and watching her do it in dressed in a nun's habit is inherently funny. The absurdist humor is clearly very heavily influenced by Monty Python. Sadly, the movie abruptly loses its wit about halfway through and takes a weirdly sexual detour. I didn't get it. The humor sputters back by the end, but by then I had totally checked out. This movie is good for some chuckles, especially in the first half, but nosedives so fast it'll give you a headrush.

Annihilation
Annihilation (2018)
6 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

Who says they don't make original films anymore? Virtually lost among the slew of remakes, reboots, sequels, and superheroes that have monopolized the movie industry for years, 'Annihilation' is a breath of fresh air. I was hesitant to see this movie in the theater after the somewhat tepid reviews, but now I deeply regret that I did not. I'm surprised that the reviews weren't better, it's really an excellent film. This is writer/director Alex Garland second film, and after he blew everyone away with his first feature, Ex Machina, some people were disappointed by this one. But I say if you liked Ex Machina (and come on, you know you did), you will like Annihilation. It has that same somber, meditative atmosphere (with a healthy assist by a brilliant score) and deliberate pacing... but this movie is on a much grander scale. The story is about the exploration of "The Shimmer", a weirdo force-field that has popped up on the Earth's surface from which no one has come back alive. The story moves along briskly, and within the first 30 minutes you are deep into it. It plays like a mystery but takes care to reveal just enough at the right times to keep you invested and make the story easy to follow. It's smart and thoughtful without being cerebral, exploring themes of self-destruction and immortality in an overt and approachable way. At different times, it reminded me of Predator, Avatar, Arrival, and The Hunger Games (yes!). Though the film is quiet and pensive, it's punctuated by moments of true horror, including one of the most unsettling scenes I've seen in a long time. It definitely blurs the lines between sci-fi and horror. And I would be remiss if I didn't comment on the casting... I love that all five of the people who explore The Shimmer are women, and I love even more that this fact is barely mentioned. You could easily see these roles being cast with male actors, but their gender is totally irrelevant to the plot and it's so refreshing to see a movie where there isn't just one token chick amongst the pack of burly badass dudes. I only hope that one day, this won't be so unusual that it merits commenting on. I will warn you that the ending gets pretty trippy and is kind of a mindfuck... but the upside of that is that it's open to interpretation (if you have your own, let me know in the comments and we shall discuss!). This movie is innovative in both the story and the storytelling, and keeps you thinking long after the credits roll. I am impressed.

Avengers: Infinity War
19 days ago via Flixster
½

Oh... My... God. There is so much I want to say but I can't!!! This review is really difficult for me, for three reasons: 1) there has really never been a movie like this before, 2) it's a challenge to remain objective when I am such a raging Marvel superfan, and 3) it's everything I can do to prevent myself from talking about the spoilers... of which there are many, and which I am dying to talk about at length and in detail. I will give the disclaimer that my rating is more of a reflection of how much I enjoyed this movie rather than the actual "quality", per se. No one will ever say this is one of the greatest movies of all time... but damned if it isn't one of the best times I have had at the movies, and I am going to shamelessly gush about it. The Directors Russo did a superb job of merging at least 6 different storylines from a whopping 18 (EIGHTEEN!!!) prior films with a staggering number of characters into one cohesive film. It was an incredibly ambitious undertaking and they really pulled it off. They even brought back a few characters that were long forgotten, managed to add some new ones, AND found enough time to develop the villain, the formidable Thanos (who would have been a bit more formidable if they had done more than just slap a huge chin on Josh Brolin - his tiny face by comparison is just laughable). That's not even considering the drastic differences in tone, style, and setting that have been established for each of the franchises individually. It's a remarkable feat that this film (mostly) tempers and blends all of those differences as it weaves in and out of the different storylines, while creating a style/tone of its own. This is by far the darkest of all of the Marvel films - everything is not all sunshine and roses, and it doesn't leave you with a warm feeling in your belly that you'd expect from a superhero film. Thanos is by far the most daunting villain we've seen so far, and all our heroes combined have to run the gauntlet to present even the slightest challenge for him (I really worked hard to get that "gauntlet" pun in there). It gets shockingly grim. Paradoxically, it's also a total blast... it's weird for a movie to be both exhilarating and devastating at the same time. This movie is a Marvel fan's wet dream, but proceed with caution - it's for fans ONLY. The film assumes that you will know who everyone is and what makes them all tick, and does not waste any time with explaining things to the uninitiated. There is just no room, with all the cross-franchise introductions, gags, quips, and fights... so many fights! This movie is wall-to-wall action, and I will admit that by the end it gets a little overwhelming. It hits the ground running and doesn't stop, but still makes plenty of room for humor and a surprising amount of emotion. It's a lot, but not too much, as I had feared it would be. And it's NOT what I expected, but I loved it all the more for that. I am still reeling from the ending... and am already anxiously awaiting the next Avengers installment.

Stronger
Stronger (2017)
19 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

This movie got some hype early in the 2017 awards season that fizzled out by the time the Oscars rolled around, and I think that's for the best. This is exactly the kind of movie you'd expect it to be - a typical "man overcomes adversity" story that evokes some tears along the way and leaves you with a warm fuzzy at the end. The movie tells the real-life story of Jeff Bauman, whose legs were blown off by one of the Boston Marathon bombs in 2013. It really tries to stay true to the real story... and I'm reticent to say it, but that may have been to its detriment. Its heart is in the right place, but, callous as this may sound, I'm just not sure the story is interesting enough to sustain a full feature-length film. Not that his story is not a worthy story - it is - but the film just doesn't pack enough drama to keep you invested for the full 2-hour running time. It would have been much better served as a documentary. As it is, the movie tries to beef up the drama as best it can, mostly by turning it into a love story. But I have to give it credit for how well it highlights America's propensity to turn victims into heroes, even when they don't want to be. The film does a great job at highlighting the pressure this poor guy was under to be America's hero and "not let the terrorists win", when he was suffering from PTSD and all he wanted to do was be left alone. Everyone, even his family, expected him to be the face of the "Boston Strong" movement with no regard to what he actually needed or wanted. It's a good lesson to us all to stop forcing our expectations on others, especially victims of trauma. That said, the only other thing about this movie that stands out are the performances, which are truly excellent. Jake Gyllenhaal got a lot of praise for his performance as Bauman, all of which is deserved, but Tatiana Maslany is easily as good as his longtime girlfriend... perhaps better. Hers is the more subtle and nuanced performance, and I would argue that she had the more difficult role, and I hate that she got so little credit for her efforts. But a movie can only be buoyed so high by performances alone, and overall, I was underwhelmed. It's a perfectly fine movie, but it doesn't bring anything new or special to the table.

Deadpool 2
Deadpool 2 (2018)
19 days ago via Flixster
½

Well, I'm sorry to say I was a little let down. I knew when the original 'Deadpool' director Tim Miller bowed out of this movie mid-production that it was a sign of trouble, and try as the writers might to overcome his loss (#MaximumEffort), they fell a little short. It's chock full of the meta gags, fourth-wall breaks, and self-referential quips that were the hallmarks of the first one, but it all feels a little contrived this time. For starters, the entire premise is just off... DP tells you right from the start that this is a family film, which I assumed was a joke, but sadly, he wasn't kidding. That doesn't mean that you should bring children - the language alone is not appropriate for kids, not to mention the violence - but why the hell would they give an unabashedly R-rated movie a sappy message about the importance of family/friendship? SERIOUSLY??? Ugh, I just can't. The whole tone is off right from the beginning... it's wrong for the character and it's wrong for the film. The movie is able to correct itself in places where it does recapture the shameless profanity and hilarity of the first film, but those moments are spotty and inconsistent. The story isn't strong (and having Deadpool call out the lazy writing in the movie doesn't excuse the lazy writing), and even though this kind of movie doesn't need a stellar, tightly-knit story, it has to make some kind of sense. This go-round, Deadpool is trying to save the life of a mutant fire-throwing kid that somehow isn't Pyro, because reasons. It feels very forced and unlikely, to say the least. But, I did enjoy myself and some of the gags are totally hilarious, especially if you are hip to superhero movie culture. And Yentl. The movie is packed with a constant stream of jokes and pop-culture references, some of which are so specific and targeted that they went over even my head... and I am pretty well-versed in pop-culture. The best parts are the action sequences where you can forget all about the nonsense behind why everyone is kicking ass and just enjoy the ass-kicking. Josh Brolin is great as Cable, but the way the story progresses totally neuters him as a proper villain. The most promising addition to DP's crew is Domino - she is a great character and I wanna see more of her (though I will always have a special place in my heart for The Vanisher... oh man, what a great gag). Though it made me laugh and entertained me for the entire 2 hours, it just couldn't capture the magic of the Deadpool 1... what was fun and original and gloriously irreverent in the first one feels a little worn out now. I guess it's to be expected, but it's disappointing nonetheless.